Politics

Downplaying Presidential Bid, Ryan Says Focus on Dem Coalition

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – While the rumor mill has been swirling around U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and the possibility of a run at the presidency, the congressman Friday downplayed the idea and said he’s focused on the November election.

“I am focused on ’18 but I am very concerned that I need help in Washington,” said Ryan, D-13 Ohio. “I need more people from communities like ours if we’re going to push an agenda to help with health care, pensions and wages. Until we get more people in congress representing those views, we won’t move the needle.”

Ryan, speaking with press after a tour of the new firing range at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, said he wouldn’t make a decision on pursuing the Democratic nomination until after the November election, where he will face Republican Chris DePizzo of Cuyahoga Falls as the top challenger to the seat Ryan has held since 2003.

Since challenging U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House last fall, Ryan said he’s become recognized by some as an “alternative Democrat” to the party’s current leadership.

“It’s indicative of a void in the Democratic party, where a working-class person from a place like I’m from and represents the views I do that believes in a new and better economy and private sector but also believes in better government,” he said.

Right now, he said, “We’re focused on getting elected and electing other Democrats around the country so there’s a coalition in the House of Representatives to push these issues.”

Earlier this week, CNN reported that Ryan had hired Pete D’Alessandro, one of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ top aides in Iowa during the 2016 campaign, as a consultant.

“Pete has become a good friend of mine and he’s one of the more brilliant strategists,” Ryan said. “As I look at helping in these other races around the country, he’s the kind of guy I want. I’m not hiring someone from Washington, D.C., that doesn’t understand the Midwest.”

News website The Intercept also reported that Ryan had started telling “political consultants and operatives” about his plans to run for president. Friday, he said people have approached him about the possibility and asked him questions, “then I have to answer those questions,” he said with a laugh.

On Thursday, Ryan introduced the Working on Rewards and Keeping Employees Resilient – or Worker – Act alongside a 24-page report titled, “Putting America Back to Work.”

The act focuses on workforce development, especially in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, and retraining workers that have been laid off.

“For workers who are going from $30 or $40 an hour and can’t find something else that pays that, we’ll have wage insurance for a year or two through the transition to make sure it’s a little more of a soft landing while they get retrained,” Ryan explained. “We have thousands of jobs that are unfilled in construction and steel and welding. Most of it’s about the connection and showing the pathway.”

He added that some of the unemployment practices used in Europe could serve American workers well.

“Once you leave work and are unemployed, you start to fall out of the workforce,” Ryan said. “In Europe, they keep you at work and the government covers 90% and the company 10% so you stay at work. Then, you get trained for the next job so you’re not losing skills.”

The act is cosponsored by Reps. Ro Khanna and Linda Sanchez of California, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Yvette Clark of New York, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii.

Whether or not he runs for the nation’s top office, Ryan said he hopes that the Democratic nominee “would be innovative in thinking about connecting workers who are unemployed or not making the wages they want and getting those workers into good, solid, high-paying jobs with pensions and benefits.”

Part of that innovative thinking could be doing away with “obsolete” models for the economy, including the measure of unemployment as a barometer of the nation’s economic success.

“Even though the unemployment rate is low, anxiety is high over pensions, health care and stagnant wages,” Ryan said. “Globalization passed these communities by and automation is making it even harder. Government officials need to grasp what’s going on around the world and put together an agenda to help families deal with it.”

Pictured: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan was among the Ohio congressional delegation speaking at Youngstown Air Reserve Station Firday morning.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.