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GOP Face Trump Foes at Town Halls      02/22 06:14

   BLACKSTONE, Va. (AP) -- Republican U.S. Rep. David Brat, who rode voter 
anger to a historic political upset nearly three years ago, was on the 
receiving end of constituent angst about the Trump administration as he held a 
town hall in Virginia.

   Protesters and supporters crowded a restaurant conference room in Blackstone 
where Brat fielded questions for about hour Tuesday. He was loudly heckled and 
booed when he defended President Donald Trump and his policies on health care 
and immigration, with the occasional cheer from supporters of his positions on 
gun rights and fewer regulations.

   The former economics professor said he enjoyed the feisty give and take.

   "People are very nervous and anxious after the Trump win. So my goal tonight 
is to help allay some of those anxieties," said Brat, who defeated then House 
Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a 2014 GOP primary.

   Brat's town hall was among several protests lobbed at GOP members of 
Congress returning home this week on break to their districts around the 
country.

   Rep. Marsha Blackburn returned to her Tennessee district and was greeted by 
similarly tough questions and protests at a town hall about 30 miles from 
Nashville.

   "I have always said, you may not agree with me, but you're always going to 
know where I stand," Blackburn told the protesters outside Fairview City Hall 
afterward. "Having a good, solid, respectful debate, that is something that 
serves our country well."

   A month into Trump's presidency, protests continue over his immigration 
policies, Cabinet selections and the GOP's push to repeal the Affordable Care 
Act, without all the specifics on how to replace it. At the town halls, 
protesters are probing their lawmakers to see if they will veer from some of 
Trump's more controversial stands, and if they will promise coverage for those 
currently served by the Affordable Care Act.

   Brat said Republicans are still working on what a replacement of the 
Affordable Care Act would look like, but said current proposals being 
considered will cover those with preexisting conditions and include a two-year 
"transition period" so no one suddenly loses current coverage.

   Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to address the town halls.

   "The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are 
actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!" he tweeted.

   In two small Iowa towns, overflow crowds similarly lobbed questions Tuesday 
at Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst.

   About 18,000 callers participated in a telephone town hall with suburban 
Chicago Rep. Peter Roskam, who has been criticized for canceling smaller 
in-person meetings and declining debates. Many Republican lawmakers have opted 
against holding public town halls, instead organizing conference calls or 
meeting privately.

   Protesters booed in Montana when Sen. Steve Daines rescheduled for Wednesday 
a planned speaking appearance. And at a protest town hall in Allentown, 
Pennsylvania, home of Sen. Pat Toomey, the protest group called Tuesdays with 
Toomey hung an empty suit in place of the senator.

   Freshman GOP Rep. Scott Taylor on Tuesday held his second of three town 
halls this week in his Virginia district. Taylor did not begrudge any fellow 
Republicans who declined to host town halls, saying they can be a legitimate 
security concern. But Taylor said it's important to give people a "seat at the 
table."

   Elsewhere, a conservative East Texas Republican congressman chose to forgo 
town hall forums before constituents for fear of drawing anti-Trump protesters.

   Even the most powerful member of the U.S. Senate faced jeers from nearly 
1,000 as he arrived Tuesday to address a group of local business leaders. In 
Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, they chanted as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell 
entered the American Legion Post 34 Fairgrounds in a black limousine.

   McConnell said he was "proud" of the demonstrators for expressing their 
views but told the mostly friendly audience inside that the protesters "had 
their shot," adding: "Winners make policy and the losers go home."

   Rep. Louie Gohmert said in a statement that he was concerned that "groups 
from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology ... who are preying on 
public town halls" would "wreak havoc and threaten public safety."

   Instead, Gohmert said he is holding "telephone town halls" in which he can 
communicate with thousands in the time it takes for him to appear live before 
30 to 100 constituents.


(KA)

 
 
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