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McKeon rankles Dems by phone

Congressman hosts telephonic town hall to give 'a better chance to connect' to his constituents

Posted: August 14, 2009 9:50 p.m.
Updated: August 15, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon's plan to hold his health care town hall by telephone, rather than in person, has drawn the ire of some local Democrats who say he should conduct the meeting face to face.

"This telephone conference is hokey," said Bruce McFarland, member of the local Democratic Alliance for Action. "A hands-on experience is much better," he said Friday.

But McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said the teleconference is the best way to reach the most people.

"I've been utilizing tele-town halls for years now, and they have been incredibly successful and well received," McKeon said in a statement released Friday.

"They are the most effective way for me to reach the greatest number of constituents at any one given time, further allowing increased contact and communication with the district."

McKeon's plans call for him to talk health care with more than 60,000 of his constituents during the teleconference at 7 p.m. Monday. His far-flung district ranges all the way to the Nevada border.

Members of the Democratic Alliance for Action wish McKeon would face some of the same fire other members of Congress are standing up to in town hall debates across America.

A furious debate on health care is dominating the national political landscape, and the face-to-face meetings often devolve into shouting matches between proponents, opponents and in some cases, members of Congress.

But those shouting matches had nothing to do with McKeon's decision to hold his town hall by telephone, said Lindsey Mask, McKeon spokeswoman.

"(The constituents) have a better chance to connect through the tele-town hall meeting," she said.

The teleconference will be webcast online, which gives constituents a visual to accompany the conversation, Mask said.

The teleconference allows McKeon to bring in fellow Republican congressman and medical doctor Tom Price of Georgia. "You wouldn't be able to do that if you held the town hall in district," Mask said.

Participants can also send their questions electronically across the Internet during the phone conference. McKeon staff members will address any questions that aren't answered during the teleconference at a later date, she added.

"The positives outweigh any other avenue for holding a town hall meeting," Mask said.

But McFarland said one thing will be lost in the combination telephone and cyberspace town hall - the face-to-face interaction between McKeon's constituents.

"I think when people walk into a room and say, "I want reform, and here's my experience,' that says more to people," he said.
"It speaks to not just the congressman but to the other people in the room and puts a face to the debate."


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