Facing a packed auditorium and raucous crowd, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock on Saturday defended his party’s national agenda and voiced strong support for President Donald Trump’s controversial executive actions to scale back Obamacare, ban visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Vote him out,” hundreds of demonstrators chanted outside the Tower Theatre in downtown Roseville, the Republican-heavy population center of McClintock’s sprawling congressional district. Inside the theater, more than 200 people gathered for a town-hall event hosted by McClintock.
Attendees, some carrying signs that read “Resist,” “Dump Tom McTrump” and “Climate change is real,” pressed McClintock to denounce Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, acknowledge the science supporting the human causes of climate change, and oppose Trump’s executive order temporarily restricting refugee admissions to the U.S.
“I believe that order is constitutional,” said McClintock, one of several comments that elicited boos at the hourlong event.
McClintock’s visit drew hundreds of people, most of whom had come to express opposition to the new administration. Many identified themselves as liberal Democrats and progressives, while party registration in McClintock’s district – which incorporates all or part of 10 counties spanning from Tahoe to Yosemite – is solidly Republican.
“This is really all about resisting the Trump agenda,” said Wendy Wood, chairwoman of Indivisible Sierra Nevada, a local chapter of a political organization formed in response to the election. “Most of us have never participated in political activism of any sort. Something is happening here, and people here are not happy with (Trump) and McClintock. We’re here to vote them out.”
Roseville police and fire officials capped attendance inside the theater at roughly 200 people. Those left outside voiced frustration about being locked out of the theater, some saying they had driven for hours simply to see McClintock face to face.
“We just wanted to be able to ask questions of our representative and share our thoughts on key issues,” wrote Lauren Lake in an email. “I drove hours over a snowy pass to be there … we were told that the venue was at capacity and no one else would be allowed in.”
Inside the theater, McClintock took about a dozen audience questions. Some of the most passionate comments came from people who said they feared losing access to health care if Republicans press forward to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a clear replacement.
“What do you expect seniors and people with disabilities with low income to do if you take away our Medicare and Medicaid that we rely on to literally stay alive?” asked Amanda Barnes, who said she was paralyzed from her waist down after a hit-and-run accident in a crosswalk five years ago.
McClintock said his party did not yet have a replacement plan, but that there were several Republican-backed proposals still taking shape.
“The answer is a comprehensive bill that rescinds Obamacare in its entirety, and replaces it with reforms that put the patient back in charge of their own decisions, and give them the widest possible range of choices,” McClintock said. “And assure it’s within financial reach for the majority of Americans.”
The response drew shouts of disappointment, as did his comments on climate change.
“In any scientific arena, you are seeing a very vigorous debate over the extent to which man-made carbon dioxide emissions are causing global warming,” McClintock said. “Whether or not we destroy our economy for our children, our planet is going to continue to warm and cool as it has for billions of years.”
Many in attendance expressed general disappointment with Trump and called on McClintock to distance himself from recent executive actions, including Trump’s orders scaling back bank regulations and temporarily restricting U.S. entry for refugees as well as visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
“I am terrified about Mr. Trump’s behavior. I literally haven’t slept,” said Jill Ruffman, 58, of Granite Bay. She criticized McClintock and Trump for supporting a House vote to undo an Obama administration rule that required the Social Security Administration to disclose information about disabled recipients with mental illness to the national gun background check system.
“I understand you do not like Donald Trump,” McClintock told the crowd at one point. “I sympathize with you. There have been elections where our side has lost. … Just a word of friendly advice: Remember that there were many people in America who disagreed and feared Barack Obama just as vigorously as you disagree with and fear Donald Trump.”
Several times he thanked the audience for the discourse, even if they disagreed.
The event also drew Trump supporters, including David Ramsey, who said he volunteered for McClintock’s 2008 campaign and gleefully voted for Trump in November.
“President Trump is doing what he said he was going to do,” Ramsey said. “I like what he’s talking about – securing our borders and vetting immigrants. Hopefully, he’ll lower taxes and reduce big government and regulation. Tom McClintock is a conservative who believes in those same principles.”
McClintock left the theater at 11 a.m., immediately after the town hall concluded, escorted by police as he waded through a thick crowd of protesters who trailed him, shouting, “This is what Democracy looks like.”