House, Senate leaders avoid holding town halls

House, Senate leaders avoid holding town halls
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House and Senate leaders from both parties over the last two years have generally avoided holding town halls.

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDon't let them fool you — Republicans love regulation, too Senate harassment bill runs into opposition from House The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — The art of walking away from the deal MORE (R) held 16 in-person town hall events in his Wisconsin district in 2015, according to data collected by the independent website Legistorm. But since becoming Speaker in October 2015, Legistorm has not recorded any Ryan town halls.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGiuliani: White House wants briefing on classified meeting over Russia probe GOP senators introduce Trump's plan to claw back billion in spending The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump now says Korea summit could still happen June 12 MORE (R-Ky.), too, has held few public meetings. McConnell took questions at an event in Louisville in February, but attendees were required to buy a ticket.

It's the same story across the aisle.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Finance: White House planning new tax cut proposal this summer | Schumer wants Congress to block reported ZTE deal | Tech scrambles to comply with new data rules OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP centrists in striking distance of immigration vote MORE (N.Y.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump to sign 'right to try' drug bill next week Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump official won't OK lifetime limits on Medicaid Dems warn against changes to federal family planning program MORE (Wash.), the No. 3 Democrat in the upper chamber, have each held just one town hall meeting since the beginning of the 114th Congress, in January 2015, according to Legistorm.

Lawmakers' attendance at town halls has come under new scrutiny after Republicans in recent weeks faced angry demonstrations at in-person events over efforts to repeal ObamaCare.

Some Republicans rescheduled or canceled events leading to criticism from Democrats. But while its Republicans on the hot seat this year, in 2009 Democrats faced off with voters over their health reform plans.

Rank-and-flle members have faced tough decisions on whether to hold town halls, but Legistorm's data shows that most of their leaders have managed to avoid holding the events.

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFortune 500 CEOs: The professional athletes of corporate America The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — The art of walking away from the deal Rising star Abrams advances in Georgia governor race MORE (D-Mass.), the vice chairwoman of the Democratic conference, has not held a town hall since meeting constituents in Springfield, Mass. in February 2016.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the new deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has not held a formal town hall meeting since December.

“Despite running a national campaign the last 4 months, he has met with constituents every week in his district and D.C. office,” an Ellison spokesperson told The Hill. “And he frequently engages with them on social media.”

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump has exposed Democratic hypocrisy on prison reform House easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure MORE (D-Ill.), the minority whip, last held a town hall in June 2015, Legistorm found.

“Senator Durbin holds public events just about every weekend he’s home, but in just the past two months, he’s held 4 open forums,” a Durbin aide told The Hill.

This year, some Republicans have embraced more controlled environments, like telephone town halls, to avoid embarrassing clashes with protesters that have gone viral on social media and been replayed on cable news.

A number of congressional leaders from both parties have also turned to social media or other ways to hold meetings in the last two years.

Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump to sign 'right to try' drug bill next week McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP Vukmir gets boost with Wisconsin Senate GOP primary endorsement  MORE (D-Wis.) last held town halls in 2015, with two of the three through Google Hangouts. A Baldwin aide said the senator regularly meets with constituents in both Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the assistant House Democratic leader, held virtual town halls through Twitter in 2015.

Similarly, Republican Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSchumer: Congress must stop reported ZTE deal 'in its tracks' Hillicon Valley: Experts worry North Korea will retaliate with hacks over summit | FBI works to disrupt Russian botnet | Trump officials look to quell anger over ZTE | Obama makes case for tighter regs on tech Senate GOP sounds alarm over Trump's floated auto tariffs MORE’s last town hall was via Google Hangout in June 2015. 

Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersFreedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights Millennial GOP lawmakers pleased with McMorris Rodgers meeting on party messaging The Hill's Morning Report: Trump’s Cabinet mess MORE (R-Wash.), the Republican Conference Chairwoman, last held a telephone town hall in 2015. Her office did not respond for comment.

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) held telephone town halls on Wednesday and last week, as well as several in 2016, his office told The Hill.