Specter Gets Rowdy Earful At Forum, Other Lawmakers Change Tactics To Hear Constituents
More than 1,000 people showed up at a Pennsylvania community college auditorium that seated only 250 to tell Sen. Arlen Specter what they thought of the plan to reform health care in America, and much of it was negative and "seething with frustration," The New York Times reports. "Like many of the dozens of such meetings held by members of Congress over the last few weeks, this one was punctuated with rowdy moments, and interviews with many of those who showed up made it clear just how much underlying dissent motivated them. Many said the Obama administration's plans for a new health care system were just another example of a federal government that had again gone too far, just as it had, they said, with the economic stimulus, the auto industry bailout and the cap-and-trade program."
"'This is about the dismantling of this country,' Katy Abram, 35, shouted at Mr. Specter, drawing one of the most prolonged rounds of applause. 'We don't want this country to turn into Russia.' Many said they heard about the meeting from e-mail alerts sent by conservative and anti-tax groups like the Constitutional Organization of Liberty and the Berks County Tea Party, along with Mr. Specter's own mailings" (Urbina and Seelye, 8/11).
The Washington Post: "One man, angry that he was not among those selected to ask questions, walked into the aisle waving a piece of paper, interrupted the senator during a response and started yelling at him. 'Do you want to be led out of here?' Specter asked the man. 'You're welcome to go.'
"'I'm going to speak my mind before I leave, because your people told me I could,' the man replied, adding: 'You can do whatever the hell you please to do. One day God's going to stand before you, and he's going to judge you and the rest of your damned cronies up on the Hill. And then you'll get your just desserts. I'm leaving'" (Rucker, 8/11).
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., spoke back against a noisy crowd at a town hall meeting in Missouri Tuesday, The Assoicated Press/Kansas City Star reports: "About 1,500 people turned out for the sometimes boisterous meeting in Hillsboro, about 30 miles south of St. Louis. Shouts frequently disrupted the meeting, and one man was arrested after allegedly taking a sign brought in by another person and ripping it. 'I don't understand this rudeness,' McCaskill told the crowd at one point. 'I honestly don't get it'" (Ellis, 8/11)
The Washington Post, in a second story, on Maryland Democrat Sen. Benjamin Cardin's run-in with the crowds: "Gusts of displeasure rumbled almost immediately from the crowd. Folks wanted to interrogate the senator right away - and they were loaded for bear - but Cardin insisted on giving a presentation first" (Montgomery, 8/12).
In the meantime, Sen. Chuck Grassley has no apprehension about full day of forums today, The Iowa Independent reports. "Iowa's senior senator has been taking heat for his work on the health care bill, with many Republicans saying it could cause him to face a primary in 2010. At least two organizations are calling on reform opponents to attend Grassley's town halls and demand that he abandon his efforts to craft a bipartisan bill." Grassley dismissed such calls as "silly. 'I think they need to appreciate the fact that my being at the table is going to make sure that we don't end up with more of a government-run health care system,' he said. Without Republicans getting involved in the process, any reform legislation could be damaging to the health care system, he said" (Hancock, 8/11).
Some lawmakers are canceling their meetings or changing tactics, The Associated Press reports in a second story: "At least one congressman canceled a forum after being targeted with a death threat. Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., said he will not host any town halls this month because he received a phone call threatening his life. Instead, he said he will hold one-on-one meetings with constituents. Some Democrats have turned to teleconferences, which can reach more constituents than town halls - and be more easily controlled" (Bluestein, 8/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.