Ala. congressman fields tough questions during town-hall marathon

(CBS News) — Congress goes back to work Monday after a two-week recess. Some Republicans who returned to their districts avoided tough questions from constituents, but not Congressman Bradley Byrne.

The Alabama lawmaker held 11 town halls in four days. He drove himself and his staff across rural Alabama, where he fielded concerns about the Trump administration’s plans.

Byrne does more town halls than nearly anyone in Congress: 87 of them since he began representing Alabama’s 1st district in 2013, reports CBS News chief congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes.

“Are there more people that are turning out this year who are more adversarial to me about my positions? Yeah. And some of them state their positions pretty darn forcefully. That’s America. That’s good,” Byrne said.

Our first stop is Excel, Alabama, with a population of 700.

“This is my ninth town hall this week,” Byrne said.

The president is a prime topic.

“Will you promise us that you will steer away from what is a lot of inflammatory rhetoric?” one woman said.

“Yeah. I’ll make that promise,” Byrne responded, as people clapped.

President Trump won Alabama by 28 points, so there are plenty of supporters here too.

“The president’s trying to get things that everybody wants,” one man said.

Byrne’s next stop is a senior center in Grove Hill where he fields questions about infrastructure, drugs, veterans, budget and the wall.

But there, and everywhere, really, health care comes up again and again.

“Don’t repeal and replace,” one man said.

“But I have heard from a large number of people in my district that they have been hurt by the Affordable Care Act,” Byrne said.

Unlike some of his colleagues, Byrne does not believe that the Democrats challenging him at town halls are coming from out of state.

“They’re all local people. In some cases I know them and I know them pretty well,” Byrne said.

His final stop is half an hour away in Wagarville.

“You’re a congressman. I mean, health care is not a concern for you,” one man said to Byrne.

“Yeah, it is,” Byrne responded.

“I mean, but not as it is to me!”

Byrne insists the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan will be an improvement.

“The ACA insurance exchanges are imploding,” Byrne said.

Among the messages he heard that day, there were some that stood out to Byrne.

“Listen to what that young man said at the very end there. ‘When are y’all going to get to work?’ OK? I think that was probably the strongest message I heard all day, let’s get to work,” Byrne said.

Byrne told his constituents he’s skeptical about talk of consensus growing around a new version of the Republican plan that would eliminate some of the protections for people with preexisting conditions. Preexisting conditions was the number one topic we heard from constituents all day.

Categories: Regional News

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