While August recess gives members of Congress a chance to escape Washington, D.C., and spend time in their districts, it also means answering to their constituents.
As town halls replace committee meetings during this last stretch of summer, Republican congressmen find themselves facing increasingly critical and at times raucous crowds of voters.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa represents a California district that he won by 15 percent and voted overwhelmingly for President Donald J. Trump in 2016, but none of that was apparent Monday as the Republican congressman heard from his harshest critics.
Over the course of the hour-long town hall, LaMalfa was on the defensive as constituents booed and asked for his resignation. One man told the congressman, “May you die in pain.”
Health care, immigration, and environmental protections all elicited strong responses from the crowd. At one point, as shouts and boos rang out, the congressman quipped back, “I have the mic folks. Yep, boo away.”
While he is often met with negative responses, LaMalfa has continued to host town halls during breaks from Congress. He is the only California Republican House member scheduled to have town halls during August.
Rep. Mark Meadows, who played a critical role in the passage of the House’s repeal and replace plan for the Affordable Care Act, was also shouted down at times during a town hall Monday in his North Carolina district.
The conservative chairman of the House Freedom Caucus looked out at a crowd of people waving “Disagree” signs as he said there would be another attempt at repealing the 2010 health care law in September. And a comment he made criticizing a tax on the wealthy was met with boos.
At one point, Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald took the microphone to ask the crowd to quiet down.
While a majority of the 416 seats in the auditorium were filled with detractors, there were some vocal supporters of Meadows in the crowd. Cheers rang out when Meadows spoke about gun rights, deregulation, and veterans support.
At the end, Meadows thanked the crowd for “being respectful — even vocal. But respectful.”
Down in Texas, Rep. Will Hurd has faced mild opposition from voters as he does a six-day, 20-town hall event. His choice of location? Fast food restaurants, primarily DQs, in what he has titled his third “DC2DQ” tour.
Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) August 8, 2017
Traveling hundreds of miles across his district on the U.S.-Mexico border, the Republican congressman has so far only attracted protesters at his kickoff event in El Paso.
Tuesday, Hurd first stopped at a Dairy Queen in Pecos before heading on to Kermit and Monahans.
In most of his stops, Hurd has been asked to address the issue of immigration and the border wall. Recently, Hurd proposed a “smart” border wall to counter Trump’s more expensive plan.
One woman broke down into tears when talking about her fears of deportation under the Trump administration.
“I want you to take this back to Mister Trump to let him know what he is doing to our country,” Alma Castillo, an American citizen, told Hurd. The congressman said he sees value in immigrants and told the woman her story “guides me as I’m up in Washington, D.C.”
As a swing district, Hurd’s town halls also brought out Republicans dissatisfied with Congress not accomplishing conservative priorities such as tax reform.
“The short answer is late fall,” Hurd told one man who asked when tax reform would be done.
While some Republicans choose to brave their critics at town halls, others refuse to host any, pointing to past experiences.
Progressive activists invited Rep. Dave Brat to host a town hall during August, but the Virginia Republican declined.
“It is clear these individuals are more interested in scoring political points with TV cameras running than in having a constructive dialogue about issues,” Brat said in an email, according to The Washington Post.