On CNBC, Portman Discusses Importance of Testing to Safely Reopen Ohio & Holding China Accountable for Theft of US Research

May 13, 2020 | Portman Difference

On CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning, Senator Portman highlighted the importance of helping Ohioans and the rest of the nation get back on their feet. He discussed how the new COVID-19 response proposal from House Democrats will not help to move the economy forward. Portman believes that Congress should focus on introducing bipartisan legislation that helps get the American economy moving again.

 In addition, Portman commended Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for taking the necessary steps to safely reopen Ohio as he works to increase testing by 600 percent. Portman has continuously said that in order to reopen the economy and create peace of mind for individuals to return to society, Ohio must have an adequate amount of testing in addition to continued work on anti-viral medications, vaccines, and increased personal protection equipment for health care providers. Portman also outlined his proposal for a return to work bonus, rather than continued additional unemployment insurance, in order to provide an incentive for individuals to return to work and invigorate the economy.   

Finally, Portman called for China to be held accountable for the rampant theft of U.S. intellectual property at federally funded research institutions and universities. Portman, as chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, conducted an eight-month investigation last year that culminated in a stunning bipartisan report that documented how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it.

 Excerpts of his interview can be found below and a video can be found here.  

 PORTMAN ON HOUSE DEMOCRATS PROPOSED $3 TRILLION PACKAGE: 

“Well, of course there are, but, Joe, this is $3 trillion. This is more than the last four packages combined. And it does nothing, as I see it, to help get the economy moving, and that ought to be part of, at least, our proposal next time, is to say, 'Let’s not just have another rescue package, which is going to be needed in certain sectors, we get that, but let’s do some things to actually move this economy forward.'  And that’s traditionally tax relief, traditionally things like spending on infrastructure, smart spending where you can actually create jobs and get the economy moving. Instead this really goes in the other direction. It’s not only $3 trillion -- that’s more than we’ve already spent in four packages at a time when our debt and deficit are at record levels -- but it’s also not helping the economy. It is a wish list. There are things like SALT relief which is, for those of you living in New York you might like that, but 50 percent of that benefit on SALT relief she has in there. This is for state and local taxes, is going to go to the top one percent, so this is something that blue state senators have been pushing so I’m sure they’ll be happy to see that. But not in the context of this crisis. Let’s focus on, yes, some things to close the gaps from what we’ve already done. But then let’s move on to how do we actually get this economy moving again and I don’t see that in the bill at all.” 

PORTMAN ON REOPENING OHIO SAFELY:  

“I think {Governor DeWine} is doing a great job because we are reopening. So on Friday we are reopening the restaurants for outdoor dining as an example. We’ve got factories up and going, offices are back at work, construction is going again. So I think it’s smart because what we’re doing is we’re reopening in Ohio as we’re bringing on more testing, as we have more protective gear, you know, as we’re beginning to see remdesivir and hopefully more antiviral medications. Those are the three big things now we need to focus on. So I think that reopening is smart. I think it’s being done in the proper phasing and I think you’re going to see in Ohio that because we’re doing it right, we’re not going to see this resurgence. Are we going to have hot spots? Probably, and Joe, that’s why the testing is so important. Because the testing, the contact tracing, and all that is what you throw at a hot spot and stop the spread of a virus. So, I think we’re doing it about right in Ohio. Look, nobody knows what’s right, as we heard yesterday in the testimony, the experts are all over the place, but the reality is we got to get back to work we got to get back to a normal life here and do it safely and I think those two things can to be done together and we’re doing it in Ohio. 

“Andrew, look at the guidelines because the guidelines that are set up by the state of Ohio and by CDC require that these businesses do this safely. So, you do wear face masks when you’re on the factory floor. You do have hand sanitizer available for everybody. You do temperature testing as you’re walking into the office building. I mean these are measures that are common sense that should be taken. Social distancing continues at work, so I couldn’t agree with you more, of course you need a to have a safe workplace. In terms of the testing, in Ohio, compared to two weeks ago, as of two weeks from now, we’ll have about a 600 percent increase in testing. Now Ohio is not every state but that kind of testing is beginning to ramp up around the country. One thing that I will tell you that I do support in the Democrats bill that they talked about yesterday is more testing and contact tracing. That’s smart. That helps us reopen the economy in a safe way and keep it open because when there are hot spots we’re going to need, as I said earlier, to throw everything at it in terms of testing and contact tracing. And I mean diagnostic testing, the traditional testing. The antibody test is great, too, but it doesn’t replace the need for a diagnostic test. I think in nursing homes we ought to be testing much more frequently. So I think there are ways to get at this and reopen the economy that are smart. I'd much rather spend the money on more testing than continue to have more money going in to rescue because more testing is going to result in more economic growth because it is going to get people, as you say, more safely back to work, so that’s money well spent. And Dr. Fauci also indicated testing is increasing. So are these antiviral medications, thank goodness finally, and remdesivir is the first. I hope there will be many others that the FDA approves that are effective. I was told by Francis Collins at the NIH yesterday that was coming. And then third, you have to have the PPE and finally we’re getting control of that. We have now masks available around the country because they can be recycled, they can be decontaminated quickly. We have a 4.5 million a day capacity just on recycling thanks to an Ohio company, Battelle. We have more gowns finally here. We have more gloves and so on. So all of this is important. But it should be done in conjunction with us beginning to get people back to work and beginning to get back to a more normal life.” 

PORTMAN ON PROVIDING A RETURN TO WORK BONUS: 

“Andrew, that’s an example in this legislation of something that is going to hurt not help the economy. That’s how I feel about it. The additional $600 federal benefit is on top of an average of about $360 that the states have, meaning that in our states right now if you’re making, say $50,000 a year, it’s more advantageous to be on unemployment insurance than it is to go back to work. So was it necessary to do something to pump up UI? Absolutely. But the level that we took it to makes it very difficult for many small businesses in Ohio and around the country to bring their employees back. In some states, they say they are going to enforce the rule that you have to be seeking work, therefore if there’s a job you have to leave UI. Other states are not able to do that, in fact I think many are not, maybe most, because they’re just overwhelmed. And many employers don’t want to do that to their employees. So we ought to put together a package that says, 'Okay, let’s continue to help people but how about having a bonus for returning to work.' So instead of an additional $600 of a federal benefit, again almost twice the state benefit that’s currently in place, in places like New York that makes it very difficult to get people back to work if they are making more in unemployment than they can make at work, why not provide a bonus to people to say 'If you go back to work you can take some of this unemployment insurance with you.'  If you take $450 with you, as an example, and remember this is per week, that would mean that in every state from minimum wage workers it would be more advantageous to go back to work than to stay on unemployment insurance. That $450 would go back to your workplace between now and the end of July when this unemployment insurance runs out, the extra benefit, and this would give us an incentive to get people back to work it would help the individual workers who many want to get back to work and want to get back to health care and connection through their company. But the House bill goes the opposite direction that says 'Let’s continue this until next year.' 

“Right if someone is out of work through no fault of their own, they can’t go back, of course they should get unemployment insurance. We extended unemployment insurance another 13 weeks, by the way, also in our legislation. We also provided it for people who are self-employed. That can all continue. But the point is, Andrew, we should all want people to go back to work. I mean that ought to be what we’re doing here in Washington, is trying to help the economy move forward. Not to encourage the economy to remain stagnant and to encourage people not return to work when they are needed. So, I hope you’re talking to employers out there about this because I think what you’ll hear is a consistent message, which is, 'we’re now beginning to re-open but we’re having a difficult time getting people back to work who are on unemployment insurance', for good reasons as you can see. If you’re making, in New York, about $55,000 to $60,000 a year, it’s more advantageous to be on unemployment insurance then to go back to work so why not provide a bonus to that person? By the way if you did $450 of a bonus to workers, good for workers, they will get their salary plus that. It is also great for the taxpayer. It saves the states and the federal government, just back of the envelope calculation, about $45 billion, just between now and the end of July. $45 billion, and it helps the workers because again they are getting the bonus plus their salary gets them back to work, gets them reengaged with their company. So, it’s not going to work for everybody because there will be some businesses who won’t be able to reopen as quickly, but those that are reopening are looking for workers right now. So we should not be standing in the way of that, we should be helping to facilitate that. I think this is a bipartisan proposal that has real promise rather than what’s in the House bill, which is going to make it harder to get our economy back and going.”  

“I think a lot of people are looking at it for the first time, Becky. I’m talking to Democrats and Republicans about it. People are intrigued by it because, you know, the alternative is unacceptable because, you know, again, we need to get people back to work and encourage that and yet we want to be sure to help these workers. By the way, I think it pairs nicely with what the president is talking about in terms of a payroll tax cut. Because those workers who have stayed on the job will get a payroll tax cut and that’s important too, so I think it does reward workers as you’re saying and I think it’s important for us to do things right now in Washington that rewards workers, rewards work in general, and help move the economy forward without getting more revenues into our hospitals, without getting more revenue into our universities and colleges, without getting more revenue into the federal government to deal with our unprecedented level of deficit that we’re looking at this year, you know we’re not going to be able to turn things around, and that requires us getting this economy moving again. So I think that ought to be our focus here is, how in a smart way to actually help ensure that we can get this economy up and going again safely and that includes getting people back to work.” 

PORTMAN ON HOLDING CHINA ACCOUNTABLE:  

“Well, the trade negotiations we have ongoing with China right now are in our interest and they’re actually in the global economy’s interest because it begins to level the playing field between the United States and China in the face of a huge trade deficit. So, one, we ought to be sure that China continues to implement Phase One, which includes, by the way, buying more of our products, including our agriculture products, which need that market right now badly because prices are low, but second, we have Phase Two that we’re supposed to be negotiating, which is also fundamental because it gets at the issue of Chinese subsidies including their state-owned enterprises which don’t just damage the U.S. economy, they damage economies around the world that are forced to compete on an un-level playing field. So, the trade negotiations that are going on right now, completion of Phase One and then moving on to Phase Two as China has promised -- and by the way they need to make their commitments on these things -- those should proceed, of course. The question is where do we go from here. There’s so many issues. As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at this issue of China taking our technology, our secrets - military, economic secrets - back to China through these so called talent programs. We had, unfortunately, another example of that this week when an Arkansas professor has now been arrested, allegedly, again, engaging in these Chinese programs without divulging it. Fraudulently taking money from the Chinese. This is taxpayer money that’s going out to do good research and then China is taking that research. They’ve done it for 20 years. It’s helped fuel their economy and the rise of their military. So, we need to cut off things like that and then we need to look at the supply chain issues, because we need to bring more onshore to us, to our shores, of these essential products whether it’s pharmaceuticals or in the case of the protective gear that we’re talking about, the gowns, the masks and so on. We need to be able to rely on it and therefore it needs come back to the United States.” 

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