Town Halls Today: An Arrest and More Anger
Updated 5:27 p.m. ET
(AP Photo/Steve Pope)
The past 24 hours have brought more town hall anger, the arrest of a protester calling for "Death to Obama," and an attempt by one congressman to keep cameras out of a raucous meeting. Here's your fix of the latest town hall activity around the country:
In New York, Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner's staffers tried to bar WCBS cameras from covering his town hall Wednesday night. Later, the congressman himself insisted that "this isn't for channel 2. This is for my constituents," even as the station noted that the event was a public forum.
Weiner eventually relented and let cameras into what turned out to be raucous affair. "Let's look at the whole picture. You guys are stealing from us," one attendee said, while others charged that they were being threatened. Things eventually calmed down and Weiner told attendees that he favored a single-payer system. He said "this is not going to be free" and said funding could come from the health insurance company profits and overhead.
At a Thursday event in White Plains, meanwhile, Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey went after insurance companies, as WCBS reports. People spoke of being denied coverage at the event; Lowey said, "Families are struggling to make ends meet, [while] profits at the largest publicly traded health insurance companies increased by 428 percent."
In Pennsylvania, Representative Joe Sestak, who is challenging Arlen Specter for the Democratic 2010 Pennsylvania Senate nomination, hosted 650 "overwhelmingly civil" people at his town hall Wednesday night, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Many of those who showed up were supporters of health care reform. "We just haven't been getting our story told" at the town halls, one said. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, mention of a public health care option at the meeting prompted "wild applause."
Not that there weren't dissenters, including a Lyndon LaRouche supporter outside the event offering handouts showing President Obama with a Hitler-style moustache. Inside, the Daily News reports, one of the critical questions came from a veteran who shouted: "How can you tell me the private option will stay in place when my employer with 29,000 employees can just turn around tomorrow and say 'We're writing that off the bottom line; you guys are all going to the public option?'"
Sestak responded by noting that the bill "mandates that the employer has to keep the health-care plan he has with you."
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Earlier this week at an Arlen Specter town hall meeting in Pennsylvania, a photographer was "pushed by an audience member once they realized she was working for The New York Times," according to photographer Damon Winter.
Specter's town hall in Kittanning Thursday was a sometimes-heated affair, though the senator remained calm throughout. WPXI reports that almost 2,000 people showed up, though only 200 were allowed inside.
Participants expressed a variety of opinions, with some pushing for the president's health care efforts and others insisting they will hurt the country. Specter reiterated his support for reform efforts and repeatedly said that those who like their coverage will be able to keep it.
In Maryland, authorities detained a 51-year-old man who showed up at a town hall Wednesday held by Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin with a sign reading "Death to Obama," the Associated Press reports. The sign also said, "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids."
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
In New Jersey, Democratic Congressman Steve Rothman said the health care overhaul should not mean emulating other countries, CNN reports.
"I, for one, don't want a system like Great Britain's," he said. "I don't want a system like Canada's. I don't want national health care, and I don't want socialized medicine."
In Alabama, hundreds of polite people packed into a town hall held Thursday morning by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, according to WHNT News. Sessions said he wished health insurance looked more like car insurance, where pre-existing conditions and the place one works don't come into the equation.
He also said people who have good health care now are scared by reform efforts. "They worry they may lose something they count on every day," he said.
In Oklahoma, another Republican senator, Tom Coburn, held a town hall in which many attendees worried that health care reform is "being rammed down my throat," as one uninsured rural Oklahoma woman put it, according to NewsOn6.com.
Coburn said the government is getting involved in areas it doesn't belong.
"Any bill that comes out of the Congress that spends more money is failure," he said. "What we need is a better value not to spend more. We ought to make sure we can cover everyone in this country for less money than we are spending now. Giving better quality and a better outcome though we can't do that with the government running it."
President Obama is hosting a town hall Friday in Montana, and it could be rowdier than his relatively restrained event in New Hampshire earlier this week. Politico reports that "tickets for the Montana event are being handed out on a first-come, first-served basis at two locations in the conservative Bozeman, Mont., area," which could mean a higher percentage of attendees who oppose the president's efforts.
Photo Essay: The Town Hall Protests
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