WILLINGBORO, N.J.— At a town hall event in central New Jersey on Wednesday, Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur was harangued by a crowd of his constituents for his prominent role in the passage of the House GOP's health care bill.
Gail Clark, a constituent from Delran Township who said she voted for MacArthur in 2016, said in an interview outside the venue, "Pregnancy should not be a pre-existing condition. Children born with health problems should not be a pre-existing condition. It's just absurd."
MacArthur became nationally famous over the past several weeks as the author of an amendment to the health care bill that weakened protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The amendment was designed to engender support from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and ultimately helped attract enough Republican support to pass the bill out of the House of Representatives.
Charles Murawski, who identified himself as a constituent denied insurance coverage due to a pre-existing condition in 2011, said he was "disgusted" when he learned about MacArthur's amendment.
"You run out of adjectives to describe it when you see such divisive people and divisive laws," Murawski said.
Other attendees at the town hall took the opportunity to tie MacArthur to President Donald Trump's agenda.
"It amazes me, the attacks on science, on healthcare on child nutrition, and it's not like [Trump] is trying follow an agenda to make anything better," Lisa Hodnett Burlington said. "He's just trying to take away any of the progress that has been made over the past eight years."
MacArthur's district stretches across the southern-central part of New Jersey, encompassing towns from the coast all the way to the suburbs of Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania border. MacArthur won his seat in the conservative wave election of 2014 and won reelection in 2016 by a margin of more than 20 points. His is one of several districts that Barack Obama won in 2012 but went for Trump in 2016.
MacArthur, a former insurance executive, seemed thrown off base as he fielded question after question from disgruntled constituents about the GOP health care bill.
At one point, the crowd broke out into shouts of "Liar!" when MacArthur said nobody with pre-existing conditions would lose their coverage or find themselves unable to afford it.
When MacArthur claimed he was "looking at an insurance market that is collapsing," another man yelled, "Because you drilled holes in it!"
Later, when MacArthur attempted to explain "bureaucrats in the federal government" would be in charge of benefits under a single-payer system, a woman shouted "it works in other countries!"
MacArthur responded that it works in smaller countries, earning a raucous boo.
Outside the event, hundreds of attendees who could not fit into the crowded Kennedy Center venue shouted chants of "Hey hey! Ho Ho! Tom MacArthur's got to go!" and "Take our health care, lose your job."
MacArthur is one of many GOP representatives who came home this week to crowds of angry constituents upset over the health care vote. Recently, Idaho Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador became an internet sensation for telling a constituent, "Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care."
Democrats are already running ads for the 2018 election cycle against several vulnerable Republican representatives who voted in favor of the bill. And residents of MacArthur's district are already making plans to hold him accountable for his role in the health care debate.
Demonstrator Tina Zack Burlington concluded, "Initially there was a grieving period. Now it's gone to the action phase. I know people who have never been active before and now their waiting in line to get into this town hall today. So I'm proud of the fact that it's woken us up."
Tom McKay contributed reporting to this story.