The large and boisterous crowd that Republican Congressman Tom McClintock faced at a town hall meeting in the heart of his sprawling, deep-red district was friendlier than his last in Roseville a few weeks ago, but not much.
“I understand that you’re really upset about the election. You don’t like Donald Trump,” McClintock said Tuesday near the end of the two-hour town hall that drew about 500 people in Mariposa, a town in the Yosemite foothills. The crowd erupted in loud boos and chants of disapproval.
The event – McClintock’s second since Trump’s inauguration – served as a rebuke to the congressman’s stances on Obamacare, climate change, and immigration. But it also highlighted a contentious political tug-and-pull for McClintock and other Republicans in Congress.
Despite loud uproar from those in the audience opposed to Trump and moves they see as threatening environmental protections, safeguards for undocumented immigrants and health care access for millions of Americans, McClintock noted the majority of his constituents support Trump and the Republican agenda.
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“I think you will find votes I have cast have the support of the vast majority of people in this district. The moment they don’t, there’ll be somebody else standing here,” McClintock said, a message that drew people to their feet, cheering loudly.
“Good idea,” one person screamed out.
People voiced most concern that Trump’s administration would dismantle policies to combat climate change and cost them access to health care.
“What are you willing to do to make sure I don’t lose my health care?” asked El Portal resident Mary Wood.
She added: “It has literally saved my life. It’s a sad state in America that so many people face losing their health care. We should be able to go to the doctor without going into bankruptcy.”
McClintock ticked off a list of bullet points outlined last week by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would dramatically alter the way health care is funded. Among other changes, people would qualify for tax credits based on age rather than income.
“We need to address the underlying problems that gave rise to Obamacare,” McClintock said.
“Our objective is to establish a system where you have the widest possible range of choices – you pick the plan that best meets your own needs, and through refundable tax credits those plans will be within your financial reach.”
Unlike McClintock’s last town hall in Roseville on Feb. 4, some in the crowd clearly supported McClintock and Trump. While detractors carried signs that read “Dump Tom McTrump,” “Investigate Russian hacking now,” and “Save the Affordable Care Act,” one man held a Trump campaign banner, and others wore “make America great again” hats.
“I don’t think Obamacare has improved conditions for my family,” said Debbie Peters of Catheys Valley. “I pay more for health care now than I did before it went into effect. And I didn’t have problems getting in for a primary care appointment.”
McClintock’s solidly Republican district incorporates all or part of 10 counties spanning from Tahoe to Yosemite. He won re-election in November, earning nearly 63 percent of the vote, while Trump carried the district with 54.4 percent of the vote, final county results show.
McClintock twice extended Tuesday’s town hall, taking questions for more than two hours. Some of the most spirited centered on illegal immigration and ties between Trump and Russia.
“I am concerned about the lack of accountability and investigation into all of this,” said Ken Boche of Mariposa, demanding Republicans investigate Russian hacking and calling on Trump to release his tax returns. “Until there is a nonpartisan probe into it, how else will the public know?”
McClintock disputed the possibility that Russia interfered with the U.S. election and said there was “nothing unusual or nefarious” about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn communicating with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn resigned following reports he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russia.
McClintock also suggested the federal government will buck efforts by Democrats in the state Legislature to designate California as a sanctuary state and bolster protections for undocumented immigrants.
“Any state that refuses to comply with federal law should not receive federal funding,” McClintock said.
California Democratic leaders have repeatedly admonished Trump and are seeking passage of legislation to protect those who live here – documented or undocumented – from actions that could lead to mass deportations or other policies viewed as anti-immigrant.
On immigration, McClintock strongly defended Trump’s actions to deport people accused and convicted of crimes and said he supports construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“We have to restore our borders and the rule of law,” McClintock said.
McClintock backed Trump’s unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud, suggesting rampant fraud especially in areas that Hillary Clinton won. He did not offer any evidence.
Outside the town hall, someone slashed the tires on four vehicles, according to the the California Highway Patrol. Officers have found no common thread between the victims or the cars, said Officer Adrian Perez, a CHP spokesman. No suspects have been arrested, he said.
Lieutenant Becky Hagen, commander of the Mariposa area for the CHP, issued a statement about the incident, slamming the perpetrators as cowards.
“This is not how democracy works,” Hagen said. “Aside from the fact that this is both legally and morally wrong, it is also a cowardly thing to do. To the guilty person(s), even if you do not agree with some of the people who attended the meeting, at least they had the guts to stand up, show their faces, and speak their minds in an open forum. That is far better than sneaking around in the dark, destroying personal property.”
Taryn Luna of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.
Angela Hart: 916-326-5528, @ahartreports