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. Paul

    I used to be a Republican-I voted for Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41-Yes, I am white, way over 50 and wealthy, and I own a small business -but I an ashamed and appalled at the selfishness, lying, disruptive behavior of Republican congressman and their neo-con followers today-they do not care about freedom, etc-all they care about is getting and keeping as much money as possible...they say the hell with the rest of the country. That is why I am an Independent today..As one of the big mouths said at a Town all meeting-"I'm happy with my health care, why change it?"(It would not be changed under the current bill) What about the 43 million Americans who are not so fortunate,?This selfish, anti-social attitude is what is driving the opposition to the bill -not freedom.As Warren Buffett said last week-the rich only pay 17% of their income in taxes (they paid 51% 30 years ago, before Reagan) , whereas most in the middle class pay 25 to 30% of their income in Federal, state and local taxes (including Social security and Medicare). We have become a country for the rich, by the rich (including upper middle class executives on large corporate salaries)who are only looking after their own skins-I expect the Republicans will want to bring back child labor and slavery better line their fat pockets,

    August 9, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. mike

    I guess you are not allowed to disagree with lord uhbumble.

    August 9, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. mike

    To Big Papa:

    Clearly you need professional help.

    August 9, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. The Real Dude

    Typical dimocrat response:
    Focus and create lies about who sent the messengers all the while COMPLETELY IGNORING THE MESSAGE!

    CNN should focus on who "organized' Union Thugs at the Tampa Town Hall meeting. The same thugs that beat-up those who had every right to voice their dissenting opinion... But, since CNN is state run... this is highly unlikely.

    one more note..
    Fascists, do not put up with dissent... so these comment from Dick are very telling.

    August 9, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. Texas

    Mr. Scott L. It is being orchestrated sir. Yes your brother may not have been asked, but the sources that he seeks or gathered his information; FOX, Rush, Hannity, Beck, et all are orchestrating the entire process. They are stirring the pot and you and your bro is eating every piece of distorted lie that they are feedign you. They scare you to believe that the only option will be just government, they scare the seniors into believeing that the living will is a death sentence. I wonder if you and your bro will be just as fired up when this health reform is defeated and the insurance company celebrate their victory by reaping back all that they have spent on this campaign to defeat the health reform by raising all our premiums. The insurance com and drug companies will be so excited to know that you will have given them a free pass to do whateve they want to, bc you have bought thier act hook line and sinker. You will be opening up your paycheck to have a higher deduction to pay for an insurance coverage while what they will cover will decrease and the cost of you being on their program will INcrease. You are being suckered by the health insurance industry bc they are playing to your hatred of this current administration.

    August 9, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. shovelhead

    Well it's about time the republicans started using the democrat tactics. The dems for years and years have been busing college kids around, union members and rent-a-mobs..

    August 9, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. Erastus

    The accusation it's orchestrated, is orchestrated by a DC orchastrater. As are the comments claiming the same. This article is orchestrated to solicit further orchestrations by O- orchastraters.

    August 9, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. VP

    The Republicans will get poor Americans to give up what little they already have.

    it's a con job, just like the Iraq War and TARP.

    August 9, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. The Real Dude

    The only thing orchestrated here are the Democrat talking points about how to discredit grassroots opposition to socialism. The opposition is real, growing, and it’s not going away.

    Kick out the bums in 2010!

    August 9, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. xavier

    This town hall disruptions are more fake than a pro wrestling match. I wonder how these idiots would react if they got their wish, and all goverment healthcare went away. No Medicare, no medicaid, no mandatory treatment for emergencies in the ER room and no Veteran hospitals. Nothing, no help at all. We will leave you to your own means. Private healthcare too expensive? To bad. You are to old to afford 400 to 700 dollars a month for insurance? To bad. Your insurance dropped you because you got cancer and they dont want to pay for it? To bad. Lets see if these same idiots dont come running begging for the goverment to help them now.

    August 9, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Mich

    Mr. Durbin we elected you just give us a chance to ask our questions.

    August 9, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  12. mary

    Has anybody thought if our health care keeps going the way it is all our hospitals will be bankrupt.
    Hospitals and doctors have to get paid to keep going. With all the uninsured people using the facility IT WILL RUN OUT OF MONEY.

    Republicans are getting their pockets padded with insurance companies money.
    I am a small business owner and I supply health insurance for my employees, however I don't know for how long. I can not afford the rates going up every year. I hate to loose good employees but I can go bankrupt if this continues.
    The new health insurance choice would help us a lot. I would love to pay for same care that my father gets on medicare.

    August 9, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. Rdub

    Do any of you nay sayers for a government lead health care program realize that our "valued" military service members have what is essentially a single payer system. Can you imagine turning these heroes over to the hands of private insurance companies and those that care only for their bottom line? The difference is between corporate run government and a republic government is we can vote those we don't agree with out of office. Try doing that with your healthcare coverage...

    ....also, next time your house is on fire be thankful you don't have to pay the firefighters for their service.

    August 9, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  14. Ron

    Republicans just yell and whine and scream and provide no answers or solutions.

    This is typical behavior, and the reason Democrats won resoundingly last year.

    August 9, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  15. jinxie

    The only thing more insulting to one's intelligence than Republican thuggery is the Democrats trying to sell a healthcare plan when they don't know from day to day what the plan is. They sound like used car salesmen trying to sell you a car, any car, as long as you buy it.
    Don't buy it. There is no healthcare plan. Baucus and Obama want desperately to deliver to private insurers a captive market, another 20-40 million subscribers, so they can reap the payoffs. They don't care about the uninsured or ripoffs or anything other than lining their own pockets. It's turned into an Al Capone style protection racket. Or Prosperity Gospel.
    Reform just for the sake of reform is not real. Republicans may be thugs but Democrats are thieves.
    Any plan other than single-payer keeps the protection racket going and empowers both the thugs and the thieves.

    August 9, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. Earl

    There is no option other than the public option. Taxpayers pay for every uninsured citizen that goes to an emergency room, period! More who are insured are retiring and using their insurance than is being paid in. The only, the only profit in health care insurance is denial of ones claim. So this begs the question; "What is insurance?". Unless American's decide right now to refuse the uninsured and not allow uninsured emergency care (which typical visits to the emergency room could be treated in a primary care setting) this country will be more than broke finanancially. Compounding the problem is pharmacy companies unwilling to sell medications at a moral cost/profit. It is a simple fact that the majority of those currently insured will be uninsured because of the inflated costs driven by what one is willing to pay, than what it is really worth.

    August 9, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  17. Bedtime for Obonzo

    Usually when the Right protests, it's just a couple of people and a little kid with an American flag. This was probably because we have real jobs. So now we're doing a little "community organizing" and the Left wants us arrested. The irony...

    August 9, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. Rose

    So what if it was organized, as I recall our President was a community organizer, he supposedly help to "organize" ACORN, have you ever heard them yell and scream. They are experts at screaming and yelling and most of what they are saying is not very nice. I do not believe the meeting are organized, the Dems just don't want to believe that real people do not like their plan.

    August 9, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. brian

    public health care will DOOM us all... Obama has already freely expressed his desire to get rid of private insurance ultimately, this will eventually lead to the same rationing system found in every other public health care system that results in euthanasia of those who could have otherwise had private coverage to go on living with medical assistance. You communist need to get a clue.

    August 9, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. 60's survivor

    fear is what you get caused by outright LIES perpetuated by far right. democrats need to take their control and use it or once again we the people will lose it!! I sick of these thugs lies and fear mongering. all for what the people!!! hah. they will dance on your grave without a second thought. you are but fodder for the political machine. reform now. better education. health care. environment. we can't afford to wait another thirty years. next time it will be a revolution against the rich by the poor and forgotten.

    August 9, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. Post always rejected by CNN

    America knows it. Only ones showing their butts are republicans plants. And they are enable by the republican informerical channels, rush, drudge, malkin and most of all the king of misconception FOX NEWS.

    August 9, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. Gator

    There is evidence of these fringe groups being orchestrated by insurance lobbyists and their puppets in the GOP.

    Right wingers are free to follow their uncivilized nonsense, as it only turns more people away from the example they are setting for the GOP.

    August 9, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. reggie

    It clearly is not being orchestrated. People are passionate about this issue and are simply voicing their outrage at their democratic congressmen.

    August 9, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. Arden Muller

    They are being orchestrated and they are dangerous. I saw one security guard trying to handle a mob situation. he was lucky that the woman who was screaming in his face didn't grab his gun and kill him or worse someone sneak up behind him grab his gun and kill him.

    August 9, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  25. Independent

    People such as Palin, Rush, Sean, Lou Dobbs and the right-wing mob will not be happy until someone is seriously hurt or killed....

    August 9, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
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