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Ryan’s leadership role bodes well for future of Valley

Seniority clearly has its advantages. Nowhere is that truism more poignant than in politics.

Take the case of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, who has represented the Mahoning Valley and its neighbors for 10 two-year terms. That’s several years longer than even the Valley’s legendary congressman James A. Traficant Jr. who preceded Ryan.

It’s no surprise then that over those two decades of service on Capitol Hill, Ryan consistently has built clout and influence. The most recent stop on that power-building trek came last month, when the 47-year-old accepted his appointment as vice chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

The Defense Appropriations subcommittee controls $694.6 billion in spending and funds for the U.S. Department of Defense, including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies. That whopping sum amounts to $2,072 for each and every man, woman and child in the United States, according to Statista.

Ryan’s new and influential leadership rank places him smack-dab in the heart of key decision-making affecting some of this nation’s biggest and most important spending. It also enables the representative to flex his political muscle more robustly for Ohio and the Mahoning Valley.

In serving his district as a member of that subcommittee, Ryan has distinguished himself as a staunch ally for the growth and development of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna and the James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center that straddles the border of Trumbull and Portage counties.

At YARS, one of the Valley’s largest employers and home of the sprawling 910th Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command, Ryan has championed numerous growth spurts throughout his tenure. In the 2021 Defense spending bill, for example, the congressman succeeded in securing $270 million for two additional C-130J state-of-the-art cargo jets for the Reserve. His initiative also funds additive manufacturing research and development, laser research and other projects. They have great potential to fortify other Valley powerhouses such as the Youngstown-based America Makes.

But Ryan’s prospects for energizing this region’s economy do not stop at the Appropriations Committee door. His second appointment last month to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations subcommittee likely will boost the region’s shift from the Steel Valley of yesteryear to the Voltage Valley of the new era. Policymaking that encourages General Motors, LG Chem, Lordstown Motors and others to invest and expand their electric vehicle and battery production operations bode well for the Mahoning Valley’s long-term economic fortunes.

“… I am confident my new role on the Energy and Water subcommittee will put us in the position to secure the funding needed to guarantee Voltage Valley remains a leader in energy and jobs of the future,” Ryan said.

We share Ryan’s optimism but again must remind him and his supporters that little to nothing will be handed to the congressman on a silver platter. Teamwork with those across the aisle remains critical, even though the House has retained a Democratic Party majority — albeit by the slimmest of margins.

That’s why greater cooperation and bipartisanship also must be priority agenda items for Ryan’s 2021-22 term in the lower chamber of the 117th U.S. Congress.

Too often, Ryan, a darling of the ultraliberal MSNBC cable news network, has ignored the rightward-blowing political winds in the nation and particularly in the Mahoning Valley.

The congressman need only review his shrinking margins of victory in elections over the past decade. In 2012, for example, he walloped Republican opponent Marisha Agana in the 13th District race by more than 141,000 votes. In 2020, he barely eked out a win over Republican Christina Hagan with a mere 25,000 votes.

As we noted in an editorial last October endorsing Ryan for his current term, we hope he can lower the flame on his Democratic talking points and give greater credence to the the desires of his constituents at home, while abandoning the liberal line in D.C.

Such an attitude adjustment not only could benefit his chances at providing tangible results for the 13th District in his new leadership post, it also could better his statewide appeal should he throw his hat in the ring for the U.S. Senate seat that will be up for grabs in the 2022 election thanks to the decision of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, not to seek another six-year term.

With the exit of former President Donald Trump and election of President Joe Biden, some analysts consider Washington ripe for a new era of constructive bipartisan politics. We encourage Ryan to jump on that train of thinking for his own personal ambitions and, more importantly, for his potential to make this region a better place to live and work for all 725,000 of his constituents.

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