Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.
Turns out righteous and religious indignation can occur on both sides of the aisle.
It wasn’t quite on the scale of House of Representatives Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) declaring health-care reform would lead to Armageddon. But a pair of local Congressional leaders on Thursday had a merry old time invoking the Last Supper.
At a rally on the steps of City Hall to celebrate the passage of the health-care bill, Chris Shelton, one of the heads of the local Communications Workers of America, reminded the audience that today is Maundy Thursday, when the Christian Bible's most famous dinner takes place, right before Good Friday.
“And just as those 12 Apostles stood up for what was right in their time, you have stood up for what’s right in our time,” Shelton told Charles Rangel and Nydia Velasquez. “And just as Judas Iscariot betrayed all the others, so has one man betrayed us.”
The line drew laughter and boos from the elected officials and the small crowd assembled behind them. Everyone knew Shelton was referring to Congressman Michael McMahon, the only local Democrat who voted against the health-care law. Shelton drew out the analogy a little further, suggesting McMahon should be punished.
A beaming Charlie Rangel at that point stepped in and said that since Judas was eventually forgiven, it follows that the Staten Island freshman could be redeemed, too. Nods of agreement and more laughter followed.
But it wasn’t exactly happily-ever-after for Judas. He took his life, according to the Gospel of Matthew, and his name became a synonym for betrayal.
Rangel was later asked a version of another question posed by pious Christians, at least in the movies: How do you solve a problem like McMahon?
His answer: It’s not up to me, it’s up to the people of Staten Island , whose interests McMahon represents.
And many of those people are Republicans. The GOP held McMahon’s seat for eight terms before he won it in 2008, following Vito Fossella’s adultery scandal. It’s among the only pockets of New York City that regularly elects Republicans – a trend McMahon is hoping to reverse for more than one term.