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CNN Live Event/Special

Town Hall Meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-WI). Aired 9:30-10:30p ET

Aired August 21, 2017 - 21:32   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Good evening. We're live in Racine, Wisconsin, for a CNN town hall with the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

I'm Jake Tapper. We're about to get the speaker's first reaction to President Trump's address. The announcement on American troops, of course, comes during a tumultuous time at home for the president, for the Republican Party, and for the nation.

Tonight, we are in Speaker Ryan's congressional district. And his constituents will have the chance to ask him questions about a range of topics. Please join me now in welcoming the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Hey, hey! Hey, everybody! How are you doing? Hey!

TAPPER: How are you?

RYAN: Welcome to Racine.

TAPPER: Yeah, it's nice. It's nice.

RYAN: Good to have you here. Hey, everybody. Hey! How're you doing?

TAPPER: So, we're going to get to a whole range of topics. But first of all, obviously, President Trump just gave a very important address about Afghanistan and the way forward there. He didn't give any troop numbers, but we're told by senior administration officials it should be about 3,900 additional troops. What's your reaction to the new policy?

RYAN: Well, I've been briefed on it already. So (inaudible) policy. I was briefed on it a couple of times.

I'm pleased with the decision. I'm actually pleased with the way he went about making this decision. It was described to me recently by one of our military planners that, for the last 16 years, we -- our comprehensive Afghanistan strategy was 16 one-year strategies. So we have had a convoluted strategy with respect to Afghanistan.

And I think it's high time we had a more comprehensive strategy. And there are a couple of points that he made that I totally agree (inaudible) strategy, not a timetable (inaudible) I think it telegraphs to our enemies to wait us out.

And I think we have to recognize the fact -- and here's why it matters to us as Americans, why this is in our national security interest. We cannot allow another safe haven for terrorists to materialize again. Look at what was happening in Mosul, in Syria, with ISIS. We can't afford to allow that to happen again. And that is why this matters to us.

And I think we've learned some good lessons in Mosul, in Syria, lessons that are being applied right now. And I think they're carrying over those lessons learned to Afghanistan.

So I also think what I heard tonight for the first time -- this is what I wasn't briefed on -- is I think I heard a new Trump strategy, or a doctrine, so to speak. Principled realism I think is how he described it.

So I think it's important when it comes to our blood and our treasure and soldiers and our safety that we actually have a comprehensive doctrine that we apply. And I think he spent the last six months working on that. And I think that you just heard a big flavor of it tonight.

I've been to Bagram. I've been to Kandahar. I've been to Helmand, to Kabul. And I have seen what our soldiers, our sailors, our airmens, our Marines do there. It is incredible. The sacrifice that they've given for us -- 235 from Wisconsin alone -- it's amazing. And I want to make sure that it is not for naught, that it is for a good reason, which is to preserve peace and security for us here at home so that we don't allow terrorists to have a safe haven to come and strike us again.

TAPPER: And while we're on the subject of honoring our brave servicemembers, I do want to take a moment to honor two of your constituents who have served in Afghanistan who are here this evening. If we could just get a quick round of applause for Staff Sergeant Joe Davis and Sergeant Blake Buchanan, if the two of you could stand.


Thank you for your service. And the people listening at home, that applause is not just for these two fine gentlemen, but for everybody who has served in America's longest war. Blake, you had a question for the speaker.

QUESTION: Yes. Sir, the war in Afghanistan has been going on for 17 years. Still going strong. My deployment was in Afghanistan in 2010, the whole year and then some. But the important question is, I was looking for more of an end date, hope.

RYAN: Yeah.

QUESTION: And if so, what's the continuance plan for an actual end date? Because it would seem like we're going to be continuing for quite some time.

RYAN: Where were you? What unit were you in? What...

QUESTION: I was with an engineer unit.

RYAN: Army?

QUESTION: Army. I did 12 years.

RYAN: Were you in RC East?

QUESTION: I was in RC South.

RYAN: RC South?

QUESTION: We actually moved -- well, engineers were always out.

RYAN: Yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: So we lived in a lot of places, moved around a lot. I was attached with the Denver unit out of Colorado. And mostly Kandahar area, Howz-E Madad. Really small camps. We would build them up to livable and then we'd move on to the next place that's not livable, so the next people can have a place to...

RYAN: In the FOBs?

QUESTION: Basically, in COBs, all of it small.

TAPPER: The question -- thank you so much for your service.

RYAN: End date.

TAPPER: The question about an end date I think is on a lot -- the minds of a lot of people.

RYAN: Well, first of all. Thank you. Thank you for what you've done for us. You, by going and risking your life, is making us more safe. And so I just got to tell you, on behalf of all of us here in Wisconsin, thank you for what you've done for our country.


In my travels there, I kept hearing the same thing: "They have the time, we have the watches." Meaning: They will wait us out. And if they believe that we have some end date, some timetable, then they will wait us out and then they will come back and fill that vacuum with terror.

And that is why I think it's important that we don't telegraph -- I think that was a strategic mistake the last president made, that we shouldn't telegraph our timetable when we're leaving so that we can actually make it conditions-based, which is what is the purpose of being there. The purpose of being there is to make sure that we don't have another 9/11, that the Taliban doesn't give Al Qaida safe haven to plan and get money and come and have a terrorist attack against us.

So I think it's very important that we not do that. But at the same time, like the president said, no blank check. You've got to make sure that we prosecute this to the end so that we can bring reconciliation.

I really think the end game here is that the Ghani government -- that's the president of -- Dr. Ghani, their government and the Taliban ultimately reconcile. But I don't think the Taliban will come to the table and reconcile in peace if they don't think we are committed to seeing this through, if they think that they don't have a chance. That is what I think was important in the decision that the president just made tonight.

TAPPER: Obviously, the big news over the last nine or so days has been the horrific violence that we all saw in Charlottesville and also President Trump's reaction to it, including the comments he made this evening.

You released a statement on Facebook today saying, quote, "There is no moral relativism when it comes to neo-Nazis," and quote, "We cannot allow the slightest ambiguity on such a fundamental question."

I want to bring in another constituent of yours, Eric Kramer. He grew up in Racine County. He's a financial analyst. Eric?

QUESTION: Hello, Speaker Ryan. You've come out and forcefully condemned bigotry and racism, but you have not come out and -- oh, I'm sorry. Are you willing to come out and forcefully condemn Trump's statement, such as Bob Corker and Mitt Romney have?

RYAN: Yeah, so let me -- let me get into this. Man, I was looking forward to this moment right here that Eric had this conversation with you.

First of all, the president and I spoke on Monday morning about the need for moral clarity, about the need at this very difficult time in our country to have a morally clear message, to absolutely and singularly condemn this repulsive bigotry. He agreed with that. And he did that later that day on Monday. And I thought his speech on Monday was pitch perfect.

Then, the next day, I think it was in New York on an infrastructure press conference, in answer to a question, I think he made comments that were much more morally ambiguous, much more confusing. And I do think he could have done better. I think he needed to do better.

I actually think what he did two days ago in commending the peaceful protests against the hate in Boston was a good start. And I think just what I heard, I don't know, 25 minutes ago, was exactly what a president needs to say and what we needed to hear. So I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday, when it -- it -- it sounded like a moral equivocation, or at the very least moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity.

Let me just back up for a second and make one or two other points. It should not be about the president. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This shouldn't be about some voting Congress or some partisan issue. This is so much more important than that. This issue speaks to humanity, our country, our society, our culture.

And so the point that I think is bigger than getting into a spat with other people, on -- for whatever reason, it doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat, it doesn't matter if you're pro-life or pro- choice, it doesn't matter if you want to be drilling for oil or leave it in the ground or you want big government or smaller government, every single one of us needs to unify and stand up against this repulsive, this repugnant, vile bigotry. That is so important.


And so that's the kind of unity and that's the kind of moral clarity that each and every one of us need to display, including -- and, of course -- the president. I think we heard that this evening.

But all of us have got to do more. What I worry about in this situation is that we get numbed to this, that we sort of start to lose our sense of outrage against these white supremacists and these neo- Nazis, that we see it over and over on TV and we think, oh, yeah, just that again.

No, no, no.


RYAN: But my point is, we've got to keep our moral outrage, and we all have to stand up and speak out against this kind of bigotry so that it is never normalized, so that we don't give these people oxygen that they're looking for.

They are the fringe. Let's keep them at the fringe. And that's why I think we have to have this moral clarity. And I'm pleased with the things he just said tonight to add clarity to the confusion that I think he gave us on Tuesday.

TAPPER: I think the issue that Eric was expressing is the reluctance to criticize President Trump for specifically saying things like very fine people were marching in that rally that had swastikas and anti- Semitic signs and...


There were not any very fine people in that rally.

RYAN: That's right. That's right. That's right.


TAPPER: And it wasn't morally ambiguous. It was morally wrong...

RYAN: Yeah. Yeah, so...

TAPPER: ... what the president said.

(APPLAUSE) RYAN: Let me just add to what you just said. I have a hard time believing, if you're standing in a crowd to protest something and you see, you know, all these anti-Semitic slogans, and the "Hi, Hitlers" and swastikas, that you're good with that and you're a good person.

TAPPER: Right.

RYAN: You're not a good person if you're there. That's just so very clear. So I totally agree with that. And that's why I think, yeah, it's -- it was -- it was not only morally ambiguous, it was -- it was equivocating. And that was wrong. That's why I think it was very, very important that he -- that he -- he has since then cleared that up. And I think it was important that he did that tonight.

TAPPER: You think he's done enough?

RYAN: I think we -- I don't think any of us have done enough. I think we all have a lot more to do. I think we all got a lot more to do in this area, and I think we have a lot more to do to make sure that these guys don't get normalized.


TAPPER: The last time we did a town hall, you told me backstage that one of the great things growing up in Janesville was what a great community it was and you knew a whole bunch of people, including the Feingold family, the son of which grew up to be Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, and...


Roughly a third of the audience. And that's...

RYAN: Our families were friends for three generations, actually. He and my dad were good friends.

TAPPER: And how you didn't agree with him on many things, but he was a good person. You might recognize his sister, Rabbi Dena Feingold, who leads a temple in Kenosha. Rabbi?

QUESTION: Hi, Speaker Ryan. Given our shared upbringing, I'm sure that you are as shocked as I am at the brazen expressions, public expressions of white supremacy and anti-Semitism that our country has seen since the November election.

And our synagogue in Kenosha has had to have extra security hired and we've asked the Kenosha Police Department to help us out so that people can feel comfortable coming to our synagogue to gather.

And so following up on what's been asked already, Speaker Ryan, as the leader of the congressional Republicans, I'd like to ask you what concrete steps that you will take to hold the president accountable when his words and executive actions either implicitly or explicitly condone, if not champion, racism and xenophobia. For example, will you support the resolution for censure?


RYAN: First of all, Dena's mom and dad, Sylvia and Leon, were close friends of my mom and dad's. Our families have known each other for a long, long time. And we are family friends.

But I just disagree with you. I will not support that. I think that would be -- that would be so counterproductive. If we descend this issue into some partisan hack-fest, into some bickering against each other, and demean it down to some political food fight, what good does that do to unify this country?


We want to unify this country against this kind of hatred and this kind of bigotry.

So I think that would be the absolutely worst thing we should do. You just heard me say what I thought about what he said on Tuesday and what I thought he said on Monday and just a half-hour ago. The point is, all of us have got to strive to do better, and more importantly, I mean, that right there was sort of conflict of one party against another party. I think what we need to do is each of us drop our guard, start listening to each other, and having a good civil dialogue with each other about how we can improve the dialogue in this country and make sure that we can unify against this kind of vile, repugnant bigotry.

Look, this country is founded upon this beautiful American idea, the condition of our birth doesn't determine the outcome of our lives. We are endowed by our creator to inalienable rights. This idea that a human being, someone is intrinsically more superior than another one is a repugnant, repulsive idea that strikes against everything we believe in and stand for in this country.

And you don't have to be a Democrat or Republican to believe that. Heck, you don't even have to be religious to believe that! You just have to be a good person. That's what these men fought for in Afghanistan. That's who we are.

And the last thing I think we should do is descend into some fight against each other when we should be unifying ourselves and calling out bigotry when we see it and we hear it and never getting right with it and always standing up and opposing it peacefully.

TAPPER: If I could just ask a follow on behalf of the rabbi, which is -- she just told that your constituents are not necessarily -- or at least don't feel safe necessarily going to synagogue in Kenosha because of, at least part, this rise in hateful white supremacy that -- that has been a problem for a long time but has been heightened in recent years. Is a Facebook post enough?

RYAN: No, I think all of us have a lot more to do on this, like I just said. But more importantly, I think the Internet has given these guys fuel. I think the Internet has given these people, who are fringe, oxygen. And I think every single one of us have more to do to make sure that we deny them their oxygen and this fuel. And so whether there are laws that need to be passed to improve this,

that may be the case. But things that disunite us, the things that divide us, so that we can make sure that we unify, this -- this is beyond a bill in Congress, a party. It's beyond politics. This is our society. This is our culture. This is our values.

And so that's the point, I'm saying. If you're making it about people against the president, Republicans against Democrat, this bill or that bill, we are demeaning this issue, and we need to raise it to the point where we are all, 100 percent of us, unified in confining these fringe elements to the fringes in trying to deny them the oxygen that they're -- that they're getting, where people are afraid to go to a synagogue in Kenosha.

TAPPER: But if people who are applauding the president are these white supremacists and the people who are cringing after his remarks, like the ones on Tuesday, are the congregants of that synagogue in Kenosha or the Sikh temple in your congressional district where there was a horrific hate crime incident in 2010, doesn't it need to be -- is it not bigger than something that's partisan to say people need to stand up and say more when the president does it? Forget his party for a second. He's giving aid and comfort to people who are fans of losing, discredited, hateful ideologies.

RYAN: Oh, I don't -- I don't -- I don't think...


TAPPER: The people who applauded his remarks on Tuesday were David Duke and Richard Spencer.

RYAN: Yeah, that's right. That's why I said, those remarks -- he messed up on Tuesday. He was right on Monday. And he was right just about an hour ago. I think we're -- he was wrong on Tuesday.

TAPPER: When he was reading from...

RYAN: Yeah, I think he...

TAPPER: ... from TelePrompTers, he was right.

RYAN: I think -- I think he messed up on Tuesday.


So, let me say it this way. It is very, very important that we not make this a partisan food fight. It is very important that we unify in condemning this kind of violence, in condemning this kind of hatred. And to make this us against them, Republicans against Democrats, pro-Trump, anti-Trump, that is a big mistake for our country, and that will demean the value of this important issue.

TAPPER: Do you think, as Mitt Romney, your former running mate, or I guess you were his former running mate, which -- however that works, Mitt Romney said President Trump needs to apologize in order...

RYAN: I just think he needs to do better. And I think he just did today.

TAPPER: Speaking of that horrific hate crime incident at the Sikh temple in 2012, when the white supremacist attacked, right here in this congressional district, killing six people, I want to bring in Pardeep Kaleka. His father founded that temple and, sadly, he was one of those killed during the attack. Pardeep?

QUESTION: Thank you. As you know, a few weeks ago, we commemorated the five-year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. This was one of the deadliest hate attacks that this country has ever seen, committed by the hands of a known affiliated white supremacist.

Wade Page, the shooter in this incident, was not only a white supremacist, but he was also ex-military, he was well known to the SPLC, the ADL, and the FBI. Despite all that, he was able to legally purchase a firearm and three extended clips six days before the incident.

What my question is, is what are we doing to prevent and intervene in the growth of -- in the growth of far-right -- far-right extremism -- I caught myself -- far-right extremism and white supremacist sympathizers?

RYAN: I'd say there's a couple things. First of all, I remember you. I remember meeting you at your dad's funeral. And you -- and you know you have my condolences. I've been working with your community to make sure that the kind of bigotry that you have experienced -- and I know your community's experienced it -- and what I was especially pleased in Oak Creek is how this community has just poured out its support with the Sikh community and how the Sikh community was so forgiving. It -- just like Heather Heyer's family, they just called for healing and forgiveness. And you set such a beautiful example five years ago as you do today.

Sam Lenda and Brian Murphy, the two officers who stopped that shooting, who I know you know, Sam and Brian, they were heroic and they stopped that shooting after these deaths, are heroes in Oak Creek, our police officers who were the ones who were involved in that.

I'd say two things. Number one, you've got to -- we've got to do a better job of making sure that criminals don't get guns or that people who are suspected of terrorism, like domestic terrorism, don't get guns.

Just like we saw yesterday, Heather Heyer was killed by an act of domestic terrorism. So this...


This fits into that category. So I think we had to do a better job of making sure that terrorists do not get guns. We also have to make sure that we protect our Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens, so there's always a balance when you discuss these types of things. We passed mental health reform just last December. And in that, we

wanted to make sure that people who had mental problems were not getting guns, so we always have to make sure that those who are not supposed to get guns don't get guns, including people who are -- you know, who are domestic terrorists. But we have to make sure that we are keeping the constitutionally right to -- to bear arms intact for people. And that's why we have a rule of law, judicial process, that must be followed.

TAPPER: Our next question comes from Tom Sattler. He's a grandfather and senior vice president of marketing at a community bank here. Tom?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for being here tonight. As a grandfather of a 3-year-old, our family tries to teach her love, understanding, tolerance, and to stand up against bullying. Knowing that you're a devoted father yourself, how do you reconcile the words and the actions of the current administration when talking to your children?


RYAN: Pretty big question. You want to be a little more specific about that? You want to be a little more specific?

TAPPER: Do you want to be more specific?

QUESTION: Well, just in general, social media, in bullying and things of that nature.

RYAN: Oh, you mean tweeting. Ha, OK. I was trying to understand where you were coming from.

I want this president to succeed. You know why I want this president to succeed? Because I want our country to succeed. And that's why I work very closely with this president to make sure that he succeeds so our country succeeds.

We have a very important agenda that we're trying to put in place to improve people's lives, to lift the economy, to make it healthier, to fix our military, to close the skills gap that Brian Albrecht (ph) over here has been talking about. So these are the things that we're working on. Those are the things that my kids see me working on.

Now, when it comes to leading by example, we do this ourselves. And so we define ourselves by our own actions and we're in control of our own actions. Do I wish there would be a little less tweeting? Of course I do.

But I think -- I don't think that it's going to change. I think the president feels -- and he rightfully feels -- that he has found a way to communicate directly with people around the media. And I think he's been very successful at doing that.

Are some of those tweets that I'd prefer not to have seen? Of course there are. But at the end of the day, what I control are my own actions, and that is how I conduct myself, look myself in the mirror, and kiss my kids at bed at night where we live in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Look, Dena's brother lived -- just moved two blocks away from me. I live with my family on the block I grew up on in Janesville, Wisconsin. We go to mass at the church I was baptized in that my kids go to school in. And so this is who we are and where we're from. And we raise our kids well in this community.

And so I think it's really important that we lead by example, raise our children, teach them right from wrong. And honestly, I tell my kids to turn off the TV and get off the Internet. I think that's the most important thing you can probably do these days. So that's what -- that, to me, is what I do.


TAPPER: I'm not sure how to take that "turn off the TV" applause.


RYAN: That's good applause.

TAPPER: It was a smattering, I would say.

Let's turn to the -- turn to the Republican legislative agenda. I want to bring in Kevin Matthewson from Kenosha, who voted for you and President Trump in 2016, because of your promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Kevin?

QUESTION: Thank you, Speaker. Since Obamacare was passed, my family's been personally affected. We've had our premiums increase, and now we have extremely high deductibles, which is tough. The Republicans, including you and the president, campaigned on this very thing, repealing it or repealing and replacing or repairing.

Early on, you didn't hold a vote, and then you voted on something that doesn't seem to be palatable to the Senate. I had high hopes since you're the speaker and my congressional representative. What happened? How have you not been successful up until this point as a leader to get this done like you promised?

RYAN: Yeah, well, in the House, we did pass it. We passed it last May. We ran on a specific agenda. Remember, we called it the better way. It had a number of things that we thought were necessary to fix this country's problems.

Obamacare is collapsing. It is really -- it is collapsing under its own weight. Next year, it's projected 47 percent of all the counties in America -- that's almost one in two counties in America -- are down to one health insurer. Since Obamacare started, premiums have gone up more than 100 percent.

So this law is not working. It is a list of false promises. So to that end, we crafted a plan, we ran on the plan, and then we passed that plan in May. And as you may know, as you probably I'm sure know, for a bill to become a law, the House has to pass a bill, then the Senate has to pass a bill. And then you have to bridge those differences and pass it through the House and the Senate to go into law.

The house has passed its bill. We're waiting for the Senate to pass theirs. Who wasn't disappointed that the Senate failed to pass that bill by one vote the other day? We all are. The reason we're disappointed that they failed to do it...


OK, I set you up for that one, didn't I? The reason I'm disappointed is because the status quo is not an option. Obamacare is not working. You just described your premium increases, your deductible increases. A third of the counties in Wisconsin are down to one insurer right here. We've got dozens of counties around America that have zero insurers left.

So doing nothing really isn't an option. So the Senate -- honestly, the Senate has to get back and keep at it. And so what I've been telling our friends in the Senate, get back to work, get a bill passed. We will meet you in conference to figure this out, but we can't take no for an answer. And unfortunately, that's kind of where we are with the Senate right now. But the House? The House has done its job.

Let me say a few other things. The House has passed over 300 bills in the first 6 months of this Trump presidency, 300. If you want to learn about all we've done, go to You probably don't know that in the House we passed a complete overhaul of career technical education, to close that skills gap, to get people from where they are into the careers that they want. You probably didn't know that we passed a repeal and replace of the entire Dodd- Frank law because we're losing up to one community bank a day in America.


This is where -- this is where people get -- this is where small businesses get their money from, community banks. And we're losing them because of this law. You probably didn't even know that we overhauled the entire Veterans Administration to crack down on the fraud and the waste that was occurring with these waiting lists.

You probably didn't know that we expanded the biggest G.I. expansion from the G.I. bill in a decade. You may not have known that we have had one of the biggest increases in military spending last April to make good on what the president was just talking about of rebuilding our military.

There are so many things that we've actually done in the House that people just don't know about. And, yes, there are a lot of distractions out there. There's distractions -- there's countdown clocks. I think there was probably a countdown clock for this town hall meeting. There's...

TAPPER: You don't want people to watch?

RYAN: There's -- there's hearings, there's all these things. But a lot of people just don't know all the work that we've been doing to make good on our promises to effect and execute the agenda that we ran on. That's the covenant I have for you.

You are my employer. I work for you. And so my job as your employee is when running for office is to tell you who I am, what I believe, what are my values and principles, and what are the policies I work on. That's exactly what I'm in the middle of executing right now in the House. Like I said, go to and you can see all the bills -- more bills have passed in the first six months of the Trump administration in the House than under Clinton, Obama, and both Bushes.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question.

RYAN: So we're...


We are moving our bills through the system to get our work done, to keep good on our promises.

TAPPER: In terms of the -- the Senate's agenda, the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, and President Trump have said that the Senate shouldn't vote on anything until they figure out the repeal and replace for Obamacare. Do you agree with that? Obviously, there is the whole debt ceiling issue coming up. But do you agree that they shouldn't vote on anything...

RYAN: I don't think functionally you can do that, because there are a lot of deadlines that we have coming up on us. You just mentioned one of the deadlines. We've got SCHIP. We have a bunch of other deadlines that are coming up.

But I do share Mick's sentiment -- Mick served with me in the Budget Committee, which is we can't take nothing for an answer and we cannot allow the status quo on health care. Health care costs are skyrocketing. People are losing choices. The bill that we passed in the House, the whole premise of the bill is to lower premiums and give people more choices.

Look, the way I think that matters the most is we believe risk pools are very effective. We had a very, very good high risk pool in Wisconsin. And so when I take -- talk about risk pools, what do I mean when I say that? We believe, as government, federal government, state government, we should fund the care for people with catastrophic illnesses, so that if you get a catastrophic illness, like cancer or heart disease, you don't go broke paying for that health care.

And by having direct care in subsidies, like we had in our risk pool in Wisconsin, for people with catastrophic illnesses, you dramatically lower the price of insurance for everybody else. Ten percent of the people in the Wisconsin risk pool, 10 percent of the people were in the risk pool in Wisconsin, the other 90 percent of Wisconsinites in the individual market had much cheaper, much more affordable health care with more choices and lower premiums. That's what we're proposing to do. Have funds for catastrophic

illnesses so those people get support. One percent of the people in the individual market drive 23 percent of the costs. So if we basically say we will directly support those -- I don't know -- 8 percent to 10 percent of Americans who have a catastrophic illness, then the insurers only have to fund up to the catastrophic amount, insure up to there.

So it's like property and casualty. I mean, we've got the best quarterback in America, Aaron Rodgers, selling us insurance with discount double check. We got a lizard selling us Geico Insurance. Why can't we do it that way with health insurance?

And that is basically what we are proposing. So I think what we have offered, make sure that we fulfill the objective we all want: Affordability, accessibility, and making sure that people with pre- existing conditions get good health care at an affordable rate without going broke if they get sick. That is what we're trying to achieve, and that is why we can't take doing nothing for an answer.


TAPPER: I have about 30 follow-ups, but this is a town hall, not an interview. So I'm going to go to tax reform, which is obviously a big challenge facing you and the Congress when lawmakers return to Washington in September. And the next question comes from Katie Verzal, who serves as a secretary for the Kenosha Republican Party. Katie?

QUESTION: Hello. I think we can agree the U.S. tax code is complicated, burdensome, and unfair to individuals and businesses alike. You've recently vowed to tackle the tax code in 2017, an overhaul. How are you working with the Senate and the White House to make sure what happened to the promises of the Obamacare repeal...

RYAN: Yeah, that's a good question.

QUESTION: ... doesn't happen to the promise of tax reform?

RYAN: I'd say a number of things. This is one of the things that we ran on, one of the main items that we ran on in 2016. So we ran for this as our election, the House, the Senate, and the White House. And so this is something we have to make good on. That's point number one.

Point number two, I believe it's going to be far easier for us to do tax reform than it was, say, for health care reform. It gets a little weedy, but one of the challenges we had with health care reform, particularly in the Senate, is we had to use the Senate rules to write that bill. And all the health care reform items that we want to put in the health care reform bill we couldn't because of these Senate rules, medical liability reform, interstate shopping. We couldn't put those things in this health care bill because of the Senate rules.

Tax reform's different. The entire tax cut bill, the entire tax reform bill can go into one bill through the House and the Senate. So procedurally it makes it much easier.

Here's the other point I'd say. If we keep taxing our job creators, our businesses, at much, much higher tax rates than our foreign competitors tax theirs, we're going to lose. We're going to lose in global competition.

I was just meeting with a father/son business in -- I was doing office hours in Janesville today. I met with a father/son business in -- down in south central Wisconsin. I don't want to tell their names because I don't want to, you know, get them grief. But down in Genoa City, they have an electricity business. They make electrical parts for Snap-on and other companies.

Their biggest competitor is Canada, a company in Canada. Their tax rate -- they're a corporation, small business, 35 percent. You know what the Canadian tax rate is? Fifteen percent. Eight out of 10 businesses in America file their taxes as people, as individuals. We call them, like, Subchapter S corporations, LLCs. Their top effective tax rate is 44.6 percent. Canadians are at 15 percent. The Irish at 12.5 percent. China, 25 percent.

The average tax rate on businesses if the industrialized world is 22.5 percent. And we are taxing American businesses 35 percent to almost 45 percent? That is a recipe for disaster. And at worst, if they're successful enough to make money by selling a product overseas, they can't bring their money back because of our tax laws.

And so what's happening is we're losing American businesses. The biggest business we had in Wisconsin, publicly traded, was Johnson Controls. The thermostat here is probably a Johnson Controls thermostat. They are now an Irish company. Their worldwide tax rate is 12.5 percent. They're not an American company anymore. We're losing businesses left and right. And this is among the reasons why we have to have fundamental tax reform.

But also it's a matter of economic growth. It's faster wages. But also, it's fairness. 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. And simplify the code so much that you can fill out your taxes on a postcard. You don't have to go to some, you know, accountant to try and do it all.


We want a tax code built for growth, built for economic activity. We want a tax code that raises wages, keeps American companies in America, gives us faster economic growth. We haven't hit 3 percent growth since before the last recession in 2008.

So that is one of the reasons why we're not getting the kind of take- home pay that we should be getting as people. And we believe regulatory relief and tax cuts, tax reform, is the secret to getting faster economic growth.

And so that is why we are committed to getting this done this year. Getting it done this year -- it hasn't been done since the year I got my driver's license, 1986. And so it is high time we fixed this mess of a tax code and get ourselves in a position where American businesses, it makes sense to stay American, and we tax our businesses in a competitive way so that we're not pushing them overseas.

TAPPER: The next question comes from Sister Erica Jordan, she's a Dominican nun and retired school principal. Sister?

RYAN: At the Siena Center?

QUESTION: No, I'm from Sinsinawa.


QUESTION: Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa. Wisconsin, though.

RYAN: Yep.

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Speaker. I know that you're Catholic, as am I, and it seems to me that most of the Republicans in the Congress are not willing to stand with the poor and working class as evidenced in the recent debates about health care and the anticipated tax reform.

So I'd like to ask you how you see yourself upholding the church's social teaching that has the idea that God is always on the side of the poor and dispossessed, as should we be.

RYAN: Spoken like a great Dominican nun. Look...


Sister, you may -- this may come as a surprise to you, but I completely agree with you. Where we may disagree is on how to achieve that goal.

As you know, we all exercise prudential judgment in practicing our faith. And for me, the preferential option for the poor, which is something that's a key tenet of Catholic faith, that means upward mobility, that means economic growth, that means equality of opportunity. That to me means working with this guy over here at Gateway Tech to make sure that we can close the skills gap, to make sure that every person who wants a career and job can get the benefits.

We actually just passed this bill in July. Before that, we passed another skills bill. That means to me taking this 20th century poverty program that we have, which is -- we're in the 32nd year of the war on poverty. Trillions spent, and guess what? Our poverty rates are about the same as they were when we started this war on poverty 32 years ago.

So the status quo isn't working, Sister. And what I think we need to do is change our approach on fighting poverty instead of measuring success based on how much money we spend or how many programs we create or how many people are on those programs, you know, measuring on inputs. Let's measure success in poverty on outcomes. Is it working? Are people getting out of poverty?

And what I believe, when you look at it that way -- actually, I have a commission that Patty Murray and I set up that's underway right now to focus on these measurements. We need to make sure that we bring people into the workforce.

The poverty -- the poor are being marginalized and misaligned in many ways because a lot of the programs that we have, well intended as they may be, are discouraging and dis-incentivizing work.


We were just -- no, it's true. We were just talking about it. We were just talking about tax reform. And I was telling you about these successful small businesses in Wisconsin, they got a 44.6 percent tax rate. That's not the highest tax rate payer. I mean, Aaron Rodgers, who deserves every salary, is not the highest tax rate payer in this state. You know who it is? It's a single mom getting $24,000 grand in benefits with two kids who will lose 80 cents on the dollar if she goes and takes a job.

We have to fix that. And that is why we have to fix it not by just kicking people off callously, but by making sure that we can customize these benefits to help a person get from where she is to where she wants and needs to be. That means we have these benefits phase out in a certain way that fits her needs and goes and fixes it.


The model I'm talking about is one you're familiar with. It's the Catholic charities model. Cristo Rey Parish, right four miles that way, Cristo Rey Parish has Catholic charities that does a fantastic job in spite of government doing wraparound benefits for the poor to make sure that they get to where they are -- from where they are to where they need to be. If only government would actually help do that, as well, I think we could go a long ways in fighting the root cause of poverty.

So you just touched something that I feel so, so, so strongly about, that moves me so much. I think the government has made a lot of mistakes. Well intended. Lots of money. But we are not solving the problem of poverty. And doing more of the same and just funding the status quo will just get us more of the worst results we've been getting.

We've got to change our approach, focus on outcomes, focus on the person, and always encourage work, never discourage work, and make sure we can customize benefits so that we can get people out of poverty. That, to me, plus a stronger, growing economy. Making sure we're not taxing companies overseas so they stay here.

You know, the Foxconn deal was a perfect example. Foxconn...

TAPPER: We're going to get to that in the next -- in the next...

RYAN: OK. I can get going. But the point I'm saying, Sister, is that's how I practice my values and my faith and my principles, in trying to apply these principles to fighting poverty more effectively, because the status quo has not been working and I think we can do a whole lot better. That's my point.

TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break. Thank you, Sister, for your questions. Great to see you.

We'll be right back with more from CNN's town hall with Speaker Ryan.


TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's town hall at the Racine Theatre Guild. We're here with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

And Mr. Speaker, just before the break, you mentioned Foxconn. Just to bring viewers up to speed, last month, President Trump announced that Foxconn, which is an electronics supplier for tech companies, will build a new factory right here in Speaker Ryan's district. You personally lobbied the president to help secure the plant, which is expected to provide at least 3,000 jobs. The next question comes about that plant from Kyle Moore. He's an engineer here in Wisconsin. Kyle?

QUESTION: Thank you. Speaker Ryan, so as Jake said, you've touted the Foxconn deal as a huge success for Wisconsin, but for each job Foxconn creates, Wisconsin taxpayers are going to be paying at least $20,000 per job per year. Now, I understand the impact of the jobs in Wisconsin is going to be substantial and a good thing, but aren't we setting a precedent for large corporations to demand taxpayer dollars to create jobs in our state?

RYAN: So...


I make a distinction, obviously, between the federal and state government. As you know, local governments compete with each other all the time for economic development to be able to land job creation. This is no different than this.

The reason why I think this is such an exceptional case, Foxconn, is because I see this as a game-changer. I see this as bringing -- this is up to 13,000, by the way. You said 3,000. That's initially. Up to 13,000 when it's all said and done, 10,000 construction jobs. But more importantly, it brings an entire sector to Wisconsin.

That's why I think -- and by the way, that's the state government you're talking about, which I'm federal, that's state. The state government, that's all contingent. That's all contingent on these jobs being produced in the first place. And this, at the end of the day, over 15 years, about $10 billion of payroll coming into southeastern Wisconsin.

But the reason why I think this is exceptional and such a game-changer is it brings a whole new sector to Wisconsin. This is -- Scott calls it -- Scott Walker calls it Wiscon Valley. I say we will be the industrial park for Silicon Valley.

What I mean when I say that is, it is really in our interest to get ahead of the curve on tomorrow's high-skilled, high-tech manufacturing jobs. More jobs are tied to Wisconsin per capita than any other state. And we always have to stay ahead of the curve. And by making sure that we're bringing this sector to Wisconsin, which will bring other jobs and other employers, so we have high-skilled, high-tech jobs, that is very good for Wisconsin's future.

So what I worry about is not just the skills gap that we've been talking about all this time, but I worry that Wisconsin manufacturing will not stay on the cutting edge. And by getting Foxconn here, I think that really helps us do that. That makes Wisconsin a magnet for other like kind of jobs.

And the problem we've had in Wisconsin is we've had this brain drain. We've had a lot of young people getting educated here, growing up here, and then going for opportunities elsewhere. We want to keep them here. We want to keep our sons and our daughters, our kids and our grandkids in Wisconsin. And I think bringing a sector like this to Wisconsin is a long-term solution to helping making sure that people can stay and have great jobs in Wisconsin.

Thirteen thousand jobs and $10 billion over 15 years of payroll ain't nothing to sneeze at. And I think that's really good for us. And that's why I think it's an exceptional deal. And by the way, it was going to go to another state if it didn't go to Wisconsin. And then there would be no tax base whatsoever. It was going to go to North Carolina or Indiana, or some other place. I'm glad it came to Wisconsin.

TAPPER: So President Trump...


President Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a national emergency in Wisconsin. The figures are tragic. The rate of opioid overdose deaths has nearly doubled over the last decade. The next question comes from the Racine County medical examiner, Michael Payne.

RYAN: Hey, Mike.

TAPPER: Michael?

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Speaker. The use of naloxone, or Narcan, by our emergency medical services and law enforcement agencies has saved lives. Would you support a bill by the U.S. government to subsidize a production of Narcan so we could put Narcan in the hands of anyone suffering from opiate addiction and their families?

RYAN: I'd -- let me take a look at that. It's something I haven't given a great deal of thought about, whether we subsidize the production of it or not.

But I can tell you that we believe that this is a crisis. We passed the most comprehensive opioid legislation just this last December. As you probably know, those resources are now coming out into our local communities. In fact, the legislature had -- it convened a special session of the legislature based upon the bill we passed in Congress into law in December so that they could execute this new attack on opioid addiction.

So this runs the gamut all around. I have close friends at home who've lost their kids to opioid addiction. This is a serious emergency and epidemic. And it's about gateway drugs. It's about heroin. It's a multifaceted issue. So I'd be happy to take a look at -- if there's a bill that you could think -- that you're thinking of in your mind, let me know about that. Write it down, if you don't mind.

TAPPER: We're going to take another quick...

RYAN: I'd be happy to...


TAPPER: Thank you, Michael. We're going to take another quick break. We'll be back with more from CNN's town hall with Speaker Ryan. Stay with us.


TAPPER: We're back at CNN's town hall at the Racine Theatre Guild with House Speaker Paul Ryan. And right now, the annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises are underway. North Korea, obviously tensions have increased with that country, and they're warning of a merciless strike against the U.S. We hear that kind of rhetoric all the time.

RYAN: Right, right.

TAPPER: But in general, this has been a period that's been fraught with tensions. So the next question comes from Arthur Gasca. He's a junior at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. Arthur?

QUESTION: Good evening, Mr. Speaker.

RYAN: Good evening, Arthur.

QUESTION: Threats from the North Korean government to, quote, "obliterate" the United States and South Korea have become much more serious in recent weeks. The escalation of the overall situation comes in response to some of the dialogue that President Trump and Kim Jong-un have used to intimidate or one-up each other. Do it you believe that President Trump attempting to intimidate the North Korean leader with dialogue that suggests the use of full-blown war, with or without the use of nuclear weapons, is appropriate for the president to do?

RYAN: Well, I think he backed down on his threat on Guam. I think what you have here is an escalating, serious situation. I think the president -- in my own view of it, he likes the unpredictability side of this. And I think it's important that Kim Jong-un is called to the carpet when he does this kind of reckless rhetoric.

What's very concerning is that he's getting faster development of these nuclear-type weapons. I mean, the last two tests were very successful tests. And so this is a serious threat, not just to the region, but to the United States.

So I think, with respect to Korean policy, I think it's important that he realizes we're not going to take things lying down, that we're serious and we take this issue seriously. So I think that that is important that we convey that message.

I think it's also important that our regional actors help us. I'm specifically talking about China. China needs to do a whole lot more to help us with this situation, which is in their interest to do so.

We also have to do a lot to beef up our defensive weapons. And, yes, look, Vince Brooks, one of the best Army generals we have, is our general in charge of U.S. Korea Command. I've been there. I've met with them. I spent a few days last week working on just this issue.

This is serious. The president knows it's serious. The options are not pretty options, but having North Korea with nuclear-tipped warheads that can strike the United States is not a good thing to have for this country.

But it's not just that they would launch a missile to the United States. What I worry most about is that they'll sell one. I worry that they're going to proliferate, that they're going to sell it to the highest bidder, to a terrorist. That is why this is a serious issue. And this young man is an unstable person. And I do think he should be called to account for his reckless rhetoric. And I think that's what the president is trying to do.


TAPPER: Our next question comes from M.T. Boyle, who's a Republican who is the chief of staff for the Racine County Executive. M.T.?

QUESTION: Hi, Speaker Ryan. Thank you so much for this opportunity. You touched a little bit on this earlier. And this is not about, you know, the bigotry and the racism that is no part at all in any politics.

But this is a little bit of a partisan question, because despite having a Republican president, and majorities in both the House and the Senate, discord exists within the Republican Party, as we saw, again, in the aftermath of the Charlottesville protests. We need a voice of reason to reunite our party. And, Speaker Ryan, you are in the position to be this voice. What are your plans to reunite the Republican Party and America as a whole?

RYAN: Yeah, so I look at this -- as speaker of the House and as your employee of the First District, I don't think of myself honestly as Republican first. I'm an American. I am a conservative. That's the way -- I want to conserve these founding principles and improve people's lives. And so I think the answer to your question is perform. Pass into law

better ideas that actually improve people's lives and solve problems. This is why we're in the middle of rebuilding our military. This is why we overhauled the Veterans Administration so that they get the care when they need it, that they deserve, that they earned.

This is why we're doing regulatory relief. I mean, one -- out of 20 years, only one regulation was rescinded under what we call the Congressional Review Act, going back and getting an old regulation. We've done it 14 times this year already. So we're busy performing to try and improve people's lives, to lift wages and incomes. That's why I think tax reform is so critical. That's why I think making sure that we move people from welfare to work is so critical, to restore upward mobility and get higher wages, and get people off the sidelines into the workforce.

The point I'm trying to make is get things done, improve people's lives, make a positive difference, and you vindicate yourself with those results. That's why we're so focused on getting this agenda executed and putting it into law. Take our principles that built this country, liberty, freedom, free enterprise, equality of opportunity, upward mobility, apply these visions and principles to the problems of the day, offer solutions.

We ran on this last year. And now we're basically four-sixths of the way through putting this agenda into law out of the House. I wish I could say the Senate was moving as fast. Of the 300-plus bills we passed out of the House, 260 are still sitting in the Senate. So we got a ways to go. And we've got to get more work done.

But that's what it is at the end of the day. It's not what I say; it's what I do and how we perform. And that is why we're focusing so much on getting this agenda through. There's a lot of distractions out there. I mean, you turn on the TV, and it is just distractions galore. We're focused on doing our work and committing to doing what we said we would do, and the results that come from that to me is how you lead by example.

TAPPER: Thanks, M.T.

We're going to take another quick break. We'll be right back with more from CNN's town hall with House Speaker Paul Ryan.


TAPPER: We're back at the Racine Theatre League with House Speaker Paul Ryan and this town hall in the beautiful First Congressional District of Wisconsin.

And, Mr. Speaker, your colleague and friend, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise, who was grievously injured when that insane gunman opened fire on the Republican congressional baseball team earlier this summer, he joined the House GOP conference on the phone today.

RYAN: Yes.

TAPPER: What was that like for you? What was it like for your members?

RYAN: It was -- it was really very emotional for us. I've been seeing and visiting with and talking with Steve myself, but most of our members hadn't had a chance to even hear his voice.

He was just out on a baseball field, 7:30 in the morning, practicing baseball for a charity game when this guy opened fire and hit him through the hips. He's going to be OK, but he's in a rehab hospital now out of the intensive care unit. And he's just got a long road ahead of him, but he's going to be OK.

He is very, very strong and sound in mind, and his body's healing. And I got to tell you, it was extremely cathartic for all of us, and our members were really, really relieved just to hear his voice, to hear him talk. And he was just talking about work. He was just talking about getting back to work and getting things done.

TAPPER: How did he sound? How was his strength?

RYAN: Great, great.

TAPPER: It sounded like him in normal...

RYAN: Yeah, no, I've gone to see him a number of times. He's eating well. He's just got a lot of physical therapy ahead of him.

TAPPER: Is he going to walk again?

RYAN: Yeah, he's going to walk, but he's going to have to relearn how to it. I won't go into the details of the multiple operations he's had, but, yeah, he's going to walk.

TAPPER: And what was it like for the other members of the Republican conference to hear from him? Because...

RYAN: A lot of them just got on the phone and just -- I think it changed the moment for all the work that we have ahead of us. We were basically going through the list of things to do in September, and they were just elated to hear his voice. And he sounded great, he sounded strong. He sounded like Steve. I call him Steve-o. He sounded like Steve-o.

TAPPER: Well, we really wish him well.

RYAN: Please keep him in your prayers.

TAPPER: We are. A lot of religions here tonight, and I'm sure we all are.


We want to thank House Speaker Paul Ryan for joining us tonight. We want to thank, as well, this wonderful audience in beautiful Wisconsin. And of course, the Racine Theatre Guild. "CNN Tonight" with Don Lemon starts right now.