A boisterous crowd that included dozens of progressive activists peppered U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., on Wednesday with questions, comments and jeers on health care reform, federal budget cuts and the cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base during his first town hall meeting of the year in Colorado Springs.
The overflow crowd of more than 140 at the Colorado Springs Police Department's Stetson Hills substation included dozens of vocal members of the Colorado Springs-Colorado Action Network, created after President Donald Trump's November election as a forum for progressives, liberals and others opposed to the new administration.
At least 40 people waited outside the substation, unable to get into the overcapacity meeting room, including network members with protest signs that called for voters to "repeal and replace" the six-term congressman who is again up for election next year.
Since Trump's election, Republican lawmakers have faced hostile crowds at town halls around the nation. Liberals angered at Trump's agenda and constituents fearful of losing benefits have filled meetings, loudly objecting to explanations for cutting programs or attempting to do away with the Affordable Care Act. Some Republicans have declined to meet with constituents or have held telephone meetings, as Lamborn has done in the past.
"We put the word out and told people that this was going on. It is pretty obvious that they came, about 30 of us," said Sherrie Smith, a member of the group that is "looking to stop the Trump administration and hold local representatives accountable."
At one point, an audience member shouted that Lamborn was "lying" about his support for solar power and renewable energy after he told the crowd he supported development of all types of energy. He responded by pointing out that he sponsored legislation to make building solar power arrays on federal land easier.
The exchange was prompted by a student who invited Lamborn to a presentation on climate change she will be giving Friday at her school. She asked Lamborn why he wasn't supporting the renewable energy industry to help employ soldiers who are leaving the military and had difficulty finding work.
Lamborn was met with jeers and calls of "Affordable Care Act" or "ACA" every time he called the law "Obamacare" and faced several questions about why he was supporting a Republican plan that reduces coverage or makes it more expensive for many families. He said that Republican members of Congress are still working on the plan, called the "American Health Care Act," that he hoped to support if it allows veterans to get the same tax credits available to civilians to help them pay for health insurance and didn't force them to get care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Lamborn's support for the Republican plan seesawed in the week before it was withdrawn when moderates and conservatives couldn't agree on how much of the Affordable Care Act should be left in place.
Lamborn mostly stuck to Republican positions backing the Trump administration, though he said he "wasn't sure I agree with" Trump's plans to cut the State Department budget by 28 percent. He enthusiastically backed the president's goal of increasing the Department of Defense budget by $54 billion.
Lamborn also backed the U.S. attack on the Syrian base in response to a chemical weapon attack on a rebel-held village. He said Trump's decision to order the missile barrage was necessary when "you draw a line and someone crosses over it," and he advocated a tougher stance against North Korean attempts to build small nuclear weapons that could be carried by missiles and hit West Coast cities.
He also backed tax reform but gave no details about what type of plan he would support other than saying reform would create jobs and "be a boost to the economy." He would consider a value- added tax, which imposes a tax at each level of production, if it replaced the income or other taxes.
After the raucous meeting, Lamborn said he "enjoyed" the experience, which he called "democracy in action." The event was part of a series of town hall meetings Lamborn is holding in each county of the 5th Congressional District, including two on Tuesday in Buena Vista and Fairplay and two on Thursday in Cañon City and Cripple Creek.
Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234