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Town Hall Roundup, Week 4: Republicans Making News

Well, we’ve almost made it to the end of the five-week August recess, during which House Republicans who chose to engage with their constituents did so at their own peril, risking ire-filled confrontations over Obamacare and whether undocumented immigrants should get legal status.

This week, members fielded questions on other topics in the news and, in many cases, made headlines themselves.

Addressing an audience in his home state of Florida on Wednesday, second-term Republican Rep. Rich Nugent cast aspersions on the leadership capabilities of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

“I try not to ever criticize anyone in public,” Nugent said, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times, “but at the end of the day, I don’t think we’re getting the leadership we need to get from the speaker of the House.”

During a visit with a conservative group in Charleston, S.C., Iowa 
Republican Steve King caught the attention of the left-wing blogosphere for saying that too few Americans were working hard enough to warrant government hand-outs.

According to RedAlert News, King called America under President Barack Obama a “dependency state” that would only increase as “we borrow money from China to pay people not to work, and we say we’re going to grow our GDP because we have sympathy for people that are in this country illegally.”

Then there were members who made headlines by not making public appearances at all, such as Idaho Republican Mike Simpson and Energy and Commerce  Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan.

In Idaho, members of the Gem State Tea Party retaliated against Simpson’s absence from the town hall circuit by holding their own meeting that starred a life-sized, cardboard cutout in the Congressman’s likeness. As Huffington Post reported:

What ensued was a brief question-and-answer session in which a crowd of conservative activists peppered the image of Simpson with questions on Washington dysfunction and Idaho health care. A member of the Gem State Tea Party responded as a mock-Simpson, boasting about Simpson’s position on the House Appropriations Committee and his ability to bring home federal money to the state.

“Effective 1 October, all the retired military’s TriCare prime to their families is being cut,” one questioner asked. “I’d like to know why.”

Simpson’s impersonator responded: “If I was on that committee, I’d get you all the money you need!”

Upton also appeared at a town hall event earlier this week via cardboard cutout. The real Upton received an invitation from the Berrien County Tea Party Patriots, who emphasized that “the Town Hall [would] take place whether Congressman Upton attends or not.”

“What we want Rep. Fred Upton to have is an open, honest forum where we can get him on the record whether or not he’ll vote to defund Obamacare in view of the continuing resolution which is giving the government more borrowing money or the unlikelihood it’ll go into a debt ceiling vote,” said Greg Fettig, FreedomWorks’ Midwest Regional Director, according to local news reports.

Freshman Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma did appear in front of his constituents this week, but not without backup from a litany of conservative tax policy experts and pundits calling for, among other things, the dismantling of the IRS.

According to the Tulsa World, 1,300 people convened for the forum Bridenstine was hosting on the subject of overhauling the nation’s tax code, where the biggest round of applause was not for the congressman but for Neal Boortz.

Boortz, a nationally-syndicated conservative talk show host and author of “The Terrible Truth about Liberals,” reportedly told the audience that it was time to revolt against the current tax code status quo with “pitchforks and torches.”

It’s less clear how audience members reacted to Bridenstine’s explanation of the nation’s “the thirst for an overhaul of the tax code.”

“I can give a speech on the floor of the House,” he said, “and literally by the time I get to my office there are lobbyists in my office questioning about … how it relates to the tax code.”