State Politics

Forums with protesters ‘are not really town halls,’ Raleigh congressman says

U.S. Rep. George Holding talks with Duane Cutlip on June 7, 2016 at the Hibernian in Raleigh, N.C.
U.S. Rep. George Holding talks with Duane Cutlip on June 7, 2016 at the Hibernian in Raleigh, N.C. rwillett@newsobserver.com

U.S. Rep. George Holding said he talks to constituents on a regular basis but has no current plans to host a town hall.

Across the country, congressional Republicans returning home last week for a “district work period” faced angry constituents in town hall meetings. Many in attendance were upset about efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Holding, a Republican in his third term whose district includes parts of Wake, Harnett, Johnston, Wilson, Nash and Franklin counties, described these forums as events put on by activists that “are not really town halls.”

“These are opportunities to protest,” Holding said. “I don’t think it’s proper to treat these as what folks would think of as a genuine town hall.”

President Donald Trump struck a similar chord last week, tweeting that the “so-called angry crowds” in the home districts of Republicans were actually, in many cases, “planned out by liberal activists.”

Holding spent last week traveling with Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to India and Sri Lanka.

The congressmen examined the economies of the two countries and discussed a possible bilateral investment treaty with India, Holding said.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat, were also out of the state on government business during the break.

Holding said he supports the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” which he said is in “full collapse” in North Carolina. He noted that in 95 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only company offering plans under the ACA.

“What’s in place is not sustainable,” Holding said. “Blue Cross Blue Shield will pull out if it continues to lose money,”

Asked what he believes will happen to constituents’ insurance plans in any gap between when the law is repealed and replaced, Holding said he doesn’t think “there will be much of a gap.”

He said that Trump’s priorities will influence Congress’s actions on the ACA, noting that he will be watching Trump’s prime-time speech Tuesday to see how Trump addresses the subject.

“The President drives a lot of this – we’ve got to make sure we’re on the same page,” he said.

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