Angry constituents expressed disapproval toward Sen. Tom Cotton (R) on Wednesday at his town hall meeting in Springdale, often interrupting his question-and-answer session with “boos” and chants such as, “Do your job.”
Approximately 2,000 constituents filled the Pat Walker Theater on Springdale High School’s campus. Constituents displayed opinions with hand-made posters while others waved printed signs of thumbs up or thumbs down.
The venue location changed three times prior to the day of the meeting to accommodate a larger crowd. Cotton asked for a show of hands to determine some constituents drove more than four hours to attend.
He asked where they were from, and some answered Little Rock, Benton and Arkadelphia. One woman shouted, “I am from Mexico!”
Cotton accepted questions from the crowd concerning health care, climate change, immigration, the refugee crisis, President Donald Trump’s administration and gun control laws, among other issues.
A constituent detailed her medical condition before asking Cotton if he would commit to the replacement of the Affordable Care Act in the way he commits to its repeal. Without the ACA, she would die, and “that’s not a hyperbole,” she said.
Cotton refrained from answering immediately. Instead, he thanked her and asked the crowd for more questions.
The crowd erupted in loud expressions of disapproval, including chants of “Yes or no.”
Cotton addressed her and said the ACA has hurt and helped Arkansans, and he said he would commit to supporting a successful transition period.
On matters of the national budget, Cotton said security and safety are the most fundamental and important aspects to consider. Funding the military and law enforcement should be a priority in the national budget, he said.
Securing the borders is an important part of national security as well, Cotton said.
Clint Schnekloth, chairperson of the Canopy NWA board of directors and head pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, said that welcoming refugees is a “longstanding American institution” and asked how Cotton would ensure refugee resettlement is maintained and the high levels and quality committed to in the past.
Cotton spoke about his experience visiting a refugee camp eight miles from the Syrian border. He said the refugee crisis will not be solved through immigration policy but instead by foreign policy.
“The best thing we can do for those people is try to bring more order and stability to their own countries,” Cotton said.
Global instability will always be present, and the U.S. is big enough to welcome many more refugees, Schnekloth said.
“I hope that Tom Cotton comes away from that meeting really noticing that those are his constituents, and he’s supposed to represent us,” Schnekloth said after the meeting. “And I hope that he would have some self-doubt about his most ideological stances and that he would moderate them in light of what his constituents said.”
Constituents also voiced their support for the senator at the meeting. A man thanked him for his service in the United States Army, and a teacher from Springdale said many people support his policies.
Though many constituents who attended the meeting indicated they did not support Cotton as senator, Cotton said two-thirds of Arkansas does agree with him.
Cotton participated in a town hall after a group of protesters representing Ozark Indivisible gained national media attention while protesting outside his office, Indivisible organizer Caitlynn Moses said in an email.
Cotton ended the meeting at 7 p.m., which was 30 minutes later than scheduled.
UA graduate student Rebecca Mickel attended to show support for the ACA and the current vetting process.
“I came to show that although he’s a representative of Arkansas, he isn’t necessarily representing all of us with the policies he supports,” Mickel said.