U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur on Monday held his first in-person town hall meeting since Donald Trump became president, despite fears that it might be “hijacked” by so-called paid protesters. The public meeting turned out to be less pyrotechnics than policy debate, as the Republican Congressman held forth on issues ranging from Russia’s interference in the election to the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s done some things that’ve helped millions of people,” MacArthur said of Obamacare. He said it was a good thing that adults could stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and people with pre-existing conditions could get health insurance.
But MacArthur added that the 2010 law had some flaws. “It’s also hurting millions of people. And it’s hurting people because premiums and deductibles are going sky-high,” he said.
House Republicans released a plan to replace Obamacare earlier Monday evening, but MacArthur said he had not had time to read it before the town hall meeting and could not say whether he would support it.
In January, MacArthur voted against a bill to begin dismantling the ACA, saying the rush to “repeal and replace” the health care law was happening too fast.
Monday’s meeting came a few weeks after MacArthur, who represents parts of Burlington and Ocean Counties, hosted a telephone town hall. Chatting with constituents over the phone has become an increasingly common maneuver for Republicans nationwide who are facing larger and louder crowds aiming to demonstrate their displeasure with the Trump administration.
“I know that there’s not paid protesters here. I know you are my constituents,” MacArthur said on Monday. “That doesn’t mean that there aren’t paid organizers that are out there doing their own thing,” he said, as the crowd began to boo. “Well, there are.”
The other major topic of conversation at the Waretown Volunteer Fire Company was the allegation that Russian hackers meddled in the U.S. presidential election.
When one questioner suggested that Congressional Republicans could not be trusted to investigate Trump, MacArthur urged the crowd to let the FBI and Congressional investigations play out.
“I think we should give it some time. And if we find that that’s not going in a direction it should, that doesn’t stop us from looking more,” said MacArthur.
“I am not Donald Trump’s spokesman. I am not an advocate for: let’s be kind to Russia. I want to get to the bottom of it just like you do,” he said. “And I want to make sure that a country that interfered with our election pays [such] a sufficient price that they never think about doing it again.”