'May you die in pain': Lawmakers face fierce criticism as they return home

Andrew Bahl
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., photographs legislation to repeal Obamacare and cut off federal funding of Planned Parenthood that had just been signed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the U.S. Capitol, January 7, 2016. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As members of Congress return to their districts for the customary August recess, at least one California lawmaker received a hostile reception back home.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., appeared at a town hall in Chico, Calif., on Monday. While LaMalfa won reelection easily last year, he was met by critics of his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood, as well as his denial of man-made climate change.

The most heated moment, according to the Los Angeles Times, was when a man told LaMalfa, “May you die in pain.” The speaker appeared to be protesting LaMalfa’s vote to advance the American Health Care Act, which later sputtered in the Senate.  

Other protesters called on LaMalfa to resign for supporting the health care bill, which would have rolled back numerous key Obamacare provisions, including Medicaid expansion in states like California. One LaMalfa critic channeled “The Wizard of Oz,” dressing up as the “Wicked Witch of the West Coast.”

 

But LaMalfa was unmoved, arguing that middle-class families in his Northern California district were being hurt by Obamacare.

“We really want to help middle-income Californians, middle-income Americans be able to afford health insurance as they see fit and not … a government mandate,” LaMalfa told a local TV station after the event.

And when the boos and jeers rained down on him during the town hall, LaMalfa didn’t back down.

“I have the mic, folks. Yep, boo away,” he taunted at one point.

Other lawmakers are facing similarly unfriendly crowds — if they host town halls at all. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., faced criticism over his support for President Trump’s penal immigration policies at a Monday event in his rural district.

While that town hall lacked the fireworks of LaMalfa’s, the county sheriff was forced to take over the microphone on at least one occasion to restore order. Yet Meadows, who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus, praised the crowd at the end for being “respectful — even vocal.”

Mark Meadows, R-N.C., House Freedom Caucus chairman, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in May. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“If you guys disagree, send me the information,” Meadows told protesters at one point, as a member of the crowd grilled him over single-payer health care.

Even some of the most vulnerable Republican members of Congress are engaging with their detractors. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, is expected to be a top Democratic target in the 2018 midterm elections.

This didn’t stop Hurd from launching a weeklong circuit of Dairy Queens in his Southwest Texas district, beginning Sunday with a stop in suburban El Paso.

Given the area’s proximity to the Mexican border, many residents were concerned again about Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

“The bills that they’re passing, it’s profiling,” one man said. “I want you to take this back to Mr. Trump to let him know what he is doing to our country.”

Hurd insisted the events were important to have, even as other members of Congress have shied away from meeting with angry constituents.

“That’s why I’m doing 20 town halls in six days to hear these concerns,” he told voters. “That’s why I’m out in a place that I didn’t win — because I represent everybody, not just the people that vote for me.”

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