Protesters gathered outside Rep. Dave Reichert's office in Issaquah Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. Some of Reichert's constituents in the 8th District say he is avoiding them by skipping Town Hall meetings and refusing phone calls.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert has been derided for dodging the public out of a newfound fear of crowds. But in a Facebook Live meeting with Seattle public television, the Mercer Island Republican made it very clear that he will not be showing his face anytime soon.
During the course of the one-hour interview with KCTS 9's Enrique Cerna, Reichert repeatedly called for civil and "respectful" discourse in order to move dialogue forward. The U.S. representative said town hall events around the country are no longer places of civility and respect.
"Now it's another group of people who are understandably concerned; they're afraid ... but my view of town halls today, it's degenerated into a shouting, yelling, screaming match," Reichert said.
The representative said he would not endanger himself, his staff or his constituents in order to do a town hall. He reiterated his commitment to meeting with "anyone and everyone," but only in small groups – eight people, where he can have a "civil discourse." According to Reichert, his office has received some hurtful calls and it hasn't inspired him to open himself up to an "unproductive" meeting with 500 people.
"Some of the phone calls we're getting, matter of fact, have caused me to come to this conclusion. One day my staff of four people in Issaquah answered more than 700 phone calls. Now, you would think that maybe 50-50 were negative ... in fact that was not the case. 85 percent of them were people who were (negative)."
According to the Representative he's still taking calls and meeting wherever he can, with smaller groups. But Chris Petzold, founder of the Eighth District Indivisible group, said that she hadn't heard of any Indivisible group members who have talked directly to Reichert in more than a month.
Though they have an eight-person meeting scheduled with him on March 3, they still hope he opts for a larger meeting at some point. During the interview, many 8th District Indivisible groups were protesting outside of Reichert's Issaquah office.
Reichert did not allay concerns of the thousand people who tuned in during his KCTS 9 interview, though he sought to make clear that he does not agree with President Trump on many things, like the immigration ban or cutting funding to the National Endowment of the Arts.
He also said that he will not support a healthcare bill that does not include replacement – which, according to the congressman, is coming in the next couple of weeks.
"There is a process, and the first step of the process is this reconciliation bill which will come up in the first two weeks in March. And that is going to be the main repeal and replace bill," Reichert said.
"Preexisting conditions language, those will be in the bill ... children under the age of 26 will continue to be covered under their parents' healthcare plan, Medicare will not be changed under the replacement language."
During the interview, Reichert said he could not comment on Steve Bannon's position in the White House ("We need to see whether or not he's going to perform in a way" that's accountable to the American people) and he stood by his vote to not call for President Trump's tax returns, calling the request "politically motivated."
He also hoped constituents would trust his record that he will work to protect their interests.
"When we go forward when there is any contradiction to the Constitution, to our civil rights, I am going to stand up – I will be a voice, I will call attention to it and and I will say 'you know this is not the way the American people want this to be accomplished," Reichert said.
"I wish I had the answer. I think it really is, the bottom line is to take a deep breath, let's all calm down, let's have a conversation, let's find a way forward ... I just want to make America better; I just want to bring people together."
Cerna ended the interview by handing the Representative a hefty stack of the thousands of questions that constituents had sent in for Reichert, along with a flash drive so his staff could have some "good reading."
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