U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman

Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman has supported several bills expanding background checks on firearm sales as a way to reduce the number of mass shootings that have gripped the country.

But legislation on firearm background checks passed earlier this year by the Democratic majority in the U.S. House Of Representatives is dead on arrival, Portman said during a 25-minute conference call with Ohio reporters from Washington on Tuesday.

“The president says he’s going to veto it, so it’s not going anywhere,” said Portman of the House bill, which would extend the period federal authorities have to complete a background check before a gun sale can go through past the current three days.

“I’m not suggesting nothing’s gonna happen with background checks ... I do think it’s got to be something .... bipartisan,” said Portman, from the Cincinnati area.

In a related note, Portman singled out six Dayton police officers who on Monday received the nation’s highest decoration for law enforcement from President Donald Trump.

During a special ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Trump awarded the public safety officer Medal of Valor for extraordinary bravery to the six officers who ended a gunman’s deadly rampage in Dayton’s Oregon (Entertainment) District.

The award recipients are officers Sgt. William C. Knight, Vincent Carter, David Denlinger, Ryan Nabel, Brian Rolfes and Jeremy Campbell.

“These officers are true heroes,” Portman said.

Portman also reiterated support for Trump’s 2017 tax cut, saying, “it’s helped grow the economy, the economic numbers are still good, but (tariffs) have had a negative impact on our economy.” And, he added, “it’s time for reckoning with China on unfair trade practices.”

As for the ongoing U.S. budget deficit, which was $19 billion larger in February 2019 than in February 2018, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Portman said it will garner attention in the current session of the 116th Congress.

“We have to get a handle on this. Seventy percent of our spending is (automatically renewed). We continue to spend much more every year ... but spending has to be reformed on a bipartisan basis, or nothing will happen,” he said.

While the Senate was out of session in August, Portman said he visited 39 counties and attended 75 events, logging 4,105 miles across Ohio, mostly in his pickup truck, but also “by train, plane, ferry, bike and even kayak,” he joked.

“I heard from a lot of folks (in Ohio) and I’m looking forward to the next (Congressional) session and getting things passed,” to benefit Ohioans, he said.

Portman did praise the announcement that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $7.5 million Automatic Driving System (ADS) Demonstration grant to the Ohio Department of Transportation and its consortium, which includes the Transportation Research Center Inc., The Ohio State University and DriveOhio.

This consortium plans to develop a statewide demonstration plan to test and deploy ADS technology to better integrate rural, suburban and urban environments into the larger statewide transportation technology ecosystem.

“This is great news for Ohio and will help ensure that the state’s transportation technology ecosystem becomes a model for the country,” Portman said

Today, Portman will attend the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Energy Legislative Hearing at 2:30 p.m., speaking in favor of his bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which will be considered by the subcommittee.

And later this week, Portman said he expects the Senate to resume consideration of Trump nominations for administration positions. It’s unclear if that will now include former National Security Advisor John Bolton, who was fired Tuesday by the president.

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