OCEANSIDE — For over two hours, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) fielded questions from a largely contentious crowd at a town hall in Oceanside on Saturday morning.
Questions centered around reforming the Affordable Care Act, with many people demanding direct answers from Issa about his position on the proposed Republican legislation to repeal the healthcare bill and replace it.
“If the Congressional Budget Office says that costs will go up, and less people will be covered, will you support it?” asked Steve Linke, of Carlsbad.
“You know…” Issa began, before being overwhelmed by people chanting, “Yes or No.”
Ultimately he said he “doesn’t want to spend the same money, to cover less people.”
The town hall was held in two sessions at the Junior Seau Beach Community Center to accommodate the large demand to attend a town hall. Issa hasn’t held a town hall meeting in the district since last fall, and activists have been protesting outside his Vista office every week for the past few months demanding to speak with him.
In February, he spoke for 90 minutes to a crowd that gathered outside his office, but that evening he skipped a meeting with those activists, along with labor groups and healthcare advocates, organized in Vista.
About 400 people attended each hour-long session Saturday morning, and most people seemed to be supportive of the Affordable Care Act, and opponents of President Donald Trump.
Many in attendance held “Agree” and “Disagree” signs, which they held up throughout Issa’s answers, but most of Issa’s answers were interrupted by jeers and chants.
Issa answered about 20 questions, ranging from the Republican healthcare plan, to Russia, immigration and a wall on the Mexican border.
Regarding Russia, Issa said the statute providing for a special prosecutor no longer existed, to which the audience shouted, “Do your job.”
When the same question came up in the second half of the town hall, Issa said he would push the deputy attorney general in charge of the investigation to be open and independent.
He added that the “chaos” Russia creates in America cannot continue.
“It is an existential threat to democracy, if we don’t stop it,” he said.
When asked about his support for the recent ban on immigration from six predominantly Muslim countries, Issa said, “denying refugees was a shameful part of our history that cannot be repeated.”
On immigration, Issa framed it as an economic issue for American workers, but was not supportive of a new wall along the border.
One notable exchange came at the end of the first session, when Mike Levin, an Orange County lawyer and Democratic candidate for office, pressed Issa on his support for protecting the environment, and received loud cheers for his question.
Retired Col. Doug Applegate, the Democratic candidate who narrowly lost against Issa in 2016 and has promised to run again in 2018, was outside the recreation center throughout the town hall. He dismissed Levin’s appearance Saturday, as a coordinated stunt.
“You think that was a coincidence?” Applegate said.
While the protesting continued outside the hall after the event, Linke, the Carlsbad voter who asked about Issa’s support for the Republican healthcare replacement said his respect for Issa increased after the town hall, even if his question wasn’t answered directly.
“I was pleased to hear Mr. Issa at least make that qualified commitment, including the implied trust of the CBO score. However, he is probably leaving himself an escape,” Linke said. “My respect for Mr. Issa increased as a result of the town halls, and I found I agree with him on some points, although I still disagree with him on many issues.”