Emmer Holds Tense, Emotional Town Hall Meeting in St. Cloud
ST. CLOUD -- Plagued by frequent interruptions, emotional outbursts and near-constant sound issues, Congressman Tom Emmer's latest Town Hall Meeting, held at St. Cloud City Hall, found the congressman on the defensive for nearly an hour.
Around 150 of the 6th District Republican's constituents attended the meeting on Wednesday night, bringing with them their opinions and questions on topics such as gun control, affordable health care, prescription drug costs, minimum wage and environmental issues.
While the congressman had a modest show of support, the majority of attendees came to the meeting to challenge him.
Emmer, lacking a microphone, spent a significant amount of time speaking over attendees who often shouted, interrupting one another to ask their questions.
During the meeting, Emmer frequently defended his stance on dismantling the Affordable Care Act in favor of a private system governed at the state level, which he says would drive down costs.
Chuck Derry of Clearwater challenged Emmer's support of the insurance industry by telling the story of Maddie, a two-year-old facing a life-threatening illness requiring an over $2 million gene therapy treatment in order to survive.
He said the treatment was denied by the child's insurance provider.
"Do you believe that the insurance industry's rights to amass hundreds of billions of dollars in profits is greater than Maddie's right to a life-saving cure? " Derry asked.
Emmer replied by pointing out healthcare shortcomings in nations like Denmark and Canada, and the current issues facing American healthcare he says were instigated by the Affordable Care Act.
"I believe we have the best healthcare on the planet," Emmer said.
Numerous attendees petitioned the congressman to support a federal assault weapons ban and refuse campaign funding from the National Rifle Association. Emmer declined to take a position on the issue, telling attendees "this is not a campaign event."
"You're asking me to do something that hasn't happened yet," he said.
Sue Shepherd of Sartell said she feels the congressman misses the mark on supporting common-sense gun laws.
"What is he doing about keeping assault weapons out of the hands of citizens? What the Supreme Court agreed to in the second amendment wasn't assault weapons in the streets. They said you could protect your home."
St. Cloud resident Chester Rorvig left the meeting disappointed. He felt the congressman dodged the majority of questions.
"He couldn't give an answer. He got pinned down and he blamed a person from the other party. He wouldn't answer if he takes money from different contributors. He wouldn't answer why he voted certain ways. Very disappointing."
Julie Busta of St. Cloud attempted to follow Emmer out of the city council chambers in order to ask her questions. She says she called his office several days ago to request a longer town hall meeting, but was told no.
"A representative should stand and listen to his constituents until all have been satisfied, until there are no more hands in the air," Busta said. "I don't care if it takes two or three hours. He ran away. There were many more people with questions."
Rose Thelen of St. Cloud has attended meetings hosted by Emmer before, and described the meeting as "predictable."
"Emmer didn't answer any questions. It came right out of his playbook. Classic pivoting."
The event was Emmer's 10th Town Hall Meeting of the legislative session. He'll be on the campaign trail in his bid for reelection in 2020.