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Outbursts, Hot Tempers Fill Town Hall Meetings Across U.S.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Loud outbursts, hot tempers and pleas for civility at town hall meetings around the country Saturday foreshadowed a long, hot August as Democratic lawmakers returning home faced resistance to proposals to reform the nation's costly health care system.

At a meeting in Des Moines, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, was interrupted several times by people in the audience shouting criticism and questions, even though he said he didn't expect Iowans to take part in what he called "scare tactics, misinformation and obstruction."

"As we have seen in recent days, opponents are pulling out all stops to kill the reform effort. This is a shame," Harkin said.

But his words didn't stop some in the estimated crowd of 200 from disrupting the meeting, where uniformed police officers were present. Des Moines police said no one was arrested.

At one point, a man from the audience yelled: "This is not health reform, this is control, control over our lives."

Harkin responded to one man shouting criticisms by saying, "As I said, there is a nationally coordinated effort to disrupt these meetings."

The man responded that no one had sent him to the meeting.

Similar exchanges have recently taken place at town halls nationwide, as Democratic lawmakers return home for the August recess to rally support for President Obama's top domestic priority -- revamping a costly health care system that leaves millions without insurance.

The episodes have drawn widespread media attention, and Republicans have seized on them as well as polls showing a decline in support for President Barack Obama and his agenda as evidence that public support is lacking for his signature legislation.

Pushing back, Democrats have accused Republicans of sanctioning mob tactics and trying to sabotage the democratic process.

The Republican Party has said it's not behind the protests, but some conservative groups have encouraged people to show up at the meetings and let the lawmakers know about their opposition.

The tension over pending health care reform legislation boiled over at other meetings Saturday.

Hundreds of people crowded into a meeting in Memphis hosted by Rep. Steve Cohen. The forum was scheduled to address constituents' concerns about Social Security and veterans' benefits, but it quickly turned into a shouting match over health care reform.

Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter was at a grocery store in Colorado, on Saturday for informal chats with constituents. Some people protested the proposed health care overhaul and likened it to socialism.