Republican lawmaker key to health bill’s passage lambasted at town hall

Constituents heckle and boo Tom MacArthur, calling him a ‘killer’ as 500 people gather for New Jersey event: ‘I don’t think I’ll vote for him again’

A constituent asks a question of Tom MacArthur at the tumultuous town hall. Photograph: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

Tom MacArthur, the New Jersey congressman who has been celebrated in conservative circles for helping pass the Republican healthcare bill, came back down to earth with a bang on Wednesday night when he was booed, heckled and generally chastised during a nearly five-hour town hall meeting.

In Willingboro, hundreds showed up to lambast MacArthur, most fuelled by their congressman’s intervention to revive the ailing American Health Care Act (AHCA).

MacArthur was branded a “weasel”, a “killer” and an “idiot” by constituents angry at his amendment to the bill, which would allow states to opt out of rules that protect individuals with pre-existing conditions from being charged more for healthcare coverage. This stipulation proved enough to satisfy the hard-right Freedom Caucus and the bill – which would probably see millions of Americans lose their healthcare coverage – passed the House on 4 May.

The majority of Republicans who voted for the bill are not holding public events this week, despite being on recess. Those who have dared face voters have been pilloried. Aware of this, MacArthur kicked off his town hall at 6.30pm with a promise to respond to every single question, for “as long as it goes”. He was still being quizzed by angry residents at 11.20pm.

More than 500 people had gathered outside the Kennedy Center in Willingboro, just across the Delaware river from Philadelphia. It was a lively and loud scene, a number of voters chanting, waving signs and generally causing a ruckus.

“Our health matters more than Tom’s net worth,” one banner read. A sign showed a picture of MacArthur with “I took your healthcare” written on his forehead. Another described MacArthur, a former insurance executive who was elected in 2014, as “MacWeasel”.

Claudia Storicks, a former nurse who has been on disability for the past two years, had travelled from Pemberton, New Jersey. She has diabetes and charcot foot – a weakening of the bones caused by nerve damage – and was using an electric scooter. She is insured under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration legislation the AHCA seeks to replace.

“It was the only insurance that I could afford,” she said. “I’ve been able to afford my medication and my doctor’s visits because I’m on the ACA. Otherwise I probably would have lost my house and my foot.”

Storicks voted for MacArthur in 2016 – “he’s a businessman and I thought he had a good sense about taxes,” she said – but now described herself as “very angry” at the prospect of the ACA being repealed.

“That would mean that my diabetes would get out of control, my foot would probably get worse, and I’d probably end up…

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