Sen. Portman: 'Greatest Act of Bipartisanship' Is Both Parties' Overspending

By Susan Jones | October 14, 2013 | 5:43 AM EDT

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) (AP File Photo)

( - Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the impasse in Washington that has led to a partial government shutdown, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"I would say the greatest act of bipartisanship over the last few decades has been Republicans and Democrats alike overpromising and overspending. And so yeah, there's fault on both sides. And that's where we are. And that's why the president and the leaders of Congress ought to take this opportunity to deal with the underlying problem."

Portman said the budget caps put in place two years ago during the last debt-limit negotiation should not be lifted: "We've added almost $2 trillion to the debt since then. And what I understand from (Saturday) night's discussion is the Democrats are now saying we want to bust those caps; but second, on the debt limit, we need to be sure that we're dealing with the underlying problem, which is an almost $17 trillion national debt. And the president says he wants to do that. So let's work together to do it."

Portman told NBC's David Gregory he believes the two sides will agree on raising the debt ceiling and ending the government "shutdown" by Thursday, "because we will have decided as a Congress that we need to avoid going over the debt limit. We'll figure it out, and it will probably be a relatively short-term solution."

Portman said he isn't suggesting that the nation's long-term problems will be solved in the next two days:

"I think we'll probably push this down the road a little bit, to deal with the underlying problem, and that is the fact that we have these historic levels of debt and deficit that are hurting the economy today. It's like a wet blanket on the economy today. That's why we're not, in my view, getting the kind of robust recovery we all hoped for."

Asked if the discussion about Obamacare should be over, Portman said he thinks it's time to focus on spending issues.

"Well, first of all, I oppose Obamacare. I think we ought to repeal it and replace it, and I think most Americans agree with that. But we can minimize the damage in this process by doing certain things that were consistent with the original Obamacare, like making people verify their income when they go on the exchanges, or dealing with the 40-hour work week so that more people aren't taken into 30 hours or below, part-time work.

"But, no, I think we ought to focus on these spending issues, and we can and should."

Portman said the Obamacare enrollment process is not just a glitch. "It's a breakdown," he said. "Having tried myself to get on yesterday, I feel sorry for the New York Times researcher I heard about this morning who spent 11 days trying to get on and ended up with a blank screen. So I mean, there are huge problems with it, let's be honest. And we ought to -- we ought to be sure that we can minimize the damage."

He also said getting rid of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wouldn't solve the problem: "I think it's much deeper than that. And I think the law is fundamentally flawed."