Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, speaks earlier this year at the South Central Federation of Labor building in Madison.

State Journal archives

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan wants the old Paul Ryan back.

Pocan told host Greg Neumann on WKOW-TV’s “Capital City Sunday” this week that, during the 2016 president campaign, Speaker Ryan would stand up to then-candidate Donald Trump from time to time.

Now that Trump is president, though, Ryan seems to see his role as more of a loyal lapdog.

"This Paul Ryan we have now — he seems to roll over and want his belly rubbed by the president ,” Pocan said. “That's not what we need from the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Paul Ryan has really been complicit in letting Donald Trump be Donald Trump.”

“Saturday Night Live” picked up on the same dynamic this weekend, portraying Ryan as a dutiful soda jerk bringing Trump his two scoops of ice cream.

Pocan had harsh words for Trump after a tumultuous week at the White House during which FBI Director James Comey was fired and Trump admitted he was thinking about the FBI investigation into Russian collusion with his campaign when he made the call. That admission undercut statements from the White House press office and even Vice President Mike Pence that the firing was made over Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email case.

“The excuses and really the lies coming from the administration about why they let the FBI director go — this is just a whole different level than this country had ever had to experience before.”

While Democrats in Congress have long been critical of Trump, Pocan said this week’s events sparked some Republicans to also express concerns. If things continue on this path, Pocan said, “at some point we’re going to reach that critical point where we all have to do something across party lines, for the good of the country.”

Pocan said there is no question that Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, something that everyone except Trump seems to agree on.

“We just saw it in France, we clearly they know they did it in the United States, we know they’re going to do it in Germany, and we know they’re going to try and do it again here, unless we do something about it,” Pocan said.

Pocan raised some eyebrows this week when he went to Kenosha, part of Ryan’s district, and held a town hall session for about 175 residents on the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill, which passed the House along party lines. While Republicans’ celebrated the bill’s passage while they were in Washington, D.C., they seem loathe to hold town hall meetings with their constituents back home to defend the bill, which provides a massive tax cut for the wealthy and allows states to opt out of pre-existing condition protections.

Ryan said he’s been holding private meetings and “telephone town halls” with selected constituents, and that open town halls are a “harassing environment,” with Republican representatives facing harsh opposition from voters.

But Pocan said taking the heat is part of the job.

“They’re your bosses,” he said. “It’s like not going in when the boss calls you in.”


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