Most House members will skip town hall meetings this summer

Chris Moody
Political Reporter
The Ticket

About 60 percent of the members of the House of Representatives are not holding free and open town hall meetings during the six-week congressional recess this summer, a survey by the nonpartisan group No Labels has found.

No Labels called 430 active House members, and found that only 174 (about 40.1 percent) had meetings planned in their districts that were free and open to the public. The survey excluded two members who could not hold meetings due to health reasons, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and Georgia Democratic Rep. John Barrow.

Divided by party, 67 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans are skipping out on town halls this recess.

In lieu of town halls , several members are holding meetings with constituents, but charging a price at the door through private groups. Paul Ryan, the Republican representative from Wisconsin who is the architect of the GOP budget proposal that included a Medicare overhaul, is charging $15 for direct access, Politico reported.

Experience from the past two summers of town hall meetings showed that the age-old American tradition can be a politically risky one for elected officials, especially in the flip-camera age when lawmakers' every word is being recorded. During the debate over the health care bill in 2009, lawmakers faced hordes of angry constituents.

Arlen Specter, the former Republican (and Democratic) senator from Pennsylvania, took this tongue lashing from a constituent in 2009 during the turmoil over health care reform: "One day God's going to stand before you, and he's going to judge you and the rest of your damn cronies up on the Hill! And then you will get your just deserts!"

Below is a video of Sen. Lee Terry hearing voter frustration at a town hall in Omaha.

Last year only "a handful" of Democrats held town halls in an effort to avoid voter rage, according to a New York Times analysis at the time.

Voter approval of Congress is currently at one of the lowest percentages in history, a Gallup poll found last week.

To see if your representative is holding a meeting, see the full No Labels report.