The Mahoning Valley’s two congressmen, Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican Bill Johnson, are so far apart on the political spectrum that it would not be surprising if they even refused to acknowledge each other’s existence.
And yet, Ryan and Johnson have not only forged a successful working relationship, but eagerly talk about their shared common interests pertaining to the economic and social well-being of the Mahoning Valley.
Ryan of Howland, D-13th, is seeking an eighth two-year term in the November general election, while Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, is vying for a fourth term. Each is opposed: Ryan by Republican Richard Morckel of Akron; Johnson by Democrat Michael Lorentz of Belpre.
While the challengers are to be commended for undertaking the seemingly impossible political task of unseating incumbents, we believe that Ryan and Johnson have earned the support of the voters in their districts and should be re-elected.
Each incumbent can point to a long list of accomplishments that clearly illustrates their effectiveness in Congress.
For Ryan, his membership on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which controls the expenditure of money by the federal government, and the Budget Committee, which has oversight of the federal budget process, has been a boon for this region. The congressman has been successful in funneling hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 14 years.
The 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill contained $12.7 million for area military bases, including the economically important Youngstown Air Reserve Station; $10 million for a Youngstown-Dayton military additive manufacturing program; and $5 million for reservoirs.
In 2015, the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund made available $13 million to 12 land banks in Ohio, with Mahoning, Trumbull and Stark counties each receiving $500,000.
In 2014, Mahoning County received $4.2 million; Trumbull, $3.2 million; and, Summit, $2 million.
In the 6th District, where drilling for oil and natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales has become a major economic driver, Congressman Johnson is leading the charge on Capitol Hill to permit the export of liquid natural gas, which, he said, could generate $6 billion for American companies.
Johnson is also pushing for a relaxation in regulations that govern the coal industry, which is still important in his district. He insists that he is not advocating a return to the old days of air pollution, but he does believe that commonsense regulations are needed.
Aware of the growing opioid epidemic in several counties in the 6th District, Johnson is leading the fight against opioid and prescription drug abuse. He was a cosponsor of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.
While both congressmen rightly pursue agendas in Congress that benefit their districts, they have joined forces on several issues that directly impact the economic future of Mahoning Valley.
At the top of the list is the air reserve station in Vienna Township and the push to expand its mission so as to fend off closure by the Pentagon in the future. The Defense Department is under pressure to cut spending.
Ryan and Johnson have worked closely to secure money for capital improvements, but more importantly, they are focused on modernizing the fleet of military aircraft – the primary reason for the base’s continued existence. There are now eight C-130H transport planes assigned to the YARS, but they are becoming obsolete. They either need to be upgraded with state-of-the-art avionics, or replaced with the new C-130J models.
Congress must allocate the money for the new planes to be assigned to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.
Ryan and Johnson, along with Ohio’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, must make this a priority.
The congressmen have shown that there is political strength in numbers – as when they fight against the dumping of foreign-made steel. Area manufacturers of steel products are negatively impacted by the unfair trade practices embraced by China, Russia, India and others.
Ryan and Johnson have forged a strong working relationship that has benefited the Mahoning Valley.
The Vindicator endorses Ryan for re-election in the 13th District and Johnson in the 6th District.