On ABC’s This Week, Senator Portman Urges Bipartisan Approach on COVID-19 Response, Need to Address Supply Chain Shortages, the Killing of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Future of the Republican Party

February 28, 2021 | Portman Difference
This morning on ABC’s This Week, Senator Portman discussed the need for the Biden administration and congressional Democrats to reach across the aisle and work with Republican members to craft a targeted bipartisan COVID-19 package that meets the most urgent needs of the American people. This comes as Democrats are preparing to use the budget reconciliation process to pass their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill without Republican support.
Portman also responded to the recent intelligence report regarding the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Portman discussed his optimism about the future of the Republican Party and the policies that the Republican Party stands for that have proven popular with voters. Finally, in the wake of the critical semiconductor shortage that has negatively impacted the auto industry and other U.S. businesses, Portman highlighted the need for the federal government to re-evaluate weaknesses in our supply chains and work to move production back to the U.S. so that we have more reliability.
Excerpts of the interview can be found below and a video can be found here.


“George, you were just talking about the difficulties of passing this legislation. There's an easy answer to this, which is -- let's make it bipartisan. I mean, COVID relief has never been a partisan issue. Over the last year, we have passed five bills, as you know, with overwhelming bipartisan margins.
“In fact, there are a bunch of us Republicans -- I was one of the ten Republicans who went to see the president a few weeks ago and said, ‘Let's negotiate. We’ve done this five times before, we can do it again.’ So this is not like taxes or health care, this is COVID relief, which has always been a bipartisan issue, and, by the way, it doesn't fit in reconciliation, as we have seen, because it has to be directly related to the budget, to revenues or spending, which is why the minimum wage got knocked out – everybody knows that.
“So I have not figured it out yet, but I think what he should do is what you did in the Clinton administration, what the Bush administration did, which is to start off with more bipartisan measures. So that we don’t poison the well. So that we can continue to work together, and in this case, it would be very easy to get Republican support for a COVID relief package.”
“Yeah, if checks are coming out to people's homes, that's going to be popular, but that doesn't mean that this is the right bill. It's $1.9 trillion. More than half of it, George, won't even be spent in this calendar year, based on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. So how could it be about COVID relief? No one expects a year from now that we’ll be in the COVID crisis that we’re in now, so, it just doesn't make any sense.
“There are a number of things in here that have nothing to do with COVID relief. There’s $100 million for an underground transit system in Silicon Valley, there’s a bridge in New York, there’s hundreds of millions of dollars for the arts, and so on. There are things that have nothing do with COVID that are unrelated – minimum wage was one, of course. Even the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit increases won't occur until next year in terms of people getting that credit.
“So, it's not targeted. We have a Republican alternative -- as you know, we've been talking to the president and his people about it but have gotten no response – which is much more targeted and focused on the real health care and economic matters that are urgent and that's what we ought to do. We've done it, again, five times before. This is not difficult. We can work together on this one, and then continue to work together on infrastructure, and retirement security, and supply chain issues with China, and so on.
“So my hope is that they'll change their mind before this over and it's going to be very, very close, as Jonathan Karl said well, for them to get this done. It’s going to be difficult. Hopefully they'll back up and say, ‘Let's work with some Republicans and do something bipartisan as we have done over the past year.”
“No I don’t think he does go far enough. Although, you have to give him credit because he’s actually increased sanctions and he’s increased the travel bans on those individuals who were directly responsible. But, George, I don't think anybody thinks that the Crown Prince was not responsible -- in other words, that he knew about it and that he approved of it.
“So I do think there ought to be something additional that focuses on him, and it could be along the lines of sanctions or travel bans, just as they have done for those who were directly involved in the killing of Khashoggi. And look, I know this is tough, because the Saudis are pushing back right now on Iran, that's very important. We’ve see what Iranians are doing, most recently with the rocket attacks you talked about through Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. So it's a delicate area and as was said earlier, it's easy to campaign – it’s harder to govern.
“But I think there should be something directly related to the Crown Prince.”
“Well, he's very popular among Republicans, and the polling all shows that. I do think that the policies are what is even more popular and that's why Republicans actually did pretty well in 2020 other than the presidential level. As you know, not a single House Republican lost – in fact, 15 seats were picked up in the House. That was unexpected. We did better in the Senate than was expected. We picked up some statehouses -- unexpected.
“So I think if you look at our country right now, most people are supportive of the general policies the Republican Party has put in place with regard to tax relief, with regard to regulatory reform that’s smart, with regard to rebuilding our military, certainly with regard to Operation Warp Speed, which has gone remarkably well. So there are a number of things that we can talk about from a policy perspective that I think will help to move the party forward, and that’s where we ought to focus.”
“I think he has an opportunity today to talk about his accomplishments. I mean, instead of talking about personalities or who might have not agreed with him on the impeachment process, talk about what you did.
“When you think about it, a year ago, as we were going into the COVID-19 crisis we had the 19th straight month of wage growth of over three percent. We had the lowest poverty rate in the history of our country. And we were bringing people back into work and off the sidelines. I mean, it was a strong economy, but was also an opportunity economy, and we didn't talk about that. Why was that? Why did we have energy independence for the first time in my lifetime? It was because of good policies. So I think there’s a lot for him to talk about other than the personalities and the politics.”
“Well, it's a very, very difficult issue. Automobiles are hit particularly hard right now – we have about 120,000 cars that have not been made this year that would have been made but for the lack of semiconductors. So not having this one item -- with more electronics in all of our lives, including in our vehicles -- we're actually going to see furloughs, and we're going to see more and more of this. We’re going to see it in the home appliance area, we’re going to see it in the consumer electronics area, this is a huge problem because we're totally reliant on Taiwan, and one company in particular in Taiwan that makes these chips, these semiconductors.
“So it’s an example of a larger problem, George, which is that we’re too reliant on foreign sources for so many of our products, and these supply chains need to be moved back here so we have more reliability. We’re starting to do that, I believe. The president issued an executive order this week, President Biden did, that I support, but it’s a two- or three-year process.
“In the meantime, we’ve got to do something with the urgent crisis that we face and to get the production up in Taiwan and do whatever we can here in this country to move production back here to our shores.”