RENO — Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller mixed it up with hundreds of sometimes combative critics Monday at a town hall meeting on topics including immigration, the environment, health care and access to abortions.
More than 600 people crowded a conference room Monday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, where Heller co-hosted the town hall session with the other GOP member of the state’s congressional delegation, Rep. Mark Amodei.
Heller denied a claim by speakers who said he voted last month to defund Planned Parenthood, a key source of contraceptives for many low-income women.
Heller drew loud boos and jeers when he insisted his vote only allows individual states to decide whether to defund the program. He reiterated his belief that federal funds should not be spent on abortions.
He also said both he and Amodei opposed the push by Republicans and the Trump administration to repeal the Affordable Care Act before the GOP legislation was pulled without a vote in the House.
Heller says no one in Congress does more than he does to work with Democrats in a bipartisan fashion. Several critics in accused him of doing more to divide the country than unite it.
One woman pointed to a Ronald Reagan quote Heller posted on a social media site on Sunday suggesting Republicans stand for freedom while Democrats for taxes. It said: “Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but Democrats believe every day is April 15.”
The woman said she found it “offensive and divisive.” She asked whether Heller thought that would “help or hurt” efforts to unite the country.
Heller answered that he often quotes the former Republican president. Pressed by the crowd to answer the question, he said he didn’t think the quote was “extreme” or that Reagan was “divisive.” He says he’s proud to be a conservative Republican who believes in low taxes and small government.
The senator, who is up for re-election next year, and Amodei were accused by some in the audience of being evasive and not answering constituents’ questions. They were greeted with chants of “yes or no” from the crowd.