Rob’s Rundown: Week of July 18 - 23, 2021
Senator Portman was in Washington this week as negotiations continued on the bipartisan infrastructure framework. In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box Wednesday morning, Portman stressed the importance of enacting the historic agreement - noting that it will increase efficiency, create jobs, and promote long-term economic growth without increasing inflation. Portman went on to say that since this bill will touch the lives of nearly every American, he believes it’s more important that the legislative text is done right and is not rushed than to try and meet an arbitrary deadline.
Last Sunday, Portman spoke with Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union about the ongoing infrastructure negotiations as well as the rising number of COVID-19 cases in states across the country. Portman discussed the need to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure and emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated.
On Thursday, the Senate passed Portman’s bipartisan legislation to authorize non-reimbursable detailees for the Office of the National Cyber Director (NCD). The NCD is a brand new position tasked with coordinating the implementation of national cybersecurity policy and strategy. This legislation addresses urgent personnel needs by permitting the NCD to bring in detailees from other agencies on a non-reimbursable basis to fulfill its cybersecurity mission.
Finally, Portman issued a statement on Thursday regarding news of Ukraine President Zelensky’s planned visit to the White House on August 30th. Portman commended the administration for inviting President Zelensky to the White House, and strongly rebuked President Biden’s decision allowing Russia to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, July 12, 2021
Energy Infrastructure Bill Clears Committee with Key Components of Portman-Shaheen Energy Efficiency Bill
Senators Portman and Jeanne Shaheen highlighted passage of the Energy Infrastructure Act out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a bipartisan vote last week, which included significant portions of their legislation, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act. These provisions will improve energy efficiency in buildings and the industrial sector, which will help reduce emissions, protect the environment, and create jobs.
“I am pleased that a significant number of provisions from my bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act with Senator Shaheen were passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as part of the Energy Infrastructure Act,” said Portman. “These are common-sense measures that will increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions across the economy. 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. I look forward to continuing to make important progress on energy efficiency this Congress, which will benefit all Americans.”
Portman, Sinema, Peters, King, Rounds Introduce Legislation to Ensure National Cyber Director Can Receive Detailees to Help Improve Cybersecurity Policy
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Angus King (I-ME), Co-Chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, and Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced bipartisan legislation authorizing non-reimbursable detailees for the Office of the National Cyber Director (NCD). The NCD is a brand new position tasked with coordinating the implementation of national cybersecurity policy and strategy. With cyberattacks increasing in both scope and consequence, it is crucial to provide the National Cyber Director the people necessary to accomplish this important mission. This legislation addresses urgent personnel needs by permitting the NCD to bring in detailees from other agencies on a non-reimbursable basis to fulfill his cybersecurity mission.
“It is important that the new Office of the National Cyber Director be allowed to be fully staffed as soon as possible, especially as our nation is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks,” said Portman. “National Cyber Director Inglis is tasked with coordinating the implementation of national cyber policy and strategy and it is crucial that he be able to bring on staff. This bipartisan legislation will ensure the NCD can quickly bring on experts to develop national cyber policies that best protect federal networks, data, and critical infrastructure.”
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Portman Discusses Upcoming Infrastructure Vote, Outlines Path Forward For Coming Days
In an interview this morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Portman discussed today’s procedural vote on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement. Portman believes that it’s more important that the legislative text is done right and is not rushed than to try and meet an arbitrary deadline. Portman went on to explain that negotiations are making great progress and a final product is expected soon. You can watch the interview here.
Portman, Entire Senate Republican Caucus Urges Biden Administration to Drop Step-Up In Basis Tax-Hike Proposal
Portman joined the entire Senate Republican caucus in urging President Biden to abandon his effort to impose a capital gains tax increase on family-owned businesses, farms, and ranches. Repealing this part of the tax code would have a devastating effect on multi-generation operations, which could lead to job losses, liquidation, or outright closure.
“These [proposed] changes are a significant tax increase that would hit family-owned businesses, farms, and ranches hard, particularly in rural communities,” the senators wrote. “These businesses consist largely of illiquid assets that will in many cases need to be sold or leveraged in order to pay the new tax burden. Making these changes could force business operators to sell property, lay off employees, or close their doors just to cover these new tax obligations. The complexity and administrative difficulty of tracking basis over multiple generations and of valuing assets that are not up for sale will lead to colossal implementation problems and could also lead to huge tax bills that do not accurately reflect any gains that might have accumulated over time. As you will recall, a proposal to reach a similar outcome by requiring an heir to ‘carry-over’ the decedent’s tax basis was tried before in 1976—and failed so spectacularly it never came into effect. It was postponed in 1978 and repealed in 1980.”
Groups that support the senators’ effort include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Associated General Contractors of America, National Association of Manufacturers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Policy and Taxation Group, the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition (FBETC) Steering Committee, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Full text of the letter can be viewed here.
Senators’ Statement on Infrastructure
Senators Rob Portman, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Richard Burr (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Angus King (I-ME) issued the following statement:
“We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement. We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right – and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America’s infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days. We appreciate our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and the administration, working with us to get this done for the American people.”
Thursday, July 22, 2021
Portman Welcomes Ukraine President Zelensky White House Visit
Portman issued the following statement regarding news of Ukraine President Zelensky’s planned visit to the White House on August 30th:
“I commend the Biden administration for inviting President Zelenksy of Ukraine to visit the White House and meet with the president on August 30th. Ukraine is a key U.S. partner and ally that continues to bear the costs of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and the Donbas region. This is an important gesture that shows our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and future NATO membership, while encouraging Mr. Zelensky’s continued efforts to battle corruption at home.
“The administration’s decision to waive the Congressionally mandated sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG is a serious misstep that endangers U.S., European, and Ukrainian security. This policy failure will ensure the completion of the pipeline, giving Russia a strategic advantage over our allies. The administration must demonstrate that it is committed to the security of Ukraine and our European partners and not allow Russia to endanger their sovereignty.
“As a co-sponsor of the Ukraine Security Partnership Act, I look forward to ensuring our allies and partners in Europe have the resources necessary to continue to defend themselves in the face of ongoing threats posed by Russia.”
Portman, King Introduce the Bipartisan, Bicameral SOLVE ACT to Help Establish an Appropriate Process in the Event of a Candidate’s Death in an Contingent Presidential Election
Senators Rob Portman and Angus King (I-ME) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Solving an Overlooked Loophole in Votes for Executives (SOLVE) Act. This legislation will establish a panel of constitutional experts to recommend to Congress an appropriate process in case there is a death of a candidate in a contingent presidential or vice-presidential election. Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) have introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Constitution establishes that if no candidate wins a majority of the electoral votes for president, the U.S. House of Representatives selects the president from the top three electoral vote recipients in what’s called a contingent election. Unfortunately, the Constitution has no rules for what is to be done if a presidential candidate dies during a contingent election. Section 4 of the 20th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to enact legislation establishing rules for such a scenario. Yet, Congress has never exercised this authority. The SOLVE Act will help establish what the process should be if a presidential candidate in a contingent election dies before the House elects the president and the Senate elects the vice-president.
“In the horrible event that a candidate passes away in a contingent presidential or vice-presidential election, it’s imperative that Congress has the necessary information and guidance on how to proceed. Congress should not attempt to write the rules in the midst of such a crisis, and with such clear partisan outcomes at stake,” said Senator Portman. “Though unlikely, it is important to pass this legislation in order to establish a panel of experts and determine the best course of action to resolve this issue before a nightmare scenario occurs. I urge my colleagues in Congress to support this bipartisan bill.”
Portman, Peters, Rubio & Warner Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Secure Critical Infrastructure Networks Against Cyberattacks
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chair and Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced bipartisan legislation to help safeguard our nation’s critical infrastructure networks against cybersecurity threats. The bill would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to ensure they can better identify and mitigate threats to Industrial Control Systems – the operational technology involved in operating the function of critical infrastructure networks like pipelines, and water and electric utilities. The bill is the Senate companion to legislation introduced by Congressman John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee, which has already passed the House unanimously.
“Attacks like the one against Colonial Pipeline show the real-world implications that cyberattacks against critical infrastructure can have,” said Senator Portman. “CISA’s role to play in supporting critical infrastructure owners and operators is crucial. I am pleased to join my bipartisan colleagues in introducing this bill to ensure CISA can better defend against threats and increase the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure.”
Portman Applauds $1.8 Million in CARES Act Grant to Help Small Businesses in Cuyahoga County Respond to COVID-19
Portman applauded the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) for awarding $1.8 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance grants to the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Inc. The grant will help provide critical gap financing to small businesses located in Cuyahoga County, outside of the city of Cleveland, that have been economically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. According to the EDA, this grant will be matched with $450,000 in local funds, is expected to create 300 jobs, retain 300 jobs, and generate $3 million in private investment.
These grants comes from funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Portman supported and was signed into law by former President Trump.
“This is exciting news for the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. I’m pleased to see this $1.8 million federal grant go towards supporting Cleveland-area businesses,” said Portman. “This grant, provided through the CARES Act, will help small businesses in Cuyahoga County that have been impacted by the coronavirus. I was proud to support the CARES Act last year, and I am glad to see that it continues to help local communities while we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Senate Passes Portman, Sinema, Peters, King, Bipartisan Legislation to Ensure National Cyber Director Can Receive Detailees to Help Improve Cybersecurity Policy
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Angus King (I-ME), Co-Chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, and Mike Rounds (R-SD) applauded the unanimous Senate passage of their bipartisan legislation to authorize non-reimbursable detailees for the Office of the National Cyber Director (NCD). The NCD is a brand new position tasked with coordinating the implementation of national cybersecurity policy and strategy. With cyberattacks increasing in both scope and consequence, it is crucial to provide the National Cyber Director the people necessary to accomplish this important mission. This legislation addresses urgent personnel needs by permitting the NCD to bring in detailees from other agencies on a non-reimbursable basis to fulfill his cybersecurity mission.
“I applaud my Senate colleagues for unanimously passing this bipartisan legislation because it is important that the new Office of the National Cyber Director be allowed to be staffed as soon as possible, especially as our nation is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks,” said Senator Portman. “National Cyber Director Inglis is tasked with coordinating the implementation of national cyber policy and strategy and it is crucial that he be able to bring on staff. This bipartisan legislation will ensure the NCD can quickly bring on experts from other federal agencies to develop national cyber policies that best protect federal networks, data, and critical infrastructure.”
Friday, July 23, 2021
New Op-Ed in the New York Times Contrasts Effect on Inflation of Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and Democrats’ Reckless Tax and Spending Spree
A new op-ed in the New York Times by American Enterprise Institute economist Michael Strain highlights the differing effects that major proposed government spending policies will have on the sharply rising inflation the American economy is experiencing as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and makes the case for the bipartisan infrastructure agreement that Senator Portman has helped to lead over the past few months.
“There are good reasons to believe this bipartisan infrastructure spending won’t be inflationary. Its focus is on improving longer-term productivity, not near-term demand. By strengthening the supply side of the economy, it would ease inflationary pressures. In addition, the spending would be spread out over a decade, and would likely add very little to the deficit until 2024.
“The $3.5 trillion plan is another story.”
As Strain makes clear, the bipartisan infrastructure agreement invests in long-term supply-side productivity in our economy rather than in fueling short-term demand as is the case with the Biden administration’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation proposal focused on social spending, which would overheat our economy while imposing the biggest tax increases in history. This difference in approach is the reason why the bipartisan infrastructure agreement is the right path forward to get the country back to the strong economy we enjoyed pre-pandemic thanks to the 2017 tax reforms.
Strain’s opinion piece follows a study of the proposals he conducted last week along with American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin that came to a similar conclusion.
The full op-ed from Strain can be found here.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, warned that the removal of sanctions from the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a "serious misstep" as the Ukrainian president’s visit with President Biden was announced.
Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, applauded Biden’s announcement that he will host Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky at the end of August, saying the gesture "shows our unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and future NATO membership" while supporting Zelensky’s fight against corruption.
Portman warned in a Thursday press release that Biden’s waiving of sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline "is a serious misstep that endangers U.S., European, and Ukrainian security."
"This policy failure will ensure the completion of the pipeline, giving Russia a strategic advantage over our allies," Portman said. "The administration must demonstrate that it is committed to the security of Ukraine and our European partners and not allow Russia to endanger their sovereignty."
Portman met with Zelensky in June while on a congressional delegation trip to discuss the impact of the congressional sanctions on the pipeline being nixed, Russia’s military buildup and aggression in the region, and the need for corruption reforms in Western-aligned institutions, such as NATO and the EU.
Zelensky’s visit was announced on Wednesday by the administration, and the Ukranian president will be visiting the White House on Aug. 30.
"The visit will affirm the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The meeting comes as the U.S. seeks to shore up its alliance with Kiev while also entering into a controversial agreement with Germany over the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will carry natural gas from Russia to Germany.
Despite opposition from the last two administrations, Biden frustrated some U.S. lawmakers and European allies when he first lifted sanctions against Russia over the natural gas pipeline earlier this year.
The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment on Portman’s comments.
Prices are rising rapidly, and elevated inflation is likely to remain through at least the next year. Congress shouldn’t make matters worse by signing a $4 trillion check for President Biden’s economic plan, which Democratic leaders are looking to push through even without Republican support.
The payments to households and other spending on social programs that the plan calls for would increase demand at a time when it is already strong. More demand in the face of limited supply would increase inflationary pressures, threatening the longevity of the current economic expansion.
Relative to the same month the year before, inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index clocked in at 5.4 percent in June, 5 percent in May and 4.2 percent in April. The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation points to slower price increases — 3.9 percent in May — but those are still well above the Fed’s target of 2 percent.
Of course, the reopening of the economy is a one-time event, and a good chunk of June’s inflation reading came from increases for hotels, rental cars and airfares. Car prices continued to surge, driven by a shortage of computer chips. These temporary factors account for around half of the month’s price increase.
But if around half of the increase is caused by temporary factors, that means half can’t be readily explained by them. Rapid price increases that aren’t clearly linked to pandemic-related causes are troubling. The longer they last, the more worrisome they become.
Consumers, investors and businesses seem to think that inflation will remain high. Consumers say they expect prices to rise 4.8 percent over the next 12 months, according to a recent University of Michigan survey. As measured by the bond market, investors currently expect around 2.5 percent inflation over the next five years, up considerably from around 1.6 percent before the pandemic. And a survey last month from the National Federation of Independent Business found that a net 47 percent of companies are increasing average selling prices, up seven percentage points from May and the highest share in four decades.
Because expectations about future inflation can become self-fulfilling — with workers demanding higher wages and suppliers charging higher prices today in expectation of higher prices in the future — these trends are troubling. We are likely to see elevated inflation until at least 2023.
Nonetheless, President Biden and congressional Democrats want to spend $3.5 trillion over 10 years on social programs, education, expanding Medicare and other health programs as well as policies to counteract climate change. This spending would be in addition to the nearly $2 trillion for economic relief and stimulus already this year. On top of that, a bipartisan group of senators is hoping to spend around $600 billion on roads, bridges, ports, water systems, the power grid and expanding broadband access.
There are good reasons to believe this bipartisan infrastructure spending won’t be inflationary. Its focus is on improving longer-term productivity, not near-term demand. By strengthening the supply side of the economy, it would ease inflationary pressures. In addition, the spending would be spread out over a decade, and would likely add very little to the deficit until 2024.
The $3.5 trillion plan is another story. Though the details of this package are still being debated, Moody’s Analytics calculates that the plan would contain more than $500 billion in tax credits from 2022 to 2026 for low- and middle-income households. Such payments would increase consumer demand for goods and services, pushing up their prices.
For that five-year period, Moody’s also expects more than $400 billion of spending on social programs like nutrition and housing assistance, child care and education. Much of this would add to inflationary pressures.
Overall, even though taxes would go up under the Democrats’ plan, it would add nearly $1 trillion to the deficit over the five years beginning in 2022, according to Moody’s. Given the composition of much of this deficit spending, this would be another big boost to the demand side of the economy.
Economists can’t say for sure whether the inflationary pressures caused by this spending would push the economy into a damaging inflationary period. Regardless, it would increase the risk of a policy mistake by the Federal Reserve. In the face of another multi-trillion-dollar spending package and consistently disquieting monthly inflation numbers, the Fed might feel it had fallen behind the curve and attempt to withdraw some support for the economy, decreasing or eliminating asset purchases or raising interest rates.
But the Fed may not have the necessary precision to slow the economy without putting it into reverse. Prematurely ending the expansion would hurt low-wage workers and low-income households the most, threatening to leave them out of the recovery.
The top goal for economic policy should be to keep the current expansion going as long as possible so that all workers and households can benefit from it. Congress shouldn’t put the expansion at risk with another enormous spending bill.