My Favorite Democratic Congressman

Sure, it is a low bar, but Representative Tim Ryan is a Warren JFK Eagle, and he serves on the Subcommittee on Defense of the House Committee on Appropriations, so I was glad to have him on the program today to talk DOD as well as Obamacre and the minimum wage:




HH: Whether you’re in Hawaii or down in Florida, up in New York or way up in Alaska listening in now, my favorite Democrat. Actually, my favorite Democrat joins me now, Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, which is my hometown. And Tim Ryan also happens to be a graduate of Warren’s John F. Kennedy High School, so my own high school. He is sadly a Democrat, but a smart one. Congressman, welcome, great to have you on the program.

TR: I appreciate the kind words. You know, we’ve got Blue Pride, and we’ll start from there and see where we can go.

HH: Yeah, go Eagles. And I want people to know, I actually have seen you talking to Republican before, whether Sam Covelli or Kim and Scott Phillips or Rob Ganary. You know Republicans, and you don’t, you deign to speak with them occasionally.

TR: I do. I hang out, I watch football with them, and you know, we talk a little politics here or there, but we try to stay focused on the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Browns.

HH: And the Browns are having a good day today. But let’s focus on this hearing today. I just had your chairman on, Chairman Frelinghuysen, and talking about that committee hearing. And you had some pretty interesting comments in particular, Congressman Ryan, about Ukraine, natural gas and the Defense base. But let’s start overall. This isn’t enough money for the military. Do your colleagues on your side of the aisle recognize that?

TR: Well, we’ve got to balance a lot of different interests here. And the reality of it is we’re winding down two wars. I didn’t get to hear Chairman Frelinghuysen’s entire interview, but you know, we’re balancing, winding down Iraq, winding down Afghanistan. There’s a lot of uncertainty in Afghanistan right now. And I think this budget reflects us downsizing our responsibilities, at least the increased responsibilities we had in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And you know, it’s a tough budget time, and we’ve got a lot of people saying that we need to cut government back, and this is just a reflection of the political reality and the reality of winding down these wars.

HH: Now how many years have you been on Approps?

TR: I got on Approps in ’06 and I was on until ’10, and now I just got back on this year. So I’ve been on Appropriations for five years, and I was on Armed Services before that, back to 2003.

HH: Well, this is very good for Northeastern Ohio that you’re there. It’s a crucial committee, and it’s also crucial for the military. But I’m curious, even as we build down in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Ryan-Murray budget, and I assume you voted for it, almost everybody did, that’s pre-Russian invasion of Crimea. To a certain extent, don’t you guys look up from that and say okay, that was then, this is now?

TR: Well, I don’t think that what they’re doing over there, I don’t think anybody’s got the stomach for us to get involved in that, you know, in a military way. I mean, there’s, the problem really is we’ve been so focused over the last ten years on counterinsurgency, and that has been a very important part of what we have had to do over the last ten years because of the situations that we were in. But there’s a lot of other issues that I think we need to ramp back up. And so we may be shrinking the force, but we also need to make sure that we go back and we get the skills and restore the skills and the credentialing, really, that’s needed for maneuver warfare, and the suppression of air support, forced entry as far as the Navy goes. These are issues that we’ve got to come back and we’ve lost the skill set in, Hugh. And we’ve got to make sure that we focus. So while we may be losing some numbers within the context of the soldiers, the airmen, the Marines, at the same time, we’ve got the ones that we do have, we’ve got to make sure that we ramp back up the skill level, and then be prepared. So we may not have the big numbers, but we’ve got to get back to where we’re achieving the skill sets that we had before the last two operations.

HH: Now see, I tell people Tim Ryan sounds like a Reagan Democrat, and there you just did, talking about making sure we have the ability of forced entry. I’m not advocating military intervention in Ukraine. I’m just pointing out, we’re sending one destroyer to the Black Sea, because our Navy’s down to 282 ships. And the Secretary talked about taking our carrier strength below eleven. And I think your colleagues over on Armed Services, your old committee, had a hearing on taking the Marine Corps down to 175,000. Tim Ryan, you’ve served on both committees. You know that’s too small of a Marine Corps.

TR: Well, we’re going to have to see. I mean, we’re ramping up the Special Forces, and they’ve been growing, and I think the Special Forces will continue to grow. And they’re a major part of all of these operations. So you know, nobody wants to see the Marine Corps shrink, but at the same time, we don’t have an infinite amount of money. I mean, I know you may want to increase the Marine Corps, and I may go on another radio show or talk to someone else, they may want to increase the Army, and they say well, we can’t take out the 60,000 soldiers from the Army. And then somebody else is going to say well hey, the cuts are too deep for the Air Force. And we’ve got to try to balance all that, but yet still maintain a good posture to be able to deal with these situations. Ultimately, I think when we’re talking about the Ukraine, as I stated today in the hearing, I think it’s critically important for us to get the, to see this real clearly. And the issue here is energy. It’s energy. About a third of the Europeans use natural gas coming out of Russia. About half of it passes through the Ukraine before it gets to the EU. And so we need to deal with this in a sophisticated way to make sure that we get the Europeans and the Ukrainians the natural gas that’s now being able to be taken out of the ground in Western PA and Eastern Ohio.

HH: No, you were making perfect sense. We’re going to come back to that and the industrial Defense base after the break.

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HH: And today, he got into it a little bit with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, asking them if the Pentagon actually knew what they were doing to the industrial base, the Defense industrial base, when they cut back on weapon systems. And I listened to the answers, Congressman Ryan, and the Secretary of Defense didn’t quite seem to know what you were talking about. But the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said we take that very seriously. But do you think they really get down to that, as you said, second, third tier in sub-contractor level when they cut these weapon systems?

TR: Well, we haven’t seen a whole lot of evidence of it, and I’m anxious to follow up with the Chairman and his staff and see exactly what’s happening out there. But I just, I think as you start to make these cuts, it’s important. You know, we’ve had a lot of people, a lot of small businesses, too, over the course of 2009-10-11, where a lot of their other businesses dried up, they became reliant on, unfortunately, on their government contracts that they were getting through the Defense industrial base and through the manufacturing chain. And we don’t want them to get overly reliant on that. We want to know who these people are and who will be affected by it. And I think this is all part of a broader strategy we need to have in the United States about resuscitating manufacturing, and making sure that these other companies know how to get plugged in. And once they get up to snuff for some of these Defense contractors that have very high standards, precision manufacturing and additive manufacturing on all these really sophisticated ways of manufacturing things today, then they are able to then go out and get other contracts. So getting business with the Department of Defense and these Defense contractors, list their skill level and their ability to make things for other businesses in the private sector so it’s a win all the way around. So we’ve got to be very careful we don’t dry up this resource that we have.

HH: Now I 1000% agree, and it’s especially important in the industrial states. But now, you knew this was coming. The biggest problem the industrial base has right now is Obamacare. I mean, it’s a nightmare, Tim. When are you going to, you know, get your colleagues together on the other side of the aisle and say we need to repeal and replace this with something that works?

TR: Well, there’s where we’re going to part ways, Hugh. I think it all depends on what your business is. You know, you can go to some businesses and this is beneficial to them. And I just, you know, try to remind some of my friends who you know and I know that over, it’s not like health care costs haven’t been going up over the last however many years, you know, especially for small businesses. Some of them, we’d come into our office, and this was you know, when George Bush was president, for example, and health care costs were going up sometimes 20, 30, 40, 50, 60%. And we’ve had a lot of people, and back home where I’m from, we had 1,700 people, families a couple years ago, the last stat I have, went bankrupt because of health care costs. These are things that are just unacceptable. So I’m certainly willing to sit down and try to fix. In fact, I just sent a letter off the other day that some of the insurance underwriting folks wanted to help them clarify, to try to tweak some of this stuff, and I’m happy to do that. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to bend the cost curve. And we’re not going to do that unless we get everybody in the tent.

HH: Well, the second things is, though, yesterday, you were talking to Huffington Post, and you wanted a minimum wage of $13 or $14 bucks an hour? I mean, that’ll.

TR: Well, I think ultimately, that’s what a living wage is in America.

HH: Holy smokes. John, Gillen is having a heart attack, Congressman. You took Econ from John Gillen, and if he hears you’re out there saying $13 or $14 an hour minimum wage, he’s going to come get your diploma.

TR: Hey, we don’t need to get there tomorrow, but I think you know, if we’re going to resuscitate the economy, we’ve got to get money back in average people’s pockets. And the bottom line, Hugh, is the consumer demand is down, and it’s not what it should be, because average people don’t have money in their pockets today. And I think if you’re working hard, these values that we learned at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School, if you work hard, you play by the rules, you may not have a college education, but you’re out there doing the right thing, you’re trying to stay off the public dole, you should be rewarded for it. And I think that’s where my friends on the other side are missing the boat. We should reward those people, and at that the same time, you can see it with, in the earned income tax credit, too, which Reagan called the greatest poverty program there. We should expand the earned income tax credit, and make sure that people who go to work have an opportunity to at least live above the poverty line. I don’t think that’s too much to ask in the wealthiest country in the history of God’s creation.

HH: Now a lot of people wanted you to run against John Kasich, and I’m glad you didn’t, because Governor Kasich’s going to win handily, and I think Democrats recognize that. But down the road, are you making a career out of Congress? Or are you going to go for the statehouse here when Kasich moves on in four years?

TR: You know what? I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m having, still learning a lot here. I’m having a good time. I’m on a great committee with the Defense Appropriations, and a lot of senior Democrats are starting to retire, so I’m really moving up on that committee and on the Appropriations Committee as a whole. And you know, we’ll just see what happens. You know, in politics, and when you’re a member of Congress every two years, there’s a Senate seat, there’s a gubernatorial race that comes up, and we look closely at these all the time. But you know, we’ll make that decision. I got married last April, so it’ll be a year. I’ve got two new step-kids and a new baby on the way, and so I’m kind of keeping an eye on home base here for a little while.

HH: Oh, that’s terrific, and I’m glad you’re pushing out oil and natural gas, and I’ll finish there. Obviously, this is a boon to our common hometown, but the EPA is trying to kill this in the cradle, Tim Ryan. Are you going over there and talking to those ideologues that are all wearing a D behind their name about not killing our new industry?

TR: Well, we’re seeing a lot of benefits from it, and I don’t see them killing it at all. And in fact, we had another investment today. We just made an announcement that a big manufacturing facility that has already spent a billion dollars, Vallourec out of France…

HH: You bet.

TR: They make the steel tubing, and they just had another $80 million dollar expansion in a partnership with a Japanese company, another 80 jobs, and will probably work its way up to another couple of hundred. We still see a lot of activity with the oil and gas. There’s a little less movement on the dry gas now than on the wet gas, because the wet gas is getting the price. But we’re fighting very hard to export it, and the administration has been helpful both with putting tariffs on Chinese steel coming over that has helped make that investment possible, and then is also helping with the permitting process to help us export some of the LNG and hopefully to those NATO countries and European countries to help position ourselves better in a geopolitical way.

HH: Tim Ryan, you’re a dangerous man. You’re a Democrat who knows what they’re talking about, except on the minimum wage and Obamacare. So we have to keep you in that Northeastern Ohio box. Thank you for joining me, Congressman, always a pleasure to talk to a fellow Eagle.

End of interview.

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    Hugh Hewitt
  • Hugh Hewitt is a lawyer, law professor, and broadcast journalist. A proficient blogger, Hugh Hewitt has one of the most visited political blogs in the U.S.

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