Congressmen Skip Out On Town Halls After Facing Voter Opposition
((Now…Let’s Run ‘Em Out Of D.C.!!!!)
Too much yelling, not enough listening.
Facing organized, often raucous confrontations at political events, some members of Congress this summer abandoned the long-time tradition of open meetings with the folks back home.
It was goodbye to one of the few remaining opportunities for voters and lawmakers to talk face to face.
Some cited security in the aftermath of the shooting that severely wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a meet-and-greet event in January. Others blamed grass-roots groups for commandeering the town halls. Still others opted for smaller, sometimes private or paid events.
Whatever the explanation, the dearth of meetings sparked criticism that lawmakers were dodging their constituents when Congress is held in such low regard. A recent Associated Press-GFK poll showed 87 percent of Americans disapprove of lawmakers’ job performance.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., described the trend as disappointing.
“I think (the town hall meeting) is one of the fundamentals of our government process, our democratic process – meeting with people and responding to them,” said McCain, who held six town hall meetings this summer, including one in Tucson, where the Giffords shooting occurred.
While McCain said he understood the desire to avoid the “despicable” people who disrupt town halls, he said the decision to avoid them lets “those bad people win.”
According to CQ-Roll Call, which kept a count, lawmakers held just over 500 town halls this summer compared to more than 650 in 2009 when the rancor over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul turned some events into shouting matches. This summer’s recess began immediately after a down-to-the-wire, fiercely partisan debate on raising the debt limit and cutting spending.
The actual number of members holding the meetings dropped just slightly, from 164 to 154. It was not clear, however, if those numbers included pay-to-attend meetings that drew constituent ire in some states.