Rep. Jim Renacci stews about GM job losses as he prepares to leave office

December 18, 2018 GMT

Rep. Jim Renacci stews about GM job losses as he prepares to leave office

WASHINGTON, D.C. - WASHINGTON – Jim Renacci felt sucker punched nearly a decade ago when the government-orchestrated bankruptcy of General Motors shuttered his Chevrolet dealership in Wadsworth, even though GM was working with him to expand the franchise at a new location along the highway. Outrage over what he considered government overreach prompted his initial run for Congress.

The company’s latest decision to sock Northeast Ohio with thousands more job losses by shuttering its Lordstown assembly plant has renewed Renacci’s fuming over the GM bankruptcy as he prepares to leave the House of Representatives. It’s high on a list of things that still bug him after eight years in office.


In an interview after he and other Ohio Congress members recently met with GM CEO Mary Barra, Renacci said the government-subsidized bankruptcy deserves a share of blame for the newest closures because it didn’t accomplish the complete corporate retooling that a creditor-driven bankruptcy would have achieved.

“If they went through a pure bankruptcy, many of these issues would have been taken care of years ago,” Renacci said over coffee in a House of Representatives cafeteria where he meets people now that his Capitol Hill office has been cleared to accommodate its next occupant.

GM still has overcapacity issues despite a “massive infusion” of tax money during the bankruptcy and the closing of 126 Ohio dealerships which wiped out over 6,300 jobs across the state and cut another 3,000 manufacturing jobs in Mansfield and Twinsburg, says Renacci.

In their meeting, he says he told Barra that General Motors should be held accountable for taking money from U.S. taxpayers to survive and then choosing to expand production in Mexico while cutting it in the United States. When she told the group GM is expanding in other parts of the United States, he told her it appeared as if the company had decided Ohio is not part of its future.

“Quite frankly, I think we do have a problem in Ohio,” said Renacci. “People are leaving. It tells me Ohio is losing its competitiveness.

“I did say to her, ‘I understand your decision. It is a business decision. You have a right to do that. You should be thinking of Ohio workers and United States taxpayers when you make that decision.’”

Renacci isn’t optimistic about Lordstown’s future. Noting that Honda’s Marysville plant retooled multiple times to stay competitive, he thinks GM would have already started the retooling process if it was planning to build a new vehicle there.


Just as Renacci is still concerned with General Motors after eight years in office, he still believes the nation’s debts and deficits are growing too rapidly. He says the 2017 GOP tax bill that he supported - which boosted the deficit - will help the economy grow and that most of the deficit is caused by people living longer than government programs like Social Security and Medicare were designed to handle. As he ponders his next career move, he says he wants to figure out ways he can continue to use his Capitol Hill service, his 28 years in business and his experiences running for Senate and governor.

“That’s a resume that not too many people have,” said Renacci, who says he would consider a job in the Trump administration or “anywhere I could help the country move forward, which is one of the reasons I decided to run for Senate.”

He demurred when asked if he’d be interested in the White House chief of staff job vacated by John Kelly’s departure.

“I do believe the chief of staff should be someone who could work with both sides,” says Renacci, noting that a study on bipartisanship found him among the most bipartisan members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and that he developed solid relationships with Democrats by attending regular bipartisan breakfast meetings.

Who’s the most bipartisan Ohioan in Congress? See how your member scored

He says he’s also considering opportunities in the private sector. He has been asked to serve on corporate boards, and universities have asked him if he’d be willing to teach classes on government dysfunction. Renacci says he can’t go back to running the businesses he operated before running for Congress because he got rid of them all when he was elected to avoid conflicts of interest.

During his service in the House of Representatives, Renacci says he passed almost 15 bills out of the House and Senate ranging from efforts to fight identity theft, to honoring Cleveland Indians great Larry Doby with a posthumous Congressional gold medal for his role in integrating Major League Baseball.

“Both parties are a problem down here,” he says, accusing their leaders of listing to their far-left and far-right wings instead of paying attention to their base and the middle. He says it’s too easy for splinter groups in both parties to hold legislation hostage, and believes their power can be undercut if middle-of-the-road legislators work across party lines to achieve common goals.

“The majority in the middle needs to step up,” says Renacci. “We have had enough of this stuff. You have to be willing to lose your next election. Too many people vote because they’re worried about their right flank or their left flank, but in the end, you have to do what’s right for America.”

In addition to stewing over upcoming GM job losses in Northeast Ohio, Renacci is stewing over the loss of his U.S. Senate campaign against longtime incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. He says he was hampered by lower statewide name recognition than Brown, as well as the National Republican Senatorial Committees decision to not spend money in his race. He aligned himself with President Trump and ran a sharply partisan campaign.

He said he decided not to spend several million dollars he loaned his own campaign because it wouldn’t have been enough to counteract Brown’s $30 million campaign. He estimates Brown’s campaign outspent his by a 32 to one margin for each vote it received.

“My options are open,” Renacci says. “I came here for service, not for a job. Career politicians worry about the next election. I have always said you need people in office who worry about the next generation.”