Constituents criticize congressman

Len Sherp, of Front Royal, joined a line of about 20 protesters outside the Main Street Gazebo in Front Royal on Wednesday to demonstrate against president Donald Trump and the Republican agenda. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – A dozen people criticized U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, on Wednesday for his support of legislation designed to undo much of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Goodlatte’s constituents also called on the congressman to push for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia following the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

The congressman did not appear at the meeting held in Samuels Public Library in Front Royal – an absence that the residents of his district said occurs all too often.

Goodlatte staff member Emilee Loope told the attendees at the congressman’s meeting that she could not answer questions about legislative matters. Loope said she would forward their comments and questions to Goodlatte via a memo. The congressman’s office holds similar sessions regularly around his district but Goodlatte has indicated he does not intend to conduct any “town hall” meetings out of fear of disruptions. Goodlatte and many other Republican Congress members have avoided holding such meetings since Trump’s inauguration.

At least one person at the meeting Wednesday asked that the press not print her name out of fear of retaliation by her neighbors who support Trump. Loope pointed out that the meeting was public.

John Cermak, of Shenandoah Farms, holds a sign during the protest Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Former lifelong Republican Jorge Amselle said he usually agrees with Goodlatte but no longer supports the party because of Trump. Amselle added that he feels upset by Goodlatte’s “blind following” of Trump and accused Republicans of hypocrisy for attacking the Affordable Care Act then producing similar legislation, the American Health Care Act.

“Ask Mr. Goodlatte if he’s read the bill because I guarantee you he hasn’t,” Amselle said. “Personally, what I’m most upset with Congressman Goodlatte is his position on immigration, that he’s taking what I consider frankly a racist position. This database on crimes that illegal aliens have committed – would you make a database of crimes black people have committed? It is absolutely outrageous. That’s the final straw for me.”

Amselle added that he’s also upset by Goodlatte’s vote on the health care legislation, “primarily because he didn’t even read the bill.”

“It makes me embarrassed to ever have been associated with the GOP,” Amselle said.

Amselle later brought up the news about Comey’s firing that spurred the conversation about the ongoing investigation. The woman who didn’t want her name published said that unless Congress and Goodlatte push for Trump’s impeachment the remaining people in charge likely would block any effort to continue the investigation.

Laura Henderson, of Linden, waves her flag as she joins the protest. Rich Cooley/Daily

The conversation moved back to the vote by the House of Representatives on the Republicans’ American Health Care Act. Attendees voiced support for the current Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, with one person saying the legislation made the cost of her husband’s medical expenses related to pancreatic cancer treatment more manageable. The American Health Care Act, which critics say does away with the ban by insurance companies from using preexisting conditions to determine coverage, would likely leave her husband and her “devastated,” she said.

Laura Henderson called the American Health Care Act a “moral Dumpster fire.” Henderson noted that Goodlatte, who said he was thrilled to have voted for the bill, remained silent when asked by a reporter if he had read the legislation. Henderson said she looked on the list of preexisting conditions published by Time magazine and saw that she has five.

Henderson is on her husband’s health insurance coverage that ends soon when he retires, she said. Henderson anticipated that she would need coverage under the Affordable Care Act once her husband retires. She recalled her sister’s experience with maternity coverage costs that were high before implementation of the Affordable Care Act and much lower after the legislation went into effect.

By the end of the two-hour meeting, more than a dozen people had come to speak to Goodlatte’s staff member about their concerns. Following the meeting, constituents held a “Vigil for Democracy” at the downtown gazebo.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

Melissa Ricks, of Front Royal, holds up her signs during the protest. Rich Cooley/Daily

Ralph Waller stands outside his shop as he debates with the protesters. Rich Cooley/Daily

Emilee Loope, a member of U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte's office staff, takes notes as Jorge Amselle talks during a meeting with constituents Wednesday at Samuels Public Library in Front Royal.