Republican members of Congress have returned home to heated, at times angry town halls. In Washington State, Republican members are avoiding them, drawing protest and disappointment.
Demonstrators lined the sidewalk outside of Congressman Dave Reichert’s district office in Issaquah on Tuesday. A large rally is planned for Thursday.
In Cashmere, Wenatchee constituents held a town hall of their own with an empty seat reserved for the Congressman. Attendees stood up and took turns asking questions, mainly about the Affordable Care Act.
“Here’s your angry mob,” joked one participant. “We’re working hard; we’re taxpayers.”
“Look I was in the middle of WTO. If people think I’m afraid of standing in a crowd and answering tough questions, and handling people who want to create a disturbance, they’re wrong,” countered Rep. Reichert, R-8th District, the former King County Sheriff.
“I’ve been there and done that, but I’m very concerned about the safety of constituents in these meetings. I’m very concerned about the safety of my staff. But, I think the important thing to know is I hear them. I know what they’re feeling right now. People are afraid.”
In an interview with KING 5 on Wednesday, Reichert said he’s been meeting with constituents in small groups, but he’s intentionally avoided holding a larger town hall for fear it could turn into a shouting match, as others have nationwide.
“This has a different intensity to me, and it would be an unproductive effort," said the Congressman. “I would say and agree that the majority of people who are protesting are sincere, they’re devoted, law abiding citizens, committed to their cause, and they’re peaceful. But, there is a group out there who is not being quite so friendly.”
“I'm not demeaning the intensity of the anger,” he continued. “I'm not disagreeing with the intensity of the fear and anger because I share some of that too, and I'm trying to figure out how to proceed forward and work with people.”
Reichert listed immigration as one topic of concern he’s heard about this week, especially in light of new information about how President Donald Trump’s border security and enforcement executive order will be implemented.
“I have concerns because we don’t know the total intent,” said Reichert. “We have some language that gives a hint as to where he might be going, but this is an unpredictable time as you know.”
Reichert said he is comforted that “deferred action for childhood arrivals,” or DACA recipients, also know as "dreamers" are not affected by the new guidelines.
However, the group of undocumented immigrants prioritized for possible deportation has expanded significantly, under the new DHS guidance.
“I do have concerns about how broadly this might be applied in other aspects of the order, and I also have concerns about the impact on our law enforcement and our correctional facilities,” said Reichert, who also worries about the impact to Sanctuary Cities, or cities with similar values, like Seattle.
When asked how he can push back as a Republican member of Congress, Reichert said weekly caucus meetings have become one opportunity for members to sound off.
“We can go right to leadership, I can yank (Speaker) Paul Ryan aside and say, ‘look Paul, we need to do something here,’" said Reichert. "I know (Vice President) Mike Pence. I can talk to Mike Pence; we have a direct line to Mike. We can write a letter to the president. We can drop legislation."
“There’s all kinds of things we can do to fight back,” he continued. “Bottom line, he’s the president, and as you can see, he (can) make executive orders.”
KING 5 also asked Reichert some of the constituent questions raised at meetings and demonstrations this week, including the replacement of the Affordable Care Act and his vote on the Ways and Means Committee regarding a request to obtain Trump’s tax returns.