Rep. Davis Holds Town Hall Meeting
MICHELE NORRIS, host: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block.
Many members of Congress are back in their home districts this week, and some are getting an earful from frustrated constituents. Among them is congressman Danny Davis of Illinois. The Democrat represents parts of Chicago and its western suburbs. At a town hall meeting in Westchester last night, he heard echoes of the recent political battles here in Washington.
NPR's David Schaper was there. He has this report.
DAVID SCHAPER: In a tumultuous year in Congress, and with many House members criticized for not holding town hall meetings, Representative Danny Davis is holding more than most - including here, in the middle-class and racially mixed suburb of Westchester.
Representative DANNY DAVIS: And, of course, the only way, if you are a representative, that you can know what people are thinking is to ask them.
SCHAPER: A chuckling Davis started to say if he assumes he knows what's going on, and assumes he knows how people feel, he didn't need to finish the part about he then becomes the first three letters of that word. But that seems to be what some of his constituents already think of at least some in Congress.
TONY BELMONTE: I am sick and tired, and so are a lot of people here. OK?
SCHAPER: Seventy-five year old Tony Belmonte(ph) calls himself an independent, and he railed against a host of spending and policy priorities in Washington.
BELMONTE: What I'm saying is, I'm sick and tired of people grabbing, grabbing, grabbing and wanting more. OK?
SCHAPER: Mary Ann Aguilar(ph), who is unemployed, says she's sick and tired of people blaming President Obama for the nation's problems.
MARY ANN AGUILAR: The poor guy's been in there for what, two or three years? He cannot change what the Republicans messed up.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
AGUILAR: And I would suggest to you, congressman Davis, to pass that Buffett tax. The rich need to be taxed. They need to pay their fair share.
SCHAPER: Congressman Danny Davis agreed, telling his suburban constituents the economy is in the ditch because the richest people keep getting richer.
DAVIS: While the poorest people in our world keep getting poorer, and the people that we've traditionally called middle class are being squeezed.
SCHAPER: The town hall discussion remained civil, the mood perhaps aided by Davis' own deep, monotone oratory as constituents asked about post office closings, health care for small businesses, and the future of Social Security. Hanging over everything, though, like the dreary rain clouds outside the Westchester Village Hall, was the battle over reducing the federal deficit.
MARY GERASE: I'm very, very concerned about this debt supercommittee.
SCHAPER: Mary Gerase(ph) calls the group a sham because of the no-tax pledges taken by the six Republicans on it.
GERASE: You know, I would really like to have your feelings on this because I would say I am very angry about it. I really don't have any faith in it, and I'm hoping that you can explain it to us in a way that perhaps would make us feel a little bit better about it. But I am very, very pessimistic about it.
DAVIS: Well, let me just tell you, I am also.
SCHAPER: Davis derided the bitter tone in Washington and the unwillingness of many to compromise. And afterwards, Tony Belmonte, who was somewhat critical of Davis during the meeting, agreed.
BELMONTE: We have to learn how to compromise and help each other, and not fight each other. You know, it's just you pray hard that this nation gets together somehow or other.
SCHAPER: Congressman Danny Davis has another town hall meeting in Chicago tonight. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.
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