Government

Ryan Seeks ‘Idea Factory’ in Appeal to Younger Members

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan worked the phones over the weekend from his home in Howland, calling colleagues to seek support in his bid to unseat Nancy Pelosi as minority leader, he set forth how he would share power with younger members of Congress, gained his first public endorsement and heard his challenge dismissed as positioning for the 2018 Ohio gubernatorial race.

The cynicism of that assessment – mentioned on Meet the Press and again Sunday by The Vindicator’s Bertram de Souza – fell right in line with Pelosi loyalists who cast Ryan as an upstart who knows he’s going to lose, so why else would he bother?

But Ryan remains undeterred, knowing that time is on his side, the aging leadership of the House Democrats and their grip on power is a huge generation gap that only got wider with the party’s drubbing Nov. 8. If not now, when? he asks.

On Saturday the Mahoning Valley congressman issued a four-point plan to reform the House Democratic Caucus that recognizes the frustrations of young members whose lack of seniority denies them a voice in setting policy and the necessity of generating new ideas so Democrats can regain the House majority.

“The Democratic Party cannot move forward and win back our majority unless we decentralize the power of our party leadership and bring it back to all members. Each and every member brings to Congress ideas for how we can shape our party and our country for the 21st century, and it is time our leadership recognized that every member of our caucus must play a role,” Ryan said.

He followed up Sunday with a statement that “harshly rebuked the hate and bigotry” of Donald Trump’s selection of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., as attorney general, Michael Flynn as national security adviser, and Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist. Said Ryan, “[They] will never be welcomed in my office if I am elected minority leader; and I will fight every day to prevent the Trump Administration’s destructive ideas from tearing our country further apart.”

Sound like a prelude to a gubernatorial campaign in a state that Trump carried by nine points?

Ryan’s proposed reforms of the House Democratic Caucus would add new leadership positions, guarantee spots for members with three or fewer terms and increase the number of voices working to innovate policy by essentially creating an “idea factory.” He would also transform an existing caucus committee and re-name it the Democratic Committee on Message Strategy, and charge it with working “hand-in-hand with the newly created Democratic Committee on Policy Innovation.”

Ryan’s proposals won the endorsement Sunday of U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a freshman from Garden City, N.J., the first member to publicly join Ryan.

“I’ve talked with Tim extensively, and it is clear that he is focused on the future of our party and our caucus,” Rice said in a statement. “He’s focused on crafting a message that resonates with voters in every district. He’s focused on standing up to Trump and showing that Democrats are the real champions of the working class and the ones who truly respect working people.”

House Minority Leader Pelosi said last week that she has the support of two-thirds of the 193-member caucus. Ryan’s bid to unseat her is considered by Washington insiders to be the longest of long shots.

As for the reforms he is proposing, unless Pelosi plans to make the next session of Congress her last hurrah and fully insulate the old-guard power structure, she might decide to save face and compromise before counting the votes Nov. 30.

That would also make Ryan a winner.

VIDEO:
‘3 Minutes With’ U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, Ohio

RELATED COVERAGE:
Ryan Tells Local Press Why He’s Challenging Pelosi
Analysis: Ryan’s Policy Agenda Wins Even If He Loses

 

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.