U.S. Rep. Greg Walden faced a raucous crowd at a town hall meeting Wednesday in The Dalles, where health care reform continues to dominate constituents’ list of top concerns.
Walden, who chairs one of the two House committees that passed the Obamacare replacement bill before it died, provided few details on what might be next.
“It’s tough in this environment to do big public policy because you’re evaluated on it before you’re finished,” said Walden, Oregon’s lone Republican in Congress. “We got some feedback from people who independently looked at the health care law and said this is not going to work. So we’re making adjustments. We’re trying to get to a better place.”
The crowd in The Dalles occasionally interrupted Walden with jeers. Many held up signs saying "disagree" and "answer the question." One held aloft a sign saying, "Walden's report card: F."
The Congressional Budget Office estimated 24 million more Americans would become uninsured if the GOP’s American Health Care Act became law. Groups representing doctors, hospitals, insurers, consumers and seniors came out in opposition. It ultimately failed to gain enough support from within the Republican party.
Roughly 500 people turned out for the 90-minute town hall, the first of two Walden is conducting Tuesday in the Columbia River Gorge. Some constituents brought signs saying “Medicare for All," and health care was a major theme.
One speaker, Roger Wagner, noted that Walden voted 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. He said the Republican bill would have given “$1 trillion over 10 years to millionaires and your corporate buddies at expense of working families.”
"I witnessed you on television with (House Speaker) Paul Ryan when you announced his so called health care bill and you patted him on the back," Wagner said to scattered "boos."
Other speakers expressed concerns about the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts, especially to environmental agencies, as well as the border wall and travel ban.
Gretchen Kimsey, who said she had lived in Wasco County for 50 years, said she had voted for Walden for many years, despite the fact that she's a "lifelong Democrat." She credited Walden with creating "vital places" and facilitating discussion among "environmentalists, ranchers, recreationalists and ordinary citizens" around common causes.
"It's a sad day when someone like me who takes the privilege of voting seriously by voting in every election held finds it impossible to vote at all," she said. "You have changed and abandoned me for the far right. Where are you, Greg Walden? Where are you in your heart and mind? You have abandoned the middle way. You no longer representing many of your constituents. Come back to center, Greg."
The Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.