Reprinted with permission from the Times Union
KINDERHOOK – If the congressman won’t come to the Town Hall meeting, then the Town Hall, or at least the townspeople, will come to him. That’s what happened Saturday, February 25, as a crowd of demonstrators showed up at freshman 19th District Republican Congressman John Faso’s office demanding an audience.
After some chanting and speeches, the group marched around the corner to briefly stand in front of Mr. Faso’s house here where they urged him to come out and answer questions. Mr. Faso wasn’t home, however, arriving back in Kinderhook about three hours after the demonstration.
He is one of numerous GOP Congressional representatives nationwide who have been avoiding open ”town hall” type forums amid worries that they will be shouted down by voters who fear the Republican Congress and President Donald Trump will dismantle the Affordable Care Act without a replacement. Also sparking Democratic voter anger is the president’s crackdown on immigrants and cabinet choices such as his naming of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
As Oklahoma attorney general, Mr. Pruitt had sued the agency which he now heads.
Borrowing a page from the Tea Party activists who disrupted Democratic lawmakers almost a decade ago when former president Barack Obama was pushing through the Affordable Care Act, members of the newly spawned Indivisible movement are doing the same thing to Republican lawmakers across the country.
While the new movement has sparked accusations that demonstrators are political operatives, or so-called astro turfers, some of Saturday’s demonstrators said they had very personal concerns about how the Trump agenda would impact them. And they wanted to send a message to Faso that they would be closely watching how he voted on key issues.
Chatham resident Teresa Barenfeld, for instance, said she has benefited greatly from the ACA, which allowed her to get health insurance through an exchange that offers more coverage and services such as physical therapy for her rheumatoid arthritis. She along with a group from a local Presbyterian church had earlier met with Mr. Faso but she felt he wasn’t very responsive regarding detailed questions about topics like the ACA. “We had quite a list of things to talk about,” she said.
Petersburgh resident Victoria Buonanno and her husband Andrew Ward have tried to quiz Mr. Faso’s office about the lawmaker’s stance on Mr. Pruitt. They are especially concerned given the water contamination that has plagued nearby Hoosick Falls. They also object to the immigration crackdown – Ms. Buonanno said her father is an immigrant from Italy.
“I didn’t really see myself as an activist until this election,” said Ms. Buonanno.
Congressman Faso, reached at home a few hours later, said he had been traveling the district all day, meeting with a group of sportsmen, then touring a brewery in Chatham and meeting with a
small group that included some supporters of the Indivisible movement.
As for the ACA, he said he’s been meeting with hospital administrators, medical personnel, insurance brokers, non-profits and disability groups among others to gather input.
“I’m out there. I’m available. I’m meeting with people constantly,” he said.
To contact reporter Rick Karlin email .