At first in-person town hall in a year, Yoder faces backlog of constituent concerns about Trump, healthcare and guns

Rep. Kevin Yoder participated in his first in-person town hall in more than a year Tuesday.
Rep. Kevin Yoder participated in his first in-person town hall in more than a year Tuesday.

Supporters holding signs showing support for the four-term congressman dominated the crowd of more than 100 people gathered along the sidewalk outside Rep. Kevin Yoder’s first in-person town hall meeting in more than a year Tuesday night.

Inside, however, Yoder found a reception that was considerably more chilly.

The event, held at Olathe City Hall and moderated by Kansas City Star editorial board members Colleen Nelson and Steve Kraske, saw Yoder facing pointed questions from constituents about a range of controversies, from Republican attempts to ban Muslims from entering the country to gun control.

Over the course of the evening, Yoder generally stuck to the party line on policy issues while inserting frequent calls for more civility in public life and working across party lines. He chided President Donald Trump for his remarks after the Charlottesville attacks while saying that he continued to believe in his agenda.

“When the president is focused on national security or job creation or reforming government, reducing regulations, changing the way we do business in this country as it relates to bloated government programs, I think he’s on the right track,” he said.

Health care reform dominated the early portions of the forum, with several attendees asking Yoder about his support for the House’s American Health Care Act. Yoder maintained that the Affordable Care Act was desperately broken and that the AHCA was a first step toward fixing the system. He said his goal was to fix the private insurance markets, and that otherwise the government would be forced to move to a “single payer, government run health care system” — a remark that drew loud applause from the crowd, which appeared to widely favor a move to single-payer.

“I don’t believe that a Medicare or Medicaid for all system, in which we force every constituent in my district to go onto that healthcare, removing their private insurance, is what my constituents want,” he responded.

Kraske pressed Yoder on the topic, asking how a bill that the Congressional Budget Office suggested would have led to 22 million more people uninsured helped improve the system. Yoder responded by parsing the CBO score, suggesting that its projections were not nearly as dire as had been reported in the media.

While the relatively small crowd (about 100 constituents received tickets to attend the event from more than 2,000 entries) and Star moderators mitigated the kind of raucous back-and-forth seen at Sen. Jerry Moran’s Johnson County town hall in June, Yoder did on occasion stumble into remarks that drew significant pushback from the crowd.

Responding to a question submitted by a man watching the event online about whether Yoder trusted Trump on big issues given the president’s habit of lying about small matters, Yoder attempted to equate Trump with his predecessor.

“Whether it was President Obama, or whether it was President Trump…” Yoder began, before boos from the crowd cut him off.

In another instance, an attendee asked him to name specific federal agencies or programs that were bloated and that should be cut. Yoder fumbled for moment before citing the Environmental Protection Agency, a response that drew groans from the audience.

The Star’s broadcast of the town hall in its entirety is embedded below:

Supporters of Kevin Yoder lined the sidewalks outside Olathe City Hall Tuesday.
Supporters of Kevin Yoder lined the sidewalks outside Olathe City Hall Tuesday.