Could it be that Senate Republicans are starting to feel the heat in the healthcare debate? It seems so as GOP senators John McCain, Kit Bond, and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell are all participating in healthcare forums together, but they are closed to the public. Attendance is by invite only.
According to Think Progress, the three Republicans held a healthcare reform forum in Kansas City that was closed to the public, “ThinkProgress spoke with Barbara Mueth, vice president of community relations at Children’s Mercy, who confirmed that the attendees had all been invited by either the hospital or the senators. At the event, McConnell said that it was time to “step back and start over” on health care.”
McConnell and McCain are also holding healthcare reform forums in North Carolina and Florida this week that will not be open to the public. To his credit, McCain has held widely publicized town halls, but McConnell hasn’t. Instead he has limited his speaking engagements to audiences that are opposed to reform.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill took McConnell to task for keeping the forum closed to the public, “I’m disappointed that the Republican leader of the Senate is coming to Kansas City on Monday and participating in a forum, but they’re not opening it up to the public. It’s invitation-only. I think it might be helpful for the leadership in the Republican Party to have some of the experiences I’ve had over the last week, where some of the meetings are wildly in favor of reform, and other meetings are wildly against it. I think having that pulse is important, and I think the Republican leader would benefit from that.”
McConnell doesn’t want to hear that some of his constituents could be in favor healthcare reform. It doesn’t matter to him what bill comes out of the Senate, he has already made up his mind to oppose it. This isn’t about healthcare reform. He is trying to derail the Democrats. McConnell is the prime example of the idea that the Democrats could give the GOP everything they want in a bill, and they would still oppose it.
The same Republicans, who defended the town hall protesters as people using their First Amendment rights, won’t do the same thing for people who favor healthcare reform. What about the First Amendment rights of those who want to see a bill pass? Don’t their rights matter? The bigger question is why is Mitch McConnell afraid to face the public?
I think the scales are tipping away from the anti-reform movement. Now that the left has mobilized, the little mobs of healthcare protesters aren’t nearly as effective at these town halls as they were earlier in August. If these Senate Republicans were serious about healthcare reform, they would engage in an open debate with the public instead of cherry picking their audiences.