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In Boeing visit, House Speaker Ryan touts tax reform plan, is questioned about Trump

EVERETT, Wash. — House Speaker Paul Ryan toured the Boeing plant in Everett, answered workers’ questions on a variety of matters and pitched the Republican plan to cut taxes for corporations.

The Daily Herald reports Ryan on Thursday saw the 767, 777 and 787 production lines before sitting down with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg for a 45-minute town hall attended by about 80 employees.

Ryan said reducing the tax rate for businesses and simplifying the tax code for individuals will spur economic growth.

State lawmakers agreed in 2003 to reduce the business and occupation tax rate paid by Boeing and the company will save about $8 billion by 2040. But Boeing cut 6,344 jobs in 2016 and is down roughly 4,000 in 2017. Democratic lawmakers and aerospace workers have tried, without success, to require that Boeing sustain a minimum number of jobs in the state if it wants to keep the lower tax rate.

About a dozen protesters gathered outside the Boeing plant to mark Ryan’s visit.

Meanwhile, Ryan brushed off the president's tweets Thursday that criticized him and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not getting a debt ceiling bill passed yet.

"I didn't really take it as going after me," Ryan said in an interview with CNBC.

President Donald Trump tweeted that he told the two congressional leaders to link the debt ceiling increase -- which faces a deadline at the end of September -- to a Veterans Affairs bill that recently passed with wide support.

"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!" Trump tweeted.

Ryan confirmed that tying the two bills together was "an option" that they were considering.

"But the VA deadline came up and we weren't able to do that then," he said.

A Senate GOP leadership aide told CNN earlier Thursday that members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus rejected the idea because they didn't want to have to vote against the popular veterans affairs bill. Members of the caucus and other "debt ceiling purists" won't support an increase unless it includes other provisions to curb government debt, like spending cuts. They "hated" the idea, the aide said.

Still, Ryan has maintained that he's not concerned about the debt ceiling, a must-pass move in order for the government to avoid defaulting on loans. Earlier, after taking a tour of Boeing in Washington state, Ryan told a group of employees in a question-and-answer session that Congress will pass a bill before the country hits the debt ceiling.

"There are many different options in front of us on how to achieve that," he said. "We'll do that because this is about paying the bills we already racked up, making sure we pay our debts. We pay our debts in this country, we will continue to do so. So I'm not worried that that's not going to get done, because that's going to get done."

Congress will face a busy month in September when it comes back from recess. Along with the debt ceiling, lawmakers must pass a budget or short-term resolution and find a solution to fund the State Children's Health Insurance Program by September 30. Also big on the legislative docket this fall is tax reform.