WILLINGBORO, N.J. — Rep. Tom MacArthur on Wednesday stared down a crowd of angry liberals during a town hall that alternated between outrage over the Republican healthcare bill and President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.
MacArthur was a key player in pushing the American Health Care Act through the House, negotiating changes that rescued the bill from failure. And the Democrats from Southern New Jersey’s 3rd district who packed the Republican’s evening town hall let him know they weren’t happy about it.
“This is your healthcare bill. It was dead in the water,” said one of the more civil town hall attendees to criticize MacArthur for supporting the AHCA. “This is your amendment, sir. You brought it back from the dead.”
Most other voters who spoke up were more hostile, repeatedly interrupting MacArthur as he attempted to answer questions and explain how the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare would work.
“Death pools!” one attendee shouted, as the second term congressman detailed how the high-risk pools covering Americans with pre-existing conditions would work.
It was reminiscent of the 2009 town halls, when Republicans angry with President Barack Obama for the Affordable Care Act and flooded town halls and accused Democrats of implementing “death panels!”
“Folks, if you want to talk to each other that’s fine,” MacArthur said at one point, attempting to corral the raucous crowd of about 250. “I work for you,” he added later, during another eruption, “and I work for a lot of other people who don’t agree with you.”
MacArthur’s district is Republican territory. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton here by 6 percentage points. But MacArthur chose to hold his first town hall since the AHCA cleared the House on a close party line vote in Willingboro, a leafy community in the Democratic part of the district.
Eight years ago, the angry town halls that Democratic members dealt with turned out to foreshadow an electoral wave that washed over previously safe liberal districts.
When McArthur, 56, wasn’t batting down criticism about health care, he was dealing with voters fuming over Trump’s decision to fire Comey as FBI director.
“Donald Trump is not a Republican,” a town hall attendee told the congressman. “Donald Trump is an authoritarian.”
This led to broader complaints, voiced in a series of questions and interjections from voters, about Russian interference in the 2016 elections and charges — leveled mostly from the Left — the Trump campaign might have colluded with Moscow.
Voters also expressed fears that Trump is trampling the Constitution and abusing his authority to quash federal investigations into myriad misdeeds.
They roared disapproval when MacArthur said he did not support the appointment of a special prosecutor to take over the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the election that might implicate the Trump campaign.
“I just noticed on my iPhone that [former national security adviser Mike] Flynn has been subpoenaed for all of his records!” one town hall attendee shouted, as if to ask MacArthur if that changed his mind.
The congressman tried to change the subject.
“Folks, I didn’t come here to defend our president tonight. I came here to answer your questions,” he said.
Liberals overwhelm Jersey GOP town hall, rage over Comey, healthcare