Portman won’t commit to attending convention; wants Ohio back to work

By: - June 26, 2020 12:40 am

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is committed to getting President Donald Trump reelected, having been recently named a “co-captain” to the Trump Victory Finance Committee. 

But don’t necessarily count on Portman to attend a convention or rally in Trump’s favor anytime soon, with health concerns about mass gatherings during the pandemic on the senator’s mind. 

Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Portman would not commit to attending an in-person Republican National Convention. It is currently scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in Jacksonville, Florida, with the present plan to host a traditional slate of speeches and celebrations at VyStar Veteran’s Memorial Arena. 

Portman said he would evaluate the health risks when the convention approaches and make a decision then.

“We’ll see what the situation is then in terms of what COVID-19 is that week,” Portman said.

“If I go, I’m going to take precautions,” he added, “and I think everyone should.”

Portman was then asked if he would attend a Trump rally in Ohio should the president host one in the near future. The Cincinnati Republican said “that’s a hypothetical question” and similarly said he’d consider the status of the virus when the time comes. 

Here are some other takeaways from Portman’s discussion with reporters:

On Trump

Portman was asked to give his assessment on the president’s handling of the recent unrest following the death of George Floyd. Did Portman think Trump had achieved a goal of bringing Americans together?

“At times, yes. Some of the speeches have been setting the right tone,” Portman answered.

Other times, Portman said, Trump has missed the mark. 

Demonstrators at the Ohio Statehouse in late May. Photo by Tyler Buchanan.

On police reform legislation

The senator described a need for legislative action to reform law enforcement practices, saying he and other Americans had seen “egregious” examples of police brutality over the past month.

He noted the police reform bill put forward by Senate Republicans that on Wednesday was blocked by Senate Democrats, who believe it does not go far enough to address the issues of police misconduct. 

Portman called the back-and-forth “a sad state of affairs” and said Democrats should have given the bill a fair chance.

“They would’ve had opportunity to amend it, but they instead chose to stop and block progress on it,” Portman said. “If that’s the attitude people are taking around here, we’re gonna get nothing done on police reform.”

The bill would have bolstered data reporting on law enforcement activity and strengthened police training and hiring practices, Portman said.

On getting Ohioans back to work

The federal government has been providing $600 per week to qualified unemployed Americans to supplement benefits coming from the state level.

That funding is set to end on July 31, and Portman believes that federal support program should not be extended. 

Portman argued the United States should be focusing on “the recovery of our economy” and Americans should be heading back to work. However, the senator said, this federal funding is leading to those unemployed receiving more money in government benefits than they would receive at their jobs — particularly those working low-paid jobs. 

The Unemployment Insurance, Portman believes, is creating a disincentive against returning to work.

His proposal is to pay workers “a bonus” for returning back to work that would be less than the Unemployment Insurance payments. He pointed to a need of saving state governments money, noting Ohio is now borrowing from the federal government in order to pay its unemployment obligations. 

The GM Lordstown Plant assembled the Chevy Cruz before being shut down. A new Lordstown Motor Corp. is now operating there and unveiled a new electric truck on Thursday. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

On Lordstown

Portman complimented Lordstown Motors Corp. for unveiling its new electric truck on Thursday. Both Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted visited the plant on Wednesday, and Vice President Mike Pence was on-hand for the unveiling. 

Portman said he wished he could be there also, but was in D.C. for Senate business. 

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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.