Representatives Face Flack from Constituents at Town Hall Meetings

With Capitol Hill on recess, John Boehner, John McCain and others face criticism

Aug. 10, 2011— -- Congress is out of session and despite cries from both sides that lawmakers should be called back to session to deal with the uncertain stock market, the credit downgrade, or unemployment that doesn't look like it will happen.

Instead, legislators will spend the last weeks of the summer out of the beltway and greeting their constituents.

The town hall season is upon us and members of congress will undoubtedly face questions about the nation's economic problems, the recent debt ceiling battle, and job creation.

That's on the minds of many employed and out of work Americans and it wasn't a town hall, but constituents in Speaker John Boehner's district tried to talk to the Republican House leader on Monday about the lack of jobs in the Speaker's district. Protestors showed up at his district office in West Chester, Ohio as well as outside a fundraiser at a golf club in Dublin, Ohio.

Protestors tried to go into the office to speak to staff, but staffers locked the door. The group then traveled to the country club where, according to protest organizers, police asked them to leave, and told them Boehner "doesn't choose to come out."

The group of protestors made up of unemployed workers, local labor unions and liberal activists chanted, "What do you want? Jobs! When do you want them? Now!" and "Where are the jobs?" outside both locations.

Two of the protestors were Michael McBride from Dayton, a disabled veteran who has been out of work since 2008, and his wife Debbie, who has been out of a job for more than a year.

McBride told ABC News that he wanted to speak with Boehner about how he cannot make ends meet and tell him his health is failing because he is forced to share his insulin with his wife. They are both diabetics, but she does not have health care since losing her job last year.

"I would like to see our government and Congress start concentrating on what the real problem is and that is regaining some of our jobs here," he said. "We need more jobs here or we are going to be rats in a sinking ship. People will be bailing out of these areas if they can't find jobs, can't make ends meet, and it is devastating our American way of life."

Another protestor, Sheri Dever also from Dayton has both a bachelor's and master's degrees in business, but still can't find a job. She's been out of work off and on since 2006 and says she is constantly told she is either overqualified for a job or not hirable because she's out of work.

"I hope to explain to him and explain to him what it's like. [And tell him] stop the bickering, get the jobs back to Ohio not overseas, but bring them back here. We are dying out here. There is no jobs. We really need his help," Dever said.

"Let's get jobs back in to the United States," she said. "I'm so sick and tired of politicians like Boehner putting their personal politics in front of our jobs and our security ... we need him to stand up for Americans not a party on either side, but to stand up for Americans."

Boehner's office replied that job creation is the GOP leader's focus.

"Providing economic certainty and creating an environment in which businesses can invest and jobs can flourish remains Speaker Boehner's number-one focus," Boehner spokeswoman Brittany Bramell. "House Republicans will continue to work with leaders of both parties to reduce spending, boost confidence, and give Ohio small businesses the stability they need to create jobs."

Other lawmakers fared better Tuesday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., held a joint event with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in Owensboro, Ky., and fielded questions from a mostly friendly crowd. Both McConnell and Paul focused on what they see as government overreach and ways to lessen the budget deficit to members of the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs of Owensboro.

"We have the government in every nook and cranny of our lives: our business life, our personal life," Rand said. "We have government run amok."

In his remarks before taking questions from the crowd McConnell mentioned Friday's downgrading of the nation's credit rating by the S & P calling it a "good wake up call," to Congress.

"There's plenty of room to criticize Standard & Poor's but to the extent that that was related to the size of our debt, and our deficit, maybe it's a good wake up call," McConnell said, noting the country's $14 trillion debt.

McConnell also said the government needs to "quit borrowing, quit spending, quit over-regulating."

The only somewhat critical moment came when an audience member told McConnell, "I think we need some politicians in Washington to really stand up for the people, and I think if they don't do it they're not going to have a job much longer."

"Well, that's obviously what the people of Kentucky can decide when I get my report card," McConnell said.

The GOP Senate leader is up for reelection in 2014.

"We were given a choice between doing nothing and doing something," McConnell said of the debt ceiling deal made just one day before the Aug. 2 deadline. "The president asked us to raise the debt ceiling in April and cut nothing. Absolutely nothing. We said we're not going to do that. And we got as much as we could out of this without raising taxes."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., held a town hall Monday night in Gilbert, Ariz., and it didn't go nearly as smoothly as McConnell and Paul's. The former GOP presidential nominee faced an angry crowd, who took him to task on the economy and for characterizing "tea party" members as "hobbits" during the debt ceiling debate, according to the Arizona Republic.

During the question and answer portion of the event, McCain said he was reading out of a Wall Street Journal editorial to make a point about fellow GOP congressmen's insistence on a balance budget amendment before voting to raise the debt ceiling.

"What apology is in order?" McCain answered when asked if he would apologize. "What was wrong that I said?

"There was no way that a balanced-budget amendment would have passed the Senate. If anyone said that it could, they were not being truthful. Hobbits are not real, and the point is that it was not real," McCain said. "You should not deceive people and say that something like a balanced-budget amendment could happen. ... It's not my fault that it was misunderstood. I'm sorry that it was misunderstood."

McCain also told the crowd that he will "match my record as a fiscal conservative against anyone in the House and Senate, including new members."

"I have fought both the Republican and Democratic leaders on spending. I will defend my record," McCain said.

The topic of the economy also came up Tuesday when representatives from the other side of the aisle, including liberal groups and unions upset at the lack of jobs legislation being pushed by the administration and Congress, announced their own program to get Americans back to work., Rebuild the Dream, the Center for Economic Policy and Research, and Campaign for Community Change joined Rep. Jean Schakowsky, D-Ill., Tuesday to launch "Contract for the American Dream" to urge lawmakers to stop focusing on deficit cutting and turn to job creation.

The 10-point contract includes points ranging from investing in America's infrastructure, securing social security, offering Medicare for all, and investing in public education, amongst others.

The organizers said more than 130,000 Americans contributed to the contract online and they wanted to "give a voice" to the "majority of Americans "in the debt ceiling debate" that were "simply not heard."

Schakowsky said the "real crisis is the job crisis" and the "disappearing middle class." The congresswoman said Obama advisor David Plouffe has asked to see the contract and she had given them a copy, but the White House has yet to comment on it.

Some of the groups on the Tuesday conference call were cautious not to criticize President Obama and Democratic leaders while others were more open to it.

"I think this contract will not be taken seriously by the serious people in Washington at first," executive director Justin Ruben said. "I think there is a huge leadership vacuum right now."

The group said they will be taking their contract to congressional town hall meetings in August and if some lawmakers choose not to hold events they will take the document to their district offices.