To the Republican lawmakers dodging their constituents, refusing to confront engaged voters at local town hall meetings, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Thursday issued similar messages: toughen up and do your job.
"If you don't have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn't be in the United States Congress," Sanders said in an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett. "That's what you're elected to do," he said.
One such lawmaker is Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who used the shooting of Giffords during a 2011 town hall meeting to provide cover for his absence.
"Unfortunately, at this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety," Gohmert said in a statement Tuesday. "Threats are nothing new to me and I have gotten my share as a felony judge. However, the House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at Congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed—just as happened there."
But Giffords responded by saying that lawmakers should, in fact, hold town halls to engage with voters lest they forgo "their civic obligations."
"Town halls and countless constituent meetings were a hallmark of my tenure in Congress. It's how I was able to serve the people of southern Arizona. I believed that listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do," she said.
"I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public. Ron Barber—at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead—held town halls. It's what the people deserve in a representative."
"To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this," she continued. "Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls."
What's more, added Sanders, if the flurry of recent, contentious public meetings where Republican lawmakers have faced heat on issues from healthcare to immigration didn't already make them anxious, they ain't seen nothin' yet.
"If [Republicans are] worried about the protests they're seeing, they're going to see more," he told CNN. "This coming Saturday we believe there will be well over 100 protests, most of them in Republican offices around the country, district offices, demanding that Republican members of Congress meet with their constituents and answer the questions that their constituents have." Watch:
If you support repealing Obamacare and throwing 20 million off health insurance, then face your constituents and answer their questions. pic.twitter.com/aSwmCfRc8i
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 24, 2017
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