Rob Portman, selected by US president George Bush last month to be his budget director, was elected to Congress in 1993 on a platform that called for reduced government spending and increased efficiency. He is about to get his chance to show how he can reduce the bloated deficit and champion tax cuts as part of the presidents inner circle.
Its a big job. The Office of Management and Budget touches every spending and policy decision in the federal government, Portman said as he accepted the nomination at a White House ceremony. President Bush said, Rob will consult often and work closely with legislators on the Hill. He will have a leading role on my economic team.
Portman, a former six-term congressman from Ohio, for the past year was US trade representative with the rank of ambassador. Former OMB director Joshua Bolten was promoted to White House chief of staff as part of a recent cabinet reshuffle designed to reinvigorate the administration and lift Bushs poll ratings, which have fallen to their lowest level ever.
Portman was selected for the budget post in part because of his ties to Capitol Hill and his negotiating skills. Whether Bush is simply rearranging chairs on the ship of state or truly changing direction could soon be answered by how and if Portman gets Congress to cut spending in an election year. The budget deficit is expected to exceed $400 billion this year, and Bush has pledged to cut it in half by 2009. Meanwhile, the House went into its April recess without agreeing on a 2007 budget resolution. While many legislators would like to restore fiscal discipline, they dont want it to happen by cutting their pet spending programs. Portman is smart enough to know this, but whether he can balance the conflicting interests is another question altogether.