August 9th, 2009
05:05 PM ET
13 years ago

Durbin on town hall chaos - ‘This is clearly being orchestrated’

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat slammed recent town hall protests Sunday as organized disruptions of the democratic process.

“We have these screaming groups on either side. That isn't helpful. Let's be honest about this. Town meetings are not bean bag, I've had hundreds of them and sometimes folks get upset. And that's part of America, part of our process,” Sen. Dick Durbin told CNN’s John King on “State of the Union.”

“But this is clearly being orchestrated and these folks have instructions. They come down from a Texas lobbyist in Washington..." he said.

"When there are a group of people honestly sitting in the middle trying to ask the important questions and get the right answers, and instead someone takes the microphone and screams and shouts to the point where the meeting comes to an end, that isn't dialogue, that isn't the democratic process. You know, we need to respect free speech, but we need to respect one another's rights to free speech too. When these people come in just to disrupt the meetings, no, that isn't right.”

He also defended the White House’s new effort to track and rebut rumors about the president’s health care plan, following Republican criticism that the move was intended to intimidate opponents.

“What I can tell you is that the White House is not trying to collect names of any Americans. What they're trying to do is post on some of these Web sites a rebuttal to some bad information,” pointing to inaccurate rumor provisions in the proposal might be used to fund abortions, cover undocumented immigrants, or raid Medicare funds. “There's so much bad information out there, you can understand the effort to at least let people hear both sides of the story,” said Durbin.

On Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the charge that the rowdy town hall disruptions were being organized, and ripped Democrats for alleging that critics were receiving instructions from outside parties.

"Well, look. I think attacking citizens in our country for expressing their opinions about an issue of this magnitude may indicate some weakness in their position on the merits," he said. "And I also think it's particularly absurd for the Democrats, who have over an $8 million e-mail list over at the DNC called Organize America, to be criticizing citizens for being organized.

"Frankly, the truth of the matter is we don't know who's organized and who isn't. The point is the issue, the substance. They need to deal with it. Americans are concerned about it. "

Both Durbin and Republican Sen. John Cornyn signaled the precarious status of any “public option” in the final version of any health care legislation, with Cornyn calling the idea a deal-breaker Durbin repeating a reluctant willingness to sacrifice the idea to assure passage of a final bill. The idea is not considered likely to be included in the final Senate version of the bill, although a modified public option remains in the House version of the legislation.

Cornyn did say one possible administration proposal might have GOP support: An extension of unemployment benefits.

“I think we need to take a close look at that. We don't want to provide a disincentive to work, but where people are out of work and they need - need some help, sure. We're - we're open to that,” he said.

Filed under: Dick Durbin • Extra • John Cornyn • State of the Union
soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. Jake AZ

    Rethuglicans shooting themselves in the foot again ... Free for the watching.

    All of these loud right wing Children having tantrums ... Great entertainment.

    When RepubliBrats misbehave ... Priceless.

    August 9, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  2. Free

    Mr. Durbin needs to some how be more in contact with the people who voted for him. We are the people ,and we have the right to be heard no matter if we agree or disagree with obama. I have meet lots of people who have gone to protest ,and their not organized by anyone. They are just concered people worried that their goverment no longer hears them speak. I hope congress reflects on WE THE PEOPLE

    August 9, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  3. J

    What is so sad about this Town Hall protests is that

    There is "NO HEALTH CARE BILL" there are only a "PROPOSAL" that is still be work out.

    Both Democrats and Republicans know that US need to reform health care before it went bankrupt the country.

    People should come to the meeting with their questions and concerns. They can voice out their concerns in a civilize manner and give others a chance to ask any questions they may have.

    Those protesters came in and all they said was "JUST SAY NO"!
    Say NO TO WHAT? There is no Health Care Bill, just many different version of proposal that is still be working out, no valid bill, nothing.

    These protesters are at the Town Hall for one purpose interrupt a democratic process where both Democrats and Republican and independent can come together.

    It would not surprise me at all if the person who organized these protesters are on some private insurance payroll.

    August 9, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. Cheryl

    Most of this discussion is not really about health care. I've been reading these blogs since early in the election and nothing much has changed about them. I saw the same names repeatedly planting Republican talking points over a year ago.

    And the same type of poorly written, misspelled attacks on Obama making outrageous claims that no sane person would believe. Last year it was that he was a muslim. Or the anti-christ. This year it's that's he's going to kill old people.

    This is not about healthcare. This is about a group of Americans lashing out wildly because they see their reign of power coming to an end. Some of them fear minorities becoming equals in power, and some of them fear having to share the big pie they've been gobbling up all by themselves.

    You only have to look at the history in these blogs to see what this is really all about.

    August 9, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. No Hillary = No Obama

    I don't agree with this. Democrats are in denial if they think this rage isn't real. People are fed up. Millions of Americans have lost their life savings, their homes, their jobs – why wouldn't there be genuine rage and this health care reform just happens to be the focual point. People don't trust Congress and they shouldn't. Obama and his grandiose plans will have far reaching consequences and hopefully all this rage will puncture a hole in the collective congressional ego.

    August 9, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. Micahel

    This misinformation and intimidation is undemocratic and those spreading lies, like Palin and Beck, ought to be ashamed. We pay about twice as much per capita for health care as other industrialized countries, and have far from the best results. The government runs Medicare and the VA and no one argues that they are not successful models compared to the rest of the health care industry. Insurance companies have every incentive not to cover sick people and not to provide service. Almost everyone, even those that are afraid of health care reform, have problems with their insurance company. The only people that like their health insurance are people who are never sick or government employees that have a great plan. Republicans want to "reform" the system by requiring people to buy insurance from a private company, and then subsidizing the premiums for people who cannot afford them. This is basically a tax on the middle class to subsidize insurance company profits. Ask people on Medicare if they want to trade it for private insurance.

    August 9, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. Joan

    It seems that the protestors are afraid that the truth might get out about the health care reforms at these meetings. As soon as the Democrats start to explain their plan and tell the truth, they shout them down and make it impossible for anyone to hear. Why don't they let both sides CLEARLY, CALMLY AND SANELY explain their positions and then ask legitimate questions? Are they afraid that it will become obvious that they have ulterior motives for obstructing the meetings? So much for democracy.

    August 9, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. Bob of Lompoc

    Look at the faces of these "spontaneous" demonstrators against National Health Care. They are the Hate Brigade. Do you think they REALLY hate the idea other people may get Health Care ? They don't hate Health Care, or even the poor. They hate President Obama and the Democrats. These organized Republican thugs are being sponsored by the Party that has come to the conclusion that their long time ability to scare Americans into voting for them, through Racist ranting, threats of Terrorist attacks and the drum beat about "killing babies" through Abortion, is over. They are a disappearing Party, and they hate it. Just look into their eyes. Libertarians, step up. Come out of the closet. This is your time. The Republicans are dead. All we need now is the funeral.

    August 9, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  9. jrzshor

    just like the throngs that went to obama rally's?

    August 9, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Alan in Marietta, GA

    CNN is competing with Fox to see who will win the gutter of lies and misrepresentations ratings. With Lou Dobbs and John King, they are giving Fox some competition.

    Don't expect Dobbs and King to challenge GOP mouthpieces. They will only interrupt or "run out of time" when truth tellers begin to speak.

    August 9, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  11. Confused

    Mr. Durbin how can you stand behind Uniouns who are going to these town halls a beating up people. A Afro american gentlemen was only selling some merchandise at one of these town halls. And men from the SEIU start a fight with him, and using profanity. Mr. Durbin most of these people who go to these things go under their own free will. But almost all of the Unioun thugs that go to the town halls have been called out by the DNC.

    August 9, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. Orchestrated...he says.....

    Well Durbin must know..he is repeating from the democrats
    play-book , perhaps he is right that some is orchstrated after all the
    GOP is taking the lesson from the other side and so the game is going on and on and that is how nothing ever gets done.......As far as
    health-care reform goes the American People must be part of the debate ....don't let the politicians decide for you....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 9, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  13. Orchestrated...he says.....

    Well Durbin must know..he is repeating from the democrats
    play-book , perhaps he is right that some is orchstrated after all the
    GOP is taking the lesson from the other side and so the game is going on and on and that is how nothing ever gets done.......As far as
    health-care reform goes the American People must be part of the debate ....don't let the politicians decide for you....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Go for this blog CNN>>>>>>>>

    August 9, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  14. Dave Murrow

    The problem is, with only courteous debate in Town Hall meetings, the health care reform bill will be passed shortly as is, government socialism shoved right down our throats. Half of America or more does not want this bill but has no other way to show it.

    August 9, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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