Portman Talks Spending, Committee

ST. MARYS — An Ohio senator spoke of his key position on a panel tasked with paring government spending and slicing the nation’s debt.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman addressed his appointment to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction during a teleconference Thursday with regional media. Portman was selected to serve on the panel following Congress’ deal to raise the debt ceiling while agreeing to trim government spending. The senator noted no topic is off the table — including defense.

“I think it can work and part of the reason it is more likely to work than when I spoke about it earlier is that now there is a serious consequence of it not working,” Portman said, noting the board is tasked with cutting more than a trillion dollars from spending. “I think defense cuts should be on the table but not in an across the board way.”

Portman said he believed the group can work to achieve the goal it has been tasked with. Joining Portman on the 12-member panel are Sens. Patty Murray (D., Wash.), John Kerry (D., Mass.), Max Baucus (D., Mont.), Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), and Reps. Dave Camp (R., Mich.), Fred Upton (R., Mich.), Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), Xavier Becerra (D., Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) and James Clyburn (D., S.C.).

“We really need to deal with the long-term spending problem, which as I’ve talked about a number of times, must deal with mandatory spending,” Portman said. “That’s the biggest part of the budget.”

Entitlement programs, which include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, must be addressed, Portman noted.

“These programs must be preserved and we need to make sure they are strong and healthy,” Portman said.

“But if we don’t make reforms to these programs, their own viability will be in question and we will not be able to get these deficits under control.”

The specifics of meetings are still being worked out. Whenever the meetings begin, Portman said he is hopeful they will be productive.

“I know they are still working on it,” Portman said.

“They are meeting and trying to hire staff and help put together the infrastructure so the meetings will be meaningful and well organized.”

On the table for possible cuts is activity at the Lima tank plant.

The facility has played an integral part in supporting the war effort by supplying Abrams tanks.

“The Lima tank plant is something we are staying very closely abreast with,” Portman said.

“We are keeping them informed with what we are hearing and getting input from them.”

Portman said he has raised the issue within the Armed Forces Committee meetings as scheduled.

Portman said he was able to get some “positive language” in the defense authorization bill.