Republican Sen. Rob Portman discusses his support for bill to protect same-sex marriage

The U.S. Senate is pushing off voting on a bill to protect same-sex marriage until after the midterms. The Respect for Marriage Act already passed the House with support from dozens of Republicans, but Senate negotiators could not get the ten GOP votes needed to pass the bill. Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the key supporters of the plan, joined Lisa Desjardins to discuss the delay.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The U.S. Senate is delaying voting on a bill to protect same-sex marriage until after the midterms.

    Our Lisa Desjardins is here now with more.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Amna, a bipartisan group of senators hoped to pass the Respect for Marriage Act as soon as next week. It already passed the House with support from dozens of Republicans, but negotiators could not get the 10 Republican senators needed to commit to backing it.

    Joining me now is Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, one of the key supporters of that plan.

    Senator, let's start right there.

    Nationally, this is not a partisan issue; 70 percent of Americans support gay marriage, same-sex marriage, and it's a majority of Republicans. How do you explain the hesitancy and outright opposition from some of your fellow Senate Republicans?

  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH):

    Well, there was a concern from a number of people about its impact on religious liberty, that if we were to try to codify the Supreme Court case, that it would have consequences that were unintended, perhaps, but that would affect people's religious liberty.

    So, we spent the last few weeks, as you know, working with language. We were trading language as recently as late this morning. And I think we will get there. But we needed a little more time to be able to let people properly vet that language and determine how we could codify the Supreme Court, which is the law of the land, but in doing so, not affect the religious liberties of, say, religious groups that are engaged in things like adoption or health care or education.

    So I think we're on the way to getting to a solution.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    How do you respond to some folks, including some Republicans who talked to me today, who said, really, they just don't want to do this before the election, and Democrats say, well, that that's political then, if the delay is for that reason?

  • Sen. Rob Portman:

    Well, I think some Republicans saw this as a political ploy on behalf of the Democrats, and particularly Senator Schumer, because it was being pushed on us, in terms of the voting, just before we went away for the elections.

    And the notion there was, whether it won or lost, that some Democrats might see an advantage to that. I got to give credit to Tammy Baldwin, who's a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, and Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat from Arizona, who worked with us and ensured that this would not be a political decision.

    And that's why I think, in the end, we were able to postpone it until we have time to vet this language and people to feel comfortable. At that point, I think people won't see it as a political thing. But I think, right now, a lot of Republicans do consider it to be more political, if you're sort of forcing a vote just before we go home for the elections, which would have been the case.

    If we hadn't had the language prepared by today and signed off on by everyone needed, we would not have had time to do it before the end of the month, because it takes that long to process legislation, as you know, Lisa, through the world's most deliberative body.

    So I think we made the right decision. And I think, when we come back, the election will be behind us. The politics will be taken out of it. And I think we will get the votes. It's the right thing to do.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I hear you — I hear you saying you think you will get there. This is a breathing period, so to speak.

    But there's also another tough issue in the headlines for your conference this week. That's abortion, Senator Lindsey Graham proposing a national 15-week abortion ban.

    I know that you believe this issue should be determined by the states. But I wonder, as I have heard from other Republicans, if you're concerned about the politics of this, Democrats are raising that idea of a national ban. Are you concerned what this could mean for Republicans at the polls this midterm season?

  • Sen. Rob Portman:

    I mean, I think it'll cut both ways, honestly. And it depends on the state or the congressional district.

    But I think most Americans, when you look at the polling data, and, in fact, the research arm of Planned Parenthood says that 72 percent of Americans would support a 15-week bill which had exceptions, which apparently this legislation does. I haven't looked at it closely.

    But it is a 15-week bill, has the exceptions. And that's where most people are. So I think it just depends on the state and on the congressional district and how individual candidates deal with it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We're glad to be talking to you today on a number of subjects, including border security and immigration.

    You are the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. I know that you support a border wall. You support more restrictions, returning to Title 42, to limit migrant access.

    But I wonder what you make of some other Republicans sending busloads of migrants to places around the country that don't have the infrastructure necessarily in place right now to accept them?

  • Sen. Rob Portman:

    Well, I do think it's good to raise awareness about it. I don't know if this is the most effective way. But it's one.

    My understanding is, no migrant gets on a bus without being asked if they would like to come and it's voluntary. So it's not like people are being required to do it. People come to the border, again, they're seeking asylum. They are told, this bus is going to Boston or New York or Chicago. As I understand it, they get on the bus, and they get a free ride to that location.

    And, apparently, that's something that a lot of migrants are interested in doing. So I think it's something that probably will raise some awareness, but it also does provide the transportation to these individuals. They want to go to places where they might have family members or think they can get a job.

    And it's just as a reflection of the broken border system that there are so many thousands of people every day crossing the border. Again, we're looking at huge numbers that we haven't ever seen before, in terms of the ultimate number of over one million people just during this administration that have come in this way through the asylum process, almost none of whom have had a hearing or are subject to any court proceedings yet, because that will be several years down the pike, because there are so many people in the backlog right now.

    So, the system is just not working.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You just came back from Ukraine.

    Ukraine, officials told my colleague Nick Schifrin that they will need billions of dollars for months to come indefinitely. Yet I talk to some Republicans on the Hill that already are cooling down to the idea of continuing funding for Ukraine.

    How strong do you think the commitment is? Are you concerned about whether the U.S. will keep up funding for Ukraine?

  • Sen. Rob Portman:

    I feel really strongly about this.

    As you know, I'm a co-chair, co-founder of Ukraine Caucus, because I have got a lot of Ukrainian Americans in Ohio. And I have been to Ukraine a number of times, probably seven or eight times just since 2014. And I was just there a couple of weeks ago.

    And this is our fight, in addition to their fight. They're not asking for troops on the ground, and we're not providing them. What we are providing them is the ability to defend themselves against this Russian invasion, which is brutal, illegal, unprovoked, and the results of which are just terribly tragic.

    I'm really encouraged by what I see over the last few weeks, Lisa, which is the weapons systems and the ammunition that we have provided for Ukraine is now working to turn the tables. And they are actually making progress. Over 3,000 square miles were liberated just in the last few weeks by the Ukrainians.

    So, there's — this is not the time for us to pull back. It's the time for us to continue to — providing support, along with many other countries. You know there are 49 other countries that have provided military support to Ukraine. It's not just us, but we are the leaders.

    And we need to continue to lead the free world in this fight, because it's a shield for freedom, not just for Ukraine, but certainly for Eastern Europe, Europe as a whole, and really for the entire world, because, otherwise, our adversaries and our allies are going to look at this and say, well, an authoritarian regime can simply waltz in, take over another country, in this case, a democracy and an ally.

    And that will establish a precedent that will make the world much more dangerous and volatile and cost us a lot more over time.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, thank you for talking with us.

  • Sen. Rob Portman:

    Thanks, Lisa. Appreciate you. Take care.

Listen to this Segment