Paul Ryan hears from frustrated GOP voters in Wisconsin, says he understands

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MUKWONAGO -- House Speaker Paul Ryan got an earful from frustrated Republican voters during a business tour in his district on Wednesday, August 2nd, and said he was frustrated, too.

Ryan typically gets friendly questions at closed-door, employee town halls in southern Wisconsin. Yet, at mesh manufacturer Banker Wire in Mukwonago, he faced a challenge.

"For eight horrible years, I heard, we don't have control of the House, we don't have control of the Senate, we don't have the presidency," Keith Ketzler, who runs the welding division, told Ryan. "I tell you what. You're in there now, and all I see is infighting. It's very dysfunctional."

Ryan pointed out that the U.S. House narrowly passed a health care bill earlier this year, though it failed in the U.S. Senate in July. Ryan said he and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson thought the legislation would pass when they spoke the night before the key Senate vote.

Ryan said he understands GOP voters' frustration, and he feels it, too.

"A lot of my town halls, a lot of my listening sessions, a lot of my interaction with constituents, I get the frustration," Ryan told FOX6 News in a wide-ranging, one-on-one interview after the Q&A with Banker Wire employees.

"I'll be blunt and say the House is a little frustrated, because the House passed its Obamacare replacement legislation last May. We kept our promise and passed our bill last May. We're hopeful that the Senate keeps going at this. The Senate can bring this back up and re-vote if they want to," he said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan

Ryan spent much of the employee town hall pushing his proposal to change the U.S. tax code, which would cut taxes on corporate income.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said he didn't think Republicans in Congress could pass that plan, either.

"Well, he's wrong about that," Ryan told FOX6. "I think tax reform is probably the biggest achievement we'll get this year. And it's one of the things we're all invested in."

Ryan said it was a "welcome sign" that President Donald Trump had elevated former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to be White House chief of staff, though the change means his friend Reince Priebus no longer has that position.

Priebus resigned under pressure last week, but Ryan said the loss of his top ally wouldn't make his relationship with the Trump administration more challenging.

"I'll miss my friend Reince Priebus being over in the White House. We spoke virtually every day. But I still speak with the president and other people in the White House constantly," Ryan said. "Reince went on his own terms, and I think the president decided he was going to bring a four-star Marine general in to bring some order to the White House, and I think that's a welcome sign as well."

The Banker Wire event kicked off a flurry of business tours in Ryan's home district this week. The speaker has said he won't hold public town halls because he expects disruptions from protesters.