MUKWONAGO, Wis. (AP) — With a dysfunctional Congress on recess, House Speaker Paul Ryan has turned his focus back home, touring flood-damaged areas and visiting local businesses in Wisconsin. But he can’t escape the questions about why Republicans in charge of Washington aren’t delivering.
And though he’s won re-election easily for years, Ryan faces the prospect of challenges from left and right and an energized Democratic base in next year’s midterm elections.
“We have a majority in the House and Senate and it feels like nothing’s getting done,” 32-year-old James Hulsey said just before Ryan recently toured his workplace.
Sensing the angst, Ryan has been much more visible in his southeast Wisconsin district as Republicans failed to deliver on their yearslong promise to scrap the health care law and new polling numbers show the speaker is less popular among Republicans in Wisconsin than President Donald Trump. Trump won Wisconsin by less than a percentage point, but he carried Ryan’s district by 10 points.
In the remaining months of the year, Ryan and the Republican-led Congress are determined to deliver major legislation, elusive so far due to GOP infighting, and the top priority is overhauling the nation’s tax code. Failure to produce could cost Republicans their House majority in the 2018 midterms and, for Ryan, his job as speaker and Republican leader.
“This is the third time in 100 years we’ve had this alignment of government that we’ve got to get it done or else I really worried our country will continue down a bad path,” Ryan said after his tour of the wire manufacturer Banker Wire, in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
He later told the Wisconsin State Journal, “If we don’t do our job, we will depress turnout. I am frustrated as well.”
Republican Keith Ketzler, 62, worries that the GOP will pay politically next year. Democrats need to flip 24 seats to regain control.
“Everybody that voted Republican is getting very frustrated,” Ketzler said, after prodding Ryan about why Congress hasn’t achieved more. “People crossed the line last time, but they’re not going to stay crossed if they don’t get things done.”
Ryan angered some conservatives during the campaign with comments critical of then-candidate Trump. But in the first six months of Trump’s term, Ryan has been far less critical of the president than other Republican lawmakers who have challenged a number of Trump moves, including his criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former senator.