GOP lawmaker Dan Webster's town hall turns ugly

Constituents at an acrimonious town hall meeting in Orlando featuring Rep. Dan Webster, April 26, 2011. Orlando Sentinel video

 

A Republican congressman from Florida faced heckling and boos at a town hall meeting in Orlando Tuesday as some constituents voiced anger over the budget plan passed by the GOP-led House of Representatives.

Dan Webster, a freshman who represents the Orlando area, was repeatedly interrupted at the meeting with comments like, "This isn't information, this is lies!" The meeting, parts of which you can see in the Orlando Sentinel video at left, also included constituents arguing with each other - one loudly calls another a "moron" - and chants from some to "let [Webster] talk." (More video, from liberal group ThinkProgress, is below.)

The scene was reminiscent of the town hall meetings in the summer of 2009, when Democratic lawmakers faced off with angry, often Tea Party-linked constituents railing against the proposed health care law. Now Webster and other some Republicans are dealing with similar scenes in response to the House budget plan, which included major changes for Medicare and cuts to Medicaid.

Liberal groups like Moveon.org have been encouraging their members to head for Republican town hall meetings, and according to the Sentinel some of the people in the crowd were affiliated with such groups. Many in the crowd wore stickers reading "Hands off Social Security," which is largely untouched in the House GOP budget plan.

At the meeting, Webster attempted to use charts to discuss the federal deficit and debt but was interrupted by critics complaining he wanted to end Medicare and give tax breaks to high earners. According to the Associated Press, the first interruption came just one minute into his prepared remarks.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of the House GOP budget, was booed at a town hall meeting last week, and a handful of other GOP congressmen have been confronted at town halls in the wake of the budget passage, though the scenes have largely not been as dramatic as they were in response to the health care bill.

Webster, who represents a swing district previously held by liberal flamethrower Alan Grayson, said following the meeting that he "appreciate[s] the people coming out - there's nothing wrong with the clash of ideas."

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