US Senate News:
June 17, 2022 | Rob’s Rundown
Rob’s Rundown: Week of June 13 – June 17, 2022
Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where he spoke on the Senate floor for the 15th consecutive session week regarding the situation in Ukraine. Portman urged the administration to send more defensive weaponry to Ukraine, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS, which are superior to Russian artillery. Portman also noted that Ukrainian officials are pleading for help from the West for more aid and called for a diplomatic solution amongst allies in response to Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which is causing food shortages. Earlier this year, Senator Portman authored a letter to the State Department to highlight the plight of Ukrainian orphans and provide updates about how Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine is affecting these innocent lives.
On Tuesday, Senator Portman was honored with The International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award for his leadership work in global democracy with the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ambassador Oksana Markarova, who accepted on President Zelenskyy’s behalf, and USAID Administrator, Samantha Power.
Also on Tuesday, Portman led all Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Republicans in a letter to Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee requesting a hearing with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas regarding his misleading testimony before the Committee on May 4 on the Department of Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Board. Recent documents obtained by Senators Josh Hawley and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) contradict the Secretary’s sworn testimony before the Committee on May 4, 2022 on the nature and scope of the Disinformation Governance Board and Portman led the senators in calling for the Chairman of the Committee to provide the oversight and transparency the American public deserves.
On Wednesday, Senator Portman hosted Ukraine Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova and members of the Ukrainian Parliament so that they could brief members of the Senate Ukraine Caucus on the latest events regarding Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and how the U.S. Senate can continue to better support our ally through military, economic and humanitarian assistance. Portman co-chairs the Senate Ukraine Caucus with Senator Dick Durbin.
Thursday, Senator Portman joined CNBC’s Squawk Box to discuss the Federal Reserve’s latest interest rate hike. Senator Portman also made numerous suggestions on how to make headway in combatting record high prices and soaring inflation.
Thursday evening on the Senate floor, Senator Portman praised the Senate passage of the bipartisan legislation named in honor of Otto Warmbier. The Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent less than a week before the five-year anniversary of Otto Warmbier’s death. This legislation, introduced last June and reported favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October, 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 who enable this repressive information environment both in and outside of North Korea.
Finally, Portman released a statement on the May CBP operational statistics which broke April’s record for the highest number of border encounters on record. Portman said the May numbers make it clear that this administration’s border crisis will soon be a catastrophe with the current influx of unlawful migrants. Portman expressed concern that the surge in illicit narcotics coming over our border also continues to endanger families in Ohio and throughout the country with more than 1,100 pounds of fentanyl seized last month.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, June 13, 2022
On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Additional Support for Ukraine,
Condemns Putin’s Port Blockade, War Crimes & Highlights Plight of Ukrainian Orphans
This evening, U.S. Senator Rob Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor in support of Ukraine for the 15th consecutive week while the Senate has been in session. Portman urged the administration to send more defensive weaponry to Ukraine, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS, which are superior to Russian artillery. Portman noted Ukrainian officials who pleaded for help from the West for more aid and called for a diplomatic solution amongst allies in response to Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which is causing food shortages.
Earlier this year, Portman authored a letter to the State Department to highlight the plight of Ukrainian orphans and provide updates about how Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine is affecting these innocent lives.
As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, Senator Portman has met numerous times with Ukrainian officials and is scheduled to meet with members of the Ukrainian Parliament, or the Rada, later this week to discuss how America can continue to support Ukraine in her time of need.
A video can be found here.
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Portman, Durbin, Ukraine Caucus Receive Updates From Members of the Ukrainian Parliament
U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chairs of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, hosted members of the Ukrainian Parliament so that they could brief members of the Caucus on the latest events regarding Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and how the U.S. Senate can continue to better support our ally through military, economic and humanitarian assistance. Ukrainian Parliament members in attendance included David Arakhamia, Yevheniia Kravchuk, Anastasiia Radina, Andriy Kostin, Oleksandra Ustinova, and Rustem Umerov. Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova was also in attendance. The discussion comes on the heels of the 100-day mark of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, which was June 7th.
“Thank you to the members of Ukraine’s parliament for meeting with us today and giving the caucus an important update on the situation on the ground in Ukraine. Two weeks ago we hit a grim milestone – 100 days of this brutal and unprovoked war. While Russia has not been able to claim victory like they thought they would, they are making incremental advances in the Donbas region and elsewhere. It is more important than ever to do everything in our power to help our ally Ukraine defeat Putin,” said Portman. “This will require the Biden administration to send additional weaponry more quickly. We must also work to end the blockade of Ukrainian ports immediately as the current situation is leading to food shortages around the world. Food should never be used as a weapon during wartime.”
Senator Portman continues to urge the Biden administration to send more defensive weaponry to Ukraine, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS, which are superior to Russian artillery, so that Ukraine can better push back on Russian advancements.
As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, Senator Portman has met with Ukrainian officials multiple times here in Washington and has traveled to Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe to hear from officials on the ground.
On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Portman Reacts to the Federal Reserve Raising Interest Rates, Historic Inflation, High Gas Prices
In an interview this morning with CNBC’s Squawk Box, Senator Portman reacted to the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates by 0.75 percent in an effort to combat soaring inflation in this country – an action Senator Portman says is too little, too late. Despite the economy doing well coming out of the pandemic, Democrats jammed through a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, which was also a major contributor to the historic inflation we see today. Coupled with the Biden administration’s policies from day one to hamper our oil and gas sector – leading to record high gas prices all around the country – this has put a strain on all American’s pocketbooks. Senator Portman made numerous suggestions on how to make headway in combating high prices and soaring inflation. First, we must not put any more stimulus in the economy. Second, deregulate wherever possible to allow the economy to flourish. Third, it would be beneficial to pass the USICA bill in Congress because it would be counter-inflationary if done properly – leading to an increase on the supply side.
Watch the interview here.
Portman Applauds Senate Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Support our Veterans
Bill Also Includes Portman/Brown Legislation to Increase Transparency for Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals
U.S. Senator Rob Portman applauded Senate passage of the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, bipartisan legislation to deliver all generations of toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – for the first time in the nation’s history. The legislation overwhelmingly passed the Senate with a vote of 84-14. It now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives and then the president’s desk for his signature.
The bill is named in honor of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, a central Ohio veteran who was deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard and passed away in 2020 as a result of his exposure to burn pits while deployed.
“We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude for the safety and freedom we enjoy every day. It is our duty to stand by them and ensure transparency in the tracking of illnesses connected to their service, specifically burn pit exposure. Today, I joined my colleagues in overwhelmingly voting to approve the SFC Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act – important bipartisan legislation to ensure that thousands of veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals while serving our country get the medical care and disability benefits they deserve,” said Portman. “I’m proud that this bill also includes bipartisan legislation I’ve worked on with Senator Brown to increase transparency by requiring the VA to regularly report to Congress on veterans who have been exposed to burn pits. I encourage the House to consider it immediately so the president may sign it into law.”
The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act of 2022 will:
Expand VA health care eligibility to Post-9/11 combat veterans, which includes more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed veterans;
Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions;
Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure;
Includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure;
Improve VA’s resources for toxic-exposed veterans and training for VA health care and benefits professionals; and
Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in:
VA claims processing;
VA’s workforce; and
VA health care facilities.
Includes Portman and Brown’s SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act, which would increase transparency by requiring the VA to document a veteran who may have been exposed to burn pits and provide regular reporting to Congress.
Senate Passes Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act
Legislation Authored by Portman, Brown and Coons Designed to Hold North Korea Accountable for Human Rights Abuses
Less than a week before the five-year anniversary of his death, U.S. Senators Rob Portman, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Chris Coons (D-DE) announced that their bipartisan legislation named in honor of Otto Warmbier, the Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act, passed the Senate by unanimous consent. This legislation, introduced last June and reported favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October, 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 who 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 June 19th will mark the five-year anniversary of Otto’s passing. Senator Portman honored Otto’s memory on the Senate Floor earlier today.
“I am pleased that the Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act has finally passed the Senate today,” said Portman. “Otto Warmbier was the best of America, the Midwest, and Cincinnati. This legislation will help ensure that his memory lives on and that the brutal regime responsible for his unjust death is held accountable for this and its myriad of other human rights abuses. I urge my colleagues in the House to consider this legislation right away so that we can get it to the president’s desk.”
The Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act directs:
No later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the president must develop and submit to Congress a strategy on combating North Korea’s repressive information environment;
That the president may impose sanctions with respect to each person identified in the Act, via the blocking of their property in the U.S. or subject to U.S. jurisdiction and via ineligibility for visas, admission, or parole; and
The United States Agency for Global Media receive $10 million for each of fiscal years 2022 through 2026 to provide increased broadcasting and grants for the following purposes:
To promote the development of internet freedom tools, technologies, and new approaches, including both digital and non-digital means of information sharing related to North Korea.
To explore public-private partnerships to counter North Korea’s repressive censorship and surveillance state.
To develop new means to protect the privacy and identity of individuals receiving media from the United States Agency for Global Media and other outside media outlets from within North Korea.
To bolster existing programming from the United States Agency for Global Media by restoring the broadcasting capacity of damaged antennas caused by Typhoon Yutu in 2018.
At Senate Foreign Relations Hearing, Portman Questions Biden Administration Nominees on Abraham Accords, Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman questioned three Biden administration nominees to serve as Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Ambassador to the State of Qatar, and Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues. Portman received a commitment that the Abraham Accords would be honored and expanded upon, especially given his legislation – the Israel Relations Normalization Act – was signed into law last March. He also spoke of the importance that the U.S. work closely with Qatar, as they prioritize selling liquefied natural gas to Europe during Russia’s war against Ukraine. In addition, he questioned whether a nominee would follow the letter of the law when it comes to using taxpayer money to perform abortions or to advocate for or against them, which the nominee said she would follow all statutory restrictions.
A video of Senator Portman’s questioning can be found here.
Friday, June 17, 2022
Portman Hails Unanimous Senate Passage of Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act
Legislation Authored by Portman, Brown Passes on Eve of Five-Year Anniversary of Warmbier’s Death
On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks hailing the unanimous Senate passage of bipartisan legislation, the Otto Warmbier North Korea Censorship and Surveillance Act. The legislation 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 who 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. Five years ago, Otto’s friends and family lives were forever changed. Otto died on June 19, 2017, at the age of 22. His parents, Fred and Cindy, have turned their grief into action to hold the North Koreans accountable for this atrocity.
A video can be found here.
Portman Joins Bipartisan Push to Sustain High-Level U.S. Military Engagement for Peace and Stability in Israel & the West Bank
Senator Rob Portman joined his Senate colleagues in urging for protection of a key U.S. military and diplomatic post in the Middle East. The bipartisan group of 32 senators sent a letter to the Biden administration, calling for them to maintain the United States Security Coordinator (USSC) position at the three-star rank in the face of reported plans to downgrade it to a non-general or flag officer.
Based in Jerusalem, the USSC serves as a crucial liaison between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and leads international coalition efforts in support of peace and stability. The USSC is a joint, international, interagency office with Department of Defense service members assigned to the State Department.
Axios reported earlier this month the Pentagon is considering downgrading the position to Colonel, which the senators warn would undermine U.S. national security and risk peace and stability in Israel and the West Bank.
“Given continued regional volatility, steadfast high-level U.S. leadership and engagement to support peace and stability in Israel and the West Bank remain in the national security interest of the United States,” the senators wrote. “Downgrading this position would undermine critical security programs and degrade communications between Israelis and Palestinians, which the USSC facilitates. Such a downgrade would also risk fracturing the U.S.-led international coalition committed to strengthening security and stability in Israel and the West Bank.”
Along with Portman, senators joining the letter included Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Kennedy (R-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
You can view the full letter here.
Portman, Shaheen Participate in Discussion Hosted by Dartmouth on Russia’s Unprovoked Invasion of Ukraine
Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and a Dartmouth College alumnus, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), chair of the SFRC Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, and a member of the bipartisan Ukraine Caucus, participated in a discussion hosted by Dartmouth on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The event, entitled, “The Defense of Ukraine: A Conversation with Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen,” was hosted by Professor Jason Barabas, who serves as Director of the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences at Dartmouth College, and moderated by Victoria Holt, Director of the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.