- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2006

President Bush yesterday nominated Rob Portman as his new director of the Office of Management and Budget, tapping a man Republicans said is perfectly matched to the jobs of controlling spending and improving ties between the administration and Capitol Hill.

“Rob’s talent, expertise and record of success are well-known within my administration and on Capitol Hill,” Mr. Bush said in announcing the nomination in the White House Rose Garden.

Mr. Portman mixes the fresh and the familiar for Mr. Bush. He is a new face to the inner White House policy shop, but he has been a Bush loyalist for years both as a key administration ally when he served in Congress and then as U.S. trade representative for the past 11 months.

If confirmed by the Senate as expected, Mr. Portman will fill the spot left by Joshua B. Bolten, who took over as White House chief of staff on Friday.

Just weeks after the administration stumbled with the Dubai ports deal, Mr. Bush now has two men who earn nearly universal respect among congressional Republicans and Democrats.

“Both individuals have great reputations and great working relationships with Congress. That’s really what we need right now so we can deliver on the president’s agenda,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and chief deputy majority whip in the House.

Democrats who have served with him yesterday praised Mr. Portman as an honest broker who they can work with, although Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Mr. Portman won’t make the changes he wants to see at the White House.

“From record trade deficits to record budget deficits, Rob Portman should fit right in at George Bush’s OMB,” the Nevada Democrat said in a revised statement after his first attempt got Mr. Portman’s first name wrong, calling him “Bob.”

Republicans said selecting Mr. Portman shows Mr. Bush wants to push an aggressive legislative agenda for the rest of his term. They expect Mr. Portman to excel at helping communicate the administration’s message to Congress and helping Mr. Bush understand where members of Congress are on the issues.

Mr. Portman already began his outreach, calling House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert Monday night as the speaker was on an airplane back from Vietnam.

OMB is responsible for setting the administration’s fiscal policies and approves the testimony of every administration official who appears before Congress to make sure it conforms with the administration’s opinion.

“Congress and the administration must also work together on earmark reform, on greater transparency in budgeting, a workable line-item veto and addressing the unsustainable growth in entitlement spending,” Mr. Portman said.

He served more than 12 years as a congressman from Ohio, rising to a leadership position in the House Republican Conference and serving as vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, as well as on the Ways and Means Committee.

As trade representative, his major victory was securing passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Cantor, a key vote-counter in that effort, said Mr. Portman was intimately involved and knew exactly how to corral votes and work to ease members’ concerns.

Mr. Bush yesterday also named Susan Schwab, the deputy U.S. trade representative, to fill Mr. Portman’s slot.

The administration has secured passage of free-trade agreements with eight countries and has 18 more agreements pending, Mr. Bush said. Mrs. Schwab’s job will be to see those through.

She said that if confirmed by the Senate, she will try to “restore the bipartisan consensus for trade” that used to exist in Congress.

ROB PORTMAN

White House budget director nominee

Birth date: Dec. 19, 1955

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Dartmouth College, 1979; law degree, University of Michigan Law School, 1984

Experience: Trade lawyer at Patton Boggs in Washington, 1984-86; lawyer at Graydon, Head & Ritchey in Cincinnati, 1986-89 and 1991-93; associate counsel to the president and later director, White House Office of Legislative Affairs, 1989-91; elected as a Republican to Congress in 1993 by special election to fill a vacancy, re-elected six times; U.S. trade representative, 2005-present.

Family: Wife, Jane; three children

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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