OAK CREEK -- House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday, July 6th called North Korea his top foreign policy concern and tried to calm fears about the Republican health care bill during two invite-only events in his Wisconsin congressional district.
During an employee town hall at WPC Technologies in Oak Creek, Ryan said the United States cannot accept North Korea having a nuclear weapon that they can deliver on a long-range missile, like the intercontinental ballistic missile the country launched on the Fourth of July.
"It's quite frankly my number one foreign policy concern at the moment," Ryan said. "We, along with the Japanese and the Koreans are working on this problem, but the Chinese can do a lot more to help us with our North Korea problem because it is the world's problem if North Korea gets deliverable nuclear weapons."
Workers submitted most of the questions in advance, which were then asked by their boss. One employee did ask Ryan off the cuff if he had plans to run for president in the future, and Ryan responded, "Absolutely not."
None of the employees at the WPC Technologies stop or a second event at Burlington Graphic Systems in Racine asked about President Donald Trump.
At the Burlington Graphics Systems employee town hall, Ryan sought to assure workers that their health insurance would not be impacted by the GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
"You're not affected," he told workers. "It doesn’t affect the employer-based market. One-hundred fifty million people get their insurance from their job, like everybody here."
Ryan's House narrowly approved a health care bill this spring. The Senate has yet to take a vote after several Republicans defected last week, causing a delay.
Ryan also said Congress would move forward with changes to the U.S. tax code later this year, predicting a "fight" with special interests who seek to protect tax breaks for certain industries. Ryan has long called for eliminating many tax breaks in order to lower the corporate tax rates for all U.S. companies.
Ryan didn't reference any of his 2018 challengers, including Democrat Randy Bryce of Caledonia, who stumbled over a question about North Korea during an interview on CNN this week.
"I don't have specifics. I haven't seen exactly what -- I don't have information on what North Korea launched," Bryce said, when asked what the Trump administration should do about the threat. "I plan on going -- we're going to take a trip later this month to Washington. D.C. to get better educated on the issues, and I hope to have more information then. I mean, I have ideas and there are things I'd like to say. But right now, it would honestly be speculation."
Republicans jumped on Bryce, who has lost his earlier attempts to win elected office.
"It's no wonder that Wisconsinites have rejected Randy Bryce as a candidate three times. He can't take a position until the Democrat party bosses in Washington tell him how to think," said Alec Zimmerman, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
Bryce's campaign responded by criticizing Ryan.
"Paul Ryan has been in office for 20 years during which time he's voted for the Iraq war and let North Korea escalate their nuclear program to its current level, so he's got no credibility on these issues," Bryce said in a text message.
Bryce has made Republicans take notice by announcing he raised $430,000 in his first 12 days as a candidate.