Interview with Senator Rob Portman

Interview with Senator Rob Portman

By John King, USA - April 19, 2012

KING: So is Romney-Portman the right ticket?

Senator Portman joins me now.

It's nice to see you.


KING: Romney-Portman, does that have a ring to it?

PORTMAN: Rubio has got a better ring, actually.

KING: Oh, OK. And this is what...

PORTMAN: Maybe Ryan.

KING: Is this what we're going to go through?

Or maybe Ryan?



KING: Maybe Ryan?

Now, the...

PORTMAN: Romney...

(CROSSTALK) KING: -- the process has started. A lot of people say, you know, the traditional school was get someone who locks you up a state. And they think Rob Portman would lock you up Ohio. No Republican has won the presidency in the modern age without winning Ohio.

Smart pick, right?

PORTMAN: Well, I will help him in Ohio, as we did in the primary. And I think he's going to win Ohio. And he's going to win because the top issue in Ohio is jobs and the economy. It's true in Lorain County, where, by the way, there is 8. 7 percent unemployment and people are looking around for some leadership.

And so I think Mitt Romney has a good opportunity to win in Ohio. Barack Obama won last go-around. George Bush won...

KING: Would he have...


PORTMAN: ... before that.

KING: -- will he have a better chance with Rob Portman on his ticket?

PORTMAN: I don't think so. I -- I think, you know, honestly, I'm going to -- I'm going to help him all the -- all I can. And, you know, I think the -- the key thing is going to be who's got the better plan?

And when you look at the record of the Obama administration and what Mitt Romney is offering, which is a new way to approach the economy and a new way to get jobs going, I think he's -- he's going to get Independent voters and some moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats who -- who voted for President Obama last time to look to him.

KING: I want to get to some of those proposals in a minute. I just want to ask you a little bit more about this.

Every politician has an ego. Forgive me, you get into elective office, you've got an ego. Yours -- I have known you for a long time -- I would say it's considerably smaller than some of the others that you're around. Now, that's a compliment.

But I want to ask you if this bothers you. We asked a poll, we asked Republican voters and Independents who lean Republican, "Who's your choice to be Mitt Romney's running mate?"

Condoleezza Rice came in first at 26 percent; Senator Santorum at 21. Then there's Governor Christie, Senator Rubio, Congressman Ryan, Governor Jindal, Governor McDonnell.

Congressman, you were an asterisk. You were an asterisk, which is -- that means less than . 5 of 1 percent volunteered Rob Portman. That's got to tee you off a little bit. PORTMAN: No. I -- I think that's -- I think that's consistent with, you know, our -- our approach, which is Ohio and the economy and -- and, you know, so I -- I think that's not surprising. By the way, Condi Rice is another great pick. I have actually talked to her about it. But she said...

KING: And?

PORTMAN: -- she's not interested right now.

KING: And you worked with her in the Bush administration?


KING: Everybody is saying...

PORTMAN: Exactly.

KING: -- wait, wait, wait, wait, everybody says they're not interested. You say you're not interested.

PORTMAN: Maybe not everybody.

KING: I don't think you'd say no if the phone call came.

PORTMAN: Look, I -- I -- I think there's a lot of good choices this time around. Frankly, people vote for the person at the top of the ticket.

KING: Is there a book -- is there a book on what people who are being considered for vice president are supposed to say?

I think there are a lot of good choices...

PORTMAN: I wish there were.

KING: I'm not interested. You wish there were.

All right, let -- let me move on to some of the issues here.

You were the budget chief in the Bush administration.


KING: One of the questions has been, you know, what should happen here to deal with the deficit, to deal with fairness.

I want you to listen to the president of the United States. As you know, he's been pushing what he calls the Buffet Rule...


KING: -- millionaires should pay at least 30 percent.

Here's why.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an idea that was supported by a strong majority of the American people, including nearly half of Republicans. A majority of millionaires supported it. And Senate Republicans didn't listen. They refused to even let it come up for a vote.


KING: If you look at the polling, the American people are on his side, including a good chunk of Republicans.

Why not?

PORTMAN: Because he has sold it as deficit reduction, which it's not. You just asked a question about the budget.

Guess what?

It has a minimal effect. In fact, it would pay for one week of interest on the national debt, less than . 5 of 1 percent of revenues being raised this year.

So it's not about deficit reduction. He's also sold it, as he did yesterday, as helping to somehow grow the economy.

Well, just the opposite, because what you're doing is you're taxing capital gains income. As you know, John, you know, that's what a lot of wealthier people pay. When you tax capital gains income, you don't help the economy, you hurt the economy, which is why President Kennedy, President Reagan, President Clinton and President Bush all believed we should have a lower rate for capital gains.

Apparently, the president disagrees with that.

But look, it -- it's not going to help on the fiscal condition. It's not going to help on the economy. It's obviously good politics. That's why he's doing it.

But let's talk about, you know, the budget. The president has proposed a budget again this year. Last year he proposed one. We took it to the Senate floor. It lost by a 97-0 vote. Not much leadership there. Not even a Democrat would vote for it.

This year, the same thing. It went to the House floor. It lost by a vote of 414-0. Not a single Democrat or Republican supported it.

So I think what people are looking for is some leadership. And when they understand the fact that this is not leadership, this is about politics, I don't think you'd see those kinds of numbers.

KING: I'm going to ask you, lastly, at a fund-raiser the other day, Governor Romney -- they say he was just kicking around some ideas. This -- these aren't his proposals, he was just sort of thinking out loud. But he said one way you start to deal with the deficit, he said take away the second mortgage. You can only deduct your mortgage interest for one home. You couldn't do your second home.

He says take away the state income tax deduction, the state property tax deduction on your federal returns.

Are those good ideas?

You mentioned the Buffet Rule would only put a dent in. Maybe we need a lot of things to put a dent in. Is that...

PORTMAN: Well, no...

KING: -- fair?

PORTMAN: -- what we need is fundamental tax reform. And I think Romney is absolutely right about that. What -- again, President Obama is doing, he's complicating the code further, obviously, putting another alternative minimum tax in place and saying that we ought not to have low rates on -- on capital investment, which, of course, is bad for the economy.

Instead, let's reform the tax code.

And if we do that, guess what?

It's the wealthier who take the most advantage of those tax loopholes, tax breaks, tax expenditures, as some people call them, some of those Mitt Romney talked about. And that would have a better impact on our economy.


Because you'd actually have pro-growth tax reform, which would generate more economic activity. Economists across the board say that. Which would lead to more revenue.

KING: Senator Portman, appreciate your time tonight.

You could...

PORTMAN: Thanks, John.

KING: -- you could write that handbook.


KING: What -- one of the things...

PORTMAN: ... looking for it.

KING: -- one of the things you were supposed to say.

We'll talk more as the campaign goes on.

PORTMAN: All right, John.

KING: Senator, thank you so much.

PORTMAN: Take care. 

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