JD Vance, Tim Ryan Tangle On Abortion, Immigration During Debate

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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“Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance and Democratic Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan clashed on a wide range of issues, most notably abortion and immigration, during an hour-long Monday debate as part of their race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Several polls have shown that the race between the 10-term congressman and best-selling author is within the margin of error, with the RealClearPolitics average showing Vance ahead by 1.4 points. Ryan significantly out-raised Vance through the first two quarters of 2022, but more than $31 million from the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund has helped the Republican close the cash gap. (RELATED: Trump’s New PAC Spending Big In Pennsylvania, Ohio)

Vance and Ryan expressed substantive agreement on economics, although they disagreed about which candidate would better carry out policy. The candidates disagreed most on social issues and the impact of their parties’ leaders. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Vance ahead of his primary victory, while Ryan sought to defend President Joe Biden’s record even as he has recently downplayed his support for the commander-in-chief.

“I’ve been very clear” on opposing a second run for Biden, Ryan said, although he defended his votes for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. The IIJA will create 600,000 jobs in the state, Ryan said, while claiming that the Inflation Reduction Act will allow Ohio to go “all in on natural gas.”

“We need to increase our production of natural gas. I support streamlining the permitting process around natural gas, so that we can get it around the country, lower costs for businesses, and ship it to Europe so we can stick our finger in Vladimir Putin’s eyes,” Ryan said.

“Tim Ryan just told a big fib,” Vance responded. “When he ran for president, it was two years ago, you supported banning fracking, both on public lands and generally speaking.”


Vance noted that Ryan has always voted with Biden’s position in the 117th Congress, claiming that the policies are inflationary.

“When we’re talking about $6 trillion, there’s a lot of money that isn’t well spent. And that’s fundamentally the problem with what we’ve seen out of the Biden administration. Simultaneously they’ve borrowed and spent trillions of dollars that we just don’t have, and that’s thrown fuel on the fire of the inflation problem. And at the same time they’ve completely gone to war against America’s energy sector. And you can’t do both of those things at the same time,” he said.

Both candidates have promised to take a heavy hand in opposing China, blaming the adversary for declining numbers of American manufacturing jobs. Ryan has run television ads claiming that he is “not backing down” from a fight with the communist country and highlighting his support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement negotiated by former President Donald Trump.

Similarly, Vance has called for states and the federal government to crack down on Chinese entities conducting business in the U.S., and has promoted industrial policies to subsidize manufacturing in key industries.

“The only way to really combat [the Chinese undercutting American wages] is tariffs, which I have supported. And now Tim Ryan supports them, and I’m glad that you do Tim, but of course in 2018, 2019, and 2020, you opposed the tariffs,” Vance said.

The candidates expressed greater disagreement on social issues.

Ryan accused Vance of supporting a total abortion ban. Formerly pro-life, Ryan was one of 62 Democrats who voted to ban partial-birth abortion in 2003. He publicly changed his mind on the issue in 2015.

“I had some very personal conversations with women in Ohio who had gone through tragedies, who needed to have abortions for different reasons. And I just came to realize through the course of these conversations that the government has no place in this matter,” Ryan explained.

Ryan voted in 2021 and 2022 for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would legalize abortion up to the moment of birth and eliminate conscience protections for doctors and nurses who oppose the procedure. (RELATED: Democrats Quietly Scrub Abortion Bill Language Saying Men Can Get Pregnant)

“I am pro-life, I’ve always been pro-life. I grew up in a poor family in a poor community. I saw a lot of young women have abortions when I was growing up. And one of the things that always struck me is it felt like a lot of those young women didn’t have options. They felt they didn’t have the healthcare that they needed. We’ve got to fix that. They felt it would have ruined their career, their personal lives, to have a baby so early. We have to fix that sense too,” Vance responded, suggesting that he would support a ban on the procedure after five months in a woman’s pregnancy.

Vance also acknowledged the case of a ten-year-old Ohio girl who was raped by an illegal immigrant, saying that he would support legalized abortion in her case.

“That poor girl was raped by an illegal alien, someone that should have never been in the state in the first place. You voted so many times against border wall funding, so many times for amnesty Tim. If you had done your job she never would have been raped in the first place,” he said, while criticizing Ryan’s overall approach to immigration and border security.

“You’ve been in Congress for 20 years, and the border problem has gotten worse and worse and worse. I don’t care about what you want to do Tim, what have you actually done to reduce the flow of fentanyl?” he asked.