Politics

At LA town hall, Feinstein grilled on health care, Syria and Trump

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California takes questions from reporters after a town hall in South Los Angeles' First AME Church.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California takes questions from reporters after a town hall in South Los Angeles' First AME Church.
Josie Huang/KPCC

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U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein held a town hall meeting in South Los Angeles Thursday, met by a sometimes-raucous crowd of progressives who questioned her ability to fight the Trump administration.

Hundreds filled the pews of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, some blaming Democrats like Feinstein for failing to stop President Trump’s policies in areas like immigration.

"We have said no," Feinstein said. "Everyone of us have voted against every executive order that this president put forward.”

Feinstein was also grilled about her support of U.S. missile strikes on Syria. She said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed the line when his military used chemical weapons, as international inspectors say it has done: "You cannot let children die this way," she said.

Vocal supporters of former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also asked her a couple times whether she would support his single-payer health care bill.

She said no, because it "would be a government takeover of all medicine in the United States," drawing jeers from Sanders' supporters.

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It was the second boisterous crowd to attend a Feinstein town hall this week, the spring break for Congress. On Monday in San Francisco, hecklers and protesters challenged Feinstein on whether she has been tough enough on Trump.

Her reception mirrored what many members of Congress, particularly Republicans, have experienced in meeting with constituents since last year's election. Angry over Trump's positions on a range of issues, including the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood funding, has been driving most of the outrage. 

But Feinstein's reception signals that Democrats are not immune to the unhappiness constituents are feeling about the current state of national affairs. Feinstein was asked later about whether they were taking their anger out on her.

"This is a state that, I think, because it's overwhelmingly Democratic, they're so disappointed in the election," she said. It caused people to be fearful and prompted questions like "what's going to happen, what do I do, what's my life going to be worth in the future?" 

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In Los Angeles, it was not all criticism. Feinstein received warm applause for voicing her support for refugees, environmental policies, and women in politics. "Go, girl, go!" she shouted.

But after the event, Linda Bessin of Burbank said she didn’t get the assurance she wanted that Feinstein could effectively fight Trump.

"I love Dianne Feinstein. I love her so much," said Bessin, a 55-year-old retired insurance claims manager. "But we live in a new time, we live in different rules than what she has served under."

Bessin said she’s ready for a new senator.

But Feinstein isn’t prepared to leave elected office, after serving for 25 years. Asked about running for reelection, the 83-year-old senator told KPCC: "Yeah, I'm ready. I'm always ready for whatever comes down the path."