WASHINGTON, US (AFP) - Shouting "Kill the bill" and "You're fired!" thousands of sign-waving demonstrators thronged the grounds of the US Capitol Thursday to oppose landmark health care legislation put forward by Democrats.
Under banners deriding "Obamacare" as a step towards socialist medicine and proclaiming "Give me liberty, not debt," protesters loudly cheered leading Republican legislators who stood on the Capitol steps.
The Republicans vowed to try and shoot down the bill aimed at providing care to millions of uninsured but slammed by conservatives as fiscal recklessness.
"This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in the 19 years I've been here in Washington, taking away your freedom to choose yourdoctors, the freedom to find health insurance on your own," House Minority Leader John Boehner told the raucous crowd.
"It's an illegal government takeover of our health care system," he said ahead of a critical weekend vote on the bill supported by the administration of President Barack Obama.
While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday that Democrats had the 218 votes needed to pass in the 435-seat chamber, Representative Eric Cantor pledged a united Republican front in opposition.
"I will guarantee you that we are committed to making sure that not one Republican will vote for this bill," said Cantor, the number two Republican in the House.
Hundreds of the demonstrators later fanned out to congressional office buildings, waving placards with messages like "Big government is the cancer, we are the cure," corralling lawmakers and vowing to tear up the 2,200-page legislation in front of Pelosi's office.
Congressman Mike Pence blasted the Pelosi plan as "a freight train of runaway spending, bloated bureaucracy, mandates and higher taxes."
Several in the crowd said they had taken time off work or paid their own way to the demonstration.
"I'm here because of patriotism, plain and simple," Marilyn Hoy of Findley, Ohio who turned 73 on Thursday told AFP.
"Our government is being stolen from us. They are taking over banks, the auto industry, healthcare."
Even if Democrats muscle their majority into passing the measure, it still faces an uphill battle in the 100-seat Senate, where 60 votes are needed to ensure the ability to break parliamentary delaying tactics and pass it.