Ryan, Vance Clash at Stambaugh Auditorium

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan defended his support for the Inflation Reduction Act as one of the factors that contributed to a series of project announcements statewide and across Ohio, while J.D. Vance blamed the bill for fanning inflation.  

The legislation was among several topics debated by the Democratic and Republican nominees for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati Republican, during a televised debate hosted by WFMJ-TV Monday night at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Throughout the debate, Ryan, D-13 Ohio, touted his ability to work across the aisle with Republicans and said Vance would be tethered to national GOP leaders and donors who have contributed to his campaign. Vance, a venture capitalist and author, charged that Ryan votes with his party’s leadership 100% of the time. 

WFMJ anchors Derek Steyer and Lindsay McCoy and veteran Mahoning Valley political journalist Bertram DeSouza took the two candidates through a series of issues ranging from inflation and immigration to abortion and the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Ryan acknowledged the economic pain people are feeling from inflation but said that the inflation Reduction Act will drive down the deficit by $300 billion and addresses one of the big drivers of inflation, the fact that so much of the U.S. supply chain is overseas. He cited a “stream of investments in Ohio” since its passage, including Honda’s announcement last week that it would site a new $4.4 billion plant to build batteries for electric vehicles and investments in solar energy in Toledo.

Closer to home, he pointed to the Ultium cells EV battery plant in Lordstown and additional vehicles being announced – for a total of four – at the Foxconn plant in Lordstown, and referenced the Ohio Intel plant announcement that followed passage of the Chips Act.  

“This is the future for us, J.D.,” Ryan said. “I know you’re not here a lot, but what we’ve been working on in this community and in Ohio are the jobs of the future.”

The $2 trillion in additional federal spending in the legislation won’t reduce inflation, Vance challenged.

“That’s adding fuel to the fire of inflation,” he said. “We need to stop spending money that we don’t have — the runaway spending is one of the reasons why we have inflation.”

Vance also said the Inflation Reduction Act raises taxes on working people by $40 billion and that Larry Summers, economist and treasury secretary under former president Barack Obama, warned that inflation would worsen if the bill passed.

In addition, he criticized President Joe Biden for shutting down pipelines and permitting for oil and gas leases, making investing in the state’s oil and gas sector impossible.

“That rising energy price that people see at the pump, that they see in the utility bills, that our farmers see when they’re paying more for diesel, that was the direct result of policies and actions by Joe Biden, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and supported 100% by Tim Ryan,” he said.

Vance’s references to Pelosi prompted Ryan to tell his GOP rival to “move back to San Francisco” and run against her.

The two candidates were challenged by DeSouza to identify an issue with which they disagreed with a key ally on – former President Donald Trump in Vance’s case and Pelosi in Ryan’s.

Vance said he disagreed with Trump, whom he characterized as a friend, on several things. In particular, he said the Trump administration installed “a lot of bad personnel” like John Bolton, former national security adviser, “folks who actually advocated limitless nonstop wars.”  

He also addressed Trump’s comment at their Sept. 17 rally in Youngstown that Vance was “kissing my a ass” for his support.

“He told a joke at a rally based on a false New York Times story and Tim Ryan has decided to run his entire campaign on it,” while Ryan has said he loves Pelosi and that he has to “suck up and kiss up” to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Vance said.  

“I ran against Nancy Pelosi for leadership,” Ryan said, referring to his past challenge of Pelosi to lead House Democrats. “You have to have the courage to take on your own leaders.”

One of the more intense clashes of the evening came toward the end of the debate, as the candidates discussed immigration. Vance, who is married to the daughter of South Asian immigrants who came to the country legally, said immigrants “introduction to this country should not be breaking its laws.”   

Ryan, who said the nation “has been enriched by immigrants” from around the world, said Vance runs around with proponents of the “great replacement theory” who stoke racial violence. The white gunman charged with killing 10 Black people in a racist mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket this summer reportedly was motivated by white supremacist beliefs.

“Here’s exactly what happens when the media and people like Tim Ryan accuse me of engaging the great, great replacement theory,” Vance responded angrily. “What happens is that my own children, my biracial children, get attacked by scumbags online and in person because you are so desperate for political power that you will accuse me — the father of three beautiful biracial babies — of engaging in racism. We are sick of it.”

Ryan responded that he would never talk about Vance’s family but acknowledged he “struck a nerve with this.”

The two candidates also were asked about the Jan. 6 House Select Committee’s decision last week to subpoena Trump to testify and provide documents related to his role in the day’s events.

Ryan said the former president “should be afforded all the right that every other American citizen’s afforded” and should respond to the subpoena.

He also said that the people who attacked the Capitol attempted to “overthrow the United States of America” and attempted to stop the peaceful transfer of power between administrations “and disenfranchise over 80 million of our own fellow citizens.”

Trump would provide “a pretty enlightening piece of testimony” if he complied with the subpoena, Vance said, but argued that the House panel “has shown from the very beginning that it’s not interested in the truth” but rather “a political hit job” dating back to “the obsession with the idea that Donald Trump somehow had the [2016] election stolen by the Russians.”

He also said he had repeatedly condemned the violence that took place that day but asked Ryan why he wouldn’t condemn the violence that took place during the summer of 2020, in the wake of protests over police brutality. The media and Ryan’s “obsession with this issue” while people can’t support their families and  there is a “massive border security problem … suggests they’re not actually paying attention to the concerns of everyday voters in this state who are getting crushed by the policies you’ve supported,” he remarked.

“We’re a very complicated democracy here, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time.,” Ryan responded. “If a group of people stormed the Capitol, we’re trying to file the paperwork for an election, and they’re trying to prevent that from happening and they want to kill the vice president, that needs to be looked into.”

Vance also blamed “skyrocketing gun violence” on the decision by Ryan and other Democrats to “declare war on America’s police” and called for fixing “the system that’s broken” rather than layering new gun regulations on top of it.

“You can’t watch the school shooting, you can’t watch the level of violence we have here and not think we need background checks,” Ryan said. “We need to close the gun show loophole. We need to make sure that those weapons of war are not readily available.”

Additionally, Ryan criticized Vance over an apparent tweet in which he defended conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who last week was ordered to pay at least $965 million in damages to the families of victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 after claiming that the shooting was faked.

Vance said he supported training teachers to carry firearms. – permitted by Ohio law after just 24 hours of training – as “part of the solution” to school shootings, along with increasing funding for school resource officers, as well as “making sure that we lock up violent criminals” and addressing mental health issues. He took issue with Ryan’s support during his presidential campaign for ending cash bail.

Ryan, whose wife is a schoolteacher, characterized the idea of having teachers trained to shoot in such a situation, with kids running around, as “a very risky proposition.”

The two also disagreed on a different law enforcement issue, police accountability. 

“There are a lot of things in place that make sure that the bad cops aren’t able to continue to do what they do,” Vance said. “The good cops want the bad cops out of the police force.”

He blamed Ryan’s support for stripping officers of qualified immunity for violent crime on the street. After 2020, “we were so worried about the rare bad cop that we completely turned the federal government loose on our law enforcement,” he said. 

“This is a national problem,” Ryan said. “We need more cops, we need better paid cops and we have to get rid of the bad cops. We also have to understand that there’s a complicated relationship between law enforcement and primarily the Black community, which means we’ve got to have a national discussion.”

He also discussed putting additional money into the America Rescue Plan to provide state and local government support for law enforcement, and said he wants to work with the Fraternal Order of Police, NAACP and Urban League to come up with solutions. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.