Rep. Anthony Weiner and Rep. Yvette Clarke, both Democrats who represent districts in New York City, held a health care Town Hall on Sunday afternoon at a middle school in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. FutureOfCapitalism.com reader Commenter Benjamin was there and submits the following report:
There were about 200 people there, and Mr. Weiner left halfway through to go to a football party to watch the jets. Both spoke for ten minutes at the beginning and then opened up for questions. Despite prefacing his comments by saying we shouldn't waste our time looking backwards and should look forward to what we should do now, Mr. Weiner proceeded to do just that in his short speech and throughout the question period. He blamed President Obama for not being forceful enough. He blamed White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel for obsessing over the Blue Dogs. He blamed the Senate for its rules and the fact that "some Senators come from states with fewer people than my apartment building." He parroted a number of Republican talking points about the Senate bill, and even made claims about it the Republicans weren't making themselves. He said that it wouldn't cover any new people, that it would bust the budget, that it would bankrupt states. What I found interesting is that he did not bring up the excise tax. I had thought he would throw that red meat at a clearly pro-union crowd. Perhaps he forgot.
Ms. Clarke focused more on the importance of the grassroots putting pressure on reps. She said that members were spooked by the constant Tea Partiers roaming the halls of Congress.
The crowd was split down the middle on whether to support the Senate bill or torpedo it because it is too weak and compromised. Mr. Weiner asked for a show of hands on what should happen, the room looked perfectly divided.
There was one Tea Partier who spent the first hour frantically raising his hand and literally climbing on the seat. When finally called on, he encouraged Mr. Weiner to stop spending his money and sat back down. Mr. Weiner: "You almost dislocated your arm for THAT comment?"
I did get to speak at the end -- I was the last person, which was unfortunate because I wanted to say something to Mr. Weiner (whose Capitol Hill voicemail box is full -- so much for constituent services -- we had our calling party last night, and it is was either discouraging or encouraging how many mailboxes were full. Was it due to so many calls, or people not wanting to hear constituent opinions?) I asked Clarke to explain how the current situation is better than the situation under the Senate bill. The only response she had was New York State would have to pay more money in Medicaid [under the Senate bill]. I was not impressed.
So that is the report. I was pulling out what little hair I have watching these congresspeople tear down the Senate bill, which seems to me to be much better than the status quo.
You would have had fun watching a roomful of Democrats fight each other about process, policy and politics. I think I need to attend the Tea Party convention to see some crazy Republicans yell at each other. It would make me feel better.
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