Town halls showcase organizing on the left and concerns in both parties

GOP lawmakers facing energized and engaged crowds around the country.

— -- From rural towns to big cities and at both public events and private fundraisers, lawmakers home in their districts this week have been bombarded by energized and engaged crowds demanding answers and determined to make their voices heard.

Last week, after GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz faced a particularly rambunctious crowd in his Utah district, he tried to dismiss those who attended as out-of-towners. So this week, at meetings from Virginia to Colorado, attendees have worn badges with their ZIP codes or held up their driver’s licenses to prove their residency. Another common tactic: green and red signs for people to hold up when they agree or disagree with something said at an event. The colorful visual plays well for the cameras.

During an interview after his town hall, GOP Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia acknowledged that a lack of specificity from his party’s leadership about what Republican will do with Obamacare is adding to the unease.

He said it could be anywhere from a month to years before final health care legislation is complete. “It is extremely important and imperative that people who are working on that repeal and replacement are very deliberative … We better get it right. I think it is responsible to be methodical about it,” he told ABC News.

“People are saying I am not giving the full story,” he said.

“Russia was just implicated by all 17 of our U.S. intelligence agencies as having interfered in our elections,” Lulani Gillikin, a nonprofit worker who lives in Taylor’s district, said to the congressman. “Why would you even consider being any type of frenemy with Russia when they are continuing to have this type of misinformation and disinformation, which is sad, and it looks like there is a probable link with the campaign of our current president?”

Taylor answered saying that he thought Russia should be held accountable for some of its leaders’ actions and that he supports a Senate investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election.

“The reality is in the international community that there are things that historically we have worked together with them on even though they are enemies and it has to happen sometimes for international order,” the congressman added.

Many questions posed to Republican lawmakers centered on whether, when and how they would be willing to stand up to the White House or break party lines.

“What can you say to me and the people in your district to ensure us that you will support all the needs of the people and, when necessary, you will speak out against policies that are wrong, no matter if it comes from the president or one of your colleagues?” asked James Harvey, a constituent of Taylor’s, after thanking him for hosting the event. “That you will not be a go-along-to-get-along representative. You say you are Republican-leaning, but there is also right and wrong.”

Taylor, newly elected in November, said he agreed it is important to work across the aisle and highlighted relationships he is building with some of his Democratic colleagues. He said he is impressed by all his fellow freshmen representatives and proud that they have signed a pledge to be civil and work together across party lines.

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