John Hockenberry: Congressman, thanks for being with us.
Congressman Eric Massa: Good morning. How are you this morning?
JH: How challenging has it been in these health care town meetings and what,
if any, sort of constructive debate has come out of it, from your perspective?
EM: Well, I've actually been very encouraged. And local press, and even some
of the national media, have reported on some successes of our town hall meetings. I take a
different model. I usually stay until the very last question is asked, and you can hear I'm a
little bit hoarse this morning.
JH: I can hear it.
EM: We had another town hall meeting last night — about 130 people,
left about 10:15pm or so. The clip you just played came from a meeting we had. I had a
elevated voice because we didn't have a microphone system — it hadn't been set up. We
had to move outside. But what I've found is these passions that are running are pretty real.
And that people across party lines, and mine is a very rural district, are traveling great
distances to participate and they just want answers, and this is a very complex subject.
JH: Is yelling a good way of getting answers, and are you sick of being
yelled at even though you're interested in the debate?
EM: I get paid to be yelled at. So, it's OK. My job is to put myself out
there and listen as much as possible and try to keep the group respectful of each other. They
don't have to be respectful of me. That's not part of the job title. But I do very much try to
keep people respectful of each other. And yeah, a lot of people have yelled at me but, a lot
of people have engaged in constructive feedback and some pretty pointed questions. I work
very hard to be able to come home and have these town hall meetings. I'm one of the guys who
did not want to see us vote in July and I think it's going to help, if this is the right
thing to do — the more we talk about it, the more people will agree with it and help us
make it happen.
JH: Are you getting good at sorting out the pure hecklers from the people
who do have, you are saying, have these real passions and concern that their health care is
going to be affected adversely?
EM: Well, they kind of sort themselves out. I mean, I don't have to do it.
They kind of stand out on their own. And sure, some people, and it's been a minority, show up
just for the purpose of throwing some pretty off-the-wall stuff out there. But I have found
that it is pretty self regulating. And I've been doing a lot of these town hall meetings.
Now, I don't know the exact number, we've done more than 40 — I know, four-zero —
since I became a member. And I think about 10 of those in just the past 10 days.
JH: You say you want to do 144. Very quickly, before you go: are you a
yeller, Congressman Massa, in your life?
EM: Well, you know I was in the Navy for 24 years.
JH: Alright, that's my answer. Representative Eric Massa represents New
York's 29th congressional district. Thank you sir.