Feb 13, 2017

What we're learning from the Obamacare town halls

Rick Bowmer/AP

You've probably seen the viral video of a Florida GOP official getting shouted down this weekend at a town hall meeting after trying to revive the old, false rumor about Obamacare "death panels." (Here's what I wrote about it on Saturday.) There's been a lot of pro-Obamacare eruptions at Republican town halls lately, so here's what we're learning from them:

  • Republicans don't have a lot of ready answers when they're asked how sick people will get health coverage if Obamacare is repealed. "That issue will have to be addressed in some form or manner, but it hasn't been addressed yet," Rep. James Sensenbrenner said at a town hall meeting in Wisconsin on Saturday.
  • The Florida Republican official who made the false "death panels" claim has a history of spreading conspiracy theories and racist jokes, per the Washington Post's David Weigel, so don't take him as evidence that mainstream Republicans are reviving the claim.
  • But Rep. Gus Bilirakis did try to support him by saying he meant the Independent Payment Advisory Board, CNN's Eric Bradner reports.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan has called it a "rationing board," and that line of attack is still in mainstream use, even though law specifically says the board can't ration health care. Bilirakis has written that the board's payment cuts could cause "de facto rationing."
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz didn't do himself any favors by suggesting the protesters at his town hall last week were paid, without presenting any evidence.
  • That said, it's not as if there's no organizing to generate a big turnout. Liberal volunteers are spreading the dates and locations of future town halls through activities like the Town Hall Project.
  • Republicans will have to get ready for many more of these eruptions — because the House and Senate will be on recess next week, and there will be more town halls and "office hours" throughout that week.
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