Representative revives meetings abandoned by Ryan

JANESVILLE

Rep. Bryan Steil held his first-ever public listening session in Janesville on Monday morning, showing one major difference from his predecessor as 1st District representative.

Steil’s policy ideas did not offer any stark differences from now-retired Rep. Paul Ryan as Steil spoke to an audience of about 40 in the Janesville City Council Chambers.

But Steil’s open-to-anyone listening session contrasted with Ryan, who stopped holding such “town halls” during his last three years in Congress.

The Janesville stop was one of six—one in each of the district’s counties—that the local Republican started Friday.

Steil stuck with his support of President Donald Trump on a border wall but seemed to differ from the president slightly on climate change.

While Trump has expressed skepticism of climate change theory, Steil said he believes it’s real and that human actions have caused it.

Steil was in line with the president, however, in pointing to other countries as problems. Steil said the Paris climate accord, from which Trump withdrew, failed to hold India and China to account for their air pollution.

After the meeting, Steil said he believes the United States can and should work with China and India to reduce their emissions, even after withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

Steil calmly listened to a tearful ex-prisoner apologize for his crime and talk about how hard it has been to support his children.

Steil said government should make sure those who have paid their debts to society are able to get jobs and support themselves.

Susan Johnson of Janesville offered Steil a box of green, heart-shaped cookies and asked him to pledge support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Endangered Species Act.

Johnson, a board member of the Green-Rock Audubon Society, said the previous Congress would not reauthorize them.

Steil said he would look into why the laws were not reauthorized and said he’s an “avid outdoorsman” and “a big biker (bicyclist) and cross-country skier.”

Kay Deupree, a former Janesville City Council member and member of the League of Women Voters, asked Steil if he knows the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty and asked how those words jibe with building a wall.

The poem on the statue starts with the words “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …”

Steil did not address the words on the statue, but he said the country needs to “properly secure the southern border” and also fix a “broken immigration system.”

Steil said the border must be secured first so that officials have a good idea of who is entering the country before the system can be fixed.

Deupree asked if Steil’s plan would include “some work with the countries where the people are coming from that we have not been the most responsible in … interacting with.”

Steil said a small number of Central American countries are “becoming quasi-failed states,” where drugs and gangs are causing “significant distress,” pushing people to leave those countries to enter the United States.

Steil said the United States should address those problems, but he didn’t say how

Members of the local Fellowship of Reconciliation asked Steil to support House Resolution 142, which would remove United States support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. Steil said he would look into it.

The session was calm on all sides, and Steil remarked that it was “spectacularly civil and polite and kind of Janesville-like.

“I got cookies,” he added, as people laughed with him. “This like a completely Janesville conversation.”

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