Sen. Portman: Shutdowns don't make sense

Ohio Republican urges bipartisan action, says the taxpayers end up picking up the tab


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 2, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: If you wanted to imagine what a good shutdown is, it would be that fixes this town, the one that drives the message back home to people that it was really as broken as they thought that it was when they voted for Donald Trump, and they would trust him, if that's what it's necessary to do to fix Washington, D.C., that would a good shutdown.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, is there such a good thing as a good shutdown?

The Republican and Democratic parties avoided that and have the government now funded through the end of this fiscal year.

But I want to raise this issue, because it got a lot of hackles back and forth, with Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

Senator, you probably heard what the budget director was saying, that if push comes to shove, maybe the president is right that sometimes a shutdown would teach you a valuable lesson. You don't want to go there, but he did.

What did you make of that?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, R-OHIO: Yes, look, shutdowns don't make sense.

The last shutdown we had, the big one, Neil, remember, was in 2013, and there was an analysis done to it afterwards that there was a $20 billion hit to the economy. As I recall, the approval rating for Congress went down to 10 percent, below that of used car salesmen and anybody else probably.

It just didn't make sense. And taxpayers end up picking up the tab. So, I think, as Republicans, we ought to be telling the Democrats, work with us. Don't be obstructionists. Don't put us in that position, and let's avoid government shutdowns.

As you may know, I have got legislation that actually says let's never have one again by saying, when you get to the end of the fiscal year and you haven't done your work, then you continue the funding from the previous year, but you lower it 1 percent after 120 days, another 1 percent every 90 days, to give Congress the incentive by, you know, taking away some of the tax dollars to actually get it done.

But, no, I don't like shutdowns. I don't think they make sense.

CAVUTO: On this health care battle, we're getting indications right now that the numbers are close, but still not there in the House, I would imagine just as dicey in the Senate. Do you think this stands a high likelihood of failing again?

PORTMAN: You know, I hope not, because the current system isn't working. Premiums are skyrocketing. It is getting worse, not better, Neil, in terms of the competition.

So, people have higher deductibles, higher co-pays, higher premiums than they can afford, and less choice. And so we do need to fix this thing. If Hillary Clinton had been elected and a Democratic Congress had been elected, we would still be having to fix this thing.

And so I would hope that we could work again with Democrats and Republicans to keep this thing from imploding, because it affects the people we all represent. And we can do better. We can help to provide better market conditions to get these costs down, as compared to what they would otherwise be.

So, I hope they succeed. And I hope that the Senate takes it up. I am concerned about the Medicaid part of this. Ohio is one of the states that expanded Medicaid.

CAVUTO: Right.

PORTMAN: We use it, particularly on this opioid issue. You and I have talked about this before, this heroin prescription drug, now fentanyl issue has really devastated communities in my state.

And this expanded Medicaid has been effective at getting people the treatment that they need.

CAVUTO: Do you worry, whatever your views on the various versions of this health care rework we have seen, that if it were some reason to fail again, that the president and your party is in deep trouble?

PORTMAN: Well, look, I think we need to -- if it fails again, to say to Democrats, OK, this thing is imploding. We know it. We all know it. Let's figure out how we can work together to actually fix this thing. And...

CAVUTO: But what they want, as you know, in return, sir, is for you guys to stop saying, you know, repeal it. Fix it. They're open to fixing it. They say you just want to kill it. You say?

PORTMAN: I say parts of it have to be repealed, because it ain't working.

And I think, again, that's acknowledged by everybody. I recall Bill Clinton, during the campaign in 2016, saying, this thing is crazy. It is not working for middle-class families.

And I think, in a private moment, my colleagues will agree with that. So, I think...

CAVUTO: Do you regret the way that maybe this was handled?

And maybe there's a very good parliamentarian reason for it, but that by going to health care first, it took the momentum away, in which your party seems to have much broader agreement, that is for tax cuts, that if it does stumble here, forget this, shelve it, move on to tax cuts, see what you can muster there, or what?

PORTMAN: Neil, look, we need to do both. And these are two marquee issues, both of which have to be done, health care because, again, people are paying way too much, and it is just unsustainable. And the competition is going away.

CAVUTO: I understand that, but if you keep coming up against a wall, what do you do?

PORTMAN: Yes. Yes.

Well, I think what you do is, next step, you say, OK, let's have an honest conversation about this. This thing isn't working. Let's figure out how we can do this with some Democrat votes, some Republican votes, more Republican votes, I'm sure, to be able to make the changes that have to be made.

And you have got to get rid of the way the current system works, because it is not working. And then, on health care, on moving forward, you do need to have this process called reconciliation. So, in a way, you have to do it before you get to tax cuts, although I do think the tax reform, you're right, is a great opportunity to give the economy a shot in the arm.

And I would hope we could do that.

CAVUTO: And do those tax cuts have to be paid for fully?

PORTMAN: Well, you and I have talked before about this.

CAVUTO: Right.

PORTMAN: It has to be based on a dynamic score, meaning that you have room for a lot of tax relief if you do that, because you need to know what the actual behavior changes are going to be.

A static score doesn't make any sense. Well, if you did that, you could have real tax relief. And, second, you ought to build into the baseline what we know is going to continue, including something called bonus depreciations. So, you could have significant tax relief without breaking the budget. In other words, you could do it, and good tax reform with real tax cuts within the budget.

CAVUTO: It is possible.

All right, Rob Portman, senator from Ohio, thank you very, very much.

PORTMAN: Thanks, Neil. Great to be on with you, as always.

CAVUTO: All right.


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