Freshman Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) has decided against holding public town halls during the August recess, instead choosing to hold community meetings at coffee shops throughout the district. The coffee meetings, however, have not been publicly listed on Herrera Beutler’s Congressional web site, nor has the schedule been made available for the press.
Herrera Beutler’s office claims five meetings have been held but that they aren’t listed publicly because “a coffee shop can only accommodate so many people.” But Herrera Beutler’s constituents are upset that she isn’t holding public town halls, The Columbian reports:
“I’d love to talk to her about the debt limit,” said Jan Watson, a high school teacher in Rochester. “I’d like to have her listen to people. In a town hall, when somebody asks a question and the person responds, you can get a real good fact check by the groans. That gives a real indication that your comment isn’t quite right or isn’t reflecting the community.”
Watson said she encourages her students to attend politicians’ town hall meetings so they can experience democracy up close.
“The real underlying reason this congressional district has not seen public meetings is that the congresswoman is aware enough of the real world to understand that Congress, in general, is not held in high esteem,” said Tom Shofner of Kalama in an email. “If we add to that her allegiance to the far right, … she just doesn’t feel at home any more in this area, I think.”
The only other meetings Herrera Beutler has held are telephone town halls, but constituents are not invited to call in to those. Instead, they receive a phone call on their home phones asking if they have a question. “If you are home and pick up the phone, you can participate,” Herrera Beutler’s spokesperson said. The representative, however, provides no notice for when the calls may come.
Herrera Beutler isn’t the only member of Congress to avoid town halls during recess, particularly as Republicans seek to avoid answering for the political brinksmanship that nearly caused the country’s default and led to a downgrade of America’s credit rating. Representatives have avoided scheduling events, only to relent under protest from constituents, while others have charged attendees to ask questions, banned recording devices, and put constituents who have asked questions before on a watch list.
Herrera Butler has only held two town halls since taking office in January, but her campaign assured The Columbian that more were coming. But as of the article’s publication, no future events have been scheduled.