US Senate News:
Source: United States Senator for Ohio Rob Portman
June 18, 2021 | Rob’s Rundown
Senator Portman was in Washington this week as negotiations continued on a bipartisan proposal to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. Portman joined CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday and Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto on Wednesday to discuss the infrastructure talks in more detail.
In an op-ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Portman commemorated the life of Otto Warmbier, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native who was wrongly imprisoned by the brutal North Korean regime and died as a result of the injuries he sustained while in custody. This Saturday, June 19th, is the fourth anniversary of Otto’s passing. Portman also highlighted his bipartisan legislation, named in Otto’s honor, to provide funding to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state, while also encouraging sanctions on those that enable this repressive information environment both inside and outside of North Korea.
On Wednesday evening, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging the Biden administration to take action on the ongoing migrant crisis at the southern border. In addition to the unprecedented number of individuals, children, and families attempting to enter the country unlawfully, illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, are also coming across the border and into the United States, resulting in an increase of overdose deaths.
During a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday morning, Portman addressed erroneous claims about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) by touting the overwhelmingly positive and wide-ranging impact of the legislation. Specifically, Portman noted how the TCJA bolstered the competitiveness of U.S companies, brought businesses and jobs back to America, led to historical levels of unemployment, and especially benefited minority and working class individuals.
Finally, Senator Portman was in Cincinnati this past Monday morning where he participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Beechmont Connector, the final extension of the Little Miami Scenic Trail at the Beechmont Avenue.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, June 14, 2021
In Cincinnati, Portman Participates in Groundbreaking Ceremony for Beechmont Connector
Portman participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the Beechmont Connector, the final extension of the Little Miami Scenic Trail at the Beechmont Avenue.
“I was pleased to join members of the community to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Beechmont Connector. The Beechmont Connector is a critical project that will help us link a number of the outstanding trails that run through our communities, including the Little Miami Scenic Trail, the Ohio River Trail, and the Lunken Airport Trail,” said Portman. “The Beechmont Connecter will provide access to the Little Miami trail for more than 300,000 residents who live within five miles of the trail. It’s a great investment in our infrastructure, tying together some of the area’s best trails and making them all more usable for everyone.”
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Leaders Across Ohio Support Portman’s Bipartisan MAPS Act to Protect Localities from Ramifications of Proposed Change to Metropolitan Area Standards
Community leaders across Ohio have voiced their support for the bipartisan Metropolitan Areas Protection and Standardization (MAPS) Act led by Senator Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. This bipartisan legislation will help to protect communities across the country from the possible ramifications of a proposed change that would increase the population threshold for metropolitan areas from 50,000 to 100,000. Communities in Ohio and across the United States count on this designation for federal funding that goes towards important programs. If the Biden administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) finalizes this standard it could threaten access to vital federal resources for nearly 150 communities across the country, including several metropolitan areas in Ohio: Lima, Mansfield, Springfield as well as the Weirton-Steubenville and Wheeling, WV-OH metropolitan areas.
Here are some community leaders across Ohio have voiced their support for the Metropolitan Areas Protection and Standardization (MAPS) Act:
On Squawk Box, Portman Discusses the Bipartisan Infrastructure Negotiations
During an interview this morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Senator Portman provided an update on bipartisan infrastructure negotiations. Portman stressed the importance of focusing on core infrastructure upgrades without imposing tax hikes on hard-working American families.
Last week, Portman joined nine of his colleagues in releasing a statement announcing that an agreement has been reached on a framework for a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The transcript of the interview can be found here and you can watch the interview here.
Portman, Peters Applaud House Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Clawbacks of Assistance to Disaster Victims
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the companion to their bipartisan Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act, legislation that prevents the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from taking back assistance it has provided to victims of disaster due to an error made by the agency. Weeks, months, and sometimes years after victims have used federal assistance to recover from a disaster, FEMA has sought to reclaim funds, even when the agency was at fault and funds were used appropriately. The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act would require FEMA to waive the debt of disaster relief recipients in cases where the agency later determined it mistakenly granted assistance, but no fraud was committed. The bill would also require FEMA to report on the number of these mistakes made in individual assistance awards and efforts the agency takes to minimize such errors. The legislation awaits action in the Senate.
“When victims of a disaster apply for assistance in good faith and begin rebuilding their lives, they should not fear that FEMA might claw back the money due to bureaucratic mistakes,” said Ranking Member Portman. “I applaud the House of Representatives for passing the Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act, which will bring peace of mind and stability to victims by ensuring bureaucratic mistakes do not bring more trauma to those recovering from devastating disasters. I urge my Senate colleagues to join me in supporting this commonsense legislation to safeguard hardworking Americans who have already faced a life-altering disaster.”
Portman, Colleagues Push Small Business Administration to Speed Up Relief to Struggling Live Event Venues
Portman joined a letter to Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman urging her to disburse Shuttered Venue Operator Grant funding to struggling live entertainment venues as soon as possible. The legislation that created this program, the Save Our Stages Act, was signed into law more than six months ago, and event venues are going out of business while waiting for these grants. Portman has been hearing from event operators around Ohio about the SBA’s lack of progress in getting this program up and running and disbursing grant funding to those who need relief.
“The Save Our Stages Act, now the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, was created to prevent widespread closures of venues that have been devastated by the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As supporters of the SVOG program, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that the relief reaches eligible applicants without further delay,” said the senators. “It has been nearly six months since Congress passed the Save our Stages Act, nearly two months since the second launch of the program, and 51 days since the Small Business Administration (SBA) began receiving applications… bureaucratic process cannot stand in the way of getting these desperately needed funds out the door.”
Portman, Bennet, King Announce Bipartisan Legislation to Bridge Digital Divide
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation to provide $40 billion in flexible funding to states, Tribal governments, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia to bridge the gap in access to reliable high-speed internet that persists in certain communities. The Broadband Reform and Investment to Drive Growth in the Economy (BRIDGE) Act of 2021 would provide states with the resources and flexibility to deploy “future-proof” networks able to meet communities’ needs in the 21st century, and to support local initiatives to promote broadband affordability, adoption, and inclusion, among other efforts.
“Too many rural and low-income communities in Ohio and across the U.S. lack affordable and reliable access to broadband. In a time when more and more people communicate, learn, and work over the internet, it has never been more important to ensure every community has quality access to broadband,” said Portman. “The BRIDGE Act is designed to help underserved areas rapidly achieve broadband access, so that we may close the digital divide in this country.”
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
On Fox News, Portman Discusses Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, Biden-Putin Summit
On Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto, Senator Portman discussed the current bipartisan infrastructure negotiations being worked out by a bipartisan group of senators, with guest host Charles Payne. Last week the senators – five Republicans and five Democrats – released a statement after reaching an agreement on a framework to modernize America’s infrastructure. President Biden indicated recently that he is open to considering the deal.
Senator Portman also addressed the Biden-Putin summit, which just concluded today in Geneva, Switzerland. Portman said that he was pleased that Ukraine was included in the conversation and that Biden addressed concerns related to cybersecurity and to the wellbeing of Alexei Navalny – Russia’s opposition leader who is currently in jail in Russia. Portman urged the Biden administration to follow up their tough rhetoric with strong actions, something they have not done so far given their recent decision to waive sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The transcript of the interview can be found here and you can watch the interview here.
At Finance Hearing With Secretary Yellen, Portman Sets the Record Straight on Tax Reform
During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Portman addressed Committee Democrats’ erroneous claims about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) by highlighting the overwhelmingly positive and wide-ranging impact of the legislation.
Portman questioned Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen on the economic effects of the bill. And specifically, Portman noted how the TCJA bolstered the competitiveness of U.S companies, brought businesses and jobs back to America, led to historical levels of unemployment, and especially benefited minority and working class individuals.
A transcript of Senator Portman’s questioning can be found here and video can be found here.
On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Biden Administration to Take Action on Migrant and Illicit Narcotics Crisis at Southern Border
On the Senate floor, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, urged the Biden administration to take action on the ongoing migrant crisis at the southern border. In addition to the unprecedented number of individuals, children, and families attempting to enter the country unlawfully, illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, are also coming across the border and into the United States, resulting in an increase of overdose deaths.
Last week, Portman issued a statement after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics for May 2021 regarding the crisis at our southern border, highlighting that the surging numbers of illicit narcotics is a direct result of the Biden administration’s decision to dismantle the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications.
In March, Portman visited the southern border in El Paso, Texas, where he witnessed firsthand the ongoing crisis and spoke to Border Patrol agents about how smugglers were using vulnerable individuals, particularly families and unaccompanied children who require significant processing time, as a way to distract agents to allow them to then move large quantities of illicit narcotics into the United States
A transcript of the speech can be found here and a video can be found here.
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Portman, Hassan Introduce Bipartisan Pray Safe Act to Ensure Faith-Based Organizations and Houses of Worship Have Access to Key Information & Security Best Practices
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities. The Pray Safe Act is cosponsored by Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
“We must ensure that faith-based organizations and houses of worship have the resources, assistance, and training they need to secure their facilities in the face of unnecessary violence that has tragically become increasingly common,” said Senator Portman. “The threats and senseless attacks on faith-based organizations and houses of worship we’ve seen across our country are attacks on our values and this bipartisan legislation will give our faith-based institutions in Ohio and across our country the resources and information they need to protect themselves.”
Portman Announces $2.2 million in Federal Aviation Administration Grants to Ohio Airports Impacted by COVID-19
Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) award of more than $2.2 million to Ohio airports to provide economic relief from COVID-19.
The Airport Coronavirus Relief Program was created through the bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 relief package within the end-of-year spending agreement. Senator Portman played a key role in negotiating the legislation through the bipartisan 908 Coalition, which proposed a $908 billion package that included this critical relief for airports and served as a basis for the final package. These grants build upon the previously announced $30 million in federal grants.
“The aviation industry’s recovery is critical to our nation’s economy. During this pandemic, the sharp decline in air travel left the industry in an uncertain economic position,” said Portman. “I’m pleased to see this continued support for our airports as they ramp up services to meet the increasing demands of air travel as our country continues on the path to recovery.”
Portman, Brown, Coons Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Honor Otto Warmbier and Counter North Korea’s Repressive Censorship and Surveillance State
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act, bipartisan legislation that provides $10 million annually for the next five years to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state, while also encouraging sanctions on those that enable this repressive information environment both in and outside of North Korea.
The bill is named after Otto Warmbier, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native who was wrongfully imprisoned by the brutal North Korean regime and died as a result of the injuries he sustained while in custody. This Saturday, June 19th, is the fourth anniversary of Otto’s passing.
“Otto Warmbier was the best of America, the Midwest, and Cincinnati,” said Portman. “He died an unjust death and this legislation will helps ensure that his memory lives on and that the brutal regime responsible for his death is held accountable for this and its myriad of other human rights abuses.”
New Portman-Cardin Retirement Security Legislation Receives Widespread Praise
In a new op-ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Senator Portman remembers the life of Otto Warmbier, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native who was wrongly imprisoned by the brutal North Korean regime and died as a result of the injuries he sustained while in custody. This Saturday, June 19th, is the fourth anniversary of Otto’s passing.
Portman in his op-ed discusses the responsibility of the United States to hold North Korea accountable for their crimes against Otto, its own citizens, and all others whom they have unjustly treated. To do so, Senator Portman introduced bipartisan legislation named in Otto’s honor to provide funding to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state, while also encouraging sanctions on those that enable this repressive information environment both in and outside of North Korea.
The full op-ed can be found here.
Four years later, we must continue to pursue justice for Otto Warmbier
Otto Frederick Warmbier was a young man of great spirit, intellect and promise. He was the best of America, the Midwest and Cincinnati, Ohio. He died an unjust death four years ago Saturday at the hands of the brutal dictatorial regime in North Korea. We must ensure that his memory lives on and that the brutal regime responsible for his death is held accountable for this and its myriad of other human rights abuses.
Born and raised in Cincinnati and the salutatorian of Wyoming High School, Otto went on to the University of Virginia, where he was a double major in commerce and economics. During a cultural trip to North Korea, he was unjustly arrested in early January 2016 on trumped-up subversion charges.
He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor and became the victim of gross human rights abuses and severe mistreatment by North Korean authorities. When he was finally returned to America, 17 months after his unjust imprisonment, he was in an unresponsive state and died as a result of injuries six days later in Cincinnati, his family by his side.
The treatment of Otto Warmbier is outrageous, and unfortunately so is the treatment of so many others by the North Korean regime.
The human rights abuses detailed in the latest State Department report on North Korea include “unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government; forced disappearances by the government; torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment by government authorities.”
In recognition of what happened to Otto, working with his family, Congress passed, and former President Trump signed into law, bipartisan legislation named after Otto that imposes mandatory sanctions on the foreign banks and companies that facilitate illicit financial transactions for North Korea. It is one more important step in holding North Korea accountable for their actions and human rights abuses.
In Otto’s memory, I will continue to do what I can to sanction North Korea’s repressive regime. This week I introduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Chris Coons (D-DE) to help combat North Korea’s repressive surveillance measures and ensure the North Korean people have access to free and fair media.
We have a responsibility to hold those in power in North Korea accountable for oppressing their citizens through surveillance and censorship. To do so, our bill instructs the State Department to investigate the key individuals, groups and government entities inside and outside North Korea that are responsible for aiding this systematic oppression. It then encourages the U.S. government to impose strict sanctions on any such entities, as well as deny and revoke their travel visas to the United States, and block them from owning property on U.S. soil. This will send a strong message that North Korea will pay a price for the abusive surveillance and censorship of their own citizens.
Part of North Korea’s strategy for repressing its people is to deprive them of information a free press provides. Our bill will combat this by requiring the president to lead an interagency effort involving the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury and others to develop a comprehensive approach to dismantling the North Korean censorship regime. To support this effort, our bill will also provide the needed resources over the next five years to make needed investments in critical initiatives. These include developing new ways to get truthful information to the North Korean people, protecting those who share information on North Korea while living within its borders, and rebuilding damaged broadcast infrastructure to allow for more robust programming.
Otto’s parents, Fred and Cindy, have channeled their grief into constructive efforts to use his death to expose the human rights abuses of this North Korean dictatorship. I commend them for doing so. My hope is Congress and the Biden administration will follow their lead and continue to work in a bipartisan way to hold North Korea accountable.
Bipartisan infrastructure group swells to 21 senators
A bipartisan senators’ group working on a $1 trillion infrastructure compromise more than doubled in size to 21 members Wednesday, a key threshold that gives momentum to their effort as President Joe Biden returns from overseas at a pivotal time for his big legislative priority.
Biden told reporters he had yet to see the emerging proposal from the group but remained hopeful a bipartisan agreement could be reached, despite weeks of on-again, off-again talks over his more robust $1.7 billion American Jobs Plan.
“I’m still hoping we can put together the two bookends here,” Biden said as he prepared to depart Geneva after attending a summit of European leaders.
The administration dispatched top White House advisers for back-to-back meetings on Capitol Hill while the president was away. Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress are proceeding on a two-track strategy — seeking a bipartisan bill while preparing to go it alone if Republicans try to block the investments with a filibuster in the Senate.
The administration officials huddled late Wednesday in the Capitol basement with the Democratic senators in the bipartisan group, grinding through details of the proposal. On Tuesday, the White House team shored up restless House Democrats eager for momentum on a shared domestic priority with the president.
Ahead of Wednesday’s late afternoon session, the 20 senators issued a joint statement backing the emerging bipartisan proposal, doubling their ranks in a show of momentum as Biden is expected to re-engage at home. The list was later updated to 21.
The number is significant: With 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats the group for the first time shows the potential for a bipartisan accord that could theoretically reach the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, which is now evenly split 50-50, that’s needed to advance bills.
“We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs without raising taxes,” the senators said. “We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to develop legislation based on this framework to address America’s critical infrastructure challenges.”
At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer convened a private meeting of the Democratic senators on the Budget Committee to set the groundwork for a process that would allow majority passage of the package, without the need for Republican votes. Initial votes could start in July.
“There was universal agreement we have a lot of things we have to do to help the American people and we have to have unity to do it,” Schumer told reporters afterward. “Good first meeting.”
Biden has proposed a historic investment in U.S. infrastructure, spending that goes beyond roads and bridges to include efforts to fight climate change and to shore up what the White House calls the human infrastructure of everyday life — child care centers, veterans hospitals, community colleges and elder care.
Together, the American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan make up a wish-list of Democratic priorities that most Republicans say are investments that go far beyond what they are comfortable spending.
As an alternative, the bipartisan group is eyeing a scaled-back nearly $1 trillion proposal that includes about $579 billion in new spending, including $110 billion on roads and highways, $66 billion on passenger and freight rail and $48 billion on public transit, according a Republican who requested anonymity to discuss the package. There’s another $47 billion on resiliency efforts to fight climate change and money for electric vehicle charging stations.
Biden has proposed raising taxes on corporations, from 21% to 28%, to fund the jobs plan, and increasing taxes on wealthy Americans earning more than $400,000 for the other investments — tax hikes Republicans flatly oppose.
Instead, the bipartisan group suggests tapping $120 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief funds and $315 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program that was designed to help businesses pay workers during the coronavirus lockdowns. They also proposed going after tax dodgers by bolstering the Internal Revenue Service.
One source of contention in the bipartisan group is over a proposal to hike gas taxes by linking future increases to inflation — an idea many other Democrats oppose and that goes against Biden’s vow not to tax Americans earning less than $400,000. The bipartisan group was also eyeing a fee on electric vehicle users.
The bipartisan group includes some of the most watched members of the Senate, some known for reaching across the aisle or bucking their party to strike deals.
The Republicans are Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana.
On the Democratic side are Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Warner of Virginia and Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.
Senators appeared upbeat over the prospect that talks on the two tracks could progress — one not precluding the other, as Biden tries to secure a big legislative achievement.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said the Budget Committee was unified in putting together a package that “gives us a latitude to do what we need to do — we can shrink it if there’s a bipartisan deal, we could do the broader deal if there isn’t.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who is chairman of the Budget Committee, told reporters that lawmakers “have an enormous amount of work in front of us.”