GOP reps face town hall protests over Obamacare repeal efforts

Monday, February 13, 2017

At least two Republican congressmen were met by upset constituents in their home districts over the past two days, continuing a recent trend of House members getting met by protesters concerned about health care and specifically the future of the Affordable Care Act.

In Florida, GOP Rep. Gus Bilrakis' town hall was packed to the brim and at times got rowdy with attendees bombarding Republican officials with questions about health care.

A Periscope video taken at the event by Progressive Democrats of America shows that many attendees freely and loudly booed at some of Bilrakis' comments and some waved signs with messages such as declaring "Health Care for All."

The event seemed to draw many supporters of the health care law known as Obamacare, as well as some opponents.

When Bill Akins of the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee said to the crowd, "Please, let's all be respectful. Let's hold our boos," some in the crowd responded, "We've held them too long."

A representative of the county's Democratic Party later thanked Bilirakis for "having the courage to have town halls when so many of your compatriots are cancelling them or not holding them at all," prompting applause. When Bilikaris started speaking about the Affordable Care Act, he was repeatedly interrupted including by audience members.

Unlike other Congressional representatives met with similar boisterous crowds recently, Bilirakis seemed to embrace the loud voices. He sent a number of tweets after the event.

In Tennessee, protesters showed up at the office of Republican Rep. John Duncan on Friday demanding that the lawmaker hold a town hall. According to local news outlets, the congressman who represents a Knoxville district suggested in a letter that a town hall would give the far left a platform.

"I do not intend to give more publicity to those on the far left who have so much hatred, anger and frustration in them," he wrote. "I have never seen so many sore losers as there are today."

The Affordable Care Act is not the only thing on the minds of some protesters in House members' home districts.

In a a Salt Lake City suburb, GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Thursday night faced irate constituents chanting "Do your job!" as they pressed the House Oversight Committee chairman to investigate Trump. Chaffetz struggled to be heard as he faced a litany of sharp questions and shouts from a crowd of people who grilled him on everything from Obamacare to Chaffetz's desire to overturn a planned new national monument in southern Utah.

"Come on, we're better than this," Chaffetz protested over the hubbub at one point, practically pleading with the deafening crowd to let him speak.

Chaffetz told local TV station Friday that the crowd included people from other states brought in to disrupt the meeting. He called it "more of a paid attempt to bully and intimidate."

But a Democratic state representative in the area, Marie Poulson, told ABC News she believes most of the estimated 1,000 attendees and at least that many who protested outside were Chaffetz's constituents.

"I had families and friends from my constituency who had attended Chaffetz's town hall," Poulson said. "I recognized many faces from my constituency and neighborhood in photos from the town hall."

Chaffetz did not reply to a request for comment from ABC News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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