After his aides told media outlets Rubio wouldn't be planning any town hall meetings in Florida during the congressional recess because he was going to Europe, the Republican senator was spotted on video at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital on Thursday avoiding a protester who asked him why he wasn't showing up to citizen-organized town halls, including meetings held in Tampa and Miami.
After that snafu, Rubio probably thought he was in the clear. Alas, no. A video posted online shows that protesters followed the senator to a class he teaches at Florida International University to yell at him some more that same day.
The video, recorded by FIU sophomore Lai Eng, shows a group of people yelling at Rubio in the classroom, with one man shouting, "Is he going to cut Medicaid? Is he going to cut Medicaid?!" Eng, who is a political science and international relations student in the class, says the protest started after the class ended.
Protesters then came in to talk to the senator about health care reform and handed him a large "blank check" that included issues such as social security and the environment. Rubio can be seen trying to engage with demonstrators and answering their questions about health care reform.
"I want you to be able to control your health care spending, and use it to purchase any kind of health insurance you want," Rubio tells a demonstrator in the video. "If you don't have enough money to pay for it on your own, then you get a tax credit."
At one point, one of the protesters tells Rubio he is very articulate on the issue of health care reform and should hold a town hall.
"You don't want a town hall," Rubio tells him, shaking his head. "You want to go to a place where you can scream." After more debate, Rubio spent the last three minutes of the first video taking photos with students.
Previously, Rubio's press secretary Matt Wolking responded to an Orlando Weekly story about those citizen-led town halls, saying that organizers were "deceiving people by falsely advertising" town halls that Rubio's office had not set up.
"The protesters – some of whom failed to show up for meetings they scheduled with our staff – continue to fundraise off of it even though we informed them days ago Senator Rubio will not be there," Wolking said in an email to Orlando Weekly. "We have been fully accessible and responsive to constituents, and our staff has already met with dozens of these liberal activists at our offices across Florida."
Floridians demanding a town hall are still, in fact, constituents, whether or not they are also "liberal activists." Sarah Dohl, a spokesperson for Indivisible, a group of former congressional staffers who created a manual of "best practices for making Congress listen," says it's the job of elected officials to listen to their constituents, even if that may sometimes involve criticism.