Lawmakers try to keep town halls from getting out of control

Lawmakers try to keep town halls from getting out of control

The hearing was to examine the accountability at Arlington National Cemetery in light of the mix-ups in burials at the cemetery.

Across the country on Wednesday night, Colorado's Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) faced similar constituent anger over his decision to support the GOP's health care plan.

For almost two hours, he paced a stage in an auditorium on the Anschutz Medical Campus looking as though he were enjoying the sometimes testy exchanges, and took a rapid-fire series of questions about his stance on issues that ranged from background checks, to climate change, health care, LGBTQ issues, Trump's budget, and the presidents proximity to Russian Federation. When one woman asked whether he would vote in favor of his constituents or GOP leaders, Coffman shot back.

More than once, Coffman was offered an ultimatum: You can side with us or side with the President.

On Monday, for example, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, who became infamous for yelling "You lie!" at President Barack Obama during a speech to Congress in 2009, was himself confronted at a town hall by constituents chanting, "You lie!"

Coffman vowed to protect coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and also insisted that he disagreed with Trump's suggestion of letting Obamacare "implode".

According to local reporters, one constituent spoke about his anxiety about creating high-risk insurance pools, a policy favored by Republican lawmakers that would make it more hard for people with conditions like Type I diabetes to afford care. "I think we just ought to fix it and I think the president does have a miscalculation when he thinks that Democrats will cry uncle and run to us save that part of it". "Where are our politicians when we need them?"

The tensions came to a head with the final question of the evening, from a woman who said her grandparents had died in Auschwitz. What about anti-semitic people who surround him?

Smadar Belkind Gerson, an activist in Coffman's district who was helping to organize protests outside the town hall, said that she was glad Coffman moved to a more open format but that he has a long way to go. "If you're not familiar with what he did..."

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"I'm sorry to say I was shocked when you declared your intention to vote for the American Health Care Act", one attendee, Steven Haas, told Coffman, according to Politico. Norma Armenta, a 47-year-old constituent of Coffman's, became interested in the town hall since Coffman courted her husband's union in the election.

Still, both face uphill battles to de-seat Coffman, who beat Morgan Carroll in 2016 by 31,000 votes - a few thousand fewer than he won by when he defeated Andrew Romanoff in 2014.

The GOP lawmakers who do courageous the crowds often seek to find some common ground with left-leaning constituents.

Democrats are feeling especially optimistic following a special house election in Kansas Tuesday night.

Juxtaposed against some of his congressional colleagues' recent town hall meetings, Coffman's event could be characterized as a quiet, calm affair - especially given the fact the congressman and his narrowly divided district are a favorite targets of the Democratic Party - but the Aurora event wasn't without its fireworks; they flew early and often, and the theme quickly was driven to the president by a crowd that was clearly anti-Trump.

Coffman says he expects to have another town hall by the end of the year. A Denver TV station caught him ducking out the back of the library and into a vehicle before that event's scheduled end.

Susan Gilbert, a high school teacher from Aurora, attended that event in January.

One of the rules for his Wednesday town hall was no standing in the aisles or blocking entrances and exits.

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