Lawmakers Reconsider Town Hall Format, Continue To Confront Reform Fervor
Some lawmakers are canceling town hall meetings or holding them over the telephone or with selected groups of people in an effort to avoid shouting confrontations over health care reform, which have greeted lawmakers returning home for the August recess, USA Today reports.
"'I'm not going to give people a stage to perform,' Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, told the El Paso Times. Like a number of his Democratic colleagues, he's holding telephone town halls instead. Others, such as Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, are hosting smaller roundtables with community leaders. 'I won't be doing sucker-punch town-hall meetings,' Durbin said."
"Capitol Hill police are working overtime to ensure that the lawmakers who are holding town meetings remain secure. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer says it's the busiest August in memory. 'It's not a budget-buster - yet,' he said" (Kiely, 8/13).
The Christian Science Monitor: "But the fault lines are not new. These conservative forces have faced off with liberal and trade union groups before on issues ranging from taxes to tort reform. Much of the debate centers around the size and cost of government, as well as the scope of its reach into business. What is different is that the competing groups are not just wielding clout with lawmakers behind closed doors. This month, the fight over healthcare reform has been out in the open" (Russell Chaddock, 8/13).
But just as they switch tactics, lawmakers are making good on their promises to hear constituent concerns over the recess, Roll Call reports (Geier, 8/13).
Others still plan to hold health care town halls next week, such as Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., The Denver Post reports.
ABC News says some are saying the seething anger could be over something else: "While members of Congress try to strategize around the uproar for future town meetings, psychologists versed in group dynamics are simply scratching their heads: Is this really about health care, a contagious group fear, or an eruption of smoldering anger over the direction of the country in the past year?
"'I would go speak at events, and the people on the left would be angry at me, but they tended to be more civil -- and the people on the right tended to be angrier,' said (Rep. Mike) Coffman (R-Colo.). 'The ground felt like it was shifting after the stimulus bill and the tea party protests just a little bit'" (Cox and Harry, 8/14).