On Wednesday, in a report from The Denver Post, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said the GOP should have been more open about the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Gardner has been widely criticized for failing to hold an in-person town hall meeting this year. But as one of the 13 senators crafting the health care bill, not only did he fail to publicly push for transparency, but he failed to make his own position known to the very people he represents.
Take his constituent Cheri Urda-Wissel’s experience of trying to figure out Gardner’s position on health care as a testament to that failure.
Urda-Wissel requested a meeting with Gardner’s Denver staff with the aim of understanding her Senator’s stance on health care. Her meeting with one of Gardner’s Denver staffers, Annie Larson, was confirmed via email, but when she arrived along with five other constituents, she was told there wasn’t any record of the meeting. Luckily, she had printed out a copy of the email confirming her meeting time.
She and her group instead met with Nicole Frazier, a different staffer at the Denver office. But Frazier was unable to answer specific questions about Gardner’s stance on issues like Medicaid expansion, preexisting conditions, and Planned Parenthood.
Urda-Wissel said in an interview that she found it befuddling that someone in charge of conveying Gardner’s positions to his constituents is unable to do just that. To add insult to injury, constituent meetings are supposed to last half an hour, but Urda-Wissel and the other constituents at the meeting were hurried out the door with five minutes left to go.
Unsatisfied, Urda-Wissel attempted to schedule another meeting with Larson, but Larson told her that another one couldn’t be scheduled because they needed to make time for other constituents.
Urda-Wissel did just about everything she could to find out Gardner’s stance on health care, but that proved to be an impossible task.
Clinical psychologist Dana Torpey-Newman is another one of Gardner’s constituents who has tried to have an open debate about health care with her Senator.
Torpey-Newman said in an interview with the Colorado Times Recorder that she thought Gardner and his staff would want to hear from her due to her position as a medical professional on the front lines of America’s health care system. So, she requested a meeting with Gardner, but was told he was unavailable. Instead she spoke over the phone with Larson, but said the conversation was impersonal and superficial, and that she received canned responses.
Larson did, however, tell Torpey-Newman that the “reports that there are only one working group writing the healthcare legislation are untrue. Senator Gardner is on several working groups and works with all his colleagues on important issues such as this,” in an apparent attempt to distance Gardner from the unpopular health care bill.
If Gardner’s constituents can’t have an open debate with him at an in-person town hall, and they can’t get a clear message from his staff about his positions either, what else are they to do other than peacefully demonstrate and ask Gardner to come out of hiding?
But then, of course, he will just dismiss them as paid protesters.
So, if Gardner really wanted transparency, and has nothing to hide or be ashamed of, why wouldn’t he make himself and his positions available to his constituents?