VERO BEACH — With his Central Florida constituents criticizing his lack of availability, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey held an impromptu telephone town-hall meeting Wednesday night.
Instead of announcing the event like an adult would, the GOP congressman who represents the 8th congressional district phoned people at home about 7:15 p.m. with a sudden invitation to join a two-hour call already in progress.
And while he’s made a career out of staying below the radar since he was first elected in 2009, Posey’s attempt to keep the outreach on the down-low failed miserably: 10,000 constituents took him up on his offer!
Not bad for a Wednesday night, in a district of barely 700,000 people that stretches from Orlando east to the coast.
To many, it was time well spent: Posey, who hasn’t held a town hall meeting in person since 2009 but showed up for Donald Trump‘s recent appearance in Melbourne, got an earful from voters.
To his credit, the 69-year-old seemed to listen.
He even took the time to say why he has no plans to face voters in person, unlike dozens of his more courageous Republican colleagues who meet with constituents and famously get yelled at.
Posey said he read the Indivisible Guide, an online guide designed to encourage a more active citizenry.
Posey said he knew the pamphlet calls for citizens to force members of congress to hold town hall meetings so that lawmakers can see first-hand the resistance to Trump and his policies.
“That’s not going to happen,” Posey said when pressed to come up with a date for a meet-and-greet.
Posey reminded callers that 19 people were shot at a gathering with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011.
“I’m not concerned for my safety,” Posey said, adding that he is concerned for the safety of his constituents in a polarizing era.
Another person on the line reminded Posey that Giffords is currently urging ALL representatives to hold town hall meetings. In fact, Giffords is specifically telling legislators not to use her as an excuse to not meet with voters, saying: “I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public.”
Constituents told Posey they are concerned with Trump’s promise to repeal Obamacare, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and Trump’s alleged ties with Russian operatives.
Posey said he doesn’t support an independent prosecutor to investigate Russia’s involvement with Trump’s campaign.
Nor does he support an investigation into the attack in Yemen that resulted in the death of an American Navy SEAL hours after Trump’s inauguration.
Posey had a long interaction with woman who identified herself as a mother of two. She said she wanted to see Trump’s tax returns because she’s worried about conflicts of interest.
Posey doesn’t think Trump should release his tax forms, and pressed her to give a specific example.
The woman said First Lady Melania Trump is staying in Manhattan instead of moving to the White House, forcing the U.S. Secret Service to occupy space in Trump Tower and paying millions in rent to Trump companies.
Referring to President Barack Obama‘s few vacations without naming him, Posey asked if it was better to take the first family and the first dog to Hawaii on the tax payers dime and have the secret service at a luxury hotel in Hawaii.
The woman’s answer: “Does he own the hotel?”
Posey said that wouldn’t make a difference.
The woman said it did. Because if Obama owned the hotel, that’d be called profiteering, the woman replied.
Posey wouldn’t say more.
He did, however, try to convince those on the call he’s not such a bad guy, and highlighted his reputation for bipartisanship.
One Posey supporter got his turn to talk and said he didn’t like the anti-Trump protesters popping up all over the country, and the “bashing” Posey was being subjected to.
He described Posey as the hardest-working and most honest man on Capitol Hill, and even said Posey helped him when someone attacked him with a meat cleaver.
No joke: A meat cleaver!
Posey said he remembered him, indeed.
Another woman on the line said she hopes Posey will foster more cooperation with Democrats.
“That’s the hope,” said Posey, who voted to shut down the government two years ago.
“That’s not the hope,” the woman countered. “That’s your job.”