Politics

A Chaotic Start to a Town Hall-Filled Recess Week

Conflicting accounts over whether Issa hid from constituents on his roof

Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., leaving a House Republican Conference meeting earlier in May. He held a town hall this Tuesday during the Memorial Day recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Tuesday of Memorial Day recess was a busy one for members of Congress interacting with constituents. It could be just the start, considering many more public meetings are planned for later this week or over the weekend.

For instance, Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., distanced himself from Trump in front of angry town hall attendees demanding he do just that. While across the country in California, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa may have hidden from his protesting constituents on top of his district office roof. A little farther north in California, Trump supporters disrupted an immigration town hall with Democratic Rep. Lou Correa, resulting in the arrest of one man and the detention of two women.

New Jersey

Back in New Jersey, Lance attempted to walk the line by avoiding an outright denouncement of President Donald Trump as many attendees demanded, according to MyCentralNewJersey.com. But he also supported the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as the potential subpoena of Trump’s tax returns.

Lance also said he opposes the president’s budget proposal released May 23, which aims to balance the federal budget in 10 years by cutting back spending for many domestic programs including food stamps, Medicaid and Social Security disability insurance, while increasing military funding. (Trump’s budget also assumes an annual economic growth rate of more than 3 percent, which hasn’t been achieved since the mid-1990s and most economists agree is unrealistic).

Though town hall attendees cheered the budget portion of the talk, Lance drew boos for saying he opposed single-payer health care and supported banning federal spending on abortion, according to the Associated Press. He was one of few Republicans to vote against the GOP health bill earlier in the month.

Lance’s 2016 re-election was a tighter race. He won 54 percent of the vote with Hillary Clinton also winning the top of the ticket in the district. Lance won the three prior re-election cycles by double digits. His New Jersey district is rated Likely Republican by Inside Election's Nathan L. Gonzales for the 2018 cycle. 

California

Mike Levin, a Democrat challenging Issa in 2018, was with a crowd protesting the congressman at his district office on Tuesday when he took a picture of Issa standing on the office’s roof. Levin said Issa was avoiding speaking to the protesters below, though Issa’s communications director disputed Levin’s account, saying Issa spoke to constituents before entering the building.

Issa tweeted his own photos, including one of protesters taken from the vantage point of his office roof, and one of him speaking to a man who stood out from the mostly anti-Trump protesters by wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and carrying a “Defund Planned Parenthood” sign.

Not too far from Issa’s office, Correa’s Santa Ana, California town hall was the site of protests and counter-protests that spilled into the parking lot. A police spokesman said one man was arrested after he struck another person with an anti-fascist flag. Two women were also detained after they began fighting shortly before the event. The event was temporarily halted because of the incident, according to the Orange County Register.

The town hall continued after the arrest and other protesters were removed.

“I completely support the right of all parties to exercise their first amendment rights,” Correa said in a statement, but “I urge people to act responsibly and refrain from violence.”

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