Ohio’s embattled Republican Senator Rob Portman has come out in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, but only “in its present form,” as he zig-zags between supporters and opponents of the massive job-cutting deal.
“I am disappointed that the President made the decision to have Ambassador Froman sign the TPP agreement in New Zealand,” Portman said in a Thursday press release. “From currency manipulation, to rules of origin for automobiles, to protection for US biologics — we can do better.”
Portman went on to say American workers are not well served by the deal. “When it is fair, American workers can compete and win. I cannot support the TPP in its current form because it doesn’t provide that level playing field,” Portman said. The Senator’s statement concluded saying, “I will continue to urge the Obama administration to support American workers and address these issues before any vote on the TPP agreement.”
When Breitbart News contacted Portman’s office asking just what parts of the now-signed and unchangeable TPP deal the Senator opposes, his staff demurred, saying the Senator may be more forthcoming at a later date and that his Thursday statement was all he had to say on the topic at this time.
The campaign-trail equivocation, however, allows Portman to tells voters that he opposes the unpopular deal and also to tell his business donors that he will support the deal once the election is over and cosmetic changes are announced.
In May 2015, Portman voted for the ‘fast-track’ rules, which will greatly help business lobbies get full Senate approval of the trade-deal, once it is brought to the Senate for approval. Prior to voting for the fast-track rules, however, Portman also pushed for the passage of an amendment restricting Chinese-style currency manipulation. His amendment failed, as expected, but it allowed Portman to simultaneously criticize the deal and also help get it through Congress.
Many business-backed Republican legislators have been siding with Obama on his desire to push TPP through, but recently some have begun to distance themselves from the policy as the 2016 election nears.
Senator Portman is asking voters for a second term in an industrial state that is suffering severe job-loss. He’s facing a tough re-election campaign against former Ohio Democrat Governor Ted Strickland.
Portman has been locked in a close campaign with some polls showing the Democrat leading by a few percentage points and others showing the race sputtering on in a statistical tie.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com