Should the Bush-era tax cuts be extended in whole, or just on income of $250,000 and less?

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

In a speech to the Associated Builders and Contractors legislative conference in Washington on Tuesday, Portman said that the debate ought to be focused on comprehensive tax reform rather than on the Bush-era tax cuts.

The speech came as President Obama, speaking at a campaign event in Iowa, renewed his call for Congress to extend the tax cuts on income of $250,000 and less.

“Look, I think we ought to reform the whole tax code,” Portman said, according to a transcript of the speech. “We shouldn’t be debating whether to deal with the current code by allowing it to be extended or not. We should have a president who shows leadership and comes to Congress and says: ‘You know what? We need to reform this whole tax code.’ ”

He also told the crowd: “The tax code is now nine times longer than the Bible, and not nearly as interesting.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called for a comprehensive reform of the tax code, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) last month delivered a speech calling for a renewed focus on the matter. But the most recent effort to make progress on broader tax reform — the bipartisan debt “supercommittee” — collapsed last fall.

Portman, who confirmed to ABC News Tuesday morning that he has been in contact with the Romney camp’s vice-presidential vetting operation, also took a moment to point out to the crowd that he is a fan of beer.

“I’m a beer drinker. There may be some other beer drinkers in the room. And, some of you look a little groggy this morning actually. That’s why I said that,” he said to laughter from the crowd.

He made the point as part of a broader argument that Sam Adams, the country’s largest brewery, has only 1 percent market share due to a tax code that “is driving jobs overseas.”