Rob Portman

Rob Portman
United States Senator
from Ohio
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Serving with Sherrod Brown
Preceded by George Voinovich
35th Director of the Office of Management and Budget
In office
May 29, 2006  June 19, 2007
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Joshua Bolten
Succeeded by Jim Nussle
14th United States Trade Representative
In office
May 17, 2005  May 29, 2006
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Robert Zoellick
Succeeded by Susan Schwab
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 2nd district
In office
May 4, 1993  May 17, 2005
Preceded by Bill Gradison
Succeeded by Jean Schmidt
Personal details
Born Robert Jones Portman
(1955-12-19) December 19, 1955
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jane Dudley (m. 1986)
Alma mater Dartmouth College (BA)
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (JD)

Robert Jones "Rob" Portman (born December 19, 1955) is an American lawyer and the junior United States Senator from Ohio, in office since 2011. Previously he served as a congressman, as the 14th United States Trade Representative, and as the 35th Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Portman graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan Law School. He worked briefly in the White House during the George H. W. Bush administration before entering the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the eastern half of Greater Cincinnati and neighboring counties along the Ohio River, and serving six consecutive terms. Portman resigned from Congress to serve as U.S. Trade Representative from May 2005 to May 2006. As Trade Representative, Portman is cited for initiating worldwide trade agreements between other countries and the United States, and pursuing claims against China and the European Union at the World Trade Organization. He later served in the George W. Bush administration from May 2006 to June 2007 as Director of the Office of Management and Budget, where he advocated a balanced budget. Portman is married and has three children.

A center-right member of the Republican Party, Portman was elected U.S. Senator in 2010. He has been listed as a possible Republican vice presidential candidate in the past two presidential elections. In the Senate, Portman was a member of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Throughout his time in Congress, the Cabinet, and the Senate, Portman has visited over thirty countries, including Israel, China, and Iraq. In 2013, Portman became the first incumbent statewide or national-level Republican to publicly support legal recognition of same-sex marriage since Lincoln Chafee in 2004.[1][2][3]

Personal life

Heritage and early life

Portman was born in 1955, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Joan (née Jones) and entrepreneur William C. "Bill" Portman II. Portman was raised in a Presbyterian family.[4][5] His patrilineal great-grandfather, surnamed "Portmann", immigrated from Switzerland; Portman also has Scots Irish, English, and German ancestry.[6] When he was young, his father borrowed money to start the Portman Equipment Company, a forklift dealership where he and his siblings all worked growing up. The company grew from a small business with five employees and Joan Portman as bookkeeper to one that employed over 300 people.[7]

The Golden Lamb Inn, Ohio's oldest continually operating restaurant and inn, is owned by the Portman family

In 1926, the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, Ohio was purchased by Robert Jones, grandfather of Portman and husband of Virginia Kunkle Jones, who refurbished the inn and decorated it with Shaker furniture.[8] In 1969, Mr. and Mrs. Jones leased the Golden Lamb to the Comisar family, who owned and operated the now defunct five-star Maisonette restaurant.[9][10]

According to a 2010 Weekly Standard profile, Portman "developed a political philosophy grounded in entrepreneurship," having grown up "[hearing] talk about regulations, and taxes, and government getting in the way of small business" because of his early experiences with his family business.[11] It was from his mother Joan, a liberal Republican, that Portman inherited his political sympathy for the Republican Party.[12]

Education and early career

Portman graduated from Cincinnati Country Day School in 1974, where he had served as treasurer of his class, enjoyed playing baseball, and developed an interest in politics, later telling the National Review "[In high school,] I wasn't a Democrat or a Republican. No one in my family had ever been in politics. My dad thought it was something that got in the way."[13] He went on to attend Dartmouth College, where he started leaning to the right, and majored in anthropology and earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in 1978.[13] At Dartmouth, he was a member of the Ledyard Canoe Club, and went on several kayaking and canoeing expeditions around the world. He spent summers throughout college in the American West, on cattle farms and ranches, tending to livestock, riding horses, and assisting in related chores.[12] In Cincinnati, Portman worked on Bill Gradison's Congressional campaign, and Gradison soon became a mentor to Portman.[13] Portman next entered the University of Michigan Law School, earning his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1984 and serving as vice president of the student senate.[14] During law school, Portman embarked on a kayaking and hiking trip across China, and, not long before, blind dated a young Democratic volunteer, Jane Dudley.[15] Dudley's aunt and uncle lived in Cincinnati and were friends with Portman's parents. Dudley embarked on a hiking trip with her aunt in the Himalayas, and took part in the date with Portman following her aunt's advice.[15] Dudley had become interested in politics by working for a family friend who was running for the state legislature in North Carolina. She majored in political science at Vanderbilt University, and wanted to work on Capitol Hill. She then worked in a U.S. Senate campaign in 1984 for Jim Hunt who was governor of North Carolina.[15] After graduating from law school, Portman moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the law firm Patton Boggs;.[16][17][18][19] Portman next became an associate at Graydon Head & Ritchie law firm in Cincinnati.[20]

Marriage and family life

Throughout his career, Portman and his family have resided in Terrace Park, Ohio

Portman married Jane Dudley in July 1986.[12] Dudley, who previously worked for Democratic Congressman Tom Daschle, "agreed to become a Republican when her husband agreed to become a Methodist."[21] The Portmans attend church services at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.[22][23] Jane Portman has served on the board of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for 7 years and has driven a route for Meals on Wheels for 12 years.[15] The Portmans have three children: Joseph Dudley "Jed" Portman, William Dudley "Will" Portman, and Sarah Dudley "Sally" Portman.[12][24] Portman still owns the Golden Lamb Inn with his brother Wym Portman and sister Ginna Portman Amis.[25] In 2004, a Dutch conglomerate purchased the Portman Equipment Company. Portman had researched the firm's local acquisitions, stating "It's a concept I've heard described as 'Glocalism.' All these companies are trying to achieve economies of scale. This lets us develop a network and coverage globally. But you can still have the local spirit, the local name and the customer intimacy to accomplish great things."[26] A July 2012 article about Portman stated that in 40 years, his only citation has been a traffic ticket for an improper turn while driving.[27] Portman is an avid kayaker, is fluent in Spanish, and enjoys bike rides.[13][28]

Early appointments and return to Ohio

In 1989, Portman began his career in government as an associate White House Counsel under President George H. W. Bush.[29] From 1989 to 1991, Portman served as George H. W. Bush's deputy assistant and director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.[30] While serving as White House counsel under George H.W. Bush, Portman visited China, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.[31]

In September 1996, after his return to Ohio and after a 16-year-old named Jeff Gardner died from huffing gasoline, Portman founded the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati.[32] Portman wrote of the effort:

I decided we could not afford to wait for another tragedy to prompt us to action. Over the last year and a half, I have spearheaded an effort to establish the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati. [...] It's a serious, long-term initiative that brings together for the first time community activists already involved in the antidrug effort, key business figures, religious leaders, the media, parents, young people, law enforcement officials, and others. Our aim is to develop and implement a comprehensive, community-based strategy to reduce drug abuse in our region.[33]

The coalition advances "a comprehensive effort to address youth substance abuse."[34]

United States Representative: 1993–2005

Congressional elections

In 1993, Portman entered a special election to fill the seat of Congressman Bill Gradison of Ohio's second congressional district, who had stepped down to become president of the Health Insurance Association of America. In the Republican primary, Portman faced six-term Congressman Bob McEwen, who had lost his Sixth District seat to Ted Strickland in November 1992; real estate developer Jay Buchert, president of the National Association of Home Builders; and several lesser known candidates.

Primary election

In the primary, Portman was criticized for his previous law firm's work for Haitian president Baby Doc Duvalier.[35] Buchert ran campaign commercials labeling Portman and McEwen "Prince Rob and Bouncing Bob."[36] Portman lost four of the district's five counties. However, he won the largest, Hamilton County, his home county and home to 57% of the district's population. Largely on the strength of his victory in Hamilton, Portman took 17,531 votes (36%) overall, making him the overall winner.

General elections

In the general election, Portman defeated his Democratic opponent, attorney Lee Hornberger by 53,020 (70%) to 22,652 (29%).[37]

Portman was re-elected in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004, defeating Democrats Les Mann,[38] Thomas R. Chandler,[39] and then Waynesville mayor Charles W. Sanders four times in a row.[11][40][41]

House legislative career

As of 2004, Portman had a lifetime rating of 89 from the American Conservative Union, and ranked 5th among Ohio's 18 House members.[42]

One of Portman's first votes in Congress was for the North American Free Trade Agreement on November 17, 1993.[43]

During his tenure in Congress, Portman authored or co-authored over a dozen bills that became law,[44] including legislation to reform the Internal Revenue Service, curb unfunded mandates, and expand pensions.[45] Portman also co-authored legislation to swap Costa Rica's debt for the preservation of tropical forests.[46] He published an article called "Addicted to Failure" in the congressional Policy Review in autumn 1996.[47] In the article, Portman writes:

President Clinton hurt the antidrug effort by cutting the Office of National Drug Control policy from 147 to 25 full-time positions, by hiring a surgeon general who advocated legalization of drugs, by cutting funding for interdiction efforts, and by sending confusing messages about the stigma of illegal drug use. It is no surprise, then, that after dramatic reductions in drug use during the decade before Clinton took office, drug use has nearly doubled among teenagers during his administration. [...] The public rightly expects the federal government to do something about drug abuse, which diminishes and threatens the lives of so many of our young people. And the federal government clearly has an important role in combating drug abuse: protecting our borders and interdicting drugs from other countries, strengthening our federal criminal-justice system, and providing federal assistance for the best prevention and treatment programs. [...] Despite a significant federal effort, however, our country is still seeing dramatic increases in drug use among our teenagers. In the last two years alone, use of drugs has increased 50 percent. We need a new approach.[33]
Congressional portrait of Portman, 1997

Of Portman's work on the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union said, "He set a professional work environment that rose above partisanship and ultimately gave taxpayers more rights."[11] Democratic Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones from Cleveland said Portman, "compared to other Republicans, is pleasant and good to work with."[48] Additionally, during the first four years of the Bush Administration, Portman served as a liaison between Congressional Republicans and the White House.[48] Portman voted for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002.[49] Portman was known for his willingness to work with Democrats to ensure that important legislation was enacted.[29]

Portman has said that his proudest moments as a U.S. Representative were "when we passed the balanced budget agreement and the welfare reform bill."[11] As a congressman, Portman traveled to Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait and Mexico.[31] During his time in the House, Portman began assisting prominent Republican candidates prepare for debates by standing in for their opponents in practice debates. He has taken on the role of Lamar Alexander (for Bob Dole in 1996), Al Gore (for George W. Bush in 2000), Hillary Clinton (for Rick Lazio in 2000), Joe Lieberman (for Dick Cheney in 2000), John Edwards (for Cheney in 2004), and Barack Obama (for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012).[50][51] His portrayals mimic not only the person's point of view but also their mannerisms, noting for instance that he listened to Obama's audiobook reading to study his pattern of speech.[52]

White House appointments: 2005–2007

For more details on this topic, see Presidency of George W. Bush.

United States Trade Representative

Portman spoke on March 17, 2005 at the White House during a ceremony at which President George W. Bush nominated him to be United States Trade Representative, calling Portman "a good friend, a decent man, and a skilled negotiator."[53] Portman was confirmed on April 29,[54][55] and sworn in on May 17, 2005.[56][57][58]

Portman sponsored an unfair-trading claim to the World Trade Organization against Airbus because American allies in the European Union were providing subsidies that arguably helped Airbus compete against Boeing. European officials countered that Boeing received unfair subsidies from the United States, and the WTO ruled separately that they each received unfair government assistance.

Portman spent significant time out of the United States negotiating trade agreements with roughly 30 countries, visiting Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, France, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, South Korea, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.[31] During his tenure, Portman also helped to win passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement.[59] Portman utilized a network of former House colleagues to get support for the treaty to lift trade barriers between the United States and Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras. According to The Hill, Portman took his wife, Jane, with him to the Capitol on their wedding anniversary so he could work on the deal.[60]

Hong Kong and trade suit

Portman nominated for OMB Director and Schwab nominated for USTR, 2006

As the United States' Trade Representative, Portman was an attendant of the World Trade Organization's Hong Kong conference in 2005. He addressed the conference with a speech on development in Doha, and advocated a 60% cut in targeted worldwide agricultural subsidies by 2010.[61][62] Portman then sponsored a claim against China for extra charges it levied on American auto parts. U.S. steel manufacturers subsequently beseeched the White House to halt an influx of Chinese steel pipe used to make plumbing and fence materials. This was a recurring complaint and the United States International Trade Commission recommended imposing import quotas, noting "the economic threat to the domestic pipe industry from the Chinese surge." With Portman as his top trade advisor, Bush replied that quotas were not part of U.S. economic interest. He reasoned the American homebuilding industry used the pipe and wanted to maintain a cheap supply and that other cheap exporters would step in to fill China's void if Chinese exports were curtailed. This occurred at a time when the U.S. steel industry lost $150 million in profit between 2005 and 2007, although China's minister of commerce cited the U.S. industry's "record high profit margins" in the first half of 2004 and continued growth in 2005. China next lobbied Portman to leave matters alone, meeting with his office twice and threatening in a letter that restrictions and what it called "discrimination against Chinese products" would bring a "serious adverse impact" to the U.S.-China economic and trade relationship.[63] Portman vowed to "hold [China's] feet to the fire" and provide a "top-to-bottom review" of the U.S.–China trade relationship.[59] Portman's claim that China had improperly favored domestic auto parts became the first successful trade suit against China in the World Trade Organization.[59] During Portman's tenure as trade ambassador, the U.S. trade deficit with China increased by 21 percent.[59]

Director of the Office of Management and Budget

Portrait of Rob Portman used during his time as OMB Director

On April 18, 2006, President George W. Bush nominated Portman to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, replacing Joshua Bolten, who was appointed White House Chief of Staff.[64] Portman said at the time that he looked forward to the responsibility, "It's a big job. The Office of Management and Budget touches every spending and policy decision in the federal government," while President Bush expressed his confidence in the nominee, "The job of OMB director is a really important post and Rob Portman is the right man to take it on. Rob's talent, expertise and record of success are well known within my administration and on Capitol Hill."[65] He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate unanimously by voice vote on May 26, 2006.[66][67]

As OMB director from May 2006 to August 2007, Portman helped to craft a $2.9 trillion budget for fiscal year 2008. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that "The plan called for making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, at a cost of more than $500 billion over the five-year life of the proposal. It requested a hefty increase in military spending, along with reductions in low-income housing assistance, environmental initiatives, and health care safety-net programs."[59][68] Portman is said to have been "frustrated" with the post, calling the budget that President Bush's office sent to Congress, "not my budget, his budget," and saying, "it was a fight, internally." Edward Lazear of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers said that Portman was the leading advocate for a balanced budget, while other former Bush administration officials said that Portman was the leading advocate for fiscal discipline, within the administration.[69]

On June 19, 2007, Portman resigned his position of OMB director, citing a desire to spend more time with his family and three children.[70] Democratic Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Kent Conrad expressed regret at Portman's resignation, saying, "He is a person of credibility and decency that commanded respect on both sides of the aisle."[71]

Post-White House career

On November 8, 2007, Portman joined the law firm of Squire Sanders as part of the firm's transactional and international trade practice in Cincinnati, Ohio. His longtime chief of staff, Rob Lehman, also joined the firm as a lobbyist in their Washington, D.C. office.[72][73] In 2007, Portman founded Ohio's Future P.A.C., a political action committee dedicated to ensuring "the critical policy issues important to Ohioans remain at the forefront of Ohio's political agenda." [74][75] In 2008, Portman was cited as a potential running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.[76][77][78] On September 8, 2008, McCain and Alaska governor Sarah Palin dined and spoke at the Golden Lamb Inn.[79] Portman remained critical of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, passed while he was out of office.[80]

United States Senator: 2011–present

Map detailing the Ohio counties that Portman received pluralities within (shown in red) during the 2010 U.S. Senate election
Map detailing the Ohio counties that Portman received pluralities within (shown in red) during the 2016 U.S. Senate election

2010 election

On January 14, 2009, two days after George Voinovich announced he would not be running for re-election, Portman publicly declared his candidacy for the open U.S. Senate seat.[81][82] Running unopposed in the Republican primary, Portman benefitted substantially from Tea Party support, and by July 2010 had raised more campaign funds than Democrat Lee Fisher by a 9 to 1 margin.[83] Portman ran campaigned on the issue of jobs and job growth.[84] He toured Ohio in a large RV, meeting with voters and reporters between events.[85]

Of all candidates for public office in the U.S., Portman was the top recipient of corporate money from insurance industries and commercial banks in 2010.[84][86] Portman possessed the most campaign funds of any Republican during 2010, at $5.1 million, raising $1.3 million in his third quarter of fundraising.[87]

Portman won the election with a margin of 57 to 39 percent, winning 82 of Ohio's 88 counties.[88] In a 2010 campaign advertisement, Portman said a "[cap-and-trade bill] could cost Ohio 100,000 jobs we cannot afford to lose;" subsequently, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and PolitiFact called Portman's claim "barely true" with the most pessimistic estimates.[89]

Tenure events

Portman speaks at the memorial of Neil Armstrong, 2012

In the 112th Congress, Portman voted with his party 90% of the time.[90] Portman’s intellectual leadership among the Senate G.O.P., and his fundraising capabilities,[91] led to his being named the Vice Chairman for Finance of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2014 election cycle.[92] In March 2013, Portman was one of several Republican senators invited to have dinner with President Obama at The Jefferson Hotel in an attempt by the administration to court perceived moderate members of the upper chamber for building consensual motivation in Congress; however, Portman did not attend and instead had dinner with an unnamed Democratic senator.[93]

Portman delivered the eulogy at the August 2012 funeral of Neil Armstrong,[94] and the commencement address at the University of Cincinnati's December 2012 graduation ceremony.[95]

In August 2011, Portman was selected by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to participate in the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.[96] During the committee's work, Portman developed strong relationships with the other members, especially Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Chris Van Hollen.[32] The committee was ultimately unsuccessful, with Portman left disappointed, saying "I am very sad about this process not succeeding because it was a unique opportunity to both address the fiscal crisis and give the economy a shot in the arm."[97]

Portman spoke at the May 7, 2011 Michigan Law School commencement ceremonies, which was the subject of criticism by some who opposed his stance on same-sex marriage.[98] He and his wife walked in the 50th anniversary march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge commemorating Bloody Sunday and the March on Selma.[99]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Portman belongs to the following caucuses in the United States Senate:

Political positions

Fiscal policy

Portman is a leading advocate for a balanced budget amendment.[104] Portman worked with Democratic Senator Jon Tester in 2012 to end the practice of government shutdowns and partnered with Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill on an inquiry into the Obama administration's public relations spending.[105] Portman has proposed "a balanced approach to the deficit" by reforming entitlement programs, writing "[r]eforms should not merely squeeze health beneficiaries or providers but should rather reshape key aspects of these programs to make them more efficient, flexible and consumer-oriented."[106] Portman became known for his ability to work in a bipartisan fashion when working to pass a repeal of the excise tax on telephone service.[107] He also unsuccessfully proposed an amendment to the surface transportation reauthorization bill to allow states to keep the gas tax money they collect, instead of sending it to Washington with some returned later.[105]

Foreign policy

Portman has repeatedly supported legislation to treat currency manipulation by countries as an unfair trade practice and to impose duties on Chinese imports if China does not stop the practice.[108] Portman opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement in its current form because he said it does not address currency manipulation and includes less-strict country-of-origin rules for auto parts.[109] In April 2015, Portman co-sponsored an amendment to Trade Promotion Authority legislation which would require the administration to seek enforceable rules to prevent currency manipulation by trade partners as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[110] While in the Senate, Portman has visited Afghanistan twice, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates; additionally, he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.[31]

A bill by Portman that would allow construction of a memorial to Peace Corps volunteers in the nation's capital was approved by the House of Representatives in January 2014 in a 387 to 7 vote. No public money will be spent on the memorial.[111]

Portman opposes the Law of the Sea Treaty and released a joint statement with Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, stating:

Proponents of the Law of the Sea treaty aspire to admirable goals, including codifying the U.S. Navy's navigational rights and defining American economic interests in valuable offshore resources. But the treaty's terms reach well beyond those good intentions. [...] The terms of the treaty are not only expansive, but often ill-defined. [And as] Justice John Paul Stevens noted in a concurring opinion in Medellin v. Texas, the Law of the Sea treaty appears to "incorporate international judgments into domestic law" because it expressly provides that decisions of the tribunal "'shall be enforceable in the territories of the States Parties in the same manner as judgments or orders of the highest court of the State Party in whose territory the enforcement is sought.'" [T]he treaty equates tribunal decisions with decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that private litigants will likely be able to invoke tribunal judgments as enforceable in U.S. courts—against the government and possibly against U.S. businesses.[112]

Portman supported free trade agreements with Central America, Australia, Chile and Singapore, voted against withdrawing from the World Trade Organization, and was hailed by Bush for his "great record as a champion of free and fair trade."[113][114]

Interior policy

In 2011, Portman voted to limit the government’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and in 2015, he voted against the Clean Power Plan.[115][116] In 2013, he voted for a point of order opposing a carbon tax or a fee on carbon emissions.[117]

In July 2012, Portman remarked in a speech delivered on the Senate floor:

We've got to produce more [oil], we've got to produce it here at home to get away from the OPEC cartel. [...] I come from Ohio [and] we have a tradition of producing oil and gas. [...] We kind of got away from it [but] we're back in the business thanks to the shale finds. It's the Marcellus Shale, it's the Utica Shale, it's natural gas, but it's also oil and what they call wet gas. [...] People are really excited about this.[118]

During a radio interview with Fox News Radio in 2012, Portman said: "The president [Obama] says, you know, 'we're doing more.' Well, on public lands, we're doing less. Last year, we produced 14 percent less oil on public lands than we did the year before. We should be doing more on public lands, and that's the outer continental shelf and what's going on in Alaska and so on."[119] Portman supports development of the Keystone XL pipeline, stating "The arguments when you line them up are too strong not to do this. I do think that at the end of the day the president [Obama] is going to go ahead with this."[120]

Portman has expressed concern about the slow pace of approving loan guarantees for developing nuclear power facilities by the Department of Energy during the Obama administration.[121] Portman would later co-sponsor an amendment to the 2017 Energy Bill that specifies climate change is real and human activity contributes to the problem.[122]

On June 27, 2013, Portman co-sponsored the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013 (S. 1254; 113th Congress), a bill that would reauthorize and modify the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 and would authorize the appropriation of $20.5 million annually through 2018 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to mitigate the harmful effects of algal blooms and hypoxia.[123][124] Portman said that "this legislation takes critical steps toward protecting Lake Erie and grand Lake St. Marys from harmful algae that has become a tremendous problem for our state... we cannot afford to let this threat to our tourism, fishing industries, and health go unchecked."[125]

Portman introduced the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013 (S. 1044; 113th Congress), a bill that would direct the United States Secretary of the Interior to install at the World War II memorial in the District of Columbia a suitable plaque or an inscription with the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the United States on June 6, 1944, the morning of D-Day.[126] Portman argued that Roosevelt's "word brought strength and comfort to many during one of the most challenging times for our nation... We should not underestimate the power of prayer through difficult times."[127]

Social policy

Portman is a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act and has called for it to be repealed and replaced.[128][129]

In February 2014, Portman voted against reauthorizing long-term unemployment benefits to 1.7 million jobless Americans. He expressed concern with the inclusion of a provision in the bill which would allow companies to make smaller contributions to employee pension funds.[130] Portman voted in April 2014 to extend federal funding for unemployment benefits. Federal funding had been initiated in 2008 and expired at the end of 2013.[131]

In April 2014, the United States Senate debated the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737; 113th Congress). The bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to increase the federal minimum wage for employees to $10.10 per hour over the course of a two-year period.[132] The bill was strongly supported by President Barack Obama and many of the Democratic Senators, but strongly opposed by Republicans in the Senate and House.[133][134][135] Portman opposed the bill, arguing that Ohio already had a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum wage, indicating that the states should be able to make their own decisions.[135]

In March 2015, Portman voted for an amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to allow employees to earn paid sick time.[136]

Portman supports making it more difficult for non-parental adults to help minors bypass state abortion laws. On January 24, 2013, Portman sponsored a bill that would make it a federal crime to transport a minor across state lines for an abortion if it would circumvent a state law requiring parental involvement.[137]

On March 14, 2013, Portman announced that he had changed his stance on gay marriage, and now is in support of its legalization. The change came two years after his son Will came out to Portman and his wife as gay in 2011; Portman says in the March 2013 CNN interview that "I'm announcing today a change of heart [for] gay marriage."[138] Prior to this revelation, Portman was noted as having a voting record that was strongly opposed to gay rights, consistent with statements he had made on the subject.[139][140] Portman co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, defining marriage as one man and one woman,[139] and in 1999 he voted for a measure prohibiting same-sex couples in Washington, D.C., from adopting children.[140]

In November 2013, Portman was one of ten Republican senators to vote in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), after the Senate adopted an amendment proposed by him to expand the religious protections.[141]

Portman voted for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.[142] He wrote about a proposed amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 which would seek to terminate human sex trafficking, writing:

Our idea is to bring Republicans and Democrats together in this fight to respect and protect human dignity. [...] When it comes to human trafficking at home or abroad, our government's policy must be one of zero tolerance. It is an issue with special meaning for me. I grew up with my mom's stories about her great-grandparents, Quaker abolitionists who lived on a farm north of Dayton and helped slaves seek their freedom by way of the Underground Railroad. In fact, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, is home to a permanent exhibit on human trafficking. [...] A few years ago, the Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission estimated that more than 1,000 Ohio youth are victims of sex trafficking every year, and that many more are at risk.[143]

2012 presidential election

Portman was considered a possible pick for Vice President on the Republican presidential ticket in 2012.[144][145]

Many national publications speculated on Portman becoming the vice presidential nominee soon after Romney became the presumptive nominee. In "Why Rob Portman Will Be Romney's Vice Presidential Nominee," an article in The Atlantic, acclaimed syndicated journalist Major Garrett authored "In the frenzied environment that will accompany the prelude to Romney's pick, the Portman choice may land with a thud on the charisma meter, but it won't set in motion a wave of "guess what" stories and will allow Romney to focus on the campaign, not thorny revelations that must be ritualistically turned into an us-against-them media meme. In fact, Portman might actually talk Boston out of its hypertensive and allergic reactions to reporters." [146]

Closer to the time of a selection, news agencies began highlighting Portman's perceived strengths and weaknesses. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post wrote "[Portman]'s spent time in both the executive and legislative branches and everywhere he's served he's won kudos for his abilities. It's hard to imagine that even his staunchest Democratic opponents would be able to argue that Portman wouldn't be up to the task of being vice president or even president."[147]

After the selection of Paul Ryan, Portman spoke at the 2012 Republican National Convention about trade and his family business.[148] On trade agreements, Portman stated: "President Obama is the first president in 75 years-Democrat or Republican-who hasn't even sought the ability to negotiate export agreements and open markets overseas. Now why is this important? Because 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside our borders. And to create jobs, our workers and our farmers need to sell more of what we make to those people."[148] On October 13, 2012 Mitt Romney spoke at and toured the Golden Lamb Inn.[149]

Constructive conservatism

Portman outlined his new conservative vision for government in early May 2014. He coined the term “constructive conservatism” as an approach to tackling poverty which is more focused on targeted, results-oriented measures. He pointed to his efforts to prevent recidivism, help vulnerable children by preventing human trafficking, and provide worker retraining programs as examples of this approach.[150]

Speculation on 2016 presidential campaign

In March 2014, Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics authored a column that speculated upon a Portman presidential campaign in 2016.[151] The column, which appeared in full on Politico Magazine, forecasted: "[Portman] might have an edge in 2016. Americans tire of their incumbent presidents, and often choose a very different successor with dissimilar characteristics. Portman is all steak and no sizzle."[152] Sabato's Crystal Ball, Sabato's website that predicts presidential nominees for both major parties, listed Portman in 2014 as a “GOP Wildcard” candidate in its 2016 Republican Presidential Watch.[153]

In October 2014, students from the College of William and Mary formed the 'Draft Rob Portman' PAC to encourage Senator Rob Portman to run for President in 2016.[154] However, Portman announced early December 2014 that he would not run for President, and would instead seek a second term in the United States Senate.[155]

Electoral history

Ohio's 2nd congressional district: Results 1994–2004[156]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1994 Les Mann 43,730 23% Rob Portman 150,128 77%
1996 Thomas R. Chandler 58,715 23% Rob Portman 186,853 72% Kathleen M. McKnight Natural Law 13,905 5%
1998 Charles W. Sanders 49,293 24% Rob Portman 154,344 76%
2000 Charles W. Sanders 64,091 23% Rob Portman 204,184 74% Robert E. Bidwell Libertarian 9,266 3%
2002 Charles W. Sanders 48,785 26% Rob Portman 139,218 74% *
2004 Charles W. Sanders 89,598 28% Rob Portman ** 227,102 72% *

*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 2002, James Condit, Jr. received 13 votes. In 2004, James Condit, Jr. received 60 votes.

**Portman resigned his term early to serve as U.S. Trade Representative.

U.S. Senate (Class III) elections in Ohio: Results 2010–2016[157]
Year Democratic Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
2010 Lee Fisher 1,448,092 39% Rob Portman 2,125,810 57% Eric Deaton
Michael Pryce
Daniel LaBotz
Arthur Sullivan
2016 Ted Strickland 1,929,873 37% Rob Portman 3,048,467 58% Tom Connors
Joseph R. DeMare
Scott Rupert

Published works

In December 2004, Portman and Cheryl Bauer published a book on the 19th century Shaker community at Union Village, in Turtlecreek Township, Warren County, Ohio. The book was titled Wisdom's Paradise: The Forgotten Shakers of Union Village. At the end of the twelfth chapter, "An Eternal Sabbath, A Restless Peace," Portman summarizes the dual aspects of Shaker impacts at the close of their way of life at Union Village as both warming to mainstream worldly culture and detrimental to long established order:

Intentionally or unintentionally, the Believers were influencing society in many ways. Little by little, they were becoming more similar to their neighbors. The trend made them more acceptable to society, but in retrospect may have contributed to their demise in Warren County. In economic affairs, they increasingly adapted the methods of the world: taking out loans, using mass marketing techniques. Those strategies sometimes compromised inherent Shaker principles of self-sufficiency and modesty. The Believers were no longer the radical group that attracted people who hungered for a different kind of faith; they were becoming a part of mainstream society.[158]



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  147. 1 2 "Rob Portman Speech At 2012 Republican National Convention Takes Aim At Obama." The Huffington Post. August 28, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  148. "Mitt Romney visits Rob Portman's 'haunted hotel'". Yahoo!News. October 13, 2012. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  149. "Portman outlines Constructive Conservatism: Bottom-Up approach to tackling poverty". Office of Senator Rob Portman. May 13, 2014. Retrieved May 2014. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
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  153. "A Couple of Frat Guys are Behind 'Draft Rob Portman'". Bloomberg. 16 November 2014. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  154. Hagen, Lisa; Railey, Kimberly (18 January 2015). "The Congressional Tease Caucus: 9 Members Who Think (but Never Act) on Running for Higher Office". National Journal. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  155. "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved January 10, 2008.
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