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You’ve got to hand it to Tom Perriello — he came to Bedford and faced the “angry mob.”
While some congressmen have been backing down, canceling town hall meetings and running from any confrontation with those opposed to the current health care proposals being considered, the Fifth District Congressman kept his word and showed up here Saturday to address a crowd of about 300, many who weren’t his supporters.
While it was a spirited group — with some booing an answer or throwing out a heckle or two — those in attendance were for the most part respectful and expressed appreciation for Perriello’s willingness to listen and address their concerns, even when they disagreed. In fact, the only real problem came when an obvious supporter of the Obama Administration and its policies heaved an obscenity at the rest of those in attendance. At that point Perriello ended the meeting which had already lasted for close to three hours.
Perriello said he was leaning against voting for the health care reform legislation as it stands now, but said he hopes Congress will craft a bill he can support. Two items he doesn’t want to see in the bill drew strong support from most of those in attendance : he’s against a single-payer system and said he would not vote for a health care bill that includes federal funding for abortions. Let’s hope he sticks to his promise to oppose those proposals.
Perriello’s support of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the cap-and-trade bill, drew the greatest ire of those at the town hall meeting. “I absolutely stand by my vote,” he told those in attendance, knowing it wouldn’t be a popular statement. His support of that bill is unfortunate; his willingness to take the heat for that vote is admirable. That is certain to cost him some votes in this part of his district when he runs for reelection in 2010.
Saturday’s event wasn’t one to be characterized as an organized angry mob as some have tried to portray other such town hall events around the nation as the health care debate heats up. Rather, it was a gathering of ordinary folks with strong opinions on the issue. No fists were thrown; no lives were threatened. “Whether you support me or think I’m the dumbest guy on the planet, thanks for coming out,” Perriello told those who attended.
That was a good attitude to take. Similar thanks is due the congressman for his willingness to stop by Bedford and take time to listen.