(Breaking news) Ground rules set for Hoyer's health care town hall
Hoyer expects lively crowd
Monday, Aug. 31, 2009
Posted at 12:24 p.m. Monday
Like a college student cramming for a final exam, U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer was up late one night last week watching the rebroadcast of one of his best friends' recent health care town hall meetings to prepare for his own public encounter Tuesday evening in Waldorf.
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Left, Mazerine Wingate, 98-year-old post office employee, receives a visit from Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th), St. Mary's County Commisioner President Jack Russell, and Del. John Bohanan, at the Lexington Park Post Office Aug. 28 to dedicate his years of service to the post office.
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What he saw on television and learned after talking with U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) is to expect a lively crowd with mixed views on federal health care reform, not a boisterous audience intent on jeering his every word.
"I didn't see any behavior that was beyond the pale," Hoyer said on Friday of Cardin's Aug. 10 town hall meeting at Towson University that was taped by C-SPAN.
Yes, Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) said he expects some disruptions and some tough questions, but not the kind of shouting matches between lawmakers and constituents that have marred other town halls.
Each of the 1,000 people who are admitted inside the North Point gymnasium will have an equal chance to address Hoyer through a random lottery, said Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Lundberg. Anyone who wants to ask a question will receive a raffle ticket upon entering the facility and numbers will be drawn five at a time to expedite the proceedings and allow as many questions as possible within the 90-minute forum.
Questions will not be screened in advance, Lundberg said. The lottery system is the fairest method possible and eliminates suspicion that the deck is stacked in favor of health care reform supporters, she added.
Opponents are also gearing up for Tuesday's forum. The Charles County Republican Club held a strategy session Saturday and the local chapter of Americans for Prosperity, an organization that supports limited government and free markets, expects to have a strong presence.
Officials will cordon off space on the North Point campus for demonstrators on both sides of the issue to hold signs and voice their opinions. Parking will be permitted at 5 p.m. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The town hall will start at 7 p.m.
Some opponents are bristling that attendance is being limited to 1,000, even though the school gym can accommodate 5,000 people.
In an Aug. 25 letter to Hoyer, Rick Campbell, a Republican from La Plata who is running for Charles County Commissioner, urged Hoyer to reconsider the capacity because it will be the only chance since the reform proposals have been drafted for constituents to speak directly with their congressman in a public setting.
But there are no plans to increase the size of the crowd, Lundberg said.
To illustrate the differing viewpoints on health care reform, Hoyer recalled separate exchanges recently with two constituents at a shopping center near his home in Mechanicsville. One woman came up to Hoyer in the parking lot and implored him to vote against the plan, while a man approached Hoyer in the local hardware store and urged him to pass health care reform.
"Americans realize we need health care reform, but they're concerned about the form it takes and how it will impact them," he said on Friday.