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N.J. rep. says town halls ‘hijacked,’ won’t risk angry crowds

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Bob Jordan, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

8:10 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2017

Tami Sablan shouts as Rep. Jason Chaffetz speaks during a town hall meeting at Brighton High School on Feb. 9, 2017, in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. (Photo: Rick Bowmer, AP)

ASBURY PARK, N.J. — Add a New Jersey lawmaker to a growing list of House Republicans not interested in holding town halls and the risk of disruptions by anti-Trump and pro-Obamacare protesters.

Rep. Tom MacArthur says his town hall schedule is on hold because he doesn’t “want to be baited into having an event that some outside group can just make a spectacle out of.’’

Town halls by GOP lawmakers have heated up since President Trump’s inauguration last month. It’s also the first time there’s been Republican majorities in the House and the Senate in over 10 years.

MacArthur during a one-hour telephone town hall Monday night alleged that colleagues had their events disrupted by “hundreds of people have been bused in and have been organized and in some cases have even been paid to disrupt and to steal your voice.”

MacArthur didn’t offer evidence that protesters are paid and bused. Staffers did not respond to a request for a comment.

“I think you have to realize what’s going on all over the country. Public town hall events are being hijacked by groups that are outside of the district that (the) member represents. You’ve seen them on TV,’’ MacArthur said.

New York Rep. Chris Collins and Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, both Republicans, earlier on Monday also said they don’t have plans to do any in-person town halls because of the current hostile climate.

MacArthur represents the 3rd District, which includes Toms River, Brick, Berkeley, Lacey, Barnegat, Ocean Township (Waretown), and part of Stafford in Ocean County, and most of Burlington County.

MacArthur during his telephone event fielded several questions that challenged the Trump administration’s views on border security, climate change and health care.

MacArthur was New Jersey’s lone Republican to say no when the House last month overwhelmingly voted to start in motion the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“I voted no because, even though I believe we have to replace Obamacare, I don’t think we have to do it instantly and I think we’re going a little too fast,’’ he said.

House Republicans during a closed-door meeting last week discussed how to protect themselves and their staffs from protesters storming town halls and offices in opposition to repealing Obamacare, according to a report by Politico.

CLOSE

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz got grilled by a fiery crowd during a local town hall. A retired teacher asked him ‘what is your line in the sand?’ and if he will hold President Trump accountable.
USA TODAY NETWORK

Last week Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee, faced sharp questions and fierce pushback from many in a crowd of 1,000 inside a high school auditorium — with another 1,500 people outside because they couldn’t get in, according to the Salt Lake Tribune — with attendees saying they were frustrated by the Utah Republican’s refusal to investigate Trump’s potential conflicts of interest.

Chaffetz said he was the focus of a coordinated national effort and that paid operatives were brought into Utah to help inflame opponents. He said the same thing is happening at town halls across the country but also offered no evidence.

That was Thursday, the same day Reps. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tennessee, also ran into hostile crowds at district events. Video of a teacher defending the Affordable Care Act at Black’s event went viral.

Follow Bob Jordan on Twitter: @BobJordanAPP

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