Republican lawmakers are getting more than they bargained for at town hall meetings across the country this weekend.
Instead of calm question and answer sessions, residents are showing up in hordes to tell their members of Congress what they think about the GOP’s plans to dismantle health care reform and reproductive rights, as well as general criticisms of President Donald Trump’s policy decisions.
South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Mark Sanford were greeted by a boisterous crowd on Saturday that was so big the meeting had to be moved outside. The town hall in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. lasted four hours with constituents asking their representatives tough questions about Trump, such as “Are you personally proud to have this person representing our country?” to which Scott replied that he was “thankful” given the choices of presidential candidates. A woman shouted back, “You’re not proud!”
“I think we’re all struggling a little,” Sanford said.
Are you "proud" Trump is president?
Scott: "given the two choices I had, I am thankful"
Sanford: "I think we’re all struggling a little."
— Alexis Levinson (@alexis_levinson) February 18, 2017
A similar scene played out in New York, where Republican Rep. Tim Reed was confronted with boos and jeers at a town hall meeting in North Harmony, N.Y. on Saturday. The crowds were so large that Reed also had to relocate the event outside to accommodate the constituents.
After Reed said that he does not support “taxpayer-funded paying of abortion,” referring to Planned Parenthood receiving some government funds, he garnered a roomful of boos and a fact-check from the audience.
“You, an elected official, [are] giving misinformation,” a woman said in response, as the Huffington Post reported. “Right now, our taxes do not pay for abortions. They pay for mammograms, they pay for birth control.”
“Planned Parenthood, less than 3 percent of the services they provide is abortion. And none of that 3 percent is funded by you,” she added.
Angry attendees also booed Reed when he said he doesn’t support an investigation into Russia’s potential involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
— Jessica Taylor (@JessicaTaylor) February 18, 2017
Reed seemed to take day’s criticisms in stride, saying, “What I have heard is passion” and “What I have heard is democracy,” as the New York Times reported.
The raucous town hall meetings fall on a recess week for Congress, which is intended to give lawmakers time to spend in their districts. But many Republicans seem to be avoiding public engagements with their constituents right now. Compared to data from 2015, scheduled Republican town hall events are down 84 percent.
Republicans who have held public events are frequently met with opposition. One of the groups responsible for such mobilization is Indivisible, which provides a protest guide for “resisting the Trump agenda” and encourages people to get involved in local political events.
Indivisible’s Charleston chapter helped organize the town hall opposition in South Carolina on Saturday.
“Our concerns are not based on Republican values or Republican mindset. Our views are based on inclusion, respect and fairness for all people, and we’re seeing the Trump agenda is taking us in the opposite direction of that,” Indivisible Charleston’s media coordinator Blake Dahlstrom told the Post and Courier.
“Our focus is the Republican Party because that’s where we’re seeing opposition to our ideals of inclusiveness, respect and fairness.”