Roskam talks taxes at luncheon, skips protesters

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam spoke about tax policy to a lunch crowd at the City Club of Chicago on Monday, then left without speaking to reporters or to constituents who had gathered outside to protest the Wheaton Republican.

In his speech, Roskam spoke about his hopes for changes to the country's tax code. He answered previously submitted questions about Medicaid, the U.S. House's relationship with new President Donald Trump and when he might next host a town-hall meeting with constituents. Roskam later phoned the Daily Herald to answer some questions, saying he'd "run out of time" earlier.

Roskam, serving his sixth term, said there is a "false narrative" that he doesn't communicate with constituents in the 6th Congressional District, which stretches in a "C" shape from Barrington through St. Charles and Wayne and south to Wheaton and Carol Stream. He said he's spent the past year visiting schools, businesses and meeting with constituents hundreds of times.

"Participating in big circuses is not productive," he told the City Club audience, where people paid between $35 to $50 to eat lunch and hear him talk. He said he prefers telephone town halls to large in-person gatherings. Roskam said he's hosted one in-person town hall in recent months.

"It was miserable," he said Monday. "People came angry and they left angry."

About 40 to 50 suburban people who assembled outside the event painted a different picture. Some held up coffin-shaped boxes, symbolic, they said, of Roskam's "political funeral." Another sign read "Roskam, have some courage and some decency."

"I voted for you!" Brad Verme of Palatine shouted, holding his baby daughter in his arms.

"We're holding our own town halls," he told reporters. "I feel he's running away."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified Roskam's district as one of its top priorities in 2018. Voters in the district strongly supported Democrat Hillary Clinton in November.

At least one Democratic opponent has surfaced so far - Navy veteran Austin Songer of Chicago.

Roskam was first elected in 2006 and has been re-elected by wide margins since then, most recently defeating Democrat Amanda Howland of Lake Zurich in November.

This isn't the first time Roskam has sought to avoid protests from residents unhappy with the president and Republican-led Congress.

He declined to meet with some 400 protesters at a Palatine Township GOP event in early February. Some 18,000 callers participated in a February telephone town hall Roskam's office hosted.

"People are concerned and they have legitimate points of concern and perspective. And it's happening all across the country. There's a general sense about things right now that they're incredibly consequential," Roskam told the Daily Herald.

He said he felt his constituents were particularly concerned about the Affordable Care Act, which Roskam voted in January to repeal.

"I understand their concerns and I think a lot of the concerns get dealt with as we're actually legislating ... as opposed to talking points," he said. "I think some of the concerns are met that way."

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  Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton bypassed reporters and protesters following speech Monday at the City Club of Chicago. Kerry Lester/
  Protesters gathered Monday outside Maggiano's Banquets in Chicago, where Rep. Peter Roskam was speaking. Kerry Lester/
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