During Visits to Districts, Austin's Republican Congressmen Are Forgoing Town Halls

Feb 13, 2017

Around the country, Republican congressmen are facing angry crowds at town hall meetings – mostly from people defending the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Republicans have said they plan on repealing the law in the coming months. Voters across the country are now appealing to their members of Congress to stop the effort.

But so far, it looks like these showdowns will not be seen in Central Austin anytime soon. That’s because Republican congressmen representing the Austin area are not holding town hall meetings while they're in their districts this week.

The plan to show up in large numbers at town hall meetings is something Democrats learned from Tea Party activists. In his last interview as president, Barack Obama said the best way to defend the health care law was to take a page out of the Tea Party playbook.

“I think the work is local as opposed to federal,” Obama said during an interview on the podcast Pod Save America. “I would pay attention to what a lot of the Tea Party did fighting the Affordable Care Act. You may disagree with the Tea Party, but they were effective in making sure their views were heard and amplified.”

This advice was apparently heard.

In Austin, folks are already fighting Republicans and the Trump administration at a local level.

Andrew Matthews says he joined a group called Indivisible Austin, which is preparing to follow the Tea Party model. It “was not so much a movement of protest but just civic engagement,” he said.

“A lot of other progressives and moderates have realized that we have pretty much seceded local politics to the extreme right wing for a long time,” he said.

Matthews, like a lot of people in his group, isn’t a professional political organizer; he’s a filmmaker. He says he’s learning as he goes, but he does have an overall vision of what he wants to see happen.

“My goal is just to keep people interested in their local representatives, keep them aware of that and keep the dialogue open with their local representatives,” he said. “And then how do we sustain that level of engagement, so that it’s a way of life, rather than just something we do for two or three months because we are all freaked out about Trump.”

But for now, letter-writing, emails and phone calls are all they can do.

Even though some members of Congress have been holding events in recent days, there are no local town hall meetings scheduled to be held by a Republican in Austin.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn haven’t announced anything.

A spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul says he doesn't have a town hall set for this week but his office is "working on details for listening posts for the week after.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores’ office says “the Congressman will be meeting with constituents, on a variety of topics, during the district work period the week of the February 20th.” But he won’t be holding town hall events until April.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith’s office says he’s also just meeting with constituents.

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams’ office says he has an "active work schedule” this week. And Rep. John Carter’s office says he’s not scheduling a town hall, either.

U.S. Lloyd Doggett, Austin's lone Democratic congressman, has already held events in both Austin and San Antonio focused on Obamacare. He also has an event planned for Sunday, March 5.

If you want to see how Texas’ congressional delegation compares to the rest of the country, you can see who is holding town halls in this spreadsheet.