Ryan Urges Support from Pence for EV Initiatives

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said Tuesday he hopes Vice President Mike Pence will bring support for electric vehicles, and not just rhetoric, when he visits the Lordstown Motors Corp. plant.

Pence is scheduled to attend Lordstown Motors’ official noon reveal event Thursday for its Endurance electric pickup truck, where he will deliver remarks, according to a statement from his office Monday.

According to an advisory issued Tuesday, Air Force Two is scheduled to arrive at Youngstown Air Reserve Station at 11:15 a.m. Thursday. From there, he will travel to Lordstown Motors at 12:30 p.m.

He also is expected to meet with law enforcement and community leaders before returning to Washington that evening.

General Motors, which manufactured vehicles for years at the Lordstown plant where Lordstown Motors is now based, sold the plant to the electric vehicle startup last year. After GM ceased vehicle production in March 2019, President Donald Trump urged the automaker to give the plant a new product or sell it to another company.

“Obviously that’s helpful that General Motors was so cooperative,” Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said.

The congressman attributed that to a sense of responsibility on the part of company executives for “the commitment the people of this region have given” to GM for five decades.

Ryan criticized the Trump administration for zeroing out funding for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Loan Program in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, which Lordstown Motors was considering applying for as part of its financing — and which Ryan re-secured funding for during the appropriations process — as well as for eliminating a tax credit to support consumer sales of electric vehicles.

Trump also is trying to cancel funding for the loan program in the FY 2021 budget, but a spokesman for the congressman said Ryan expects to be able to ensure funding for the program will continue.

“I hope [Pence] being here is a signal that they’re going to start supporting the actual initiatives we’re going to need to build capacity out there,” he said. The incentives won’t be needed forever but are needed now to cultivate the industry, he said.

Ryan also was asked how the vice president should address the coronavirus pandemic and the current racial unrest stemming from incidents of police misconduct involving people of color.

“There’s a lot of explaining to do to the American people,” the congressman said. “We have to heal as a country and the botched response to the coronavirus has obviously led to significant consequences for both public health and for the economy. I hope he talks about that a little bit.”

Ryan said he hopes Pence – with whom he has a “decent relationship” from when they served in Congress – doesn’t use the meeting with law enforcement to drive a political wedge between police and the Black community.

While the vice president is meeting with law enforcement, Ryan suggested that he meet with groups representing people of color to approach issues with police “in a thoughtful way.” The country is recognizing that there are “systemic issues around race” and there needs to be an honest, “uncomfortable” conversation about race in the country, as well as to hear about housing, education funding, health care and other issues.

“If the conversation isn’t uncomfortable, then it’s just happy talk,” Ryan said.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.