Tea Party Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) had been avoiding his constituents during the August recess, holding on private and pay-per-view meetings until a group of “granny” protesters shamed him into hosting a public town hall this week. Cravaack finally held a forum at the Duluth airport yesterday afternoon, and its clear why had avoided doing so before as some constituents confronted him for supporting cuts to Pell Grants while refusing to raise taxes on the wealthy. “Unfortunately, what I’ve seen is they’ve become more and more uncivil as time goes on,” Cravaack said. Participants remained civil, but the discourse was certainly heated at times.
Theresa O’Halleran Johnson, a recent college grad, spoke up after Cravaack suggested that Pell grants are responsible for raising tuition costs on “normal people.” “Pell grants have increased the last four years by 139 percent. Dollar for dollar, as the Pell grants increase, so does normal tuition on normal people,” Cravaack. “That’s not true!” several constituents shouted. Johnson took the mic to say, “That is completely incorrect.”
“I am this future you keep taking about — the future you keep talking about piling debt on,” Johnson continued. “And this is the future speaking, asking why you aren’t raising taxes on people who can afford it.” Johnson’s comments were met with wild applause and cheers from the crowd.
When Cravaack prepared to leave the town hall “promptly one hour after it started,” several audience members again spoke up, asking that he stay to answer more questions, since it’s unclear when or if he’ll hold another public forum in district’s main city. Watch video shot by YouTube user MimiVictoria345, and compiled by ThinkProgress:
Cravaack’s claim about Pell grants comes from analysis put out House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) in support of the GOP budget, which cuts funding for the education program. As ThinkProgress has noted, the study Ryan cites to support his claim actually finds the opposite, concluding, “we find little evidence” that the grants increase tuition costs.
“I thought it was poor. He spent a lot of time explaining his position. He did not allow enough people to speak,” said Kathy Hern, an unemployed worker, told a local Fox affiliate of the event.