GOP lawmakers are hiding after Trumpcare vote, and their constituents aren’t having it

Laurel Raymond

Laurel Raymond General Reporter, Think Progress

House lawmakers are back in their home districts this week for a short recess — which, for some Republicans, means walking straight into a storm of constituent anger over their vote to pass the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA), also known as Trumpcare.

While most House Republicans were willing to be vocal about their support for the bill from the safety of the Rose Garden — where they celebrated AHCA’s passage through the House with speeches and selfies — many lawmakers this recess are avoiding defending their vote to their own constituents.

According to a list compiled by TownHallProject.com, a crowd-sourced list of congressional district events, only 14 of the 217 lawmakers who voted for the bill are holding in-person town hall events this recess. But even with their members absent, a lot of people are finding creative ways to express their outrage with the vote.

Dozens of protests are planned across the country — many of them timed to coincide with lawmaker visits and staged on capitol grounds. In Madison, Wisconsin, activists staged a die-in at the capitol.

In Arkansas, those upset with the bill also staged a die-in — including Kati McFarland, a young woman with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome whose confrontation of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) at a February town hall went viral.

“Without the coverage for pre-existing conditions, I will die,” she told Cotton then. The health care bill passed by the House allows states to roll back protections on preexisting conditions — and McFarland attended the protest carrying her own tombstone.

Constituents are also planning their own town halls to shame their absent representatives. In Amityville, New York on Sunday, over 300 people gathered at one such event, dubbed a “woman’s town hall,” to meet with Rep. Peter King (R-NY).

According to organizers, King hasn’t had an in-person town hall in 12 years. And when he responded to public pressure to meet with constituents with a teletown hall in March, constituents protested that the controlled format allowed him to screen questions. He also took four times as many questions from men as from women.

“You don’t select nearly four times as many men as women by accident. That is why we are holding a Women’s Town Hall — to give King’s constituents a voice, to give women the opportunity to ask questions about how Donald Trump’s agenda affects our lives personally,” said Luiba Grechen Shirley, founder of the 2nd District Democrats.

The AHCA, which defunds Planned Parenthood, cuts Medicaid, and rolls back requirements that insurers cover services like birth control and maternal care, would be especially devastating for women’s health care access.

King failed to show, and attendees instead heard from other speakers, including Shirley, NOW NY President Sonia Ossorio, and local Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre.

Other empty-chair town halls are planned in Rep. Mimi Walters’ (R) California district, Rep. Mark Meadows’ (R) North Carolina district, and Rep. Roger Williams’ (R) Texas district.

In other districts, when Republicans fail to show up, Democrats are visiting their constituents instead. Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) met with over 400 of Rep. John Faso’s (R-NY) constituents — who live in the next district over from Maloney’s — on Monday when Faso declined the invitation.

During an appearance on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show, Maloney said that if Faso wouldn’t show up to explain his health care vote to his constituents, he would. Others on Twitter are imploring more lawmakers to do the same under the hashtag “#adoptadistrict.” In Arizona on Tuesday, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) will similarly be holding a town hall in Tuscon — right in the middle of Republican Rep. Martha McSally’s district.

When Republican lawmakers do show up, so far, they’ve been getting an earful. In Plattsburg, New York, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R) held a live-taped town hall at a local television station, where the mood was “icy and tense,” according to NPR. Outside, protesters gathered with signs and chanted “shame.”

Stefanik, a moderate, contributed one of a handful of last-minute votes that helped the bill pass.

In Iowa, Rep. Rod Blum got testy in response questions about why he was requiring people to show ID before being allowed in to his town hall, walking out of a televised interview. At the town hall itself, a crowd of about 1,000 constituents booed and waved red pieces of paper to indicate their anger at his answers.

When one elderly woman asked if he would agree never to take money from the Koch brothers, the crowd cheered and waved green pieces of paper — only to break out in loud boos when Blum dodged the question.

“I am not going to be here tonight saying that I am or I’m not taking money from whatever group, because the Democrats do the same thing,” he said.

Blum’s Monday event was the first of four town halls he’s holding this week.

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This was reposted from Think Progress.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work