Sen. Rob Portman says he expects government shutdown to end in a few days

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Republican expects president to declare national emergency to secure funds for southern border wall

By David Skolnick


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said he expects the partial government shutdown to end in a few days because the president will likely declare a national emergency to secure funds for a southern border wall.

Speaking in the city Friday, Portman, a Cincinnati-area Republican, said: “We need to resolve it quickly. I’m told it can happen relatively quickly now. Probably the president will declare some sort of national emergency order regarding the border maybe within a couple of days.”

President Donald Trump, however, said Friday he wasn’t in a rush to declare a national emergency, adding, “I’m not going to do it so fast.”

Portman added the president declaring a national emergency over border funding is “bad policy,” and “I would rather have it resolved in a different way. [I want] Congress and the president [to] work together directly to address border security.”

The shutdown started Dec. 22, resulting from Trump, a Republican, demanding $5.7 billion in federal funds to build the wall and the refusal of congressional Democrats to agree to his demand.

“I’m confident that one way or the other we’ll resolve the government shutdown,” Portman said. “I really hope so. I think it will happen.”

On Friday, about 800,000 federal employees received no pay in their paychecks for the first time since the shutdown. That includes about 420,000 who are deemed essential and are working unpaid. The others were furloughed.

When asked what he would say to those who didn’t get paid, Portman said, “We appreciate their service and we want to get them paid quickly.”

Portman is a longtime opponent of government shutdowns. On Friday, he once again introduced legislation, with a group of other Republican senators, that would permanently prevent the federal government from shutting down.

The proposal – introduced but not considered by the Senate in previous years – would create an automatic continuing resolution for any regular appropriations or existing continuing resolutions, keeping the government open when budget negotiations fail before spending deadlines.

Without getting into details, Portman said he spent the past few days in Washington trying to work out a compromise that was unsuccessful.

Portman said everyone agrees border security “needs to be addressed. There’s a difference of opinion on how, but frankly the two sides are not that far apart.”

He added, “When it comes to the tone, it’s strong on both sides and we’re kind of talking past each other.”

Portman isn’t taking his paycheck while the government is partially shutdown, and said it’s up to each member of Congress whether they accept their salary.

On Dec. 19, three days before the shutdown began, the Senate unanimously voted on a short-term spending bill to keep the government open.

When asked why the Senate doesn’t do that again, Portman said: “We should do more than just a CR [continuing resolution]. We should do actual spending bills.”

The senator came to Youngstown to meet with local leaders and tour the future autonomous bus route that will be funded by a $10.8 million federal Department of Transportation grant.

The grant will make improvements to the city’s central business district, including Fifth, Park and Rayen avenues and Commerce, Federal, Phelps and Front streets.

“This grant is great news for Youngstown, and it was exciting to see the proposed improvements firsthand today as I toured the city,” Portman said.

“This enhancement will provide great multimodal access between key employers in the Mahoning Valley, and I’m thrilled about the jobs that will result through these transportation improvements, which is vital to strengthening the economy in Northeast Ohio.”