U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner sized up the crowd at his town hall meeting in in Colorado Springs.
“How many people here support single-payer” health care, he asked the a packed 400-seat auditorium at Pikes Peak Community College.
Maybe 80 percent of the hands in the room went up.
And the senator’s odds of getting his points across was defined in the instance. In sports, they’re called the boo birds, the songbirds of predictable disapproval.
“I’m trying to answer,” he said at one point. “But I don’t get the chance.”
Dressed in jeans with his shirt sleeves rolled up, Gardner gamed on, at one point asking the crowd to give him a chance to answer during one of several questions about he and his fellow Senate Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“This debate isn’t about taking something away from people that’s working,” Gardner said at the first of three town hall meetings Tuesday. “… This is about making this work.”
In a chat Tuesday morning with Colorado Politics before the 90-minute town hall meeting, he called socialized medicine a “$32 trillion disaster and will not work for our country and will not work for our treasury, and certainly will not work to improve healthcare.”
Gardner told his assembled critics he was willing to work on a bipartisan solution to stabilize the insurance markets, protect Medicaid and cover pre-existing conditions, but bipartisanship is a two-way street. Gardner noted that Democrats pushed through Obamacare in 2010 without a single Republican vote.
Gardner helped draft the original Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and he voted for it on the floor, only to see it go down to defeat when his friend, Sen, John McCain, cast the decisive vote to kill it last month.
Gardner said before the meeting health care is a heavy legislative lift, “because this is a very personal issue,” recalling the heath struggles of his mother, father and daughter. “We all have a personal connection.”
Health care was the powder keg in Colorado Springs, but Gardner and the liberals who packed the event had agreement, at least partially, on the egregious occurrences, including one death and multiple injuries, from the melee in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.
Gardner said Sunday on national TV that President Trump erred in not calling out white nationalist by name, failing to call evil by its name, he said.
The president amended his remarks Monday.
“I’m glad the president has said that there is no room in this country for hate, bigotry and racism, neo-Nazis, KKK, white supremacists, that he will not tolerate,” he told Colorado Politics. “I wish he had said that earlier.”
But when an audience member asked later if President Trump was fit to serve because of his original remarks, Gardner said Trump was duly elected.
“I believe he is fit,” Gardner began, bringing on boos.
He added, “I take it nobody here voted for President Trump.”
On energy and the environment, Gardner repeated President Obama’s earlier call for an “all of the above” energy policy, which includes coal and fracking.
“I believe we have to have a mix,” he said.
And the boo birds again took flight.
The town hall meeting on the Centennial Campus of Pikes Peak Community College was the first of three Tuesday for the congressman on his August recess.
Liberal activists have used “Cardboard Cory,” a cutout of the senator, as a stand-in to note “the senator’s lengthy public absence and to keep pressure on him to hold open, in-person town halls and events,” according to the liberal Indivisible Front Range Resistance.
Gardner has met with smaller groups often across the state, but on Aug. 4 a traditional town hall in Durango, which was supposed to provide an update on the Gold King Mine spill cleanup, turned into a showcase for protesters on health care, as well.
The senator from Yuma has two more town halls Tuesday:
Noon to 1:30 p.m. (doors open at 11)
University School Auditorium
6519 18th St.
3:30 to 5 p.m. (doors open at 2:30 p.m.)
Colorado Christian University, CCU Event Center
8787 W. Alameda Ave.