Urbana state lawmaker joins Ohio conservatives with message for Trump

March 31, 2017
Nino Vitale

An Urbana lawmaker has a message for President Donald Trump: Quit criticizing conservatives for their stance on health care reform.

State Rep. Nino Vitale, R- Urbana, and about a dozen other Ohio conservatives penned a letter to the White House making the request.

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It came in response to a statement from the president on Twitter on Thursday taking aim at the Freedom Caucus, founded by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018,” said Trump, who has 27.2 million followers on Twitter. The tweet was picked up immediately by national news organizations.

A second tweet Thursday by the president mentioned Jordan by name, claiming if he and others would “get on board,” Congress would be able to pass health-care reform and tax cuts.

Vitale, in his second term at the Ohio Statehouse, wants the Trump administration to take a closer look at the health care legislation that was headed toward a vote last week before House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the plug.

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“The Ryancare legislation retained and renamed Obamacare. It didn’t repeal and replace it as we told the voters we were going to do. If you’re not going to do what you told the voters you were going to do then that’s called lying. Just because you call it a replacement bill doesn’t mean it is,” Vitale said.

The Freedom Caucus is trying to change Washington, Jordan said during a Thursday appearance on Fox News

“(Ryan’s) bill keeps Washington the same – plain and simple,” he said. “This bill doesn’t fully repeal Obamacare, this bill doesn’t lower premiums and probably most importantly this bill doesn’t unite Republicans and the American people, as evidenced by the fact that only 17 percent of the country supports this legislation.”

Another member of the Freedom Caucus, U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson, R- Troy, said the president’s tweet got his attention.

“I understand his frustration. He did get involved and extended his own commitment to try to help the problem. I’m a little surprised because it is only focused on conservatives,” Davidson said.

Davidson and Vitale remain hopeful a health-care reform plan can be passed.

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“I can see the president saying get back to me when you get this figured out, but I got to go and do other things,” Davidson said. Davidson’s main concern about the Ryan bill was a lack of cost containment.

Vitale draws much of his knowledge of the health-care issue from his experience as head of a manufacturing company, JWP Inc. in Urbana. The company, which employs more than 415 people, makes brake systems for trucks, buses and recreational vehicles.

“Health care is a big thing. It really affects us as employers in the state, it affects how many people we can employ, how we can grow our businesses,” Vitale said. “There is great pressure, to be honest with you, from our customers to be able to move to other countries where the tax base is lower and they don’t have to pay to ship our product across the borders of Canada and Mexico and I don’t want to do that. But if we continue to add regulations and costs to American industry we are encouraging them to go elsewhere and we have got folks we need to employ right here in America.”

Vitale said as a state representative, the health care issue is very important on the state level, not just in Congress. Medicare and Medicaid are the No. 1 spending item in the state of Ohio.

“So of the 11.5 million people and all of those folks who pay taxes, this is what your money is going toward and we have to care very deeply about getting this policy correct,” Vitale said.

Vitale doesn’t believe Trump should stop using Twitter.

“I’m actually on the opposite end of what I hear a lot of Republicans say. I would rather hear more from our elected officials and of course I’m one of them,” he said. “I would rather see more videos, more Twitter, more Facebook, whatever they want to do because let’s see what they have to say.”

Vitale said whatever comes out from the president and other politicians will be analyzed by the both public and the media.

“If they say something stupid then they say something stupid,” he said. “If they say something smart then let’s talk about that, too.”