Rob’s Rundown: Week of August 2 - August 6, 2021

August 6, 2021 | Press Releases

Senator Portman was in Washington this week as the Senate began debate over amendments to the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Portman took a lead role in crafting the legislation and delivered remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday evening detailing the numerous ways this historic piece of legislation would benefit his constituents in Ohio. The Senator also delivered remarks Monday afternoon in which he highlighted how the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act will grow the economy, create jobs, and lower the national debt in the long-term, and how it will not add to the surging inflation our economy is currently experiencing.

On Tuesday, Portman announced that the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act would help the long-awaited effort to address the Brent Spence Bridge and other Ohio projects. Specifically, the bill will provide $60 billion – including $45 billion in new grant funding – for state and local governments to fund projects like the Brent Spence Bridge. The unprecedented resources in Senator Portman’s bipartisan infrastructure agreement will provide new federal funding and certainty for state and local partners to help move this critical project forward.

Also on Tuesday morning, Portman and Senator Gary Peters, Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released a new bipartisan report reviewing cybersecurity at eight federal agencies and documenting the continued failure of seven of those agencies to comply with the baseline cybersecurity requirements in the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) and safeguard America’s data. The report titled Federal Cybersecurity: America’s Data Still at Risk shows that, two years after Portman’s bipartisan 2019 report on federal agency cybersecurity, which he released as then-Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), there are still systemic failures to safeguard American data at numerous federal agencies.

Finally, during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, Portman highlighted the importance of recognizing all communities throughout the United States that have been impacted by domestic terrorists and violent extremists.

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

Monday, August 2, 2021

Portman, Sinema, Manchin Announce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Federal Permitting Process Included in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act

Senators Rob Portman, Ranking Member of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that their Federal Permitting Reform and Jobs Act, a bill to improve the federal permitting process for some of the largest infrastructure projects and build on efforts to update this process created in 2015, is included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act that will be considered on the Senate floor this week. The inclusion of this bipartisan, common-sense bill in the broader, bipartisan infrastructure package will improve the federal permitting process for those funds and give project sponsors more certainty, which will allow them to create more jobs and develop our nation’s infrastructure more efficiently.

In 2015, Senator Portman and then-Senator Claire McCaskill co-authored the Federal Permitting Improvement Act, which Congress ultimately enacted into law as Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. That law, now known as FAST-41, significantly reformed the federal infrastructure permitting process while leaving environmental protections in place. Most significantly, it created the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council), which brings together agencies at the start of the permitting process for some of the largest, most complicated infrastructure projects (covered projects) to write out a comprehensive plan for the permitting process across agencies. The public can track the permitting progress for each of those projects at www.permits.performance.gov.

“I’m pleased our bipartisan bill to help update our aging infrastructure and create good jobs while expanding transparency in the permitting process and promoting better coordination between federal agencies was included in the bipartisan infrastructure package,” said Portman. “FAST-41 improved the federal permitting process to promote expansion, economic growth, and the hiring of American workers right here at home. We need to make this program permanent, apply it to more projects to ensure they get done on time and under budget, and expand the authority of the Permitting Council to see to it that those things happen. I urge my colleagues to join in supporting the bipartisan infrastructure package which includes this legislation that is good for jobs, the economy, and the environment.”

Portman, Sinema, King, Rounds, Hassan, Romney Announce More Than $20 Million for the Office of National Cyber Director Included in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act

Senators Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Co-Chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, Mike Rounds (R-SD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced that their bipartisan priority to provide $21 million in funding for the Office of the National Cyber Director (NCD) is included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act that will be considered on the Senate floor this week. The NCD is a brand new position tasked with coordinating the implementation of national cybersecurity policy and strategy. Because the position was created in the middle of a fiscal year, Congress has not yet directly appropriated funding for the Office.  With cyberattacks increasing in both scope and consequence, it is crucial to provide the National Cyber Director the funding and resources necessary to accomplish this important mission. The inclusion of this bipartisan priority in the broader, bipartisan infrastructure package will provide a one-time funding allocation of $21 million through Fiscal Year 2022.

“I applaud the inclusion of this important funding priority for the new Office of the National Cyber Director in the bipartisan infrastructure package,” said Portman. “The Office of the National Cyber Director is tasked with coordinating the implementation of national cyber policy and strategy and it is crucial that it has the funding and resources needed in order to able to effectively and efficiently develop national cyber policies that best protect federal networks, data, and critical infrastructure.”

Portman, Brown Lead Ohio Delegation Letter Urging the FAA to Support Ohio Remote Tower Innovation Program 

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Anthony Gonzalez, Tim Ryan (D-OH), Steve Chabot, Michael R. Turner, Bill Johnson, David P. Joyce, Brad Wenstrup, Robert E. Latta, Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Troy Balderson, Bob Gibbs, and Warren Davidson (R-OH-8), sent a letter urging Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson to support the Ohio Remote Tower (R-TWR) Innovation Program. This program would enable greater integration between aircraft and emerging technologies, including drones and autonomous vehicles, and enable the state to serve as an FAA test bed for integrating new technologies into the National Airspace System (NAS). Full text of the letter can be found here.

“We believe that in addition to innovation, the R-TWR program will provide economic opportunities which support the FAA’s workforce development plans. Universities and technical schools would develop future controllers, pilots, and maintenance technicians, expanding the national aviation workforce,” wrote the lawmakers. “The program would also enhance the safety of pilot and air traffic control training by utilizing a controlled tower environment.”

 On Senate Floor, Portman Discusses Need to Pass Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act

On the Senate floor, Senator Portman highlighted the landmark bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act he helped craft, which represents a historic investment in roads and bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, the electric grid, broadband, and much more. Portman discussed the need for Congress to make a smart investment in upgrading our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, as well as the broad support of the American people for the bipartisan approach he and his colleagues have taken in negotiating and building support for the bill. He highlighted how the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act will grow the economy, create jobs, and lower the national debt in the long-term, and how it will not add to the surging inflation our economy is currently experiencing.

Portman concluded by urging the Senate to support this critical investment and achieve a significant bipartisan victory on behalf of the American people. A video of Portman’s remarks can be found here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

New Bipartisan Portman-Peters Report Shows Federal Agencies’ Cybersecurity Failures Leaving Americans’ Personal Information at Risk

Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), the Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released a new bipartisan report reviewing cybersecurity at eight federal agencies and documenting the continued failure of seven of those agencies to comply with the baseline cybersecurity requirements in the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) and safeguard America’s data. The report titled Federal Cybersecurity: America’s Data Still at Risk shows that, two years after Portman’s bipartisan 2019 report on federal agency cybersecurity, which he released as then-Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), there are still systemic failures to safeguard American data at the Department of State; the Department of Transportation; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Department of Agriculture; the Department of Health and Human Services; the Department of Education; and the Social Security Administration, including failures: to protect personally identifiable information adequately, to maintain accurate and comprehensive IT asset inventories, to maintain current authorizations to operate for information systems, to install security patches quickly, and to retire legacy technology no longer supported by the vendor.

The Portman-Peters report follows Portman’s bipartisan 2019 report on federal agency cybersecurity and reviews FY 2020 Inspectors Generals reports on compliance with federal information security standards and finds that seven federal agencies still have not met the basic cybersecurity standards necessary to protect America’s sensitive data. In fact, the Inspectors General identified many of the same issues that have plagued federal agencies for more than a decade. The report makes specific recommendations to shore up federal agency cybersecurity and address these vulnerabilities. The report also includes a cybersecurity report card for all the cabinet departments and the largest independent agencies, and the average grade of the large federal agencies’ overall information security maturity was a C-.

“From SolarWinds to recent ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure, it’s clear that cyberattacks are going to keep coming and it is unacceptable that our own federal agencies are not doing everything possible to safeguard America’s data,” said Senator Portman. “This report shows a sustained failure to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities at our federal agencies, a failure that leaves national security and sensitive personal information open to theft and damage by increasingly sophisticated hackers. I am concerned that many of these vulnerabilities have been outstanding for the better part of a decade – the American people deserve better. In the coming months, I will be introducing legislation to address the recommendations raised in this report so that America’s data is protected. This report makes it clear that the Biden administration must also ensure there is a single point of accountability for federal cybersecurity to oversee the implementation of our recommendations and address these cybersecurity failures.”

Portman, Bennet, King Announce Historic Investment in Broadband Services

Senators Rob Portman, Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Angus King (I-ME) announced that their bipartisan BRIDGE Act is included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). IIJA provides $65 billion for broadband, including more than $40 billion to states, tribal governments, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia via block grants consistent with the senators’ bipartisan BRIDGE Act proposal to help close the gap in access to reliable high-speed internet that persists in certain communities. If passed, this would be the largest federal broadband investment in U.S. history.

“I’m pleased key pieces of this important legislation are included in the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. Too many rural and low-income communities in Ohio and across the U.S. lack affordable and reliable access to broadband,” said Portman. “By helping underserved areas rapidly gain broadband access, this historic piece of bipartisan legislation takes significant steps to finally close the digital divide.”

Portman, Manchin Announce Finish the ADHS Act Included in Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation

Senators Rob Portman and Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that their bipartisan Finish the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) Act has been included as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the end result of bipartisan infrastructure negotiations they have both played a crucial role in over the past three months. Finish the ADHS Act would provide $1.25 billion in dedicated funding over five years for the network of transportation corridors across Appalachia for the first time since 2012. Ohio stands to receive $86.2 million in funding through this legislation.

“Since its creation in 1965, the Appalachian Development Highway System has created thousands of miles of highway, creating jobs and bringing important economic development to rural parts of Ohio and the rest of Appalachia. Unfortunately, the portion that remains incomplete is difficult to build and expensive,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased that this legislation is included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, so that the System may finally be completed and hard-to-reach places in Appalachia are no longer hard to reach.”

Portman Announces REPLANT Act Included in Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation

Portman announced his bipartisan Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees (REPLANT) Act has been included as part of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the end result of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations he has helped lead over the past three months.

The REPLANT Act quadruples investments to support reforestation projects on national forests by removing the current funding cap of $30 million per year on the Reforestation Trust Fund.  This will help the U.S. Forest Service plant 1.2 billion trees on national forests and create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next 10 years. The bill only uses funds that are already being collected through tariffs on foreign wood products – it does not change the list of products, increase the tariffs, or use taxpayer funds.

“More and more we’re seeing catastrophic wildfires, flooding and other events that require greater investment in addressing our reforestation needs,” Portman said.  “This legislation will strengthen our efforts to protect our national forests, and I’m pleased it is included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This legislation provides a wide range of benefits, including improving our environment by sequestering carbon dioxide, reinvigorating ecosystems, and supporting wildlife that depend on healthy forests, while also creating nearly 49,000 jobs and expanding recreation opportunities on national forestland.”

Portman, Manchin Announce Value for Money Analysis Bill Included in Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation

Senators Rob Portman and Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that their bipartisan legislation requiring value for money analyses on federally-supported transportation loans has been included as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the end result of bipartisan infrastructure negotiations they have both played a crucial role in over the past three months. Public-private partnerships, or P3s, are contractual relationships between a state or local government and a private entity. The relationship allows for more efficient and effective project delivery at a lower cost. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 36 states have passed P3-enabling legislation, yet the use of this financing tool is still quite small. The Congressional Budget Office states that P3s have accounted for only one to three percent of spending for highway, transit, and water infrastructure since 1990.

Portman and Manchin’s legislation requires Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) applicants with project costs over $750 million to conduct a value for money analysis as part of their application process. In addition, the bill requires the Build America Bureau (the Department of Transportation’s hub for funding and financing resources), to report to Congress on the utilization of P3s and best practices for project financing.

“Oftentimes public-private-partnerships (P3) produce high quality projects at a lower cost. With the vast amount of infrastructure improvements needed around this country, P3s are a helpful way in keeping taxpayer costs down,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased that this legislation is included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as it directs DOT to require certain federally-supported projects to do a Value for Money analysis, an essential step for states and localities in determining whether or not a P3 would in fact be a less expensive, more efficient path forward for project delivery.”

Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation Includes Portman’s Carbon Capture Improvement Act

Portman announced that his bipartisan Carbon Capture Improvement Act has been included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the end result of bipartisan infrastructure negotiations he has helped lead over the past three months.

The Carbon Capture Improvement Act makes it easier for power plants and industrial facilities to finance the purchase and installation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage equipment, as well as direct air capture (DAC) projects through the use of private activity bonds (PABs).

Carbon capture removes carbon dioxide from an emissions stream at a power plant or industrial facility reducing emissions from energy-intensive industries. DAC is an innovative emerging technology that removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. These technologies allow us to reduce emissions and protect the environment while continuing to use our natural resources, but first generation facilities can cost upwards of $1 billion. By authorizing private activity bond financing, this bill will encourage commercial deployment, which is essential for bringing costs down and developing these technologies to scale.

“Carbon capture and direct air capture are two common-sense technologies that will allow states like Ohio to continue to utilize our natural resources while protecting our environment at the same time,” said Portman. “This bipartisan agreement takes significant steps to help industry adopt these key technologies which will make our infrastructure more resilient and environmentally friendly.”

Portman, Shaheen Announce Energy Efficiency Bill Included in Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation

Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced that their bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act has been included as part of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the end result of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations they have both played a crucial role in over the past three months.

The ESIC Act will improve energy efficiency in three key sectors – buildings, industrial, and the federal government. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), residential and commercial buildings accounted for about 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2018. In addition, reports from the U.S. Department of Energy have found that the federal government is the largest single energy consumer in the country. By improving energy efficiency in these three key sectors, the ACEEE analysis shows that this legislation will reduce emissions, protect the environment, and create jobs. 

“I’m pleased that the this bipartisan energy efficiency bill was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as part of common-sense measures that will increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions across the economy,” said Senator Portman. “We need a balanced approach to protecting our environment and reducing emissions, while also safeguarding our economy and jobs – our bipartisan efficiency legislation will accomplish just that.”

Portman: “Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement Paves the Way to Address the Brent Spence Bridge”

Portman, the lead Republican negotiator of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, today outlined how the new bill would help the long-awaited effort to address the Brent Spence Bridge. Specifically, the bill will provide $60 billion – including $45 billion in new grant funding – for state and local governments to fund projects like the Brent Spence Bridge. The unprecedented resources in Senator Portman’s bipartisan infrastructure agreement will provide new federal funding and certainty for state and local partners to help move this critical project forward.

The bridge, which crosses the Ohio River to connect Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, is heavily trafficked and plays a key role in national commerce, with three percent of America’s economic activity crossing over it every year. The bridge, which was built in 1963 to handle 80,000 vehicles a day, is now used by double that amount – 160,000 vehicles a day. With no shoulder and heavy traffic, the bridge is considered a safety risk as well, and has previously been deemed ‘functionally obsolete’ by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“I am pleased this historic bipartisan infrastructure agreement paves the way to address the Brent Spence Bridge,” said Portman. “As a life-long Cincinnatian, I have seen firsthand the ever-growing need for our community to invest in a solution for this outdated bridge. By providing new funding streams, the Brent Spence Corridor Project will have the federal support our state and local partners in Ohio need to finish the job once and for all. I will continue to work with local, state, and federal officials to help secure the resources needed alongside a local match for an eventual, long-term solution.”

Portman, Stabenow Announce RECYCLE Act Included in Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation

Senators Rob Portman and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that their bipartisan RECYCLE Act has been included as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the end result of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations from the past three months. The RECYCLE Act authorizes a new federal grant program through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help educate households and consumers about their residential and community recycling programs. The bipartisan infrastructure package also fully funds the RECYCLE Act at $15 million per year for five years.

Reports indicate consumer confusion on how to properly recycle is one of the top recycling challenges. According to the EPA, the recycling rate in the U.S. is 32.1 percent, which presents a significant opportunity to improve our nation’s recycling systems. Through education and outreach, the RECYCLE Act will help increase recycling rates and reduce contamination in the recycling stream.

“I’m pleased that my bipartisan RECYCLE Act was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. A key component of improving our domestic recycling systems is increasing consumer awareness about good recycling practices,” said Senator Portman. “Far too often, consumer confusion leads to poor recycling habits, which can damage recycling equipment and cause contamination in the recycling stream. This is a bipartisan, common-sense bill that’s good for the economy and the environment, and helps make our recycling infrastructure more durable.”

On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Portman Touts Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, Discusses Path Forward

In an interview this morning on CNBCs Squawk Box, Senator Rob Portman touted the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act – landmark legislation he helped craft to upgrade and modernize Americas aging infrastructure. The legislation is currently being considered by the Senate.

During the interview, Portman also stressed that the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act is on a completely different track than the Democrats $3.5 trillion tax and spending bill.

The transcript of the interview can be found here and you can watch the interview here.

Portman at Hearing on Domestic Terrorism & Violent Extremism: It is Important That We Recognize All Communities That Have Been Impacted

Senator Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, highlighted at a hearing to examine the persistent and concerning threat posed by domestic terrorists and violent extremists the importance of recognizing all communities throughout the United States that have been impacted. As Senator Portman noted, not all of those communities were represented at today’s hearing. In addition, Senator Portman discussed the need to hear and learn from government witnesses, who were also not represented at today’s hearing, about the magnitude of the domestic terrorist threat and how the federal government is responding to it.

Senator Portman has been a leader in the Senate in combatting domestic terrorism and violent extremism. Last year, Senator Portman and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that President Trump signed their bipartisan Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act into law. This legislation authorizes $75 million annually for five years, from FYs 2020-2024, for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). Senator Portman helped double the amount of funding available for the NSGP in the FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement that was signed into law late last year.

In addition, in June, Senator Portman and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities. The legislation passed out of the Committee last month.

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

Portman, Stabenow Announce $1 Billion in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Funding in Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Senators Rob Portman and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) will receive $1 billion in new funding as part of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the end result of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations from the past three months. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) includes $5.5 billion in funding to support ecosystems across the country.

As Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, Portman continues to lead the efforts to protect Lake Erie from harmful algal blooms, invasive species, contamination, and microbeads. In January of this year, Portman and Stabenow applauded the signing of their bipartisan bill, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act into law, which reauthorized the GLRI program for five years, through FY 2026, and increased the authorization level to $375 million for FY 2022 and by $25 million annually until it reaches $475 million in FY 2026. IIJA provides supplemental funding to the GLRI over five years, which is in addition to the funding the program receives through the annual appropriations process. Portman and Stabenow continue to advocate for the full authorized funding level of $375 million for the GLRI in the FY 2022 appropriations process. 

“I’m pleased that new funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. For our communities along Lake Erie, healthy water and ecosystems are the bedrock of a more resilient economy and more durable infrastructure,” said Senator Portman. “As co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I will continue to lead the fight to protect our Great Lakes. Lake Erie is an Ohio treasure that provides drinking water for millions of Ohioans, supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, and draws millions of visitors each year. I will continue to fight to help preserve this treasure for future generations.”

At Hearing, Experts Commend Portman’s Bipartisan Legislation to Secure Federal Security Resources For Faith-Based & Nonprofit Institutions

Experts at a hearing to examine the persistent and concerning threat posed by domestic terrorists and violent extremists commended Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, for his bipartisan work in Congress to ensure access to federal security resources for faith-based and nonprofit institutions as they face continual threats and attacks. Senator Portman highlighted the importance of providing safety and security for all communities that are under persistent threats posed by domestic terrorists and violent extremists.

Last year, Senator Portman and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that President Trump signed their bipartisan Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act into law. This legislation authorizes $75 million annually for five years, from FYs 2020-2024, for the Department of Homeland Securitys Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). Senator Portman helped double the amount of funding available for the NSGP in the FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement that was signed into law late last year.

In addition, in June, Senator Portman and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities. The legislation passed out of the Committee last month.

Seth Jones, Senior Vice President, Harold Brown Chair, and Director of the International Security Program, Center For Strategic and International Studies, also confirmed to Portman that the U.S. government, military, and law enforcement are increasingly being targeted by domestic terrorists.

Excerpts of the questioning can be found here and a video can be found here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Portman, Wyden Introduce Open Courts Act to Reform Federal Court Record System to Ensure Easy & Free Use For All Americans

Senators Rob Portman and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Open Courts Act to reform the federal government’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), a database of federal judicial filings. This consensus legislation builds off the Electronic Court Records Reform Act which Portman and Wyden introduced in 2019 with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). The PACER system is outdated and charges exorbitant fees to users. This bill will reform PACER to solve these problems and ensure easy and free public access to federal government court records.

“PACER was intended to create a level playing field for small-time litigants, small business, civil society, journalists, and citizens who care about transparency in government,” said Senator Portman. “However, with its frustrating interface and fees, PACER has done the opposite. The American people should have easy access to the court records of their country, and this bipartisan, consensus legislation will fix the problem once and for all by putting in place a free, streamlined system with an emphasis on security, accessibility, affordability, and performance.” 

Portman, Peters Applaud Committee Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Direct DHS to Research Supply Chain Vulnerabilities That Threaten National Security

Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing their bipartisan Domains Critical to Homeland Security Act to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct research and development into the ways that supply chain vulnerabilities threaten our homeland security. Congressmen John Katko (R-NY) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) have introduced this legislation in the House of Representatives.

“I’m pleased the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed this important legislation because between shortages of medical supplies and semiconductors, the past year and a half has exposed how offshoring of our manufacturing base has weakened our homeland security,” said Senator Portman.This bipartisan legislation puts the best and brightest minds at DHS on the job to identify where we have vulnerabilities in our supply chains and develop solutions to strengthen American manufacturing and re-shore jobs in critical sectors and I urge my colleagues to join in supporting this much needed legislation.”

Portman, Peters Applaud Unanimous Committee Passage of Legislation to Strengthen Cybersecurity Coordination with State and Local Governments

Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, applauded the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for unanimously passing their bipartisan State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act to promote stronger cybersecurity coordination between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state and local governments. The bipartisan legislation will encourage federal cybersecurity experts to share information regarding cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and breaches as well as resources to prevent and recover from cyberattacks with states and localities who are increasingly targeted by bad actors.

“As we’ve seen from the many recent cyberattacks, hackers with malicious intent can and do attack state and local cyber infrastructure consistently. Sometimes, state and local governments need some additional help or access to expertise to address these threats,” said Senator Portman. “I’m pleased the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has passed this bill to strengthen an existing relationship between the Department of Homeland Security and state and local partners to improve coordination and information sharing to help protect our IT infrastructure at all levels of government.”

Portman Applauds Committee Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Help Improve Federal Workforce’s Understanding of Artificial Intelligence

Senators Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing bipartisan legislation he introduced with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) that will help bolster the federal workforce’s understanding of artificial intelligence (AI). The bill will create a training program to help federal employees responsible for purchasing AI technologies better understand the risks and benefits it poses to the American people. It will also help ensure the United States maintains a global leadership role in rapidly-developing technologies as foreign competitors like the Chinese government continue to prioritize investments in AI technologies.

“We need a federal acquisition workforce that understands AI, how it works, how it can help the government run better, and the ways we can fix the problems with AI systems so those procurement professionals can know they are buying the right AI systems for the government,” said Portman. “That’s why I applaud the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing this bipartisan bill to establish the kind of AI training program our acquisition workforce needs and I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation when it comes to the Senate floor for a vote.”

Portman, Peters Applaud Committee Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Create Task Force at DHS to Combat Deepfakes

Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing their bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act to counter deepfake technology. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur. The legislation will create a task force, led by the Department of Homeland Security, charged with producing a coordinated plan to explore how a “digital content provenance” standard could assist with reducing the spread of deepfakes, develop tools for content creators to authenticate their content and its origin, and increase the ability of civil society and industry leaders to relay trust and information about the source of the deepfakes to consumers. The task force will be comprised of experts from academia, government, civil society, and industry.

“Deepfakes represent a unique threat to our national security and our democracy,” said Senator Portman. “For most of human history seeing meant believing, but now that is becoming less and less true thanks to deepfakes. Combined with the network effects created by social media, fake videos or pictures can travel around the world in an instant, tricking citizens. I applaud the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing this bipartisan legislation because establishing a deepfake task force at the Department of Homeland Security will help solve this problem by making progress to develop standards so that companies, journalists, and all Americans can track and authenticate content so we can better separate the truth from the lies.”

On Senate Floor, Portman Highlights Benefits of Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act for Ohio

On the Senate Floor, Portman provided an update on the Senate’s consideration of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, the landmark bipartisan infrastructure investment legislation he helped to negotiate over the past three months. Portman discussed the ways in which Ohio will benefit from this $550 billion package, including funding to repair its crumbling roads and bridges, resources to upgrade water infrastructure across the state, and expanding broadband to underserved parts of Ohio, including rural Southeastern Ohio.

Portman also applauded the bipartisan amendment process in the Senate that has taken place over the past few days. He hailed the good-faith debate by both sides as an example of how Washington should work on behalf of the people, and urged his colleagues to continue their work to achieve a historic bipartisan victory for the country.

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

Portman Highlights Bridge Repair Grant Bill Included in Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation

Senator Rob Portman announced that his bipartisan Bridge Investment Act has been included as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the end result of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations he has helped to lead over the past three months. This bill would establish a competitive grant program to assist the repair and replacement of deficient and outdated bridges and ease the national bridge repair backlog. It will also help us get closer to a solution on the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati by providing billions in available funding to go alongside a local match that can pay for a long-term solution to address the high volume of bridge traffic.

“I’m pleased that the Bridge Investment Act will be included in this landmark infrastructure agreement because this common-sense legislation will get us that much closer to a solution for the Brent Spence Bridge,” said Portman.

Portman at Hearing on Domestic Terrorism & Violent Extremism: We Need to Hear from Biden Administration About What They Are Doing to Combat These Threats

Senator Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, highlighted the importance of hearing and learning from current government officials about the magnitude of the domestic terrorist and violent extremist threat and how the Biden administration is working to address and combat these threats at the second hearing this week to examine the persistent and concerning threat posed by domestic terrorists and violent extremists.

Senator Portman has been a leader in the Senate in combating domestic terrorism and violent extremism. Last year, Senator Portman and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that President Trump signed their bipartisan Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act into law. This legislation authorizes $75 million annually for five years, from FYs 2020-2024, for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). Senator Portman helped double the amount of funding available for the NSGP in the FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement that was signed into law late last year.

In addition, in June, Senator Portman and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities. The legislation passed out of the Committee last month.

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

Portman, Colleagues Urge Education Secretary to Discharge Outstanding Student Loans for Americans with a Permanent Disability

Senators Rob Portman, Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) signed a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to move forward swiftly with rulemaking to automatically discharge the outstanding student loans of more than 517,000 Americans with a total and permanent disability (TPD).

While the Higher Education Act of 1965 allows individuals with a TPD to have their outstanding federal student loans forgiven, these borrowers face significant challenges that are both administratively burdensome and unnecessary in the application and income monitoring process. Unfortunately, this has resulted in hundreds of thousands of eligible borrowers not getting the debt relief they are entitled. Many of these rules in place however are not specified under law, meaning the Department of Education has authority to change the regulations of the TPD program and make student loan discharges automatic for borrowers with a TPD upon being identified. The letter is available here

“While the Department has made improvements to the TPD process in recent years, more can be done to resolve inequities and burdens in the program. Therefore, we continue to lead a bipartisan, bicameral effort so that Americans will no longer face costly delays or bureaucratic barriers to receiving a benefit that they are entitled to under the law,” wrote the lawmakers.The Department can eliminate unnecessary paperwork and provide swift relief to borrowers with an interim final rule to automate discharges under the TPD program. We continue to urge the Department to act on our request as soon as possible.”

Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Delivers for Ohio

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide an historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, repairing and upgrading our crumbling roads, bridges, and more, while improving productivity, growing our economy, and creating good-paying jobs. Here are a few of the highlights of this landmark bill, many of which will benefit Ohio directly.

Portman, Sinema Statement on CBO Score for Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act

Senators Rob Portman and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) issued the following statement on the cost estimate released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the final legislative text of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act:

“The bipartisan legislation the Senate is now considering is a historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs – including roads and bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, the electric grid, broadband, and much more. This investment is being made without new tax hikes on everyday families. Independent studies have shown that the long-term spending for capital assets in this measure will improve economic efficiency and productivity, increase GDP, generate additional revenue, and will not increase inflation.

“The CBO score says that the cost of the bill is $228 billion over five years and $415 billion over 10 years, and the offsets we have identified total $519 billion. The new spending under the bill is offset through a combination of new revenue and savings, some of which is reflected in the formal CBO score and some of which is reflected in other savings and additional revenue identified in estimates, as CBO is limited in what it can include in its formal score. The American people strongly support this bipartisan legislation and we look forward to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and President Biden to get it passed through Congress and signed into law.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

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Ohio public works projects will get big money if the infrastructure bill passes, says Sen. Rob Portman

Ohio’s crumbling roads, bridges, ports and airports could get needed rehab money under an infrastructure bill under debate in the U.S. Senate, according to Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who negotiated the deal with President Joe Biden’s administration. Portman says the deal would boost the nation’s economic growth without raising taxes or triggering inflation. “Ohio is going to benefit a lot from this,” Portman told Ohio reporters on Tuesday. “We’re a big infrastructure state.”

He said the state’s 123,000 miles of roadway are “not doing very well,” with congestion that costs Ohio motorists an estimated $4.7 billion each year in lost time and wasted fuel, and contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. He said the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a below-average D rating to the state’s thoroughfares in a 2021 report card. Portman estimated that roughly $11.5 billion of the bill’s $110 billion in new spending for roads and bridges over the next five years would go to Ohio.

He said Ohio has the second highest number of bridges of any state - 44,736 - about half of which are in poor shape, and said the legislation provides $60 billion, including $45 billion in new grant funding for state and local governments to fund projects such as improving the Brent Spence Bridge corridor in the Cincinnati area.

Commercial aviation, which provides 158,000 jobs in Ohio and contributes $13 billion to the state’s economy, would also benefit from the package, said Portman. He said the bill will provide $25 billion for airports around the country on top of more than $163 million they’ve already received in coronavirus relief legislation. Portman declared the new money will build on past momentum to “further improve our terminals, our runways and make Ohio, which is such a great aerospace state, a much better place for travel and commercial use of our airports.”

The bill also dedicates funding to replace lead water service lines and upgrade sewer systems to ensure communities’ access to clean and safe drinking water, and will be particularly useful to mid-sized cities in Ohio that are having difficulty funding improvements. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will get a $1 billion infusion to fund projects to abate pollution, keep invasive species out of the lakes, address erosion and help communities address rising lake levels.

It will also provide $65 billion for broadband access and $42.5 billion to help states deploy high speed networks to communities that lack service. He said that 2/3 of residents in 15 counties - roughly a million people - don’t have internet access, and 23 counties have access that’s deemed inadequate. He said poor internet access has stifled “the economic activity that we want to see in some of our Appalachian Ohio areas.”

“This is a big deal for tele-learning or telehealth, for teleworking,” said Portman. “It is critical to have a digital structure out there that enables us to close the gap.” Assuming that the bill passes both houses of Congress in close to its current form, Portman said communities can secure the money by applying for grants.

The legislation under debate in the Senate also includes several bills Portman was previously trying to pass. They include measures to make it easier for power plants and industrial facilities to finance, purchase and install carbon capture equipment, and another to improve the energy efficiency of industry, buildings and the federal government. Other Portman-championed efforts in the bill would provide $1.25 billion in dedicated funding over five years to finish the Appalachian development highway system, educate people about recycling programs and quadruple the amount of money devoted to planting more trees in national forests.

A statement from Portman said the tree planting provision would provide “a wide range of benefits, including improving our environment by sequestering carbon dioxide, reinvigorating ecosystems, and supporting wildlife that depend on healthy forests, while also creating nearly 49,000 jobs and expanding recreation opportunities on national forestland.”

He said the bill is currently being amended on the Senate floor, a process that “will allow everybody to be heard.” If the Senate passes it, which he feels is likely, he said he hopes the House would take it up immediately.

“Every president in modern times has tried to do this, as you know, including Donald Trump, who had a $1.5 trillion package,” Portman said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “Ours is $550 billion. So it’s not quite as ambitious as his was. But he deserves credit for stirring up the debate on the Republican side and getting people to think about the importance of infrastructure. And my hope is we can get this done on a bipartisan basis.”

 

'We're in the ninth inning': Infrastructure bill could create path forward for Brent Spence Bridge

Anyone who crosses the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky is familiar with the traffic woes brought on by the outdated Brent Spence Bridge.  They also remember decades of unfulfilled promises by politicians in Washington, D.C. that made the crossing Exhibit A for why America's infrastructure needs upgraded.

Now, a project that aims to relieve congestion in the region may be inching closer to reality as the U.S. Senate works on a $1 trillion infrastructure package negotiated with the help of Ohio Sen. Rob. Portman.

Local officials are cautiously optimistic that the bill, if passed, would provide both states with the necessary funds to get the job done. But it's too soon to tell how much the project could receive and whether federal assistance would eliminate the need for tolls that brought previous efforts to a standstill.  "I think this infrastructure bill is a breath of fresh air as it relates to us being closer to getting this overdue project moving," Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece said.

In its current form, the bipartisan infrastructure bill creates multiple funding mechanisms to help states repair and replace old, outdated bridges. Included in that is $12.5 billion for the Bridge Investment Act, which would provide grants of at least $50 million to bridges that cost over $100 million.

The legislation also allocates $5 billion to a grant program that supports major multimodal projects and $7.5 billion to one for surface transportation projects. Portman believes a $2.5 billion plan to build a new bridge next to the Brent Spence Bridge would be at the top of the list to receive help. "Every day, that bridge causes a bottleneck and therefore traffic jams and therefore a lot of economic damage to our state," he said.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, who authored the Bridge Investment Act and advocated for it with with Portman, said he worked closely with negotiators to ensure bridge and transit funding were prioritized in the package. Although Brown eventually wants to see Congress tackle more than just physical infrastructure, he said he intends to support the bill when it comes to a vote. "(Infrastructure) is a foundation you build in a society to give families opportunities," Brown said.

The bill cleared a key hurdle in the Senate last week, and Portman said senators are now debating amendments. If it passes the Senate, it faces an uncertain future in the U.S. House after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the legislation will only be considered in conjunction with a broader $3.5 trillion spending package. Despite that, Portman believes many House lawmakers will support the infrastructure bill when it arrives and want to get something passed.  "If you have the president behind it and the Senate behind it, I think it’s harder for Speaker Pelosi to try to block it," he said.

Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus, a Democrat, said it’s possible the funds will pay for both the Brent Spence Bridge and the Western Hills Viaduct projects. The crumbling viaduct that leads to Cincinnati’s western suburbs will cost $330 million to replace. Cincinnati and Hamilton County have raised $100 million in local money and grants for the project. Driehaus said she doesn’t know how much to expect from the federal government, but the support of both Republicans and Democrats for the bill raises her hopes. “I think we as a region should be optimistic in getting federal dollars for these infrastructure projects,” Driehaus said.

However, federal funding won't change existing opposition to the project. Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said drivers who want to avoid a toll road could instead make their way through the city and wear down its streets. Even if the bridge could be paid for without tolls, he said, Covington would still bear the burden of traffic diversion during construction. Meyer said stakeholders should reevaluate the project if it gets funded, arguing the current plan wouldn't curb interstate congestion long term. "If you gave them all the money in the world, it would not be ready to start construction tomorrow," he said.

Still, proponents of a new bridge remain hopeful. This is the closest the region has been in decades to paying for the Brent Spence Bridge project, said Mark Policinski, chief executive officer of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, a body of elected officials that oversees transportation projects in the region.

Policinski for the past 19 years has pushed for a solution to the bridge problem. For years, it seemed tolls were the only option as the federal match dwindled on local infrastructure projects. But this bill would restore more federal funding that didn’t seem possible a year ago, he said. “It’s like we’re in the ninth inning,” Policinski said. “This is as close as we’ve been since I’ve been in the job going on 19 years.”

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