These days, town halls can be rough for politi­cians

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION -

TOWN hall meet­ings have been a chal­lenge across the coun­try for Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress, and Ok­la­homa’s sen­a­tors and House mem­bers aren’t im­mune. Folks are worked up and don’t mind say­ing so.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, who represents the state’s 4th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, got an ear­ful Tues­day night at a town hall in Nor­man where he spent 5 hours, 45 min­utes an­swer­ing ques­tions that fo­cused mostly on health care and on Pres­i­dent Trump.

As The Ok­la­homan’s Justin Wingerter re­ported, dozens of those in the crowd es­ti­mated at 250 kept their hands up through­out much of the event. Sev­eral wore green T-shirts that read “RE­SIST.” Oth­ers held signs that read, “Re­claim­ing My Time.”

At one point, Cole had to in­ter­vene when a sup­porter yelled at a critic of Cole to “shut up.” The con­gress­man be­came an­noyed late in the second hour of the marathon meeting when he was drowned out by shouts. “Will you let me fin­ish?” he said to one woman.

Many con­ser­va­tives are an­gry that the Repub­li­can-con­trolled House and Se­nate haven’t been able to pass some sort of re­vi­sion of the Af­ford­able Care Act — some­thing they had promised would hap­pen if only they had a Repub­li­can in the White House. On the other hand, many Amer­i­cans on both sides of the aisle are con­cerned about los­ing the cov­er­age Oba­macare pro­vides.

At a re­cent town hall in Chico, Cal­i­for­nia, Repub­li­can Rep. Doug LaMalfa heard from con­stituents an­gry about his vote to re­peal Oba­macare. “I hope you suf­fer the same painful fate as those mil­lions that you have voted to re­move health care from,” one per­son said, ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post. “May you die in pain.”

No one went quite that far with Cole in Nor­man, although at­ten­dees made it clear they cer­tainly don’t want an over­haul and in­stead would love to

Many con­ser­va­tives are an­gry that the Repub­li­can-con­trolled House and Se­nate haven’t been able to pass some sort of re­vi­sion of the Af­ford­able Care Act — some­thing they had promised would hap­pen if only they had a Repub­li­can in the White House.”

see uni­ver­sal health care.

The Nor­man stop was one of four town halls Cole sched­uled dur­ing the Au­gust re­cess. He an­swered ques­tions for more than three hours Thurs­day in Mid­west City. Third Dis­trict Rep. Frank Lu­cas, R-Cheyenne, has hosted sev­eral town halls, with a num­ber of oth­ers on the books this week. Sen. James Lank­ford, R-Ok­la­homa City, has a “com­mu­nity con­ver­sa­tion” sched­uled Mon­day at Ok­la­homa Chris­tian University. The other four mem­bers of the del­e­ga­tion didn’t sched­ule town halls dur­ing their break from Wash­ing­ton.

Second Dis­trict Rep. Mark­wayne Mullin, R-Westville, has en­gen­dered con­sid­er­able crit­i­cism from con­stituents since a town hall in Clare­more in April where he told the au­di­ence it was “bull­crap” that they pay for his job. “I pay for my­self,” he said. “I paid enough taxes be­fore I got there and con­tinue to through my com­pany to pay my own salary.”

Some in his dis­trict also are up­set that Mullin plans to seek a fourth term, after say­ing he would serve no more than three terms. And in Tahle­quah, some res­i­dents are up­set that Mullin hasn’t resched­uled a town hall that he can­celed abruptly four months ago.

He and every mem­ber of the del­e­ga­tion would do well to oc­ca­sion­ally stand up be­fore their con­stituents and face the mu­sic. That’s par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult now, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, but it goes with the job.

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