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VP Nominee or Not, Rob Portman Is Valuable to GOP

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

In a release Wednesday afternoon, Tester’s campaign touted the Democrat’s work with Portman to build on an anti-Beltway-partisanship narrative: “Montana farmer Jon Tester is again working across party lines with a tough message for irresponsible politicians in Washington: Montanans shouldn’t have to pay the price when Congress plays politics with the economy,” the release read.

Though Tester is the only Democrat on board so far, Portman said he is working to get more. The bill was originally unveiled with eight GOP co-sponsors: Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Dan Coats (Ind.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), John Hoeven (N.D.), Mike Lee (Utah) and John McCain (Ariz.).

Cornyn, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is professionally committed to defeating Tester, his fellow co-sponsor.

Portman’s office added that the Senator circulated the legislation during the party’s weekly policy luncheon and picked up 12 more supporters, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Finance ranking member Orrin Hatch (Utah).

“Rob has a tremendous depth on economic issues and has been a very effective Senator since the day he arrived,” McConnell said in a statement.

Though it’s unclear whether the anti-shutdown bill will find enough support to become law and even less clear whom presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will pick as his No. 2, what is clear is that Portman is creating value regardless of whether he becomes the vice presidential nominee.

A Republican who can work across the aisle could be highly valuable to a President Romney if Democrats keep the Senate or if the GOP wins by a narrow margin. According to sources on both sides of the aisle, Portman could be that person.

But before lawmakers can even worry about November, they have a laundry list of legislative items to tackle, including spending bills to keep the government funded. And that’s where Portman’s bill could come into play if it gains traction.

McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) publicly committed to approving appropriations bills earlier this year, though Congress’ ability to do so is in serious question.

The process is not as far along as it should be with the fall deadline. Earlier this month, the two leaders exchanged stern words over what has been jamming up the process, and many sources have conceded that a CR is likely.

“Congress continually fails to pass appropriations bills by the October 1st deadline, we should not force Americans to face the threat of government shutdown hanging over their heads,” Portman said in a statement introducing his bill.

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