- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MERIDIAN, Idaho (AP) - Idaho’s Republican U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador faced an angry and combative crowd in his hometown at a Wednesday night town hall while defending his stances on health care, abortion and hesitation to investigate President Donald Trump.

Labrador, who represents Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, took questions for nearly three hours during a town hall at Meridian Middle School auditorium. It seats roughly 1,200 people and remained nearly full throughout the event. The town hall was the first event of its kind to be held this year among Idaho’s all-Republican congressional delegation.

“I do not believe health care is a basic human right,” Labrador said to jeers while answering a question about health care reform and increasing costs. “I just don’t think it’s a right to have health care.”

Progressive activists who say they’re concerned about Trump’s policies had lined up outside the venue for several hours before it began. Audience members yelled, “Do your job,” and waved signs criticizing the congressman’s voting history. Shouting between attendees sometimes drowned out Labrador’s responses.

Others held up red and green pieces of paper to indicate whether or not they agreed with Labrador’s answers. A smaller number of supporters fought back against Labrador’s critics, with one member yelling out “hogwash” at questions he felt were too harsh.

Labrador kicked off the event agreeing that the crowd wasn’t going to like all of his answers and wasn’t going to agree with him on all issues.

“I am super popular tonight,” Labrador said, laughing a little as the crowd jeered.

Trump and other congressmen have made multiple accusations that congressional town halls being held across the United States are being filled by paid protesters.

At one point Wednesday night, an audience member said he wasn’t a paid protester, to which Labrador replied it didn’t matter because it was the audience’s right to be there.

The crowd’s anger piqued during questions about why Labrador wasn’t demanding Congress have stronger accountability into Trump’s administration, particularly about the president’s ties to Russia and his refusal to release his tax returns.

Labrador said doesn’t believe there’s enough evidence for Congress to demand Trump hand over his tax returns, while others asked how Labrador could praise some of Trump’s actions when he made derogatory remarks about women along the campaign trail.

“Where the hell were you when Trump was making remarks about women’s bodies?” asked Rachael Seluga of Boise, who is Labrador’s constituent.

Labrador pointed out that Trump was not his first choice for president.

Labrador has been in office since 2010 and has been a vocal leader in the conservative congressional Freedom Caucus that has gained him wide support among his constituents. His district covers the northern half of the state and snakes down to the western part of the Treasure Valley, including parts of Boise. It has been rumored that he’s going to run for Idaho governor, but he declined to answer questions about the position.

Labrador typically holds four to five town halls each year. He has one more planned in Nampa next week and another planned in northern Idaho that has not yet been finalized.

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