Five General Tips for Crafting Town Hall Questions
- Keep your eye on the prize. Your job isn’t to convince your MoC—it’s to make him or her give you an answer or make clear to all watching that they refuse.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 part—you’re supporting everyone else in the room. Be honest about your strengths and limitations because that will make the work stronger.
DEFEND THE ACA AND MEDICAID
Since the fight to save the ACA is now in the Senate, the following question are for your two senators. Questions for your representative, see here.
- Republicans in the House sided with Trump over the wellbeing of their constituents when they voted to pass TrumpCare. They voted for it without a CBO score, meaning that they didn’t even know how much it would harm their constituents. We now have a CBO score and know that TrumpCare would kick 23 million people off of their health care. As your constituent, can you promise me that you:
- “...won’t vote for a bill that would lead to millions of Americans losing their health coverage?”
- “...won’t vote for a bill without first knowing its full implications from a CBO score?”
- I don’t believe that ensuring “access” to health care, which doesn’t take into account affordability or quality of care, is good enough. Can you guarantee that any replacement plan will cover AT LEAST as many people that would be covered under the ACA? Can you guarantee that no one will lose their coverage as a result of your vote?
- I [or someone I know] has “x” condition and I’m afraid that I [they] will be unable to obtain affordable health coverage because of my [their] pre-existing condition. I want to know if you can assure me that I’ll be able to get the same consumer protections as the ACA, including for a pre-existing condition?
- Thanks to the ACA, I was able to enroll in my state’s Medicaid program for the first time. I’m afraid that a replacement plan will end funding for state Medicaid expansions. Can you assure me that funding for Medicaid won’t get cut under ANY replacement plan?
- Currently, anyone who is eligible for Medicaid is able to get it. I’m one of those people. I’m afraid that I may lose my Medicaid coverage if the program is restructured. Can you also assure me that Medicaid will remain an entitlement, and that anyone eligible will be guaranteed coverage?
- [For Democrats] I’m afraid that Republicans will try to force Democrats to negotiate on coverage and benefits in a replacement plan. Can you promise me that you won’t compromise on coverage and benefits for anyone currently eligible for the ACA?
CHOOSE TRUTH OVER TRUMP ON RUSSIA
- I’m really concerned about the state of our democracy right now. The news about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia gets worse every day, and now it looks like Trump may have engaged in obstruction of justice by firing Comey. The Department of Justice has appointed a special counsel to lead the investigation into Russia’s interference in our election, but that is not enough. We need an independent commission to get a full and more transparent airing of the facts.
- [For Republican House Members] There is a “discharge petition” that would force a vote on the Protecting our Democracy Act (H.R.356), a bill that would establish an independent commission to investigate Russian interference. I know you also believe in protecting our democracy—this should not be a partisan issue. Will you sign on to the discharge petition?
- [For Senators] Senator Cardin has a bill, S.27, that would establish a commission of independent experts to examine the facts regarding Russia and the 2016 election. Will you commit to co-sponsoring this bill today?
- [For Republican Senators] Only Democratic Senators have signed on to Ben Cardin’s bill so far. This is not a time for partisanship— we are counting on you to put country over party and stand up for our democracy. Will you commit to co-sponsoring this bill today?
- With questions mounting about Trump’s ties to Russia, it is more important now than ever that we hold Donald Trump to his promise to release his tax returns. Until we see Trump’s tax returns, we cannot be certain that foreign governments don’t have leverage over the White House. Every president since Carter has released their tax returns for a simple reason: it demonstrates that they don’t have conflicts of interests. Congress has the power to get Trump’s tax returns… YOU have the power to make that happen. There is a bill called the Presidential Tax Transparency Act (for House Members, H.R. 305, for Senators, S. 26) that would require President Trump and future major party presidential nominees to release the three most recent years of their tax returns. This is a bipartisan bill in the House, with co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. Will you commit to co-sponsoring this bill today?
- [For House Republicans] Your party leadership is refusing to bring a vote on the Presidential Tax Transparency Act. You can force them to bring a vote on it by signing your name to Rep. Anna Eshoo’s discharge petition. Will you commit to making sure we get a vote on Trump’s taxes by signing on to Rep. Eshoo’s discharge petition?
REJECT TRUMP’S BILLIONAIRE BUDGET
- The Trump budget is terrible. Not only does the math not add up, it makes devastating cuts to programs everyday Americans rely on so that Trump can give tax cuts to his billionaire friends. That’s obscene and unacceptable. It’s not enough to say you oppose the Trump budget—anyone with a pulse would say that. Will you commit to protecting and preserving important programs that keep many Americans afloat like Social Security and Social Security Disability, Medicaid, and food stamps?
- It’s absurd that the Trump budget increases funding for the Department of Defense while slashing almost everything else. The Trump budget even threatens funds that could pay the salaries of 35,000 teachers! It doesn’t make sense to make huge cuts to programs that feed the elderly, educate our children, and discover new cures for disease so we can beef up our military even more. Will you commit not to increase defense spending unless we also increase funding to educate our kids, repair our roads and bridges, and pursue life-saving cures?
- 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 any request from the White House to fund the wall and a mass deportation regime?
- The Trump budget makes terrible trade offs to give tax breaks to the rich. For example, the budget would cut $192 billion from food stamps but Trump also wants to eliminate the estate tax—which costs $174 billion. The estate tax only hits the wealthiest families worth over $5.5 million! Assuming Trump is worth the billions he says he is, his family would personally stand to save billions of dollars under that plan. Will you reject giving the richest Americans—and Trump’s family—another tax cut while the middle class gets virtually nothing?
- 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 fishermen 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.]
KEEP THE GUARD RAILS ON WALL STREET
- [For House Members] The House of Representatives is considering a bill called the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) that would deregulate Wall Street, giving them the power to play with our economy like they did before the financial crisis. Will you oppose any bill that dismantles the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and oppose the CHOICE Act?
- [For House Members] The 2008 financial crisis that caused millions of people to lose their jobs, homes, and savings came from Wall Street greed and lack of regulation. The Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) would repeal laws put in place to protect my assets and our financial system. Will you commit to me that you will oppose the CHOICE Act and oppose taking the guard rails off of the financial system?