Town hall meetings usually are love fests, at least that’s what transpires when state legislators convene them in the Texas Panhandle.
State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, quite often stages these sessions in communities throughout his sprawling West Texas district. As near as I can tell, they are civil, usually friendly and constituents spend a good bit of energy telling Seliger how much they appreciate his service.
Well, town hall meetings in many congressional districts have turned into something quite different in recent days. They have produced shouting matches between members of Congress and their constituents.
At issue? The Affordable Care Act.
Constituents are showing up in droves to tell their congresspeople to leave the ACA alone. Or, if they’re going to repeal it, they’d damn well better have something to replace it … as in immediately, if not sooner!
U.S. Rep. Gus Billirakis, R-Fla., got a snootful from his constituents, who told him they’d better not mess with “Obamacare.” He’s not alone. Someone uttered the term “death panel” during a town hall event and promptly got booed and shouted down.
I haven’t heard about any such encounters in my congressional district, which would be the 13th, covering the Texas Panhandle. Our member of Congress is a fellow named Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, a rancher and a self-proclaimed “recovering lawyer.” He has served in the House for 22 years, making him one of the big dogs of Capitol Hill.
Thornberry hasn’t said much in public — above a whisper — about how he would replace the ACA.
Town hall meetings, as I have long understood them, were meant for constituents to speak their minds freely, telling their elected representatives what they think about issues of the day and how their representatives are handling them. The bad comes with the good. Town hall meetings aren’t usually intended to be amen choruses.
Thus, the real deal has broken out in congressional districts across the land.
It’s beginning to sound as though Congress has just discovered a so-called new “third rail.” It used to be that you didn’t mess with Social Security. These days, with 20 million Americans insured through a new government-sponsored insurance program, the third rail might have switched.
Now it’s the Affordable Care Act … maybe.