Retired health care industry worker Paul Bonis stood up and implored Republican Rep. Justin Amash to commit to keeping Obamacare — his life, the 61-year-old cancer survivor said, might actually depend on it. But Amash refused, and the auditorium packed with some 600 mostly liberal constituents erupted in boos and jeers for a good 30 seconds.
“You are not supporting your constituents!” yelled one person.
Instead of getting defensive or ducking for cover, though, the 36-year-old Michigan lawmaker leaned in, coolly explaining his position on the health care law. He made a point of trying to connect with the overwhelmingly Democratic room, jabbing President Donald Trump for what he called racially insensitive remarks and overreaching policies. Amash seemed to enjoy the give-and-take so much that he stayed 40 minutes longer than scheduled and promised to book an even bigger venue next time.
It was a jarring juxtaposition from the hunkered-down, protective posture many GOP lawmakers have assumed in recent weeks as Democrats storm their town hall meetings and congressional offices. At a closed-door, all-conference meeting on Tuesday, House Republicans were advised to limit crowd sizes, hire security and ensure they literally have an exit strategy to ensure they don’t get stampeded by protesters.