Our Views: Detached from his district
Paul Ryan, your constituents have waited long enough.
It's time for a town hall, even if it's only the telephone kind. Something. Anything to show your constituents that you—not only your staff—are hearing their concerns.
Sure, it's not easy being a Republican these days. We've heard the stories about constituents chewing out their representatives over their promises to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Many people at these town halls are rude. They boo and interrupt. We wouldn't blame you for not wanting to face that. California Rep. Tom McClintock had to be escorted out of a town hall in February. Ugly scene.
If the town hall isn't for you, the telephone version works well because you can control who's talking and when. Sure, it's a dodge, it's not as good as hearing from your constituents face-to-face, but it's better than nothing.
Your spokesman, Ian Martorana, told us you planned to hold a telephone town hall in March, but that never happened. Now he says you're looking to schedule one in the “next three to four weeks but potentially sooner.”
Our advice is to shoot for “sooner.”
Why are we so insistent about holding town halls? Because they're especially important during the transition from a Democratic to Republican presidency and the resultant policy upheaval. Voters in the 1st Congressional District deserve the opportunity to question their representative in a public setting to gauge his intentions. That you failed to hold a town hall before unveiling a monumental change in health care law was—to be blunt—galling.
As The Gazette Editorial Board, we've endorsed your candidacy many times, but that doesn't mean your proposals don't deserve scrutiny, even among your most ardent fans. Whether you are House speaker or a freshman lawmaker, you must explain and defend your positions.
Based on the feedback we've received about the direction of Congress and the failed GOP health care bill (which we've heard you're interested in possibly resurrecting) here are some questions you might face:
—A Congressional Budget Office analysis found your party's health care bill would hit older Americans hardest, raising their health insurance premiums as much as 750 percent. Why should older Americans support your bill?
—Throughout your career, you've made free trade a pillar of your platform. But when President Trump scrapped the Trans-Pacific Partnership, you backed his decision even though you previously supported this trade pact. Why?
—What is your position on President Trump's proposed budget? Do you support his proposed cuts to programs that affect your district, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative?
—Congressional Democrats are calling on Trump to release his tax returns as part of any deal to reform the nation's tax codes. Why shouldn't Trump be required to release his tax returns given his family's vast business dealings (and please don't tell us because of an audit)?
—Why didn't you debate your opponent in the last election, and will you commit to debating your opponent in 2018?
Wow, those are some poignant questions, but don’t fear them. Answer them.
That’s all you can do. And if some constituents don’t like your responses, well, that’s why we have elections.