Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and possible candidate for president for the Democrats joined me this morning:
HH: I’m joined by my friend, Congressman Tim Ryan from the great state of Ohio, from Niles and Warren, in fact. Congressman, are you in The Land? Or are you back inside the Beltway…uh oh, Congressman Ryan, are you on…
TR: I’m in The Land.
HH: Oh, good. You should be back here. Don’t you have first day at work tomorrow?
TR: Yeah, I’ll be there tonight late.
HH: All right. First question, Ohio State last night, you’ve got to say they should have been in the Final Four, don’t you think?
TR: There’s no doubt about it, no doubt about it. I mean, you know, when you watch even the Georgia game and how they played last night, you think Ohio State’s got to be there. I think they need to move to a bigger tournament. They need to move to at least an 8-team playoff.
HH: That is, they just got screwed, and they looked good last night. They laid off a little bit in the second half, but they still looked good. And the Browns, Congressman, I have to think this is the first time you and I have felt optimistic about our club in a long time.
TR: Unbelievable. I mean, Baker, Baker, Money Maker. I’m so pumped. I mean, it feels like I’ve got another day in the week back with my Sundays now, so it’s unbelievable.
HH: There you go. There you go. So that’s next year. Let’s talk about this year. Are you and Nancy Pelosi getting along after your challenge to her speakership a few years ago?
TR: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, we get along fine. You know, a lot, we kept it professional the entire way. I mean, I clearly had some opinions that I expressed numerous times publicly, but you know, at some point, you’ve got to start governing the country. And we’re in the majority now in the House.
HH: Now I want to tell people you are on the House Appropriations Committee. More importantly, not only are you in House Appropriations, you’re on the Defense subcommittee. Two years ago, we approved $700 billion dollars in spending, last year $716. The President’s request is going to be $750. Tim Ryan, this is your number one job to get this right. Do you think we’ll get an appropriations bill out of the House that’s near the President’s request and over to the Senate?
TR: I hope so. I think we will. I mean, we’ve got to make the bigger argument, and here’s the problem I see, Hugh, with the 24 hour news cycle that the President gets himself wrapped up in, the constant back and forth, the chaos. We’re losing the larger narrative of our relationship in the world with our allies, our relationship in the world with China, and our relationship with Russia. China is coming at us. They are in Africa. They are locking down long-term deals in Africa for raw materials. They’re building islands in the South China Sea. They’ve got very detailed, long-term programs like their One Belt, One Road, where they’re connecting Asia to the Middle East. They’ve got a Make It In China 2025, where they’re really trying to take over manufacturing in the world. They’re investing hundreds of billions of dollars in artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, wind, solar, high-speed rail. And we aren’t even acting like we’re in a competition with them. And the Defense budget with the technologies that are in there, and look, we’ve got to audit the Defense Department. We’ve got to make sure we’re not wasting money. But we are falling behind in major technologies in weapons systems that we can’t afford to fall back on.
HH: Well, that’s music to my ears. Do your colleagues on the Democratic side, because you’ll be in the majority now, do they agree with you on Approps? And will they agree with you in Rules? And will it get to the floor and get to the Senate?
TR: Well, we’re going to find out. You know, we’ve got a pretty diverse coalition in the Democratic caucus right now. But again, you know, we have got to make sure every member of the Democratic caucus and the country understand this competition. And if you’re in this competition, and China is overtaking us in so many ways, Russia doesn’t have quite as strong of an economic hand as China does, but they are playing their hand pretty well, militarily. And we’ve got to compete with them as well. If you don’t understand that competition, you’re not going to understand the need. One of the provisions we’ve got to continue to push, too, Hugh, is when we’re making things through the Defense Department, when we’re signing these big contracts, that this stuff is made in the United States, that this stuff is made in areas that have lost manufacturing so that the tax dollars aren’t just serving a great national purpose with our Defense industry and our foreign policy and hard and soft power, but it’s also creating jobs in areas that need job creation to happen.
HH: Now you know, the Chinese are putting one ship in the water every single month. We’re not even close to that. Do you think that you’re going to get, do you think the acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan being an acquisition guy is going to figure out how to lay out for the House a detailed set of acquisition instructions?
TR: I hope so. You know, I think really all my disagreements with what’s happening with the government today, I think Secretary Mattis put together really the only comprehensive long-term plan for acquisition, technology, and readiness within, and creating a lethal force within the National Defense Strategy. It is comprehensive. It is detailed. I hope we just continue to execute what he’s put forward, him and his team have put forward, and that includes acquisition. And this is another reason, too, Hugh, I mean, we don’t have to build every sub if we have allies that have submarines, too. And so people say well, what the hell do we need to be friends with this country or that country. Well, if you peel the onion back one layer, you realize well, they’ve got five submarines and they help us in Iraq, and they help us in Syria, and they help us here and they help us there. Those are costs and expenses we don’t have to incur, because we have friends. And so yeah, we’ve got to build more submarines, because we are falling behind. But we also have to make sure we keep those relationships with our allies, because we utilize their material and their weapon systems, too.
HH: All right, last question on this. I don’t think of China as a friend, and I don’t think of them as a near-peer competitor. I think of them as a peer competitor that has not taken military action off the table, nor will they ever. Do you agree with my assessment, Tim Ryan?
TR: I sure do. I sure do.
HH: That puts you in the part of the Democratic Party that I remember as the Scoop Jackson Democrats. When are you going to Iowa next, Congressman Ryan?
TR: (laughing) I don’t have any trips planned to Iowa or New Hampshire, but I am getting invited a lot to those two states. So I may end up making another road trip.
HH: Do you have any plans on making an announcement on seeking the presidency?
TR: I’m going to make a decision in the coming weeks. Yeah, I’m going to…
HH: You’re going to do that on this show, I assume?
TR: Oh, well, of course.
HH: Of course.
HH: You know, California starts voting absentee the same day that the Iowa Caucuses happen, and it votes for 30 straight days, and it’s millions of votes. I’m on in every major market in California. I’m sure curious what do Democrats do about this situation if they’re thinking about the presidency?
TR: Well, I mean, look, this is politics. These are elections. You start and you win. I mean, that, to me, is how you get elected. I mean, it’s not brain surgery. You get elected. If a candidate pops in Iowa, it’s certainly going to help them the next 30 days in the California early vote. And if you can get over to New Hampshire and get another win and get a lot of momentum, that’s going to help you as well. But if looks like from the rumors that there may be two, three, maybe even four different candidates from California, which will divide up the California vote and you know, so that would make anybody eligible to maybe pull something off over there. So it’s complicated, but there, those four early states are going to be key for anybody, especially somebody like me who would come out. I’m not from New York. I’m not going to have all the money or the power centers in the country. So it’s imperative for an outsider candidate to win Iowa and New Hampshire and then keep going.
HH: Is it okay to call you a Scoop Jackson Democrat? Does that, is that okay in your party anymore, or do you have to run from that title?
TR: I don’t know if anybody remembers Scoop Jackson, but you can. You know, again, I think, like you can’t participate in a global economy without a strong military. It just doesn’t make any sense. And if you know, Democrats need to make sure that on these issues of security, whether it’s securing the border or securing our national defense and protecting our interests around the world, especially you know, when it comes to climate, we’ve got to be engaged. And you know, you can’t do that without a strong military.
HH: Let me turn to two local issues. Number one, Lordstown, they took $50 billion dollars in federal aid. You and I both grew up with people who were working on the line or had kids in our school when they were working on, our teachers would work there in the summertime. That’s a death blow to the Valley. What do you hear from GM?
TR: I’ve got to tell you, Hugh, it has been devastating. I mean, you grew up not far from where I grew up in the same county. And to watch these families now leave, you know, we hear about family separation at the border. Well, there’s family separation happening right now in Trumbull County, Ohio, where the dad or the mom has to leave the family to go to Tennessee or go to Arlington, Texas, or go, and they’re literally going to commute and leave the family, because the kids are in high school, and they’re established, and it’s sickening what’s happening. I don’t know what GM’s going to do. I had several conversations with Mary Barra. But this is all coming down to contract negotiations, you know, with the local unions from around the country. And then they’re going to figure out from those contract negotiations which product goes where. And we’re hoping that Lordstown, Ohio is in the mix. What makes you sick, too, look, they got the bailout, right? They got the rescue package which I voted for and supported. And then they got $157 million dollars this past year in the tax cut. And then they cut 14,000 jobs and their stock goes up 6%. Now what’s wrong with that economic model there?
HH: There’s a lot. And I’ll tell you, when you take government money, you don’t do that. If it’s a private company without government money, it’s fine by me. But that is just a pure, that’s a private-public partnership that ought not to screw Ohio. Last question, Ravenna. The missile defense agency is going to have to decide someday about the East Coast missile defense system. And if they put it in Ravenna, that makes sense to me. What do you hear, Tim Ryan?
TR: I haven’t heard much. They’re, they keep delaying the decision. I’m not sure they’re going to keep the program. It, Mattis said he wanted it to go back for further review. This was several months ago. We feel like we have the best option here for the East Coast missile defense fund. Again, this is what I mentioned earlier about spending Defense money in areas that would really benefit to have $3-4 billion dollars in economic impact and 800 full-time jobs when it was all said and done in a region in Northeast Ohio that could really use it. That’s how you want to be spending your Defense money. It meets a national purpose, national Defense purpose, but also has economic impact. I hope that happens. We haven’t heard. Maybe with the new secretary now, we’ll get some word. But I’m hoping we move forward with it, not just to authorize the program, but to fund the program.
HH: You kown, Dr. Griffin, who’s the chief technology officer at the Pentagon, said at CSIS a couple weeks ago, “I think everybody is aware that the last time we really invested in transformative capabilities was in the Reagan era. We introduced stealth fighters, stealth aircraft. We introduced GPS precision-guided munitions, high-data encrypted communications, things that were really transformative.” We’ve got to get back in that game. I think it starts in Ravenna, because we’ve got to be ready to intercept this stuff – hypersonics and all of them.
TR: Yeah, no question about it. I mean, directed energy, there’s a lot of technologies that we’re behind on, and we’ve got to make investments in. And like I said, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, I think most people want to see that those products are being built and assembled and manned and fixed in the United States to the extent we can do that.
HH: Amen. Amen. All right, well, you’re a Scoop Jackson Democrat to me, Tim Ryan, and you’re a Browns and a Buckeye fan, so have a great start to 2019. I’ll see you inside the Beltway.
TR: You, too. Take care, Hugh. Thanks.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.