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Dick Durbin 081409
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin defended his decision Thursday to not participate in town hall meetings regarding health care reform, saying the outbursts that have marred others are "not constructive." (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

SPRINGFIELD -- U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin defended his decision Thursday to not participate in town hall meetings regarding health care reform, saying the outbursts that have marred others are "not constructive."

Durbin, back in his hometown of Springfield for the unveiling of the newest penny honoring Abraham Lincoln, said the yelling, pushing and shoving that has erupted in other parts of the nation are part of a strategy by those opposed to reforms.

"I don't think that really serves the purpose of informing the public and answering their questions honestly," Durbin said. "It doesn't help."

Rather than participate in a town hall-style public session to discuss President Barack Obama's push for an overhaul of health care, Durbin has held six meetings with health care officials.

He said those meetings, including one in Decatur on Wednesday, have led to meaningful and cordial debate.

The disruptions at town hall meetings are part of a strategy, Durbin told reporters.

"They have explicit instructions about how to show up at a town meeting and blow it up, take it over," Durbin said. "That isn't what a town meeting should be. This is too important a topic to leave it to those who only want to show up to shout and shove."

"The people who are showing up at these town meetings are not looking for dialogue. They're looking for diatribe. I don't think that's a productive use of my time," Durbin said.

Durbin isn't alone in not having a town hall meeting. Republican U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville also isn't holding them.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson of Urbana did hold two town hall meetings in Normal and Pontiac. Republican U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock of Peoria earlier participated in some forums.

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