Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci joined me this morning to talk about the race to succeed Governor John Kasich in the Buckeye State –where holding the statehouse in ’18 will be crucial to holding the White House in ’20:
HH: And I am now joined by Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci from the 16th Congressional district, begins at the lake, heads south and comes very close to Trumbull county, but he’s not yet been honored by representing Trumbull County. Congressman Renacci, how are you? Good to talk to you again.
JR: Good, Hugh, how are you this morning?
HH: Good. The first question I want to ask you, you’re on Ways and Means and on Budget, so we’ll get to the repeal and replace in a moment. Are you running for governor in Ohio?
JR: Well, that’s a question a lot of people have been asking. I’ve had a lot of donors asking me to step up and be willing to do it. And I’m going to make that decision real soon.
HH: Well, how soon is soon? Is it like this week or next week?
JR: It’s soon.
HH: Now give us a headline here, Congressman. By the end of the month?
JR: Well, it’ll be soon. That’s all I can tell you, Hugh.
HH: What factors go into that calculation, other than being able to win, because you’ve got Mike DeWine and Jon Husted, and you’ve got Mary Taylor. I mean, it’s like a parade running for governor in Ohio. I may come back there and run for governor.
JR: Well, look, there are a lot of good people running, but what I bring to the table, of course, is 30 years of business experience versus almost 70 years of political experience combined with the three of those individuals, so I’m looking for a way, Hugh, when I came here 34 years ago as a young guy, Ohio was the place to raise a family and grow a business, and good wages, and manufacturing in the tire industry and all those kinds of things. And look, I think we need to be better here. We need to make Ohio similar to what it was 34 years ago, and so that’s why I’m strongly considering it.
HH: That sounds like a candidacy statement, the 30 years of private sector versus 70 years of political experience. That sounds like a declaration speech.
JR: Well, it’s just one of those things. I actually believe that businesspeople, look, my frustrations in Washington are very similar, because I have to deal with a lot of people who are career politicians who have never had to live with the rules they make. And so I’m concerned about the future, even in Washington, if we don’t start thinking about the people back home and the rules that we make that they all have to live with. That’s how we got Obamacare. We had some people sitting in a room making decisions about Obamacare that now we have to live with back here at home.
HH: Okay, let me ask you a question that is factual, not speculative. Have you talked to Governor Kasich about running?
JR: Governor Kasich actually called me last week. I called him a couple of weeks back. He returned my call, and you know, we talked about a lot of things. I’ve known Governor Kasich for eight or ten years, and we’ve talked about those issues, plus the issues in Washington.
HH: Does he want you to run?
JR: We talked about a lot of things, but you know, in regards to the governorship, he, we just talked about it and the challenges he has, and he never really said much. And again, we had, that was a private conversation about issues and opportunities.
HH: Now of the four candidates, three that would run against you, Jon Husted, who is the Ohio secretary of state, Mary Taylor is the lieutenant governor, and Mike DeWine is the attorney general, former U.S. senator. Who’s the toughest challenge for you if you run? I mean, you can speculate. You haven’t declared. But who gives you the hardest, the most heartburn of those three?
JR: Well, again, that’s not a decision for me. That’s really a decision for the people of Ohio. I’m going to, if I do make that decision to run, I’m going to be talking about my accomplishments. You know, they have a lot of political ID, because they’ve been around a long time. I have a lot of accomplishment ID, and I think that’ll be, that’ll really be the difference. And we’ll see.
HH: You’ve generated considerable wealth in your very successful business career. Will you self-fund?
JR: Well, you know, a lot of people ask that all the time. All I can tell you is I’m going to continue to worry about how I can make Ohio different, and change the perspective of Ohio, and I know in the end they’ll, I will have enough resources to get that message out.
HH: So are you going to give me the scoop when you decide? Or are you going to give it to Gomez?
JR: I’ll call you back. How’s that?
HH: Well, I mean first. I don’t want you to give it to Henry first. He’s out of the game now. He’s a BuzzFeed guy. You don’t have to suck up to Henry anymore. You can give me the scoop, Jim.
JR: Well, again, you and I have been friends for a long time. I’ll let you know.
HH: We were at the Akron Library together. I’m just reminding you, I was campaigning for you back then. Now let’s go to this repair and replace. You’re on Budget, you’re on Ways and Means. Does this get through the House on Thursday?
JR: You know, Hugh, it’s going to be interesting. I believe there’s some momentum, but at the end, this is a process that in my opinion broke down in the sense that you know, we haven’t had hearings, which is always frustrating for me. But I do think it’s a good plan. I do think there are a lot of good ideas in there. I just think there are a lot of people that don’t know all the ideas, and I’m one of them. I mean, now, we’ve moved from the House, we’ve moved from Ways and Means through Budget, and I voted both in the Ways and Means and the Budget Committee to move it forward, but now my understanding is there’s going to be a lot of changes, which is always frustrating for me, and those changes are going to end up in the Rules Committee, which who knows what those changes are? So it’s hard to make a decision today whether you can support something when you don’t know all the changes to it.
HH: What changes have you been told are going to be in there?
JR: Well, I’ve been told that there’s going to be some flexibility with the states. I’m told that there’ll be some credits, you know, opportunities to change the credits to help some of the older generation, 55 and older. I’ve been told that there’ll be elimination of, today, a state that’s not in the, that did not do Medicaid expansion under the bill that we have it as today can join. They can jump in. So we have 31 states in. There are 19 that aren’t in. Those 19 states could actually jump in. I was told that’s going to change. So there’s some major changes going to occur, and my answer is I really have to see what the entire bill looks like. You know, I just don’t want to pass something because somebody told me it’s going to be good. Now that we’re making some changes to it, I want to see what those issues are.
HH: Now Senator Cotton, your colleague who was elected the same year you were, said there is no phase three, that there is no follow on legislation. You’ll never get 60 votes to do real legislation. So I’ve been suggesting using tax provisions to dis-incentivize, you know, plaintiff’s lawyer-friendly states to cut back on essential benefits regulation. Is anything innovative coming out of these talks that you’re hearing about?
JR: Well, Hugh, look, first, there’s two ways we could have done this, and I understand what some on the right are saying, and we should have put, some on the right are saying we should have put everything in a bill and just forced it to be passed, which would have included some of these other issues, and some things that could drive the cost curve down, and let’s put it in a bill and let’s force the Senate to vote on it. Well, it’s kind of interesting, because if the Senate doesn’t vote on that, and we don’t get 60 votes, then that bill goes down. So really, the process that Speaker Ryan has decided to move forward on is the process that can work, where you take reconciliation. You only need 51 votes in the Senate. But you do need a three-step process. The interesting thing that I believe in, where I probably disagree with Senator Cotton is yes, some of those innovative things might not get done in phase three, but they wouldn’t have gotten done in phase one if we would have just put it all up in one bill. So now you actually take, you’ve got the plumbing, which is what we’re doing in phase one, you get the administration to do what they can do and kind of put the plumbing somewhat back in order, and then phase three is when now you work with the other side and say look, the plumbing’s been gutted, the things that have been changed, let’s figure out a way to make this work going forward.
HH: Well, we’ll see if that does, and do you think that’ll be a big issue in your campaign for governor?
JR: Well, look, everything that I do, I’ve always reflected back on Ohio. So I take my business experience, and I take what’s going on in Washington, then I make my decisions what’s best for Ohio and the 16th District. But what I will tell you, Hugh, is Ohio can’t wait for Washington. Washington, again, the system is somewhat broken, and I’m hoping Donald Trump can change that.
HH: Come back, Congressman, and when the campaign is official. But that sounds like a near declaration to me. I appreciate it, Jim Renacci.
End of interview.