Portman Delivers Results for Ohio in the 115th Congress

December 31, 2018 | Portman Difference

Over the past two years of the 115th Congress, Senator Portman continued his record of delivering results for Ohio, just as he did in the previous Congress. Portman led Senate efforts to reform a broken tax code to help create more jobs and improve the economy.  He delivered on his promise to stop the influx of deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl as President Trump signed into law his Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act on October 24, 2018.  And Portman’s tireless three-year effort to combat the horrific crime of online human trafficking finally succeeded when the president signed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) into law in April 11, 2018. Over the last two years, Portman has delivered on his word to help Ohioans struggling with addiction, provide resources to the men and women in uniform serving our country at Ohio’s military installations, and much more. Here is a look at what Portman accomplished for Ohio in the 115th Congress:

Creating More Jobs & Higher Wages for Ohio Families

When Senator Portman ran for the Senate in 2010, he campaigned on a jobs plan, a key component of which was tax reform.  He promised to help lead an effort to reform our tax code and provide relief to families and small businesses.  In the 115th Congress, he delivered on this commitment, and as a result, Ohio companies are responding by creating more jobs, increasing wages, paying bonuses, making additional investments in plants and equipment, and expanding health care and retirement benefits.  In addition to tax reform, Portman worked on a number of measures to help create jobs, level the playing field for Ohio workers, and make Ohio businesses more competitive.

  • Fulfilling a Promise to Reform America’s Broken Tax Code.  Senator Portman played a leading role in helping craft the landmark tax reform that was signed into law on December 22, 2017.  Portman worked throughout the process to develop and help improve the bill.  In January 2018, the Toledo Blade editorial board called the tax reform law, which Senator Portman helped craft, a “home run.” Here’s a quick rundown on how Portman worked to improve the tax bill, both during Senate deliberations and the final conference agreement:
  • Pushing for Middle-Class Tax Cuts.  Throughout the debate, Portman focused consistently on ensuring that the middle class would get a significant tax cut while also expanding the child tax credit, and he was successful in doing so. 
  • Expanding Tax Relief for Small Businesses.  Reforms to the business tax code are an essential component of this tax reform law, especially lowering rates for small businesses.  These pro-growth reforms are helping to grow our economy, create more jobs, and make America more competitive with our foreign counterparts.  The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) endorsed the law.
  • Leveling the Playing Field for American Companies & Workers.  Portman’s bipartisan work on international tax reform is a key component of this tax reform law.  In 2015, he chaired a bipartisan working group on international tax reform with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), now Minority Leader.  Together they developed a bipartisan framework to reform the international tax code, transition from a worldwide to a territorial tax system, and give American companies a level playing field with their foreign competitors.  The gist of that framework is now a part of the tax reform law.  Details about this 2015 effort are here.
  • Preserving Private Activity Bonds (PABs).  Both in the Senate-passed bill and the final House-Senate agreement, Portman helped preserve PABs, which are an essential source of funding for important infrastructure and community redevelopment projects across Ohio. 
  • Preserving the Historic Tax Credit (HTC).  Portman is a strong supporter of the HTC and worked with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to restore the current 20 percent credit in both the Senate-passed bill and the final House-Senate agreement after the House eliminated it entirely and an early draft of the Senate bill reduced it to 10 percent.  The HTC encourages private investment in the rehabilitation of historic buildings.  It has been used to preserve numerous historic Ohio buildings, including Cincinnati’s recently rehabilitated iconic Music Hall.  The Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board said “Portman was true to his word and delivered a win for the region.”
  • Preserving the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC).  While the House eliminated the NMTC, Portman led the effort to preserve it in the Senate bill and the final House-Senate agreement, which has been signed into law.  The NMTC helps economically distressed communities attract private capital for community redevelopment purposes, and Cincinnati has been a significant beneficiary.  In 2017, Portman visited the Nehemiah Manufacturing Company, which is using the NMTC to expand and provide meaningful employment opportunities to ex-offenders re-entering society.
  • Preserving the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.  Portman led the effort to preserve the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides employers with a tax credit for hiring and retaining veterans, ex-felons, disabled individuals, summer youth employees, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Supplemental Security Income recipients. A 2015 Portman amendment added a $2,400 credit for first year wages paid to the long-term unemployed.  The House bill eliminated the tax credit, but Portman helped preserve it in the final tax law.
  • Easing the Burden of High Medical Expenses.  The tax reform law includes changes from Portman’s Seniors Tax Hike Prevention Act, which would allow seniors to deduct a greater share of their medical costs. Under the final bill, all taxpayers at any age may take advantage of this expanded deduction.
  • Helping Families Combat Unfair Taxes on Student Loans.  The tax reform law includes Portman’s bipartisan Stop Taxing Death and Disability Actlegislation to eliminate a tax penalty levied on student loans forgiven for families after their child develops a permanent disability or dies.
  • Preserving Worker Retirement Security.  The tax reform law includes a Portman amendment to protect small startup businesses’ ability to utilize nonqualified deferred compensation programs for millions of employees and retirees; remove a provision that would have subjected 457 plan participants like Ohio police and firefighters to a harmful 10 percent early distribution tax; and preserve the ability of all 401(k) participants to make catch-up contributions after age 50.  Portman also worked with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to preserve additional catch-up contributions available to 457 and 403(b) plans, including clergy in church pension plans. These amendments preserved popular retirement security incentives.
  • Preserving Key Higher Education Tax Incentives.  Along with his colleagues in the Senate, Portman worked to preserve key tax incentives for undergraduate and graduate students, helping Ohio students struggling with the high cost of college.
  • Urging GM to Bring New Production to Lordstown. Portman has led bipartisan efforts in the Ohio delegation to urge General Motors (GM) to stay in Northeast Ohio and bring new production to the GM plant at Lordstown.  He has met with GM CEO Mary Barra multiple times, including in September and again in December of this year, urging her to reinvest in Lordstown.  On April 13, 2018, Portman released a statement on General Motors’ decision to cut a shift at the Lordstown plant and underscored his commitment to continue to do whatever he can to help bring new work to the plant. In September 2018, Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) had awarded a National Dislocated Worker Grant (DWG) for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for up to $1.75 million, with an initial award of $875,000, to provide employment and training services to workers affected by layoffs from the GM plant in Lordstown, as well as from three additional auto industry suppliers in northeastern Ohio.  Senators Portman and Brown penned an op-ed for Fox Business titled: “GM, Don’t Walk Out on Lordstown.”
  • Reforming the IRS. Portman is leading efforts in the Senate to reform the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and make the agency more responsive and accountable to taxpayers.  He introduced the bipartisan Protecting Taxpayers Act in July 2018 to reform a number of the key agency functions and administrative procedures.  The bill is designed to (1) revitalize the IRS organizational structure and management; (2) increase taxpayer protections and modernize enforcement procedures; (3) improve small business and retirement plan tax administration; (4) better serve low-income taxpayers; (5) overhaul the IRS appeals process; and (6) strengthen the IRS IT infrastructure. This legislation includes provisions that preserve the IRS Oversight Board and bolster a taxpayer’s right to independent appeal, two key features of the IRS that Portman helped create in the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act. In a CNBC op-ed with former Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE), Portman discussed the legislation saying: “It’s time to go through another IRS reform process to help restore taxpayers’ faith in America’s tax collector.”
  • Expanding Markets for Ohio Farmers & Small Businesses. As a former U.S. Trade Representative, Portman continues to be a leading voice in the Senate on trade policy, working to ensure a level playing field for American workers and create more jobs for Ohio farmers and small businesses.  In the 115th Congress he worked to advance those priorities in a number of ways, including:
  • In November 2018, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed. The agreement is intended to modernize and update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The USMCA contains provisions increasing Canada and Mexico’s de minimis threshold for low value imports, something Portman called for in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in July 2017.  Overall, Portman said the agreement “will create more jobs and expand economic opportunities for American workers, farmers, and manufacturers by leveling the playing field on trade.”
  • In August 2018, Portman introduced the bipartisan Trade Security Act, legislation to reform Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to better align the statute with its original intent as a powerful trade remedy tool for the president and Congress to respond to genuine threats to national security. This legislation has been praised by business groups who view the legislation as a common-sense solution for preserving this important tool but reserving it for national security threats. The legislation has been endorsed by the Wall Street Journal.
  • Portman’s bipartisan Leveling the Playing Field Act and bipartisan ENFORCE Act are working to help American manufacturers by cracking down on foreign competitors that launder products through other countries to try to get around our trade laws. In March, Portman and Senator Brown urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to address unfair trade practices by Korean producers of Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG). In April 2017, the Commerce Department found that Korean steel producers have been unfairly dumping these imports into the U.S. market, leaving Ohio steelworkers and steel companies at a competitive disadvantage. The Senators’ Leveling the Playing Field Act helped pave the way for the positive decision in the case.
  • In addition to his work on the Leveling the Playing Field Act for Ohio steelworkers, Portman has continued to fight to protect steel jobs in the state. In February 2017, Portman joined Senator Brown in introducing the Steel Industry Preservation Act, bipartisan legislation that would create a tax credit for domestic steel companies, lower the cost of steel production, and promote job growth within the industry.  Portman and Brown also asked President Trump to prioritize reducing steel overcapacity, urging the administration to take swift action on the 232 investigation to combat surging steel imports seeking to enter American markets prior to any tariffs. Portman has been awarded the “Congressional Steel Champion Award” for his work to protect the steel industry and Ohio steelworkers. 
  • In July 2017, Portman and Brown announced that, at their urging, the Commerce Department ruled that U.S. aluminum extrusions producers are being harmed by unfair trade practices by foreign competitors. The decision, which will help American manufactures fight back against Chinese efforts to avoid our trade laws, resulted from a letter Portman and Brown sent to Secretary Ross in June.
  • In September 2017, Portman, who earlier that year hosted an employee town hall meeting with Whirlpool employees at their plant in Clyde, testified before the International Trade Commission (ITC) to fight on behalf of Ohio Whirlpool workers against unfair trade practices. The plant had been hurt by unfair washing machine imports by Samsung and LG.  In October 2017, the ITC ruled to impose restrictions on imported washing machines that will help stop South Korean manufacturers from unfairly flooding the American market, thus helping protect Whirlpool jobs. In January 2018, President Trump decided to enforce our long-standing trade rules by establishing a tariff on imports of large residential washing machines, thereby standing up for the workers at the plant.
  • In May 2018, Portman received the Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports’ (CPTI) Outstanding Legislator Award. CPTI bestowed this annual award to Senator Portman to honor him for his efforts to protect American steel producers and to fight against unfair imports that threaten our domestic steel industry.
  • Portman received the Golden Plow Award in March 2018 the Ohio Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation. The Golden Plow Award recognizes members of Congress who exemplify agricultural leadership and support of Farm Bureau policies.
  • Reforming an Outdated Regulatory System. In April 2017, Senators Portman and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced the bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) designed to make federal regulations smarter and more effective so they better support businesses, families, and jobs.  This bill will modernize a federal regulatory process that hasn’t been significantly reformed in 70 years. The legislation, which is widely supported by small businesses, workers, farmers, and ranchers, was approved by the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee in May 2017.
  • Reforming Federal Permitting to Rebuild Our Infrastructure. In 2015, Portman got his bipartisan Federal Permitting Improvement Act signed into law as Title 41 of the FAST Act (FAST-41). In the 115th Congress, Portman worked to ensure the administration implemented the law to spur economic growth and job creation. Director of Office of the Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney and the Deputy Director of the OMB pledged to Portman that they would work to get the law’s improvements to the federal permitting process up and running.  In addition, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations held an oversight hearing in September 2017 to examine implementation of the law and the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council’s progress to date in streamlining the federal permitting process for some of the most significant projects. In 2018, Portman chaired a roundtable to solicit ideas for improving the permitting process from project sponsors, the building trades, and government officials. Portman introduced the Federal Permitting Reform and Jobs Act, which would make the FAST-41 improvements permanent and build on his efforts to streamline the permitting process in 2015. 
  • Congress also enacted two additional Portman-led permitting initiatives in 2018, one to make permanent the Army Corps of Engineers’ authority to share the costs of the permitting process with project sponsors to ensure a more efficient permitting process, and one to streamline the permitting process for hydropower projects on existing dams.
  • Protecting Worker Pensions. Portman was appointed to serve on the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans, as established by the Bipartisan Budget Act enacted in February 2018.  From the outset, Portman made a strong case for bipartisanship to ensure the panel adequately addresses the multiemployer pension crisis and delivers results. In November 2018, while the committee did not achieve a bipartisan solution by the necessary deadline, Portman stated he will continue working in a bipartisan way to find a solution to the pension crisis threatening 1.3 million Americans, 60,000 Ohioans, and thousands of small businesses around the country.
  • Ending Government Shutdowns. When the federal government shut down briefly in early 2018, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor calling on his colleagues to end the government shutdown. Portman discussed real-world impact of the shutdown as well as his bipartisan legislation called the End Government Shutdowns Act to avoid these types of unnecessary disruptions that ultimately hurt our economy, hurt families, and hurt our troops. Ramesh Ponnuru detailed his support for the legislation in in Bloomberg column.
  • Strengthening Skills Training & Workforce Development. Portman, who is the co-founder of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus and author of the Education Tomorrow’s Workforce Act, continued his strong support for expanding CTE programs to help close the skills gap and put more Ohioans to work. In July 2018, President Trump signed into law the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which included Portman’s Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act. As part of his efforts to close the skills gap, Portman joined Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) to introduce the bipartisan JOBS Act to help students access training for the 5.5 million vacant jobs that are unfilled in part because of a shortage of qualified workers. He also introduced the bipartisan CTE Excellence and Equity Act to support re-designing the high school experience to include courses more relevant to the 21st century workforce to better prepare students for future careers. Portman also introduced the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act to create a teacher residency grant program to help address the CTE teacher shortage in schools.
  • Promoting Autonomous Vehicle Technology. In April 2017, following a previous visit in February, Portman hosted Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao at the Transportation Research Center (TRC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC) in East Liberty. Portman was instrumental in keeping the NHTSA facility in East Liberty, part of his continuing efforts to help Central Ohio become a model for the nation on how to use smart, 21st-century transportation to help create economic growth and expand opportunity.  In October 2018, Portman praised Secretary Chao for changing the previous administration’s automated vehicle policy, which would place Ohio’s TRC – the largest and most sophisticated independent vehicle proving ground in North America – at a competitive disadvantage for certain partnership and funding opportunities that are important to the development of safe and effective regulations for this emerging technology. Portman had been advocating for the change, including sending a letter with the Ohio delegation colleagues urging Secretary Chao to change the previous administration’s policy.
  • Securing Funding for Key Ohio Economic Priorities. Senator Portman has worked to ensure that Ohio has access to competitive grant opportunities to strengthen efforts to improve the economy and job creation around the state, including the following:
  • In October 2018, Portman praised a $2.8 million federal grant awarded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Shawnee State University to fund its Kricker Innovation Hub. The hub will serve as an innovation accelerator designed to facilitate job creation and encourage entrepreneurship by providing access to information and funding that will allow small businesses to grow and attract new businesses to the market. In August of 2016, Portman sent a letter to the Director of the U.S. EDA encouraging the agency to consider the competitive grant application submitted by Shawnee State University.  
  • In October 2018, Portman praised a $750,000 POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) federal grant awarded by Appalachian Regional Commission to Ohio University. The POWER grant will help fund Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs’ Social Enterprise Ecosystem program, which helps enterprises and investors achieve greater impacts, attract and allocate resources, and increase contributions to building and growing Appalachian communities. In May 2018, Portman sent a letter to the federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission to consider the competitive grant application submitted by Ohio University.  
  • In July 2018, Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration awarded a grant through the 2018 Small Shipyard Grant Program totaling $768,500 to Ironhead Marine, Inc., operator of the Toledo Shipyard. Portman wrote a letter of support on behalf of Ironhead Marine, Inc. in May.
  • In March 2018, Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the city of Akron more than $8 million in funding as part of the Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program. This funding helped the city complete the second phase of the Downtown Akron promenade project to promote pedestrian and bicycle traffic, improvements to roadway conditions and fostering a livable community in the heart of Akron’s Downtown district.  He wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in support of the city of Akron’s bid on October 1, 2017. 
  • Portman announced in December 2018 that Youngstown has been awarded a $10.8 million BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Developments) federal grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The BUILD grant will be used to make improvements to the Central Business District in Youngstown that includes Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, Rayen Avenue, Commercial Street, Federal Street, Phelps Street, and Front Street. Portman sent a letter of support to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for the Youngstown BUILD Grant application in June 2018. Portman met with Youngstown leaders in January and September of this year to discuss the BUILD Grant.  
  • Portman announced in December 2018 that Monroe County was awarded a $20 million BUILD federal grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The BUILD grant will be used to fund Monroe County’s Appalachia NGL Hub—Rail Transloading Project. This multi-modal, project will construct a rail yard and pipeline transloading facility to transfer propane and butane from pipeline to rail to be sent for export in the most efficient and safest way possible. Portman sent a letter of support to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for the Monroe County BUILD Grant application in July 2018.
  • Portman also announced in December 2018 that Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) was awarded a $9.6 million BUILD federal grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The BUILD grant will be used for Geauga County’s Amish safety improvements. This project aims to create safer roadways by widening roadway shoulders, establishing detection systems, and posting school zone and pedestrian signage and flashers at appropriate roadside locations. Portman sent a letter of support to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao for the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) Grant application in July of this year.
  • In May 2017, Portman helped secure full funding for the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Portman has long fought to protect funding for the center, which is an economic driver for the local community and supports thousands of Ohio jobs.
  • Protecting American Taxpayers. In July 2018, Portman’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations unveiled a bipartisan report detailing the failure of federal agencies to submit accurate data to USAspending.gov, the public website that provides spending data to taxpayers and policymakers. 
  • In August 2018, Portman received the Employee Benefits Champion award from the American Benefits Council. The council presents this award to policymakers who have served with distinction and leadership on employee benefit matters.

Combating America’s Opioid Epidemic

No one in the Senate has been more active in the fight against drug abuse and addiction than Senator Portman. This Congress, he continued to lead the national effort to combat the opioid crisis that is devastating communities across Ohio and our country. As part of his efforts to help Ohio, Portman has worked to help stop the influx of synthetic drugs like fentanyl that are gripping the state, expand access to treatment programs that are so critical to an effective recovery, and secure additional funding for evidenced-based CARA programs focused on prevention, treatment, recovery, and first responders.

  • Stopping the Influx of Synthetic Drugs Like Fentanyl. After more than two years of legislative efforts, Portman’s bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, legislation was signed into law in October 2018 to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States. Fentanyl—a deadly synthetic drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin—is now killing more Ohioans per year than heroin, contributing to why drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in the state. Fentanyl, and the even deadlier carfentanil are being shipped to the United States from countries overseas like China.
  • In May 2017, Portman chaired a Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) hearing on the STOP Act and stopping illicit synthetic opioids from being shipped into the United States. During the hearing, Newtown, Ohio, Police Chief Thomas Synan, Jr. and Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson testified that the STOP Act would help them address the fentanyl crisis in Ohio. The Customs and Border Protection Acting Director and the Postal Service Inspector General also urged Congress to act on the bipartisan legislation.
  • In January 2018, Portman published a stunning PSI report detailing the Subcommittee’s findings from its nearly year-long investigation into how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States. In his opening statement at the hearing announcing the report, Portman asked, “How many more people have to die before we keep this poison out of our communities?”
  • The Toledo Blade endorsed Portman’s STOP Act in February 2018, calling it his “crusade to save lives.”
  • In March 2018, the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee approved two amendments offered by Portman to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Authorization Act to combat the influx of synthetic opioids in our country.  Portman authored the amendments with Senator Carper. The amendments built on the PSI report detailing how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States.
  • Caring for Babies Born Dependent on Drugs. In addition to the STOP Act, Portman praised the president for signing into law landmark opioid reforms in October 2018, which included his Improving CARE Act, as well as his bipartisan Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act and several key initiatives from his bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act.  Portman attended the White House signing ceremony and President Trump praised Portman for his long, hard-fought effort to enact the STOP Act and other key priorities.  Specifically:
  • Portman led efforts to secure a key victory in the final House-Senate opioid package with the inclusion of his bipartisan Improving CARE Act to lift the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion, which will expand Americans’ access to treatment for opioid addiction.  The IMD exclusion is an arcane, decades-old policy that prohibits states from using federal Medicaid dollars to pay for treatment at residential mental health or substance abuse facilities with more than 16 beds.  For Ohioans struggling with addiction and utilizing Medicaid to access treatment, there will no longer be an arbitrary cap that prevents someone from seeking care in the right setting for them.  Lifting this outdated and unnecessary barrier will increase access to treatment and is a big victory for Ohio.
  • Portman spearheaded efforts to include in the final opioids law his bipartisan Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act, legislation that would help newborns suffering from addiction recover in the best care setting and provide support for their families.  The Ohio Department of Health estimates that about 84 infants are being treated for drug withdrawal in Ohio hospitals every day.  The CRIB Act would recognize residential pediatric recovery facilities as providers under Medicaid, allowing Medicaid to cover these services in residential pediatric recovery facilities in addition to hospitals. In addition, the bill authorizes $60 million from Portman’s CARA 2.0 Act for a plan of safe care for these babies.
  • Portman received the National Organization for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) Leadership Award in 2017 for his longstanding work to combat the opioid crisis and, specifically, his relentless effort to get CARA signed into law.
  • Securing Federal Resources to Combat the Opioid Crisis & Implement CARA. Senator Portman has worked tirelessly to increase federal funding to combat opioid abuse and make sure that his Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law in 2016, is fully funded and implemented as quickly as possible. Thanks in large part to Portman’s efforts, key components of CARA to help expand education, treatment and recovery services to help combat addiction have been implemented, fully funded, and more.
    • The bipartisan agreement announced in February 2018 included $6 billion in additional opioid funding over two years to bolster the ongoing fight against opioid addiction and substance abuse by funding prevention, treatment, and recovery programs, and law enforcement efforts in vulnerable communities across the country. 
    • While CARA was only authorized at $181 million annually, in FY 2018 there will be $608 million spent on evidenced-based CARA programs focused on prevention, treatment, recovery, and first responders.  That, in concert with the ongoing 21st Century CURES funding, is real progress at the federal level in combating addiction.
    • In June 2018, Portman announced that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has awarded a $50,000 CARA community enhancement grant to PreventionFIRST! to prevent youth substance abuse and help implement comprehensive strategies throughout the Greater Cincinnati area to address the ongoing prescription drug and opioid crisis.
  • Building on CARA With CARA 2.0. In February 2018, Portman led the bipartisan introduction of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0 Act to increase the funding authorization levels for the CARA programs enacted in 2016 and put in place additional policy reforms to help combat the opioid epidemic — including limiting opioid prescriptions to three days. CARA 2.0 builds on the success of CARA by increasing the funding authorization levels to better coincide with the budget agreement while laying out new policy reforms to strengthen the federal government’s response to this crisis.  Several CARA 2.0 measures were including in the final version of the bipartisan opioids measure signed into law by President Trump in October 2018, including:
  • A provision that establishes national quality standards and best practices for recovery housing to ensure that people who are transitioning out of treatment and into longer-term recovery have high-quality housing options that eliminate the gaps that so often occur in recovery.  Since 2014, Ohio has offered accreditation for recovery housing through Ohio Recovery Housing.  Now this will be used as a model for states across the county to help support individuals with stable and supportive housing.
  • A provision that authorizes grant funding to support programs for high school and college students to help children and young adults recover from substance abuse disorders.
  • Securing Resources for Ohio With CURES Funding. Portman has been a leader in the fight for more funding to combat this crisis. In addition to fighting to fully fund CARA, Portman has worked to fully fund the 21st Century CURES Act.  In April 2018, Portman applauded the HHS decision to award $485 million in CURES grants to help states fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic, including $26 million for the state of Ohio.  In August 2018, Portman announced the distribution of $26 million in funding through 21st Century CURES law to fight the opioid epidemic through Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) boards in local Ohio communities and statewide initiatives.
  • Fighting for Proven Programs that Combat Drug Addiction. Portman has led efforts in the U.S. Senate to support key anti-drug programs that have a proven record of success, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Courts, Drug-Free Community prevention grants, and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) grants. 
  • This new opioids measure signed into law by President Trump in October 2018 reauthorizes these programs, demonstrating that they are worth the federal investment.  In 1997, Portman authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, which supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs, and he recently announced 25 new Drug-Free Communities Act grant recipients in Ohio.  Fourteen counties in Ohio (the most recent becoming Butler County) receive funding or support through Ohio HIDTA, which leads efforts to combat drug trafficking and interdiction activity across the state and coordinates activity in counties that have been overwhelmed by opioids and fentanyl. 
  • Portman strongly opposed the administration’s proposed cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in May 2017, which supports the Drug Free Communities Act.  The ONDCP also supports the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, which has helped states like Ohio that are ground zero for this problem.  Thanks in large part to Portman’s efforts, the administration has not moved forward with the proposed cuts. In fact, in September 2017, 27 Drug Free Communities (DFC) grant recipients in the state of Ohio were named, demonstrating that the program is working for Ohioans. And in August 2018, Portman welcomed the announcement of 25 DFC grant recipients in the state, including two new grant recipients.  
  • Portman welcomed the federal designation of Butler County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in September 2018, a designation that he helped secure to strengthen the county’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. Under the designation, the county will be able to receive federal resources to assist in drug control efforts among federal, state, and local law enforcement officers in Southwest Ohio. In June of this year, Portman wrote a letter urging the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to include Butler County in the Ohio HIDTA, citing the county’s rise in drug overdoses for the fourth consecutive year. Portman has led efforts to reauthorize HIDTA and has strongly opposed efforts to cut funding the program.
  • Reducing the Price of a Key Overdose Reversal Drug. In November 2018, Portman unveiled a new PSI report detailing how drug manufacturer kaléo exploited the opioid crisis by increasing the price of its naloxone drug EVZIO by more than 600 percent by over just two-and-a-half years (from the initial price of $575 per unit in July 2014 to $3,750 in February 2016 and then to $4,100 11 months later in January 2017), launching a new distribution model planning to “capitalize on the opportunity” of “opioid overdose at epidemic levels.”  The company’s plan worked, resulting in increased costs to taxpayers, to date, of more than $142 million in just the last four years, despite the fact that less costly versions of naloxone exist.  In response to the report and the resulting public outcry, kaléo announce that it planned to take steps to reduce the price of its naloxone auto-injector to $178, down from $4,100 per unit.  Portman said “This news is a positive step forward and I’m hopeful that it will increase access to naloxone, a critically-important overdose reversal drug that has saved tens of thousands of lives. The Subcommittee will continue its efforts to lower prescription drug costs and protect taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.”

Working to End Human Trafficking

Over the past two years, Portman – already the author of five federal anti-trafficking laws designed to better serve victims and help law enforcement end this horrific crime – continued his longstanding work to combat human trafficking and help trafficking survivors. 

  • Curbing Online Sex Trafficking of Women & Children. Portman led efforts in the U.S. Senate to curb the explosion of online sex trafficking, spending 18 months investigating the issue and Backpage.com, the leader in the online sex marketplace. The bipartisan investigation, completed in January 2017, resulted in a stunning report detailing how Backpage.com knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and young girls and covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. Portman turned the findings of his investigation into legislative action, authoring the bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), and President Trump signed the bill into law on April 11, 2018.
  • In January 2017, Senators Portman and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), held a hearing and publishedreport detailing the Subcommittee’s findings from its 18-month-long investigation into the scourge of online sex trafficking.  The widely praised report found that Backpage knowingly concealed evidence of sex trafficking crimes by systematically editing its “adult” ads – all the while doing nothing to stop the traffickers committing these crimes.
    • I Am Jane Doe,” a film that chronicles the stories of young women who were trafficked on the website Backpage.com and Senator Portman’s investigation into online sex trafficking, was released in 2017. Portman hosted screenings of the film in Cleveland, Toledo and Columbus.
  • After issuing the PSI report, Portman and his bipartisan colleagues worked for six months to develop legislation called the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA). The narrowly-crafted measure amends the Communications Decency Act to hold accountable companies like Backpage that knowingly facilitate the trafficking of women and children online and ensure that victims of sex trafficking can get the justice they deserve.
  • In September 2017, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on SESTA, during which Senator Portman testified along with Yvonne Ambrose, whose daughter, Desiree Robinson, was advertised on Backpage and tragically murdered. The hearing demonstrated that there is a strong bipartisan consensus for passing this narrowly-crafted bill. Portman released this video highlighting the hearing. SESTA was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in November 2017.
  • SESTA is already making a significant difference in combatting online sex trafficking of women and children, resulting in the shutdown of several websites – including Backpage.com – that knowingly facilitated sex trafficking.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the leading anti-trafficking group in the country, said this about SESTA’s progress thus far: “Since the enactment of SESTA and the government’s seizure of Backpage, there has been a major disruption in the online marketplace. The robust marketplace for online sex trafficking, including the sale of children for rape and sexual abuse, that took a decade to build, fragmented over the course of just a few days.  It is no longer perceived to be safe to operate a website that knowingly facilitates the sale of children for sex.  Many sites or portions of sites where NCMEC knew children previously have been sold for sex have voluntarily shut down. This means it is much harder to purchase a child for sex online.” 
  • Ensuring that Unaccompanied Minors Aren’t Trafficked or Abused. Senator Portman has led efforts in the U.S Senate to hold the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Homeland Security accountable for ensuring that unaccompanied alien children (UACs) are protected from human trafficking and other forms of abuse. 
  • Portman chaired a PSI oversight hearing in April 2018 to examine efforts by these departments.  This hearing followed up on PSI’s hearing on January 28, 2016 when the Subcommittee released a report detailing how HHS placed eight children with human traffickers who then placed the children into forced labor on an egg farm in Marion, Ohio. The Subcommittee found that HHS had failed to establish procedures to protect UACs, such as conducting sufficient background checks on sponsors and following up with sponsors and UACs to ensure UACs’ welfare.  The hearing, as reported by the New York Times, exposed the fact that HHS was unable to locate nearly 1,500 UACs following routine checks after they had been placed with sponsors.
  • In August 2018, Portman followed up with another hearing and unveiled a bipartisan report detailing the lack of progress from HHS and DHS in improving programs designed to care for these children, ensure their safety, and ensure they appear at their immigration court proceedings.  Following the hearing, the Akron Beacon Journal published an editorial supporting Portman’s efforts saying that, “Rob Portman got it right at the subcommittee hearing: There is no place for ‘lost children.’”
  • Based on the findings of the report, Portman introduced the bipartisan Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act.  The bill clarifies that HHS is responsible for ensuring these children’s safety.  It requires HHS to run background checks before placing children with sponsors, to make sure sponsors live up to their agreement to care for the children and ensure they appear at their immigration court proceedings, and to notify state governments before placing children in those states. 
  • In August 2018, Portman introduced the bipartisan Missing Children’s Assistance Act, which reauthorizes the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and continue the fight against child abduction and exploitation. The president signed the bill into law on October 23, 2018.

Protecting Ohioans, Honoring Veterans & Making America Stronger

Senator Portman is committed to keeping Ohioans safe and giving our men and women in uniform the resources they need to protect themselves and best complete their mission.  As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Portman has consistently advocated for a more robust and comprehensive American strategy to protect our allies and deter our adversaries.

  • Supporting Ohio’s Defense Installations.  As part of his efforts to rebuild our military and strengthen our national security, Portman has worked to increase the range of capabilities for military installations throughout Ohio, and create jobs and opportunity for Ohio’s servicemembers.
  • Portman continued his strong advocacy on behalf of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima. In 2017, Portman fought for legislation to authorize and fund more than $1.6 billion to increase the rate of production of the newest upgraded Abrams tanks. As well as $622 million to complete the fourth Stryker brigade with upgraded survivability and mobility improvements as well as a second brigade of Stryker vehicles with an upgraded weapons system. The funding was included at the urging of Portman and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI). Then in 2018, President Trump signed into law legislation Portman championed to authorize $1.5 billion in funding to upgrade 135, or 1.5 brigades worth, of Abrams tanks — increasing the rate of production of the newest upgraded Abrams tanks in Lima in order to ensure that our forward deployed tanks have the most cutting-edge capabilities.  The measure also includes $225 million for upgrading Stryker Vehicles, a $203 million increase over the president’s budget request for these upgrades. Portman has made clear he will continue to keep fighting for more funding for Lima.
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  • Portman championed legislation to authorize and fund $15 million to support the construction of upgraded fighter aircraft hangars for the 180th Fighter Wing in Toledo, Ohio as part of the NDAA. Former Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) included this funding after Portman sent a letter urging them to do so.
  • Portman and Senator Brown’s amendments to support jobs and the important research mission at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base's Air Force Research Lab were also signed into law as part of the NDAA in 2017. This legislation is critical to our national security and to maintaining our military’s technological edge. In May, the Senate passed Portman and Senator Joe Donnelly’s (D-IN) resolution honoring the cutting-edge work of Department of Defense (DOD) laboratories such as the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patt.
  • In 2018, Portman championed a $116 million authorization in NDAA funding to upgrade the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Portman had urged leadership to include the funding.  This was signed into law in 2018.
  • In 2018, President Trump signed into law the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included Portman’s priority of $7.4 million to expand training capabilities at the Ohio National Guard’s Camp James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center with a new automated machine gun range. Portman sent the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee a letter requesting this investment in Camp James A. Garfield.
  • Portman announced December 2018 that the Pentagon has decided to locate the F-35 Hybrid Product Support Integrator (HPSI) Organization at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Portman led the entire Ohio congressional delegation in writing a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson championing the base for the mission.
  • Portman visited the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Germany in early 2018, and became the first member of Congress to see the modernized Stryker ICV-Dragoon and Javelin-equipped vehicles forward deployed.
  • Portman participated in the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the KC-135 Flight Deck Simulator at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in October 2018. Portman led the entire Ohio delegation in a bipartisan effort on behalf of the Ohio Air National Guard urging General Carlton Everhart of the Air Mobility Command to locate a KC-135 air refueling tanker flight simulator at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus. In April of last year, Portman announced the U.S. Air Force had fulfilled their request. 
  • In July 2018, Portman participated in the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station ribbon cutting ceremony for their indoor firing range. In 2015, Portman secured the $9.4 million in funding to upgrade this indoor firing range facility. Following the ribbon cutting, Portman also delivered remarks at the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission Annual Meeting and discussed the importance of the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station (YARS) to the Youngstown community and to our country. Portman has long fought for YARS, which employs more than 1,800 people, to ensure it has the resources it needs to perform its mission.
  • Supporting America’s Veterans. Portman has worked in a bipartisan way to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans.  This includes the following:
  • President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum Act, which congressionally designates the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2018. This museum will provide an important venue to honor America’s veterans and educate the American people about their sacrifice.
  • Portman supported, and President Trump signed into law, the VA MISSION Act in June 2018The bipartisan legislation provides veterans with access to efficient, timely, and quality health care and services in their own communities. 
  • Portman’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) law provides more opioid funding for prevention and treatment. The Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act includes $400 million for Opioid Prevention and Treatment programs at the VA. This includes $348 million for prevention and treatment programs, of which $52 million is allocated for continuing implementation of Senator Portman’s CARA law.  CARA outlined new opioid public safety initiatives at the VA to ensure safe prescribing and prevent diversion, abuse, and over-prescribing. The additional CARA resources will be used to strengthen VA’s Opioid Safety Initiative as well as to develop programs aimed at ensuring that non-VA providers treating veterans through the community care programs are informed and in compliance with all VA standards for opioid safety and prescription guidelines.
  • Portman introduced the bipartisan Gold Star Spouses Leasing Relief Act in July 2018, which would modify the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to allow a widow or widower of a servicemember who died while in military service (i.e., a Gold Star spouse) to terminate a jointly held residential lease without penalty within one year of the servicemember’s death.
  • Portman joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in November 2018 in sending a letter to Assistant Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Lynn Johnson calling on HHS to ensure disabled post-9/11 military veterans and their children are able to access high-quality early childhood education through the Head Start program.
  • Standing Up for Ukraine. Portman, who is co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, has continued to be Ukraine’s strongest advocate in Congress.
  • For the past two years, Portman has successfully enacted amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that expanded U.S. military aid to Ukraine. These provisions helped build the primary statutory framework for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. In addition, he has repeatedly written letters, delivered multiple floor speeches, and pressed senior administration officials on the importance of providing meaningful assistance to help Ukraine stand up to Russia's military aggression.
  • In July 2018, Portman praised the Department of Defense’s release of $200 million in security assistance to fund additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. Portman has led efforts in the Senate to ensure these Ukraine security assistance funds were authorized and obligated pending critical defense reforms at the Ukrainian parliament. Later in 2018, Portman was recognized for these efforts with the Order Of St. Volodymyr Medal from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret. Portman has praised the Trump administration’s decision to approve the sale of lethal military equipment to Ukraine for the first time in March 2018. Portman also championed a bipartisan resolution marking the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, which was passed by the Senate in October 2018.
  • In December 2017, as part of the NDAA, the president signed into law Portman and Senator Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) language to improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies. The language builds on their Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, legislation signed into law in 2016, by helping them to promote more seamless coordination between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department on this issue.  Portman and Murphy successfully urged the State Department to step up its efforts to fully implement the law and secure sufficient resources for its Global Engagement Center (GEC) to help counter the foreign propaganda and disinformation. In February 2018, Portman and Murphy praised the State Department and the DOD for signing a Memorandum of Agreement to operationalize the programs and priorities of the GEC. In March 2018, Portman championed language providing $250 million from the International Affairs budget to assistance programs and other initiatives to counter Russia’s disinformation, corruption, and malign influence. In August 2018, Portman introduced a bipartisan amendment to the FY 2019 Defense Appropriations bill that would transfer $40 million to the U.S. Department of State for the Global Engagement Center (GEC), as authorized in law and agreed to in a joint Memorandum of Agreement, to expose and counter foreign propaganda and influence. . 
  • The Senate unanimously passed a resolution Portman co-authored in November 2018 condemning Russia’s attack on Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait and calling for the immediate release of all Ukrainian sailors.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Portman’s bipartisan resolution strongly condemning the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula, and also reaffirms the United States’ policy recognizing Crimea as a sovereign part of the nation of Ukraine in 2018.
  • Portman received the Order of Merit from Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko during his visit to Ukraine in early 2018 and received the Ukrainian-American community’s highest honor in 2016, the Shevchenko Freedom Award.
  • Combating Anti-Semitism & Attacks on the Homeland. Portman has long made clear that there is no place in our society or our country for hatred or religious intolerance of any kind. With mounting threats made against the Jewish community in the United States and Jewish Community Centers in Ohio, Portman came out strong in defense of religious tolerance and stood in solidarity with the Jewish community. After the horrific attack in Pittsburgh, Portman visited with the Jewish Federation of Youngstown leadership and released this video.  In 2017, Portman visited the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus to meet with Ohio Jewish leaders and urged the administration to take action in response to threats made against JCCs, Jewish Day School, and Synagogues in Ohio and across the country. In March 2018, the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee approved two amendments offered by Portman to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Authorization Act to help protect Jewish Community Centers and other nonprofit institutions around the country.  After threats made to Islamic communities, Portman spoke out forcibly against hateful threats and visited the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in a show of solidarity.
  • Imposing Sanctions on Russia. In August 2017, President Trump signed into law Portman’s priorities to hold Russia accountable as part of the Russia, Iran, and North Korea sanctions legislation. The legislation mandates congressional review if sanctions on Russia are relaxed, suspended, or terminated, codifies and strengthens existing sanctions contained in executive orders on Russia, and more. Portman has also been vocal in urging the administration to pursue a tough Russia policy and a more coordinated effort between the United States and the European Union to counter Russian disinformation.  Portman also welcomed the announcement in August 2018 from the U.S. Department of State imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to the determination that the Russian government used a nerve agent on a UK citizen on UK soil.  In April 2018, Portman visited the Czech Republic, meeting with Czech leaders, think tank and other thought leaders, as well as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) to further strengthen our security and economic ties between the two countries and discuss efforts to counter foreign propaganda from countries like Russia.
  • Supporting Israel. After getting his bill to help combat the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement signed into law in 2016, Portman continued his longstanding support for Israel, making it clear that if another country wants close economic ties with the United States, they cannot support efforts to weaken the economy of our ally Israel. This year, Portman introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and a resolution condemning anti-Israel efforts at the United Nations. Portman will continue to stand up for Israel and against the BDS movement.  Portman was honored with the Jewish National Fund’s Tree of Life Award in September 2018. The Tree of Life Award is a humanitarian honor given in recognition of outstanding community involvement, dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship, and devotion to the peace and security of human life.
  • Holding North Korea Accountable. In July 2017, Portman pressed the administration to redesignate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, and in October, he led a bipartisan letter to the State Department outlining the many destabilizing and terror-related acts taken by this rogue regime. In November, the president announced that North Korea would be relisted as a state sponsor of terrorism. Portman has also introduced the North Korean Enablers Accountability Act to tighten the economic embargo on North Korea and its enablers.
  • Strengthening Federal Efforts to Counter Cybersecurity Attacks. Portman has worked in a bipartisan manner on several key measures to strengthen federal cyber defenses and prevent attacks by hackers and foreign countries.  This includes:
  • Portman’s bipartisan Hack Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Act, designed to strengthen cyber defenses at DHS by utilizing “white-hat” or ethical hackers to help identify unique and undiscovered vulnerabilities in the DHS networks and information technology, passed the Senate unanimously in early 2018. In September 2018, the legislation was passed out of committee in the House and it now awaits action on the House floor.
  • In September 2018, the Senate Homeland Security Committee passed Portman’s bipartisan DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act to bolster cybersecurity by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make permanent the “cyber hunt” and “cyber incident response” teams that work to help prevent cyberattacks on federal agencies and the private sector, as well as help mitigate the impact of such attacks when they occur.
  • Portman introduced the bipartisan Public-Private Cybersecurity Cooperation Act, which would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a cyber-vulnerabilities disclosure program (VDP) so that vulnerabilities in DHS’ cyber systems can be easily reported and fixed in December 2018.
  • Ensuring the Federal Government Has AI Expertise. In September 2018, Portman introduced the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Government Act, legislation that would improve the use of AI across the federal government by providing resources and directing federal agencies to include AI in data-related planning.  Artificial intelligence will have significant impacts on our country, economy, and society.  Ensuring that our government has the capabilities and expertise to help navigate those impacts will be important in the coming years and decades.

Protecting the Great Lakes & Our Environment

Senator Portman continues to be a leader in the bipartisan effort to protect our Great Lakes and the environment.  Whether it is promoting energy efficiency legislation, protecting our national parks, or improving the health of Lake Erie and Great Lakes, Portman continues to deliver results for Ohio.

  • Protecting the Great Lakes. Portman, who serves as co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has a lengthy record of accomplishments in protecting Lake Erie. This Congress, Portman has led the effort in the Senate to reauthorize and fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a results-driven program to address the most serious issues that threaten the ecological and economic well-being of the Great Lakes basin, including invasive species, pollution, and toxic contamination.  By fighting to keep the lake clean, protect the lake from dangerous invasive species and harmful algal blooms, strengthen fish and wildlife restoration efforts, ensure that Ohioans have safe drinking water, and much more, Portman has demonstrated his commitment to continue improving the health of Lake Erie and support the tourism, fishing, and recreation that surrounds it.
    • Following news in 2017 that the administration proposed to eliminate funding for the GLRI, Portman fought for and secured GLRI funding. In February 2018, the administration once again proposed to cut funding for GLRI. Portman, once again, fought for and secured full funding for GLRI.
    • Portman joined Port of Cleveland leadership to host a roundtable discussion on the importance of the GLRI to Lake Erie and the surrounding communities in April 2017. Later in the month, he saw a firsthand a GLRI success story in a visit to the restored wetland at Maumee Bay State Park and later at the University of Toledo Lake Erie Center. In May 2017, Portman visited a farm in Dunkirn with the Ohio Farm Bureau to see firsthand how the GLRI is being used to implement farming practices to help protect the health of Lake Erie.
    • Several Portman-led initiatives were included in the 2016 Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act. This includes reauthorizing GLRI at $300 million through FY 2021, preventing the Army Corps from dumping dredged material into Lake Erie without Ohio EPA’s consent, strengthening fish and wildlife conservation efforts by reauthorizing the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration, and improving water infrastructure to protect our drinking water.
    • In addition to fighting for full GLRI funding, Portman led an effort to keep Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which serves Ohio, as well as Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota—up and running.
    • Portman celebrated President Trump signing into law the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, which includes two Portman bills to streamline permitting for hydropower projects and to create more jobs for local communities across the country and permanently authorize a cost-sharing program to allow expedited review of permit applications with the Army Corps of Engineers for some infrastructure projects in October 2018. This bill also included Portman’s provision to include a Great Lakes coastal resiliency study to coordinate a strategy across the Great Lakes states to help protect the Great Lakes’ 5,200-mile coastline. 
    • Portman’s bipartisan Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act passed the Senate in September 2017. The legislation would help protect fresh water bodies such as Lake Erie by reauthorizing the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA), which was first enacted in 1998. For almost two decades, the HABHRCA program has served as the federal government’s research and response toolkit for harmful algal blooms.
    • In March 2017, Portman introduced the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, which passed the Senate on October 5, 2017. This bipartisan legislation would provide local communities with increased flexibility when complying with Clean Water Act requirements for updates to water infrastructure projects. The bill would also give communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and storm water investments.
    • Portman and his bipartisan colleagues urged the Army Corps of Engineers to remain on target to complete the Brandon Road Chief’s Report by early 2019, which is imperative to ensuring that Asian Carp do not enter the Great Lakes and threaten the lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry. Portman also helped include language in the FY 2019 Energy & Water appropriations bill directing the Corps to make every effort to complete its Chief’s Report by February 2019.
    • In September 2018, Portman announced that President Trump signed into law the FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act conference report, which included important wins for Lake Erie. The measure included language prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineers from dumping toxic material dredged from the Cuyahoga River shipping channel into Lake Erie without the approval from the state of Ohio. 
    • In December 2018, President Trump signed into law the Frank Lobiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act, which included a bipartisan compromise that Portman helped negotiate to establish a rulemaking framework for ballast and incidental discharge regulations. The rulemaking framework ensures the Great Lakes are protected against the spread of invasive species and pollution while creating regulatory certainty for the competitive shipping industry across the region.
  • In August 2018, Portman hosted a Lake Erie Roundtable in Oak Harbor to discuss ways to protect Lake Erie from threats such as harmful algal blooms (HABs) and invasive species.
  • In August 2018, Portman praised an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it is awarding Belmont County $60 million from its Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program to fund comprehensive improvements to the country water system.
    • Portman led a bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force letter urging the Army Corps of Engineers to allocate and request funding for projects critical to the Great Lakes. In a letter to R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), the senators requested funding for projects critical to stopping Asian carp, maintaining the Soo Locks and funding a new Poe-sized lock as well as funding for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study.
  • Portman, who last year received a Clean Water Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), will continue working to preserve and protect the critical GLRI program against efforts by the administration to reduce or eliminate GLRI funding altogether.
  • Protecting our National Parks: Senator Portman introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation that would help address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS). The bill, which has been praised by key stakeholders, would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development to fund deferred maintenance projects at NPS sites across the country.  Notably, the measure would help tackle the more than $100 million maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national park sitesThe U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved Senator Portman’s Restore Our Parks Act in October 2018 by a strong, bipartisan vote of 19-4 and now awaits action by the full Senate.
  • Promoting Conservation and Protecting Wildlife: As co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, Portman has worked to protect our natural resources and wildlife both at home and abroad.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Portman’s Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act in November 2018. This legislation encourages the U.S. to develop a strategy to protect the Okavango River Delta in Southern Africa.
  • In July 2018, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Portman’s bipartisan Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act (TFCA). This legislation reauthorizes a program that Portman created in 1998 that has saved more than 67 million acres of tropical forest by allowing developing countries that meet certain criteria to be relieved of debt owed to the United States in exchange for their conservation efforts.  Portman’s legislation reauthorizes the TFCA program and expands it to include coral reef ecosystems.
  • Portman praised the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in September 2018 for passing his bipartisan legislation, the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act, which would help sustain populations of migratory birds that face threats to their health and habitats. The legislation promotes long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 350 species of migratory birds, including Ohio’s state bird, the northern cardinal.
  • In March 2017, Portman introduced the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act, legislation to extend the authorization of a special postage stamp that funds conservation programs. Portman’s legislation was signed into law to extend the sale of these stamps for an additional four years. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, since the first of these stamps went on sale in 2011, more than 30 million have been sold, raising $2.9 million.
  • Leading in Energy Initiatives: Senator Portman, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has been a strong advocate for a comprehensive energy strategy while also protecting our environment. He has continually worked to keep Ohio’s energy sector competitive while promoting energy efficiency.
  • In March 2017, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee approved the bipartisan energy efficiency legislation Portman introduced with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC). The measure contains important energy efficiency policy reforms that will strengthen the economy and reduce pollution without any new taxes or mandates. Components of the bill were signed into law by President Obama in April 2015 and are already helping individuals and companies use less energy, creating jobs, and reducing emissions. Taken together, these bipartisan reforms include common-sense initiatives that will create nearly 200,000 new jobs, save consumers $16.2 billion annually in reduced energy costs, and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 22 million cars off the road.
  • In April 2017, Portman introduced the Carbon Capture Improvement Act, which would help power plants and industrial facilities finance the purchase and installation of carbon capture and storage equipment, allowing states like Ohio to continue to utilize our natural resources while protecting our environment at the same time. Specifically, this bill would allow businesses to use private activity bonds (PABs) issued by local or state governments to finance a carbon capture project, storing carbon dioxide that would have otherwise been emitted into the atmosphere.
  • In May 2017, Portman introduced legislation  to require the Department of Energy to work with EPA and OMB to update its 2006 report on the energy and environmental benefits of re-refining used lubricating oil. It also requires DOE to provide recommendations on how to collect used oil and promote sustainable re-use. The re-refining process, using used oil as the feedstock, is much more energy efficient than using crude oil as the feedstock. Not only is the re-refining process more energy efficient, but it also helps protect the environment. Its companion bill passed the House of Representatives on December 12, 2017 by voice vote.
  • Protecting Piketon Jobs: Portman has consistently fought to ensure that that promises made to the Piketon community regarding the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant are kept. In 2017, Portman visited the plant twice, first in June, and then again in September with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who agreed with Portman that having a domestic capability to enrich uranium is a national security issue and that he is willing to re-evaluate after the Obama administration’s decision to end the domestic uranium enrichment demonstration program. In February 2018, Portman announced that he had secured a commitment from DOE to clean up the existing landfills and plumes at the plant. In September 2018, Portman announced  that President Trump signed into law funding legislation that included $26.8 million above the FY 2018 bipartisan funding agreement and $60 million above the president’s budget request to fully fund cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio. This includes $366.9 million for decontamination and decommissioning of the plant and $41 million for the onsite disposal cell. Portman will continue to work every year to secure the funding necessary to keep the cleanup project on track and to project jobs.

Fighting for Better, More Affordable Health Care

Senator Portman continued to fight for a better health care system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access to quality care, and protects the most vulnerable in our society.  Health care costs are still too high, and as a result Ohio families and small businesses continue to see their premiums and deductibles increase.

  • Extending the CHIP Program for 10 Years. Portman fought for a long-term extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), praising the program that is vital to approximately 219,000 Ohio kids. In January 2018, Portman voted to provide six years of certainty and stability to the 8.9 American children enrolled in CHIP.  And as part of the bipartisan budget agreement in February 2018, CHIP was extended an additional four years, meaning the program has been reauthorized for a full 10 years.
  • Fighting for a Better Health Care System. Portman was an active voice in the health care debate, consistently advocating for a solution that would both repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a more workable system that lowers costs, increases access to care, and protects the most vulnerable. He fought for Ohio priorities, including adding to the Senate replacement bill an unprecedented $45 billion in new resources for opioid treatment and $100 billion to help low-income Americans get high-quality, affordable health care.  He also worked to ensure that those on expanded Medicaid continue to have good health care options under a new system, whether it’s under the current Medicaid structure or affordable health care options on the private market.  He continues to work to stabilize the insurance markets and ensure that Ohioans have access to affordable health care.
  • Promoting Early Hearing Detection. President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act, legislation he authored with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) to reauthorize current research and improve public health programs for early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss in newborns, infants, and young children in October 2017.
  • Adopting Electronic Health Records. Portman’s bipartisan Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act that helps behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals – adopt electronic health records was signed into law by President Trump in October 2018Psychologists and other behavioral health specialists that are working to combat the opioid epidemic have largely been left behind in the national shift towards utilizing electronic health records and other health IT.  This initiative provides incentives for behavioral health care providers to adopt health IT to help bridge this gap and improve the coordination and quality of care for Americans with mental health, addiction, and other behavioral health care needs.
  • Supporting Medical Schools That Treat Addiction. The bipartisan opioids law also included Portman’s Enhancing Access to Addiction Treatment Act, which will support medical schools and residency programs that train students and residents in addiction medicine.  Increasing the number of physicians who can prescribe buprenorphine will help promote greater access to treatment in Ohio.  There are eight medical schools in Ohio and each will now be better able to prepare students who are entering the medical profession with the training to help individuals struggling with addiction.
  • Enacting the CHRONIC Act. The bipartisan budget agreement in February 2018 included the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act. The legislation included several Portman provisions, including ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries can receive high-quality, personalized care at home, incentivizing beneficiaries to receive preventive services and better manage their health care, and ensuring the Medicare Advantage program includes accurate quality measures to incentive plans to continue to care for low-income seniors.  Here’s more on these key Portman health care priorities:
  • Reauthorizing community health centers for two additional years. The law renews funding for community health centers, which provide affordable health care to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Portman has expressed his strong support for community health centers, which provide access to cost-effective primary and preventive care, and urged Senate leadership to reauthorize their funding. 
  • Reauthorizing the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Visiting Program for five years. The agreement renews this program, which has proven effective in helping families with newborns through evidenced-based home visitation programs – particularly new families coping with the opioid epidemic.   
  • Improving health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions. The bipartisan agreement ensures that Medicare beneficiaries can receive high-quality, personalized care at home, incentivizes beneficiaries to receive preventive services and better manage their health care, and ensures the Medicare Advantage program includes accurate quality measures to incentivize plans to continue to care for low-income seniors.
  • Extending the Independence at Home Act (IAH). The agreement extends the IAH demonstration’s expiration date by two years (until September 30, 2019), increases the cap on the total number of participating beneficiaries from 10,000 to 15,000, and gives practices three years to receive a shared savings payment. This program has benefited seniors in Ohio by reducing hospital readmissions, preventing costly hospital and nursing home admissions, and, most importantly, keeping patients healthy and in their preferred care setting.
  • Creating a better health rewards program in the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) setting.  The law includes a new program called the ACO Beneficiary Incentive Program, which would allow ACOs to make incentive payments to their members who seek out preventive care or chronic disease management services.  This program will allow Medicare to engage seniors in their health care – incentivizing seniors to set goals and meet health targets – enabling them to live better, healthier lives while also saving the Medicare system money without making cuts to benefits.
  • Ensuring Medicare Advantage quality measures account for the most vulnerable population.  The law includes a provision that builds on Portman’s work with Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) to ensure the most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries—including low-income, disabled, and dually-eligible seniors—are able to maintain access to high-quality Medicare Advantage plans.
  • Promoting Flexibility to Better Serve Patients. Portman announced in July 2018 that legislation based on his bipartisan proposal to give states more flexibility and time to implement electronic verification systems to better serve patients was passed by the House of Representatives. The president signed it into law on July 30, 2018.
  • Supporting Graduate Medical Education. Portman praised the Senate for passing bipartisan legislation he co-authored to reauthorize the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program for an additional five years and increase its authorization to $325 million per year in September 2018.  Earlier this spring, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved the measure.  As a part of the bipartisan spending agreement reached by Congress in March 2018, Portman helped secure the highest-ever funding levels for the CHGME program at $315 million. This new bill signed into law by President Trump in September 2018 will increase the program’s authorization by an additional $10 million. 
  • Protecting the Health Care of American Miners. In May 2017, Portman announced that the bipartisan agreement to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year included a permanent fix to 22,000 miners who were set to lose their health care. The agreement included language from the health portion of Portman’s Miners Protection Act, bipartisan legislation Portman introduced in January with his colleagues to ensure that the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of lifetime pensions and health benefits to retired miners and their families.

Enabling All Ohioans to Reach Their God-Given Potential

This Congress, Portman continued to work to ensure that all Ohioans can succeed by removing barriers that would have impeded Habitat for Humanity’s work to provide affordable housing to low-income families and help those with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society.

  • Renewing the Second Chance Act. The Senate passed, and the president will soon sign, Portman’s bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and strengthen the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce recidivism.  Then-Congressman Portman originally authored the Second Chance Act with the late-Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and it was signed into law in 2008. Since 2009, more than 850 Second Chance Act grant awards have been made to government agencies and nonprofit organizations from 49 states for reentry programs serving adults and juveniles.  As of June 2018, more than 164,000 individuals have participated in these programs. In total, Ohio has received more than $39 million in Second Chance Act grants since 2009, which includes funds to assist Ohioans re-entering the community with services such as job training, drug rehabilitation, case management and mental health treatment.  
  • In April 2017 and 2018, the Senate passed Portman’s resolution to designate April as “Second Chance Month” and honor those who work to remove unnecessary barriers that prevent those with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society. Portman is the author of the Second Chance Act, legislation designed to help break the cycle of recidivism through drug treatment and job training, which makes our community safer, saves taxpayer dollars, and most importantly, helps former inmates fulfill their God-given potential.
  • Supporting Habitat for Humanity. Having volunteered and participated in dozens of builds for more than 20 years, Portman is a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity, which helps provide affordable housing to low-income families. In August 2017, following his successful “Buckeye Build” in 2016, Portman returned to Cleveland to participate in another build and volunteered again on his birthday in December 2017 and 2018.  Portman is also using his platform as a U.S. Senator to help Habitat assist families throughout Ohio and the country. Portman’s Housing Opportunities Made Easier (HOME) Act, legislation designed to ensure that Habitat for Humanity affiliates and other organizations can receive donated appraisals on the homes they build, was signed into law on May 24, 2018.
  • Helping Families Engages With Incarcerated Family Members. Portman joined bipartisan colleagues in March 2018 to introduce the Inmate Calling Technical Corrections Act to strengthen the nation’s criminal justice system by helping families keep in touch with incarcerated family members, which studies have shown can help reduce recidivism rates and thereby save taxpayer dollars. The legislation is supported by criminal justice leaders and civil rights organizations.
  • Prosecuting the Rape Kit Backlog. Portman joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing the Justice Served Act, which would provide funds to prosecute the rape kit backlog and justice for victims of heinous crimes like sexual assault by resolving cold cases and exonerating those wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit.

Other Portman Accomplishments

In addition to helping lead efforts to reform our broken tax code, continuing his work to combat addiction, working to end human and sex trafficking, bolstering the national defense, and protecting our environment, Portman has also been a leader on other issues. Here is a look at some of his other accomplishments over the past year:

  • Confirming Judges Who Will Affirm the Constitution. In April 2017, Portman voted to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Portman made his decision to support his nomination after meeting with him in February.  In 2018, Portman voted to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court. Portman gave various speeches on the Senate floor in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination and introduced him at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He also released two videos highlighting his support for Kavanaugh. In addition to confirming Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the Senate has voted to confirm 29 circuit judges and 53 district court judges.
  • Additional Measures Signed into Law.  Senator Portman authored a number of other bills what were signed into law by President Trump, including:
  • In November 2017, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan TSP Modernization Act to give much-needed retirement flexibility to federal employees by modernizing the Thrift Savings Plan’s (TSP) outdated withdrawal rules. The bill will make the TSP more responsive to the needs of its participants and give federal employees the retirement flexibility they deserve.
  • Portman has helped lead the efforts in the Senate to pass legislation that would clear the way for the Delta Queen, a U.S. National Historic Landmark, to once again carry passengers on overnight trips on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  In April, the Senate approved Portman’s bipartisan legislation. The bill now awaits action in the House.
  • In January 2018, President Trump signed into law Portman’s Federal Register Printing Savings Act, legislation that eliminates the mandatory daily printing and delivery of the Federal Register to congressional offices.  This common-sense bill will save taxpayers about $1 million annually and make the federal government more efficient and effective.
  • The Senate passed legislation Portman authored – the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience (IDEA) Act – which is designed to improve citizens’ interaction with the federal government online, while reducing the cost of assistance from federal agencies in September 2018.
  • President Trump signed into law Portman’s External Power Supply (EPS) Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation that will give needed certainty to Ohio LED manufacturers in January 2018. The bill will exempt the manufacturers of energy saving LEDs from an onerous Department of Energy regulation that could have curtailed or stopped production of LEDs.
  • Portman’s bill to rename the federal building and courthouse on West 2nd Street in downtown Dayton after Senior United States District Court Judge Walter H. Rice was signed into law in November 2018.
  • Portman’s bill honoring Lawrence Eugene “Larry” Doby, the first African American to play in the American League, with the Congressional Gold Medal for his career and contributions to the American civil rights movement passed the Senate in December 2018 and is set to become law. Doby joined the Cleveland Indians in 1947. He was the first African-American player to hit a home run in a World Series game, led the American League in home runs twice, and was voted to seven All-Star teams.
  • Helping Ohio Constituents. In 2018, Senator Portman and his casework team opened 3,259 cases (as of 12/12/18) to help Ohioans in need. 2,910, or 89.29 percent, of those cases were closed favorably. Throughout his time in the Senate, Portman and his team have opened a total 23,547 cases and have closed 19,684, or 83.59 percent, of those cases favorably.
  • Recognition for Portman’s Work to Deliver Results.  Portman is committed to working across the aisle to deliver results, and has successfully done so during his eight years in the Senate.  For his work, Portman was awarded the 2017 Jefferson-Lincoln Award from the Panetta Institute for Public Policy for his outstanding stewardship of our democracy through dedicated, responsible, and bipartisan leadership, and the Jacob K. Javits Prize for Bipartisan Leadership from the Javits Foundation for his achievements that advance the public interest without regard to political affiliation. In 2018, Portman received the Congressional Management Foundation’s first annual Democracy Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.

Senator Portman has fought for all Ohioans and continued to deliver results for them. He helped lead the effort reform the broken tax code to create more jobs and boost wages.  He has led the effort to combat America’s drug epidemic. He has led the effort to help end online sex trafficking. He has consistently stood up for American global leadership and Ohio’s servicemembers, and much, much more. Senator Portman will continue to deliver results for Ohio in the 116th Congress.

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