WASHINGTON (CNN) - Top Senate Democrats Thursday lashed out at conservative protestors for disrupting health care town hall meetings but said Democrats would not be deterred from promoting the emerging health overhaul over the August recess.
“We’re not going to be sidetracked by people trying to sabotage a civil process,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV.
“These are nothing more than destructive efforts to interrupt a debate we should be having,” Reid said. “They’re doing this because they don’t have any better ideas.”
Top White House aides, David Axelrod and Jim Messina, huddled with Senate Democrats in the Capitol Tuesday to strategize about how best to talk to their constituents about health care when they return home. During the meeting, senators watched videos of recent town hall meetings during which protestors shouted down lawmakers.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Senate Democrat, suggested health industry groups were backing the protests.
“They are the groups that are making a fortune off the current health care system. They want to keep their profit margins protected. They want to stop change. They are supporting this effort to disrupt town meetings and create the wrong impression about health care reform.”
Despite the high profile protests, which have been posted on You Tube and played repeatedly on television, Democratic leaders said they are confident their members will be able to handle the pressure.
“The Senate Democratic Caucus is full of professionals with a lot of experience,” Durbin said.
“Our view is to ignore them. We’re going to go forward and explain to the American people what we’re trying to do,” said Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. “The false information will just die away.”
Durbin said for the first time in his career people are calling his office “begging” him to hold town meetings. Health reform opponents want to create scenarios where it appears lawmakers can’t defend the reform bills moving through Congress, he said.
Durbin vowed not to let the protestors get the upper hand with him.
“We’re gong to have meetings but they’re not going to be the kind of meetings they’re looking for where they can take them over,” Durbin said. “I don’t have to set up a stage for their political theater.”