Column: Portman on tariffs, guns and the budget

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman spent most of Monday afternoon in Lima speaking about the economic benefits of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, which we covered in Tuesday’s paper.

After his multiple appearance, we got him to stop by The Lima News talk to about some of the political topics happening at the federal level. Here’s a rundown of the highlights of that conversation. All the quotes included were said by Portman.


“It’s a complicated issue, because you don’t want unfair trade. You want to be sure level playing field is there for Lima workers, Ohio workers. And yet you don’t want to go overboard and cause two things: First, retaliation against some of our products, in others words, other countries putting tariffs on our products that we’re sending them; or second the downstream costs, make consumer products more expensive — washing machines, cars, metal chairs, whatever — but I think there’s a balance there.

“You don’t want other countries to cheat, to dump their product here or subsidize it. China has half the production of steel in the world now, and they’re absolutely committed as a country. And they’re a communist economy, so they can do this, to say ‘we’re going to be dominant in steel.’ That may be fine for some countries but not for America.”

John Bolton nomination

National Security Adviser

“I think John Bolton is a pretty aggressive guy, but as UN ambassador he did a pretty good job. I think for this position, he’s a good pick. Because this position is an advisory position. Your job is not to make the decision, but to bring in different points of view to advise the president.

“I think he’ll be a good adviser. The question is whether he’s willing to be a fair arbiter of the differences. Because that’s really what your job is. If (the) state (department) says one thing, (the) defense (department) says something else, the national security adviser is supposed to give the president both points of view and resolve differences.”

North Korea

“I’m one of those people who believes you ought to have a dialogue. That may sound counter to some of the Republican positions over the years.

“It’s an evil regime, I believe they’re a dictatorship that mistreats its own people … but if you don’t have a dialogue with them, particularly with their nuclear weapons, you can’t resolve issues. So I’m not against the dialogue. I think the president needs to go with his eyes open because these people are manipulative.

“I am concerned about losing people who have connections there. A guy named Joe Yun has been North Korea emissary, like the ambassador for North Korea essentially, for a while. He’s leaving, or just left. … And now we have the secretary of state (Rex Tillerson) leaving, but the new secretary of state (Mike Pompeo) has been involved in the Korea stuff for a few months now.”


“The bump stock issue is an example of something — that was the Las Vegas issue, where the guy had a bump stock that made a semiautomatic weapon that you pull a trigger every time into an automatic weapon. I think those are wrong. I think ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) is going to take care of that. If they don’t, Congress should.

“The ultimate answer is figuring out how to deal with our culture of violence and our mental health system where people are falling through the cracks. They used to probably be looked after in an institution, and now its very tough.”

Age restrictions on guns

“I think it’s something we should look at for long guns. I’d like to see the data on it, what difference it would make.”

Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act

(Note: Portman sponsored the bill, which recently passed the Senate 97-2.)

“Already a bunch of sex trafficking sites have closed down in the last 24 - 48 hours including some that were selling girls online.

“The main thing is according to all the experts is that the online efficiency has changed the dynamics of this issue, that there’s just a lot more people being trafficked than before.

“It drives people from the web into the dark web, but they’re not immune from prosecution. We put a knowing standard in there, to be knowingly involved in sex trafficking, so its not going to affect the good actors. The knowing standard is hard for a good prosecutor to prove.

“But some adult websites have shut down because they know they’re knowingly selling underage girls. It’s already having an effect before the president signs in.

“Survivor groups around the country, people who have been through sex trafficking, their advocates and them — they’ve seen it go from the street corner to the iPhone, and this is where the growth has been. And I mean substantial growth

Omnibus Spending Bill

“The process is broken, and my recommendation is allow 50 votes, not 60, to get onto a bill, make the budget two years rather than one, cause it’s just too hard to do all in one year.

This spending bill, some of my colleagues on the Republican side said, ‘Well, this is a terrible bill because it spends more on this or that.’ My answer to that, ‘I agree with you that the process is entirely broken and I even agree with you on this particular spending project here, but legislating is about compromising.’ If we were going to increase defense spending than we were going to have to do something on the non-defense part. Otherwise, we couldn’t get 60 votes. And I was adamant we had to restore defense spending.”

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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