Oklahoman: Oklahoma Town Hall Meetings Are Intense, But Peaceful

Aug 11, 2009
In The News

WASHINGTON — Some members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation are venturing out into the towns they represent amid a pitched national debate about health care reform.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, is holding a public meeting in his hometown today, the second forum he has sponsored since the House broke for its August recess.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, will begin a series of town hall meetings Thursday. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, has a town hall meeting scheduled for Thursday in Oklahoma City. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, held several town hall meetings last week and is scheduled to resume them next week.

Large crowds

At Cole’s first town hall meeting in Duncan last week, an estimated 150 people showed up, a far larger crowd than normal.

"People are very intense and interested,” Cole said. "I expect all of our town hall meetings to be very full.”

But the people, at least in Duncan, weren’t belligerent or shouting at him, a contrast from the scenes in other parts of the country where congressional town hall meetings have resembled protests and have actually posed security concerns for lawmakers.

Cole said Oklahomans tend to be polite. And, he said, most know he’s not going to support plans being pushed by the Democratic leadership.

In Duncan, Cole said, most of the questions were about health care reform, with a few about climate change legislation and deficit spending mixed in.

Leslie Shedd, Lucas’ press secretary, said Monday that health care questions dominated Lucas’ first round of town hall meetings last week, but that people also were interested in energy, military spending, taxes, gun rights and other issues.

Shedd said about 250 people showed up for the meeting in Altus, "which is huge.”

"In general, people have been more frustrated than usual,” she said. "They don’t seem to be as angry as some of the (town hall crowds) you see on TV. People are just frustrated right now and they don’t think their government is listening to them.”

Lucas, who also opposes the leading Democratic plans on health care and helped lead the fight in the House against climate legislation, has been telling people at his town hall meetings to contact the White House with their concerns.

Tough questions

Coburn spokesman John Hart said the senator "expects to receive many tough questions on health care. He believes the American people have a right to be concerned and to express their concerns, particularly when the so-called reform bill will drive up the deficit and cause more than 100 million Americans to lose their private insurance.”

Neither Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, nor Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, have scheduled public meetings for the recess period.

Boren is on an overseas trip with Republican House members, including House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, has a series of meetings at chambers of commerce and local clubs.

He also has a telephone town hall meeting scheduled Aug. 25.}

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