martes, 22 de agosto de 2017

Ryan faces heat back home in Wisconsin

Speaker Paul Ryan, who rarely chides President Donald Trump, criticized the president for his response last week to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

Sky high expectations have proven a curse for the Republican House leader.

 The pride of Wisconsin got an earful back home.

House Speaker Paul Ryan remains undeniably popular in his home state. He routed a Donald Trump-inspired primary challenger last year to win reelection. Yet the shortcomings of an all-Republican Washington this year have drawn disapproval from voters across the political spectrum, and it was all too evident at a nationally televised town hall here on Monday night.

“I had high hopes since you're the speaker and my congressional representative. How have you not been successful up until this point as a leader to get this done like you promised?” asked Kevin Mathewson of Kenosha, pressing Ryan on why Republicans haven’t passed an Obamacare repeal bill despite party control of Congress.

Others at the CNN town hall were even more pointed when they weren't on camera.

“Ryan needs to deliver on his leadership skills,” said Zachary Rodriguez, another Kenosha Republican and a political science major, in a brief interview before the event. “He needs to show especially his constituents who voted for him and gave him the job, he can get it done.”

In this small southeast Wisconsin town on Lake Michigan, the speaker received the same kind of treatment as other congressional Republican facing unhappy crowds at town halls. In some ways, his powerful position in Washington makes it worse because he controls the 240-strong House Republican majority.

While the town hall was carefully choreographed, packed with about 300 well-behaved attendees, interviews with constituents who have voted for Ryan showed many were disquieted by the GOP’s failure to deliver on key campaign promises.

Ryan blamed the Senate, as he's done before. He told Mathewson that in the House, “we did pass” an Obamacare replacement but the Senate failed to act.

"We crafted a plan, we ran on the plan, and then we passed that plan in May,” he said. “Who wasn't disappointed that the Senate failed to pass that bill by one vote the other day? We all are.”

For some, though, that answer isn’t good enough. As he stood in line for the event, Rodriguez said point-blank that he didn’t want to hear Ryan blame the Senate: “Don’t pass the buck onto the Senate and say, ‘We did our job,’” he pleaded.

To be sure, Ryan is still extremely popular with Republicans here in the 1st District. All but one Republican interviewed for this story said he or she would vote for Ryan again, and others used adjectives such as “honest,” “tenacious” and “hard-working” to describe him.

Some, like Franksville native Bill Jaeck, even parroted Ryan’s talking points about House-passed bills stalling in the Senate.

But there’s a sinking feeling among some Ryan supporters that the man they’ve known and voted in for years is not the superman they’d hoped.

“Being speaker of the House has become a setback. … It’s basically ruined his career for a while, because he’s forced to do many unpopular things,” said Marlene Lamberton of Caledonia, a longtime supporter.

The retired manufacturing employee said she’s worried that her fellow Republicans “blame him” for the lack of GOP accomplishments and that Ryan's popularity is declining. “He’s forced to make a lot of compromises," Lamberton said. "He’s trying to keep his promises but he’s bumping up against some wall.”

Ryan’s town hall at the Racine Theater Guild wasn’t like most GOP town halls. Jake Tapper moderated the talk, carried live on CNN. Some Ryan constituents who wanted to attend weren’t happy that they were locked out— particularly since it was his first town hall since the fall of 2015.

“Why would you not hold a town hall for all of your constituents as opposed to this small, staged event where only a few are allowed in?” asked Kenosha resident Jeanne Lepp, a retired teacher and Democrat who wanted to attend the event but could not.

Ryan talked up legislation the House had passed, including a bill to curb opioid addiction and overdoses. He discussed at length the need for tax reform and predicted it would be “far easier for us to do tax reform than it was, say, for health care reform.”

“It's a matter of economic growth. … But also, it's fairness,” Ryan said. “What we're proposing on the individual side is: Get rid of the loopholes, get rid of the carve-outs, just lower people's tax rates. Let you keep more of your own money.”

The night started with constituents pressing Ryan to push back on Trump’s Charlottesville response. Ryan, who rarely chides Trump, obliged by saying Trump “messed up” and “could have done better.”

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