Saturday morning, North Texas finally got in on 2017's angry congressional town hall action. Congressman Michael Burgess, who represents parts of Far North Dallas and bigger chunks of Collin and Denton counties, faced a vocal, often angry crowd in Marcus High School's gymnasium in Flower Mound. Burgess, a Republican medical doctor who's playing a big role in the House of Representatives' attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, took heat for his stance against the health care law, as well the Trump administration's increasingly apparent ties to Russia.
Despite repeated calls for them from voters in other congressional districts — Pete Sessions, especially, has been a target — the Burgess town hall was the first of the year in North Texas. As people have throughout the country when they've cornered their representatives, Burgess' constituents pressed him on the potential consequences of the end of Obamacare.
"Even if the Affordable Care Act saves one life, we should be very thankful," said one woman, calling on Burgess' sense of Christian duty. "Everybody may have access to health care, but can they afford it?"
In reply to that woman's comments, and many others in the crowd who praised the ACA, Burgess repeatedly criticized the individual mandate, the portion of the ACA that taxes those who don't purchase or otherwise get health care coverage through their parents or an employer. The mandate "doesn't have a place in a free society," he said. Despite the 20 million people who have picked up coverage in the years since the ACA has been implemented, Burgess said the mandate isn't working.
"It would be great if it was working, right?" Burgess said, to cries from the crowd that he fix the law rather than kill it. Quickly, the crowd grew more hostile.
"There are 20 million people locked in a burning room. They called Hitler a monster for six million, what will they call you?" a woman hissed at the congressman.
In response, Burgess emphasized that people under the age of 26 would "likely" be able to remain on their parents' policies, just as those with pre-existing conditions would "likely" be able to get coverage.
Attendees of the town hall also pushed Burgess on Trump and Russia.
"We are not troublemakers. We are concerned citizens," said a woman from Frisco, who noted she was a registered Republican. "We're beginning to feel very unsafe. It is not fake news."
Burgess largely demurred regarding any potential role Russia may have played in last November's election, saying only that he was still curious.
"I will continue to ask for information," Burgess said.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.