CINCINNATI — Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said Monday that he won’t seek reelection due in part to how it’s gotten “harder to break through the partisan gridlock and make progress,” and plans to end a career in federal government spanning more than three decades.
Portman’s announcement comes the same day the U.S. 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 said last week he would listen to both sides before making a decision on how to vote.
“Our country is very polarized,” Portman said, adding that Trump did not help with the polarization. “It’s shirts and skins right now. We need to tone it down.”
Portman, who turned 65 last month, is among establishment Republicans who clearly struggled with supporting Trump. Once dubbed “The Loyal Soldier” in a front-page profile story in his hometown Cincinnati Enquirer, Portman usually supported Trump in carefully worded statements. After Trump called the presidential election rigged, Portman said Trump had a right to a probe of any irregularities.
But in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Portman said Trump needed to go on national TV to address his supporters and tell them to refrain from violence.
“Both in his words before the attack on the Capitol and in his actions afterward, President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened,” Portman said.
He said he’s heard criticism from both those who think he shouldn’t have supported Trump so much and those who think he didn’t support him enough.
Portman was elected handily 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.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken said in a statement following Portman’s announcement that his service has been “invaluable.”
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.
Follow Dan Sewell at https://twitter.com/dansewell