Senate race: Brown, Renacci differ widely on economy, domestic policies

Little common ground on tax cuts, guns, health care, immigration, abortion.

WASHINGTON  To Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, the economy is booming under President Donald Trump. He says the tax cuts were a success; he’d like to make them permanent.

To Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, the tax cuts disproportionately have helped the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and ultimately will hurt the working-class Ohioans he champions in TV ads and on the campaign trail.

Both men, running for the U.S. Senate this November, represent the same state, but their views on the economy and a host of other domestic policies could not be more different. Here’s a look at where they stand on domestic issues:

The tax cuts

Renacci backed Trump’s tax cuts last year, while Brown opposed them. Renacci rejects Brown’s claim the cuts helped only the wealthy, saying Brown “needs to start looking at the statistics. The average family in the state of Ohio will get $2,000 back on their tax return because of the tax cut. That is not crumbs. That’s a car payment over 12 months; that is a repair of your refrigerator, that’s a repair of your car.”

In fact, Renacci wants to double down on tax cuts. Because many of the individual tax reductions Trump signed into law are scheduled to expire in 2025, Renacci supports a bill GOP leaders backed that would extend those cuts. The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation projected last week the bill would add $630.9 billion in fresh debt by 2028.

Brown acknowledges the cuts spurred some growth, but he said the tax cuts disproportionately have benefited the richest Americans and will drive up the deficit to the detriment of working-class Ohioans. He said Republicans ultimately will try to pay for the tax cuts by cutting Medicare and Social Security.

“Seventy percent of the tax cuts over the last year go to the top 1 percent,” he said. “And who’s going to pay for closing the budget deficit? Medicare beneficiaries. Social Security beneficiaries. … That’s what they always do. ‘Let’s give tax cuts to our biggest contributors. Let’s give a lot less to middle-class taxpayers, and then stick them with all these costs.’ They do it every single time.”

Health care

Brown has fought GOP efforts to repeal the 2010 health care law commonly known as Obamacare, saying Republicans have not demonstrated they have a replacement plan and they ultimately would strip health care from Ohioans without a plan to replace it.

He has urged Congress to pass a bill that would add a public option to individual marketplaces to give consumers increased access to affordable plans and has pushed proposals that aim to bring down the price of prescription drugs and crack down on drug companies that increase drug prices with little warning. He supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio and says the expansion has helped Ohioans gain access to addiction treatment amid the opioid epidemic.

Renacci said the overall health care law is so flawed it cannot be repaired. His campaign website says that “For Jim Renacci, ‘repeal and replace Obamacare’ is more than just a slogan,” and he has voted repeatedly to repeal the law.

He opposes the Medicaid expansion and said he wants to replace the 2010 law with “a patient-centric, market-based system driven by competition and defined by choice, affordability and access to quality care.” In short, he says the law drove up the cost of health care while cutting access for many in Ohio. He said there are elements of the 2010 law that he wants to retain, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance longer.

Although Renacci has hinted that Brown would support a single-payer health system such as Medicare for all Americans, Brown did not co-sponsor a bill Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont introduced that would create such a system.


Renacci and Brown have echoed their parties’ positions on the issue of immigration, with Renacci largely supportive of Trump’s call for a border wall and opposing so-called sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants within their borders. He also supports merit-based immigration and instituting a nationwide E-Verify system that would require businesses to check that their employees legally are permitted to work in the United States.

Brown has backed a program that allows those brought here illegally as children to remain in the country and backed a 2013 immigration compromise that would have increased border security and created a path to citizenship.

In a 2017 appearance on “Meet the Press,” he criticized Trump’s immigration policy, saying the government has no business deporting immigrants who have lived in the United States for years, and he called Trump’s proposed border wall ludicrous. He also supports using technology like ground sensors that are more effective and less costly than a wall.

Both have criticized Trump’s policy that effectively separated children and their families who entered the United States illegally.


On his campaign website, Renacci touts his endorsements by Ohioans for Concealed Carry and the National Rifle Association, and he has a lifetime “A” rating with the NRA.

Among the bills he has backed are measures to allow Social Security recipients who receive benefits through a representative because they are deemed “mentally incapable or unsound” to carry a weapon; a bill to prevent veterans from being deemed “mentally defective” and unable to receive or transport a firearm while receiving mental health treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and a bill that would allow a qualified individual to carry or possess a concealed handgun in another state that allows individuals to carry concealed firearms.

Brown, meanwhile, has called for measures he said would reduce gun violence. He has backed a bill to require mental health and law enforcement records indicating that a person is being investigated as a terrorist be included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. He also supports a measure allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to resume research into firearm safety and gun violence protection.

He has pushed measures to require those buying weapons online or at gun shows to undergo the same background checks as someone buying them at a store in Ohio, and a bill to ban bump stocks, which effectively convert a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon, following the mass shooting in Las Vegas.


Renacci has a 100 percent voting record with Right to Life, and he co-sponsored a bill that would remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood. He supported a bill that would have extended legal protection to infants born alive after a failed attempt at abortion.

Brown repeatedly has said a woman’s reproductive health decisions are between her and her doctor. He has backed bills aimed at maintaining and expanding access to birth control and family planning services and fought efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, noting that federal law already bars tax dollars from directly paying for abortions.

GateHouse Media Ohio reporter Marty Schladen contributed to this report.

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