How Members Of Congress Are Trying To Keep Town Halls Under Control

REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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Congressmen returning to their home districts have been looking for ways to accommodate constituents at town hall meetings while maintaining control of these events.

For a Denver town hall, Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman made 800 tickets available, Voice of America reports, and attendees were to have photo identification at the door, where they would be given wristbands. Large signs (no bigger than a piece of notebook paper) were not allowed inside either.

Despite his efforts, Coffman, who sits in a swing district won by Hillary Clinton in November, was screamed at for supporting the repeal of Obamacare, Politico reported.

Texas Republican Rep. John Culberson also banned signs at his March 24 town hall and mandated that all attendees prove they are his constituents by showing utility bills or other documents. Although he asked for attendees to submit questions ahead of time, he too faced angry individuals, VOA noted, over the Republican repeal of Obamacacare.

Angry town hall attendees chanted “you lie” to South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson Monday, referencing the same remark Wilson shouted at President Obama during a 2009 health-care speech.

Some members will not put up with the heckling and angry remarks at their town halls and respond sharply.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey O. Graham told one attendee at a town hall a few weeks ago that he asked a “garbage” question and slammed others for trashing President Donald Trump’s win last November.

“Your last term! Your last term!” people chanting by the end.

Graham responded, “Good! Good! Come on, bring it on! Bring it on!” He added, “If I win, fine. If I don’t, fine. But here’s what you’re going to get from me. You’re going to get somebody that tells you exactly what I believe. And to everybody in this room, it’s OK to be mad. It’s OK to be upset.”

Other members are tag-teaming with one another at town halls. Arkansas Republican Rep. French Hill and Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton will hold a joint town hall Monday afternoon. Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei are also hosting a town hall together on Monday in their state.

Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash, dealt with attendees upset about his views on climate change by saying, “It’s easy to say, well all the people around me have the same views. … But I deal with a large district. People have different views on many things and I have to take that into consideration.”

Democrats are also looking for strategies to keep crowds under control at their town halls. California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris will prohibit signs at her town hall next week in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press.

Democratic leaders also provided their members with responses and talking points to questions they would likely receive by constituents at town hall type events.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, however, told constituents at his town hall Wednesday as he stepped up to the podium, “You can hit me better now; I’m a better target.”

Manchin received some heckles but supporters waved signs of support for him, Vice News reported.

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