Confronted with talking to constituents about health care, these GOP lawmakers chose to hide

Members of Congress are fleeing from concerned constituents.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks at a meeting of the Political Animals Club in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 CREDIT: AP Photo/Danny Johnston
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks at a meeting of the Political Animals Club in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 CREDIT: AP Photo/Danny Johnston

Polling shows that Obamacare is more popular than ever — according to a spate of recent polls, more Americans are now in favor of the health care law than opposed to it. That’s making things pretty awkward for congressional Republicans, who continue to push ahead with their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act now that Trump is in office.

Some members of Congress are even hiding from constituents trying to ask them questions about the future of their health care coverage.

On Tuesday, a small group of constituents went to Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R) office in Arkansas to try to meet with staff — and were met with a locked door and a staffer speaking through an intercom, saying that the senator’s staff wouldn’t be taking any meetings with constituents.

“They’ve turned off their telephones,” Sarah Scanlon, one of the constituents and the former national LGBTQ outreach director for Bernie Sanders’ campaign, told the Arkansas Times. “They’ve locked their doors, they’re not letting you in.”

In a video posted to YouTube, the unidentified staffer tells Scanlon that the staff have been instructed by the D.C. office not to meet with any constituents because of “recent threats.”

Cotton’s Twitter feed shows that he has met with several other constituents in D.C. over the past few days. A request to to Cotton’s office for clarification has not been returned.

The video of Cotton’s staff hiding behind the locked door came amid news that a meeting scheduled for Wednesday between the senator’s staff and the progressive advocacy group Ozark Indivisible was also abruptly canceled, according to a representative for the group.

Caitlynn Moses, a founding member of Ozark Indivisible, contacted Cotton’s office two weeks ago to ask for a town hall to discuss the future of Obamacare, according to the Arkansas Times. Cotton’s office declined, and instead set up a meeting with a staffer at his Springdale office. But then, that meeting was canceled with less than 24 hours notice. The group tried to reschedule — to no avail.

Frustrated, they reportedly gathered at Cotton’s office to protest.

“I’m not trying to be rowdy, I’m not trying to make their lives more difficult, I’m trying to voice my concerns as a constituent — which I have every right to do,” Moses told the Arkansas Times.

Cotton isn’t the only member of Congress who appears to be ducking his constituents in recent days.

Also on Wednesday, Rep. Peter Roskam’s (R-IL) office canceled a meeting with constituents about Obamacare after a staffer learned a reporter was present.

“I am flabbergasted that Peter Roskam and his staff would turn us away,” Sandra Alexander, who organized the meeting, said. “They didn’t have the courtesy to listen to us. We are a peaceful group.”

Alexander and a group of about 16 constituents showed up for a pre-scheduled meeting to express their concerns about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Aurora Beacon-News. But they were reportedly chastised by the office for bringing too many people and inviting the press. When Alexander told the staffer that the reporter didn’t have to attend, the staffer walked away without rescheduling the meeting.

“It can’t be this hard to speak with your representative”

“He just ran off,” Alexander said. “They never told me that the media could not be here, and the reporter was willing to leave so that we could have our meeting.” She added that, now that Congress is trying to figure out an Obamacare replacement bill, lawmakers need to be available to discuss that with their constituents.

“It can’t be this hard to speak with your representative,” she said, according to the local paper’s reporting.

Over the weekend, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) also tried to avoid her constituents.

Comstock’s office invited people in her district to “mobile office hours” at two local grocery stores, saying on the invitation that she’d be there to answer questions about “issues important to you.” Dozens of constituents went to the stores to ask Comstock about the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan and Trump’s recent immigration order. But Comstock never showed.

Angry constituents complained on Facebook about Comstock’s failure to show up, though they also indicated she sent a staffer in her place. A member of Comstock’s staff told Politico that the invitation should never have said that Comstock herself would attend.

Another Virginia representative, Dave Brat, is getting confronted by constituents wherever he goes. He told a meeting of conservative groups over the weekend, “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go.”

Video of that meeting was shared to a a new Facebook group called 7th District Town Hall Meeting. The sole purpose of the group is to determine when, and if, Brat will hold another town hall meeting.

For example, a post from last week reads, “Funny how he has time for fundraisers and Facebook but cannot answer one simple question — when is the next Town Hall meeting?”

For Brat’s constituents, it could be a long time. Brat announced on Facebook on Monday that he won’t hold any town hall meetings until after “our first 100 days agenda is implemented and we come up for a breath of air.”

By then, Congress may have already repealed the Affordable Care Act.