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Protesters Crowd Andy Barr Town Hall In Mount Sterling

Andy Barr town hall

Opponents flooded a town hall event held by U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in Mt. Sterling early Wednesday morning. The group booed, shouted down and at times hissed at Kentucky’s 6th district congressman over his stances on cutting corporate taxes, repealing the Affordable Care Act and scaling back the Environmental Protection Agency.

The group also criticized Barr for not holding a town hall event in the largest city in Barr’s district — Lexington.

“If he’s off all week, why can’t he have more and have them in some larger towns,” asked Jessie Bollinger, a social worker from Lexington after the event. “I think he’s trying to avoid our voices. Because our voices were pretty strong here in this little small courtroom.”

Barr said the nearly 100-person crowd that showed up to the Coffee With A Congressman event was “a little bigger” than he was used to.

The rowdy event comes a day after hundreds of protesters showed up outside — and a few made it into — a question and answer session with Sen. Mitch McConnell in Anderson County.

After a brief speech, audience members asked Barr if he supports independent investigations into President Donald Trump’s alleged connections with Russia.

“Of course we would want to have any independent investigation into any issue that would compromise national security,” Barr said, adding that he would leave the investigations up to congressional committees.

“Not a single intelligence official has provided evidence yet that there were any improper contacts between the Trump campaign and the intelligence community,” Barr said.

The third-term congressman was reelected to his seat in November with 61 percent of the vote.

After the event, Barr said the attendees deserved to have their voices heard, but he wasn’t swayed by their arguments, especially on healthcare.

“I’m reinvigorated to fix this broken healthcare system," Barr said. "I know from my constituents who are flooding my office with calls that Obamacare is making life harder for them. For folks who have benefited in some way from additional coverage, that’s great, but we want something even better for them. So let’s avoid the disruption for the majority of people and for the minority who have had a little bit of a benefit, we want better for them as well.”

Barr favors repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a system that allows people to deduct health insurance costs from their taxes and save money in tax-free health savings accounts. He also said he wants to keep the Obamacare provision that prevents insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.

Miles Hoskins, a retired health insurance salesman from Montgomery County, said despite Barr’s stance, he worries the proposed system would revert the country to a time when insurers didn’t have to cover preexisting conditions

“The thing is, if they reprivatize this thing back to insurance companies, OK we’re going to accept people with preexisting conditions but what’s going to happen? They’re going to charge more premiums just like they did before,” Hoskins said. “So their preexisting condition technically doesn’t prevent them from getting insurance, but when they give them their premium quote it’s going to prevent them from getting insurance.”

President Trump suggested via twitter Tuesday evening that paid protesters were showing up to town hall events across the country.

After the event, Barr said he wasn’t sure about the facts behind Trump’s tweet, but said as far as he knew the audience was comprised of his constituents, adding that he was glad they showed up.

“In 2009, the Tea Party movement and Americans who were upset about the results of the election, they voiced their opinion," Barr said. "That’s the American way, this is the American way and I appreciate it."

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.