Only 14 of the 217 House Republicans who voted for the American Health Care Act last week are holding town hall events during this week’s recess. Representative Rod Blum’s Monday is probably reinforcing that decision for most members.
The Iowa congressman is holding four town hall events this week, but his decision to limit the events to people from his district has generated controversy. Those hoping to attend were required to register beforehand, providing their name and address, and they were not allowed to bring signs or noisemakers.
Ahead of Monday night’s event in Dubuque, Blum sat down for an interview with Josh Scheinblum of KCRG-TV9 at the Dream Center, which assists lower-income children. Scheinblum said on Twitter that he had been trying to set up the interview for weeks, and Blum selected the location.
Scheinblum started off the interview by asking why Blum was limiting the event to his constituents. “Some would make the case that you represent all Iowans … shouldn’t all Iowans have a voice at the table or at least have the option to?” Scheinblum said.
Blum countered that he doesn’t represent all Iowans, only those in the 1st district. “Would you still take donations from a Republican in Iowa City?” Scheinblum asked.
At that point, less than two minutes into in interview, Blum stood up, removed his microphone, and stormed out of the room. “This is ridiculous. This is ridiculous. He’s just going to sit here and badger me,” Blum said.
As the Washington Post notes, Blum raised $1.8 million for his 2016 reelection campaign. His top two donors were a PAC controlled by Representative Mark Meadows, the Freedom Caucus chairman, and the Club for Growth, which are both out-of-state entities.
Later Blum said he walked out because he was “ambushed.” “It was very apparent that he had an agenda. It’s my right to say that this interview is over,” he said.
As it turns out, Blum’s vetting procedures didn’t prevent him from being shouted at all evening. Blum originally opposed the American Health Care Act, but he flipped his position last week. The roughly 1,000 constituents who showed up to Dubuque Senior High School on Monday night did not seem pleased. In lieu of signs, local Democrats distributed red and green paper for people to wave when they agreed or disagreed with Blum. The red sheets got a lot of use.
Blum brought charts and graphs to the event, and claimed that the bill would only affect a small percentage of his constituents.
“This bill, Trumpcare — whatever you want to call it — is about the individual market only,” he said. “That’s 12,000 people in my district. Twelve thousand people in my district. So if you’re in the group health insurance program through your employers, if you’re getting your insurance through the group health insurance, nothing changes.”
Blum also claimed that for those who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, “Nothing’s going to change.”
“That’s not true! That’s not true!” shouted his constituents.
HuffPost reports that one woman challenged Blum on why the health-care bill had to be passed so quickly. “You voted for this bill in a rush. There were no committee hearings. This is my life,” she said. “The Congressional Budget Office didn’t score this bill … what was the rush?”
Blum said he’s “always said the process was bad,” but “the bill is better than what we have [under the Affordable Care Act]. It’s heading in the right direction.” The audience booed.