U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger heads to the Middle East on Saturday to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. They may be a friendlier audience than he found this week at home.
The Charlotte Republican was on National Public Radio on Friday talking about this weeks town hall meeting, where he was confronted by a pair of tea party activists.
At the town hall at Queens University of Charlotte, a man asked Pittenger if he supported an effort spearheaded by GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to defund Obamacare by threatening to shut down the federal government after September.
Easy question, the man said. This is what the tea party wants to know. Will you vote with Mike Lee to defund Obamacare? Yes or no?
Do you want the thoughtful answer? Pittenger replied.
I want yes or no, the man said.
No, Pittenger said, explaining that such a bill would never pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
We need to show the American people we stand for conservative values, a woman shouted to some applause.
The exchange, videotaped by one of the activists, went viral.
One tea party site posted it under the headline Robert Pittenger Says NO to Defunding Obamacare.
The confrontation underscores not only tensions in Pittengers conservative base but the land mines members of Congress encounter when they face voters during their August recess.
Pittenger is no fan of the Affordable Care Act.
He has signed on to 15 bills that would repeal or defund the entire act or parts of it.
But he has drawn the line at shutting down government by voting against the so-called continuing resolution.
While mandatory spending including parts of the Affordable Care Act would continue, he said, collateral damage would cut spending for U.S. troops and other parts of government.
I dont think its realistic that were going to get (Obamacare) defunded out of the Senate, he told the Observer. We have voted to do that in the House.
Pittenger told NPRs Here and Now that confrontations like this weeks dont bother him.
I dont mind people yelling or being concerned, he said. They see our country going down a fiscal course thats totally unsustainable. So theyre upset, and I think they have every right to be upset.
On Saturday, Pittenger will depart for a weeklong trip to the Mideast with a congressional delegation headed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Theyll meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
It wont be Pittengers first meeting with Peres.
In 1996, he brought the then-former Israeli prime minister and Nobel laureate to the Charlotte Foreign Policy Forum. Peres also spoke to students at Charlotte Country Day school.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less