Ohio lawmakers Rob Portman, Marcy Kaptur say Congress must act on economy, gun violence

CLEVELAND - Ohio lawmakers said they expect the new Congress to focus on the economy and gun violence.

"We cannot continue our current record deficits and debts and hope to get this economy moving again," said Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman in an interview with NewsChannel5 Friday.

Portman was at the U.S. Federal Court House in Cleveland to address soon-to-be U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony.

The 113th Congress kicked off Jan. 3. Republicans hold the majority in the House. Democrats have control in the Senate.

"America has to pay its bills," said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, who represents Ohio's ninth congressional district.

The U.S. won't be able to pay its bills if Congress doesn't raise the $16.4 debt ceiling by the end of February or early March. On Friday, House Republicans agreed to vote on a bill to raise the debt limit for three months.

How Congress deals with economic issues is yet to be seen, but Portman is set to introduce a bill next week that mandates corresponding spending cuts with any increases in the debt ceiling.

Gun control will likely remain a prominent concern after the President signed executive orders Wednesday to reduce gun violence and called on Congress to act.

"We are reaching a point where we have to reduce the fear levels and restore a more normal way of life," said Kaptur.

"Probably where there's the most opportunity for progress is to look at the gun checks, the screening process," said Portman.

But both agree that mental health, which they acknowledge as a deeper issue, needs to be addressed.

"We simply don't do a good enough job of bringing mental health care to young people who need it at an early age," said Kaptur.

Although they have big topics to tackle, both lawmakers are hopeful that this new congressional session will bring about more bipartisanship.

"I think together, Republicans and Democrats alike, we can do things that are more difficult to do when you don't have a divided government," said Portman.

"The American people want action. They want a Congress that can work together," said Kaptur.

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