Democrats Get An Earful On Health Care

Marsha Trotter

Marsha Trotter from Pike County, Ala., expresses her concerns to Alabama freshman Rep. Bobby Bright at a town hall meeting. The retired teacher said she fears that new health care plans would require her to meet with a government board to discuss end-of-life options. "Now that's my life and my business, and I don't want the government in it," she said. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Debbie Elliott/NPR
Bobby Bright i

Alabama Democratic Congressman Bobby Bright fields some tough questions on the health care proposals moving through Congress. More than 100 voters turned out for a town hall meeting in the tiny town of Goshen in south Alabama. The conservative Blue Dog Democrat told constituents he opposes a government-run health care plan. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Debbie Elliott/NPR
Bobby Bright

Alabama Democratic Congressman Bobby Bright fields some tough questions on the health care proposals moving through Congress. More than 100 voters turned out for a town hall meeting in the tiny town of Goshen in south Alabama. The conservative Blue Dog Democrat told constituents he opposes a government-run health care plan.

Debbie Elliott/NPR

Freshman Congressman Bobby Bright (D-AL) is spending the August break navigating the lush green backcountry of his south Alabama district. He started Wednesday with a "meet and greet" at Sister's Restaurant in Troy over a vegetable plate and fried cornbread.

Constituents Speak Out

But the chitchat quickly turned from the fine southern food to the health care proposals before Congress. Retired Air Force Officer Bob Lambert doesn't want a single payer plan.

"We have the best health care in the world. I have friends in Canada that have called me and said, 'Don't you dare go into this system because, you know, if I've got a prostate problem, I can't even get to see my doctor in six months.' I'm telling you, Mr. Congressman, don't let it happen," he said.

He told Bright it's not that the nation doesn't need to change the health care system. "I'm saying we don't need the government running health care," Lambert said.

That's been the message this week for Democrats all over the country. Some have been heckled and booed by unruly crowds. Some lawmakers are now having their town halls via telephone. And even Blue Dog Democrats who oppose the current legislation haven't escaped the conservative wrath.

Not Party Line

About 150 people crashed Alabama Democrat Parker Griffith's news conference in Huntsville on Wednesday. They demanded to be heard.

"Are you afraid to have a town hall meeting?" asked one man. "No sir — I'm not afraid of anything," Griffith replied and proceeded to answer questions for 90 minutes. He emphasized that he has been fighting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's agenda.

"Well, let's see: I voted against the stimulus, I voted against cap and trade, I voted against the bailout of the banks. Every major bill that has come before us that expanded government, I voted against it," Griffith said.

And he promised to do the same when it comes to health care. All three of the Democrats in Alabama's congressional delegation — Griffith, Bright and Artur Davis (who is running for governor) — oppose the bills proposed in Congress.

Still, voters want to express their concerns. More than a hundred people waited to hear Bright at the town hall in Goshen, population 300.

Bright is the first Democrat to hold this House seat in more than four decades. But on many issues, he's more in line with the Republican Party than with national Democrats. Abortion, for example:

"Whatever plan is out there — number one, I won't support it if it supports abortion because I'm against abortion. That's the way of life down here that we are used to. And being a Southern Baptist deacon, I feel that way very strongly," Bright told the Goshen voters.

Worried Seniors

There was no heckling here. Just a room full of worried seniors.

"What I keep hearing is you will be required — required — to meet with a board to discuss your end-of -life options. Now that's my life and my business, and I don't want the government in it," Marsha Trotter said.

Bright explained that that wasn't in the bill and warned voters that special interests have been trying to distort the health care debate. "Who can we trust?" one man asked. It was a hard question to answer.

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