On CNN’s State of the Union, Senator Portman Calls for Biden Administration to Work with Congress on Targeted COVID-19 Relief

January 31, 2021 | Portman Difference

This morning on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, Senator Portman discussed the importance of the Biden Administration working on a bipartisan basis with Congress to pass targeted COVID-19 relief. Earlier this morning, Senator Portman and nine other Republican senators sent a letter to President Biden requesting a meeting to discuss a targeted COVID-19 relief proposal that they believe is capable of garnering bipartisan support. 

Portman also discussed the upcoming impeachment trial, the Senate rules on reconciliation, his decision to not seek another six-year term in the United States Senate when his current term expires in 2022, and the need to hold all members of Congress accountable for violent rhetoric.

Excerpts of the interview can be found below and a video can be found here.



“First, thank you for the interview. It is the first time I’ve heard the administration say they want to actually make good on the promises made in the inaugural address with regard to COVID-19, so you made progress, thank you. I mean, seriously. It is extraordinary to me that you have a great speech which I said at the time at the inaugural talking about the need to heal and the need for us to work together as a country, Republican and Democrat alike, and a pledge to do more outreach to Republicans. And then the next day landing on our desks is a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package when only a month ago we passed a $900 billion COVID-19 package that was entirely bipartisan. This one, nobody was consulted, including Democrats on our bipartisan group that compiled the previous bill. And frankly we haven’t gotten much of a response yet until today. So thank you. And it is true this morning we sent out a letter to the president saying we would love to work with him. It’s signed by ten Republicans. It specifies the proposal that we think is more targeted and more appropriate for the times we’re in. My hope is the president will meet with us and we’ll be able to work out something that is bipartisan. We’ve done it five times, you know, we’ve had five COVID-19 packages that are entirely bipartisan, let’s do it again because that’s what would be best for the country.”


“Well, it’ll be less than $1.9 trillion because much of what the administration has laid out has nothing to do with COVID-19. In fact, some of it is not even responsive to the issues that Mr. Deese raised. As an example, with regard to the direct payments, we think they should be much more targeted. $50,000 cap to individuals as an example, $100,000 for a family. Right now if you look at the administration’s plan, you could have a family with three kids making almost $300,000 a year getting a check. And many of these people have had no impact from COVID, in fact some are doing quite well. Others are struggling. Let’s focus on those who are struggling. You made the good point a moment ago that all the economic analysis has come in saying those who make over, let’s say, $75,000 a year are tending not to spend the money, but rather save it. In other words, it’s not being used for the intended purpose, so let’s target it. We really want to help those who need it the most. And at a time of unprecedented deficits and debts and a debt as a percentage of the economy is the highest it’s been in our nation’s history since World War II. We need to be sure this is targeted. Second with regard to unemployment insurance, they have a program that takes it until September. We don’t know what the economy is going to look like between now and September. Most economists believe next year will be significant growth, over 4 percent growth. Let’s target that a little bit more. And make sure it ties somewhat to the economic conditions.

“Well, I had a very nice call from President Biden regarding my decision not to run again in two years and I appreciated that. I don’t talk about what I talked to the president about but I will say it was a nice conversation. I did raise the issue. My hope is that, again, the inaugural address will not just be good rhetoric but actually be practiced and I think it is really in the interest of the Biden Administration not to do what the Democrats on the Hill are planning to do, which is on Tuesday, as you know, start to go down the road of a process that will jam Republicans and really jam the country. Because with their 50-vote majority, remember they have a 50/50 Senate now, so it’s divided right in half, that they would use what is called reconciliation and basically what it says is you ignore the interests of the minority party and just jam it through. And it is not in the interests of the Democratic party to do that in my view because it will set President Biden down a path of partisanship that I think will poison the well for other bipartisanship we’ll need on so many issues.”


“Well, reconciliation is a tool that you are able to use. It has to relate directly to the budget. And what the Democrats are talking about doing is, one, using it right off the bat without trying to come up with a bipartisan compromise as we have on COVID-19. If you can’t find bipartisanship on COVID-19 I don’t know where you can find it. Our proposal, as an example, is going to have all of the health care funding that President Biden has in his proposal. All of it. So there is a lot of bipartisanship. But second, reconciliation is not meant for the purposes that they are trying to use it for. They would have to get rid of what is called the Byrd Rule, which keeps it to the budget, in other words everything has to be directly related to the budget. And so that would change the rules of the Senate. It wouldn’t be the old reconciliation it would be a new reconciliation. They’ve been very clear about that. You know how that works, but essentially it is getting rid of the filibuster if you get rid of the Byrd Rule, which is a huge change in our country and will lead to less bipartisanship not more."


“First of all, Dana, that was not the vote. The vote was to table a discussion about the constitutionality, and I think this is an issue that has to be discussed. The vote was not about dismissing the trial. It was about not discussing the constitutionality, which is a critical issue. I have said with regard to the president’s comments that day that they were partly responsible for what happened for the horrible violence that occurred on Capitol Hill. I’ve also said that what he did was wrong and inexcusable. I’ve used the word inexcusable because I think that is how I feel. So we’ll see. I am a juror and I’m going to keep an open mind as we go through this, but I do think this constitutionality issue has to be addressed. We would be convicting a private citizen, as you know, someone who is out of office, and that sets a precedent, and I think all former presidents, those alive and those not, could be affected in a negative way. I think that’s a danger."


“Well, let me just say clearly, and I’ve said this, as you know, since November, which is that there was not adequate irregularities or fraud, not widespread enough to change the results of the election. Period. That is my view. It’s the view, by the way, of the Trump Justice Department. Bill Barr said that before he left office. So I think we need to be very clear with the American people. Those who voted for Donald Trump, and I was a Trump supporter and I think his policies were better for the country and better for my state, we have to acknowledge that this election was lost. And we have to move on. And Joe Biden is now the duly elected President of the United States. So if the argument is not going to be made on issues like constitutionality, which are real issues and need to be addressed, I think it will not benefit the president.”


“I don’t plan to be silent. First of all I’ve been doing this a long time as you know and you and I have known each other a long time. 30 years off and on. And I never intended to stay as long as I have to be honest. I am not big on career politicians. I think it is good to go in and out of office. So I’m looking forward to getting back to the private sector and the nonprofit sector and helping more on the outside, but I don’t plan to be silent and I do think, you know, we have a good chance as a Republican party to pull together and to do what we did in 2020 -- with the exception of the presidential race, you know, Republicans did very well, gained 14, maybe 15 seats in the House of Representatives, which no one expected. Did very well in the Senate seats compared to what was expected. Took over three new state houses and in Ohio, particularly, we did very well. So I think the Republican party is on sound footing if we focus on the policies, because people trust us there and we have the right policies in terms of economic growth and strong military and energy independence and so on. So that is where the party ought to focus.”


“I think Republican leaders ought to stand up and say it is totally unacceptable what she has said. I saw a couple of the videos over the weekend and one had to do with violence, as I see it. And there is no place for violence in our political dialogue. By the way, there is no place for violence in our country. I mean, this is something we got to get away from. So yeah. I think people ought to speak out clearly. I assume that is something they’re looking at and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. And I think that is the way to send a message. The voters who elected her in her district in Georgia, you know, ought to be respected. On the other hand when that kind of behavior occurs there has to be a strong response.”