(AP) Arizona's bitter debate over a big part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul has sparked an investigation into lawmakers' safety after at least nine legislators received a threatening email over Gov. Jan Brewer's push to expand Medicaid access.
The message asked the lawmakers to "kill" the plan and referred to Second Amendment rights, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
State police are also investigating a voice mail left for Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, a Phoenix Republican who supports the Medicaid expansion, who appeared visibly shaken Thursday as she described the message on the House floor and asked lawmakers to tell their constituents to be civil.
The voice mail from a male caller was "a long rambling message with derogatory remarks aimed at Governor Brewer for Representative McGee," wrote Bart Graves, a spokesman with the Department of Public Safety, in an email Friday. "She felt there was a threatening undertone."
State police plan to interview the caller and email sender. Graves declined to provide a copy of the email or name the lawmakers involved.
"We take these incidents seriously," Graves said.
The alleged threats come after a heated impasse between Brewer and Republican leaders in the GOP-led Legislature over the Medicaid expansion.
Brewer announced a moratorium on bill signings two weeks ago and vetoed five bills Thursday. Brewer's spokesman has she said she will not sign any bills until significant progress is made on the Medicaid plan and the state budget. Lawmakers have five more weeks until the new fiscal year begins on July 1.
The Senate president and House speaker oppose the Medicaid expansion, and some Republican lawmakers have labeled Brewer a traitor for backing it. She was among a handful of Republican governors who sued after its passage. But Brewer and other moderate Republicans now say the plan will help poor Arizonans and there are enough votes in the Arizona Senate and House to pass the Medicaid expansion if the leadership doesn't stand in the way.
Brophy McGee got the threatening message after Republican Rep. Bob Thorpe, of Flagstaff, sent an email urging constituents to call her and five other GOP House members who support Medicaid expansion. Thorpe said he sent an apology to the lawmakers, telling them he "screwed up."
Other lawmakers who support or are believed to back the Medicaid expansion reported Thursday getting emails and phone calls containing varying layers of vitriol.
Arizona is among nine states where Republican governors have accepted the Medicaid expansion. Six of them have been able to get a deal with their legislatures or are on track to do so, including Arizona, where six Republicans joined all 13 Democrats in the Senate to pass a budget that included the Medicaid expansion.
Conservative Republicans were furious at the supporters. The head of the Maricopa County Republican Party, A.J. LaFaro, called the day of the vote "a day of infamy."
"Their political careers are all but over and their days numbered," he said.