Emotions are running high at the Arizona Legislature now that the Medicaid expansion debate has become the House of Representatives’ problem.
A caller left State Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R- Phoenix, a threatening voicemail and House security is investigating. She said she wants to know who the caller is and what inspired his seemingly inebriated menacing.
“I’m not sure what kind of grassroots work is going on here,” she said. “I don’t know if this is an unintended consequence from someone who heard something and took it as ‘Go do something to her.’ But it is irresponsible of whoever is organizing this initiative to not craft their message in such a way that people can focus on the issue and not the legislator. It’s wrong,” she said.
The voicemail came after Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, sent out an email urging people to, “especially put the pressure” on six representatives, including Brophy McGee, to oppose Medicaid expansion. Thorpe asked people to be polite and steadfast and urged recipients of the email to forward it to “every Arizonian” they knew.
Thorpe sent out an apology for the email after House Speaker Andy Tobin suggested that the email wasn’t the best idea. Thorpe wrote in his apology email that upon reflection he “screwed up,” and that he wasn’t trying to be unkind.
“I was very disheartened when I watched our 6 Republican Senators repeatedly vote against our caucus while I stood on the Senate floor last Thursday, something that I truly do not want to see repeated in the House,” Thorpe wrote.
Brophy McGee brought up the issue to the House as a reminder that everyone needs to keep their rhetoric in check and take caution when firing people up about politics, particularly if those people aren’t usually politically engaged, she said.
She said she isn’t singling out Thorpe’s email as the cause for the vitriolic voicemail, but that his email was a dumb move.
“I’m so tired of the ‘Oh Gee I’m Sorry,’” she said. “Think it through.”
The caller, who sounded male, indicated that he had voted for Brewer a couple of times and the gist was that he demanded she vote against Brewer’s push for the Medicaid expansion or else, Brophy McGee said.
“The things that he called me were horrible,” she said.
She said since former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot she’s more aware of the dangers of things getting out of hand.
“Think about that. What did she ever do to anybody? People are just crazy,” she said.
The calls increased after the Senate passed the budget and really ramped up Wednesday, she said.
“We are being singled out. I understand that there are concerns and disagreements but this is making it very personal and I shouldn’t feel afraid to come to work,” she said.
Tobin said he doesn’t have to work to keep members civil because lawmakers are adults that have been in public service and lived "exemplary lives."
“This is a pressure filled place. I don’t think that surprises anyone. None of the members here are going out of their way to harm anybody,” Tobin said. “People are passionate on both sides. I think they’re all professionals. Occasionally the passions get a little out of hand but we’re also human beings and they’re acting professionally in my view and I try to stay very close to them.”
Although not a lot of actual business happened in the House this week those passions were palpable.
Between the outrage over the secular prayer to budget bickering on the House floor lawmakers were emotional.
On Wednesday, several members railed against the budget — despite the speaker pointing out that members would get a chance to officially debate the budget.
It kicked off with Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, saying that he needed to sound the alarm because the budget is out of control.
Majority Leader David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, joined in saying that the budget had been high jacked.
For Rep. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, it became an opportunity to ask the GOP what it feels like to have a taste of their own medicine.
"You guys are now in our shoes. How does it feel? How does it feel to go, to put your vote, to cast your vote everyday but fail? Regardless of how we feel we keep failing. Why? Cause we're the minority. Well welcome to our world. That's what we've been going through everyday."
The House has adjourned until next week and it’s clear the House is going to play things a little differently when it comes to the budget that sped through the Senate.