August 9th, 2009
05:05 PM ET
14 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. GuyInVA

    "Turban" Durbin strikes again. Hey Dick, how about sticking with trying to hurt the United States' national security, and stay out of health care. It's so funny that the leftists scream that these protests are orchestrated, but offer no evidence. This after publicly stating that the democrats were sending their labor union thugs to these same meetings. Aren't they too busy with their no-show jobs (well, that doesn't make sense)? Don't those guys have to go bury a body somewhere? Maybe they should go back to New York and stand next to that giant inflatable rat holding the sign that says, "this job site is not using union labor". How much do you get paid for that anyway?

    August 9, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  2. Jason in MO


    The difference between Obama organizing millions to support him and get him elected is that we didn't attend bipartisan townhall meetings and shout down McCain supporters in an effort to block productive dialogue. Instead, we used a grassroots campaign to knock, knock, knock, for Barack and call the bejesus out of our phone lists to talk to people and engage them in friendly, but honest and open conversation.

    This is true of people's actions. When people are curious, they ask questions. When people are angry they scream. The problem with the anger that is surfacing at these events is that they are angry that their candidate is not in the White House and allow this to manifest itself into a shout down at an event that should be used to discuss something that could quite literally decide the fate of this country one day.

    August 9, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Of course it is being orchestrated!

    Let's have these out of control thugs provide proof of residency at the entrance to these town hall meeting an publish their names and addresses – that would show where these thugs live who are being bussed in to add nothing to the dialog!

    August 9, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  4. IZ

    The problem with most Republicans nowadays (well, most of us, for that matter), is that they get ALL of their information from typically two sources, maybe three: Fox News, Rush and fellow lunatic fear/hate mongers sending mass emails full of bizarre propaganda from the first two sources. Notice how all of the above right-wingers posting comments here keep using the same couple of words over and over: "Socialist/Socialism," referring to Obama as some kind of "false Messiah" and talking about how Dems are "cowards" because they'd rather spend money on constructive things than pointless war. These are all things these people were taught to say by certain hate-filled "news" outlets.

    If these people don't want free or affordable health care, if they don't want a government who actually wants to help poor people out a little bit, then screw 'em. Most of these people are really just shooting themselves in the foot. These are undereducated parrots repeating whatever fearful, hateful propaganda they're eagerly fed. They're too lazy or stupid to do some research and maybe learn to think for themselves. It's easier to let some dogmatic blowhard do the thinking for you, after all.

    I also love people trying to point out "Democratic Hypocrisy" as Dems are clearly all about grassroots orgranizing, etc. See, that's the rub: grassroots organizing, as some of these brilliant posters have put it, is a great thing regardless of political stances. But this so-called "grassroots organizing" is really just a front for ignorant bullying and disrupting the public discourse. And I love how they bring up ACORN and other types of groups. Has ANYONE who's posted a comment on this board actually had their own voice drowned out by such an evil leftist group at a town hall meeting? Probably not. I don't think ACORN was too active in some of these locations.

    In closing, while these sickeningly ignorant fools want to destroy any potential live-saving or human-helping progress made on behalf of the working poor in this country, I, as someone who gladly accepted "socialist" government student loans in order to attempt to escape my blue-collar background won't let them ruin it for me, though I admit they're doing a fantastic job so far of ruining it for EVERYONE, including their own brainless selves.

    Any working-class person stupid enough to align themselves with these idiots is, in reality, setting themselves up for placement on their own "death list:" taking any form of affordable health care away from themselves is going to come back to haunt them some day when they need basic medical treatment and cannot afford it. To them, I say, "you deserve it." But a of people in this country don't.

    August 9, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  5. Jeff

    Normal people don't come to these meetings and compare the U.S to Germany in the 30's. Normal people don't think that the bill says to kill people. Normal people don't come to a meeting to disrupt it. Normal people don't drag every other topic into a debate on one specific topic. What on Earth do you "Normal" people support?

    Normal people do have questions. Normal people do want answers.

    August 9, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. MaryAnn

    Why is it that when a speaker is heckled at a college campus by students who disagree with his or her positions, some call those students immature and disrespectful, but when adults behave similarly at a town hall meeting, they are referred to a "grassroots movement?" Truly, patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

    August 9, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. The Who

    Again Match the democrats stifle Democracy by:
    1. Not answering the questions because our ELECTED representatives have not read the bill and have not a clue what is in it.
    2. When the constituents cannot get a straight and honest answer and hear double speak they get angry, then the ELECTED can discount and dismiss them as a mob or extreme.

    King O and your minions quit decieving the public to cram through this bill, READ IT, think it over, get input from the public that will have to live with it and work together for a solution.
    Remember we can still choose not to ELECT you in 2010 and 12..

    August 9, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  8. Mike A


    In just the first 500 pages of the 1,018 page bill, here‘re some “reforms” you won’t like:

    On Page 29, there’s an admission that health care will be rationed under this new plan. On Page 30, it says that a government committee will be established to decide what treatments and benefits we’ll get. However there will be no process to appeal their decisions, as is now the case with private insurance plans.

    On Page 50, it states that all non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services.

    On Page 59, it states that the federal government will have access to all individual bank accounts for health-related electronic funds transfers.

    On Page 124, it states that no one can sue the government for price-fixing. Furthermore, no “judicial review” is permitted against a government monopoly.

    On Page 127, it says that the government will set wages for physicians.

    On Page 149, couched in esoteric language, any employer with a payroll of $400,000 or more, who does not offer the public option, pays an 8% tax on payroll as a penalty. This penalty would go a long way towards destroying the private system. It also violates Pres. Obama’s campaign promises.

    On Page 203, there is a very strange sentence: “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax imposed by this chapter for purposes of determining the amount of any credit under this chapter.” Apparently calling a “tax” by some other name means it is no longer a tax. This seems to be a persistent theme in this bill.

    Page 272 has some of the most esoteric language of the health care bill. But it looks like the government plans to ration health care for cancer patients.

    On Page 280, it says that hospitals will be penalized for what the government deems to be “preventable re-admissions.” How is the government in a better position (than a health care professional) to determine what constitutes a “preventable re-admission“?

    On Page 318 it says that hospitals can no longer expand without government approval.

    On Page 429 it says that an advance care planning consultation will be used to dictate treatment as a patient’s health deteriorates. This can include an order for end-of-life plans – specifically, an order from the government.

    August 9, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  9. Welcome to Rome

    The space visitors must really get a kick out watching Earthlings destoy themselves.

    August 9, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  10. Drew, FL

    All you folks that keep referring to Obama as a Nazi are clearly Limbaugh Lemmings. Had you studied your WWII history, you would find that the actions being taken by the right are in lockstep with what Hitler did back then. Hitler was able to tap into a nation's frustration by giving the people something to hate. He made Jews the scapegoats for his rightwing agenda.

    Let's not forget fascism, another form of totalitarianism, is a rightwing political perspective. Did you rightwing haters forget Cheney's Unitarian Executive theory? Consolidation of power to one individual or the few against the many. Democracy by it's definition is leftist. Our country, indeed the Constitution, was created by progressives who wanted to make lives for themselves away from consolidated rule. THINK about what WE THE PEOPLE really means.

    Bottom line: Older white, mostly southern, white folk are just twisted that a black man is in the White House. Look in the mirror next time you call Obama a Nazi. Better yet, don't believe everything you see on Faux News.

    August 9, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. Meka

    This behavior is truly REPUBLICANS! They will never learn . . . probably, because they are BRAINLESS!

    August 9, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. Chenna Benna

    I just love the folks who are yelling that they don't want government run health care and then say "don't touch my medicare." There are obviously a lot of confused people out there and I think it is clear that part of the reason is because of misinformation being put out there by these right-winged fringe groups. It is also interesting how they say that they don't want any government "rationing" in heath care but the private system is already rationalized by the health care industry. They tell us what they will and won't cover and good luck if you have pre-existing conditions. They are also charging more every year and giving you less care. Somehow the current system isn't seen as socialism but the public option is.

    August 9, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  13. big papa

    Watching these inbred, right wing conservative imbeciles infuriates me to no end!

    They are an EMBARASSMENT to this nation...


    These are ALL LIES and DISTORTIONS purposely introduced into this debate by shills for the politically DEAD Republican conservative movement, and their corporate masters...

    ...By and large, the people who are out there shouting and screaming are small-minded privilege monkeys and racists, who fear the (Black )President ,and the success of the Democratic Party, and Liberal Progressive agenda for social justice for ALL!

    ...They are acting like lynch mobs at these town halls because its in their nature, and history; their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were murderous, out of control right wing conservative racist mobs!

    ...But MOST importantly, they're exhibiting more passion and participation than those of us who support President Obama's agenda...

    ...and that needs to change...

    ...If we want Health Care Reform, SOCIAL justice, Economic RECOVERY/ prosperity, and CHANGE we can believe in then WE Liberal Progressives and TRUE Independents MUST FIGHT the RIGHT WING traitors who want to see our President and country fail...

    August 9, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Sam

    I just want to know why these people that interrupt these meetings like this are not being arrested for either a) stamping out other peoples' first amendment rights or b) using speech that could instigate a riot. We all remember the "Don't tase me bro" video a few years back. He was more civil than these disgusting people. They yell and scream that the Reps haven't read the bill, yet they haven't read the bill them selves. Case in point, most of these people believe that this is a national health care bill. Sadly it is not. It is a reform bill aimed at lowering costs by making health care affordable by all. ... I'll save my other comment for the Sarah Palin article.

    August 9, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. nick

    Republican are the cowards! They are so afraid that real ealth care reform will pass with the possibilty tat their buddies in the AMA and the ADA not to mention the fat-cat isurance exes might not get as rich as they want that they send in goones to disrupt the democratic process. Really, all of this posturing sounds a lot like the "weapons of mass destructio" lie which ramrodded the most godless legislation ever prduced by an American congress and was used to cndone torture as a legtimate mean to gain information. Does the GOP have any sense of shame?

    August 9, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  16. ROGER

    This is typical repub tactics. When they run into the truth and disagree, they start yelling over their opponents- theydo this on interviews, campaigns, whatever. Like george (shrub) bush said- you start off rebub, then you get educated and become democrat. One of the few wise truths he ever said.

    August 9, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  17. Lou

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, "Why to tell such lies?" The DC lobbyist prepared "instruction" documents have been published in the media. O'yea, you were interviewed on FOX Commentary Network. Their viewers love the spoon feeding of misinformation and stiring up of partisan feelings. You oath for the Congress sanction the truth, honesty and integrity; time for you to resign having failed the threesome.

    August 9, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  18. Dickson

    Use the web site They are a great source for the truth...Oh wait...This is America...We can't handle the truth...we just listen to Fox News and Rush...They really tell it like it is.

    August 9, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  19. mg

    And the democrates have never lied, organized protests, marched against past administrations. Boy, is it not ironic that the party who was the most vocal for equal rights for all. Tthe biggest proponets of the first admendment are the first to want silence those who do not agree with them with rhetoric and fear mongering. I guess its different when the shoe is on the other foot. I do not believe spending money and putting this country in debt is the answer. The new deal did not work it left the following generation in debt. We should be looking at history and see what really worked. Lets go back to the early 1920s when we lowered taxes and actually balanced budgets and believe it or not had surpluses. Stop giving the government blank checks and and endless supply of tax paid balance protection.

    August 9, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. paulKS

    Pre-existing conditions?
    OFTEN those who are shut out of health insurance, due to pre-existing conditions, are people who REFUSED to BUY health insurance, before they got a serious health problem.
    Why should we REWARD irresponsible behavior?
    Also, EVERY State already has a "high risk pool" - or another way to handle pre-existing conditions. Yes, it IS expensive, but do you want the right to buy, for instance, LIFE INSURANCE, post mortem?
    That is ridiculous!
    The government denies claims all the time. Go to the Medicare website, you can clearly find "coordination of benefits" - if an auto, workmans comp, homeowners or group policy might cover a claim?
    Medicare will make you PROVE that they are responsible, and deny the claim until you do offer proof, which many Seniors don't know how to do.
    Another thing, Liar Obama presented a person with Kidney disease, as a reason for Socialized Medicine.
    EVERYONE with "End State Renal" qualifies for Medicare, automatically, regardless of age! So Obama is an idiot and a LIAR!

    August 9, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  21. Liar and thief

    Can someone account for his stating on tape MANY times that he is a PROPONENT for a "gubment" single payer plan???

    His lie squad came out and said it wasn't true, but after a few million hits, they had to shut up about it because there were more than one VERBATIM (word for word for you Obama voters).

    He DID state to that woman that her Mom should have been given pain meds instead of the surgey that prolonged her life???

    There are provisions in the bill that would grant access to OUR bank accounts whether we like it or not to pay for insurance, you happy with that?

    There is a provision in the bill that will outlaw PRIVATE insurance in the near future for anyone that loses a job or their current insurance????

    There however is NO provision BANNING any company from dumping you from their plan if they choose too and you will then be FORCED to go to the Public one, the minimal fine that the LIAR in chief has in there will GLADLY be payed by companies as it will cost far, far, far less than keeping you on, so his LIE about nobody losing insurance is a FN LIE.

    Are those 50-65 year old people in the town halls thugs or mobs or just people who are concerned that this lying fraud is shoving this down their throats?

    So the gutless coward sent out "hard working" ACORN members and union thugs to silence them.

    If it is so great, why not have Ted the Swimmer Kennedy and Kerry and the rest of the cabal of liars all use the same insurance that they are proposing for us?

    You know why and I know why, but I have the fortitude ro see beyond party and think about Country first and by the way unlike Obambi who "thought about joining", I did and proudly served 8 years.

    Feel free to send this to, these FACTS seem "fishy".

    August 9, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  22. democrat no mas

    Sorry, but I've just been exposed to the Social Security registration process, and I'm having trouble thinking that more help from the government is the best answer. I don't have any town hall meetings to go to, but I would side with the upset old folks. I don't believe it's as orchestrated as you people think. I'm not happy with the "party of the people".

    August 9, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. Operation Crush Rush

    @Drew.Best post of the day.

    August 9, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. JoeCOllins

    BS, Durbin, BS

    August 9, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. Dayahka

    People have been worrying about threats from outside the country, but it appears that the barbarians are already within and we have much more to fear from dogmatic savages within than we have from dogmatic Islamists from without.

    August 9, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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