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Washington lawmaker opting out of town halls while protesters demand action

As the Affordable Care Act reaches new highs in its popularity, the Republican party, which vowed to repeal the law, is facing stormy town halls.

Constituents are expressing their concerns about a broad range of issues, but spending plenty of time asking Republicans about health care.

CNN captured an emotional moment at an Arkansas town hall with Sen. Tom Cotton.

Cotton and other Republicans have made clear they value town halls as an opportunity for democratic conversations. But, not all Republican leaders see it that way.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said attendees are using the town halls to “bully and intimidate” him, as reported by CNN.

And Republican Rep. Dave Reichert, of Washington, said he doesn’t think a town hall format is productive.

He spoke with the PBS affiliate KCTS on a Facebook Live chat to explain his position.

“This is the new technology right now that’s available,” he told KCTS. “We can reach a lot of people through this medium.”

Commenters didn’t necessarily see it the same way.

Reichert said his stance was influenced by what he was seeing across the country.

“My view of town halls today: it’s degenerated into shouting, yelling and screaming matches,” he said. “And if you watch some of the town halls that have been attempted…across the country almost all of them — at least that I’ve seen — the members of Congress will show up and immediately be shouted down.”

Hundreds protested outside his district office in Issaquah Thursday, asking for him to talk at a town hall, demanding he speak out against White House actions and speaking to concerns about the ACA, according to reporting from multiple outlets.

Reichert insisted he would not do a town hall with “400 to 500 people” arguing that he didn’t want to put his staff in a threatening situation that would require security. He pointed to the hundreds of phone calls his office received, and gave examples of calls that were threatening.

He did say he was willing to host meetings involving around eight people, and encouraged constituents to call up his office to arrange such meetings.

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner