Tim Ryan, a Democratic 10-term congressman from Warren, and Republican J.D. Vance, a venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” from Cincinnati, will face each other Nov. 8 in the race for U.S. Senate. Early voting already has begun.
The two candidates each agreed to participate in individual, in-person interviews held in the Warren newsroom of news parter Tribune Chronicle. They each were asked the same 10 questions on issues related to the race. They answered spontaneously, and their unfiltered answers are being shared here.
The first five questions will run in today’s edition with the other five in Monday’s.
Question: What can the U.S. Senate do to slow the rise in inflation?
TIM RYAN: I think it’s going to be tough in the short, short term, which is why I think a tax cut is the best thing to do for working people and for small businesses just to help them absorb the cost. But mid- to long-term and making sure we’re not in this position again, increase production of natural gas as we move to more of a natural gas-based economy, bring the supply chains back from Asia, whether it’s chip manufacturing or auto or whatever, making sure we’re building that stuff out here again. And that really has been the strategy with the infrastructure bill, which is bipartisan and going to create 600,000 jobs here; the CHIPS Act, which is helping us land the Intel project, which is going to be $100 billion investment, tens of thousands of jobs. What we’re trying to do here in the Mahoning Valley with the electric vehicles, tractors, batteries. So there’s an opportunity for us to be the manufacturing powerhouse of the world. I think that will curb inflation in addition to what we want to do with natural gas, give us more control over our economy to keep prices low for businesses and consumers.
J.D. VANCE: The most important thing we need to do to slow rising inflation is to open up America’s energy markets. Energy goes into the cost of food, it goes into the cost of manufactured goods, it goes into the cost of everything. When energy goes up, that’s not just gas at the pumps, that’s natural gas, that’s all the things that go into utilities. Then everything else becomes more expensive. Unfortunately, the Biden administration, I think, has really, really tamped down on pipeline, on new oil and gas leases and especially on the capacity for our companies to invest in fossil fuel capacity. The second thing is that we have to live within our means as a country. The borrowing and spending added to an energy-constrained economy just drives inflation through the roof. I think the combination of those two policies have really made it hard for average people to just afford the basic necessities. If we open up the American energy market, if we stop the borrowing and spending, I think we go a long way to really solving the inflation crisis.
Q: Are there any circumstances in which a woman should be allowed to have an abortion? And if so, is there a cut-off time?
RYAN: I think this, what we saw come out, was the largest governmental overreach into the private lives of American citizens in the history of our lifetime. This is an issue of freedom for me and personal liberty, and I think the Dobbs decision and the law here in Ohio goes way too far. Again, I think J.D. Vance is very extreme on this with the no exceptions for rape and incest and a national abortion ban and those kinds of things. Like most Americans, I think the only reason to have an abortion later in the term is if it’s an issue of safety or if there’s a severe tragedy happening. To me, that would be an exception towards the end of a pregnancy. But let me say real quick too, my concern is that what Justice (Clarence) Thomas wrote with his opinion around Dobbs and the abortion decision is that he wants to next go after nullifying same sex marriages, he wants to go after birth control. I just think these are very, very extreme positions that would continue to promote chaos in our society. We see women who have been raped have to go to Illinois or Indiana. A national abortion ban would force them to have to get a passport and go to Canada.
VANCE: I am pro-life. I believe very deeply that we should foster a culture of life in this country. It really bothers me when I see major American corporations refusing to offer paid maternity leave, even scaling back paid maternity leave at a time when they’re throwing $5,000 at people to have an abortion. My question is why are we encouraging women to do one thing, but not supporting them if they choose to bring a baby to term? Our country could get so much better on this in a lot of ways, offer better health care and so forth. In terms of the abortion cut off, one obvious example where I think you have to allow abortion is in cases of medical necessity. Things come up. God forbid, they do. But there are these tragic circumstances where people do have to have an abortion. I think you have to make exceptions and make an allowance there. But generally speaking, I’d like to get us to a place where we’re saving as many lives as possible. That’s my basic view.
STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS
Q: Do you support President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, and was this action lawful? Also, do you think the plan goes far enough, not far enough or about the right amount in amounts forgiven?
RYAN: I don’t support it. I am sympathetic as someone who, my wife and I are still paying her student loans off, so I’m sympathetic to the cost. I think it’s outrageous that the interest rates are 8, 10, 12 percent. But I just don’t think we can afford this right now is one of the main reasons. And the other is we’re not solving the problem of high cost college and university tuition. If we’re going to spend $300 billion, we should at least get to the root cause of the problem, which this hasn’t. I think there’s a way to save people money, allow them to renegotiate their interest rates down to 1 or 2 percent. That’ll put significant money in their pockets and allow them to maybe pay down the principal faster or have more money. But at any rate, that’ll get us 70 to 80 percent of the way there. If you take out loans, I believe that you should pay them. So anything here has to be a comprehensive approach. But again, coming out of the pandemic, coming out of the economic collapse, given the three huge investments that we just made, we need to start moving into some deficit reduction, which the Inflation Reduction Act had $300 billion. This particular project would negate that savings, which I think is not a good move right now.
VANCE: I don’t support President Biden forgiving student debt because, one, it is unlawful. I think the president of the United States doesn’t have that power. We all learned in grade school, hopefully, the Congress gets to make the laws, the president has to enforce the laws. I don’t think that there’s a law on the books that allows the president to do this. But more deeply, it’s just fundamentally unfair. Something that’s very core to the American character is that we despise unfairness as a people. We want everybody, whatever your station in life, to have to follow the same set of rules. You’ve got plumbers and electricians and people who went to college and paid off their debts effectively being forced to pay the debts of people who decided to go to college and still have a lot of debt. That’s a big, big problem. The unfairness is the first problem that I have with it. The second problem is I actually think it lets universities off the hook for creating this debt crisis in the first place. If you look at why we have a student debt problem, it’s because administrators are taking much larger salaries. It’s not going into instruction. It’s not going into the quality of education. It’s really going into administrative bloat. That’s true at some of our local schools here in Ohio. It’s true of some more national schools all across the country. We have to solve that problem and giving these colleges effectively a bailout when they’re causing a massive rise in tuition and costs is exactly the wrong thing to do. It’s unfair, and it adds to the problem of student costs and college costs that we already have.
Q: What, if any, gun reform legislation do you think is needed and why or why not?
RYAN: My concern is not with law-abiding citizens or hunters. My concern really is with how do the number of criminals that are getting guns, how do they get them? We have got to be able to figure this out. The number of gun crimes, gun deaths in Ohio and across the country is unacceptable, and I think we need background checks. I think we need to close the gun show loophole. I don’t believe that we need weapons of war on the street. But I do think that we’ve got to stop politicizing this issue. I think there’s significant agreement, even among gun owners, that we can find some common sense gun safety measures. You see what’s going on now where the FOP is coming out against what’s happening in the state with loosening of the concealed carry and permitting process and all of that. We need to sit down with the cops. We need to sit down with the gun groups. We need to sit down with schools and figure out how we can make it safer. I think we’re watching these school shootings. How does an 18-year-old stumble into a gun store a few days after his birthday, buy a semi-automatic rifle and 1,600 rounds of ammunition? When we send somebody off the war, they have 300 rounds. This is something that we have to figure out. But it’s going to take a bipartisan consensus. It can’t be one party does it.
VANCE: The thing that I worry about with gun reform is that we have some very clear problems with violent crime in this country. The gun reform proposals that I’ve seen, I think, would simultaneously harm a lot of people’s rights, but wouldn’t actually make our communities or make our country any safer. That really is sort of the worst of all possible worlds. Just to take one obvious example, we know, for example, that the background check system has failed to catch multiple convicted felons who should not be getting a firearm. I’m a very pro-Second Amendment guy. Everybody agrees that a convicted felon should not be able to walk in, get a background check, pass that background check and walk away with a lethal firearm. But instead of solving that issue of why is it that convicted felons are able to get access to firearms, we are talking about creating additional systems and additional regulations that I think fall hardest on law-abiding Americans? The other way I, maybe statistically, highlight this is we’ve seen a rapid increase in gun violence in this country the last two years. Our gun laws haven’t really changed. This is clearly not a gun law problem that’s driving most of the violent crime. What’s really driving the violent crime is that we’ve decided to make police terrified of doing their job, and we’ve also let a lot of violent career criminals out of prison. That, to me, is how you solve the gun violence problem.
Q: What are the most important goals of immigration reform and how would you help in accomplishing those goals?
RYAN: There are eight billion people in the world and a lot of them want to live here. But they can’t all live here. So we need an orderly process. I think we do need a strong border. We do need more border patrol. We do need local law enforcement to help with this. But then we also need an orderly process in where if you’re here and you’re undocumented that you can pay a fine, you can pay back taxes, you can pass a background check and we can assimilate you back into the country. To me that again needs to be bipartisan. Like, we can’t do it with one party or the other. That’s what’s so frustrating is we’ve got to solve these problems. We don’t want to pass this immigration issue on to the next generation as well. A part of this has got to be dealing with the drugs, the fentanyl, coming in. We know what’s coming in from China. We know that it gets processed in Mexico and it makes its way into the country. We’ve got to use the technology that we have. I started the border technology caucus, which will help us figure out how we use modern technology to solve some of these problems as well. We’ve got all this technology, we should be able to utilize it better at the border, so it’s got to be a whole government approach.
VANCE: A very, very difficult problem, and unfortunate where the Biden administration has been the worst and has delivered a lot of self-inflicted wounds here. No. 1 is border walls aren’t perfect, but they certainly do help, and I think we’ve learned that over the last four or five years. So, I think you have to appropriate the $3 or $4 billion necessary. It’s a tiny fraction in the overall federal budget to actually finish the border wall. The second thing is when I talk to border patrol agents, do you guys need more funding? What is it that you need to do your job? The thing that they most often tell me is not we need additional agents. We just need the agents who are here to be empowered to do their job. Right now, the president is effectively telling border patrol don’t enforce the border at most places, which is why you see these videos of people just walking across the border. It’s not because you don’t have border patrol there sometimes. It’s because the border patrol has been told not to do their job. So, I think the president really has to empower these guys to do what’s necessary. The third thing is the president has to use his diplomatic power — he’s the chief executive of the most powerful nation in the world — to get these Central American countries to really do the job of enforcing their own border. This is one of the things that I think the Trump administration deserves, but doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for, that there were a lot of relationships that they developed, especially with the Mexican government, but also with El Salvadoran government, other Central American governments as well, to keep the migrant population in these countries to not allow them to flood into this country at such a high level. If you don’t get control over this, you’re going to have a huge, huge problem with fentanyl deaths, which we already have, and they’re going to keep getting worse. The thing I’d like to remind people is the border problem is not primarily about the 2 or 3 million illegal aliens. That’s a big part of it. But for Ohio, it’s really about the amount of fentanyl that’s coming into our community and killing our kids.