John Murtha is a backer of universal, single-payer, government-run health care. He serves as one of Nancy Pelosi’s chief lieutenants in the House of Representatives, and she endorsed his bid to serve as House Majority Leader – effectively her right hand man. Yet despite Murtha’s power in Congress, and the importance of the debate over health care, he is ignoring calls in his district to meet with constituents. So far there’s no explanation from Murtha of what else is so important, but I’m willing to take a guess.

But while nationalized health care, ethics charges, the economic slowdown, and the early failures of the Obama administration may make Murtha reluctant to talk to the people he works for, a Republican challenger is stepping up to the plate. I’ve just received notice that Tim Burns today sent Murtha the following letter:

Dear Congressman Murtha:

Congressional Town Hall Meetings that have been held around the country and the ones hosted right here in Pennsylvania by U.S. Senators Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, demonstrate the growing concerns that voters have over President Obama and Congressional efforts to reform our nation’s health care system. While people agree that reform is needed, it is important that Congress and the President get it right because this is an issue that at some impacts the lives of everyone.

Part of making sure that real reform is accomplished in a responsible way that meets the needs of Americans is to have public input from constituents. I am disappointed that you have chosen not to hold public town hall meetings during the August recess to hear from your constituents. I know the temperature is hot both inside and outside the town halls, but voters need to have their concerns addressed and hear why you support a single payer system and how that will change their access to quality health care. As reported in the media, you have conducted tele-town hall meetings, but as the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat cited in its editorial on August 18th, “A conference call can be controlled, with calls screened and tough questions avoided.”

This issue is too important for the people of Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District not to have their voices heard in a public forum. I will be hosting a Health Care Town Hall to give voters the opportunity to have their concerns heard on Thursday, August 27th at 7:00 p.m. at the Johnstown Masonic Temple. The event is open to the public, and I invite you to attend in person to hear from the people. I will give you the opportunity to explain your position and address their concerns if you choose to participate. If you cannot attend, I will be taping the forum and forwarding a copy of it to you for review.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this meeting or have a member of your staff confirm your attendance by calling the number on the attached sheet. I hope that you will make time on your schedule either on August 27th or at another time during this recess period to hear from the people you represent in Congress through a face-to-face public town hall meeting.

If you reside in Burns’ district, feel free to attend. Who knows – there’s always the slight chance you’ll get to talk to your Congressman – although I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

If you want to know more about Tim Burns, you can visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or watch this video taken at a Johnstown Tea Party:

And one small note to Tim Burns and his staff: we’re all in favor of fixing the problems of American health care with commonsense, patient-centered reforms. But while you can call the statist, single-payer, one-size-fits-all agenda of Murtha and Obama many things, you should not call it reform.