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Fortenberry hosts town hall meeting in Lincoln

Posted at 11:38 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-14 00:38:03-04

One Nebraska U.S. Representative is at home for this week, though maybe not feeling 'at home' with Nebraskans at his Monday town hall. 

Hundreds of people squeezed into Lincoln Southwest's High School's atrium Monday evening to meet with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) for the town hall meeting. 

The Republican spent the majority of the meeting addressing voters' questions - most of them regarding affordable health care.

“It’s a complex issue,” said Fortenberry, adding that he didn’t support Obama’s Affordable Care Act because “it’s a broken system not everyone could afford it.”

He says some parts of it could be carried over into the new Republican plan to replace the ACA, like protecting people from preexisting conditions and keeping children on their parents’ plan longer.

When asked if he would vote in favor of the new health care plan, Fortenberry repeated ‘it’s a complex issue’ and said it was still too far away for it to be voted on.

Fortenberry’s indirect or unclear answers led him to stop more than thirty times between questions to ask voters to stop interrupting.

"Can you please stop? You're being disrespectful to those who are trying to hear," Fortenberry said multiple times.

Voters pressured Fortenberry to answer yes or no to questions, and jeered him when he didn’t have an answer.

The crowd also complained they couldn't hear the questions being asked, and asked another mic be given to the public so everyone could hear the questions being asked. 

“I think people were so rowdy because he and all the other representatives in D.C. have been so reluctant to have a meeting that now there’s been all this frustration that constituents like myself have bottled up and feel like we’re not being listened to,” says Martin Wells of Lincoln.

When a woman asked if he would support funding for Planned Parenthood, Fortenberry gave a definitive answer and said “I do not support tax-pay money being used to support abortions.”

“I was disappointed in the decorum of the audience itself – everyone was competing to ask a question and it was very disruptive,” says Doug Wyatt. “I’m pro-life – that’s my stance, and I appreciate that in the face of the audience today that he stood up for that.”

Fortenberry said he wanted to host the town hall meeting given the high demand of calls and emails he received from voters. 

"It's my responsibility to meet with them," said Fortenberry.

Fortenberry is the first federally-elected Nebraska politician to host a public town hall meeting this year. Some said they praised him for being the only one to do so, but say, it's also part of his job as an elected-official. 

"Well I'll give him props for coming out but really the letter that he sent out with a full report was that 'due to the high volume of calls and letters, I've decided it's appropriate to have a town hall meeting' - no, we shouldn't have to demand a meeting. That's part of his job," said Wells.