On paper, the idea of a Republican politician holding a town hall in the heart of Pinehurst looks pretty good. Pinehurst is in the heart of Moore County — one of the whitest, most yellow-dog Republican communities in the state. It’s pretty safe to assume that the GOP pol will be preaching to the choir.
I am sure Renee Ellmers thought it would be a pretty cushy event. Gatherings in Pinehurst tend to be very cordial, polite, docile, civil affairs. (Especially if cocktails are being served.) Things started off well for the 2nd district congresswoman Tuesday night. She got some polite applause and some cordial words. Things started falling apart when the discussion turned to ObamaCare.
Ellmers has publicly come out against the idea of using the upcoming vote on a continuing resolution as leverage to defund ObamaCare. She’s criticized her congressional colleagues who are leading the defunding fight, and has had some sharp words for Tea Party groups like FreedomWorks and Heritage Action.
On Tuesday night, Ellmers was sticking to her guns. She distributed to the audience a report from The Congressional Research Service suggesting that standing and fighting at the continuing resolution vote will not stop ObamaCare. A Google search reveals that she is one of many establishment GOP figures promoting this report around the country.
(Here is some info from The Heritage Foundation about how Congress CAN use appropriations bills to defund ObamaCare.)
I am sure many of you don’t have time to view all of the 2.5 hours worth of video from the Tuesday evening town hall. So, I’m happy to offer up an executive summary:
- Gaffes: During the early minutes of the meeting, Ellmers appeared to be stumped over how far Randolph County — which has been in her district for more than a year — is from Pinehurst. She also appeared to not immediately recognize some Lee County — which she has represented for three years — GOP leaders who were sitting a few feet in front of her. She also struggled mightily with pronouncing the word antithesis. (She abandoned the effort after three or four tries.) Ellmers touted a rather vague ObamaCare “replacement” plan she will be introducing. Yet, she struggled to explain the details of the plan, how many pages it is, or even offer up an idea as to when it will be introduced. She also told the audience that North Carolina “elected Mitt Romney president.” (President of WHAT? )
- A One-Way Conversation: “I want to have a conversation,” the congresswoman started off with. “I want to go back and forth with some friendly conversation. No question is off-limits.” Shortly into the town hall, Ellmers began interrupting and talking over voters trying to ask questions and make points. One exasperated man, tired of being interrupted by his congresswoman, exclaimed: “Look, we’re never going to make it through this if you don’t actually listen to the questions!”
- Barry Obama always ONE STEP AHEAD. Ellmers said Obama and his friends in the media always appear to be one step ahead of congressional Republicans — making it tough to accomplish the GOP agenda. She said standing and fighting at the continuing resolution debate would lead to a government shutdown that would be politically devastating to the congressional GOP: “It would put us in a weak position. It would give Barack Obama what he needs politically.” There is ZERO evidence to support this theory that standing and fighting would harm the GOP. They fought in 1995 — failing only after Bob Dole caved to Clinton. The GOP kept its majority in Congress until 2006.
- Barry-O will just move the money around. Ellmers suggested that Obama would simply move money around from other accounts to pay for ObamaCare, if funding is cut from the continuing resolution. He gets stopped from spending money on abortion by the Hyde Amendment. When confronted with the Hyde Amendment-like strategy proposed by congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Ellmers continued to spin the details of the CRS report. One audience member suggested that Ellmers should get an exemption from ObamaCare for her constituents — like the one being worked out for Congress and its staff.
- Mitt lost, and we’re stuck with ObamaCare. Ellmers told the audience that the actual last chance to beat ObamaCare was the 2012 presidential election. She said failing to beat Kay Hagan in 2014 will further screw us. She then pivoted into some cheerleading for the GOP, encouraging people to write checks to the RNC and to stop fighting with other Republicans: “We can’t change the process. But we can change the Senate. We need to stop fighting among ourselves, and talking about who is more conservative than who.”