Gillibrand: Republican members of Congress who don't hold town halls shouldn't be in office

Mar 1, 2017

As the pressure mounts on Republican members of Congress to hold town hall meetings, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has a message for those members of Congress from New York who have not held town halls in their districts. 

"We have members of Congress in this state who won't even do a town hall. I don't think those members of Congress should stay in office if they aren't willing to do a town hall," said Gillibrand. 

Gillibrand made the comments in Syracuse last week, following an event at the Frank DeFrancisco Eastwood Community Center. She said it is vitally important for members of Congress to hear directly from residents of their district. 

"People should meet with their constituents. They should have meetings like this, with seniors, with constituents, listen to people, hear their problems, fight for them. That's our job. We're representatives. And so if you're unwilling to listen to your constituents, unwilling to meet with them, I don't know if you're doing your job then," she said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) echoed Gillibrand's comments in Rochester last week, but said town hall meetings aren't the only way for members of Congress to connect with voters. 

"There's more than one way to do it," said Schumer. "But you have to be accessible and out there and visible to the people. Any politician who stays in Washington most of the time isn't going to do his or her job well." 

Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) is one of the few members of Congress from upstate New York to hold in-person town hall meetings. He held four town halls in western New York earlier this month and plans to hold four more next weekend throughout the 23rd District, which covers parts of western New York, the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. 

Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) has not held in-person town halls in the 24th District, but has held telephone town halls, which he says is a better way for him to connect with constituents. He has also held listening sessions with small groups of constituents. In an interview with the Auburn Citizen earlier this week, Katko said he would be holding public forums "as soon as possible."

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) has not held in-person town halls in the 22nd District, which spans parts of eight counties stretching from eastern Oswego County through the Mohawk Valley to the Southern Tier. But she has said she is in the process of scheduling at least one town hall in her district soon. She said that she has been unable to schedule events because of threats made against her that are under investigation. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) has not held town halls in the 21st District, which covers most of the North Country. A town hall was held in Glens Falls last week, that Stefanik was invited to, but did not attend.