METAIRIE — Angry demonstrators jeered, waved signs and turned their backs on Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy during a raucous town hall Wednesday outside of New Orleans.
Republicans returning home this week on break to their districts around the country have been faced with similar scenarios as they’ve faced constituents angry with incoming President Donald Trump and concerned over issues such as environmental protection, education and the Affordable Care Act. Wednesday’s event was the 2nd of five town halls Cassidy is scheduled to hold this week.
Cassidy was about 20 minutes late to the town hall in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb.
As the time for Cassidy’s appearance came and went, people in the audience started chanting “Where is he?” and “Do your job!” Some in the crowd took the occasion to go up to the front of the room and posed questions they’d like to ask him.
One of those was Tracy Bender who questioned what would happen to her daughter, who has cancer, if she loses her health care when Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act.
When Cassidy arrived, he was met with hisses and jeers. Many of the questions were about the future of the ACA with Cassidy trying to defend efforts to replace it. Cassidy tried to discuss benefits of a mental health care reform package he’d previously helped pass but was often met with shouts of “What about Obamacare?!”
The senator at times asked the crowd to let him finish or told them that if they were going to yell, he couldn’t speak. At least one man in the crowd was escorted out by sheriff’s deputies.
The senator was also hammered with questions on education and his vote for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. One audience member, Kenny Francis, who identified himself as a teacher in New Orleans, said he was “baffled” by Cassidy’s vote for DeVos: “She’s not qualified to get a teaching license let alone run the department of education.”
The only encouragement Cassidy got during the session was when — asked about the travel ban Trump had proposed — he talked about the doctors he knew who had come from countries such as Iraq to work in America.
“For all practical purposes they are us,” he said to cheers.
Speaking to reporters after the town hall Cassidy seemed to take the angry crowd in stride. He said he’d tried to answer people’s questions but that many came with their own prejudices and didn’t want to listen to what he had to say.
Cassidy said he generally doesn’t have more than 100 people at his town halls and that he was sorry they didn’t have a bigger venue to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend.
“Next time we will have a bigger hall,” he said.