U.S. Sen. Rob Portman tours Toledo GM plant, National Guard base

Sherrod Brown also in Toledo, talks Affordable Care Act


SWANTON - U.S. Sen. Rob Portman toured GM’s transmission factory and the Ohio Air National Guard Base at Toledo Express Airport today, prior to plans to be the keynote speaker to local Republicans later this evening.

Senator Portman (R., Ohio) said he wanted to discuss his plans for job creation with employees at GM. The senator this week rolled out the Senate Republican caucus's plan, Jobs for America, which Republicans say is an agenda for the future.

He said the 180th Fighter Wing brings $198 million a year to the local economy and he wanted to assure the new base commander, Col. Craig Baker, that it has his support.

Senator Portman was shown the cockpit of the fighter wing’s jet, an F-16, and also some temporary buildings adjacent to the runway that are part of the wing’s dual mission - as a reserve guard unit but with a 24-hour alert mission, as well.

Colonel Baker is both active duty Air Force and an Ohio National Guardsman, a dual role that saves money and makes the base more important.

“We are delighted recently to have the ability to attract a really top-flight commander. This I think is going to help to keep this fighter wing at the cutting edge,” Mr. Portman said.

“There’s a lot of pressure on defense spending. The rest of the budget is growing on the nondefense side," Senator Portman said. But he said there are no proposals at present to reduce aircraft in a new two-year Air Force budget.

Speaking about his tour of the General Motors plant, formerly known as Powertrain, Mr. Portman said it is the largest transmission plant in the world, “and the best, as far as GM is concerned.” He said the plant is about to introduce an eight-speed transmission.

Senator Portman will be met both by supporters and critics when he arrives for his speech tonight at the Premier catering hall in South Toledo as a guest of the Lucas County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner.

The Ohio AFL-CIO plans to picket the event to press for Mr. Portman’s support of extending unemployment insurance, which Mr. Portman voted against the last time it came up for a vote. However, Democrats and Republicans announced Thursday that they have reached agreement in the Senate on a plan to extend unemployment insurance.

Also in Toledo today was U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) who urged the public to sign up for the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Brown said enrollment for the 2014 health insurance marketplace will close at the end of this month. He said nearly 79,000 Ohioans are covered by the act but that more than 193,000 Ohioans remain eligible for the marketplace. Of those, more than 115,000 of them are eligible to enroll with financial assistance.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058 and on Twitter @TomFTroy.