Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, whose four-year membership on the powerful House Appropriations Committee has benefitted the 17th District greatly, may well lose his position — as a result of the GOP scoring a decisive victory nationally in last month’s general election. Republicans will be taking over the House next year, and major changes are in the offing.
As the minority, the Democratic Party will lose seats in the committees, which is why Ryan’s membership on appropriations could end.
But it should not occur without a fight from the predominantly Democratic Mahoning and Trumbull counties, which make up most of the 17th District. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders should be warned of a political backlash against the party if the life-long Valley resident, who won convincingly last month in the midst of major party losses, is deprived of the important committee assignment.
This region has long been recognized by the state and national Democratic organizations as essential to the political fortunes of their candidates. They ask, and Mahoning and Trumbull counties deliver — a greater vote percentage than most Democratic counties in the state, if not the nation.
Even this past November, with the Republican tsunami sweeping the country, the Valley stood firm for the Democrats.
Such loyalty demands to be rewarded.
To be sure, the disenchantment with President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress is having a negative effect, as evidenced by the comparatively low turnout in this region. If Ryan loses his seat on the appropriations committee, voter anger will be felt in 2012 when the president seeks a second term and the party tries to win back some of the congressional seats it lost this year.
While it is true that the next speaker, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, has talked about changing the way the House operates, including reducing the number of seats in each committee, Pelosi will still oversee the Democratic committee assignments. Ryan has been loyal to the speaker, for which he has been harshly criticized by his detractors.
His constituents expect such loyalty to be acknowledged.
When he was appointed to appropriations, we argued that Ryan had earned the position not only because of his legislative record, but his willingness to campaign on behalf of fellow Democrats. We also felt it was time this region was recognized for its Democratic roots. The last congressman from the Valley to serve on the appropriations committee was the late Michael Kirwan, a long-time legislator and one of the most powerful members of Congress.
The argument being put forth about Ryan’s possible reassignment is that there are other members with more seniority. So what? The seniority system has long been criticized because length of service does not necessarily equate to performance.
The Mahoning Valley has earned the right to have its congressman on the appropriations committee. Party loyalty must count for something.