On CNN’s State of the Union, Portman Discusses Ongoing Infrastructure Negotiations, Path Forward In Congress
Senator Portman joined CNN’s State of the Union this morning to discuss the ongoing negotiations over the bipartisan infrastructure agreement. Portman noted that the deal is near completion and pushed back against the prospects of rushing a vote on the proposal before the legislative text is completely finalized.
Portman also touted the effectiveness of Operation Warp Speed and the efficacy of the vaccines it produced in record time.
Excerpts of the interview can be found below and a video can be found here.
PORTMAN ON BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE NEGOTIATIONS:
“We’re still working on it. It’s more important to get it right than to meet an arbitrary deadline. And we are still negotiating. In fact, last night, I was negotiating some of the final details with the White House and later today we'll be having additional negotiations with the Republicans and Democrats who’ve come together to put this bill into a track that's very unusual for Washington. People are used to legislation being on the Republican side or Democrat side. And this is a little confusing for people because it's actually 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats who are putting this together. Chuck Schumer, with all due respect, is not writing the bill. Nor is Mitch McConnell, by the way.
“So that's why we shouldn't have an arbitrary deadline of Wednesday. We should bring the legislation forward when it's ready. And it’s incredibly important legislation. We have a situation now in our country where we do have crumbling infrastructure. It’s hurting our efficiency, therefore our productivity and our competitiveness. China spends about three or four times more on infrastructure than we do, as an example. So, everybody knows that. Every president in modern history has said that we’ve got to have a massive investment in our infrastructure. President Bush, President Obama, President Trump actually had a $1.5 trillion proposal in his budget, so significantly more than we're talking about. So it’s important we get it done, it’s been talked about for years, and yet it's got to be done in a thoughtful, bipartisan way. We don't want to rush this process or make mistakes.”
PORTMAN ON NOT ACCEPTING ARTIFICIAL DEADLINES FOR BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE BILL:
“We don't have a product yet, and we won't have a product until we can finish negotiations properly. Again, this is a complex bill that involves several committees, it involves a lot of very tough issues because we've got to resolve them between us first. Again, we're meeting today, there are 11 Democrats and 11 Republicans working on this, we’re moving as fast as we can.
“Dana, think about it. When we came together with the general framework agreement, it was decided that we would then get into the details. We have had one week of legislative session since then for a bill that, as you indicated earlier, is over a ten-year period, over $1 trillion. Over a five-year period, which is what it’s for, it's $579 billion. It makes historic investments in our infrastructure. We want to get it right. So it’s not too much to ask that we have the time to do that. Again, I was on with the White House last night, negotiating some of the final details. So we’re still very much in that process. We’ll push as hard as we can. We’re working all weekend again and that's important. It’s important we get it done because it's an urgent matter. But we ought not to have an arbitrary deadline forcing this process. We’ve got to be sure that we do it in a way that ends up with the best product.”
PORTMAN ON BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE BILL NOT BEING LINKED TO DEMOCRATS’ MASSIVE SPENDING BILL:
“Originally, the infrastructure package that President Biden put forward was twice as big as ours in terms of core infrastructure. So, they have different ideas on this. We have a bipartisan process here. It’s a compromise between both sides. Both sides make concessions. We want to stick with that. And in terms of IRS reform or IRS tax gap, which was what was in the original proposal, that will no longer be in our proposal. It will be in the larger reconciliation bill, we are told. And that’s the two tracks here – we have the infrastructure bill separately from the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that is a strictly partisan exercise, more typical of Washington, frankly. Ours is the one that’s unusual, and that's one reason you see this difference between what Senator Schumer wants to do in terms of timing and what we must do on behalf of the country.
“Ours is a bipartisan process. And it is, again, about infrastructure only, which is a different kind of spending than what the Democrats are talking about. Theirs is a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, meaning they only need 50 votes – ours requires 60. And theirs is about substantially new spending on new social programs and huge tax increases. No, I’m not for that. I think it's a terrible idea for our economy coming out of the pandemic and I hope that they're not successful. But ours is on an entirely different track and everyone acknowledges that.”
PORTMAN ON THE SUCCESS OF OPERATION WARP SPEED AND EFFECTIVENESS OF VACCINES:
“Well, the vaccines are a miracle. It’s amazing. And by the way, President Trump's administration started this effort with Operation Warp Speed, and it is something we should all celebrate. The vaccines are safe, the vaccines are effective. As you know, Dana, I was in one of the trials, and I’m still in the trial – the Janssen-J&J trial. So I got my vaccine early to show my constituents that I trusted the vaccines, that they were safe and effective.
“And the numbers are overwhelming. If you have been vaccinated, you have a level of protection that, again, is extraordinary. It really is amazing how well it's working. And plaudits to the Trump administration, and to the scientists and researchers who worked overtime to prepare these vaccines. This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated by definition. Surgeon General Murthy just talked about that, that the vast majority, 99 percent or more of those who are unfortunately dying now from this terrible pandemic, are people who are not vaccinated.
“So, I do encourage people to get vaccinated. I don't think it ought to be something where we're going door-to-door and mandating it on people. I think what we should be doing is a much more effective and massive public media campaign talking about the facts, giving people the scientific facts on this. And if so, I think we will be able to get that number up. By the way, about 60 percent of the adults in my state and nationwide have been vaccinated. We’re on track, so we’re on track to get to 70 percent I hope.”