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Many GOP Senators Stay Out Of Public View On July 4th


Holiday breaks are usually a chance for senators to go back to their home states and talk to people, hear what they're thinking. But over this Fourth of July holiday break, it seems a lot of Republican senators aren't doing that. You can basically count on your fingers how many have appeared at parades or town hall events. This is something Michael Tackett has been following. He's a political editor at The New York Times, and he's on the line now. Welcome to the show.

MICHAEL TACKETT: Kelly, good to be with you.

MCEVERS: So how does this year compare with what you usually see on the Fourth of July break?

TACKETT: The Fourth of July parade is sort of the hearty perennial of American politics. It's a really easy thing for a politician to do. You go, you walk in the parade, you do a grip-and-grin, everybody's pretty happy, and then you move on. This year - different story.

MCEVERS: And so why is that? Why are they not talking to people? Is it that they're avoiding confrontations over their health care bill?

TACKETT: I think the senators are really trying to avoid some confrontation. They don't want to have these angry scenes that really just won't help them in the environment when they come back and try to work through this legislation. Right now there's a bill out there - a number of senators have said that they're opposed to this version of the bill. They really don't want to get tagged with anything like that when they come back if they didn't even support it to begin with.

MCEVERS: Right. So they might be like, I don't want to - I don't want to get criticized for, you know, liking this certain provision when that might actually change. So they think it's better to just not talk to people at all?

TACKETT: Some people obviously have chosen that strategy. Others have tried to have sort of a - you know, a cautious contact with people. One who - on Thursday, though, who will be talking to people is Senator Jerry Moran from Kansas. And he is holding a town hall meeting in the far western reaches of the state. This place is so remote it's four hours from Denver and four hours from Kansas City. But that's where he's going to be.

MCEVERS: So what's the idea there? To go where people are going to be excited about your presence?

TACKETT: We'll see if they're excited or not because rural hospitals are really worried about the changes in the health care bill. And some of them are financially strapped anyway, and so they think that this bill could actually undermine them financially. So it won't necessarily be a friendly forum.

MCEVERS: I mean, do you think this is a good strategy for those senators who are staying away? Do you think this is going to backfire when they get back to D.C.?

TACKETT: Difficult to get in their heads. And I do think it's fair to say that if you don't know exactly what you're going to be asked to vote for, it does make it tougher to defend. But it really speaks to the climate. And the climate is not good right now. The climate is a lot of people now, I think, are saying, wait a minute. You have unified control of Washington. When are you going to start delivering some of the things that we wanted you to do?

MCEVERS: And what do you think that means for these kinds of public events going forward? Is - are we just going to get in a time where everybody can say, well, we didn't have to talk to you about health care, so maybe we don't do town halls on, you know, tax reform?

TACKETT: I think that's going to be a tough sell because eventually you're going to have an election, and eventually you're going to have an opponent. And if you've been one who's chosen to hide the whole time, that becomes the primary issue for your opponent. So you don't want to give them that easy mark.

MCEVERS: Michael Tackett of The New York Times. Really appreciate it.

TACKETT: Oh, great to be with you. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.