It's a telling tale of two town halls. Even though a lot of senators and U.S. House members are back home in their districts with Congress in recess, many are declining to hold town hall-style meetings to come face-to-face with their constituents' anger, particularly about the future of the Affordable Care Act. Not Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, who braved tough crowds in Pinellas, Hillsborough and, Wednesday night, in Pasco. Sen. Marco Rubio? The Republican was in Europe holding "multiple bilateral meetings with heads of state and senior government officials in Germany and France," according to a statement from his office, though he popped up in Miami on Thursday. So activists convened a "constituent town hall" in Tampa without him, attracting more than 500 people to voice their complaints to an empty folding chair. And yes, the strategy was far more effective than Clint Eastwood's odd turn at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.
"I held a series of public listening sessions on health care because it is my duty as a representative to hear firsthand from my constituents, whether we agree or disagree on the issues. I will continue to seek common ground and constructive exchanges of ideas with the people of my district. That's what democracy is all about."
A spokesman for the absent Rubio:
The senator's staff has met with "dozens of these liberal activists," including a small group of protesters a week ago. The senator's staff has been "fully accessible and responsive" to all who come with concerns and questions.