The House has already headed home for its August break, but the Senate is still in session. Among other things, the Senate will hold a confirmation vote this week on Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court which she will be when the Court opens for business on the first Monday in October probably with 65 or so votes.
But, it's the House which is made the news on the first day of their "District Work Period." A number of Members held town hall meetings which in most cases are nothing more than opportunities for them to remind their constituents that they are back there in Washington trying beat back the crazy (choose one) Left or Right wingers from destroying this great nation of ours.
For most folks a sitting Member of Congress is the most senior public official with whom they will ever be in the same room - except if they live in Iowa or New Hampshire in which case, sooner or later, they will have beeen in the same room with every sitting Senator in their lifetime.
So, town halls meetings are generally pretty easy going things. Members of the House generally know enough of their constituents so they can call on friendly faces to ask public policy questions about which the Member knows way more than the constituent and so can sound very smart, concerned, and well-informed.
Except for yesterday when a number of Members had town hall meetings at which the Obama Health Care Plan (OHCP) came up followed by shouting and chanting, followed by at least one Member of Congress scooting out of his own town hall meeting only to be followed by those same shouting and chanting constituents.The Member of Congress in question here is Lloyd Doggett of Texas. His district includes Austin which is so liberal that I was once quoted as saying there are more committed Communists in Travis County than there are left in the Kremlin.
CBS News pointed out that "although Texas went for Republican John McCain in last year's election, Doggett's district voted for Mr. Obama by almost a 20 point margin."
This liberal district in this liberal city is the place where his constituents shouted "Just Say No!" to Obama care and chased the Congressman out of the hall.
Meanwhile, up in Philadelphia Democratic Senator Arlen Specter held a town hall meeting with the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday. According to the Fox News website they were "booed and jeered" by audience members.
At one point, Specter explained that the way he deals with these 1,000 page bills is to split it up amongst the staff and they read sections and report to him.
More boos and jeers.
In the latest Quinnipiak poll Specter is leading his likely GOP challenger in the 2010 Senate race by … one percentage point 45-44. And, according to that poll, by a 49-40 margin Pennsylvanians don't think Specter deserves re-election.
These things feed on each other. Opponents of the Obama Health Care Plan - whatever it is - will have seen footage of these town halls and will be emboldened to duplicate them.
As other Democrats hear and read about how their colleagues were treated, we will see an avalanche of "scheduling conflicts" as town hall meetings are deleted from schedule after schedule.
No Member of Congress in his or her right mind is going to walk into a meeting knowing that opponents of Obama Care are armed with cell phone video cameras and instructions on how to upload to YouTube.
The Pelosi plan to sell the health care plan will have lasted even less time than the Cash-for-Clunkers program.
This has a real effect on public policy. No amount of arm twisting by the Democratic House leadership and no amount of angry phone calls from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel will offset 400 angry constituents at a town hall meeting.
When it comes down to a vote on any meaningful recasting of America's health care system, it is quite likely that a majority of the Members of Congress will "Just Say No!"