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Calfee NOW Episode 15 With Congressman Tim Ryan 

On Episode 15 of Calfee NOW, Raymond Tarasuck, Senior Counsel with Calfee's Government Relations & Legislation practice group, and Jamie Gregory, Principal, Federal Government Relations with Calfee Strategic Solutions, spoke with Congressman Tim Ryan (D - OH, District 13). 

Topics discussed included:

  • The events of January 6, 2021 and how it has impacted constituents, visitors and advocates interacting with their members of congress. 
  • The issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which of those issues he is prioritizing, and how he plans to address them in the next Congressional Session. 
  • Details of a possible infrastructure package and what issues will be highlighted. 
  • If the return of earmarks will help members of Congress accomplish projects in their districts. 
  • His role as Chair of the House Manufacturing Caucus and his plan going forward to prioritize manufacturing and innovation at the federal level. 
  • How the relationships formed over two decades in Congress will help him achieve his legislative goals. 

Calfee NOW Episode 22

Watch the full episode.



Video Transcript

Raymond Tarasuck:

Well, I want to welcome everybody to this next edition of Calfee Now. I'm Ray Tarasuck, Senior Counsel with Calfee, Halter & Griswold's government relations practice. And I want introduce my colleague, Jamie Gregory. Jamie is a principal at Calfee Strategic Solutions in our Washington DC office. And together we want to welcome a very special guest, Congressman Tim Ryan. Congressman, welcome.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

It's good to be with you guys.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Thanks for being here, congressman. Congressman Ryan is now beginning his 10th term representing the 13th congressional district here in Ohio. That takes up parts of Youngstown, Warren, Akron, and the Mahoning Valley. He is a longstanding member of the House Appropriations Committee, chair of the legislative branch subcommittee, a member of the defense sub-committee and a member of the military construction of veteran affairs subcommittee. He is also the co-chair of the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus and co-chair of the Addiction Treatment Recovery Caucus and co-chair of the Military Mental Health Taskforce. Congressman, you are a very, very busy man, and I want to thank you for taking the time to be with us today.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Absolutely.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Now I mentioned that you are a chair of the legislative branch sub-committee, and Jamie's going to start us off today with a topic that's very, very relevant to the role that you play there. Jamie.

Jamie Gregory:

Thank you, Ray. Congressman Ryan, obviously the events of January 6th were horrific and we've all seen the response with the perimeter fencing and the National Guard limiting access to the Visitors Center. Just within the last couple of days, Senators Blunt and Van Hollen have introduced legislation titled the No Fencing at the US Capitol Complex Act. So the whole discussion about how much of this is going to be permanent, and considering your position as leg approps chair, just wanted to get your thoughts on will visitors and constituents and advocates be able to visit their members of Congress again, sometime in the near future?

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Yeah, I mean, like most things, it's complicated. January 6th created a new reality for us, much like 911 created a new reality for our national security. This is more local law enforcement based, Capitol Hill based. And yeah, I think it is time that we could start taking down the fence, but look, we needed the fence up and we needed 10,000 National Guard there to help us because we have 2000 people that are part of the Capitol Police force and they have just been exhausted. I mean, they've been working 16 hour shifts since going into December, I believe. And then there was the insurrection, which took a huge toll on the morale because they were completely let down by the management at the police force. There was no command and control, and we all saw the videos. They had a 130 or 140 officers were hurt.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

And then they had to turn right around and get prepared for the inauguration on January 20th, in which they were working at least 12 hour shifts, if not more. So we needed that support now. And I do think we can start talking about taking the fencing down. I think that's appropriate, but we also need to quickly implement hardening the capital, starting the process of hiring more Capitol Police. We want to hire about another 800. And we've got to hire more intelligence people to really coordinate the intelligence with Homeland Security, the Park Police, the FBI, the Secret Service. That was really the failure, was in the intelligence side, so we can catch this stuff before it happens. And that's going to be the goal.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

I think as the intelligence ramps up, and make no mistake, the aggressiveness of the FBI and the US Attorney's Office has got a lot of these groups and people back on their heels. It was real cute on January 6th, but on January 8th or 9th when the FBI's knocking on your door, it's a different story. And I think that's helping to keep things at bay a little bit as well.

Jamie Gregory:

Very good.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Great. Congressman, Congress recently passed another COVID relief package, and the president signed that into law a couple of weeks ago. I know that one of your objectives, as we move into 2021, is to address the scale of COVID-19 and the crisis that we're still facing and the issues that still remain. Would you explain to us what some of those issues are that you're going to be prioritizing now, as we go forward in the next Congress with respect to COVID and those issues that we're still facing here?

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Well, you've got two buckets. You've got the public health bucket and you've got the economic bucket. In the public health bucket, continuing to get the vaccines out there. I think President Biden and his team have really shown you can trash government all you want, you can not like government all you want, but there are certain responsibilities that the government has, and you need competent people in place to be able to execute the responsibilities of the government. The same with any team, any church, any business, any law firm. It's about people, and you've got to have good people, and that's what Biden has done. That's why we're seeing him beat his own goals with regard to how many vaccines we can get into people's arms, continuing to do testing. I think they just need to keep doing what they're doing.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

And it's important for us to remember too, we don't know a whole lot about this virus. I mean, we are still at the very early stages. I mean, we live in a society where you could pop up a website, go on WebMD and figure out if you have restless leg syndrome or whatever. The information is so accessible, but it takes time to really understand some of these things. So I just caution everybody. Yes, we have a vaccine. Yes, it's going in everybody's arms. Yes, it's 90% effective. We're going to hear stories about people who got the vaccine and then still got COVID, but we've got to just realize that we're trying to understand this and nothing is perfect.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

And then on the economic side, if you want me to get into that, what happened with the rescue package a few weeks back was a significant secure bill, a bill that secured the economic status for millions and millions of Americans and Ohioans. And just to give you some example, there was a child tax credit that was in this bill. In Ohio alone, 92% of families with kids qualified for the tax credit. 89% of people in Ohio got the $1,400 check. So that just shows how many workers, how many working class people, whether they're white or black or brown or gay or straight, we are a state filled with working class people, and this bill went right at them. And with the unemployment extension, and I'm sure you all know people like I do, people just panicked that they're not going to be able to make ends meet.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

And so, yeah, we're having issues about people going back to work. We're going to have to work through that in the coming months, but the reality is our government is not modern enough to really figure out the nuances of a lot of these programs. So we had to just get the money into the economy, and it's working because you're seeing the economy come back. And as the vaccines get in people's arms, we want people to be able to get out of this pandemic almost whole. We don't want people who filed bankruptcy. We don't want too many people that have destroyed their credit, because for a working class person, it'll take 10 years to climb out of that. So, that's what this was all about, and it went directly to the working class people. And I think it was a very, very important thing and hopefully sets the tone for as we move forward.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Right. Right. Jamie.

Jamie Gregory:

So congressman, a lot of talk in Washington right now about infrastructure. We're expecting the Biden administration to release a plan sometime soon. Clearly there are needs in this country. Right in Ohio, down in Cincinnati, you've got the Brent Spence Bridge, where I think every president since going back to Ronald Reagan has highlighted the Brent Spence Bridge is an asset that needs to be replaced. So just wanted to get your thoughts on how you think an infrastructure package is going to move forward. And maybe a side question about earmarks and the return of earmarks, and whether that might help members of Congress get projects done in their districts.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Yeah, this is a couple of my favorite topics here. The infrastructure bill is going to happen. It's going to be, it looks like at least a trillion for traditional infrastructure and then another trillion for what's more around greening the infrastructure, upgrading our grids, making sure we're moving into dominating the newer technologies. Not necessarily abandoning things like the natural gas industry, which is really important here in eastern Ohio, but building the new economy around wind and solar, making sure that every person in Ohio and across the country has access to broadband. That's going to be critical for inner city kids, rural schools, but also our farmers who need to practice precision agriculture. And if they don't have access to broadband, they can't be the most effective, efficient farmers that we want them to be in order to maximize their profits.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

So, it's something that ties the urban-rural divide, and it puts some money into the research and development of dominating electric vehicles, dominating the battery market, dominating the charging station. And these new concepts, like down in Lordstown with Lordstown Motors, which we have a little hiccup here, but they're potentially 1500 workers by the end of this year. General Motors LG Chem is doing a battery plant over in Lordstown, a $2.3 billion investment, 1100 good paying jobs to come out of that around batteries. And then we got some money through the appropriations committee this past year to bring Oak Ridge National Lab to partner with Youngstown State University to research the next generation of batteries, because my goal has always been, look, yeah, we want to make stuff, we want to build stuff. That's what we do. But you also have to do the research about what's the next thing you're going to build, or the next version of the electric vehicle or the next version of the battery.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Because if you're doing the intellectual side, you're going to keep your companies on the cutting edge. And I think, again, there's a good role there for government to play, putting that public investment in partnership with the private sector to make sure we're all benefiting from this stuff. That's the model we've created. And what's great is the build back better plan and the infrastructure bill and the climate part is going to double down on that stuff. So you're going to see roads and bridges and ports and airports, and hopefully the Brent Spence Bridge and a lot of projects.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

I've just said this, and I want to say this to you because you've got a firm here that's very influential in the community. There's a lot of money, state and local money in the rescue package that went to local governments. I don't know off the top of my head, I have it here somewhere, how much Cleveland got, how much Cuyahoga County got. I know Akron got a bunch and so did Summit County. And really what I've been trying to say is, yeah, you've got to plug some holes. Yeah, you've got to do some key things that maybe you otherwise couldn't have done, but do something transformational. Figure out how to do something that everybody in the region can chip in a few million bucks. Obviously the bigger cities and counties maybe a little bit more, but do something that we otherwise could never do. This may be once in a lifetime.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

I think we need to have this kind of local support all the time. The local government fund in the state has been completely diminished over the years. Reinvestments back into communities have been diminished over the years from the federal government as well, community development, block grants and all the rest. So the final point on this is for the communities to come together with this windfall and do something big and transformational that's going to have long ranging economic impact.

Jamie Gregory:

Very good.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Yeah. Congressman, I mean, you mentioned in your last response about private businesses and communities working together. Growing up in northeast Ohio, as we both have, we've seen the importance and transformation of manufacturing and the need to provide good training and good paying jobs for hardworking people. That's been your mantra from the very, very beginning, and you've been a champion of that. Now a good example of your work and the business community's collaboration is with Youngstown State, the Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization Consortium, and the Excellence in Training Center. Now you're also chair of the House Manufacturing Caucus. Talk to us a little bit about your plan going forward to prioritize manufacturing and innovation at the federal level.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

The broader goal is we've got to modernize government. Government is very outdated. We saw it with the unemployment insurance checks getting delayed. I mean, you can order a book from Amazon now, it'll be at your doorstep tomorrow at noon. You lose your job in the middle of a pandemic, you've got to wait six weeks to get your unemployment check. I mean, the whole idea of government being broken is something that we've got to address. We've got to modernize the government, and workforce development is really front and center on that. We had pre pandemic, I think, 70 million mid-skill level jobs that were open, and we had almost exactly the same number within a handful of people working in low skill jobs. So the trick is how do you get the low skilled workers skilled up to take those mid-skill jobs?

Congressman Tim Ryan:

And that's really the initiative that we have going with Youngstown State and with the Commercialization and Innovation programs that we're running there is how do we get people who have low skilled jobs into the training for these high skilled jobs and how do we use technology really to communicate with them to figure out, to identify what your skill levels are? We spend so much money on workforce development. This isn't just throw more money at the problem because that's not going to solve it. This is going to be about using technology, using people's information, figuring out their skillsets, and then getting them into a program, and stop all the talk about everybody's got to go to college. We've got to shift the culture on that one because not everybody should or wants to, and looking down on them like they're somehow not capable or they're lesser because they are cashiers or whatever, we saw during the pandemic, all these people on the front line made things go for us. Well, they make things go for us all the time.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

So that initiative is really going to be critical because we're trying to grow these jobs of the future that we talked about earlier. If you're talking about skilled trades, like we have two natural gas power plants. We have one and we're building another one in Lordstown. We have skilled trades building the battery plant, skilled trades over building the Lordstown facility with the Lordstown Motors, skilled trades built a big Home Goods distribution center. Those are all very skilled building and construction trade workers, union, the vast majority of them. So how do we get kids ... and this has got to go down into our schools too. So you've got the current workforce that you've got to figure out how to get in there, and having this center that President Tressel has really spearheaded is going to be critical to get people in there and get those skills.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

But this has got to go down into K through 12, and we've got to start getting kids on a track that's going to get them out of high school with the damn skill. Now enough of this you're going to graduate from high school and you get nothing. I mean, you have no skill. After 13 years of the taxpayers supporting public education, we're going to graduate kids. Yeah, some need to go to college, some need to go get a two year degree, but you should be getting out of there with some skill that at the very least, if you don't have any plans moving forward, that you should be able to, maybe with a few more credits, go become a welder, because those jobs pay $70,000 a year and they can't find enough welders. And when you look at, not to get on a complete rant here, but I'm a little fired up on it.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

When you look at the number of utility workers that are going to retire in the coming years, it's thousands and thousands of jobs, plumbers, and pipe fitters, electricians. You go through all these skilled trades and you will see thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of jobs that are going to be open. And so a modern government would recognize that, anticipate it, work with the community colleges and the high schools to figure out how to get kids in that pipeline. That's what we're trying to create a model for in Youngstown and also working with Eastern Gateway Community College. And I think the Historic State's doing some really cool stuff along the same lines, but community colleges I think are going to be the driver on this because they're a lot more nimble than a lot of the big universities.

Raymond Tarasuck:

No, that's a great, great program. Congressman, you have been working very, very hard in Congress for your constituents and for all of Ohio for almost 20 years now. Over that time, you've really earned the respect of your colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and you developed a lot of those relationships that you need to achieve the legislative objectives that you've got. Now I know you've got a great relationship and the respect of the new administration. Tell us how all of those experiences, all of those relationships you've developed over almost two decades in Congress is going to help you achieve all those legislative goals that we've talked about here today.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Well, it's like anything in life, and I'm sure you and your partners and anybody else who's just been around for a while, it's all about relationships. You try to be a good person. You try to work hard and get smart on the things you need to get smart on and try to keep your word and deliver and be helpful to others. So we're in a position now, Vice Chair of the Defense Appropriations Committee representing a region and state that has significant amounts of defense businesses and employees that work there.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

So we're going to try to leverage that position on the defense committee to help not just the Youngstown Air Reserve base or Camp Ravenna, Camp Garfield now, but we have conversations with Parker Hannifin, we have conversations around the Lima tank plant, around what's going on in Dayton at Wright Path. So we've been able to bring back hundreds of millions of dollars, primarily around additive manufacturing, to really grow the new ecosystem, using my position on the defense committee. We want to keep doing that and leverage that position. I also got on the energy appropriation subcommittee. The chair of that is Marcy Kaptur. So we actually have two Ohioans on a very small subcommittee, and I just had a conversation. Again, now here's the relationships. Had a conversation with Jennifer Granholm just a few days ago about, she's a former governor of Michigan, now the Secretary of Energy, and we had a very long conversation about electric vehicles, charging stations, batteries, cutting the workers in on the deal. So, she'll be administering a lot of Biden's build back better plan.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

We've had issues around the Delphi salaried workers in our community that got basically cut out of the auto rescue years ago. A lot of the union members rank and file got their pension, Delphi salaried didn't. I saw Joe Biden and I mentioned it to him and followed up with his Chief of Staff. So we have all these issues. In a few minutes, I have a call with the new OMB Director, who was, she was the clerk for the appropriations committee over the last few years. Got to know her very well. She's now working in the administration at a very top job, and we'll talk to her about a couple of key issues. So just leveraging those relationships. And when it comes to the transportation bill, trying to get our projects in the president's bill and then go back, and as an appropriator, be able to earmark particular projects in our region.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

So we're working with our regional transit folks, our regional development folks about what are those projects, but you can't put a price on being able to pick up the phone and call the Chief of Staff of the most powerful person in the world and have just a normal conversation about things that are important. And I fortunately have a good relationship with Joe Biden. Very good relationship with Kamala Harris, good relationship with Ron Klain. Steve Ricchetti is from Cleveland, his other top guy. Cedric Richmond, who is probably his third or fourth top guy, is a friend from Congress, who I played on the congressional baseball team with, and we're going to miss him because he was a great pitcher. So just picking up the phone and being able to do that and to shape legislation and be a part of it.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

It's an exciting time because I think that the president knows is what I said earlier, that government's got to work. It's never perfect. It's big, it's unruly. The issues that we deal with, they're so complicated, so complex, both domestically and internationally, but you've got to try to make it work the best it can. He wants to make it work, which means we can help him make it work, which means we can actually make a difference in people's lives, which is why you get into this business in the first place. So we're very excited about leveraging all of that, my positions and the relationships.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Congressman, it is a very exciting time and we want to thank you for all the work that you've done on behalf of your constituents and all of Ohio. And we want to thank you for taking the time today to be with us.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Sure. You're welcome.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Thank you very much, congressman.

Jamie Gregory:

Thank you.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Thank you. You've got a very prestigious firm with a lot of great people, so keep up the good work.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Thanks, Congressman.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

All right.

Raymond Tarasuck:

Bye, bye.

Congressman Tim Ryan:

Thanks.

Jamie Gregory:

Take care.

Calfee Connections blogs, vlogs and other educational content are intended to inform and educate readers about legal developments and are not intended as legal advice for any specific individual or specific situation. Please consult with your attorney regarding any legal questions you may have. With regard to all content including case studies or descriptions, past outcomes do not predict future results. The opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the view points of all attorneys and professionals of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP or its subsidiary. Updates related to all COVID-19 government assistance programs are provided with the most current information made available to Calfee at the time of publication. Clarifications and further guidance are being disseminated from government authorities on an ongoing basis. All information should be reaffirmed prior to the submission of any application and/or program participation.

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