The same Republican politicians who are planning to repeal the Affordable Care Act are doing everything they can to avoid potentially embarrassing confrontations with their constituents who will be affected by their actions.
Although 10 Republican legislators have held in-person town hall meetings since the start of the year, only one — Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin — has scheduled any events for the future, according to The Washington Post.
“In this day and age, real-life town halls are very dangerous for all but the most seasoned politicians,” John Feehery, a former senior House Republican leadership aide, told the Post. “I think John McCain can get away with it and a few others, but most should stick to office hours, really good constituent service or tele-town halls.”
There are already signs that Republican congressmen would experience a major backlash if they faced their constituents. Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado had to exit an event on Saturday from a backdoor due to chanting protesters. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington faced shouts of “save our health care” during an event in her district on Monday. And — perhaps most memorable — on Friday House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was confronted on a national cable show by a cancer survivor who insisted that the Affordable Care Act had saved his life.
Republicans have a great deal to lose if they repeal the Affordable Care Act without setting up a replacement plan to protect the 22 million Americans who would otherwise lose their health insurance. There are 6.3 million people in Republican-led districts who enrolled due to the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act — compared with only 5.2 million enrollees who reside in Democratic-led districts.
When the Affordable Care Act was debated in the summer of 2009, Democratic legislators who supported the bill faced hostile town hall meetings of their own. These lawmakers included Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, who had a constituent accuse him of wanting to deny coverage to his son with cerebral palsy; Rep. David Scott of Georgia, who snapped at a man confronting him about the bill; Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, who had to keep out dozens of protesters from town hall meeting room; and Rep. Tim Bishop of New York, who was confronted with a mob of angry protesters at his town hall event.