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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Town hall moves forward without U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

At a Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers constituent-led town hall, people show their disapproval with red cards over McMorris Rodgers’ support of President Trumps policies Thursday night in a packed meeting room at the Moran Prairie Library. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

It didn’t seem to matter that U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers didn’t show up to a town hall meeting held in her honor Thursday night at the Moran Prairie Library. People stood to share their views on health care, military spending, internet privacy and Russian involvement in the elections with such passion that the absent congresswoman might as well have been standing in front of them.

Members of McMorris Rodgers’ staff were there, however, to take notes and relay people’s concerns to the congresswoman.

The room was crammed with nearly 200 people, some sitting, some standing, packed so tightly together that it was difficult for people to get to the front of the room for a turn at the microphone. People were given green cards to raise to indicate agreement and red cards to show disagreement.

The green cards were waving wildly when retired emergency room physician William Lamont Worden called for a single-payer health care system. “We need reform,” he said. “We need it badly. It’s my conviction that many countries are doing it better than we are.”

Linda Burkhart said when she was a federal employee she had good health insurance, but a lot of people do not.

“I don’t think the Affordable Care Act is perfect,” she said. “The travesty that was supposed to replace it was so bad even the Republicans wouldn’t support it. The reason they wouldn’t support it is because it wasn’t bad enough.”

She urged McMorris Rodgers to support a single-payer health care system. “Let’s come into the 21st century like every other civilized country,” she said.

Those attending wrote down their ZIP codes on large yellow cards that they raised in the air for a group photo to prove that they were, in fact, McMorris Rodgers’ constituents – a not-so-subtle dig at Republican lawmakers who have accused outside agitators of stirring up their own town halls. Several at the meeting started off their comments by stating they weren’t being paid, a response to another claim put forward by some GOP members.

Dave Randall said he’s heard that President Trump wants to eliminate the Social Security tax and move the Social Security program into the general fund. “At that point Social Security could be reduced or eliminated on a simple up or down vote,” he said.

He’s been paying into the system for 50 years and believes he has a contract with the government for his retirement, Randall said. “I believe what we have seen in resistance is going to turn into open revolt.”

Jim Foster was one of several who spoke out against a recent law passed by Congress and signed by Trump that allows internet service providers to sell your browsing history and other data without permission.

“It’s horrendous,” he said. “I’m actually a former hacker and believe me, you don’t want that information out there.”

Brian Pond said the old law that banned the sale of such information was a great law. “They have access to everything and I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “It is equivalent to people opening your mail. It is equivalent to people listening to your phone conversations.”

Pamela Davis rattled off a long list of complaints against Trump, including his bombing of Syria without congressional approval, attempt to enact a travel ban, ties to Russia and spreading of fake news.

“He behaves in a totally unpresidential way that I have not seen in my lifetime,” she said, addressing McMorris Rodgers as if she were there. “Would you be willing to file orders of impeachment on Donald Trump?”

A man who didn’t give his name said he had always voted Republican until this election. “I raised two young men to treat women with respect,” he said. “We have someone in the White House who is a self-acknowledged sexual predator. He admitted it himself.”

The man questioned how McMorris Rodgers would explain her support of Trump to her daughters when they are older.

“I voted for Cathy last time,” he said. “This time I will make sure, with everything that I have, that she will not win.”

The final person to speak said that there is so much going on it can be overwhelming and discouraging, but she was grateful for Thursday night’s event.

“This is to fill our tanks, so we can resist,” she said.

Moderator Mia Emerson said she and three other women decided to host the event. “We’re all collectively kind of frustrated because we want to be heard and we don’t feel like we’re being heard,” she said. “We were hoping she’d come and we could show her we’re nice people.”