With a cardboard cutout of Rep. Peter King onstage, more than 200 activists held a mock town hall Sunday where speakers attacked the Seaford Republican’s stances on the environment, women’s issues and health care.
Those at the Dominican Village assisted living facility in Amityville criticized King for his support of President Donald Trump and in particular the American Health Care Act, which narrowly passed the House last week and now heads to the Senate.
“It’s a heartless, immoral bill,” said Ed O’Donnell, 57, of Sayville. His 19-year-old son Ryan has cystic fibrosis, and O’Donnell said his son and others could be charged more for health care under the GOP proposal.
Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women New York, said the health care vote will hurt King politically.
“It will be that vote that galvanizes the resistance against him,” Ossorio told the audience.
Republicans said the bill replaces the Affordable Care Act with a new system that will lower premiums, end a tax on higher-income earners, cut Medicaid, eliminate the mandate to buy health insurance and give states more authority over health insurance.
King voted to move the bill forward, but has said he wants major changes in the Senate version, including increasing Medicaid expansion reimbursement to New York State until 2020. He has said he might vote against the bill in the future without those changes.
King has resisted calls from critics galvanized by Trump’s election to hold town halls.
“The idea is to disrupt and to basically create chaos,” he said in a phone interview Sunday, describing the groups as anti-Republican. “To me it would just be enabling aberrant behavior.”
King said he has spent time since Friday meeting with the regional food bank, attending a police memorial service in Suffolk and holding meetings on the MS-13 gang.
He said he can get a better pulse on the community when he’s around town. “I try to go to local 7-Elevens, diners,” he said. “I was out in the bagel store this morning. People asked for selfies. They said, ‘Keep up the good job.’ ”
But organizers of the Sunday rally said town halls are an important way for members of Congress to hear their constituents.
“This is what democracy actually looks like,” said Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder of 2nd District Democrats, one of the groups that organized the event. She said statements and letters would be delivered to King. “The goal is to give constituents a voice,” she said.
Democratic officials attending Sunday’s event included County Executive Steve Bellone, Babylon Supervisor and Suffolk Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer and Suffolk Legislative Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague), who unsuccessfully ran against King in 2016.
Former County Executive Pat Halpin fired up the crowd by saying King needs to listen to constituents. “The only people you listen to are commentators on Fox News,” he said, addressing the cutout of King. “We have a government of the billionaires, by the billionaires.”
Bob McKee, 61, a school psychologist from Lindenhurst, said he attended the rally because the health care bill would cut federal money that helps pay for mental health services in schools. He called the Republican legislation “immoral” and said King “doesn’t want to listen to us.”