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GOP freshmen share how to handle town hall anger

By Laurie Kellman

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, May 21 2011 9:25 a.m. MDT

The scene in Maryland was somewhat milder last week for Harris, a doctor and professor who served in the Legislature for 12 years before going to Congress.

After consulting with colleagues, Harris settled on a presentation: show four slides that establish the drag of entitlement spending on the economy; emphasize that GOP budget proposal would change Medicare only for people under 55; acknowledge that it's a tough plan, but insist that it's necessary if the United States is to remain economically viable.

Then, he asks for questions. He got some, including some challenging the GOP's opposition to cancelling tax breaks for rich people and oil companies. But on Medicare? None.

"What we find is that if we explain those to people, they usually don't have any more questions about it," Harris said later.

It didn't work that way at an earlier town hall meeting in Ocean City.

Resident George Benton told Harris that the GOP budget plan would "kill Medicare as we know it," according to Ocean City Today.

Thousands of miles away in Tusayan, Gosar doesn't bring up Medicare by name and doesn't get any questions on it, even though he's one of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's targets.

"Congressman Gosar has has made all the wrong choices," reads the script of an automated call to Gosar's constituents and those of 41 other House Republicans who voted for the GOP budget plan. "He actually voted to end Medicare, rather than end taxpayer giveaways for Big Oil."

Gosar, a dentist who represents a sprawling district that takes up more than half the state, says he brings up health care at his town halls "because this is near and dear to me. When I ran I saw we need reform, but I don't like the reform that was forced upon us" by President Barack Obama's health care law.

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Fonseca reported from Flagstaff, Ariz.

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