Lawmakers Rethinking Town Hall Strategy

The health-care debate was supposed to play out at rallies and inside gymnasiums when lawmakers headed home for the August recess.

But after a series of contentious town-hall meetings, some Democratic lawmakers are thinking twice about holding large public gatherings. Instead, they are opting for smaller sessions, holding meetings by phone or inviting constituents for one-on-one office hours.

Democrats have accused Republicans of manufacturing the opposition by organizing groups to attend the events and encouraging disruptive behavior. Republican organizers say the unrest reflects genuine anger about the proposed health-care changes.

"Democrats may think that attacking or ignoring this growing chorus of Americans is a smart strategy, but they are obviously forgetting that these concerned citizens are voters as well," said Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's campaign arm.

Rick Scott, who leads Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a group that has helped publicize the local meetings, said: "The polls reveal the real picture of what is happening across the country -- people are genuinely concerned, some are genuinely angry, and they are expressing themselves."

The Senate on Friday headed home for a monthlong break after progress stalled on passing sweeping health-care legislation. House members, whose break started a week ago, have been hit with a flood of inquiries about the legislation since they arrived home.

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D., Ariz.) on Thursday canceled her public schedule for the day after a "Chat with Ann" session at a Safeway grocery store in Holbrook, Ariz., turned rowdy.

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