House Republicans are facing angry protests at home this month as liberal activists and labor organizers try to replicate the Tea-Party backlash that bit Democrats in August of 2009.
Liberal groups have been planning these protests for months. One organizer told The Hill in February that the campaign would “build to a crescendo” in August.
Hundreds of people showed up at the Wayzata Golf Club in Wayzata, Minnesota, Friday to protest a fundraiser for Reps. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), which was attended by House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem senator to reintroduce ‘buy American’ legislation GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes Pelosi blasts Trump’s ‘rookie error’ on ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Ohio).
Holding signs that blared “Jobs, not cuts!” and “People before profits”, the protesters, some wearing labor tee shirts, sought to put a hot spotlight on the exclusive event, which charged donors up to $10,000 to play a round of golf with the lawmakers.
Cravaack, who does not play golf, attended the fundraising lunch but stayed off the links.
Dozens of constituents held a rally in Duluth earlier this month to protest Cravaak’s refusal to hold a town-hall meeting in that part of his district, which is a Democratic stronghold.
On Thursday, Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump delivers ultimatum to GOP on ObamaCare repeal Dem senator to reintroduce ‘buy American’ legislation Paul: Pence should oversee Senate ObamaCare repeal votes MORE (R) the chairman of the House Budget Committee, called police to break up a sit-down protest at his district office in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Unemployed constituents took over Ryan’s office because they felt he was ducking their request for a meeting.
“There are unemployed constituents of Ryan who went into his office to demand a meeting and that’s when the sit-in started,” said Janet Veum, the communications director of Wisconsin Jobs Now, which helped organize the sit-in. Veum described Wisconsin Jobs Now as a coalition of community groups, faith-based organizations and labor unions.
While Ryan held 17 town-hall meetings in 2009, he has not scheduled any in his district this August.
A two-hour town-hall session turned contentious on Thursday night when constituents grilled Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.), a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, about her opposition to raising taxes on the rich, at times hooting at her answers.
Protesters gathered near Rep. Fred Upton’s (R) office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Wednesday morning holding “Where are the jobs?” and “Show us the jobs” signs and even a paper-mache effigy of the congressman. Upton is one of six Republican members of a supercommittee charged with crafting a $1.5 trillion deficit reduction package.
These groups have taken a page from the Tea-Party playbook and are trying to replicate the August of outrage that nearly sunk President Obama’s healthcare reform initiative in 2009.
“This is very similar to what the Tea Party did,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, which has worked with labor unions and liberal groups to help organize a public backlash to the House GOP agenda.
Specifically, these groups are mobilizing constituents around the country to oppose cuts in social services and entitlement programs and to demand increases in taxes on wealthy families.
“We’re working with a large network of groups on the Rebuild the Dream movement. That includes MoveOn.org, Change to Win, SEIU, the AFL-CIO and Democracy for America,” Hickey said.
The public pressure campaign is not targeted exclusively on Republicans. These groups are organizing constituents in Democratic districts to call on lawmakers to oppose cuts to entitlement programs.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heard heckles and jeers at a town-hall meeting this week. Constituents were angry she voted for a deficit-reduction package that could lead to a 2 percent cut in Medicare benefits, which Pelosi had described as a “Satan sandwich with Satan fries.”
Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, dismissed the protests as ginned up by liberal groups.
“House Republicans are just as frustrated with Washington as every other American is. Despite the best efforts by liberal interest groups to disrupt many of these events, Republicans will not stop hearing from their constituents and fighting the job-destroying agenda of Barack ObamaBarack ObamaSpicer: Trump is 'very confident that he will be vindicated' on surveillance claims Bush DHS secretary: 'Vladimir Putin is winning' Trump ally calls for US to roll back climate commitment MORE and Nancy Pelosi,” Burgos said.
But Amaya Tune, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, said the public anger is very real and labor unions are merely giving people the organizational tools to make their voices heard.
“A lot of this is very organic,” Tune said. “We give people some guidance and a platform. There’s a website if people want to hold events.”
The AFL-CIO announced this month it would launch a nationwide campaign to turn up the heat on GOP lawmakers at home.
“This August, working families are lifting their voices to hold politicians accountable and call for an economy that strengthens the middle class. Participants will tell members of Congress and state legislators that their extreme political agenda is not in line with working Americans at more than 450 events across the country,” Alison Omens, the AFL-CIO’s media director, wrote in a memo dated Aug. 5.
Veum, of Wisconsin Jobs Now, also disputed the NRCC’s characterization of the protests.
“All you have to do is talk to unemployed constituents to find out it doesn’t take much ginning up,” she said of the constituents who gathered in Ryan’s office. “They’re generally concerned.”
This report was updated on Aug. 20 at 8:45 p.m.