WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced his decision Monday not to run for reelection in 2022 many wondered if that might free him to vote to convict President Trump in the upcoming impeachment trial. On Tuesday, he showed a little of his hand as he joined all but five Republican senators on a procedural question raised by Senator Rand Paul on whether it was even Constitutional to hold such a trial since Trump was no longer in office.
“I’ve been very clear that former President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened on January 6 through his words and actions,” Portman said in a statement after the vote. “I will listen as a juror, but as I have said, I do have questions about the constitutionality of holding a Senate trial and removing from office someone who is now a private citizen. This is a serious constitutional question, and today I voted for allowing debate on this issue and against tabling this important discussion. As the trial moves forward, I will listen to the evidence presented by both sides and then make a judgment based on the Constitution and what I believe is in the best interests of the country.”
Portman said the polarization exists not just in Washington but across the country.
"This is not just a congressional problem and I don't think it's just a problem that has happened in the last four years,” Portman said. “It's each party moving more to the extreme which is rewarded sometimes and therefore there are fewer people looking for that common ground."
Portman said he liked what he heard from President Biden in his inaugural speech and issued at the time a statement to that effect about working together but he said the administration's plan to use the process of reconciliation, which they can do without Republican input, to pass a COVID-19 relief package flies in the face of that.
"My hope is that everybody will you know take a breath, step back and say ok, let's read the inaugural speech again, and let's take that approach."
It was at this same stage 12 years ago in January of 2009 that the late Senator George Voinovich announced his retirement from the U.S. Senate giving Portman time to put together a campaign, a courtesy he wanted to extend to his successor.
"I did want to make the announcement now because Jane and I have made up our mind and also because it allows you know whoever wants to step forward on our side of the aisle, Republicans to be able to have plenty of time to gear up for a statewide race in Ohio,” Portman said. “Two years is a long time and I'm sure a lot of people are going to show interest in this."
Portman said he’s spoken with several of them and he believes there is still a lane for a more moderate Republican but he recognizes this isn’t the same state he ran in a decade ago.
“It’s a different Ohio isn’t from when I first got elected, it is more Republican, it’s more red. Donald Trump won it twice by eight points, we just added to our supermajorities in the statehouse and senate. All of the constitutional offices are now Republican, so I think Republicans have a leg up,” he said. “That’s just who we are as a state now.”
Portman was asked if he would consider leaving office early which enable Republican Governor Mike DeWine to handpick his successor early giving them a leg up in the competition. Portman offered in a response a quick one word “no.”