Members Continue to Face Mixed Crowds at Town Halls

Posted August 25, 2009 at 10:41am

Correction Appended

House Members drew both contentious and peaceful crowds at health care forums across the country Monday. Conservative Blue Dogs in particular kept their language about specific reforms to the nation’s health care system vague.

Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) faced a crowd of more than 1,000 in Warner Robins on Monday night. Marshall emphasized that he won’t support the health care reform bill being discussed in the House but added that the current system isn’t good enough, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.

“The current track we’re on … guarantees bankruptcy for the USA in a very short period of time,— he said, according to the Sun News in Macon. “Health-care reform needs to fix the fiscal course we’re on. And if it doesn’t do that, it doesn’t deserve the name reform.—

Marshall, a Blue Dog, has had to fight for re-election since he first won in 2002. Last year he won with 57 percent of the vote.

Fellow Blue Dog Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) told a crowd of about 900 people at Middle Tennessee State University that he would accept the insurance plan in the Democrats’ bill for himself, but he promised constituents he would “not support a public option for a health care insurance monopoly,— according to the Tennessean. Gordon has represented his relatively conservative district since 1984 and has been re-elected easily in the past few cycles.

Freshman Rep. Parker Griffith, a Blue Dog Democrat from Alabama, found constituents at a town hall at the University of North Alabama to be split, according to WHNT in Huntsville. He said he is against the Democrats’ health care reform plan but not against reform in general.

“The insurance companies have got to cross state lines for bids,— he said. “They cannot disallow someone with a pre-existing illness, they can’t overrate somebody for age, and we have got to allow small businessmen to join together with other small businessmen to get a bid for insurance. All of that brings the cost down.—

Griffith was elected in 2008 after longtime Rep. Bud Cramer (D) retired. He won with 52 percent and already has two Republican opponents for 2010.

In Illinois, moderate GOP Rep. Mark Kirk, who will give up his seat to run for Senate in 2010, met with constituents in Arlington Heights on Monday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“What we need is the right answer, not the quick answer,— he told an overflowing crowd.

In Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported a contrast between the town halls of neighboring Reps. Lamar Smith (R) and Charlie Gonzalez (D) on Monday. While Smith’s mostly calm town hall ended in “a brief altercation as the crowd exited the town hall,— Gonzalez’s meeting was raucous from start to finish, even though he began his PowerPoint presentation with George Washington’s Rules of Civility. The most intense part was when John Hall stood up and announced he plans to run against Gonzalez in 2010.

“And I’m intent on beating you. What’s your question, big boy?— the Congressman replied.

Gonzalez, a six-term Congressman who replaced his father and represents a fairly liberal district, would be tough to defeat. He faced 1,000 people in his town hall and was booed when he spoke in support of Democrats’ public insurance option. Smith has represented the conservative district north of San Antonio and east of Austin since 1986.

See a list of today’s town halls at Congress.org.

Correction: Aug. 25, 2009

Marshall is opposed to the House health care reform bill. The Sun News in Macon was cited as saying Marshall didn’t commit to supporting or opposing the House bill.