Dorchester's two Congressmen on Saturday urged Democratic Party activists to hang tough and parry Republican attacks in what could be a punishing election year.
"I think we'll weather this storm," despite a "lunatic fringe," said U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston).
The comment led U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano to quip, "Steve, actually, I am the lunatic fringe."
The two U.S. representatives share Dorchester.
Capuano (D-Somerville) called for Democrats to get more active, saying that when he leaves his Washington office, he sees "10,000 teabaggers outside the Capitol."
"They're there, they're committed," he said in remarks to a caucus of Ward 15 Democratic activists in Savin Hill. "Where are all the people who want health care? They're sending me emails."
In a lengthy stemwinder (and perhaps a preview of a 2012 Senate race), Capuano shifted between talk of hardball politics, a "dysfunctional" U.S. Senate, the year-old stimulus package and health care reform.
He said he supports a public option, but not if it potentially hurts 30,000 jobs in Boston, a hub of hospitals and community health centers.
There are provisions in the Senate health care bill that could "dramatically hurt" Massachusetts, Capuano said.
He added of a single-payer health care system, "I hope you've realized by now we're not going to get it."
"Even when I was mayor of Somerville, I didn't get everything I wanted. Congress is no different," he said.
A top lieutenant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Capuano asked Ward 15 activists whether they trusted the U.S. Senate, a "dysfunctional body" that has allowed 41 senators to "drive the train."
I respect the rights of the minority," Capuano said. But "[t]hey're using it for everything," he said, an apparent reference to Republicans' use of the filibuster, where 60 votes are needed to end it.
Capuano pointed to Sen. Richard Shelby's recent attempt to place a blanket hold on all presidential nominees. (Shelby (R-Alabama) later lifted the hold for most nominees.)
"I personally think that's a criminal activity," Capuano said. "That's over the line."
Jumping to the $787 billion stimulus bill, Capuano called it "necessary and good government," but "horrendous politics" because Democrats have not done enough to tie it job creation.
"People knew they got jobs from [Works Progress Administration] and Democrats" under President Franklin Roosevelt, Capuano said. "People forget. They lose the connection."
Capuano also defended hardball tactics, pointing to an incident during his tenure as Somerville mayor: The city had grant money to plant trees, but several members of the City Council successfully voted to cut the money in half. So Capuano changed the work orders for the plantings, pulling work out of the districts of councilors who voted to cut the money and shifting it to members who were against the cut.
"Within two weeks, not only did I get the $50,000 back, I got another $50,000 on top of that," he said. "And that's politics. I got some bad press out of it. But I got reelected."
He added: "I want us to fight back... I don't like losing elections because we are afraid."
Lynch urged activists to "come together as a party."
"Let's get out there and put enough Democrats in office to move the country in the right direction," Lynch said.