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‘Die-In’ event held in wake of health care vote

by on May 18, 2017 8:52 AM

BELLEFONTE — Marc Friedenberg said constituents in the 5th Congressional District have, for months, been using their First Amendment fallback in lieu of face time with U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson.

Friedenberg and other organizers of the political group PA-5 Truth and Action staged their latest protest on May 15 in front of Bonfatto’s in Bellefonte, where Thompson, R-Howard Township, was hosting a fundraiser.

Specifically, the more than 50 protesters were concerned about the passage of the American Health Care Act on May 4. Protesters held myriad signs along Zion Road and were accompanied by a coffin, meant to represent the death of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Friedenberg and other protesters said most of all they simply want a town hall meeting and they want to be heard by the congressman and voice their concerns about his votes.

“We don’t expect that we’re going to be able to get him to vote every way we want,” Friedenberg said. “It’s really about being heard, and that’s a simple thing to do and he’s not doing it.”

Thompson was among 217 Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted in favor of H.R. 1628 on May 4, the latest attempt to dismantle parts of the ACA. It was a promise of President Donald Trump on the campaign trail and for years the mission of many Washington Republicans. Twenty Republicans and 193 Democrats voted against it.

Thompson said the American Health Care Act will continue to protect those who have pre-existing conditions and “stop the countless situations where people are losing their doctors, insurers are leaving the market and rates continue to skyrocket” under the ACA, according to a statement from Thompson’s office.

The statement said the attempt to paint the congressman as inaccessible is disingenuous, and both sides have said Thompson has met with protest organizers.

Thompson isn’t the only Washington lawmaker from Pennsylvania getting pressure to give more face time to constituents through town halls. Sen. Pat Toomey has for months been the target of protesters who say he’s not listening to all the voices in his constituency. The group Tuesdays with Toomey has petitioned him weekly at his various offices across the state for more face time.

“He hasn’t held the town hall meeting that he’s promised to have and so this is our First Amendment fallback to try to communicate the message that we’re very unhappy about this vote,” Friedenberg said of Thompson.

He said he feels a kinship with the Tuesdays with Toomey movement and other progressive and Democratic grassroots movements.

“He promised a town hall in April,” said Lyn Pipenberg of Patton Township, who was on the protest line. “He doesn’t need to be scared of us. We’ll be respectful. We’ll be nice.”

She said she was disappointed that Thompson was taking the time to raise funds but wouldn’t hold a town hall.

Public town halls haven’t been all that nice for some Republicans across the country. In February, just after Trump’s inauguration, national media reported on contentious town halls between Republican representatives and the public. Politico reported on Feb. 21 Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley was attending rowdy town halls. Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Virginia Rep. Dave Brat both also were confronted by angry crowds earlier this year.

Closer to home, The Associated Press reported that Rep. Scott Perry’s town hall in Red Lion, York County, in late March turned contentious as he faced tough questions on health care and immigration. 


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