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Town Hall Meeting with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), Presidential Candidate. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 2, 2019 - 19:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, HOST: Good evening from the CNN Center in Atlanta, welcome to a CNN Democratic presidential town hall. I'm thrilled you're all with us. I'm Poppy Harlow. And you just heard from Congressman Seth Moulton. Later tonight, you will hear from Congressman Eric Swalwell. But right now it is Congressman Tim Ryan's turn. He is a Democrat from Ohio, and he is running on the message and the promise that he hopes will win back working-class voters who left the Democratic Party in 2016. So tonight, he will take questions from you in the audience, Democrats and independents who say they plan to participate in the Democratic primary and caucuses.

Please welcome Congressman Tim Ryan.



HARLOW: Good evening.


HARLOW: Thank you for being here.

RYAN: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Welcome tonight.

We have a great audience, thank you.

RYAN: Yeah, very energetic crowd here tonight.

HARLOW: Thank you for spending your Sunday night with us.

RYAN: Thank you. Thank you.

HARLOW: And I do want to get to the news, which is tragic news, that we have to talk about: Friday's shooting in Virginia Beach, 12 innocent lives taken, murdered. Four people wounded seriously, the deadliest shooting in this country this year.

What authorities are saying is that two .45 caliber pistols were found at the scene, both legally purchased by the gunman. One of those pistols, they say, had a suppressor. Several extended magazines were found near the shooter. You wrote in response, quote, we need real gun reform and we need it now.

Is there any law that could have been passed that would have prevented this?

RYAN: I don't know if it would have prevented it, and first let me just say we all watch these stories, heart breaking, because we're away from our families and we know that we're all vulnerable now, especially in these public spaces. My wife's a first grade

schoolteacher, so when these school shootings happen, it hits particularly close to home for us with school-aged kids as well.

I think it could have been less severe if we had gun reform that didn't allow for those extended magazines and the silencers. That's ridiculous. I mean, to say that

someone can have a silencer or can an extended magazine in the United States today those need to be banned in the United States. That should not be a partisan issue. And the NRA needs to get off their dime and help the American people make that happen.


HARLOW: And you say this as someone who once had an A grade from the NRA. You now pulled an F grade from the NRA. Your position has changed.

Let's go to our first audience question. From Andrea Tigner (ph). She joins us -- she is an interior designer, and the volunteer leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Good evening. What's your question.

ANDREA TEICHNER, VOLUNTEER LEADER, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA: Hi, Congressman Ryan. It's nice to have you here tonight. I'm a fellow Ohioan, let's where I grew up.

RYAN: All right. Where in Ohio?

TEICHNER: I grew up in Toledo -- east side of Toledo -- Oregon (ph), Ohio. Big shout out to all my friends there.

As you well know, because you serve for Ohio, Ohio and where I grew up, where you grew up, we have a strong culture of hunting, fishing, outside sporting. That same culture is here in Georgia where I now make my home. However, the training requirements to get a license, to own a firearm are very different between our two states and across the country. And I would like to know that if you're elected, one, would you work toward requiring states to have a minimum training requirement in order to own a gun? And if so, what would you do to try to do that? And if not, why?

RYAN: Thank you for the question. And you're right. So just so everyone knows, I mention my wife's a first grade school teacher. This is the first time I've ever gotten applauded for going from an A to an F on anything that I've done. So, thank you for that.

You're right, Ohio, we have a sportsman culture, one of the great days of my life every year is when our oldest son, Mason, who's 16 and I do a duck hunting trip together. He does a lot better than me, so we won't talk too much about that.

But I do think we need to have some requirements. I hate to get too much into what the states should do, but we should consistently be helping states make sure that gun owners pass a background check, make sure that assault weapons are banned. We should not have weapons of war on the street in United States make sure. We should make sure we study -- we should make sure we study gun violence as a public health issue.


RYAN: And so we can help in that regard. And I think it's important for the federal government to do those things, and do them immediately. Thank you for...

HARLOW: Congressman, let me just follow up on that -- and thank you for the question, Andrea. Your fellow presidential candidate, fellow Democratic, Congressman Eric Swalwell, who happens to be up next in our town hall even with my colleague Jim Sciutto, he would like to institute what -- a ban on what he calls, quote, military style semiautomatic assault weapons. He wants to offer a buy back program for them, and then criminally prosecute anyone who does not sell them back. So, essentially they could face jail time if they don't sell those guns back.

Do you support that? Yes or no?

RYAN: Well, I don't know the whole piece of legislation. I do support an assault weapons ban.

HARLOW: Well, it's pretty -- I mean, he laid it out, which is, if you have these weapons you have to sell them back to the government and if you don't, you can be criminally prosecuted. As someone who has owned guns, hunted, do you support that?

RYAN: I can't see why I would not support it. Again, I don't want to say something I support that I don't know about, and I haven't read, but I do support an assault weapons ban. I do support a background check. And if you're going to buy the weapons back, I would be supportive of that. So, I just want to see the details of it.

But I am committed to making sure that we have absolute gun reform here in the United States, as I said. We watch these school shootings. We have kids in school. My wife is in the schools. This is something I want to have an impact as president of the United States on.

HARLOW: All right, congressman, let's get to our next question. Michael Allen is with us. Michael is a professional singer. You can serenade the whole group later.

RYAN: Let's see what you got there, fella.

MICHAEL ALLEN, SINGER: Not for free, I'm a capitalist (APPLAUSE)

ALLEN: Which is OK.

RYAN: That's OK. I'm down with that.

ALLEN: I want to ask you something about something that you're -- is prominent in your campaign about winning back the voters that we lost, particularly in your part of the country that ultimately gave the presidency to Donald Trump. He won a lot of those voters by promising to bring back jobs, in a lot of industries that are simply 20th Century technologies or 19th Century technologies, some of them have been automated out of existence. Would you commit to telling workers like that, telling them the truth, their jobs aren't going to come back, and helping them and coming up with concrete plans to help them move into the 21st Century workforce?

RYAN: I appreciate that. It's a good question.

I'm running because I understand exactly what those workers are going through. And in many ways, I believe I'm the only one in this campaign who deeply, deeply understands what those workers are going through,because I've been living in communities like that my entire life. My grandfather was a steel worker. My wife is from that community. Her dad worked in a steel mill, lost his job 40 years ago when they shut the gates down.

I could tell you a story about my cousin Donny who was a Vietnam vet. He -- his last act at the company he worked for was to unbolt the machine from the factory floor, put it in a box and ship it to China, OK?

And then I can go back a couple weeks, and it's been in the New York Times above the fold about the General Motor plant that has closed. And that plant used to have 16,000 people. And when these plants closed, I know who's working in them, they're my family, they're my friends. The first place I went when they laid off the last shift at General Motors was to go to union hall and put my arms around those workers, because I know them.

And to your question, I've been telling people in my community since I started in politics, the steel mills aren't coming back. I've been telling them the truth for 20 years, and I've been doing everything in my power to bring money back, use my congressional position on the appropriations committee the last 17 years, I brought back hundreds of millions of dollars to my community to start an energy incubator, to work around additive manufacturing and 3D printing, to move our community into those future industries.

That's what I want to do as president of the United States, because these folks, my folks, our folks are forgotten. They're black, they're white, they're brown, they're gay, they're straight, they take a shower after work, and when I'm president, they're not going to be forgotten anymore. When I walk into the White House every morning, when I walk into the Oval Office every morning, no one's going to have to explain to me why I'm there or who I'm there for, OK?


HARLOW: So congressman, let's talk a little bit more about General Motors, because...

RYAN: Sorry?

HARLOW: Let's talk a little bit more about General Motors, and I really appreciate that question, it's your district, the Lordstown plant. I have spent so much time there reporting on it for the last decade. And the president, as you know, has threatened to cut subsidies, for example, for General Motors. And I'm interested if you were president, because you've called General Motors greedy, you've said they turn their back on us when we needed them most. Should there be consequences for U.S. companies that shutter plants and lay off hundreds of thousands of American workers?

RYAN: And what you said I said, I meant, OK.

HARLOW: So what would you do, right. Should there be consequences for those companies? It's a real question, do you let capitalism run its course or do you subsidize?

RYAN: I believe that the tax code and the trade agreements in the last 40 years have devastated our country. They've been written for the corporations. You can see

it the pharmaceutical industry, the manufacturing industry, whoever it is, those agreements don't concern

the worker. It's been a race to the bottom in the world for the last 30 or 40 years, and the middle class in the United States has been eviscerated because of that.

And we live with this every day. The schools don't have funding. The mental health board doesn't have funding. The libraries don't have funding.

So, you fix the tax code by not incentivizing General Motors to move their company to Mexico or to move their production to South Korea. So, work on the tax code.

And I believe we have to have trade. We've got to engage the world economically, but we've got to do it in a way where we're lifting up their labor standards, their environmental standards, their human rights standards more in line with the west, Europe, Canada, the United States.

And so I don't want any punishment, but let's write the rules to where they're going to want to invest in the United States. And I do -- just lastly, I do believe we need public-private partnerships. I am -- we have to save capitalism from itself right now. And I -- every economic project I've done locally in Youngstown, Ohio, and Akron, Ohio, and Warren, Ohio, we sit down with the business community, the investor, the port authority, the local economic development organizations, the local workforce organizations, the congressmen, the state reps, the mayors,

the councils, you got to build a team.

And to the last gentleman's point that's what I want to do as president when we're talking about winning the future around electric vehicles or solar or wind or additive manufacturing, build the team and let's go and win the future.


HARLOW: Let's get to our next question. It comes to us tonight from Liz Heywood, who's a professional artist and designer, currently focused on painting murals all across Atlanta with political themes. Very appropriate.

She currently support Senator Elizabeth Warren. What's your question tonight?

RYAN: Can I request a mural of me in Atlanta? Is that too much?

LIZ HEYWOOD, ARTIST: I'm a pretty diehard Warren head, so, we'll have to see.

So, in a Pod Save America interview, you described worrying about the climate and rising sea levels as a luxury. Obama said that climate change is the greatest threat to future generations. The Pentagon said that climate change poses and immediate risk to national security. And I heard on NPR that 1 million animal and plants species are at risk of extinction.

So why is climate change not one of your top priorities?

RYAN: Great. Climate change is one of my top priorities. When I referred to climate change being a luxury for some people to think about, I'm talking about the auto worker that just lost their job and can't pay the mortgage and may have to leave their kids to go work in another factory and not sure what their future looks like.

And my argument is we've got to understand that they don't have the bandwidth to talk about climate, because they're worried about putting food on the table for their kids. And they're worried about where their next paycheck is going to come from.

And so I talk about climate in the sense -- and I have three kids -- Mason is 16, Bella is 15, Brady (ph) is 5 -- will be 5 on June 12, that she reminds me of every time I talk to him. And he's been reminding me of that since January.

This is a jobs program. I talk about reversing climate change as a jobs program. We should dominate the electric vehicle market, we should dominate the battery market, we should dominate the charging stage market. You know who dominates the electric vehicle market now? China. 40 to 50 percent of the electric vehicle market is China.

We should dominate the solar market and manufacture those here in the United States. Who dominates the solar market? China. 60 percent.

We should dominate the wind market. We can reverse climate, let's talk about it in the context of jobs.

Solar is growing at 30 percent a year, wind is growing at 20 percent a year. We're going to make 30 million electric vehicles in the next 10 years. I want those made in the United States. And let's steer the investment to the communities that have lost, communities of color, old coal, old steel, old auto, old rubber.

HARLOW: We're going to talk a lot about China ahead. So, everyone stay with us. Thank you for that question, Liz.

We'll be right back with CNN's Democratic presidential town hall right here with Congressman Tim Ryan. Stay with us.


HARLOW: All right. Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Congressman Tim Ryan.

Our next question comes from Matthew Banks, a student at Valdosta State University.

What's your question?

QUESTION: Hi, Congressman.

RYAN: Hi, Matthew.

QUESTION: So given the news surrounding the Mueller report, do you think now is the time to pursue impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States?

RYAN: The impeachment question obviously has been a big one for a long time and a long time coming, a lot of people have been talking about it.

The one issue I really had that I was waiting on was I wanted to ask Mueller or have the Congress ask Mueller, if Donald Trump wasn't president, if he was Tim Ryan or Matthew or an autoworker in Lordstown, Ohio, would you have prosecuted him?

I wanted to know that answer. And the answer I got a couple days ago was, yes, he would have. So I --


RYAN: -- so I do believe we need to move forward with the impeachment process and let me tell you why.

No president, not Donald Trump or anyone else, is a king. They are a president. Article I of the Constitution, the first article, creates the Congress. It creates the House of Representatives.

We are closest to the people; we go home every weekend; we get elected every two years; we're the closest to the people in the communities. And we oversee Article II of the Constitution, which is the president, not the king.

And when you think that the president has committed crimes, which I have read the Mueller report and I believe he obstructed on multiple occasions, we have a responsibility.

I don't want to. I know what this is going to do to the country. I take no joy in this at all. But I have a duty and a responsibility and that duty and responsibility has led me to think that we have to do this.



HARLOW: Well, that's news.

Thank you for the question.

That's news, that's a big headline for you.

RYAN: I wanted to do that --


HARLOW: -- there you go. You were hesitant -- all seriousness, you have hesitated to say this and you just said it tonight, that you support moving forward with impeachment proceedings now.

Let's get to the next question, that comes from Peter Nunn; he joins us tonight and he owns a hair salon.

What's your question?

QUESTION: Thank you. Georgia's governor just signed a six-week abortion bill into law. You formally took an anti-choice stance on abortion rights.

How do you plan on convincing female voters who are angry and scared of having their rights taken away that you are the candidate for them?

RYAN: Appreciate you asking that question.

When I first got to Congress, 17 years ago, I grew up in a Catholic family, Catholic community, Catholic church. We were all very involved in the church. And my position was, I was a pro-life Democrat.

When I got to Congress, I started working with other members of Congress, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut and others, on issues around women's health.

And through that process, we worked with Planned Parenthood, we worked with NARAL, we worked other female members of Congress. And through that process, I met women, who had very, very difficult circumstances where they had to have an abortion. Now I'm sure it wasn't the first time I met a woman who had an abortion but it was the first time I ever knew that I was talking to a woman about an excruciating circumstance that they were in.

And when I learned about their circumstances, I slowly began to change my position, started voting differently because I just don't believe, in these very complicated circumstances, that the federal government or state government should, in any way, shape or form, be between a woman and her doctor. That's their decision to make.


HARLOW: So to follow up on that, Congressman, just last week, the Democratic governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, as you know, signed a bill into law that bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Do you believe that there is room today in the Democratic Party for lawmakers who do not support abortion rights?

RYAN: That's for whoever's running for office to determine. I will say --


HARLOW: You're running for president and you were one of those Democrats.

RYAN: Yes. Well, let me just say, I'm a pro-choice member of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party is pro-choice. And as president, I will nominate and have a litmus test to nominate judges that are going to support Roe v. Wade. That's my commitment to the American people. That's what I will do as president.

HARLOW: Quick yes or no, is there room in the Democratic Party for lawmakers who do not support abortion rights?

RYAN: Well, you're asking a question that, you know, if a -- if a Democrat is running against a Republican, and they may have a few positions you don't agree with, then who are you going to support?

And so I don't -- you know, that is determined by the people in the congressional district, in the state. I would just say --

HARLOW: Would you vote for a Democrat who does not support abortion rights?

RYAN: Probably not in a primary. Not in a primary.

HARLOW: OK. So let's get to our next question. Karen O'Miller joins us, she's a special education teacher.

First of all, Karen, thank you very much for doing the most important job and teaching our kids. We all appreciate that very much.

RYAN: All right. HARLOW: Karen lost her son, David, to the opioid epidemic. David was only 33 years old. She works with the addiction support group Broken No More.

And, Karen, we are so sorry for your loss.

What's your question tonight?

QUESTION: Good evening.

50,000 people a year die from opioid overdose. We have a medication your -- ahh, sorry, buprenorphine, that has been demonstrated to reduce overdose deaths. Regulatory barriers have resulted in a lack of access to this medication.

A bill has been introduced in the House, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, which will deregulate the prescribing of your -- of this medication and allow every physician to provide -- prescribe -- I'm sorry -- this lifesaving medication.

Do you support this bill?

RYAN: It sounds like I would; I haven't heard it, about it but, yes, that's something that I would support. And let me just say how sorry I am. We have experienced this in my community for a long time now.

I'm co-chair of the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus and we were able to make some small steps forward with the CARE bill, Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery bill, to get money down into the local communities.

We've got to also be very firm with the pharmaceutical industry. I love seeing these lawsuits come against the pharmaceutical industry that would make sure that there were thousands and thousands of opiates that were getting to communities in West Virginia, to where everybody in the town had 30 or 60 pills.

It's ridiculous in the United States. And they were making money off it. And I'm cheering on this lawsuit. So thank you for your question.

But we -- this is a long way we have to go on the addiction issue, which is one of the reasons we also need some kind of public option in the health care bill to make sure everybody has access to treatment.

HARLOW: You're talking about the lawsuit in Ohio that is about to begin -- the one in Oklahoma, a civil case going on right now, we're all watching very closely.

Your fellow competitor for the presidency, Beto O'Rourke, says there have to be sentencing and time or there have to be legal consequences, including jail time, for drug manufacturers.

Do you agree, jail time for these pharma executives if they are found guilty?

RYAN: If they are, yes.


HARLOW: So let's talk more about this, because, again, I mean, look, your state of Ohio ranks second in the nation for opioid overdoses. I spent a great deal of time with our team reporting across Ohio, sitting in the basement of a home with parents who lost their 20-year- old son who is a baseball player. They had no idea. The sheriff of another Ohio town, his wife, the sheriff's wife, got addicted to opiates. I mean, no one is immune from this.

RYAN: Yes.

HARLOW: What are we getting wrong as a country on this?

RYAN: Some of it we already talked about as far as the pervasiveness of the drugs, the quick knee-jerk reaction to use painkillers as a response, too much so.

But I don't think you can have this conversation without talking about the despair that's out in our country today. And this is why I say, like I don't think we're getting it. I feel like I'm one of the only people who really understand because I'm living in the middle of the economic devastation and the opiate crisis, which is why I think we need a President of the United States who understands this.

When you look across the board, you see many of these communities that have economic despair also end up falling into addiction and the depths of despair and suicide. I mean, this is not the way the United States should function. We are supposed to take care of our own people in the United States.

And we've failed them. We've failed them economically, we've failed them with health care, we failed them with pensions and we failed to address some of these basic needs that they have that, if we were committed, we could save a lot of lives in the United States.

And what happens is people had jobs that were paying 30 or 40 bucks an hour: now they're making 12, now they're making 13. And the president's running around, saying, yes, the economy's booming. It's not booming. It's not booming.


RYAN: And --


RYAN: -- and so -- which is why one of my first initiatives is to have an industrial policy in the United States. We've got to get the job numbers, the job -- the wages up, $30 an hour, $40 an hour, $50 an hour, so people can work hard.

And if they hurt their back, they're going to want to get back to work because they got a little fishing boat, they can take their kids hunting, they can go on a little vacation. But when you are making 12 bucks an hour and you hurt your back, all of a sudden and things aren't well, you start taking some pills and you feel a little bit better. And that's been the story we've seen for a long time in Ohio.

HARLOW: I know you've seen it in Ohio yourself, let's talk a lot more about that and the economy ahead. Stick around, Tim Ryan, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


HARLOW: We are live at CNN's Worldwide Headquarters for a Democratic Presidential Town Hall event. We will be joined by Congressman Eric Swalwell next hour, but right now it is Congressman Tim Ryan. Welcome back.

RYAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Our next question comes tonight from Joan Gage, a speech language pathologist working in South Fulton County Schools. Good evening. What's your question?

JOAN GAGE, SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST: Good evening. My question is currently right now there are many farmers across Ohio who are suffering because of the trade war started by this administration. What are your plans for handling the tariff fiasco that is currently hurting our farmers and also which may deal with the intellectual property concerns that our nation has about China?

RYAN: Yes. Thank you. That's a great question, and China is a huge issue, an issue and a relationship I've been working on for 17 years. I was one of the original co-sponsors back in the day for a China currency manipulation bill to punish the Chinese for manipulating their currency, making their products cheaper to be dumped on our country. So I've been studying this relationship for a long time.

I believe in targeted tariffs. We've had steel dumped in Youngstown, Ohio, which means they send a bunch of steel to our country, it's put our steel workers out of business, it's put a lot of steel companies out of business because the price is so cheap. So I'm for targeted efforts to do that, but this particular issue about tariffs needs to be part of a larger strategy against China.

China is on the move. China is our number one threat. We have a relationship, but they're a - they're a threat. They want to take us out economically. And they are building islands in the South China Sea. They're building ports in the Middle East. They're building rail lines from Northeast China all the way to Rotterdam. They are signing long-term raw material contracts in Africa to feed their industrial machine. They want to dominate the top 10 industries in the world around added to (ph) manufacturing, wind, solar, artificial intelligence, all the rest.

Trump does not have a big strategy. He has a tactic that gets him on TV because he sends a tweet out - tariffs are on, tariffs are off - and the media runs with it all the time, and it changes the subject, and he can look tough. We're getting out clock cleaned. We talked earlier in the night that 40 percent to 50 percent of the electric vehicle market, 60 percent of the solar market, they're running circles around us with 5G - fifth generation Internet.

We need an industrial policy in the United States if we're going to take on China. And if you think that makes sense, what I just told you, I need your help. I need you to go to and listen to what I'm saying about China. Listen to how long I've been talking about this because when I'm president, that's going to be the number one issue that the president is going to have to deal with - our long-term relationship with China.

HARLOW: So - so Congressman, you do support, as you just said, again, some tariffs, OK. So there would be some tariffs under a President Ryan. Tariffs, we all know, we pay for them. They're a tax on the American people, so wouldn't continuing at least some of the president's tariffs hurt the very people you're trying to help?

RYAN: Yes, well depends if its targeted. His are not targeted.

HARLOW: But it's still a - you know what I mean. It's still a tax.

RYAN: I - well, I understand, but we're in a very complicated relationship with them. It's about sitting down and working it out. I'm for taking a strong position and then negotiating from a strong position. He's taking a punch and we have no clue what the plan is, what the strategy is, and our farmers are getting hammered. We are having a recession in rural America right now, and they're sending money to China - they're sending money. The president is on his second payment to the farmers. They don't want a - they don't want a payment. They want to be able to sell their product and we need to be able to do that.

And oh, by the way, Poppy, he made a lot of promises to the auto workers in Youngstown. I think it would be nice if he's spending, you know $20 billion to $30 billion helping farmers deal with a crisis he could spend $1 billion, help General Motors open that factory back up in Youngstown, Ohio, and we can start producing electric cars and we'll kick China's butt that way instead of what he's trying to do now.

HARLOW: So our next question comes tonight from Kish Woodward. She is a Program Manager for the Atlantis School of Sleep Medicine. Good evening.

KISH WOODWARD, PROGRAM MANAGER FOR A SCHOOL OF SLEEP MEDICINE: Good evening. As a fellow Ohioan, I understand that issues affecting Youngstown can be very different than those issues affecting Columbus where I'm from originally or Cincinnati. Your campaign seems to be focused on winning back the white working class. How will you address issues such as racial inequality that are not a main focus of your base?

RYAN: Thank you for that question, fellow Buckeye. Got more Buckeyes over here? All right.


Thank you for that question. I have made it a point because people do try to say, "oh, Tim Ryan's a white, Irish guy from Youngstown and he -" I make it a point. This is not about the white working class. This is about white people, black people, brown people, gay people, straight people, men, women, north, south, urban, rural. This economy is not working for anybody - well, just the top 1 percent pretty much or the top 5 percent or 10 percent of the people in the country. And so, I think it's critically important that when I talk about electric vehicles and all these other projects and growing the pie, I will have concrete plans on how to steer that investment into communities of color, into the communities that have been left behind.

Now, a lot of people don't know, but Youngstown, Ohio is 50 percent African American. I've been working on these issues a long time. We need to address when it comes to African American women what's happening with their health 300 to 400 times - 300 to 400 times higher percentage of death and pregnancy or child birth. Even along education and wealth, income levels, that's an issue we need to address. An African American baby born in Youngstown, Ohio has a higher infant mortality rate than a baby born in Iran. I am deeply committed to these issues around justice when it comes to the African American community, and you can bet that I will surround myself with men and women in my administration that will help us put and excellent plan together to make that happen. Thank you.

HARLOW: So Congressman, on that point - and thank you, Kish, for that question. On that point you said just a few months ago - let me quote here - "I don't necessarily think we need another white guy for president." Of course, that struck me. It struck a lot of us when you said that. Whether you are on the ticket or not, are you comfortable with an all white, all male ticket for the democratic party in 2020?

RYAN: No, absolutely not. And I - we have to - our ticket and the next president's cabinet must reflect the diversity of the country, and I'm committed to do that.

HARLOW: All right, our next question tonight comes from Tyler Wiegert. He is a research analysts for the power of products industry, currently he supports Senator Cory Booker. Good evening.

TYLER WIEGERT, RESEARCH ANALYST: Good evening. Thank you. My question is as one of the leaders of the movement to prevent Speaker Pelosi from regaining the speakership, what are your thoughts on her performance so far? Do you think she has been effective in holding the caucus together? And if you became president, do you think she would be an effective ally in the House or would you prefer to work with a new Speaker?

RYAN: That's a great question, Mr. Cory Booker fan.


I think she's doing a terrific job. I really do. I - and I - she's tough as nails. If you look at the entirety of when I ran against Speaker Pelosi and the years following, it was never personal. I've got the upmost respect for her. She is tenacious. She is smart. She's doing a phenomenal job, and Donald Trump, quite frankly, has met his - met his match with Speaker Pelosi.

So I know first hand what he's up again, and he's going to lose. I will tell you that. And I think not just her - not just what she's doing as far as being Speaker. It's bigger than that. She's protecting the integrity of Article I that I mentioned earlier, the integrity that the Congress governs. Trump was going to - President Trump was going to come and give his State of the Union Speech. Oh, wait a minute. You didn't get invited. This is the people's House, and I think that was symbolic of the conflict that's happening between the Executive and the Legislative, and she's doing a great job.

HARLOW: So Congressman, so two years ago - feel free to take some water.

RYAN: Yes.

HARLOW: So two years ago, my colleague Don Lemon asked you whether you believe Speaker Pelosi was more toxic than Donald Trump to some people across the country, and you said, quote, "in some areas of the country, yes she is." Do you stand by that today?

RYAN: I think things have shifted a little bit given President Trump's performance, but I'm sure there are areas still in the country where President Trump is more popular, but her approval ratings have gone up significantly. And my whole thing the whole time was, look, we've become a coastal party. We feel forgotten in the industrial Midwest. We feel forgotten many in the south. And my whole pitch was like we need to be represented. No one is hearing us. We are forgotten here. We signed these big trade deals, globalization, automation. It's like we're over here waving. How about us? How about us? We're Americans, too. It was great when we were building the steel and building the cars, and now all of a sudden they say - there's a great line from the Bruce Springsteen song about Youngstown. Oh, you told us times have changed once we made you rich enough, rich enough to forget our names. That's how we feel. And so, my pitch against - for democratic leadership was like we need people not just another generation, but people from parts of the country that have been forgotten. And that's why I'm running for president because I'm not going to forget. I'm from there. I live there. My family's there. We go to school there. And so, I want an opportunity represent the entire country, all of the forgotten communities, all of the forgotten people across the United States. I want an opportunity to walk into the White House and pull every lever possible that the President of the United States on behalf of the working class - white, black, brown, gay, straight. I will be a working class president for the American people.

HARLOW: Stay with us. Congressman Tim Ryan. We're going to be right back with CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall here tonight with Congressman Tim Ryan. Stay right there.


HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. We're live in Atlanta for CNN's back-to-back presidential town halls. Here with us now is Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio. Thank you for sticking around.

RYAN: Yes. It's been great.

HARLOW: Some great audience questions.

RYAN: Yes, yes, great.

HARLOW: So let's talk about you for a moment. Politicians don't like to talk about themselves.

RYAN: No, I guess If you twist my arm.

HARLOW: Let's talk about you for a moment: high school quarterback.

RYAN: Yes.

HARLOW: -- president of your fraternity in college congressman.


RYAN: Yes.

HARLOW: True story?

RYAN: No question. I love doing hot yoga.


RYAN: I did not take you for a hot yoga crowd at all.


RYAN: Yes, I learned centering prayer, which is a Catholic-based meditation, from a priest friend of mine back home. And that sent me on a journey, where I then went on mindfulness meditation retreats for five days, seven days. I've done several of those before I was married with kids.


HARLOW: There is no time. I'm not going to go home and tell my husband I'm going to a seven-day silence retreat but I would like to do that.

RYAN: Yes.

HARLOW: But you went and you sat in silence for like 36 hours?

RYAN: Yes. And then a week. Yes. It's an amazing experience. It reduces your stress level dramatically. And it's no phones, no journaling, no TV. And so it's been great because there's so much research on it now, how much it can help kids, how much it can help people who have addictions, just generally for all of us, where stress is a huge killer. It's a very simple practice that has no side effects. HARLOW: How has it changed you?

RYAN: Well, the stress level is different. I think you start to see through a lot of the B.S. And you kind of cut through the noise, which has been very helpful in politics in the last few years. It helps you see how things are interconnected. It helps you really see a little bit deeper into people, kind of looking into their hearts and really see what's motivating them.

A lot of the trauma, I mean, you look at what's happening today with so many of our kids that have so much trauma, the adverse childhood experiences that they have, this is a real focus.

Putting social and emotional learning into schools is like a really big part of my educational plan because it deals with the kids' trauma. And if you don't deal with the trauma, the brain doesn't function properly. We've learned more about the brain in the last 20 years than we have in the previous 100.

And if you don't understand -- if you don't take care of the kids' trauma, you're not going to be able to teach them.

HARLOW: If people want to know more, actually, you've even written a book on mindfulness. Let me get to the next question.

Jessie Lovett joins us tonight, Jessie is a retired property manager and currently supports former Vice President Joe Biden.

Good evening.

What's your question?

QUESTION: Good evening.

What changes would you propose to the existing Affordable Care Act?

Or do you support the Medicare plan for all?

RYAN: Thank you for that. Let me first say we've covered a lot of ground., if you go to my website, we'll outline all of these issues that we covered tonight and didn't cover tonight, even including mindfulness and yoga with veterans, really helping them heal, which is transforming their lives, which has been amazing.

I have been on the Medicare for all bill since 2007. I believe that the very next step we have to take is to have a public option so that everybody can buy affordable, accessible health care.

But I also believe that we need to have another conversation. The current system is a disease care system. It's a sick care system: wait until we get sick, throw a bunch of money at it. Pharmaceutical companies make a bunch of money. Insurance companies make a bunch of money.

We need to have a conversation about health in the United States. We need to have a conversation about our food system in the United States and we need to have a conversation about our agriculture --


RYAN: -- we need to also have a conversation about our agriculture system in the United States and what kind of food are we producing?

How do we move to a more regional, sustainable agricultural system?

We're destroying our soil, destroying our environment. We lose 220 cubic tons of fish in the Gulf of Mexico every year because of what we're sending down the Mississippi River that runs into the Gulf of Mexico.

We need to talk about incentivizing doctors and patients to be health, pay doctors to help get us healthy, reward patients with rebates and refunds to stay healthy.

These are critical components of how we stay health; 75 percent of our health care costs in the United States are from chronic diseases that are largely preventable -- preventable, $2 trillion to $3 trillion a year.


RYAN: So my health care plan is make sure we get everybody covered. Mental health, addiction, all of these critical issues that are facing people today. But let's flip this system and get people healthy.

You want to knock the knees out from the pharmaceutical industry?

Let's all say, how do we get a little more healthy in the United States so we don't need the damn pharmaceutical industry?

We save that money for people -- we save that money for people who are really sick and can't change that for -- through their diets or other things. The money should be reserved for those people. Get out of the disease care system and move it to health, food and take care of our soil.

HARLOW: Congressman Tim Ryan.

RYAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you very much for tonight.

Thank you all for joining us. Stay right there. Still ahead, Congressman Eric Swalwell will join us at the top of the hour. My buddy, Jim Sciutto, takes over next. We'll be right back. Thanks, everyone.