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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan spoke at a town hall at Boeing's Everett plant Thursday after taking part in a morning tour of the facility.
Ryan is on a tour of the Northwest as part of a push to revamp the nation's tax code, a plan that focuses on cutting the corporate tax rate and simplifying the tax code.
Speaking before a backdrop of Boeing's 787 assembly line, Speaker Ryan argued the current 35 percent corporate rate puts U.S. businesses at a competitive disadvantage.
"We have the worst, the least competitive tax system in the industrialized world," said Ryan. "What does that mean? Well clearly and very specifically for Boeing, it means that we are taxing this business, these planes, your jobs in this country at a much higher tax rate than our foreign competitors tax theirs."
While Ryan has said he wants to get tax reform done this year, Democratic critics say his plan remains short on details and question how it will be paid for.
Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, released a statement ahead of his visit calling on Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, to include Democrats in the discussion.
"There is no question that our tax laws are in desperate need of thoughtful reform. Done properly, tax reform could eliminate inequities in the code, and give working families and businesses some certainty so they can plan their futures. But comprehensive tax reform does not mean tilting the scale even more toward the wealthiest,” DelBene said.
Another challenge for House Republicans will be the tight timeline and looming budget deadlines next month, including a potential fight over the debt ceiling.
Coincidentally, hours before Ryan was set to speak, President Donald Trump made Ryan the target of his morning tweets. The president called out Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over a veterans affairs bill and the debt ceiling.
"I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They didn't do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!" the president tweeted.
I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2017
...didn't do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2017
“I’m not worried that it's not going to get done, because it’s going to get done," Speaker Ryan said in response to a question about the debt ceiling during the Boeing town hall.
A small group of Boeing employees attended the event and were permitted to ask questions. One of the questions elicited a response to the President's recent comments in the wake of Charlottesville.
"Boeing prides itself on respect, communicating, transparency," said an employee who works in HR.
"How do you see yourself personally influencing (the President). Are you confident you can influence him?" she asked.
"What I think needs to be said over and over again about repulsive racism and bigotry in this country and how we can never get normal with this. We must always every single time stand up and repudiate and condemn it unequivocally every time," said Ryan before pivoting back to the GOP agenda.
"We have different speaking styles clearly, and we’re in constant contact to try and put together a shared agenda which we agree on. We’re working together to move that shared agenda. I think it’s really important that the President succeeds because if he succeeds then the country succeeds," Ryan continued.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg also added his own brief comments.
"Our enduring values as a company are the most important part of our mission and our purpose, and our commitment to integrity. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion to respecting, that’s what makes this business work," said Muilenburg.
"I appreciate your question. I think it's foundationally important to who we are as a company, who we are as a country."
CEO Muilenburg declined to comment in detail last week when asked whether he would stay on President Trump's manufacturing council which has since dissolved after several CEOs opted to leave.
Congressman Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., was the only Washington Republican member of congress to attend Speaker Ryan's talk in Everett. Representative Dave Reichert, R-Wash., who sits on the Ways and Means Committee did not attend. His office said he had a scheduling conflict.
Ryan doesn't mention health care, but talks about fighting regulations, addressing military needs and welfare reform.— Natalie Brand (@NatalieBrandK5) August 24, 2017
Worker asks how tax reform will help workers not shareholders. Ryan says system now only encourages overseas mfg. wants to reverse— Jim Brunner (@Jim_Brunner) August 24, 2017
Talking about bigotry and hatred, Speaker Ryan says cannot be normalized. "We must every time stand up and repudiate it."— Natalie Brand (@NatalieBrandK5) August 24, 2017
Then Speaker pivots back to GOP agenda and talks about "leading by example" and getting results.— Natalie Brand (@NatalieBrandK5) August 24, 2017
Ryan visited employees at Intel's headquarters in Hillsboro, Oregon Wednesday and held a roundtable discussion.
KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report.