Tim Ryan’s pro-worker platform takes on a ‘swamp’ challenge

“People weren’t getting raises. They worked longer hours. And the political environment has become more toxic. It became harder work,” Ryan told POLITICO in a recent interview. “Members understood that our staff needed support. »

As he battles for an open Senate seat in a red-leaning state, Ryan is trying to distance himself from the Democratic establishment and contrast with his Trump-endorsed GOP opponent, JD Vance. In addition to significantly outpacing Vance in the second quarter, reporting a gain of more than $9 million, a big part of Ryan’s efforts is to focus on his work helping middle-class workers — an identity also passed by the senior Democratic senator from Ohio. Sherrod Brown.

Ryan’s long-running quest to improve a workplace that many voters call a « swamp » may prove too inside baseball for voters who would rather hear how he fights inflation and protects their own jobs. . But as Ryan’s supporters see, his pro-union push on the Hill shows what he’s achieved for employees in his own backyard, even if it didn’t help him get elected.

« You don’t just champion a segment of workers, he’s put workers at the center of his work for 20 years, » Brown said in a brief interview. « He’s doing it with the Capitol police here, helping people, and he’s working with the steelworkers back home and the non-union workers. »

Ryan sees no disconnect between diving deep into the details of Capitol Hill operations and reporting to Ohio voters about their daily challenges. If he can help the former, he argues, that shows he can keep his promises to help the latter.

Perhaps the most concrete example of Ryan’s work is the House Center for Well-Being, launched in 2018 and designed as a haven for young House staff to find substantial help, such as financial training. personal and career coaching. The Ohio lawmaker worked for years to garner bipartisan support on the appropriations committee to expand the health resource, which has only grown since its inception.

While Ryan preaches the importance of mindfulness and building personal resilience — he meditates daily, practices yoga frequently, and has literally written a book about mindfulness in government — he said he knew a struggling family in Ohio or a Hill staffer who skips meals to get by can’t ponder their way out of unworkable financial situations. Since taking the gavel of the spending subcommittee in 2019, he has backed those ideas by investing in congressional staff. He championed additional funding to pay for interns, which he and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle hoped would open up opportunities for more low-income applicants and help further diversify the Hill.

And this year, he spearheaded a historic increase in House office budgets, which opened the door to higher staff salaries — a priority lawmakers hope will improve retention of both burnt-out young staff and senior staff. specialized senior employees. Shortly after, the President Nancy Pelosi announced that the chamber would require staff members to be paid a minimum salary of $45,000. He also said he was “proud” to support the campaign to organize congressional staff.

This employee work extended to the Capitol Police, as Ryan lobbied for record budget increases for the department. In addition to pouring money into the force that protects lawmakers and the Capitol, he led a years-long charge to shift the department and its leadership to prioritize mental health — even before the attack on the January 6 against the Capitol leaves the force battered both physically and emotionally.

« There’s just been a lot of trauma, and we can’t stick our heads in the sand and think we’re working with a group of robots, » Ryan said.

This is another area where Ryan is trying to shed partisan labels, distancing himself from calls by his progressive colleagues to « defund the police » and rethink the fundamental framework of law enforcement. Instead, he’s countered with a public safety message centered around supporting local cops, though his work for the Capitol police is absent from his public safety campaign narrative. He ran ads featuring an Ohio sheriff and highlighted the more than $520 million Ryan got for Ohio police departments, which went to priorities like cameras. body-worn and other technologies to enhance policing efforts.

The House Wellness Center services most used by Capitol Police are meditation, health and nutrition services, including subscription-based access to apps, according to data from the Chief Administrative Office. Calm is a popular app for department employees that offers sleep stories and guided meditations. The department also uses the Wellness Center platform to set up challenges and competitions to encourage healthy behaviors.

Additionally, following the Jan. 6 insurrection, lawmakers funded a $4.3 million Howard C. « Howie » Liebengood Wellness Center specifically for Capitol Police, staffed with six therapists and spaces for group and peer counselling. The resource center is named after a Capitol Police officer who committed suicide three days after the attack on the Capitol.

“They face the same problems: longer hours, more threats, more stress. Add Jan. 6,” Ryan said. « We want them to have access to that, but we’ve also done a separate thing for them directly. »

But even as Ryan highlights his successes in defending Hill employees, some of his initiatives are under threat. House Republican aides have signaled they may consider projects like the House Center for Well-Being if their party wins the chamber in November, pointing to the costs associated with running the center and skepticism about the effectiveness of the programs.

Ryan argued the center has received bipartisan support since its inception in 2018, but he has no doubt a cornerstone of his House legacy could be on the chopping block as early as next year. He blamed « radicals » in the GOP for wanting to get rid of something that « actually helps people cope with the craziness that is the political world today. »

« These are the same people who support the insurgents who beat the cops, so I think they don’t care about the cops and they don’t care about the Capitol, » Ryan said. « They certainly won’t care about a 22-year-old staff member who may experience stress and anxiety in this environment, or a long-term staff member. »

Whether he wins or loses his Senate race in November, Ryan is ending his stint on the House side of the Capitol. He says he’s too young to think about his legacy, but he hopes he will be remembered for his interest in mental health.

The Senate lags the House in mental health and wellness resources for staff, but Ryan isn’t ready to say he’ll launch an effort to expand benefits on the health side. Room in the upper room.

« I’m going to find out a lot of bullshit when I get there, » he said.


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