If Congressman Tim Ryan’s appointment in December 2006 to the powerful House Appropriations Committee was a major step up in his eight-year tenure on Capitol Hill, his being named this month to the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee is just as significant.
The new assignment reflects the continued confidence and trust that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders of the Democratic caucus have in Ryan. And, it puts the 17th District representative in a strong position to funnel even more federal dollars to this region.
“We’re excited,” Ryan said of his subcommittee post. “We’re moving between $500 billion and $600 billion a year in spending. Billions of dollars of federal spending we can steer back to the communities.”
Ryan of Niles, who easily won the Democratic Party nomination in his bid this year for a fifth term, is not exaggerating when he characterizes the new appointment as “just so massive.”
But that isn’t only because members of the panel are able to tap into the billions of dollars they manage each year. Ryan is now ideally positioned to make deals with members of other committees, deals that could benefit the 17th District.
Deal-making is an important part of the legislative process, and since he was named to the appropriations panel, which is responsible for setting the specific expenditures of money by the federal government, he has amassed an impressive record.
Ryan’s seat on the defense subcommittee was occupied for decades by the late Rep. John Murtha, who during his long tenure in Congress became a master of bringing home the bacon. Of course, the Pennsylvania representative was chairman of the subcommittee, but he showed how serving on an important panel can be used as a bargaining chip.
There are 16 members, including two from Ohio: Ryan, and Marcy Kaptur of Toledo.
A recent Vindicator story showed how Kaptur and others who have been on the subcommittee for some time have worked on behalf of their districts. Last year, for instance, the Toledo congresswoman secured $30 million for new F-16 fighter jet engines for Toledo’s Air National Guard Fighter Wing.
Given that the U.S, Air Force Reserve has a significant presence in the Mahoning Valley through the 910th Air Reserve Wing based at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, the need for continued federal funding is clear.
Millions of dollars have been invested at the base over the years, first through the efforts of former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr., and now through Ryan’s commitment to expand the facilities and the mission.
Indeed, as a result of the Pentagon’s investment, the 910th Wing escaped the last round of military base closings.
There’s no guarantee that the facility will survive the next round of closings — unless more federal funds are invested.
Ryan’s assignment to the defense subcommittee could not have come at a more opportune time. But, it isn’t just the base that will be the beneficiary of his position.
As Steve Fought, spokesman for Congresswoman Kaptur, put it, “The Valley has a long history of industrial defense oriented businesses. For industrial areas, this committee makes a lot of sense. It matches up manufacturing with defense. It’s very promising.”
So long as the federal government keeps doling out billions of dollars, the Mahoning Valley has a right to expect its fair share.
Congressman Ryan has become our most important lobbyist on Capitol Hill.