Society

Many GOP Lawmakers Dodging Town Hall Meetings

| by Robert Fowler

Some Republican lawmakers are opting out of in-person town halls as they face heated questions from constituents concerned about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

The angry town halls echo the Tea Party opposition towards the ACA in 2009, when several Democratic lawmakers ducked constituents and faced retaliation during the midterms.

On Feb. 21, several Republican lawmakers were aggressively questioned by their constituents in town halls that went viral on social media. The majority of the heated questioning related to the GOP's plan to repeal and replace the ACA, according to The Huffington Post.

In one instance, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa cut a town hall short after constituents became heated. The crowd booed her as she left, with some chanting, "Your last term."

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Nearly two dozen Republican lawmakers are ditching in-person town halls in favor of conference calls where constituents can call in with their questions in a highly moderated format.

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida asserted that he would hold a conference call instead of a town hall because he's "just not going to be a part of any planned-chaos events," The Hill notes.

The maneuver recalls the tactics of some Democratic lawmakers in 2009, who wished to avoid high-profile encounters with aggressive constituents angered by the ACA.

"They wanted to shout at me and get on the television," said former Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, who had opted for conference calls instead of town halls when the ACA was still being developed, according to The Huffington Post.

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Pomeroy added that while he was happy to avoid public humiliation, he had also avoided "being open and engaging North Dakotans"

"In retrospect, maybe I should have done that more," he added.

In the 2010 midterm elections, Democrats faced stiff defeats and lost the House majority to their Republican colleagues.

The GOP-majority in Congress is facing a similar backlash, although some have suggested fringe groups are hijacking the crowds at their town halls. On Feb. 21, President Donald Trump took to social media to assert that the public anger was fabricated.

"The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists," Trump tweeted.

On Feb. 22, reporters asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer to back up Trump's assertion.

"I think there's a hybrid there," Spicer told reporters, according to ABC News. "I think some people are clearly upset, but there is a bit of professional protester manufactured base in there ... It is a loud, small group of people disrupting something, in many cases for media attention, no offense."

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa disagreed with this assertion following his own heated town hall, where he fielded questions from constituents outraged by the prospect of ACA repeal.

"It's all legitimate," Grassley told The Washington Post on Feb. 21. "If Hillary Clinton had won you'd see the same thing from other people."

House Democrats spokesman Tyler Law has accused House Republicans of "running scared from their constituents," which is "only making the backlash in their districts grow stronger," The Hill notes.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan plans to hold his second town hall meeting this month on Feb. 23. He has asserted that it is better to face constituents, no matter how aggressive they are.

"Their concerns are reasonable," Amash told The Hill. "We might not always agree ... But I think it's important to learn from people who come to your town halls and communicate so there's no misunderstanding. I hope more of my colleagues will do that, will go back home and talk to people and not hide from their own positions."

Sources: ABC NewsThe HillThe Huffington Post, The Washington Post / Photo Credit: Rachel Mummey/The Washington Post

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