CLEVELAND — You might think that since taking the oath of office three weeks ago, Ohio's newest U.S. Senator JD Vance has been stuck in Washington learning the ins and outs of the upper chamber but that's not the case.
"We haven't been in Washington the last couple of weeks," Vance told News 5. "One of the craziest things is you know you get sworn in, I think it was Tuesday, January the 3rd and the next day we started a three week recess."
What that time has allowed him to do though is to begin the process of getting to know better the state's greatest assets that he will be called upon to represent in Washington, places like the Cleveland Clinic. Yes, he knows its place as one of the world's greatest hospitals but this day was about seeing what they do, what they need and how he can help.
"I learned stuff about what's gone wrong in our health care system just today that I've never even heard before, heard about the nursing shortage, you know I had heard about it but I heard about it in a new way here coming and talking to people," he said. "So I wanted to make sure that people get an opportunity to actually talk to me and I get an opportunity to talk to them because that's how you learn."
The Cleveland Clinic is Ohio's largest employer, growth fueled in part by the passing of the Affordable Care Act more than a decade ago and the expansion of Medicaid in states like Ohio that came along with it. The Clinic has grown from just over 39,300 employees in 2012 to 56,986 today, a 45% increase.
In 2017, a Republican led vote to repeal the ACA passed the house but was defeated in the senate. When Republican Senators John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted with Democrats. So does Vance, after seeing the Clinic, think the ACA is too big of a bell to un-ring? Yes.
"Look, I think we definitely need healthcare reform in this country I mean talking to people just inside its really clear that a lot of these hospitals, a lot of great providers including the Cleveland Clinic are really getting squeezed. A lot of healthcare facilities across our state are losing money and that's a problem that we have to work on," he said. "But you talk about the ACA, I mean look that was before I got there and my basic view is let's fix the problems that we have, let's not focus on the problems of six years ago."
Vance said he learned a lot about Northeast Ohio during the campaign to replace Rob Portman but he looks forward to much more.
"You know I want to be a good Senator for the whole state, I'm a Cincinnati guy, but I love Cleveland and what it represents and this is a big part of that."