Sen. Portman: ‘Encouraged’ by ‘Gang of Six’; ‘Huge Mistake’ to do Nothing

Jul 21, 2011 3:02pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein (@rickklein) reports:

The bipartisan “Gang of Six” proposal on the deficit continues to draw attention from rank-and-file senators, even as House leaders come out in opposition to any plan that includes new revenues as part of a deal.

“It's a step in the right direction,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who was budget director under President George W. Bush, told us on ABC’s “Top Line” today. “It's the one effort out there where you've got Republicans and Democrats coming together. And I think it could actually mesh well with what I think is the ultimate solution here with regard to the debt limit increase.”

While many Republicans are pushing back against the notion of including revenues as part of any deal, Portman said tax reform must be built in to a bipartisan solution.

“We've signed up to the concept that we do need a bipartisan approach here, and it's got to deal with tax reform, and it's got to deal with the long-term problem — which is sustainability of these entitlement programs,” Portman said.

Portman also acknowledged that, while polls show the public as more supportive of President Obama’s deficit proposals than the Republicans’, the GOP has been less than effective at times in terms of messaging.

“I don't know if there have been missteps in terms of substance, maybe in terms of some of the message and communication. But if you look at those same polls, they'll tell you that most of Americans get it, which is that we have to reduce the spending,” he said.

Portman said he disagrees with those in his party who say it’s not critical to increase the debt ceiling.

“We cannot allow the country to go into this post-debt-limit period. It would be a huge mistake, in my view,” he said. “It would hurt the economy, it would hurt beneficiaries, and, frankly, it's something that we can avoid by coming up with a sensible agreement to reduce the spending — which is the problem — and deal with these other problems.”

Watch the full interview with Sen. Rob Portman HERE.

UPDATE: After this interview aired, A Portman spokesperson contacted ABC News to say the senator “believes we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem, and that tax reform should be used not to increase revenue, but to bring about a more efficient and competitive tax code by lowering rates while clearing out underbrush.”

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