CINCINNATI (NewsNation Now) — Republican Sen. Rob Portman, of Ohio, announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2022, citing an “increasingly polarized” political climate as part of his reasoning for stepping aside.
Portman’s decision to end a career in federal government, which has spanned more than three decades, comes the same day that the Senate is receiving the House impeachment article against former Republican President Donald Trump. While some Republican senators have criticized going ahead with the trial next month with Trump out of office, Portman hasn’t yet indicated how he will vote.
Portman said last week he would listen to both sides before making a decision.
“Honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision,” Portman said. “We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground. This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades.”
He said that Trump did not help the polarization.
“It’s shirts and skins right now. We need to tone it down,” Portman said.
If two-thirds of the Senate convict Trump, then a majority could prevent him from running for federal office again. The Senate currently has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, putting a spotlight on Republicans who might be willing to vote to convict. The trial is slated to begin the week of Feb. 8.
Portman, 65, was elected twice to the U.S. Senate, but was considered likely to face primary opposition in 2022.
Portman, who served in the presidential administrations of both Bushes, was under consideration by both John McCain and Mitt Romney to be their running mates in their respective presidential bids. Portman also helped them and other GOP presidential candidates practice for debates by playing their Democratic rival.
He was elected to Congress from southern Ohio in a 1993 special election and won six more elections before being tapped by President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. trade representative in 2005. He traveled the globe, negotiating dozens of trade agreements. Bush then nominated him to be his White House budget director in 2006.
Portman stepped down in 2007, then returned to politics in 2010 with a successful U.S. Senate run, and won again in 2016, both times by landslide margins in a traditional swing state.
Generally voting with his party, Portman broke ranks in 2013 to announce support for same-sex marriage. He said their son Will had earlier come out as gay to him and his wife, Jane. They have three children.
Portman said he’s making his announcement now to give fellow Republicans time to prepare to run for his seat, NewsNation affiliate WCMH reported.
READ SEN. PORTMAN’S FULL STATEMENT:
“I feel fortunate to have been entrusted by the people of Ohio to represent them in the US Senate. Today, I am announcing that I have made a decision not to run again in 2022.
This doesn’t mean I’m leaving now – I still have two more years in my term and I intend to use that time to get a lot done. I will be the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and I have a number of oversight projects and legislative initiatives I’m eager to get across the finish line. Over the next two years, I look forward to being able to focus all my energy on legislation and the challenges our country faces rather than on fundraising and campaigning.
This was not an easy decision because representing the people of Ohio has been an honor. But I’ve been doing this a long time, longer than I ever intended.
I’ve been in public service for 30 years – in the House of Representatives for 12, in the Executive Branch for about eight years in various roles in four different administrations, and in the Senate for the past 10 years. All this time, our family has kept our home in Ohio, where we raised our kids, and I have commuted back and forth to Washington. Jane and our three children have been 100 percent supportive, but I am really looking forward to being home in Ohio full time, seeing family and friends more, and getting back to the private sector, including being able to be more involved in the community and in our family business. And I plan to stay involved in public policy issues.
During my service in the Senate, I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for Ohio and the country. I have consistently been named one of the most bipartisan Senators. I am proud of that and I will continue to reach out to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground.
Eighty-two of my bills were signed into law by President Trump, and 68 were signed into law by President Obama. This includes impactful laws to address the drug addiction crisis like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that has saved lives by providing billions in new resources for evidence-based prevention, treatment and, for the first time ever, recovery services. It includes laws to confront the horrific crime of human trafficking. Working with trafficking victims, advocates, and law enforcement, my SESTA legislation has allowed victims to seek justice, and closed down websites that were trafficking girls and women online.
It includes laws to help workers, legislation that before the pandemic helped create one of the strongest economies in a generation, with significant wage growth for working families and the lowest poverty level ever recorded. I took a leadership role on tax reform and tax cuts, workforce training, regulatory relief and permitting reform. They all played a role in creating an opportunity economy and are key to getting us back on track. I have also been a leader on retirement security, technology policy, cybersecurity, trade, energy efficiency, prisoner reentry, National Parks, stopping China from stealing our technology, and more. I have worked constructively with my colleague, Senator Sherrod Brown, on matters that help move Ohio forward.
I don’t think any Senate office has been more successful in getting things done, but honestly, it has gotten harder and harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress on substantive policy, and that has contributed to my decision.
We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground. This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades.
This is a tough time to be in public service. For many of the issues I am most passionate about, I will continue to make a difference outside of the Senate, beyond 2022. In the meantime, I am hopeful that President Biden will follow through on his inaugural pledge to reach across the aisle, and I am prepared to work with him and his administration if he does. I was on the bipartisan call yesterday on a new COVID-19 package. I hope the Administration will work with us on a more targeted approach that focuses on things like vaccine distribution, testing and getting kids back to school.
I want to thank the great people of Ohio for giving me the incredible opportunity to serve, and I look forward to continuing to work hard for them over the next two years. I appreciate my friends in every corner of Ohio and across the political spectrum who encourage me and help me better represent our diverse state. I thank them for what they do for our communities and for the inspiration they give me.
I want to thank my amazing staff both in Ohio and in DC. They work really hard for the people of Ohio and have enabled me to be so much more effective. I know I am biased, but I really believe they are the best team in the Senate, and others think that, too.
Of course, I will always be grateful to the voters of Ohio who have supported me in nine elections to the House and Senate. Thanks to them, I’ve never lost an election and never won by less than 18 points. I am confident that with their support I could have won again but, for me, the question was whether I wanted to serve an additional six years in the Senate.
I decided to make my announcement now because I have made up my mind, but also because it will allow whichever Republicans who choose to run plenty of time to gear up for a statewide race.
Finally, and most importantly, a special thanks to Jane and our family for the unconditional support and for the sacrifices they have made — and will continue to make for the next two years. I appreciate Jane, Jed, Sara and Sally for being here today and for the well wishes from Will and Tyler who weren’t able to travel to Cincinnati this morning. We are a team.
In these next two years, I will continue to be actively engaged, doing my best to provide hope as we try to get through the devastating coronavirus pandemic and doing my best to help bring our great country together, to help us heal, so we address the many challenges we face together.“sen. rob portman, r-oh
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WCMH contributed to this report.