30,000 turn out for Romney in West Chester

Published: Friday, November 02, 2012 @ 10:45 PM
Updated: Friday, November 02, 2012 @ 10:45 PM

Mitt Romney’s campaign brought out Republican star power Friday night, with governors, senators and dozens of other political leaders from around the nation urging Ohioans to make the difference in an election that could come down to “the ultimate swing state.”

“Your state is the one I’m counting on,” Romney told a crowd of 30,000 at The Square at Union Centre, believed to be his largest gathering of the entire campaign season. “This is the one we have to win.”

National leaders like 2008 presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Speaker of the House John Boehner to campaign in Boehner’s hometown, a clear Republican stronghold.

Those prominent Republicans and dozens of other governors and senators will fan out across the country the next three days as part of the Romney-Ryan Real Recovery Road Rally, taking aim at nearly a dozen states that the campaign believes are key to a tight election.

The majority of polls show President Barack Obama with a narrow lead in Ohio and nationally, but the margins in seven key swing states — including Obama’s lead in Ohio, and Romney’s leads in Florida and Virginia — are less than 3 percent, or within the polls’ margins of error.

Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate who went to college at Miami University, said with the race so close and the differences between Obama and Romney so large, it is crucial for supporters to work hard in the final days, knocking on doors and urging others to vote.

“We want to wake up on Wednesday morning and look back and know we met the moment,” Ryan said. “Mitt Romney is the right man for this moment.”

It didn’t take much to fire up the crowd. In 2008, when Ohio as a whole backed Obama, Butler County supported McCain 60-38 percent. And in a tight Republican primary this March, Butler County gave Romney a 7-point margin over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Before any of the 17 speakers took the stage, thousands of supporters jammed the area around the stage, chanting “Four more days” instead of “Four more years.”

Adding to the festival nature, musician Kid Rock opened the event with a 40-minute concert, ending his show with the “Born Free” song that the Romney campaign has used as an anthem at its rallies. Kid Rock left the stage with a call of “Go Romney, we can get this done Ohio.”

Romney adviser Scott Jennings said despite the saturation coverage of the campaign in recent months, there’s still work to do in these final days.

“We’re trying to use the last few days before Election Day to maximize our turnout, and we’re also making a closing argument,” Jennings said. “Our closing argument is a positive vision for America where we’re cutting taxes, getting the government out of the way of job creation, using our energy, cutting the debt – it’s a positive path forward.”

Ohio Obama spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw responded that speakers at the event were “hyper-partisan” and aired far-right wing attacks that had been previously debunked.

“Anyone looking for a positive, forward-looking vision at Mitt Romney’s Ohio event tonight was surely disappointed,” Kershaw said. “If this is Mitt Romney’s closing argument for the American people, he’s making a compelling case for why we can’t afford to elect him.”

Retiree Eileen Menna of Huber Heights said she was excited to see Romney for the first time, adding that she likes him better than Obama both on economic and social-issue stances.

“I back him, and I want to show him that,” she said. “Romney’s had business experience. Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s never run anything … until he was president.”

Gretchen Franck of Centerville, a paralegal, said she thinks Romney is charismatic, but she focused mainly on economics.

“I am the middle class, and I don’t feel the middle class is getting a fair shake from the Obama administration,” she said. “He ran his first platform on the middle class, but for the past four years he’s done nothing to help me. … The more tax breaks they can give the middle class the more we’re going to pump into the economy.”

Repeatedly in his speech, Romney tried a twist on the 2008 Obama campaign’s strategy, talking about “real change.” Romney told supporters that Obama had promised change, but had failed to deliver it, not meeting promises on lowering the debt, cutting unemployment, and governing in a bipartisan way.

“It comes down to this,” Romney said. “Do you want more of the same, or do you want real change?”

While the jobs report out Friday showed more jobs created than analysts had expected, Romney pointed to the unemployment rate, which rose 0.1 point to 7.9 percent. That is down from 10 percent a year into Obama’s term, but 0.1 point higher than when Obama took office in January 2009.

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana took aim at another of Obama’s slogans, asking what the president means with the word forward. “Who in the world would vote for ‘forward’ when we’re going 80 mph at a brick wall?” Jindal said.

Romney closed by talking about leadership.

“With the right leadership, America is coming roaring back,” Romney said. “The only thing that stands between us and some of the best years we’ve ever known is a lack of leadership. That’s why we have elections. This Tuesday is a moment to look into the future and imagine what we can do.”

Portman, Brown back hard line on North Korea

Published: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 3:33 PM
Updated: Monday, November 20, 2017 @ 3:33 PM

            Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump officially designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)
            Kevin Dietsch
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump officially designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)(Kevin Dietsch)

Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown hailed President Donald Trump’s decision Monday to designate North Korea a state of sponsor of terrorism, a move they both advocated last month.

In a statement after Trump’s announcement, Portman, R-Ohio, said “this designation will serve as an important tool to exert peaceful pressure on the North Korean regime.”

“North Korea was removed from the list nearly a decade ago with promises from the regime to limit their nuclear program,” Portman said. “That clearly hasn’t happened and they have continued their destabilizing actions in the region.”

Brown, D-Ohio, said the “decision is the direct result of bipartisan efforts this summer to require further sanctions on North Korea. We have recently offered another tough, new sanctions package that makes it clear we are serious about ramping up pressure on North Korea, to force its leaders to end its nuclear weapons program and halt its continuing human rights abuses.”

RELATED: Defense experts divided on how to handle North Korea

In addition, Portman and Brown, like Trump, cited the death this summer of Otto Warmbier, the Cincinnati-area student who died this summer in Cincinnati shortly after his release from a North Korean prison.

Speaking to reporters before a cabinet meeting at the White House, Trump said “as we take this action today, our thoughts turn to Otto Warmbier, a wonderful young man, and the countless others so brutally affected by the North Korean oppression.”

“This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons, and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime,” Trump said.

RELATED: Boehner criticizes Trump over North Korea policy

“The North Korean regime must be lawful,” Trump said. “It must end its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile development, and cease all support for international terrorism — which it is not doing.”

In a letter last month to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Portman, Brown and 12 other senators wrote that since former President George W. Bush in 2008 dropped North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the Pyongyang regime has continued to develop its nuclear weapons program along with the missiles to deliver a nuclear warhead.

Hatch to Sherrod Brown: ‘Don’t spew this stuff at me’

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 10:26 AM

Sen. Hatch Shouting Down Sen. Sherrod Brown on Tax Bill. Video courtesy of CNN

Sen. Sherrod Brown and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch are garnering attention today for a yelling match they had last night a hearing over the tax reform bill working its way through the Senate.

Hatch, a Utah Republican, took umbrage at comments by Brown saying the tax bill will help the rich at the expense of the poor.

“This tax cut is really not for the middle class,” Brown said. “It’s for the rich.”

Calling it “a nice political play,” Hatch told Brown “I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying that I’m just doing this for the rich.”

Brown, an Ohio Democrat, meanwhile, shot back that the public believes that the bill primarily benefits the wealthy. “I get sick and tired of the richest people in the country getting richer and richer,” he said over shouts calling for regular order. “We do a tax cut for the rich and the middle class loses.”

Hatch said that he came from the lower-middle class. “We didn’t have anything,” he said. “So don’t spew this stuff at me. I get a little tired of that crap.”

“I like you personally very much but I’m telling you, this bullcrap you throw out really gets old after awhile,” he said.

The fight came during the final day of the Senate Finance Committee debate over the tax overhaul bill. The committee later approved the bill on a party line vote 14-12.

Tax reform dominates as Congress takes a Thanksgiving break

Published: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 10:23 PM

Congressional Republicans left Capitol Hill late last week excited about the prospects for sweeping legislation which would deliver tax cuts and tax reform, as with approval of a House tax bill, the focus has shifted to the Senate, and whether GOP leaders can muster the needed votes to approve a slightly different GOP tax measure after Thanksgiving.

“This bill gives Americans more take home pay by cutting taxes and preserving deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – while he’s on board, only a handful of GOP Senators are expected to determine the fate of this legislation.

Here’s where things stand on Capitol Hill:

1. Remember, there is more to do than tax reform. Yes, Republicans want to get tax reform done by the end of the year. But there are other measures which will need attention as well after the Thanksgiving break. For example, the Children’s Health Insurance program needs to be reauthorized, and has been in limbo since October 1. A temporary federal budget runs out on December 8, and there still hasn’t been a deal announced on how much Congress will decide to spend on the discretionary budget, which is what funds pretty much everything outside of mandatory spending items like Social Security and Medicare. There had been talk earlier this year of a possible government shutdown showdown, but that seems unlikely right now, because it would really get in the way of GOP efforts on tax reform. House Speaker Paul Ryan still wants all that spending work – a giant omnibus funding bill – done by the end of the year.

2. A rush of spending seems likely. In order to get a deal on the discretionary budget for 2018, it’s expected there will be a sizeable increase in defense spending in any final spending deal for next year – President Trump had asked for $54 billion in extra military funding, but there’s no sign of any budget cuts to immediately offset the cost of that. Not only is that extra money likely to be approved, but a third hurricane disaster relief bill seems likely to be voted on by Congress in December as well. The latest White House request was for $44 billion, much less than what Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico have asked for in terms of hurricane aid. That would make total aid close to $100 billion just this year. In the latest disaster aid plan, the White House for the first time is seeking offsetting budget cuts to pay for some of that extra spending. The plan unveiled last Friday has $14 billion in cuts now, and another $44 billion in cuts later – later, as in between 2025 and 2027, after President Trump is gone from the Oval Office.

3. Some Senators to watch on tax reform. When lawmakers return to legislative sessions the week of November 27, the main political game on Capitol Hill will be figuring out where everyone stands on the GOP tax reform bill in the Senate. This is a similar scenario to what went on with Republicans on health care reform, and many of the same players are involved. On the bubble right now would be Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Also, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has said he wants major changes on how small businesses and pass through businesses are dealt with. Don’t count the bill out yet, but there is a lot of work to do. And one thing is for sure – someone will be watching them very closely.

4. Some items you probably won’t see in 2017. One item that won’t be acted on this year is an infrastructure bill. President Donald Trump has talked about his grand $1 trillion infrastructure program since the 2016 campaign, but at this point, there is still no detailed plan, and there is no bill in the Congress. On immigration, there’s still lots of talk about wheeling and dealing on DACA and border security, but I’m not sure there’s the political will to do that. Don’t look for funding for the border wall, but instead for something that sounds like border security, but isn’t the wall. With tax reform dominating the agenda, don’t look for anything on DACA until 2018.

5. One issue that has disappeared – the deficit. It used to be that Republicans were all about reigning in spending, and cutting the size of government. Now that they have had control of the House, Senate and White House, they are poised to, to, to, do nothing in 2017 on that front. The budget doesn’t balance for at least ten years (if not more), there were no major spending cuts enacted by the Congress, there was no appetite for savings in mandatory spending programs, either. The cuts included in the President’s budget have pretty much been ignored by lawmakers, and it took the White House three disaster aid bills before any offsetting budget cuts were proposed. Meanwhile, the yearly federal deficit is trending back up, and with the disaster relief bills, and an increase in the federal budget caps, there will be more red ink in 2018. Only a few Republicans have stuck with their familiar call for budget discipline.

House Republicans voted for tax reform, but asked for changes in the bill as well

Published: Saturday, November 18, 2017 @ 9:07 AM

As the House voted along party lines on Thursday to approve a sweeping package of GOP tax reforms, one peculiar part of the floor debate came when a number of Republicans – who voted for the bill – took to the floor to request changes in the their party’s plan, as some highlighted unintended consequences, while others objected to the basics of the measure.

Known in parliamentary parlance as a “colloquy,” the scripted exchanges between lawmakers are often done to clarify the legislative intent of a bill, or in this case, to urge action in a specific way in House-Senate negotiations.

And for some Republicans in this week’s tax reform debate, it was clear they wanted some provisions altered.

Some requests were specific, like Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), who made the case for historic preservation tax credits, which were eradicated by the House GOP tax reform bill.


“Without the credit, projects that transform communities in all 50 states, from
West Virginia to Texas, to Wisconsin, simply will not happen,” McKinley said on the House floor, as he asked for Brady’s word that he would help reverse the decision.

That didn’t happen.

“I commit to working with him and continuing to work with him on this issue because I know the importance of it,” Brady responded, making sure not to guarantee anything in some of these floor exchanges.

For Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a staunch advocate of the GOP bill, he asked the Chairman of the House Ways and Means to do more in terms of tax help for the people of Puerto Rico, whose island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

“I look forward to working with you on ideas to best serve the people of this island,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who thanked fellow GOP lawmakers for their concerns, but made no promises.

For Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), the issue was with a new excise tax from Republicans that would be levied on the endowments of private colleges and universities.

Barr said that would harm Berea College in his district, a ‘work college’ that uses its endowment money to pay the tuition of all students. It was noted in press stories back home.

“I was pleased to learn that the Senate version of the bill exempts schools with fewer than 500 tuition-paying students from the excise tax,” Barr said, urging Brady to accept that position in any House-Senate negotiation.

Brady said he would try.

“Mr. Speaker, we will work together for a mutually accepted solution to make sure we exempt work colleges to use their endowments to provide tuition-free education,” the panel chairman responded.

For Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the problem he brought to the House floor was under the heading of unintended consequences, as the GOP tax bill would subject native settlement trusts in Alaska to a higher rate of taxation.

“This would make it more difficult for Alaska Native Settlement Trusts to provide long-term benefits to Alaska Natives,” Young said on the House floor, asking Brady to include provisions of a bill to remedy that and more.

Unlike some of the other requests, Brady acknowledged that the GOP tax bill would “unintentionally” change the tax rate for the Alaskan settlements, agreeing to focus on this in conference as we finalize individual rate structures between the House and the Senate.”

Others weren’t so lucky to get a guarantee of action, as they pressed for changes in maybe the most controversial part of the GOP plan, which limits a deduction for state and local taxes.

“I am concerned about its impact on some of my constituents in Maryland who pay high state and local income taxes,” said Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), the only Republican member of the House from that state, which would be one of the biggest losers on the SALT issue.

That subject also drew two California Republicans to make the same appeal to Brady later in the debate; Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) echoed the concerns of Harris – all of them got a murky assurance of help.

“I am happy to commit to working with both of them to ensure we reach a positive outcome for their constituents and families as we reconcile our differences with the Senate,” Brady said, making no promises.

Other Republicans brought up education, and a provision in the GOP tax reform bill that would hinder colleges and universities from providing tax free tuition waivers and reimbursements, a matter that has drawn more and more attention in recent days.

Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) – whose district includes Dayton University – and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) – whose district includes the University of Illinois – both appealed to Brady to make a change.

“I believe that an unintended consequence of this bill would hinder middle class Americans pursuing a higher education degree in an attempt to better their lives,” Turner said.

“I am worried it is going to have an impact on the custodians and the assistants in the Registrar’s Office who are just working at these institutions to be able to send their son or daughter to college,” said Davis.

There was no guarantee that the provision would be changed.

“I have a keen interest in this issue,” Brady told Turner and Davis. “I will work with you toward a positive solution on tuition assistance in conference with the Senate.”

Democrats noted the exchanges on both days of the House tax reform debate, arguing that it showed off the haphazard nature of how the bill was put together.

“I also was intrigued by the colloquy where Members came to ask the leadership
if they will work with them to take out egregious elements of this tax proposal,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI).

“We get this sort of, “Yes, I will work with the gentleman,” answer,” Kildee added, raising his voice on the floor.

“Why did you put it in in the first place?” Kildee yelled. “Why are you cutting historic tax credits in the first place? Why did you put it in in the first place? You just wrote the bill. You just wrote it,” he said.

GOP lawmakers said this past week that anyone can find a reason to vote against a big bill like this tax reform plan – we’ll see in coming weeks whether these publicly voiced concerns become an issue for the final version of tax reform in the Congress.