We’ve arrived at the Fourth of July, the patriotic summer holiday that politicians—and miniature flag manufacturers—love so well.
Perhaps you’ll spend the long weekend grilling, cracking some brews, or taking in some fireworks. Maybe you’ll even go to your local July Fourth parade. And while you’re there, maybe you’ll have the opportunity to shake the hand of the elected official who wants to take away your health insurance.
Fourth of July events are made for politicians that otherwise reside within the safe confines of the District of Columbia. They get to make folksy remarks about “knee high” corn and smile and wave at their voters while cameras flash.
But for congressional Republicans, going home and meeting with your constituents isn’t as fun as it used to be. House Republicans who backed the American Health Care Act and held town halls with their constituents found themselves routinely shouted down, booed, and forced to listen to emotional constituents telling personal stories about the human cost of losing their insurance. Plenty of Republicans have responded with abject cowardice, either literally running away from voters or just refusing to hold public town halls at all.
So perhaps it’s no wonder that we didn’t have much luck when we set out to answer one simple question over the last couple of days: “What’s the [insert elected Republican’s name here]’s public schedule of events when they’re back home in the district during the upcoming July 4th recess?”
That could also be interpreted as: When and where will the public be able to let their Republican senators know their thoughts about the Better Care Reconciliation Act, the Senate’s wildly unpopular version of the healthcare bill?
We made repeated calls to the offices of the Republicans who have played critical roles in the circus surrounding the bill, which is currently being renegotiated as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tries to get enough votes to pass it. All we wanted to know was what events the various politicians would be holding over the next week or so. Nobody got back to us.
On the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) office, did not return repeated requests for his schedule of events while he’s home in Janesville. He does not have his public schedule available online.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY), who desperately tried to push the GOP bill, which was drafted behind closed doors, through for a Senate vote before July 4, hasn’t hosted a single town hall event in his home district in 2017, according to Town Hall Project, which tracks public events with lawmakers. A thorough web search turned up no events announced for the Fourth of July weekend. When reached by phone on Friday, Communications Director David Popp said he’s “not high enough on the food chain” to be privy to details about scheduling. I was directed to email my request to McConnell’s press office in Kentucky.
UPDATE, 2:27 PM: Shortly after this story was published, one of McConnell’s spokespeople in Kentucky responded by email to say the Majority Leader’s public schedule has not be released, and local media would be alerted “when he is scheduled to be in the area for any public events.”
Multiple calls to the office of Sen. Dean Heller (R–NV), the single most vulnerable Republican senator up for re-election in 2018 whom The Washington Post credited with single-handedly killing the current version of the Senate bill, were not returned. Multiple emails to Heller’s press secretary also went unanswered, but Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston reported Heller would spent the holiday with his wife, their horses, and the parade in Ely, NV.
Press contacts for Sen. Jeff Flake (R–AZ), another endangered Republican senator, did not return emails or a call from Fusion. The Town Hall Project listed no public events for Flake this weekend, and none turned up with a deep internet dive.
Sen. Susan Collins (R–ME), a moderate Republican who’s currently working on an amendment to remove a provision to defund Planned Parenthood from the Senate healthcare bill, hasn’t held a single town hall all year. No public events were listed online.
Calls and emails to the offices of Sen. Ron Johnson (R–WI), who was one of the first senators to announce he would not support the Senate bill, were not returned on Thursday or Friday.
Calls and emails to Sen. Rand Paul’s (R–KY) office were not returned, either. Paul, who opposes the bill in part because he wants individuals to be able to buy the worthless insurance plans that businesses would be able to start offering their employees, hasn’t held a single town hall event in Kentucky this year. His public Facebook page lists no future events.
A rare outlier in the group is Sen. Ted Cruz (R–TX). While his office did not return repeated requests for his schedule, local media reported that he’ll ride in the July 4 parade in McAllen, TX, though the mayor is really, really sorry about that. Cruz is also hosting “Concerned Veterans for America” town hall events in McKinney, outside of Dallas, on July 5, one in Austin on July 6, and another in Houston on July 8. All three free (but ticketed) events are sold out.
Sen. Rob Portman’s (R–OH) press office did not reply to calls and emails. Portman, who bravely came out to oppose his party’s healthcare bill only after McConnell announced there would be no immediate vote on it, hasn’t held a town hall in his district this year, according to Town Hall Project.
Repeated calls and emails to multiple members of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R–WV) communications team were not returned on Thursday or Friday. Capito, who has also publicly spoken out against the bill, hasn’t held a town hall with constituents in 2017 and lists no upcoming public events online.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R–AK), another moderate Republican who opposed the Senate bill, did not return a call for comment on Friday. She has not held a town hall this year and does not list her public schedule online.
Multiple emails and a call to Sen. Jerry Moran’s (R–KS) press office were not returned. But Moran is hosting a “listening tour” on July 6 at the McKenna Youth and Activity Center in Palco, KS.
I’ll happily update this post if any of these lawmakers’ staffers get back to me about their plans. I can easily be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional reporting by Jordan Rudner