Some Dems get earful back home for health reform legislation

Some politically vulnerable Democrats are getting an earful from constituents about their yes votes on healthcare reform.  

The criticism from constituents is not as fervent as the feedback members of Congress received at last summer's town halls. But some voters have let legislators know they were not pleased with the passage of healthcare reform. 

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Concerned about the highly publicized threats and the optics of a repeat of the media coverage of the 2009 town hall gatherings, some lawmakers are being more selective in their public appearances back home. 

Freshman Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), whose reelection race is considered a toss-up, held two healthcare town hall events in his district earlier this week. One of the dozen seniors in a crowd of 60 who grilled Schauer at a forum in Lansing compared the bill to buying a Gulfstream jet aircraft "and charging it to my grandchildren,” according to the Detroit Free Press. 

Many of the 200 attendees at a forum on bipartisanship in Tempe, Ariz., on Wednesday were critical of the bill and Rep. Harry Mitchell’s (D-Ariz.) yes vote, according to the Arizona Republic. The two-term Democrat, who faces a tough reelection fight, defended his vote and said he agreed with those who were angry at the process of passing the measure. 

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), a GOP target who was a late yes vote, got involved in a heated exchange with one attendee at a recent event at a seniors center in Scranton that was caught on camera by a local television news crew. 
Kanjorski said, “Don’t let people scare you or stampede you into thinking that either your government did something horrendously wrong or that the system’s going to fail — because it’s not,” he told WNEP-TV. 

Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who is in a tough reelection race, was pressed by a constituent on the fairness of the new law.

Jenne McClusker, according to nbc29.com, said, "If somebody works full-time somewhere else and has insurance, but then they work for me 30 hours a week, I get penalized for me not offering them insurance even though they already have it."

Perriello responded that it remains to be seen how the bill will be implemented by the Obama  administration, which is crafting regulations to carry out the law.

Another Republican target, Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), defended his vote earlier this week in Prompton, Pa, according to www.wnep.com. At a press event on firefighting issues that was not related to healthcare, Carney said, "You can't vote worried about your career, you have to vote the right way. You have to vote your conscience, and for me this was a vote of conscience."

Citing his vote on healthcare, a constituent said she will be " an advocate for Republicans and  I would not vote for Chris Carney."

Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) had his Cincinnati-area home picketed by protesters because of his yes vote. And several others, including freshman Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), have received threats against them, her office said. According to The Associated Press, that prompted Markey not to hold any public events to talk about the healthcare bill. A Markey spokeswoman disputed the story, noting that she was holding constituent office hours and a teleconference-town hall on healthcare Thursday night.

Democrats in more conservative districts are touting their votes against the bill at public forums. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) was in Christiansburg, Va., on Tuesday, telling his constituents, “I evaluated it, and because of these large Medicare cuts and the fact they would fall disproportionately on our region, I voted no,” according to WSLS-TV. 

Democrats have been advised to talk about healthcare reform at specific venues, such as at seniors centers or to veterans at an American Legion hall, said liberal Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who supported the bill and is expected to win reelection easily. 

“I haven’t had any town halls where I said, ‘Come beat me up for an hour.’ ”

Even in his strongly Democratic district, Grijalva said he got tough questions from his audiences. “We have to deal with the rumors," he told The Hill. Democrats have had to "fight the myths as opposed to what's in the legislation." 

Other members have been welcomed back with a celebration in honor of their vote. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), who represents a GOP-leaning district, was greeted with “cheers and chants” when he landed at the Outagamie County Regional Airport in northern Wisconsin on March 26, according to the local ABC affiliate. 

“For nearly 100 years we’ve been waiting to have these reforms take place to really repair our  healthcare system, and he has helped to do that,” said Ann Muenster, one of 50 supporters who showed up.

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