Portman Will Base Impeachment Vote on Trial, Constitution

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday how he votes in the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump will be based on what he hears during that trial and on interpretation of the Constitution.

How he votes won’t be influenced by his decision, announced Monday, not to seek reelection in 2022, he added during a midday conference call.

Impeachment and his decision not to seek a third term were among the issues Portman, R-Ohio, addressed during the call with reporters Tuesday.

“I’m going to do exactly what I would have done whether I was running again or not” he said, “and that is do my duty as a juror and listen.”

During Trump’s first impeachment, several colleagues “prematurely” declared their positions, he said. He listened, took notes and read the Constitution, which he intends to do again.

He also said he plans to ask questions, including about the constitutionality of conducting a Senate trial when the individual is already out of office. In addition to questioning the constitutionality of the trial, Republicans also have argued that it would widen already stark partisan divisions in the country.

Democrats have argued that failing to hold Trump to account for his actions leading up to and during the storming of the Capitol by his supporters would signal that a president could act regardless of consequences late in their term. A Senate conviction would also permit the Senate to vote on prohibiting Trump from seeking federal office in the future.

Later in the day, after the call, Portman voted to permit debate on impeachment and against tabling the discussion, reinforcing in a news release following the vote that Trump “bears some responsibility” for the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol that followed his remarks at a rally. After listening to arguments from both sides during the trial, he would “make a judgment based on the Constitution” and what he believes is best for the country, he said.

Focusing on the best way to bring the country back together is “perfectly acceptable to consider” as a factor in his decision, he said during the call. He reiterated that his decision not to seek reelection was driven part by partisan gridlock in Washington.

The problem isn’t limited to congress nor is it one that just happened during the past four years, he said, as each political party has been moving to its extremes for the past few decades, though he acknowledged that Trump has not “been helpful” in closing the partisan gap.

“It’s getting harder and harder to get things done — it really is – and harder to break through the partisanship,” he said.

As an example, he pointed to threats by Democrats to utilize a budgetary tool known as reconciliation to get President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package approved to avoid the prospect of a filibuster by Senate Republicans.

“This is really disappointing,” he said. “It runs counter to everything President Biden said on the stage during his inaugural.”

Portman said the relief isn’t targeted to those who need it most and Republicans have raised concerns about the size of the package. The recent $900 billion package that Congress approved resulted from two months of work by five Democrats and five Republicans. Because most of that money hasn’t gone out the door yet, it is too early to tell what additional aid might be needed.

“We want to be sure that we are providing help where it’s needed,” he said. “It would be better for Democrats and Republicans to start from scratch.”

The senator said he made his announcement about not seeking reelection so other Republicans “would have plenty of time to gear up” for the race next year. Among GOP politicians who said they are exploring a possible bid is U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio. Other potential candidates include Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, former Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-4 Ohio.

Asked about the possibility that his departure could open the seat to a more extreme candidate on either side of the aisle, Portman responded there were several “great candidates on the Republican side” who could step forward and who share his view “that when you get elected to office your job is to get things done.” He reported he spoke to a couple potential candidates Tuesday morning that he said “are very much in line with what I think is good for the country, so I’m optimistic we’ll get somebody to step up.”

On the Democratic side of the aisle, the congressman representing Johnson’s neighboring district, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, also announced Monday he is looking into a potential run.

During a virtual news conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss security failures related to the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol, Ryan repeated that he was giving “serious consideration” to running for the Senate seat and that he would make a decision “in the near future.”

“We’ll see what happens in terms of my successor. Two years is a long time. I’m sure a lot of people are going to show interest in this,” Portman said.

He also said he would not step down early to permit Gov. Mike DeWine to appoint a replacement.

“For the next two years, it will be nice to focus all my energies on legislation and the challenges we now face as a nation as a country, which are substantial, than on fundraising and campaigning,” he said.

Image via (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.