Seven years after unruly Democratic town halls helped stoke public outrage over the Affordable Care Act, Republicans now appear keen to avoid the kind of dust-ups capable of racking up millions of views on YouTube and ending up in a 2018 campaign commercial. Only a handful of GOP lawmakers have held or are planning to host in-person town hall meetings open to all comers -- the sort of large-scale events that helped feed the original Obamacare backlash in the summer of 2009.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) tried to deliver a speech at a rally this week, but she was interrupted by Affordable Care Act proponents. The Republican lawmaker, a member of the House GOP leadership, is part of the crusade to repeal "Obamacare," so ACA proponents chanted "save our health care" during her remarks.Two days later, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) faced a similar reaction during a town-hall event in Grand Rapids -- which attracted a full crowd, with dozens more who tried to attend but couldn't get in.
It's like 2009 all over again, only flipped: instead of conservatives showing up to demand Congress reject the Affordable Care Act, now it's progressives showing up to demand Congress protect the reform law.Of course, congressional Republicans could avoid confrontations like these by ending their effort to take away Americans' health security, but the Washington Post reports that GOP lawmakers are more inclined to start avoiding forums where ACA supporters might bother them.
The Post's article noted a related anecdote: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) hosted a discussion with constituents yesterday via Facebook, with lots of questions about health care. While Tillis's office "had advertised a 30-minute event, the senator ultimately appeared on camera for 11 minutes, answering eight questions read to him by a staff member."The North Carolina Republican assured attendees that a "replace strategy" exists -- Tillis did not explain what that strategy is -- and he ignored "the follow-up questions that popped up in the comments alongside his video."When Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) snuck out the back of an Aurora library over the weekend, steering clear of constituents who wanted to tell him not to take away their insurance, it was an opening salvo of sorts, which was no doubt noticed by his Republican colleagues.Hiding from voters, however, isn't a sustainable solution.A Bloomberg Politics report talked to another House Republican last week who said his constituents "are freaking out" because they're afraid Congress is poised to take away their health benefits.It's mid-January. The public pushback is only going to intensify.