Rob’s Rundown: Week of April 25 - April 29, 2022

April 29, 2022 | Press Releases

Senator Portman was back in Washington this week and on Monday he spoke on the Senate floor for the ninth straight week during Senate session about Russia’s war on Ukraine and called for Vladimir Putin to be held accountable. Portman noted Secretaries Blinken and Austin’s visit to Kyiv, President Biden’s nomination of Bridget Brink to be Ambassador to Ukraine, and the new online portal for Americans to sponsor Ukrainian refugees.  On Tuesday, Portman pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relation hearing on a number of Ukraine-related issues, including on the role the U.S. is playing in helping Europe reduce its reliance on Russian energy.

On Wednesday, Portman joined FOX Business’ Your World where he discussed the Biden administration’s attempts to lift Title 42 and the detrimental effect it would have on the ongoing border crisis, and the rise in overdose deaths by the synthetic opioid fentanyl coming across the southern border to Ohio. He also led his fellow Senate Republicans at a press conference to discuss the Biden administration’s actions and policies that caused a crisis at our southern border. As the Republican leader on the Senate Committee of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Portman has consistently called on the administration to take action to address the border crisis that is fueling the rise in illicit narcotics drugs flooding into our communities. 

On Thursday, he expressed concern over the administration’s decision to create a Disinformation Governance Board at the Department of Homeland Security. As the author of the bipartisan law that established the Global Engagement Center to combat the constantly evolving threat of foreign propaganda and disinformation abroad, Portman noted that the U.S. should not use tools created to counter foreign adversaries onto the American people.

Today, Senator Portman is in Ohio where he is hosting Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center to discuss the proposed closure of the facility. Tonight he will accept the 2002 Wildlife Conservation Award from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:

Monday, April 25

On Senate Floor, Portman Condemns Continued Russian War Crimes in Ukraine, Calls on Biden Administration to Do More to Support War Effort

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) spoke on the Senate floor about Russia’s continued war crimes in Ukraine and called for Vladimir Putin to be held accountable. Portman noted Secretaries Blinken and Austin’s visit to Kyiv, President Biden’s nomination of Bridget Brink to be Ambassador to Ukraine, and the new online portal for Americans to sponsor Ukrainian refugees.  While Senator Portman has been critical of the lack of urgency from the Administration, he noted that these are steps in the right direction. As violence against noncombatants and civilians continues, Portman urged the freezing and seizing of Russian assets to help Ukrainians, and cutting off Russia’s income from energy sales to help further cripple the Putin economy.

Senator Portman recently visited a humanitarian organization in Ohio called MedWish that has shipped over seven tons of medical supplies to Ukraine and commended their efforts from the Buckeye state. Portman has now spoken on the Floor for nine weeks to support our democratic ally Ukraine and will continue to push for strong bipartisan action.

A transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

Tuesday, April 26

At Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, Portman Presses Secretary of State Blinken on Increasing Energy Sanctions on Russia, More Efficient Transfer of Military Assistance to Ukraine

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a number of Ukraine-related issues. Portman pressed Secretary Blinken on the role the U.S. is playing in helping Europe reduce its reliance on Russian energy. Specifically, Portman asked for an update on the strategy and objectives of the recently established U.S.-EU joint task force for energy security. Energy receipts continue to be Russia’s number one source of revenue, funding its aggression against Ukraine. The U.S. has led the world in prohibiting the import of Russian energy products, but Europe’s heavy reliance on Russian energy has prevented them from doing the same. Estimates show that Europe continues to purchase approximately $870 million each day of energy from Russia. Portman underscored the important role U.S. energy producers will play in supporting Europe’s transition away from Russian energy, and Portman questioned how the administration was supporting domestic energy production in order to backfill Europe’s needs. Portman continues to point out that President Biden and his administration have, from day one, stifled domestic energy production, such as implementing a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters. Portman stressed the importance of an all-of-the-above energy strategy and that our domestic energy policies will directly impact on our national security and ability to support Europe in their transition away from Russian energy.

Senator Portman also spoke to Secretary Blinken about the new Ukraine Security Assistance Coordinator, something Senator Portman and others in Congress have called for. Last week, President Biden appointed LGen Terry Wolff to be the Coordinator. When asked by Portman how the State Department was going to coordinate with LGen Wolff on improving the arms transfer process to Ukraine, Secretary Blinken said he would work with LGen Wolff very closely to provide assistance as effectively and efficiently as possible; when asked who LGen Wolff reported to – either Secretary Blinken, the President, or the National Security Advisor – Secretary Blinken was unable to provide an answer.

A transcript of Senator Portman’s questioning can be found here and the video can be found here.

On Fox News’ Your World, Portman Discusses Crisis at Our Southern Border

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto to discuss the Biden administration’s attempts to lift Title 42, a public health order put in place to allow border authorities to turn illegal immigrants away due to the COVID public health crisis. While Senator Portman does not agree with the administration’s attempts to lift Title 42, what is more important, he says, is to fix our broken immigration system. Last year, one million illegal immigrants entered the United States – this year we are on track to have about two million people cross into our country. In addition, we have seen huge influxes of illegal drugs flooding across our southern border, contributing to a record number of overdose deaths in 2021. The only meaningful way forward, Portman argues, is to work on a bipartisan basis to enforce our laws and fix our asylum system so it works the way it was intended.

A transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

Wednesday, April 27

At Press Conference, Portman Discusses How Lifting Title 42 Will Cause Catastrophe at Southern Border

At a press conference earlier today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) led his fellow Senate Republicans in discussing the Biden administration’s actions and policies that have caused a crisis at our southern border. Earlier this month, the administration announced its intent to lift Title 42 at the end of May. Title 42 is public health order put in place to allow border authorities to turn unlawful immigrants away due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Currently about half of the unlawful immigrants who attempt to enter our country are turned away using Title 42. With a record number of border crossings of unlawful immigrants, as well as the illicit narcotics that are coming over the southern border and into communities across Ohio, Portman expressed serious concern with lifting Title 42 without an adequate plan to deter unlawful immigrants once the order is lifted. Portman emphasized that the administration must work in a bipartisan basis with Congress to enforce our laws and fix our asylum system so it works to ensure the safety and security of all Americans.

A transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

Thursday, April 28

Portman Expresses Concern About Creation of DHS Disinformation Governance Board

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, issued the following statement expressing concern about the creation of a Disinformation Governance Board at the Department of Homeland Security:

“I am deeply concerned by the administration’s decision to create a Disinformation Governance Board at the Department of Homeland Security. As the author of the bipartisan law that established the Global Engagement Center to combat the constantly evolving threat of foreign propaganda and disinformation abroad, I do not believe that the United States government should turn the tools that we have used to assist our allies counter foreign adversaries onto the American people. Our focus should be on bad actors like Russia and China, not our own citizens.

“I look forward to pressing Secretary Mayorkas for answers about the Disinformation Governance Board when he appears before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee next week.”

NOTE: Portman has been a leader in countering propaganda and disinformation. In 2016, Portman and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) wrote and successfully passed legislation tasking the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) with leading U.S. government efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation from countries like Russia and China. The mission of the GEC is to “lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the federal government in countering foreign state and foreign non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts.”

Friday, April 28 

Portman, Colleagues Introduce Resolution Declaring April as Second Chance Month

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Second Chance Month Resolution, honoring those who work to remove unnecessary barriers that prevent those with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society.  U.S. Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD), Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Don Bacon (R-NE) also introduced the resolution in the House of Representatives.

“I’m proud to lead the Senate effort to name April as Second Chance Month. Renewing and strengthening the idea that people deserve second chances is critical to our efforts to stop the revolving door of incarceration and help former inmates live up to their God-given potential,”said Senator Portman. “Since the Second Chance Act was first signed into law in 2007, it has played an important role in criminal justice reform policy, changing thousands of lives in Ohio and across the country. The mistakes of our past don’t have to define the potential for our future. By designating April as Second Chance Month, we are supporting those who are returning from prison and want a fair shot at living an honest and productive life by increasing public awareness and getting them the help they need.”

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the challenges people face after they leave prison,” said Senator Klobuchar. “People are capable of change and many deserve a second chance. This bipartisan resolution to recognize ‘Second Chance Month’ will bring awareness to these barriers and promote opportunities for those who have served their time to access stable jobs, continue their education, and become productive members of society again.”

“Throughout my career – from the State Assembly to the LA City Council and now in Congress – I have made it a priority to fix our broken criminal justice system,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “For too long, we have relied on an antiquated criminal justice model that prioritizes wasteful incarceration over efficient, effective rehabilitation. People have already paid for their crimes and should not continue to be punished by over 44,000 legal and social barriers that prevent them from resuming their lives as free citizens. America is a land of opportunity, and that opportunity should be available to those who have paid their debt to society. Everyone deserves to live in a world where you can change for the better, and where your future is not defined by a single mistake. That is the world I am fighting for every day.”

“With this resolution, we’re addressing the challenges faced by justice-impacted individuals and helping Americans give back to their communities in a meaningful way. It's clear that the American justice system needs to stop penalizing folks who have already paid their debts and should instead focus on rehabilitation and uplifting vulnerable communities,” said Congressman Trone. “As a businessman, I chose to hire returning citizens because I believe in second chances. As a Congressman, I continue to do just that for the thousands of Americans who are effectively locked out of our economy, our education system, and our neighborhoods because of a past criminal record.”

“Second Chance Month plays an important role in raising awareness of the difficulty previously incarcerated individuals, who have paid their debt to society, experience re-entering society,” said Congressman Westerman. “We must recognize the intrinsic value and dignity of these individuals, as we look to break down the stigmas attached to incarceration. Everyone deserves a second chance. Opportunity after incineration is vital to breaking the cycle of crime and reducing recidivism. I am honored to stand with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in this effort to acknowledge the dignity of every human being and honor the desire of reformed individuals who hope to become contributing members of society.” 

“Second Chance Month is a representation to all of us about the power of forgiveness and the Second Chance programs are key in that. They have helped reintegrate people back into society, heal families, and give much needed mental health services. By providing these support systems, individuals can become productive members of society, restoring dignity and respect to those who have served their time and want to contribute back to their communities and families,” said Congressman Bacon. 

One in three American adults with a criminal record face significant barriers to getting their lives back on track upon release. When legal and social barriers prohibit a formerly incarcerated person from finding good-paying jobs, this not only negatively impacts them, but also affects their family for generations. Additionally, securing gainful employment and being accepted in society reduces the likelihood of these individuals returning to prison in the future, decreasing crime and improving public safety.

This resolution was also endorsed by Prison Fellowship.

NOTE: The First Step Act, signed into law on December 21, 2018, included the Second Chance Reauthorization Act, legislation co-authored by Senator Portman to reauthorize and strengthen the Second Chance Act, which 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 of Ohio in 2005, and it was later 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 $23 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.

Portman, Brown Announce National Prescription Drug Take Back Day This Saturday, Encourage Ohioans to Participate

Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced Ohioans can safely dispose of unwanted and unused prescription drugs on “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” tomorrow, Saturday, April 30 starting at 10:00 A.M. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in an effort to provide safe, convenient and responsible means for disposal of prescription drugs, while also educating the public about the potential for misuse and medications.

“In 2021, drug overdose deaths reached a never-before-seen high in this country, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. We all must redouble our efforts to curb abuse and addiction in this country,” said Portman. “Most individuals who become addicted to opioids start by using prescription drugs, and that’s why safely disposing of unused prescription drugs is critical tool in our efforts to stop opioid abuse. I urge all Ohioans to clean out their medicine cabinets and participate in this year’s Drug Take Back event.”

“Addiction isn’t an individual problem or a character flaw, it’s a disease – a disease that all too often starts in the family medicine cabinet,” said Brown. “That’s why this DEA-sponsored Drug Take Back Day is so important in Ohio. Now more than ever, as drug overdoses have increased amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all prescription medications — especially addictive opioid painkillers — should be disposed of safely to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.”

Ohioans can look up the drug take back site closest to them here. 

###