Jim In the News
Wyden, Sensenbrenner lead February town halls
Two longtime members of Congress spent the month of February answering questions from their constituents, even as loud protests over the Affordable Care Act led other members to cancel their own in-person events.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) held 16 town hall meetings last month, more than any other member of Congress. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) led the House with 12 events, according to data collected by the independent site Legistorm.
The town halls came as some Republicans have faced constituents angry over President Trump’s policies, particularly his effort to repeal ObamaCare.
In Washington, the town halls have been watched closely for signs that they could make Republicans nervous about moving forward with legislation.
A number of Republicans have taken heat for avoiding confrontations with their constituents, but many others have made multiple appearances.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who is a key player in the GOP effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, held seven events. Democrats criticized Walden for avoiding Bend, the largest and most liberal city in his mostly rural district.
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) each held five in-person town hall meetings. Reps. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) each held four open events in their districts.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), who holds events in each of Iowa’s 99 counties every year, hit four counties over the mid-February recess.
Many faced angry activists demanding Congress keep ObamaCare on the books. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), one of a handful of members who held three in-person events in February, was escorted out of one town hall meeting by local police officers.
Sanford, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who has introduced his own bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, told constituents he would not vote to repeal ObamaCare without a replacement waiting in the wings. Sanford told NPR that he valued the town halls he has held, even though he was met with some boos.
“I think we really had a meaningful exchange where people, at a heartfelt level, told me why certain things were important to them, why they mattered as they did. And I think that’s what you’d want in any town hall exchange,” Sanford said.
Sensenbrenner and Wyden have made a point to be available to constituents throughout their careers. Sensenbrenner has held more than 520 town hall meetings since 2013, all of which have been in-person, according to Nicole Tieman, Sensenbrenner’s spokeswoman. Wyden tries to hold meetings in every county in Oregon every year.
Some members hold events that are not in person as a way to make contact with voters.
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) appeared on six radio stations across his state in February, for what he called radio town halls. Cramer held one in-person event, at a coffee shop in Fargo.
Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) each held three telephone town hall meetings in February. Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) used Facebook to interact with constituents three times in the last month.
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