If it’s August recess, it’s town hall season for members of Congress. And in recent years, those forums with constituents and activists have turned lively, dating back to the 2009 health care debate that was the advent of the Tea Party movement.
But this summer recess, some of the settings have featured not only fewer fireworks, but fewer events on the calender as well.
The New York Times took a look:
Though Republicans in recent years have harnessed the political power of these open mic, face-the-music sessions, people from both parties say they are noticing a decline in the number of meetings. They also say they are seeing Congressional offices go to greater lengths to conceal when and where the meetings take place….
With memories of those angry protests still vivid, it seems that one of the unintended consequences of a movement that thrived on such open, often confrontational interactions with lawmakers is that there are fewer members of Congress now willing to face their constituents.
But both parties are still hoping to leverage their side’s agenda in what town halls do happen, or are even hosting their own. On Tuesday, Americans United for Change (AUC) President Brad Woodhouse and Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham talked with The Daily Rundown guest host Peter Alexander about how their groups are hoping to take advantage of town halls.
The liberal AUC has launched a site, Accountable Congress, that lists scheduled events and locations for members, while the conservative Heritage Action is launching its own nine-stop town hall tour, featuring its new president, former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, which he detailed on last week’s The Daily Rundown.
To Republicans, there’s a greater sense of urgency, given the law’s implementation that begins Oct. 1, and they’re hoping they can recreate some of the magic, and anger, from four years ago.
“This is the last chance Congress has to finally take up the responsibility it has not to listen to the American people and say, ‘Hey, we need a time out. We passed it to find out what’s in it. We’re finding out and it’s not looking good,’” said Needham.
But Woodhouse said this August voters were becoming increasingly concerned with stalled immigration reform and a still stagnant economy.
“We’re finding [Republicans] are running into some problems from both sides–immigration town halls, for example–hearing from proponents and opponents,” Woodhouse said. “Republicans are really more in the firing line this August than Democrats are.”
Watch the full conversation between the conservative and liberal strategists above.