Your congressman came home. Why no town hall? | St. Louis Public Radio

Your congressman came home. Why no town hall?

Feb 24, 2017

Members of Congress return to Washington on Monday after a week-long work sessions in their home districts.

Like some other around the country, St. Louis-area representatives are catching criticism for not using the break to host town hall meetings to hear from constituents.

There was one exception; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., held a listening session Friday in Hillsboro regarding pension funds.

So where are your representatives, and why aren’t they holding public meetings? Here’s what they said.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Ill.

In-person town hall meetings have been derailed across the country in an effort to disrupt the honest conversation that representatives need to have with their constituents.  Rep. Bost wants to ensure that conversation continues unimpeded and is open to receiving feedback — both positive and negative — from the constituents he represents. That is why this week he met with health care professionals at two Southern Illinois hospitals in three locations, hosted an Agricultural Advisory Board meeting with local farmers, spoke with students at Murphysboro High School, and had 12 individual constituent meetings. Among the constituents he met with were protesters who demonstrated outside of his Belleville office. Additionally, Rep. Bost recently hosted a telephone town hall meeting, which reached over 85,000 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in Southern Illinois. Constituents who would like to participate in the next telephone town hall are welcome to sign up at bost.house.gov.” — Communications Director George O’Connor.

Bost's office in Belleville attracted about 60 protesters on Tuesday. Organizer Jeanne Cameron of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans said the group has sent multiple requests to meet with Bost, and that scheduled meetings have repeatedly been pushed back.

"These are public officials, they aren’t private CEO's. They can’t cherry pick what public they want to serve," Cameron said by phone Friday. "We need to protect our care, which includes care provided through the Affordable Care Act. And we do not want to see cuts to Medicare or cuts to Medicaid."

 

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

“The senator has been traveling out of the country this week, and will ​[be] home in Springfield over the weekend. He has a few public events over the weekend, but none that we are advising (we are not the hosts … the hosts will send out media advisories).  As always, we will announce any of our upcoming public events in advance. The next Congressional State Work Period is in April.  We don’t have that schedule worked out/finalized yet,” — Communications Director Brian Hart.

Hart also provided links to three health care forums that Blunt has participated in; they occurred in August of 2015 and January of 2016. 

Protesters visited Blunt's Clayton office Tuesday and Thursday of this week, repeating the refrain "Where is Roy?" 

"It's easy when you're in an office in a posh Clayton building to forget that there are a lot of people out here that are hurting, that need help," said Kim Millstone, a mental health counselor who lives in St. Louis County. 

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

“I can tell you that Claire’s a big fan of town halls, and she’ll be having plenty of them moving forward. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to swing town halls this week, particularly with her US-Mexico border tour, but she’s looking forward to continuing that practice this year, and continuing to frequently travel the state hearing from Missourians.

Our staff has been and continues to represent Claire at several ACA-related town hall events this week, including in Columbia, St. Charles, and Kansas City.

And I can tell you that the feedback we’ve been hearing is that chaos is coming — a lot of fear and anxiety, because Republicans have no replacement plan, and folks are afraid of losing their coverage and protections.” — Press Secretary Sarah Feldman.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, Mo.

"I have hosted several tele-townhalls with tens of thousands of constituents in my District and find them invaluable to learning more about their needs and opinions. Listening to constituent concerns through tele-townhalls allows me to directly connect with them and discuss these issues in a productive manner. I plan to host several in the near future, so if you live in Missouri's Second District and have thoughts on how we can fix Obamacare, because it absolutely needs to be fixed, cut down on government intrusion, help re-build jobs and discuss how I can be a better Representative, stay tuned because I'll be calling you soon." — Office of Rep. Ann Wagner.  

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, Ill.

“The congressman prefers one-on-one or small group meetings with constituents instead. He’s been doing both over this district work period.

There have been folks who complain about the ACA’s cost and high deductibles. Many want to see it repealed and replaced. Others have expressed concerns, particularly over pre-existing conditions. The congressman reassures them that House Republicans’ Better Way plan prohibits insurers from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition.” — Press Secretary Jordan Haverly.

Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, Mo.

“There will be some future dates on health care, I just don’t have them yet. As soon as the president’s plan is published, the congressman will be addressing that.”—Communications Director Steven Engelhardt.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, St. Elizabeth, Mo.

“Listening to and responding to his constituents are top priorities for the Congressman. Blaine has personally held over 1,000 meetings in the district in the last eight years and takes live questions on radio shows that air throughout central and eastern Missouri every month. Blaine also frequently holds Tele-Townhall meetings, including one last night, where he answers live questions from constituents and roughly 8,000 callers are on the line at any given time. In addition, the Congressman’s staffers, based in three district offices, are regularly out and about in all 13 counties, attending public events and meeting with constituents. Constituents who email Blaine or call one of his offices will receive a response; more than 5,000 responses were sent out in January alone. Lastly, Blaine also has an active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve found that these are all effective and efficient ways to serve the 762,000 constituents that live in Missouri’s 3rd District.” –Communications Director Kristina Weger.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

“While the schedule for March is still being finalized, Senator Duckworth did just have an open house today [Friday] with constituents in Springfield [Ill.] to celebrate the opening of her new office, which was open to the public. We’ll be sending out a press release on it later today on it.” — Press Secretary Sean Savett.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

“In the past two months, Senator Durbin has held six roundtable discussions with hospital leadership, doctors, physicians, and patients across Illinois to discuss the local impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They have taken place around Chicago, Springfield, DuPage County, and Carbondale. Our office has also had to cancel three other roundtables on the same topic in Metro East, Peoria, and Rockford due to the Senate voting schedule. We are working to reschedule these…

Sens. Durbin and Duckworth also sent a letter to Gov. Rauner in January urging him to oppose the repeal of the ACA (letter attached). They also called for his concrete recommendations on how to improve the health care system for Illinoisans state-wide. Our office has yet to receive a response.

Overall, our office has had an overwhelming response from Illinois stakeholders that repeal of the ACA would be very bad for patients and hospitals alike, leading to closures, layoffs, delay of renovations, and more. We have also heard personally from constituents across the state who would be impacted by the repeal of ACA." — Press Secretary Emily Hampsten.

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, Ill.

"Congressman Davis held a tele-town hall on this very issue last week. He answered several questions about repealing and replacing Obamacare. We called 120,000 people and 7,500 were able to participate. In fact, I'm sure many of these protesters participated since there was a list of questions being pushed to members of the Indivisible Group and others." --Communications Director Ashley Phelps. 

Davis' office held an open "office hours" meeting in Springfield on Feb. 22, but it attracted protesters because Davis does not attend these functions. According to his website, constituents can sign up to participate in a telephone town hall here

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