April Recess Town Hall Sample Questions

Recess Toolkit | March 31, 2017

Use the tips and sample questions in this document to make the most of April recess.

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Five General Tips for Crafting Town Hall Questions

  1. Keep your eye on the prize. Your job isn’t to convince your MoCit’s to make him or her give you an answer or make clear to all watching that they refuse.
  2. Be a storyteller. Incorporate your own personal story in your question. Keep in mind your audience is as much your neighbors and fellow town hall attendees as it is the MoC. Be honest, be vulnerable, and tell stories that matter.
  3. Make a concrete, verifiable ask. The best asks are clear, actionable for the MoC, and easy to verify, whether they followed through or not. If you ask any MoC “Will you fight for me?” Every single one of them will say “Yes!” and then go about their day. If you ask them, “Will you commit to voting against X upcoming bill?” they may answer directly or they may prevaricate, but regardless they will adjust their decision-making calculus.
  4. Don’t settle for talking points. MoCs love to fall back on a set of canned responses to your REAL questions. Don’t let them. Force them to engage with your humanity.
  5. Know your strengths. Just want to show up to the town hall, but don’t want to ask a question? That’s OK! Showing up is doing your partyou’re supporting everyone else in the room. Be honest about your strengths and limitations because that will make the work stronger.

Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election

For House Republicans:

  • I was shocked to learn the Russian government may have interfered in last year’s election. These actions shake the very core of our democracy as a free and open country, and challenge our most dear American values. We cannot allow an attack on our democracy to go unchecked. Will you defend America by supporting an independent investigation into Russian tampering in our elections, and co-sponsor the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 356)?
  • I do not trust Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes to impartially investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election. I am disappointed by the actions of both Chairman Nunes and the Trump Administration, which demonstrate terrible judgment and openly frustrate the investigation. Nunes, and other Republicans, function as surrogates for Trump and, even at these early stages, have operated with unabashed favoritism to the White House. They are unfit to thoroughly and objectively investigate Russia. Will you commit to supporting nothing less than a full, independent investigation, and co-sponsor the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 356)?
  • It feels like everyday there is a new revelation about Trump and Russia in the news. We learn of additional connections or witness questionable actions by Republicans as they pretend to investigate. Enough is enough. The American people deserve to know exactly what happened; how it happened; and what our elected leaders are doing to prevent it from happening again. Will you stand-up for the American people by supporting an independent investigation into Russian tampering in our elections, and co-sponsor the Protecting Our Democracy Act ( H.R. 356)?

For Senators:

  • For the sake of our national security, I want a thorough and impartial investigation into Russian interference in our elections. We cannot let a foreign power get away with manipulating our democratic process. And our enemies are emboldened when America’s response to foreign interference is incompetent and ineffective. Right now, we are all less safe. Will you stand-up for our security and commit to supporting an independent investigation into Russian interference by co-sponsoring Senator Cardin’s bill, S. 27, which would do just that?
  • Our democracy was attacked by Russia in 2016. This demands that there be a complete, impartial investigation that gets to the bottom of things. Instead, the House investigation has been a sham, and the Senate investigation is in the hands of another Trump surrogate in Chairman Burr. Can you promise me that you will co-sponsor Senator Cardin’s bill, S. 27 which would create an independent investigation into Russian interference?

For Democrats/Republicans already co-sponsoring:

  • I was outraged by Russian interference in the 2016 election, and continue to be by the many Trump campaign ties to the Russian government. Thank you for supporting an independent investigation into Russia, free from the partisanship of Congress. However, we must keep the momentum going or the independent investigation will never happen. Will you promise to keep fighting for the American people by publicly pushing for an independent inquiry into Russia like the one created in the legislation you co-sponsored?

“Obamacare is the Law of the Land”

If your representative voted for TrumpCare in committee (see a list here):

  • You voted for the American Health Care Act. That means you voted to take away insurance from 24 million people (including myself/my spouse/my family member).
    • Will you commit to dropping efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act?
    • Can you guarantee me, one of your constituents, that you won’t work to undermine the ACA moving forward?
  • Thanks to the ACA, I was able to enroll in my state’s Medicaid program for the first time. You voted for the American Health Care Act which not only would have ended my Medicaid coverage, but that of [my elderly relative/my disabled relative/my child]. You voted to take away 880 billion dollars from the Medicaid program that funds my health care coverage to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations.
    • Can you assure me that you won’t vote again to cap funding for Medicaid?
    • Can you also assure me that Medicaid will remain an entitlement, and that anyone eligible will be guaranteed coverage?
  • I depend on the Affordable Care Act for coverage and I need there to be a plan I can access and that I can afford on the marketplace in my state next year.
    • Will you commit to pressuring the Administration to make the Affordable Care Act work so that I have access to options for coverage next year?
    • Will you ask the Administration to abandon efforts to undermine the ACA, like they did when they pulled paid advertisements for enrollment outreach?
  • My friend / family member / I have a pre-existing condition. The White House is proposing to give states the choice to drop protections that prevent insurance companies from charging people like me massive premiums.
    • Will you commit to opposing any changes to the American Health Care Act that will make it harder for people with pre-existing conditions to buy health care?

If your representative did not vote for TrumpCare in committee:

  • TrumpCare was going to take away coverage for at least 24 million Americans including myself/my spouse.
    • While the American Health Care Act failed earlier this month, I’m afraid that Congress will try again to repeal the ACA. Can you commit to me that you will vote against it?
    • The White House wants to make the ACA repeal bill worse by taking away protections for people (like me/my family member, etc) with pre-existing conditions. They also want to end requirements for insurance companies to cover services like mental health care and substance abuse treatment. Will you commit to opposing any bill that would undo these consumer protections?
  • Thanks to the ACA, I was able to enroll in my state’s Medicaid program for the first time. Currently, anyone who is eligible for Medicaid can get it. I’m one of those people. If the program is restructured to a block grant or a capped system (as was proposed by the American Health Care Act), I could lose my coverage. My elderly relative/disabled relative/child could lose coverage.
    • Can you also assure me that Medicaid will remain an entitlement, and that anyone eligible will be guaranteed coverage?
    • Can you assure me that funding for Medicaid won’t get cut under any replacement plan?
  • I depend on the Affordable Care Act for coverage and I need there to be a plan I can access and that I can afford on the marketplace in my state next year.
    • Will you commit to opposing any action, such as cutting funding for subsidies, that would discourage insurance companies from offering plans next year?
    • Will you commit to pressuring the Administration to make the Affordable Care Act work so that I have access to options for coverage next year?
    • Will you commit to funding education efforts, like advertisements, so that I know when to sign up for a new plan?

For those with Democratic members:

  • I was glad to see that you nor any other Democrat crossed party lines and voted for TrumpCare. I’m afraid that Republicans will try to force Democrats to negotiate on coverage and benefits in a future replacement plan, especially in the guise of an ACA “fix.”
    • Can you promise me that you won’t compromise on coverage and benefits for anyone currently eligible for the ACA?
    • Will you commit to pressuring the Administration to make the Affordable Care Act work so that I have access to options for coverage next year?
    • Will you commit to appropriating money to fund cost sharing for those who qualify for it?
    • Will you commit to funding education efforts, like advertisements, so that I know when to sign up for a new plan?
    • Can you also assure me that Medicaid will remain an entitlement, and that anyone eligible will be guaranteed coverage?
    • Can you assure me that funding for Medicaid won’t get cut under any replacement plan?

The Federal Budget: No Cuts to Essential Programs

  • By increasing defense spending financed with huge cuts, Republicans are telling us they refuse to support programs that feed the elderly, educate our kids, or fund research into new cancer-fighting drugs.  Can you guarantee you won't vote to only increase the defense budget at the expense of American families, and that you won't vote to slash the programs that keep American families afloat?
    • (For Democrats) I’m afraid that Republicans will try to force Democrats to negotiate on raising the spending caps on defense without an equal, one-for-one raise of domestic spending above the current budget caps. Can you promise you won’t compromise on even one dollar for our domestic programs, and you will vote to fund our essential domestic priorities, like education, child care, and housing?
  • I don’t believe that Trump’s budget increases our national security, when he’s proposing devastating cuts to the State Department and USAIDthe folks who secure the peace after our military wins a war. That’s why 120 generals and admirals signed a letter to insist that funds for diplomacy and development be paid for along with money for defense. Can you guarantee that you will not vote for a budget that undermines American security by slashing the State Department and foreign aid?
  • I don’t believe that Trump’s budget increases our country’s security at home, when he’s proposing harsh cuts to worker safety standards, chemical safety, the cleanup of toxic waste sites, and the folks who protect our clean air and water. Can you guarantee that you will not vote for a budget that undermines the health and safety standards and environmental regulations that protect all Americans?
  • I have elderly parents struggling to get by on fixed incomes. It’s unbelievable that Trump would try to eliminate programs like Meals on Wheelsa program that’s shown results by keeping elderly folks from going hungry. Will you guarantee you won’t vote for a single dollar more for defense until Republicans have agreed to not make their unethical cuts to domestic programs?
  • Donald Trump’ budget cuts $6 billion at HUD, which will undermine our ability to provide affordable housing for Americans who need it. This is just one example of many harsh cuts to domestic programs Trump has proposed. Will you commit to vote against a cut in domestic spending that will make things like housing less accessible for low-income Americans, while hurting the kids, veterans, and persons with disabilities?
  • My family comes from a rural area so I’m deeply offended that Trump’s budget tries to eliminate things like the Appalachian Regional Commission, programs that provide paying jobs, job training, and heating subsidies to needy families. Can you promise me you won't vote for defense increases paid for by cutting critical domestic programs?

The Federal Budget: No Funding for Trump’s Deportation Force

  • I [or family member] rely on some of the programs that Donald Trump is trying to cut or eliminate through his budget request. For example, my kids have watched PBS [or use some other program] for years, and now I hear it might get defunded. I think this is unacceptable. Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will oppose any funding bill that makes unnecessary cuts to social programs like PBS, NEA, or EPA?
  • I care deeply about keeping my country safe, but I don’t think that the plans Donald Trump has for his border wall and deportation force will increase our security or safety. Not only will they not make us any safer, but funding immigration enforcement will prevent us from paying for more important programs like education, housing, and meals on wheels. Can you commit to me, your constituent, that you will oppose the $3 billion request from the White House to fund the wall and mass deportation regime?
  • I keep hearing of fathers, mothers, and children being separated by immigration officers. And, now Donald Trump wants to spend even more money on creating a mass deportation force. We already spend over $20 billion a year to detain immigrants and tear families apart. We should not be spending even more money on mass deportations when we are cutting funds for education, jobs and veterans. Can you commit to me, your constituent, that you will oppose any additional money to fund the wall and mass deportation force?
  • Since day one of Donald Trump’s campaign for President, he said many hateful and racist things about immigrants. He has continued to offend and insult immigrants and refugees and has made them a target for his administration. Immigration officers are now terrorizing immigrant communities around the country, which only makes us less safe. Will you oppose any funding bill that instills even more terror in immigrant communities by voting NO on Trump’s request for an additional $3 billion for mass deportations and a wall?
  • Donald Trump has given immigration officers free rein to go after immigrant families, which we’ve already seen has led to racial profiling and discrimination. Now he’s asking Congress to double the number of immigration officers. I think this will only make discrimination and racial profiling worse for [me, my family, neighbor, coworker]. Can you commit to me, your constituent, that you oppose the White House’s request for an additional $3 billion to fund the mass deportation regime?

Demand Donald Trump’s Tax Returns

  • Donald Trump has financial interests here in the U.S. and in a lot of other countries. We’ve also seen undeniable evidence that the Trump campaign has maintained close ties to the Russian government and may be vulnerable to blackmail. But he has not taken the necessary steps to eliminate potential conflicts of interest. All of this scares me. One way he could reassure Americans is by releasing his tax returns, and yet he refuses. Congress can act unilaterally without Trump’s permission to release his returns, and should. This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a matter of public trustand I want to be able to trust my President. Will you co-sponsor the Presidential Tax Transparency Act?
  • As you know, every single president since Jimmy Carter, including Republicans, has released his tax returns. Doing so has become an important practice of transparency, showing the American public that a president does not have conflicts of interest. Donald Trump refuses to release his tax forms. Do you believe, as I do, that Trump should release his tax returns to prove that he isn’t using the office of the President for financial gain?  Congress has the authority to obtain his tax returns, and I think it should. This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a matter of public trustand I want to be able to trust my President. Will you co-sponsor the Presidential Tax Transparency Act?
  • Even after making several promises to release his tax returns, Donald Trump refuses to release them. He claims that he’s unable to because he’s being audited. However, even Richard Nixonanother Republican presidentreleased his tax returns while undergoing an audit. I’m worried he’s hiding something that would prevent him from prioritizing his duties as the President. Do you believe, as I do, that Trump should release his tax returns to ensure he acts in the best interest of the American people, and not his own self-interest? Congress has the authority to obtain his tax returns, and I think it should. This isn’t about politics; it’s about public trustand I want to be able to trust my President. Will you co-sponsor H.R. 305/S.27, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act?
  • The next thing Donald Trump wants to do is pass tax reform, which experts agree will be a huge giveaway to the wealthy and will lead to some middle classes paying more in taxes. He plans to do this even though he refuses to release his tax returns, meaning we don’t know how much he stand to gain from tax reform. Will you insist that Donald Trump release his tax returns before doing anything on tax reform?

“Going Nuclear” Over Judge Neil Gorsuch

For Republican Senators:

  • I’m deeply disappointed that you chose to undo more than 200 years of Senate rules and tradition to give Donald Trump a win. Those rules have existed for a reasonto keep ultra-extreme candidates from getting confirmed to the Supreme Court. I will remember come next election that you sided with Trump over the interests of your constituents. How can we trust you to stand against the rest of the Trump agenda if you were willing to betray our values on this pivotal vote?
  • Senator, you took part in overturning Senate rules to enable the confirmation of Donald Trump’s extreme Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch. That’s bad enough, but the Supreme Court only rules on around 80 cases a year. The majority of casesincluding the roughly 7,000 that the Supreme Court receives but doesn’t hearare upheld with decisions by lower court judges. What can you say to us today about action you will take to oppose any Trump judicial nominees that are out of the mainstream and would turn our justice system into a rubber stamp for the Trump agenda?
  • Federal courts decide cases regarding civil liberties, clean air, privacy, reproductive rights and corporate misdemeanors.  We need a fair and independent judiciary that respects our constitutional values and the rights of everyday citizens. You voted to overturn 230-year-old Senate rules to ram Neil Gorsuch through to the Supreme Court. Do you also plan to allow Trump to threaten the women, workers, consumers, and citizens of your constituency by populating lower courts with ultra-conservative judges?

For Democratic Senators:

  • Senator, thank you for fighting back against Donald Trump’s appointment of a person with a radical, ultra-conservative record, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court.  That was a principled and courageous stand, but the Supreme Court only rules on around 80 cases a year. The majority of casesincluding the roughly 7,000 that the Supreme Court receives but doesn’t hearare upheld with decisions by lower court judges. Can you commit to me, your constituent, that you will oppose all Trump judicial nominees that are out of the mainstream and would turn our justice system into a rubber stamp for Trump and his dangerous agenda, hurting everyday people?
  • We've seen how far Trump’s friends in Congress are willing to go to ram through ideologues like Neil Gorsuch. Circuit courts decide roughly 30,000 cases each year. That is 30,000 opportunities to protect women, workers, consumers and everyday citizens of your constituency. How will you protect those opportunities by preventing Trump from packing the lower courts with extreme nominees?
  • By Trump’s own admission, Judge Gorsuch was chosen from a Federalist-society approved nominee list, and was subjected to a pro-life ‘litmus test’ prior to his nomination. What do you think of this kind of special-interest vetting and ‘litmus testing’ for judicial nominees?  Will you refuse to confirm any Trump nominee that is proposed based on interest-group interference or ideological biases?

For Senators Manchin, Donnelly, Bennet and Heitkamp, who broke ranks with the Democratic filibuster of Neil Gorsuch:

  • When Mitch McConnell moved to end a filibuster on Neil Gorsuch, 44 Democrats and Independents stood strong against letting this extreme Supreme Court pick move forward. You were one of only four members of your caucus to break ranks with your party and vote for cloture. How can we trust you to stand against the rest of the Trump agenda if you were willing to betray our values on this pivotal vote?

Trump’s Dangerous Escalation In Syria

  • I’m appalled by Trump’s dereliction of duty by failing to seek Congressional authorization for escalating military actions in Syria.  We need Congress to exercise oversight - and we need to stop Trump from recklessly marching us into war. Will you promise to follow the Constitution and demand that Donald Trump not take any further military action without Congress voting on an Authorization for Use of Military Force in Syria? And, given Donald Trump’s demonstrated recklessness, erratic behavior, and lack of judgment, will you vote no on that Authorization?
  • For the House: I’m appalled by Trump’s dereliction of duty by failing to seek Congressional authorization for escalating military actions in Syria.  We need Congress to exercise oversight - and we need to stop Trump from recklessly marching us into war. Will you promise to cosponsor the bipartisan bill H.R.1473 which would block the deployment  of U.S. ground troops into Syria for combat?
  • Donald Trump gave humanitarian reasons for launching strikes in Syria. But hypocritically, he has attempted to temporarily ban all refugees and to cut the number of refugees the U.S. will admit this year from 110,000 to 50,000, and submitted a budget that would slash humanitarian support for Syrian families in refugee camps. Will you publicly commit to opposing budget cuts to our refugee programs and to Trump’s Muslim and refugee bans?
  • For MoCs who have flip flopped since 2013. When President Obama considered a strike against Assad for a chemical weapons attack, he asked Congress to authorize it, but ultimately decided not to strike the Assad regime. At that time, you opposed military action. Do you now trust Trump to escalate this conflict? Do you believe Trump should be subject to the same standard as President Obama?

Defend the Environment

  • The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) method for regulating greenhouse gases from power plants and addressing climate change. The President’s executive order to undo the CPP and other important climate change protections is a blatant sellout to oil and coal execs. By weakening the CPP, we are putting at risk $54 billion in climate and health benefits each year, and risking increases in premature deaths and asthma attacks in children. For Senators:  Will you cosponsor Senator Bennet’s Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act, which would rescind the climate executive order? For Representatives: Will you support a bill to rescind the climate executive order, similar to the Clean Air, Healthy Kids Act proposed by Senator Bennet?
  • EPA’s budget today is already 20 percent lower than it was back in 2010.  The Trump Administration’s proposed budget would cut EPA funding by an additional 31 percent, leaving critical programs unfunded and putting American’s health and environment at risk.  Will you refuse to vote for a budget bill unless EPA is fully funded at current budget levels?  [Note: Consider whether there are local impacts to the budget cuts: is there a cleanup in your district?  Are there fisherman that depend on a local waterbody for a livelihood?  Telling personal stories of how you and your community benefit from a clean, healthy environment is very powerful.]
  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the wildest place left in  America and needs to be protected now and for future generations.  Special Interests and their anti-public land allies are mobilizing to dismantle our American system of protected public lands, some 640 million acres of parks, forests and wild lands that all Americans currently own. Their aim is to both sell off and sell out these public lands so that those lands can be sold or leased to oil, mining and logging companies. Will you commit to me, your constituent, to vote against a spending bill if it contains an attack on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?