LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Over the past few weeks, angry constituents have packed GOP town halls to voice their concerns on health care, the Trump White House and more. Yesterday, it was Congressman Tom Reed's turn as he crisscrossed his southern New York district to attend four town halls. NPR's Jessica Taylor was there as Congressman Reed was met by overflow crowds who wanted answers and didn't always like the ones that they got.
JESSICA TAYLOR, BYLINE: Constituents had already packed the senior center in the tiny hamlet of Ashville almost an hour before Reed's first town hall was set to start so his staff decided to move the whole event to the parking lot, where snow was just beginning to melt. The topic on most everyone's mind was health care, and Reed's initial statements to the crowd didn't go over so well.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TOM REED: Well, first and foremost, we are going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare.
UNIDENTIFIED CONSTITUENTS: (Booing).
TAYLOR: The problem for Republicans is that they haven't settled on one alternative. That's led to tense confrontations at other town halls in Utah and Tennessee. Some in the GOP have claimed the angry attendees are simply paid protesters. But people on Saturday argued they're simply using the same tactics tea party activists used eight years ago. Most of the constituents at Reed's two morning town halls were middle-aged or senior citizens. And some carried signs with their ZIP code, saying they certainly weren't being paid. Judy Einach of nearby Westerfield (ph) bristled at that idea.
JUDY EINACH: I don't think we're paid (laughter). No, we got up early in the morning. We're lucky if we got coffee and have been waiting here for a very long time for him.
TAYLOR: Wearing a red make America great again hat, Mel McGinnis was one of the handful of tea party faithful in the crowd frustrated with the progressive activists.
MEL MCGINNIS: Well, I thought this was going to be a town hall, but it was a mob hall. This was not democracy as it was mobocracy.
TAYLOR: There were other tense moments when several people in the crowd asked Reed about his vote against requiring President Trump to release his taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED CONSTITUENTS: (Chanting) Do your job. Do your job. Do your job.
TAYLOR: Still, the congressman kept a positive tone throughout the yelling and chants.
REED: What I have heard is passion. What I have heard is democracy. And what I have heard is hopefully a willingness by many - of each and every one of you - to come together and find solutions.
TAYLOR: From there, it was on to three more equally frustrated crowds.
Jessica Taylor, NPR News, Jamestown, New York.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.