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Government & Politics

Ohio Sen. Portman Talks NAFTA, Gun Control and Trumpcare During GM Factory Tour

photo of Rob Portman touring GM plant
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman wanted to talk about cutting corporate taxes, but found auto workers were more interested in discussing the pros and cons of NAFTA.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman toured the GM Metal plant in Parma on Thursday, where here talked about issues ranging from updating the North American Free Trade Agreement to gun control and the first of President Trump’s executive orders to dismantle Obamacare.

The elephant in the room
While touring the plant, Portman wanted to talk about cutting corporate taxes. But he agreed that talks about dismantling NAFTA were the elephant in the room.

There are 108,000 Ohioans working in the auto industry. Portman said the 1,300 who work in Parma are making products that go to Canada and Mexico, and sometimes come back as completed cars.

“We need be sure the NAFTA agreement is updated, it needs to be modernized,” Portman said. “I’ve called for that but we need to be sure … we don’t ruin the advantages we get here in Ohio from exporting to Canada and Mexico. Half of our exports here in Ohio go to those two countries. Canada is our biggest export partner.”

Portman said the trade agreement should include e-commerce as well as labor and environmental standards. 

Controlling access to bump stocks
On gun control, Portman said bump stocks – the device the Las Vegas shooter used to turn a semi-automatic rifle into a virtual machine gun – are too easy to get. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has proposed a bill that would ban such devices.

Portman supports regulating bump stock sales.

“These automatic weapons are prohibited unless you have a special license and go then a special background check and I support that,” Portman said. “So I don’t think you should be able to take a weapon that is not automatic and make it automatic by buying something online.”

Portman said the best way to ban bump stocks may be to follow the NRA proposal that the devices be regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, rather than through legislation.

Dismantling Obamacare
When it comes to the first of two orders President Trump’s signed in 24 hours to dismantle Obamacare, Ohio’s two U.S. senators have a difference of opinion.  Democrat Sherrod Brown said the move to expand approval of bare-bones health insurance plans “threatens to destabilize the insurance market and cause rates to increase” for older and sicker Ohioans. Portman said he supports giving states more control.

Portman on giving states more control

“Part of is to tell the states that you can be more flexible in how you implement this program so we can reduce costs.  For instance, the state could set up a risk pool for high-risk individuals,” Portman said.

Portman said he is working with a bi-partisan group to lower the cost of premiums.   He wants to keep one element of Obamacare: the government subsidy to insurance companies to lower premiums for the poor. He said that before President Trump issued his second order -- discontinuing the subsidy.

Portman is visiting other auto factories this week, including the Jeep plant in Toledo.