West To Hecklers: ‘You’re Not Going To Intimidate Me’
U.S. Rep. Allen West's first town hall meeting since voting for a controversial Medicare proposal saw three hecklers removed -- one in handcuffs -- from a generally supportive crowd of about 500.
The Tuesday night meeting was West's first meeting with constituents since his April 15 vote for a Republican budget that includes a revamping of Medicare. For those now under 55, the plan drafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would change Medicare from a defined-benefit program to one in which the government subsidizes premiums paid to private insurance plans.
The plan -- which is considered doomed in the Democrat-controlled Senate -- has drawn criticism from Democrats, who have targeted West and other House Republicans with radio ads and phone calls blasting the vote.
Earlier Tuesday, a town hall meeting in Orlando hosted by freshman Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Orlando, was disrupted by hecklers and audience members shouting at each other.
At roughly the same time in Wisconsin, Ryan faced a packed town meeting, occasional boos and a skeptical audience as he tried to lay out his party's rationale for overhauling the health insurance program for retirees, according to The New York Times.
Outside the sprawling campus of Calvary Chapel, where West's meeting was held in a theater, about 15 demonstrators carried signs criticizing the Medicare proposal.
Inside the meeting, West was less than a minute into his remarks tonight when two or three men began shouting from the audience.
"How about our Medicare that you're stealing?" shouted one.
"How about allowing questions from the audience?" shouted another man, apparently dissatisfied with West's decision to answer written questions submitted by audience members before the meeting.
At West's previous town halls, members of the public lined up to ask him questions in person, sometimes waiting 30 minutes or more to do so.
"What you have seen happen previously is you get such a line of people and a lot of folks want to come up and proselytize for six or seven minutes and you're really not getting to the questions that people want to have answered," West said after the meeting.
West, who has gone back and forth with critics at his previous meetings, said the written format was not an effort to avoid tough questions.
"I don't duck," West said.
During the meeting, West had responded to a question about Medicare when Nicole Sandler of Coral Springs, a former radio host on the liberal Air America network, began shouting from the audience.
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