It became clear to those attending Rob Woodall’s town hall meeting Tuesday night that if they wanted individual advice or information, they were at the wrong venue.
While questions written by audience members were selected at random, the bulk of them focused on the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare.
“He spent too long on Obamacare,” said constituent Brandon Woods. “I think it’s a big pressing issue, but I don’t think it’s the most pressing issue on the table.”
“We would have liked to have seen him spend more time on the Fourth Amendment [that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures].”
The crowd was more hostile than usual for such a gathering, with an audience member challenging Woodall before he even began, saying her questions weren’t answered during his last event.
Woodall was able to regain control by reminding her — and the audience — that such meetings aren’t the only way reach him.
“There is not one person in this room, not one, that has ever called, asked to meet with me to talk about something that’s important to them and their family and our community, where I have said I don’t have time for you,” he said to applause.
“Being angry with each other is not going to find one solution ... not in this county, not in this state and not in this nation.”
But with some 250 people in the audience, there was no pleasing everyone for Woodall, who spoke about the crippling division in Congress.
The irony was not lost on Penny Bernath, who noted she did not vote for Woodall.
“He said up there he’s actually speaking to the entire audience as if everyone agrees with him and I don’t,” she said. “He talks about how we’re so divided and how we shouldn’t be totally partisan, but he has never ... reached across the aisle.”
Donald Fairnot said Woodall “started a discourse about the vision on how things are not working in [Washington] D.C., but he exhibits why that is the case in this conversation.”
Others such as Rita Owens were unhappy with Woodall for being too agreeable.
“He never got to the farm bill. I wanted to know why he voted for the farm bill ... and on immigration, I didn’t get a firm answer,” she said. “I thought we would get more detailed answers. I think he spent too much time on silliness, quite honestly.”
Though often interrupted, Woodall did touch on some topics beyond Obamacare and the political division.
He briefly addressed the lack of resolution on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, a topic he said “we’re not going to give up on.”
“Clearly, we didn’t get it right this time and if we’re not honest about why, we’re not going to be able to fix it next time,” he said.
Woodall also talked about immigration. While there may be flexibility in allowing immigrants to stay in the United States, the congressman said no legislation would pass unless border security does so first.
According to Woodall, it’s more than an immigration battle, it’s a “national security issue.”
While he did spend the bulk of time talking about Obamacare, the fight to stop it, delay it, the financial implications and why Republicans need to be smart in strategy, he was clear that he opposed the measure “100 percent.”
“What the president did is so offensive,” Woodall said. “He identified 16 million people that needed help and he changed the insurance industry for 310 million people in order to do it. That’s the trouble.”
Woodall wrapped up the event reminding voters his door is always open. He said his votes may not always reflect the immediate desires of some, but the strategy is how he’s fighting to get what they want in the end.
“The easy way to get re-elected is to do exactly what everybody says to do when they say it, but that’s not my job,” he said. “My job is to understand what you want to accomplish and to go and get it done for you.
“Visit with me. I’m not ashamed to say that the best ideas I’ve sent to the president’s desk for signatures ... have been ideas that came from constituents.”