MERIDIAN — A loud, passionate and sometimes ornery crowd filled Meridian Middle School Tuesday night to quiz U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador on topics ranging from President Trump’s tax returns to health care and flaws in the nation’s immigration policies and efforts in Congress to reform those laws.

For Labrador, a four-term Republican from Idaho’s 1st Congressional District, the town hall was the first since last September and the first opportunity for voters to raise concerns since Trump took office in January.

Before the meeting got underway, people lined up and waited for three hours to get inside the school auditorium. Several raised concerns about the policies and decisions made so far by the Trump administration — from the expensive and frequent weekend trips to Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, to questions about Trump’s ties with Russia during the campaign.

For one woman who addressed Labrador, the time has come for lawmakers to demand the President release his tax returns.

“I want you to do your job and demand that Trump release his tax returns,” one woman said. “He may be making economic policy to benefit his own pocketbook.”

Labrador said there’s been no evidence of any wrongdoing in the business decisions being made by the Trump administration.

“I don’t think that there’s anything in the law that requires the president to release his tax returns,” Labrador said.

Legislative and FBI investigations, he added, have found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Another woman, who was in tears as she approached the microphone, hoisted a sign stating: “I am a constituent and I am pissed.”

“Where the hell were you when Trump was getting away with the inflammatory things he was saying, how he openly mocked a reporter?” she asked. “The day after the election, I had to explain to my stepson how we elected a monster.”

Labrador countered by saying he didn’t support Trump during the primaries. But as Election Day approached, Labrador said he clearly viewed Trump as a better option than Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“There are things that you find objectionable about (Trump’s) presidency, ... just like there were things that other people found equally objectionable about the old president,” Labrador said.

Labrador also defended some of the decisions made by Trump and his team so far, though he admitted he would like to see the president show more discretion when using Twitter.

A few people expressed disappointment with how polarized and divided the nation has become. Yet at times, the atmosphere of Tuesday night’s meeting reflected that division, with the crowd often erupting in boos or shouting at each other. Still, the crowd and the congressman managed to keep emotions mostly in check, enabling the event to continue for nearly three hours.

Labrador kept a calm tone and joked about how popular he was that night. He said he still enjoys holding town halls and plans to hold more in other parts of the state in coming weeks, including an event scheduled Monday night in Nampa.

HEALTH CARE

Many who spoke voiced concern about access to affordable health care.

Labrador reiterated his support for repealing the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature policy achievement. But he said the latest Republican-led proposal to repeal and replace the ACA wasn’t the right solution.

“I don’t believe that health care should be provided by the government,” Labrador said. “But I do believe that people should have access to health care.”

That answer provoked a response from a woman who stated: “I have access to buy a Mercedes. The only problem is, I can’t afford a Mercedes. Many people can’t afford decent health care if it is not provided by the government.”

Another constituent added: “You seem very concerned about the well-being of children before they’re born, but I wonder what happens to that compassion going forward, in terms of the positive changes you could make in the areas of health care, education and parental leave.”

Labrador, who is pro-life and supports defunding Planned Parenthood, said communities should be more involved in the responsibility to care for people.

“I think we need to stop relying so much on the government and start relying more on each other,” he said.

EDUCATION, ENVIRONMENT

On questions about education, Labrador said he supports eliminating the U.S. Department of Education and giving more power to the states to set education policy and goals.

“I want to see more of the money going to the classroom and less money going to administration,” he said.

Regarding environmental regulations, Labrador said climate change is real, but it’s unclear if climate change is a man-made problem. He also responded by saying it’s not the government’s role to meddle in the issue.

MIDDLE EAST

When a constituent shared his worries about America’s recent missile strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, Labrador said the nation is involved in a war in Afghanistan. He said Trump’s decision to authorize the military to do what is necessary to end the war was appropriate.

“I’m grateful that Trump is showing some spine,” said Labrador, adding that Trump should have sought approval from Congress to fire missiles in Syria. “I’m grateful that he is showing the world that there is new leadership.”

IMMIGRATION, REFUGEES

Labrador said he supports a refugee program, but the problem is “we’re not properly vetting the refugees who are coming into the United States.”

The government must reform and modernize its immigration policy, he said, which should first and foremost be fair to U.S. citizens.

“Is enforcing immigration law xenophobic? No,” Labrador said. “If you’re here illegally, you don’t have a right to be in the United States.”

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