White House Goes After Paul Ryan’s Pay-To-Play Town Halls

August 17, 2011 7:58 a.m.

Democrats have found a new way to harass Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the man behind the Medicare voucher plan. Ryan, who some conservatives still float as a presidential contender, is back home among his constituents these days — the same place most Representatives are during this August recess.

And Ryan has decided that this time around, he’d prefer to spend time with constituents that pay for the privilege. That has Democrats rubbing their hands with glee.On Tuesday, Democrats sent around this Politico story about the August recess, which in recent years has become known for raucous town halls where critics directly take on members of Congress. Ryan, already known among Democrats as the monster who waits under Grandma’s bed at night, has decided to steer clear of the whole mess.

From Politico:

It will cost $15 to ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a question in person during the August congressional recess.

The House Budget Committee chairman isn’t holding any face-to-face open-to-the-public town hall meetings during the recess, but like several of his colleagues he will speak only for residents willing to open their wallets.

Ryan’s staff told Politico they had nothing to do with the admission charge for the event mentioned in the story, which takes place at a Rotary Club event featuring “catered lunch of meat and potatoes the group will provide.” And it’s worth noting that Democrats have come under fire for holding similar events of their own in the past.

But Democrats say Ryan’s staying away from the classic town hall format this recess — along with more than one of his Republican colleagues — because he’s afraid of the response he’ll get from attendees upset with the way the Republicans have played things in Washington over the past few months, up to and including the debt ceiling fight.

“Any Republican who is not charging to enter their town halls is seeing just how fed up their constituents are with the deficit ceiling debate,” a White House official told Politico.

One such Republican, Rep. Fred Upton (MI) — who’s a member of the supercommittee created by the debt ceiling deal — seems to be proving the White House’s point. He made a public appearance to take questions in Kalamazoo Monday and was met with a group of protesters demanding to know where the jobs are.

Here’s the kind of fun Ryan’s avoiding, as reported from the Upton town hall by the Kalamazoo Gazette:

During his 45-minute appearance at the Coover Center, Upton was continually interrupted by people in the audience. Most shouted comments and questions about growing jobs in Michigan and what Upton plans to do.

About 20 people who appeared to be in an organized group sometimes broke into chants. They declined to identify who they were with, with one woman telling a photographer her name is “I am jobs.”

As long as Ryan seems to be avoiding Ms. I Am Jobs, he’s going to keep getting taking hits from Democrats eager to find another reason to criticize him over his budget plan.

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