U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson takes questions during his town hall meeting at Kennesaw State University. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Isakson faces tough reception at KSU town hall

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson had a tough reception at his Monday town hall meeting at Kennesaw State University, as crowdmembers peppered him with questions about his support for failed measures to repeal the Affordable Care Act and his support for President Donald Trump.

The Georgia Republican was booed as he explained his vote for a proposal that would have replaced Obamacare and slashed the nation’s Medicaid program. That measure, which failed to pass in July, was designed to set the stage for negotiations in the House.

“You’ve got to get it to a conference committee or it’s not going to happen,” he said, as some in the crowd roared their displeasure. “I didn’t like it but I voted for it. I couldn’t get to where I wanted to go unless I followed the road that led me there.”

A crowd of more than 600 people was packed with activists eager to vent their displeasure at Trump’s agenda and the GOP-controlled Congress. Isakson is one of three Georgia members of Congress who have held in-person town halls this August recess; Reps. Buddy Carter and Doug Collins are the others.

“I don’t have to do this. I’m not up for election,” said Isakson, who easily won a third term in November. “But I do it because it’s your government, not mine.”

Isakson sought to ease some of the tensions at the start of the town hall, unequivocally condemning the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups behind the deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

And at one point, facing a biting question about cuts to disability services in the failed GOP healthcare plan, he showed his cane to the audience and said he recently became disabled. He was invoking the Parkinson’s diagnosis he revealed a few years ago.

“I know how lucky I am to live here,” he said, saying that Congress hasn’t cut funding for disability services yet “and as far as I’m concerned, we’re not going to.”

And targeted with a question about whether humans contribute to climate change, Isakson said he was a “full believer” that carbon contributes to the rise in temperatures. But he was roundly booed – one person in the crowd cried “go back to school” – when he suggested it was impossible to pin rising temperatures solely on human activity.

Later, when prodded by some in the crowd to say “black lives matter,” Isakson quickly responded: “All lives matter.”

A question from a local psychiatrist asking if Isakson would push Trump to remove his political strategist Stephen Bannon and other controversial aides from the White House drew a standing ovation. His answer – which started with “no, but” - drew swift catcalls from the crowd.

“All you have to do is check the record and see how many times I’ve risked my career for standing up the right thing,” he said.

Came a cry from the crowd: “Now is the time.”

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