Commonsense Conservative For Ohio


The Columbus Dispatch:Portman offers anti-poverty plan

By Jessica Wehrman

May 14, 2014


WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush campaigned in 2000 as a compassionate conservative.

Now, Sen. Rob Portman says he wants to be a constructive conservative.

Speaking before a conservative research organization in Washington yesterday, Portman, R-Ohio, who is considered a possible 2016 GOP presidential contender, used the phraseconstructive conservatism as he outlined a plan to combat poverty in the United States as opposed to simply treating the symptoms such as raising the minimum wage.

“Too many conservatives — too many in my party — avoid talking about poverty and how to address it,” Portman said. “But we cannot be a great country if we do not act to help the least fortunate among us, and we cannot be a great party if we don’t lead on this issue.”

The speech was billed in part as a response to the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, but Portman is by no means the only Republican laying out plans on the issue. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, both Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have all addressed poverty in public speeches. All are considered possible 2016 presidential contenders.

For his part, Portman has not discussed a 2016 bid, saying simply that he wants to work to have Republicans take back the Senate in November.

His speech reiterated what have become common themes in his work. While in the Senate and in some cases before that, he has introduced measures aimed at discouraging former prisoners from going back to jail, at ending drug abuse and at ending sexual trafficking. He says Washington has been too reactive in treating poverty while not being proactive enough about preventing it.

“Sometimes I think the folks invested in fighting poverty are fighting the symptoms and not getting at the cause,” he said.

Democrats have highlighted income inequality as a major mid-term election issue, calling for the extension of long-term unemployment benefits — which expired at the end of last year — as well as increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

But Portman said that ending poverty would take more than minimum-wage increases and unemployment-benefit extensions.

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