The Pantagraph: Constituents protest as Davis visits Normal

NORMAL — Doug DeLong didn't bother to meet with his congressman Monday.

"I'm done talking to Rodney," he said. "I'm ready for him to go."

The Bloomington resident was one of about 30 people — many 13th District constituents — who protested at U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis' office at 104 W. North St. in Normal as Davis held open office hours.

The meetings inside focused mainly on health care, said Davis Communications Director Ashley Phelps, and so did the protests. Those waiting inside to see Davis could clearly hear singing, chants and spoken readings through the wall.

"We're doing what we can to help support people who are going to lose their health care," said Debbie Lubbert of Bloomington, a Davis constituent who read aloud a list called "The Ten Commandments of Health Care."

"If you don't have a pre-existing condition, one of your relatives does," she said.

Davis, a Taylorville Republican, voted Thursday for a bill passed by the House that, in an earlier form, would have made 24 million people lose health insurance, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — partially because insurers can raise rates for those with conditions that are expensive to treat. The CBO has yet to release an analysis of the bill's final form.

Some who met with Davis shared DeLong's anger, including Jim and Laurie Swindler of Normal.

Jim Swindler said he doubts Davis' claims that the new health care bill will offer better care than the Affordable Care Act at a lower cost.

"He's talking as if we'll have all the benefits of a single-payer (universal health care) system but lower costs, which makes no sense," Jim Swindler said.

He added that Davis should hold a town hall meeting, which Davis has refused to do. Davis has said he has never held one and that they're "grandstanding events."

Davis has not let constituents address him unfiltered in public, favoring private meetings — media were barred from Monday's sitdowns, with Phelps citing privacy concerns — and public teleconferences in which staff members screen questions.

As Davis walked inside after briefly speaking to the protesters, they shouted, "Town hall, town hall, town hall."

Many held up signs in support of expanding or not contracting health care — Lubbert's read, "Save the ACA," and her husband, Mike, who suffers from kidney disease, held one reading, "My life depends on it." Some criticized Davis instead, including signs reading, "Replace and Repeal Rodney Davis" and "Rodney Davis is a pre-existing condition."

At least one person left happy: Janet Guaderrama of Normal, who visited the office to ask Davis to sign her petition to get the Equal Rights Amendment on the ballot in Illinois. He did so before addressing the protesters.

"I am ecstatic," said Guaderrama, who added she also visited the office of State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, on Monday. "I told him he's my favorite person today."