After nearly two years, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is planning to hold his first regular town hall meeting, the Wisconsin Republican announced on Monday.
While Ryan has held "telephone town halls" with residents of his district and has taken questions from employees of local businesses, he has not held a traditional town hall meeting open to the public since October of 2015, according to the Associated Press. In July, Ryan said that his refusal to hold such meetings was born from a desire to avoid a "shouting fest" where people who were not his constituents would be "bussed in" to disrupt.
“I don’t want to have a situation where we just have a screaming fest, a shouting fest where people are being bused in from out of the district to get on TV because they are yelling at somebody,” Ryan recently said on recess in Wisconsin. “That does nobody any good, and what I want to do is have a civil, good conversation with constituents."
During congressional Republicans' efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, many members were greeted by raucous protests against their legislation. Some reported receiving threats of violence after the shooting attempt on Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., which led them to cancel their planned events.
His reversal on public town halls is notable in light of the fact that Randy Bryce, a Democrat who is running in that party's primary, has made the Speaker's refusal to meet with constituents one of the central themes of his campaign. Bryce has also focused on health care. Both of these are likely to be weak spots for Ryan. Almost every poll conducted after Ryan and his GOP colleagues unveiled their plans for Obamacare has shown that the public does not approve of the large spending cuts favored by Republicans. Quite literally, the American Health Care Act, which Ryan sponsored and wrote, is the most unpopular major piece of legislation in the history of polling.
Ryan's town hall will be held next Monday, Aug. 21 and broadcast on CNN.