Ohio’s U.S. senators can agree on several things as they wrap up this lame-duck session of Congress, including that they both are willing to work with President-elect Donald Trump as his administration takes over in January.
However, they cannot agree on what they think of Trump’s newest adviser, Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon.
In two separate conference calls Wednesday, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman gave very different viewpoints on the businessman, known for his work with the publication and its connection to the alt-right, which rejects traditionally conservative ideas.
“The president-elect is off to a peculiar start with his choice of an out-and-out racist to be his Karl Rove,” Brown said, referencing President George W. Bush’s relationship with one of his top advisers. “I want to see (Bannon) step down or be fired.”
But Brown said he isn’t considering withholding some of Trump’s senator-confirmable Cabinet positions, such as secretary of State, because of Bannon’s appointment.
“I don’t want to play that game,” he said. “It is backroom politics, but those who come before the Senate are going to be really thoroughly looked at when it comes to their philosophies, their demeanor, their tax returns. They’re going to have to give us more than their boss, and someone like Bannon wouldn’t have even passed the confirmation process anyway.”
In the role of chief strategist, no confirmation is needed.
Portman, meanwhile, said he has seen the back-and-forth about Bannon’s position in the Trump administration, as many Republican pundits have voiced their opposition to his position, but since Bannon’s job isn’t controlled by the Senate, it doesn’t matter.
“People are getting really focused on the appointments, but ultimately when it comes to making policy in the White House, the buck stops with Trump,” he said. “We have an opportunity to break through the gridlock to move the economy forward.”
Portman also said, despite his pulling his endorsement from Trump in the final weeks of the campaign, he isn’t concerned because both of them are committed to making progress with the country.
“I was willing to work with whoever got elected,” he said. “I have a good relationship with (Vice President-elect Mike Pence) and have spoken with the president-elect briefly on the phone since the election, and I think getting people willing to work with them is really what they’re looking for.”
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