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Angry crowds at town halls across the US
02:30 - Source: CNN

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The Republican is traveling in Europe on Senate business

Some of the town halls held by other lawmakers have turned raucous

Washington CNN  — 

A progressive group in Florida is planning an “empty chair” town hall targeting Sen. Marco Rubio while the Republican is traveling in Europe on Senate business, rather than in the state holding public meetings with constituents.

Some of the town halls held by other lawmakers have turned raucous, with liberal activists and others pressing GOP lawmakers on dismantling Obamacare, implementing tough new immigration rules and where they stand on other controversial policies emerging from President Donald Trump’s administration.

A frustrated Rubio staffer dismissed the empty-chair event as “not a true or constructive dialogue.”

“The protesters – some of whom failed to show up for meetings they scheduled with our staff – continue to fundraise off of it even though we informed them days ago Senator Rubio will not be there,” Rubio spokesman Matt Wolking said. “We have been fully accessible and responsive to constituents, and our staff has already met with dozens of these liberal activists at our offices across Florida. As their manual reveals, their goal is to stage a hostile atmosphere, record themselves booing no matter what is said, and refuse to give up the microphone. That is not a true or constructive dialogue.”

One Internet posting by the liberal group publicizing the event, Indivisible Tampa, said: “Citizens of Tampa are organizing a town hall event during the Congressional recess for Sen. Marco Rubio to address urgent concerns regarding health care, national security, and the President’s links to Russia. We have invited Sen. Rubio to attend but cannot be certain he will attend”

Another posting said organizers hope to get Rubio to a future town hall.

“While we really wanted our Senator to attend and hope to work with him and his staff in the future to deliver a town hall to Tampa with his attendance - we are very happy to have a town hall where our voices will be heard,” the group said in a Facebook post.

The event is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 599 in Tampa and will be streamed live by organizers on Facebook.

Rubio is away all week in France and Germany, according to his office.

“Senator Rubio is traveling overseas this week to attend multiple bilateral meetings with heads of state and senior government officials in Germany and France, two countries with upcoming elections who are facing concerns about Russian interference,” Rubio’s office explained. “As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Appropriations Committee, and Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator Rubio is conducting this official oversight trip to discuss the US/EU relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIS activities, foreign assistance programs, and Russian aggression in Europe.”