Government

Ryan Dismisses Talk of Retribution from Pelosi

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said it is unlikely that Nancy Pelosi would retaliate against him for challenging her as minority leader.

Ryan, D-13 Ohio, received 63 votes from his fellow Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to the 134 cast for Pelosi, D-12 Calif., re-elected to lead the caucus.

“Having 63 people vote for me will make it very, very difficult to have any kind of retribution at all,” said Ryan, who serves on the powerful Appropriations Committee. He spoke with local reporters following Wednesday’s vote.

“A lot of people would be very, very offended by that because, whether or not they voted for me, there were a lot of people who wanted to have the conversation that I forced us to have,” he continued.

Phones in his office were “ringing off the hook over the last two weeks,” he said, those calls from people throughout country saying the issues he raised were what Democrats should be talking about.

“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong,” the congressman said. “I have people that I care about, that I represent, who are feeling left out of the Democratic Party, and I had a lot of colleagues who each represent 700,000 people who felt the same way. We gave voice to people who were feeling left out.”

Since Donald Trump’s victory Nov. 8 and Democrats’ failure to reclaim a majority in either chamber of Congress, Ryan has spoken repeatedly about the need for Democrats to craft an economic message targeted to working class voters, many of whom crossed party lines to vote for Donald Trump. He also called for a party leader who can effectively campaign for Democrats in those districts that Trump won.

“Many people voted for Donald Trump. Many people stayed home because we didn’t connect with them,” Ryan said. “Even if voters didn’t believe everything Trump says he would do, the heart of his message is that he understood their anxiety.”

Ryan said he has been concerned about House Democratic Caucus since the 2010 midterm election when Republicans reclaimed the House majority, made gains in the Senate and took many state races. In a video interview with The Business Journal shortly after the 2010 midterms, he said House Democrats should consider replacing Pelosi as their leader. He was quickly called on the carpet by party leadership, he said.

“I bit my tongue in 2012, 2014 and 2016,” he said. “I’m not going to bite my tongue anymore.”

In the aftermath of this year’s election and the vacuum in the Democratic Party, Ryan said he felt it his responsibility to “step up” and give voice for those who feel “disconnected in a lot of ways from the Democratic Party,” he said. “In that regard, this was a big victory.”

Ryan said he is “obviously disappointed” with the outcome of the race, which he believed he had an “outside shot” of winning. He is proud of the race he ran, he said, where he “didn’t get personal” with his former mentor.

“We respected Leader Pelosi but you can still have an argument about the future direction of the party,” he said. Had undecideds broken his way, he felt he “could really make a close run” at the leadership post.

“Getting 63 votes against Nancy Pelosi is really significant,” he declared. “The buzz in town is that we got 20 more votes than anybody thought we would and we defined the message in the last two weeks. We really shaped the national message about where I believe the Democratic Party needs to be.”

He acknowledged he didn’t know whether he would do it again, noting that he had “made a few enemies” and “cracked a few eggs along the way.”

David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, said that any retribution by Pelosi against Ryan would be “the worst political move” she could make. “That’s just giving a big old slap to voters in the middle part of the country,” he said. “She would be very ill-advised to do that.”

Betras is impressed with the number of votes Ryan received, he said. Not only did Ryan get more than Pelosi’s last challenger, more Democrats voted in that leadership race. “With fewer members, Tim got more votes,” he said.

Pelosi described herself as “exhilarated” by the “strong vote” of the caucus. She also congratulated Ryan on “a good race” and said she looks forward to working with her caucus to put forth a message that connects with the American people.

“Today has a special excitement for me because I think we’re at a time where it’s well beyond politics,” she said. “It’s about the character of America and how we go forward in our caucus to put forth our values which are what unite us as a caucus, to differentiate between us and the administration that will come into Washington in January. Where we can engage, we will. Where we need to oppose, we will.”

Pictured: Ryan makes his way to meet with reporters following yesterday’s vote.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.