Iowa Rep. Blum quits interview over town hall questions

Thomas Beaumont
Associated Press

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa Rep. Rod Blum stormed out of a TV interview when pressed about why he screens those who attend his public meetings. He then held a town hall, where he was booed and jeered by constituents angry over his vote to repeal the 2010 federal health care law.

The second-term Iowa Republican and member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus later said he had been “ambushed” by the television news reporter who was questioning him.

The televised exchange in front of a group of young schoolchildren and the contentious forum that followed at Dubuque Senior High School were a glimpse at the tension facing some House members, especially since last week’s vote to gut major portions of the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare.

“I’m done … this is ridiculous,” Blum said two minutes into an interview with Cedar Rapids station KCRG which was shot during a visit to the Dubuque Dream Center, which helps poor, mostly black, children in Blum’s hometown of Dubuque.

Reporter Josh Scheinblum first asked Blum why he requires audience members at his public meetings to provide identification. Blum answered that it was to ensure they were from Iowa’s First District, a 20-county expanse of northern and eastern Iowa that also includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and wide tracts of farm land.

When Scheinblum then asked Blum if he accepted campaign contributions from donors who live outside the district, Blum stood up and removed his clip-on microphone, saying, “I mean, he’s going to sit here and just badger me…unbelievable.”

During the town hall event that followed, Blum faced angry shouts from members of the audience of roughly 1,000.

An audience member asked Blum why he walked out of the TV interview, which was made public before the forum.

Blum replied, “Well, we get there and we were ambushed. It was very apparent that he had an agenda. It’s my right to say that this interview is over.”

Blum was among the roughly 30 Freedom Caucus members who helped derail a vote in March on an earlier version of the House Republican bill to repeal and replace the health care law. Blum voted for a new version last week but he remained critical, saying he doesn’t think it goes far enough in undoing the 2010 law.

“This bill is a tweak of Obamacare. It’s not repeal and replace. It’s not even close,” Blum said during a separate KCRG interview at the high school immediately before the public meeting.

The GOP health care bill would let states escape a requirement under the 2010 law that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates. The legislation would cut the Medicaid program for the poor, eliminate Obama’s fines for people who don’t buy insurance and provide generally skimpier subsidies.

If the bill became law, congressional analysts estimate that 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026, including 14 million by next year.