Ticked at Town Halls: Lawmakers Feel Heat During Break

Aug 18, 2011 2:40pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:

Across the country, local media reports are popping up, exposing the public as they unload their frustrations on their elected officials.

In Manitowoc, Wis., Wednesday, Republican Rep. Tom Petri took some heat from an angry voter who said Obama had created more jobs than President Bush and pressed Petri “to raise revenue from the rich."

"I'm making $30,000 a year and just trying to get by,” a man identified as Peter Fricke said, according to the Herald Times Reporter. “I'm not going to tolerate any more lies … watch what you say.”

The publication reported that the man’s high-volume, impassioned remarks prompted a member of the City Clerk's office to call the police.

The Kalamazoo Gazette noted that one member of the newly minted select joint committee on deficit reduction, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., faced a disruptive crowd at a town hall Monday and was “continually interrupted by people in the audience … shout[ing] comments and questions about growing jobs in Michigan and what Upton plans to do.”

At a town hall in Detroit Wednesday, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., told an anxious crowd that while she was supportive of the president, African-American lawmakers will “unleash” on him when black voters say it’s time.

“We want to give him every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is,” she said. “We are politicians, we are elected officials. We are trying to do the right thing and the best thing. When you let us know it is time to let go, we’ll let go.”

The government is in a holding pattern for the summer. No floor debates are broadcast nationally on CSPAN. No committees mark up any legislation. No laws are passed. Besides tourists and a reduced workforce of staffers, the Capitol is practically a ghost town.

But to satisfy the people’s appetite for representation, many members of Congress hold town hall meetings where inevitably each summer constituents sound off.

Clearly, no lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – is immune from the backlash.

Nearly every August, there is criticism of Washington’s elected officials for going on recess, akin to a legislative vacation from the people’s business.

On Aug. 9, a group of four House Democrats wrote to Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and asked the leaders to reconvene the House immediately to “show the American people and the financial markets that Congress can solve these big problems in a bipartisan fashion.”

That call apparently fell on deaf ears.

Today, President Obama heads to Martha’s Vineyard for a 10-day vacation as investors are on edge with the financial markets tumbling further into disarray. But Congress is not expected to return to session until after Labor Day to get back to work on addressing the country’s budding financial crisis.

Protesters have also dogged Boehner as he campaigns for his Republican colleagues throughout the Midwest. Even Obama and Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney have not escaped spontaneous moments on the stump. During his three-state tour of the Midwest this week, the president engaged with an upset tea party activist in Iowa, while Romney was heckled at the Iowa State Fair.

With dozens of town halls scheduled for the remainder of the recess, the people’s passion is sure to continue as lawmakers are not scheduled to return to Washington until Sept. 7.

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