08/02/2012 08:19 am ET Updated Aug 02, 2012

Rob Portman Distances Himself From Bush Budget Work

Potential Republican vice presidential pick Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) attempted to walk a fine line this week in an interview with the Hill, when he tried to tout his hawkishness on the deficit while explaining his work as budget director in the heavy-spending Bush administration.

Portman worked for President George W. Bush as U.S. Trade Representative from 2005 to 2006 and then as director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2007.

In that short-lived role, he said he clashed with unnamed fellow officials who were less concerned with cutting spending.

"I was frustrated when I was there about some spending issues -- specifically, as you know, I wanted to offer a balanced budget over five years, and a lot of people didn't," he told the Hill. "I prevailed. The president sent his budget -- not my budget, his budget -- a five-year balanced budget. But it was a fight, internally."

He said he eventually left to spend more time with his family and did not expect Democrats in Congress to work with the administration on other reforms.

He remained careful not to speak ill of Bush, according to the Hill, but conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said there might be benefits to criticizing the former president more openly.

Norquist, president of the Americans for Tax Reform, told the newspaper Portman should make it known that he had major conflicts with spending in the Bush administration. "It is my understanding that Portman quit because of the spending," he said. "If they're willing to tell that story, that makes Portman more viable."

House Speaker John Boehner said last week that he is "partial" to his fellow Ohioan for the vice presidential pick. For his part, Portman has said he doesn't want the job -- a common refrain from those speculated to be on the shortlist. He said July 18 that he is happy in the job he has.

"I was elected in 2010 because of my interest in trying to move our country forward and our state forward here in the U.S. Senate, so that's where I intend to stay," he told Ohio's WTVN.



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