Political rivals Trump and Sen. Sherrod Brown talk on the phone about how to keep Ohio GM plant open

  • President Donald Trump and Sen. Sherrod Brown spoke on the phone Wednesday about efforts to stop General Motors from closing a Lordstown, Ohio, plant.
  • Brown said Trump told the senator he "liked" his legislation designed to encourage American car manufacturing.
  • Trump has singled out Brown, a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, for criticism as he pressures GM not to close the plant.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio

President Donald Trump and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown hold at least one common goal: getting General Motors to abandon its plan to lay off workers at an Ohio plant.

The political rivals spoke on the phone Wednesday evening about how to save up to 1,600 factory jobs the automaker plans to cut at the Lordstown, Ohio, facility, Brown's office said. Brown, a potential challenger to the president in 2020, pushed Trump to support a bill he introduced earlier this year which aims to encourage auto manufacturing in the U.S.

"The President said he liked the bill. My office sent a copy of the bill over to the White House [Wednesday night] and we will continue doing everything we can to fight for Ohio jobs," the Ohio Democrat said in a statement. "I'm glad the President said the right things [Wednesday night], but now he needs to follow it up with action."

"We're going to move forward and hope we can get this through Congress," the senator also told CNN on Thursday morning.

The call continues efforts by both Trump and members of Congress to get GM to scrap plans to slash production at five North American facilities in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland and Canada and cut up to about 14,000 factory and white-collar jobs. Trump has publicly threatened GM as he tries to follow through on campaign promises to boost American manufacturing — which he reiterated during a rally near the Lordstown facility last year.

As he has done with several companies since he took office, Trump promised retribution for GM if it closes the plants. On Tuesday, he tweeted that "we are looking at cutting all GM subsidies, including for electric cars," in retaliation to the restructuring.

A day earlier, he said GM "better damn well open a new plant" in Ohio.

Brown introduced his American Cars, American Jobs Act in August after GM announced plans to build its new Chevrolet Blazer in Mexico. It would give vehicle buyers a $3,500 discount for purchasing an American car. The bill would also cut out a provision in last year's Republican tax overhaul that Brown argues encourages overseas manufacturing.

The United Auto Workers Union — which pledged this week to fight GM's restructuring moves — has supported Brown's legislation. The bill "takes important steps to level the playing field for the Ohio auto industry," said Rich Rankin, director of UAW Region 2-B, which encompasses Ohio and Indiana, in a statement when Brown unveiled it.

Brown, a frequent critic of Trump who nonetheless often aligns with him on trade issues, has now talked to Trump twice about GM, his office said. He spoke to the president in June after the automaker announced plans to cut its second shift at the Lordstown factory.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Trump and Brown's call.

Earlier this week, Trump singled out Brown, who has said he is thinking about running for president himself, for criticism after GM announced its layoff plans. In a Wall Street Journal interview, Trump claimed "Ohio wasn't properly represented by their Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, because he didn't get the point across."

Brown has said he repeatedly tried to get GM to keep the plant open in recent months. The state's Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP Sen. Rob Portman have also pushed the automaker not to cut jobs.

"There's a Republican president, Republican House of Representatives, a Republican Senate, a Republican governor, a Republican Supreme Court, and the president looked all over Ohio and he found a Democrat he could point to and blame," Brown told CNN on Thursday morning.

Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.