PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Sen. Pat Toomey held a live social media conversation with CBS3’s Jessica Dean Monday afternoon.
At the CBS3 studios, the first question Toomey took on a Facebook Live session was, when will you hold a real town hall in Philadelphia?
“I don’t have a date set. I’m sure we’ll do one at some point,” the senator said.
“I thought it was a little evasive,” said Fran Melmed. “There is a lot of people who would like to have a town hall.”
Melmed says she’s pressed for a town hall for months—with no luck. She watched the senator’s response on camera—where he mentioned his nearly 50 telephone town halls.
Toomey said he has reached out to his constituents in other ways.
“We’ve had over 20,000 people through the audio stream and we get to take questions, it’s live and everyone gets to hear and we address the questions that are on people’s minds,” said Toomey.
The senator offered no official commitment to an in person town hall for this part of the state.
“It’s his job to be present and to be accounted for,” Melmed says. “We’re his constituents. We’re his constituents he serves us. He’s there to hear us and to respect us and to respond to us.
Another hot topic from the online audience was education, and President Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary.
Toomey said he still backs his vote for Betsy DeVos.
“The reason I am an enthusiastic supporter of Betsy DeVos is I think we need to create more options for lower income families,” Toomey explained.
As Republicans spend this week ironing out their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Toomey said people shouldn’t be worried about coverage.
“If we vote tomorrow on the repeal, the actual effective date would be two or three years down the road, we’re not going to pull the rug out from under anyone,” Toomey said. “Someone who is complying with the law that requires them to go out and buy insurance, and because of the way the law was crafted it’s unaffordable, so they had to get a subsidy. We’re not going to bring an end to that overnight.”
Montgomery County resident Regina Jimenez has beaten cancer but counts on the ACA because of her preexisting condition.
Jimenez says she’s worried about two or three years down the road. We spoke to her via facetime from Montgomery County.
“I know he’s trying to play it safe so I understand what he’s doing but he didn’t make me feel any better or any safer and I’m sure there are a lot of people who felt the same way,” she said.
Following the social media conversation, KYW Newsradio asked Toomey if he was concerned a live town hall would spawn viral videos of clashes with constituents.
“Look, that’s not a consideration. What my consideration is, I want to continue to have the exchange with constituents,” Toomey said.
For weeks, demonstrators have staged “Tuesdays with Toomey” protests, demanding that he hold a live town hall in Philadelphia. Toomey met in person Monday with protest organizers including Larissa Mogano, who says the senator made no promises.
“To be honest, we were getting quite a lot of pushback. We got sort of the same similar story that we’ve been getting,” Mogano said.
Mogano says the virtual and telephone town halls aren’t cutting it.
Activists demanding a town hall want face time with Toomey.
“What I commit to is very very extensive two-way communications with constituents all across the Commonwealth. I’m not sure exactly what the schedule holds,” Toomey said.