As the Trump administration reaches the landmark 100 day point, Hawaii’s congressional delegation — or at least most of it — is returning to the islands to report to constituents on how things are going in Washington.
Ten “town hall” events are scheduled to take place in Hawaii in the next two weeks, including seven scheduled by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, two by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and one conducted by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
Hanabusa will likely spend most of the time answering questions from constituents, according to her chief of staff, Mike Formby. He said she is prepared in particular to discuss the implications of the proposed federal budget and debate over revising federal health care laws. Formby said the budget cuts under consideration would cause “devastation” to many discretionary social service programs in Hawaii.
Sen. Mazie Hirono will be in Washington undergoing a medical procedure this month, and instead is planning town halls to be held in May.
Around the country, some of these events have sparked fireworks, as fired-up Democratic-leaning constituents have jammed public meetings to pepper Republican legislators with questions about their plans for health care, taxes, the federal budget and investigating President Trump’s connections with Russia.
Late last month, for example, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was confronted by nearly 800 jeering constituents, and 700 people showed up to a tense town hall in Houston conducted by U.S. Rep. John Culberson, a Republican from Texas.
In Democratic-majority Hawaii, the meetings with Hawaii’s delegation are expected to be less confrontational, but political events in Washington have inspired controversy and debate here as well, and it seems likely that the town hall sessions will be more memorable than the normally politely-staged gatherings for local folk to come together to talk story.
In particular, Gabbard has continued to claim the national media spotlight, most notably recently for her outspoken criticism of Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian government airfield last Thursday. Trump said he had launched the attack to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is believed to have ordered a chemical attack that killed scores of people in Western Syria.
Gabbard has questioned whether Assad, who she visited in January when she toured Syria on a fact-finding trip, was responsible for the attacks, and she, in turn, has been criticized for raising questions about it.
This week, two prominent Democrats, Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Party and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, turned their fire on Gabbard, saying that she was defending a barbarous dictator. Both tweeted that they believed Gabbard should be ejected from office by her constituents.
People of Hawaii's 2nd district – was it not enough for you that your rep met with a murderous dictator? Will this move you?1 https://t.co/jbwGuZIJ6R
— Neera Tanden (@neeratanden) April 7, 2017
In Hawaii, the 10 town hall meetings, scheduled throughout the islands, will provide Hawaii residents with the chance to ask questions, offer advice, give praise and raise criticism of what and how the delegates are doing in representing Hawaii’s interests in the nation’s capital.
They will occur within the next two weeks because the House and Senate are both out of session, giving Hawaii’s delegates enough time to come home to Hawaii and return to Washington before the legislative calendar resumes.
Hirono, who faces re-election to the Senate in 2018, will not hold any events at this time because she is undergoing surgery to implant a lens in her left eye to improve her vision, she announced Monday. She is scheduling the procedure at this time so she can recover before the U.S. Congress gets back to work.
“While I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to come home for the current state work period, I’m looking forward to holding town halls on Oahu and Kauai on May 6, and expect to be back at work by the time the Senate reconvenes on April 24,” Hirono said in a statement.