HILLSBORO, Ore. — House Speaker Paul Ryan said he enjoyed getting grilled by a nun, a rabbi, and the son of a slain Sikh temple president on national television Monday night, claiming that the confrontations are part of being a member of Congress.
"That's what public life is like ... I actually enjoyed that. I thought that was fun," Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday of the unusual and raw multi-sectarian questioning he received during Monday night's CNN town hall in his home district in Wisconsin.
Ryan faced a series of difficult questions from constituents about some sensitive issues during the event.
Dena Feingold, a Jewish rabbi and the sister of former Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, pressed him to censure President Trump for his remarks on the violence in Charlottesville, Va. Sister Erica Jordan, a Dominican nun, challenged him to justify his favored welfare and tax policies given the Catholic Church's preference for the poor. Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was among the six killed by a white supremacist shooter at a Sikh Temple in 2012, asked him about how to prevent far-right extremism.
Ryan had ties to all three constituents. Feingold has long been a family friend, he said, and he knows Kaleka from the aftermath of the 2012 shooting. Although he didn't know Jordan, he was taught by Dominican nuns during grade school.
Reflecting on the questions from each of them, Ryan said the job of a congressman is "representing people who have real problems in their lives, real anxieties and understanding them and involving yourself in their lives and trying to understand their perspectives."
To Feingold's question, Ryan dismissed the possibility of a vote to censure Trump, saying it would turn the denunciation of white supremacy and neo-Nazism into a partisan "food fight." To Kaleka, he said that the country needs to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists while improving mental healthcare, while also respecting the Second Amendment.
In his exchange with Jordan, Ryan acknowledged the Catholic Church's social teaching and its prioritization of the needs of the poor, but said his policies meant economic growth and upward mobility. Social programs should be judged not on the amount of spending, but on the outcomes of individuals, he said.
Jordan later said she wasn't satisfied with Ryan's response, according to ThinkProgress, referring to proposed budget cuts to social programs.