HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Congressman Mo Brooks gave a Washington update on Monday to a private luncheon hosted by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce. He spoke at length about his refusal to hold town halls that "empower Democrat activist, anarchist, socialist disruptors," while protesters outside told WHNT News 19 that they just wanted the chance to have a dialogue with their congressman.
Representative Brooks also covered the danger he sees from federal deficit spending and touched briefly on Obamacare, potential cuts to NASA, immigration, and shifts in defense spending.
Political division became a theme as Brooks alleged the media helps Democrats, in part, by asking for public statements too quickly after important political events like the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from any probes involving Trump administration ties to Russia or President Trump's allegations that President Obama had ordered wiretapping against him.
Brooks says, "Superimposed on all of this are local and national media demands that congressman and senators issue public statements before the true facts are known or be branded a coward for ducking an important issue."
The congressman also focused on Democratic obstruction of the Trump administration, specifically accusing them of not confirming nominees fast enough.
He says people who call for compromise as routine in Washington don't understand the size of the problem, "On fundamental issues, I don't think the political parties have ever been this far apart short of what we saw in the 1850's that consummated with the Civil War."
Congressman Brooks says healthcare reform remains contentious in Washington, even among Republicans, "As of now, with respect to Obamacare, Congress lacks the votes to repeal it. I don't know the details of the latest Obamacare replacement version, because it is being drafted in secret by leadership in committees of jurisdiction."
However, he warned business leaders about the GOP's replacement plan, "Leaked versions of Obamacare replacement plans include a huge new welfare program financed by a large employer tax increase, coupled with substantial deficit spending."
Brooks also warned of potential cuts to NASA, "President Trump's trial balloon budget proposes non-defense spending cuts to pay for defense spending increases. Those cuts may include NASA, and we need to be mindful of that. We will know more when the White House submits their actual budget to Congress this month."
He praised the administration for enforcing immigration laws, though he did note he felt the administration should stop utilizing DACA/DAPA.
Outside, people pace the premises, protesting with signs, calling for town halls they can attend.
In his speech, Brooks bemoaned disruptions at town halls, "I will not conduct public town halls that empower democrat activists, anarchists, socialists, and disruptors to spread what I believe are anti-American values."
But outside, they say what they're after is good government, and to them, in good government, "I think that he would not call us anarchists," says protester Janet Watson, "Because we're not. We're mothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, and fathers out here giving our time for good government."
Inside, the Congressman takes a few selected questions texted in by the crowd. He jokes to the crowd of political and business leaders, "Hey does this make this a town hall? If I get questions does that make it a town hall? I guess to the news media y'all don't count."
Outside, Watson makes a different distinction, "The Washington Update is a private meeting. It's for the Chamber of Commerce and members of the Chamber of Commerce and their invited guests. And a town hall should be open to all of the community, all of the people in 5th District."