RED LION, Pa. (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s town hall Saturday turned contentious in his conservative south-central Pennsylvania district over questions about his support for President Donald Trump’s budget proposal and immigration plans and for undoing former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Perry, a three-term member of the Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative House Republicans, gamely took dozens of questions, often answering through heckling and shouts in the high school cafeteria-auditorium.
At one point, he stopped to say, “If you let me answer the question, I will answer the question.” The 90-minute town hall at no point was interrupted, but Perry from time to time was shouted at or briefly drowned out by the attendees, all of whom had to show ID proving they lived in the congressional district.
Many of the questions submitted by attendees - they were picked and read by the Red Lion school district’s superintendent - took on core Republican or Trump agenda items. Some sought an answer on his support for domestic or diplomatic spending cuts proposed by Trump and elements of the House GOP bill to scrap Obama’s health care law.
Perry was also asked about his support for investigating links between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin and forcing Trump to disclose his tax returns.
Saturday’s town hall makes Perry the first Pennsylvania Republican member of Congress to hold a live town hall since Trump took office in January. The approximately 400-seat event was nearly full and submitted questions perhaps reflected the coordination of liberal groups to get their members there.
His answers often lacked the directness many in the audience sought, such as one on whether he would support a Trump budget proposal to reduce or eliminate subsidies for public broadcasting, libraries, environmental protection, job retraining and Meals on Wheels.
“I, like you, have concerns about the budget, and I know that many of you are concerned, and some of you are scared about the budget,” Perry said, and as he began to explain that changes to Trump’s proposal were guaranteed, a chorus of shouts picked up.
Perry persisted and finished, saying: “There will probably be things in the president’s budget as he proposed it that I will agree with and there will be things in the president’s budget that I don’t agree with.”
That brought a rain of boos, and shouts of “Answer the question!” and “Are you going to vote for it?”
Asked how he can support billions for a border wall with Mexico when 1 in 5 children live in poverty in the United States, Perry said borders must be enforced, and suggested there are limits to the nation’s compassion and resources. He then turned to the national debt, a point he often repeated when the subject of budget cuts arose.
“Every single one of us has to make choices, including your federal government,” Perry said.
That set off chants of “No wall!”
On questions about health care legislation, Perry often answered without giving his position, but he drew cheers, from across the partisan divide, when he said he opposed the House GOP health care bill.
“I’m not happy with this bill,” Perry said. “I’ve already expressed to my leadership that I’m a ‘no’ on it because, in my opinion, the issue really at hand for access to care … is the cost of health care. It is unaffordable for almost all of us and the bill that I see does not drive the cost of health care down.”
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