WASHINGTON -- Confronting mounting pressure and protests, Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) has agreed to hold a public town hall at the Duluth airport at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
Cravaack has hosted two open town halls in the past three weeks, in Deer River and Grand Portage. Some of his constituents, however, were disappointed that he had no plans to hold one in Duluth, the population center of his district.
On Tuesday, Cravaack spoke at the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) in Duluth, but it cost $10 per head for members to attend. The event was not open to the general public. Cravaack spokesman Michael Bars said the fee was charged by the NFIB, not by the congressman, for members to have lunch.
"If Chip wanted to eat lunch at the event, he would have paid $10 too," he said.
Before he was scheduled to speak, he stepped outside to address a group of protesters, organized in part by the North East Area Labor Council.
"What do we want? Town hall! When do we want it? Now!" shouted the group of protesters, who turned out despite the rainy weather.
"You guys want a town hall? You want a town hall?" responded Cravaack, shouting to get the attention of the crowd. "Okay, be at the airport tomorrow, 4:00. We'll have a town hall in Duluth at the airport at 4:00."
Bars said that the congressman had intended to go to Duluth for a town hall as soon as his schedule was open.
He said the Coast Guard exercise Cravaack is scheduled to participate in on Wednesday was shortened, opening up a window for a public meeting.
A recent analysis by the non-partisan group No Labels found that 60 percent of House members are not holding any open town hall events during the August recess.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), among others, has taken heat for refusing to hold open town halls while being more than willing to speak to constituents who will open their wallets and pay to attend.
Many Republican members who have decided to hold open town halls have been facing protests and angry constituents -- both on the right and left -- who are unhappy with what's going on in Washington.
This story was updated with additional comments from Cravaack's office.
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