Rob’s Rundown: Week of September 27 - October 1, 2021
Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where, on Wednesday, he delivered remarks on the Senate floor explaining how the Democrats’ plan for massive tax hikes to pay for their $3.5 trillion reconciliation package will hurt the 32 million small businesses that play a pivotal role in driving America’s economic prosperity. Portman joined FOX Business’ Varney & Co on Thursday morning to discuss his concerns with the Democrats’ spending bill, which he said will hurt the economy, job creation, and working families who are already paying higher prices at the pump and in grocery stores because of surging inflation. Portman also touted the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act and called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead by passing this historic piece of legislation.
On Wednesday, Ohio Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Sima Merick agreed with Portman at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing that the $1 billion investment in Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program or the BRIC Program, which helps fund mitigation efforts, included in the bipartisan infrastructure package would increase preparedness and help save lives.
Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor Thursday in support of his amendment with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) to the continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 3, which would require that Afghan evacuees follow normal vetting procedures prior to receiving REAL ID driver’s licenses. The amendment vote failed and thus the amendment was not made to the continuing resolution, resulting in Portman’s decision to vote against the final package.
After listening to Congressional testimony from our nation’s top military commanders regarding the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Portman issued a statement on Wednesday calling on President Biden to clearly explain to the American people exactly why he chose not to follow the advice he received from his military commanders.
In addition, Portman penned an op-ed for the Dayton Daily News outlining the evolving threats to U.S. homeland security 20 years after 9/11. Portman highlighted how the catastrophic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, leaving the Taliban in charge with United Nations-blacklisted terrorists serving in its highest ranks, has increased the threat to the United States. In addition, Portman discussed the ongoing crisis at the southern border and detailed how the United States has experienced an increase of large-scale cyberattacks from nation-states and criminals.
Portman also introduced bipartisan legislation on Monday to require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) if they experience a cyberattack, and most entities to report if they make a ransomware payment. The bill will improve federal agencies’ understanding of how to best combat cyberattacks, help our nation hold hackers accountable for targeting American networks, and bolster the federal government’s ability to help prevent these attacks from further compromising national security and disrupting the lives and livelihoods of Americans.
Finally, Portman issued a statement regarding Marine LtCol Stuart Scheller, a Cincinnati native who was incarcerated early Monday for violating a gag order after he posted videos criticizing the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan. He is currently not facing charges but is being held in the brig in pretrial confinement in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He has made it clear he wishes to resign from the Marine Corps. Portman said that he believes “it is in his and the Marine Corps’ best interests to allow him to resign with an honorable discharge.”
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, September 27, 2021
Portman, Peters Bipartisan Bill to Improve Transparency of Federal Spending Signed into Law
Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that their bipartisan Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act, which helps make information about how the federal government is spending taxpayer dollars more accessible to the public, has been signed into law. The new law will improve government transparency by requiring federal agencies to publish easily understandable justifications for their budget requests on a single, central website each year. Congressional budget justifications are plain-language explanations of how agencies propose to spend money that they request from Congressional appropriators. U.S. Representatives James Comer (R-KY) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) led the legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Ohioans and all Americans should be able to easily evaluate how the federal government is spending their hard-earned tax dollars,” said Senator Portman. “I’m proud the bipartisan Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act was signed into law today as it will improve federal government transparency by requiring federal agencies to publish their annual budget justifications on a centralized website. Americans deserve transparency when it comes to the government spending their tax dollars.”
Portman, Colleagues Introduce Comprehensive Afghanistan Legislation
Portman joined 21 of his colleagues in introducing the Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act, legislation to address the outstanding issues related to the administration’s rushed and disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Joining Portman as original cosponsors are Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jim Risch (R-ID), Todd Young (R-IN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), John Thune (R-SD), Rick Scott (R-FL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Boozman (R-AR), John Hoeven (R-ND), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Roger Marshall (R-KS).
“This is an important measure that will increase oversight and accountability over the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Said Portman. “I remain concerned over the increasing threats to the homeland now that Afghanistan can once again be used as a launching ground for international terrorism. This bill begins to chart a better path forward on a new counterterrorism strategy while ensuring that we learn from the mistakes from our withdrawal from Afghanistan so something like that never happens again.”
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Portman Emphasizes Importance of Protecting Whistleblowers to Merit System Protection Board Nominees
Portman and fellow Senate Republicans, including every Republican member of the Senate Committee on Finance and Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to abandon the Biden administration’s unprecedented proposal to expand the reporting of the private, confidential financial data of law-abiding Americans from financial institutions to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The administration’s proposal would force financial institutions to report customer information such as gross inflow and outflow information and transaction information directly to the IRS. Full text of the letter can be found here.
“This proposal represents a radical departure from existing reporting requirements associated with national security and actual taxable events,” the senators wrote. “Placing more requirements on financial institutions would not only adversely affect these institutions and their customers – who ultimately pay the price for compliance costs – but it would also inundate the IRS with layers of new paperwork and taxpayer data that is either redundant or irrelevant to improving federal tax compliance, as account inflows and outflows are not taxable events. Simply flooding the IRS with more data and burdening taxpayers, financial institutions, and already overwhelmed IRS service centers with more paperwork is of questionable value, especially when the IRS does not effectively use data already in its possession.
Portman Emphasizes Importance of Protecting Whistleblowers to Merit System Protection Board Nominees
Portman sent a letter to Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, asking them to support workers by combining the reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) with other proposals to strengthen U.S. trade remedy law and expand opportunities for Made in America exports. Democrats have proposed to ram through TAA reauthorization on a partisan basis without comprehensive reforms to support U.S. jobs, especially from unfair competition with China. The letter can be found here.
“…Congress should pass trade policies to expand the number of good paying jobs in the United States, and reduce the threats to those jobs from unfair competition abroad,” said Portman. “The best chance for that is to reauthorize TAA as part of a bipartisan trade reform package. I stand ready to work with Democrats and Republicans to make such a package a reality because I believe it is something we owe the American worker. I thank you for your consideration of this request and look forward to working with you to build upon the Trade Act of 2021 by adding new provisions to strengthen our trade remedy laws, open overseas markets by providing trade negotiating authority, and to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance this year.”
Portman, Shaheen Introduce Bill to Strengthen U.S.-Eastern European Cooperation On Cyber & Telecommunications Infrastructure to Counter China’s Influence
Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Transatlantic Telecommunication Security Act (TTSA), which would strengthen European telecommunications infrastructure by helping key allies in the region build 5G networks. The bill would incentivize investments in non-Huawei 5G equipment and help federal agencies – like the State Department and U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) – improve the security of telecommunications systems against emerging threats, including those posed by China and Russia.
“The United States must prioritize and expedite efforts to improve the security of European telecommunications networks – it is critical that countries in Central and Eastern Europe have the support they need to safeguard democracy by having a free and open internet,” said Portman. “Allowing Communist China to invest in Europe’s 5G networks and implement their standards would undermine democratic institutions and threaten multiple countries’ national security. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to pass this legislation swiftly.”
Portman, Peters Introduce Bipartisan Legislation Requiring Critical Infrastructure Entities to Report Cyberattacks
Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) if they experience a cyberattack, and most entities to report if they make a ransomware payment. The bill will improve federal agencies’ understanding of how to best combat cyberattacks, help our nation hold hackers accountable for targeting American networks, and bolster the federal government’s ability to help prevent these attacks from further compromising national security and disrupting the lives and livelihoods of Americans. Portman and Peters are also drafting separate legislation that will update the Federal Information Security Modernization Act – including requiring federal agencies and contractors to report when they are hit by cyberattacks.
“As cyber and ransomware attacks continue to increase, the federal government must be able to quickly coordinate a response and hold these bad actors accountable,” said Senator Portman. “This bipartisan bill will give the National Cyber Director, CISA, and other appropriate agencies broad visibility into the cyberattacks taking place across our nation on a daily basis to enable a whole-of-government response, mitigation, and warning to critical infrastructure and others of ongoing and imminent attacks. This bill strikes a balance between getting information quickly and letting victims respond to an attack without imposing burdensome requirements.”
Portman, Sinema Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Suicide Risk Among Servicemembers
Senators Rob Portman and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the Military Suicide Prevention in the 21st Century Act — bipartisan legislation that authorizes a pilot program directing the Department of Defense (DOD) to download Virtual Hope Box, a behavioral health application, onto DOD-issued smart devices (including phones, computers, and tablets) and to use the application during suicide-prevention training. In 2014, the Defense Health Agency created the application, which is scientifically proven to help users cope with unpleasant emotions and thoughts. Virtual Hope Box also includes an easily accessible contact list that users can reach out to for support, and is available for download by anyone with a smart device.
“Our servicemen and women deserve every tool possible to help them cope with any mental health challenges they might face,” said Senator Portman. “The Military Suicide Prevention in the 21st Century Act will establish a pilot program within the DOD to determine if a scientifically vetted smart phone application will have a substantial positive impact on service members’ behavioral health. As suicide rates among service members continue to rise, I encourage my colleagues in Congress to act now in order to do what we can to help counteract this harmful trend.”
Portman, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Advance W-GDP Initiative
Senators Rob Portman, Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Steve Daines (R-MT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Mike Braun (R-IN) have introduced legislation to codify the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative.
W-GDP, which was established in February 2019 as a groundbreaking, whole-of-government approach to advancing women’s economic empowerment, reached 12 million women worldwide during its first year and seeks to reach 50 million women by 2025. Yet, the Biden administration is proposing to eliminate this program in favor of a new initiative focusing on climate change and other vaguely described goals, rather than promoting economic opportunity for women.
“I am pleased to cosponsor this important legislation to codify the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, an initiative I have supported since its inception in 2019. The W-GDP does critical work, striving to reach tens of millions of women in developing countries in order to help them prosper in the workforce, succeed as entrepreneurs, and have a meaningful foothold in their economies,” said Senator Portman. “Congress must act immediately to pass this legislation, and in so doing, reaffirm our commitment to advancing the interest of women and girls around the world.”
Portman, Senate Co-Sponsors Laud House Passage of EQUAL Act
Senators Rob Portman, Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bipartisan Senate sponsors of the EQUAL Act, issued the below statement following the passage of the EQUAL Act in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 361-66:
“Today, House Republicans and Democrats joined together in passing the EQUAL Act, legislation that will once and for all eliminate the unjust federal crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Enjoying broad support from faith groups, civil rights organizations, law enforcement, and people of all political backgrounds, this commonsense bill will help reform our criminal justice system so that it better lives up to the ideals of true justice and equality under the law. We applaud the House for its vote today and we urge our colleagues in the Senate to support this historic legislation.”
Portman Announces $54 Million in Federal Grants to Benefit Community Mental Health Centers Across Ohio
Portman announced that The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded $54 million in federal grants to Community Mental Health Centers across Ohio.
These grants will continue to support and expand access to mental health and behavioral support as Americans continue to confront the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to SAMHSA, the funding comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2021 and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement (CRRS) Act of 2021.
“These grants are great news for Ohio. The social isolation and increased anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated many of the issues Ohioans face that can negatively impact mental health,” said Portman. “These SAMHSA grants will help many treatment facilities across Ohio as they continue their good work of helping individuals, and helping people to get on a path to long-term recovery.”
Beer Institute Names Senator Rob Portman as 2021 Beer Champion
The Beer Institute announced U.S. Senator Rob Portman as one of its “2021 Beer Champions” for his instrumental leadership in supporting federal policies that aid the success of U.S. brewers and beer importers. The Beer Institute recognized Portman for his leadership in the Senate, especially on the Senate Finance Committee, which was instrumental in providing long-term tax relief for brewers and beer importers through permanency of the tax provisions in the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which he cosponsored.
“I’m honored to be selected as one of the Beer Institute’s 2021 Beer Champions,” said Portman. “Ohio is fifth in the nation in craft beer production, and the beer industry supports 71,000 Ohio jobs. I’ve visited many breweries across the state, heard about the needs and challenges facing this growing industry, and tasted some of the impressive products that come from local Ohio businesses. The provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act helped the brewing industry by lowering its excise tax burden. I’m incredibly pleased with the positive results we have seen over the last few years, which is why I cosponsored the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act and helped lead efforts to make this excise tax relief for America’s brewers and beer importers permanent. I’ll continue working to represent the interests of the Ohioans I represent and the many breweries across the Buckeye State.”
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Portman Highlights Importance of Natural Disaster Preparedness
Portman highlighted the importance of properly preparing for natural disasters at a hearing titled “Addressing the Threat of Worsening Natural Disasters.”
Portman discussed the importance of local responders, who are usually first on the scene when disaster strikes, and how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relies on local preparedness as a part of its emergency management strategy. Portman showcased how in 2019 after severe storms and tornadoes touched down in Southwest Ohio, lives were saved thanks to the preparedness of local responders like Sima Merick, Executive Director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, who led the response in 2019 when the tornadoes hit, and was a witness at today’s hearing.
Portman discussed how he traveled to Dayton, Ohio and toured the damaged areas the morning after the storm and saw the devastation firsthand. Portman also mentioned how he met with Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck and other first responders in Dayton after the storm, where they were conducting operations and assessing some of the damage. Finally, Portman discussed his visit to an American Red Cross shelter that was quickly set up to ensure that those who were impacted by the tornadoes had access to food, water, and shelter.
Portman, Coons Recognize 25th Anniversary of Radio Free Asia
Senators Rob Portman and Chris Coons (D-DE), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a resolution recognizing the 25th anniversary of Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) inaugural broadcast into China and its mission to provide an independent source of news to closed societies in Asia. In the House, a similar resolution will soon be introduced by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Steve Chabot.
“I am pleased to sponsor this bipartisan resolution with Senator Coons, commending Radio Free Asia on its continued work in providing a free flow of information in South and East Asia,” said Senator Portman. “For the past 25 years, Radio Free Asia has delivered balanced and objective reporting to countries where freedom of the press is only an idea. Their work is critical to combating the deception and falsehoods spread by authoritarian regimes and violent non-state actors, and I appreciate their continued efforts to combat anti-democratic influences in the region.”
Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Help Law Enforcement Investigate Fentanyl, Protect Officers
Portman joined his colleagues in introducing the Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation designed to provide state and local law enforcement with high-tech devices to detect and identify dangerous drugs like fentanyl. The POWER Act would establish a new grant program through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to help state and local law enforcement organizations secure these high-tech, portable screening devices, the same high-tech screening devices secured for Customs and Border Protection agents in the INTERDICT Act, which former President Trump signed into law in 2018.
Along with Portman, the POWER Act is cosponsored by: Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Cotton (R-AR) Michael Bennet (D-CO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). U.S. Representatives Conor Lamb (D-PA) and David Joyce have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Fentanyl continues to devastate families and communities in Ohio and across the country, made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress must continue to give law enforcement and other first responders the tools they need to detect and stop fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. The POWER Act is another important step forward in this effort,” said Senator Portman.
Portman Op-Ed in Dayton Daily News: I Will Continue to Press Biden Administration to Take Necessary Steps to Protect Our Homeland
In a new op-ed for the Dayton Daily News, Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, outlined the evolving threats to U.S. homeland security 20 years after 9/11.
Portman highlighted how the catastrophic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan leaving the Taliban in charge, with United Nations blacklisted terrorists serving in its highest ranks, has increased the threat to the United States. Portman also reiterated his support for the resettlement of Afghans who stood in battle with the United States over the last 20 years and all Afghan evacuees who pass rigorous vetting.
In addition, Portman discusses the ongoing crisis at the southern border due to the Biden administration’s decision to dismantle the previous administration’s border policies with no replacement or consideration of the consequences, which has resulted in a historic surge of unlawful migrants, unaccompanied children, and deadly narcotics like fentanyl coming into our country.
Finally, Portman detailed how the United States has experienced an increase of large-scale cyberattacks from nation-states criminals. Portman also outlined how China poses a threat to our homeland as it continues to recruit U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property for China’s military and economic gain.
The full op-ed can be found here.
Emergency Management Expert Supports Bipartisan Infrastructure’s $1 Billion Investment in Mitigation Funding Which Will Increase Preparedness & Help Save Lives
Sima Merick, President of the National Emergency Managers Association and Executive Director Ohio Emergency Management Agency, agreed with U.S. Senator Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that the $1 billion investment in Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program or the BRIC Program included in the bipartisan infrastructure package would increase preparedness and help save lives. Portman led efforts to craft and pass the bipartisan infrastructure package in the Senate, and it now awaits action in the House of Representatives.
Portman also heard from state-local experts on how Congress can better assist with natural disaster preparedness efforts. John S. Butler, Second Vice President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and Fire Chief, Fairfax County, Virginia, highlighted how Portman’s bipartisan National Urban Search & Rescue Response System Act, which passed Congress in 2016, has worked well to enhance compensation and protections for Urban Search and Rescue teams and require FEMA to finance and replace certain equipment. Chief Butler explained that more funding is needed to meet the demands of increasing natural disasters.
Finally, Portman heard from Director Merick about how Ohioans and all Americans can better prepare in order to avoid situations that would require rescue, like having an action plan and communicating with first responders if your home has a safe room.
Portman Statement on Afghanistan Testimony by Military Officials
Portman released the following statement today regarding testimony of top military officials in the Biden administration before Congress, contradicting statements from President Biden regarding the administration’s plan to fully withdraw from Afghanistan by August 31:
“I strongly disagreed with President Biden’s decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan and always believed that any withdrawal should have been based on conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary, politically driven timeline. As we recently witnessed from the poorly planned and poorly executed withdrawal, it was only due to the bravery of our service members and diplomats in Kabul that we were able to evacuate a portion of our American citizens and Afghan allies. The Biden administration placed these brave men and women in an impossible situation as a result of their faulty strategic planning and adherence to an exit strategy that was not coordinated with our allies and ignored the realities in Afghanistan.
“Yesterday at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and the Commander of United States Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, testified under oath that it was their judgment that the U.S. should maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. Yet on August 19, President Biden told ABC News that he did not recall his military commanders recommending that he keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
“After listening to the testimony from our nation’s top military commanders regarding the disastrous withdrawal, I am even more troubled because General Milley and McKenzie’s statements directly contradict President Biden’s claims. It is important that the President clearly explain to the American people exactly what advice he received from his commanders and why he chose not to follow it. Regardless, the President must take full responsibility for the reckless decision to withdraw forces based on an arbitrary deadline in contradiction to the advice of those advising him on military matters.
“While it is always the President’s prerogative to decide which military advice to accept and which to reject, the President must provide an accurate accounting of the decision process which led to this outcome. He is ultimately accountable for the rushed and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan that resulted in the loss of 13 American service members, including Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak from Berlin Heights, Ohio. It is deeply disappointing that members of this administration have pointed to the events in August of this year as a success. As General Milley himself stated in his testimony, this evacuation was ‘a strategic failure.’ This process and outcome is not a model for future administrations to follow.”
On Senate Floor, Portman Discusses How Democrats’ Tax Hikes Will Hurt Small Businesses
On the Senate floor, Portman joined his colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee in explaining how the Democrats’ plan for massive tax hikes to pay for their $3.5 trillion reconciliation package will hurt the 32 million small businesses that help drive the economy.
Portman highlighted how increases to the income tax, combined with the repeal of the Section 199A small business deduction and other anti-small business tax provisions will result in the average small business paying a tax rate of about 48 percent compared to the current average rate of about 29 percent. Portman also discussed how a new information reporting requirement that would make financial institutions report the inflow and outflow of money from accounts would serve to create added confusion for small businesses looking to file their taxes.
At a time when economic trends are uncertain given workforce shortages, supply chain issues, the COVID Delta variant, and other factors, Portman believes these massive tax hikes are the wrong policy for our economy.
Thursday, September 30, 2021
On Fox Business, Portman Discusses Democrats’ Reckless Spending Priorities, Calls For Passage of Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Senator Portman joined FOX Business’ Varney & Co to discuss his concerns with the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill, which will hurt the economy, job creation, and working families who are already paying higher prices at the pump and in grocery stores because of surging inflation. Portman also touted the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act and called on his colleagues in the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead by passing this historic piece of legislation.
Portman also discussed his amendment with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) to the continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 3 which would require that Afghan evacuees follow normal vetting procedures prior to receiving REAL ID driver’s licenses.
The REAL ID program was one of the top recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to enhance security on commercial airlines & in federal facilities. This amendment would protect national security by requiring that Afghan parolees not be exempted from the federal REAL ID requirements.
The amendment also places a responsible eighteen-month time limit on housing, food, and medical benefits for Afghan parolees. Under current law, Afghans who helped our forces in Afghanistan only receive those same benefits for a maximum of eight months. Finally, the amendment mandates that the Department of Homeland Security conduct interviews of Afghan asylum applicants quickly. You can watch the interview here.
Portman: We Must Ensure National Security Through Proper Vetting Prior to Giving REAL ID Driver’s Licenses for Afghan Evacuees
Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor in support of his amendment with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) to the continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 3, which would require that Afghan evacuees follow normal vetting procedures prior to receiving REAL ID driver’s licenses. This would allow them to board commercial airplanes and enter federal facilities and military bases. The REAL ID program was created to enhance security on commercial airlines and in federal facilities after 9/11. This amendment would protect national security by requiring that Afghan parolees not be exempted from the federal REAL ID requirements. The amendment also places a responsible 18-month time limit on housing, food, and medical benefits for Afghan parolees. Under current law, Afghan evacuees with special immigrant visas who helped our forces in Afghanistan only receive those same benefits for a maximum of eight months. Finally, the amendment mandates that the Department of Homeland Security conduct expeditious adjudication of Afghan asylum applications. The amendment vote failed and thus the amendment was not made to the continuing resolution, resulting in Portman’s decision to vote against the final package.
Portman supports the resettlement of Afghans who stood in battle with the U.S. over the last 20 years, but the administration has not provided the Senate answers on the screening, vetting, and status of the vast majority of the evacuees who were paroled into the U.S. and whether they have worked with us or our allies. Portman has repeatedly requested a classified member briefing on the vetting and screening procedures for Afghan evacuees since September 1, and the administration has not yet provided that briefing to ensure the Senate has the information it needs to perform oversight and address the administration’s legislative requests. A transcript of his remarks can be found here.
Portman, Whitehouse Continue Recovery Leadership with Introduction of Excellence in Recovery Housing Act
Senators Rob Portman and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) — authors of the groundbreaking Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and CARA 2.0 laws — have introduced the Excellence in Recovery Housing Act, to boost the availability of housing nationwide for those in recovery from substance use disorder. The framework for this bipartisan legislation was included in CARA 3.0 and would help to expand the supply of recovery housing, coordinate the government’s efforts to provide recovery housing, and study and promote the adoption of best practices for housing agencies and other housing providers.
“In recent years we have made progress in fighting the scourge of addiction thanks to resources from the bipartisan CARA and CARA 2.0 laws, in addition to other bipartisan efforts in Congress. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must redouble our efforts to combat addiction and help those who are struggling with addiction to maintain recovery. Stable housing is an instrumental part of achieving long-term recovery and I am glad to work with my colleagues to promote more access to high-quality recovery housing,” said Portman.
Portman, Brown Applaud Historic Nominations for Position of U.S. Federal District Court Judge for the Northern District Of Ohio
Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today applauded the nominations of Ms. Bridget Meehan Brennan, Mr. Charles Esque Fleming, and Judge David Augustin Ruiz by President Biden to serve as U.S. Federal District Court Judges for the Northern District of Ohio. The Northern District has court locations in Akron, Cleveland, Toledo, and Youngstown. It serves over six million Ohioans in the 40 most northern counties in Ohio. The nominees must now be confirmed by the full U.S. Senate.
Portman and Brown praised the three nominees for their distinct career achievements:
“Ms. Brennan has served the Northern District of Ohio with distinction in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and will continue to do so as a federal judge,” said Senator Portman. “She has earned a strong reputation for her even-handed approach, work ethic, and commitment to the rule of law.”
Portman, Brown Thank Members of Ohio Bipartisan Judicial Advisory Commission
Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today expressed their gratitude to the members of the bipartisan judicial advisory commission that assisted them with identifying the best candidates to fill recent vacancies on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The Northern District has court locations in Akron, Cleveland, Toledo and Youngstown. It serves over 6 million Ohioans in the 40 most northern counties in Ohio.
“The members of this bipartisan commission provided informed and constructive counsel in recommending candidates to serve as Ohio’s Northern District federal judges. We thank them for their time and dedicated service,” said the Senators.
Senators’ Statement on House of Representatives’ Failure to Meet Deadline to Vote on Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Senators Rob Portman, Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) issued the following statement after Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed the vote on the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“While we are disappointed the House of Representatives did not meet its deadline to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we remain hopeful the House will come together in a spirit of bipartisanship just as the Senate did and pass this important piece of legislation. This bill is critically important to modernizing and upgrading everything from our roads and bridges to broadband and increasing the resiliency of the nation’s electrical grid. It will strengthen our economy over the long term and have a positive impact on the lives of every single American. It deserves the strong support of both parties.”
As we mark 20 years since 9/11, it’s important to note how the threats to our nation have evolved. In 2001, it was the Taliban who provided a safe haven for al Qaeda in Afghanistan to launch a devastating attack on our homeland, killing nearly 3,000 people. As our nation became all too aware, we needed to take the fight to the terrorists overseas so they could not bring their fight here ever again. We needed a new security architecture to keep us safe – which included the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
To a large degree, we have been successful. We have not had a mass casualty foreign terrorist attack on American soil during those intervening 20 years. The reason for that success is not because the terrorists have stopped trying. It is thanks to our armed forces, intelligence community, and law enforcement that we have succeeded in stopping those terrorists. However, on August 31, the last American troops withdrew hastily from Afghanistan and the Taliban, once again, took back the government of Afghanistan.
The new Taliban looks very much like the old Taliban, with terrorists on the United Nations Security Council’s blacklist at its highest ranks. In fact, the leader of the Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization which maintains close ties to al Qaeda and cooperates with ISIS-K, was named the acting Interior Minister. This means the Taliban official in charge of combating terrorism was on the FBI’s most-wanted list.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) have already moved up the timeline of when terror groups operating in Afghanistan are likely to threaten the homeland to within one to two years. The DIA noted that is a conservative estimate. The catastrophic way the Biden administration withdrew from Afghanistan, surprising our NATO allies, and abandoning our Afghan allies, has left us without eyes and ears on the ground. It has also signaled to the world that the United States is an unreliable partner.
Due to the chaos at the Karzai airport, many were left behind, including some American citizens and more afghans who helped us. But it is also true that many who did get evacuated do not have a record of working with the U.S. government or our partners, and yet, are not being subject to normal vetting procedures. I believe we have a moral responsibility to welcome the Afghan evacuees who have stood by us and who have had to flee their country because of threats from the Taliban. We also have a moral responsibility to ensure the safety and security of American citizens by doing the proper vetting so we are not releasing the wrong people into our communities. I am disappointed that the administration has not been transparent about their vetting procedures, even as we are told that evacuees are being resettled in our states. We cannot do proper oversight without basic information.
The broader threat landscape has evolved since 9/11. We face an elevated terrorist threat from domestic and homegrown violent extremists, including lone actors. We have experienced a slew of large-scale cyberattacks from both nation-states and criminals. Meanwhile China continues to threaten our economy and security by continuing to recruit U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property for China’s economic and military gain.
Further, we cannot ignore the ongoing crisis at the southern border. President Biden’s decision to dismantle the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the consequences, and putting nothing in its place, has resulted in a historic surge of unlawful migrants, unaccompanied children, and deadly narcotics like fentanyl coming into our country. And make no mistake, the Mexican drug cartels are benefitting from this and gaining strength on both sides of the border. The trafficking of dangerous drugs across our border has helped fuel an addiction epidemic that has hit communities like Dayton particularly hard with overdose deaths increasing over the last year after we had made so much progress in saving lives before the pandemic.
As the lead Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, I will continue to insist that the Biden administration takes the necessary steps to protect our homeland by confronting the many national security threats we face.
Sen. Rob Portman has announced that the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center will be seeing funding through a new bill in the Senate.
The Senate's FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act will include more than one billion dollars in funding to upgrade the Abrams tank, and another one billion dollars for upgrading Stryker vehicles, both of which are manufactured at the JSMC.
The bill also includes 331 million dollars for the body of the Stryker vehicles to support the Army's Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense program.