Rob’s Rundown: Week of April 12 – April 16, 2021

April 16, 2021 | Rob's Rundown

Senator Portman was back in Washington this week, where he delivered remarks on the Senate floor Monday outlining the glaring problems with the infrastructure plan put forth by the Biden administration, as well as the tax hikes they are proposing to pay for it that will hurt working families and undermine our economy just as we are beginning to recover from this pandemic. While Portman supports improving America’s aging roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure, he noted that more than $2 trillion of the President Biden’s proposal funds policy priorities that are a far cry from what has ever been considered infrastructure, including billions in spending on health care, child care, and other non-infrastructure policy priorities. Portman went on to say that the proposal is made worse by the massive tax hikes the Biden administration is proposing as a means of funding most of the legislation.

During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Portman pressed witnesses on why the federal government struggled in its initial preparedness efforts leading into the COVID-19 pandemic, especially problems the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention faced with surveillance systems and inaccurate tests. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Portman released a statement reacting to new CDC data showing that more than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September 2020. Portman explained that the new information must serve as a catalyst for bipartisan action to address the worsening addiction epidemic.  

On Thursday, Portman sent a letter to President Biden and Archivist of the United States David Ferriero today, urging them to address the backlog of the 480,000 requests for military service records from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the NPRC in St. Louis, Missouri, dropped significantly due to employee health and safety concerns and challenges with processing records requests remotely. This has resulted in severe delays in NPRC responses to requests for service records of U.S. veterans.

Finally, Portman applauded the Biden administration’s decision to impose new sanctions on Russia for the continued aggressive and harmful activities by the Government of the Russian Federation, including the occupation of Crimea, interference in the 2020 Presidential election, and cyberattacks against the United States. Portman has been vocal on the need to hold Russia accountable for its continued aggression against the United States and our allies and sent letters to the administration last week urging immediate action for Russia’s role in last year’s SolarWinds Orion cyberattack.

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

Monday, April 12, 2021

Portman Announces Federal Aviation Administration Grants to Ohio Airports Impacted by COVID-19

Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) award of more than $300,000 to Ohio airports to provide economic relief from COVID-19. 

The Airport Coronavirus Relief Program was created through the bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 relief package within the end-of-year spending agreement. Senator Portman played a key role in negotiating the legislation through the bipartisan 908 Coalition, which proposed a $908 billion package that included this critical relief for airports and served as a basis for the final package. This funding builds upon the previously announced $30 million in federal funding. 

“The aviation industry’s recovery is critical to our nation’s economy. During this pandemic, the sharp decline in air travel left the industry in an uncertain economic position,” said Portman. “I’m pleased to see this continued support for our airports as they ramp up services to meet the increasing demands of air travel as our country continues on the path to recovery.”

Portman Op-Ed in The Columbus Dispatch: Trolley Barn Complex, Athens Company Show Why Tax Credit Program Works and Should Be Made Permanent

The Columbus Dispatch published Senator Portman’s Op-Ed highlighting the New Markets Tax Credit (NTMC) program and the success that it has had in Ohio and around the country for the past 20 years. 

This past February, Portman continued his support to make the NTMC permanent, leading efforts with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to reintroduce New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act (S.456) for the 117th Congress. This bill would permanently authorize a federal tax credit for businesses or economic development projects in areas with poverty rates of at least 20 percent, or median incomes at or below 80 percent of the area median. After seeing significant benefits for Ohio cities, Senator Portman previously led the effort to preserve the credit during the 2017 tax reform and helped secure the five-year extension in the end-of-year spending package that passed Congress in December 2020.

The entire op-ed can be viewed here.

On Senate Floor, Portman Criticizes Proposed Tax Hikes, Calls for Bipartisan Approach to Infrastructure

Portman discussed the recent infrastructure plan put forth by the Biden administration, as well as the tax hikes they are proposing to pay for it. 

While Portman supports improving America’s aging roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure, he noted that more than $2 trillion of the President Biden’s proposal funds policy priorities that are a far cry from what has ever been considered infrastructure, including billions in spending on health care, child care, and other non-infrastructure policy priorities. He argued that including these provisions breaks the bipartisan consensus on infrastructure demonstrated through recent votes on infrastructure bills. 

Portman went on to say that this proposal is made worse by the tax hikes the Biden administration is proposing as a means of funding most of the legislation. Portman, who played a key role in writing the 2017 tax reforms, argued that undoing those reforms will hurt American workers’ and American companies’ ability to compete in the global economy, and that it will cost more jobs and investment here in America during a time when our economy is beginning to recover. 

Rather than pursue these drastic tax hikes, Portman urged Congress and the Biden administration to work together to find common-sense ways to fund infrastructure legislation. 

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Portman, Kaine Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Support Training for Skilled Infrastructure Jobs

Senators Rob Portman and Tim Kaine (D-VA), both co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), and Jim Langevin (D-RI) reintroduced the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act. The legislation would ensure workers are prepared with the skills needed for in-demand infrastructure jobs in fields like construction, transportation, maritime, and energy. 

“The U.S. infrastructure system is in critical need of updates while at the same time infrastructure industries struggle to meet workforce demands,” said Portman. “With the BUILDS Act we can improve worker training and provide more resources for job training programs targeted toward in-demand infrastructure-related jobs. This bipartisan bill can help us ensure that we are able to fill jobs in the infrastructure industry quickly and help those struggling with job loss, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, get the skills they need to succeed.”

At Senate Finance Hearing, Portman Discusses Concerns Regarding IRS’ Processing Backlog of Tax Filings, Modernization

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Portman highlighted the current processing backlog at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and concerns from constituents that the backlog would affect their current and future tax return filings. Senator Portman asked IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to address concerns that the Independent Office of Appeals, an office within the IRS, created by legislation introduced by Senator Portman in 2018, was not being given the resources it needed to be truly independent, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Portman also highlighted an upcoming legislative proposal he is working on to define cryptocurrency for tax purposes and the information reporting requirements, which would aid in efforts to close the tax gap. 

A transcript of the exchange can be found here and a video can be found here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

As Ranking Member of HSGAC, Portman Delivers Opening Remarks at Hearing on Federal Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Portman delivered opening remarks at a hearing to examine the federal response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. In his statement, Senator Portman discussed the need for clarity from the witnesses on why the federal government struggled in its initial preparedness efforts leading into the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the need to identify recommendations to improve federal preparedness for future pandemics and other public health threats. Portman highlighted three specific issues areas that he hoped to address in the hearing, including issues with the CDC surveillance systems and the lack of testing; determining which federal agencies were accountable; and understanding why the pandemic crippled the U.S. medical supply chain in the initial weeks of the outbreak. 

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

Portman Statement on Planned Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan

Portman issued the following statement in response to the announcement by the Biden administration to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021: 

“While the American people are understandably weary after two decades of war, any move to draw down our military presence in Afghanistan should be based on conditions on the ground, not in accordance with an arbitrary date. I believe the president’s decision is ill-advised and disappointing. The Taliban are not committed to combating terrorist networks and have not pledged to serve as responsible governing partners. This rushed and arbitrary withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan fails to guarantee America’s safety and also endangers the brave men and women currently stationed there. I have held this conviction through multiple administrations, and I believe that now. Prior to 9/11, al Qaeda used Afghanistan as a safe haven to plan, train, and execute attacks on the U.S. and our allies around the world. We cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a safe haven for terrorists aiming to attack the United States. The Biden administration must develop and execute a deliberate strategy that ensures America’s safety and an appropriate transition so that all of our efforts – the sacrifices of our service members, diplomats and their families and the enormous costs to U.S. taxpayers – are not in vain.”

At HSGAC Hearing, Portman Questions Witnesses About Federal Government’s Lack of Preparedness in Early Days of COVID-19 Pandemic

Portman questioned witnesses during a hearing to examine the federal response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Portman asked the witnesses why the federal government struggled in its initial preparedness efforts leading into the COVID-19 pandemic, especially problems the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention faced with surveillance systems and inaccurate tests. As Portman discussed during the hearing, CDC’s defective tests resulted in a lack of in-state testing in Ohio from February 7, 2020 until March 5, 2020.

Portman highlighted the need to identify what reforms need to be made to improve federal preparedness for future pandemics and other public health threats. 

The video can be found here.

Portman: New Data on Overdose Deaths Underscore Need for CARA 3.0, Further Bipartisan Efforts to Combat Addiction

Portman released the following statement after the CDC released preliminary data showing that more than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September 2020. Overdose deaths surged by 29 percent nationwide and 24 percent in the state of Ohio.  

“The stunning surge in overdose deaths is heartbreaking. Never before have 87,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in a single twelve-month period. My heart goes out to the countless families and communities that have been ravaged by this nationwide crisis.  

“What’s worse is that over the prior several years, we made real progress in curbing the addiction epidemic. By expanding treatment options, getting help to those afflicted, and clamping down on the influx of deadly synthetic opioids, we began to turn the tide of this crisis and save lives. My home state of Ohio, for instance, saw a 22 percent reduction in Ohio overdose deaths in 2018. 

“However, these new figures from the CDC lay bare a devastating reality: the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the national drug and addiction epidemic, reversing decades of hard-fought progress. 

“As we look toward the future, these new figures must serve as a resounding wake-up call. The addiction crisis is again raging in America and we must take immediate action to combat it. Congress should start by passing CARA 3.0 – sweeping, bipartisan legislation that will bolster evidence-based programs, expand treatment options, and provide communities with the resources they need to save lives. We must also enact the FIGHT Fentanyl Act to permanently criminalize the deadly synthetic opioids that are fueling this nationwide epidemic.  The heartbreaking surge in overdose deaths underscores the need for government officials and community leaders alike to redouble our efforts to combat the addiction epidemic, and these bipartisan solutions will help.”

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Portman, Brown Urge President Biden and National Archives to Address Backlog of Requests for Military Service Records

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero today, urging them to address the backlog of the 480,000 requests for military service records from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the NPRC in St. Louis, Missouri, dropped significantly due to employee health and safety concerns and challenges with processing records requests remotely. This has resulted in severe delays in NPRC responses to requests for service records of U.S. veterans. 

“Ready access to their military records is an obligation we owe to veterans and their families. We understand that working remotely has complicated NPRC’s ability to process these request as approximately 90 percent of the records are on microfilm or paper,” said the Senators. “A slowdown in processing the vital service records held at NPRC affects our veterans’ and their families’ ability to access Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare, benefits, and other services they have earned.  This is especially troubling because more veterans have had to rely on these essential VA services during the pandemic and consequent economic downturn.”  

The full text of the letter can be found here.

Following Portman Bipartisan Letter, Biden Administration Sanctions Russia for Occupation of Crimea, Cyberattacks, Election Interference

Portman released the following statement on the Biden administration’s announcement of new sanctions on Russia for the continued aggressive and harmful activities by the Government of the Russian Federation, including the occupation of Crimea, interference in the 2020 Presidential election, and cyberattacks against the United States. Portman has been vocal on the need to hold Russia accountable for its continued aggression against the United States and our allies and sent letters to the administration last week urging immediate action for Russia’s role in last year’s SolarWinds Orion cyberattack. 

“I am pleased the Biden administration has announced sanctions against Russia for its malign activities, including the occupation of Crimea, cyberattacks, and its attempts to influence the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. These sanctions and the attribution of the SolarWinds hack to SVR follow the bipartisan letter I sent the administration last week calling for real-world consequences for cyberattacks against the United States—including sanctions and attribution. 

“I am glad to see the Biden administration finally address Russia’s continued occupation of Crimea through these sanctions as well. It is vital that we continue to support our allies in Ukraine. The Ukrainian military and people have fought bravely and made tremendous strides against Russian aggression. These sanctions help to show that the United States continues to stand with Ukraine in their fight to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future.

“Consistent with the recommendations announced in my July 2020 bipartisan PSI investigation, I applaud the Biden administration for moving quickly to announce expanded sanctions authorities and to designate sanctioned individuals and entities at the same time. As our PSI investigation showed, two Russian oligarchs sanctioned in response to the 2014 annexation of Crimea transferred over $120 million to Moscow during a four-day window between the announcement of sanctions and being named. Senator Carper and I recently reminded Secretary Yellen of the importance of concurrent announcement and naming in a letter to her in February.

“That said, given the extent to which these actions by Russia have caused damage to the United State and our allies, my hope is that this is only the beginning of actions taken by the Biden administration.”

Portman, Blunt, Lankford, Inhofe Introduce Legislation to Support U.S. Manufacturers 

Senators Rob Portman, Roy Blunt (R-MO), James Lankford (R-OK), and James Inhofe (R-OK) announced that they have introduced the Permanently Preserving America’s Investment in Manufacturing Act of 2021. The bill would ensure that American manufacturers can continue to make large investments, hire workers, and produce goods in the United States.

“At a time when we are just beginning to recover from the pandemic – when many companies took on additional debt during this challenging time – limiting the ability of these businesses to deduct interest is the wrong policy,” said Portman. “We must do more to support American manufacturers that are investing in the United States and hiring workers here, and it is vital that we stop tax increases on our manufacturers from going into effect.”

Portman, Durbin, Members of Bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus Urge President Biden to Continue to Support Ukraine and Reject Unprovoked Aggression by Russia

Senators Rob Portman and Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with other members of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, sent a letter to President Biden, calling on the administration to continue support to Ukraine, as it faces an unprovoked buildup of Russian military forces. In just the past month, attacks on Ukraine by Russia killed 31 Ukrainian soldiers. The Senators also pointed out that Congress has provided robust assistance to Ukraine in the past and stands ready to do so again.

Senator Portman and Durbin were joined by Senators John Barasso (R-WY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ben Cardin, (D-MD), Sherrod Brown, (D-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI)

“Ukraine is a strategic security partner of the United States that desires to align itself with democratic values. Since 2014, President Putin has engaged in an unrelenting campaign of military and political actions designed to deny Ukraine this dream and draw them back into the Kremlin's sphere of influence,” said the Senators. “It is critical that we continue to push back against Putin’s aggression and support the brave people of Ukraine.”

In the Senate-passed FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Portman worked to ensure that Ukraine has the necessary lethal aid to defend against continued Russian aggression. The Senate-passed FY 2021 NDAA includes $250 million in security assistance for Ukraine to fund additional training, lethal and non-lethal equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. In addition, the bill includes a Portman proposal to require DoD and DoS to develop a new, multi-year strategy to support the development of Ukraine’s military forces, increasing its capability and capacity and providing a resource plan for US security assistance. This report will better synchronize and prioritize future U.S. security assistance to Ukraine by identifying gaps and shortfalls that need to be addressed. Portman also highlighted bipartisan legislation he co-sponsored called the Ukraine Security Partnership Act, which will provide security assistance and strategic support to Ukraine. 

Text can be found here.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Portman, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Build More than Two Million New Units of Affordable Housing Nationwide

As millions of Americans experience increasing housing insecurity and communities throughout the country face affordable housing shortages and high levels of homelessness, a bipartisan, bicameral group of U.S. Senators and Representatives introduced legislation to build more than two million new affordable housing units nationwide in the next 10 years and better meet the needs of at-risk groups. 

The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2021 was introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Don Beyer (D-VA), Brad Wenstrup, and Suzan DelBene (D-WA). 

Senator Portman has been a leader addressing our nation’s housing crisis and expanding opportunities for affordable housing. He is a longtime supporter of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and recognizes the impact the credit has had on improving Ohio’s affordable housing stock. In Ohio, LIHTC has helped generated $12.6 billion in economic impact over the course of the credit’s existence. This Congress, Portman also reintroduced the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which would provide another tool in the economic toolkit for housing development that pairs well with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to improve our nation’s supply of affordable housing.  

“For the past 35 years, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit has been instrumental in providing affordable housing throughout Ohio and across the nation. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would strengthen this important tool and help further expand our supply of housing,” said Senator Portman. “Congress must continue to improve the country’s supply of affordable housing, especially as many are still working to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Portman Statement on Biden Administration Commission to Study Expansion of Supreme Court

Portman issued the following statement in response to the recent moves by the Biden administration to study the potential expansion of the Supreme Court: 

“What started as a study commission announced by the president less than a week ago has quickly turned into a partisan attempt to substantially alter one of our government’s most important institutions and a significant part of an entire branch of government. The attempt to turn the Supreme Court of the United States into another legislative branch should be soundly rejected by the American people, no matter their political persuasion. 

“Justice Stephen Breyer warned against such a move recently when he said the Court's authority depends on ‘a trust that the Court is guided by legal principle, not politics’ and that ‘structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that latter perception, further eroding that trust.’ The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed in 2019 that court packing would make the Supreme Court appear partisan, and would impair the idea of an independent judiciary. 

“Packing the Supreme Court with more justices simply to try and dictate preferred policy outcomes is dangerous and I hope Congress avoids going down this path. The structure of our judicial system should not be a political issue. If Congress increases the number of justices each time power changes hands, the Court will lose legitimacy and credibility. 

“Last fall I was proud to cosponsor a Constitutional amendment that would prevent the expansion or contraction of the Supreme Court to prevent court packing, and I continue to believe partisan moves to alter the makeup of the Court would irrevocably damage its reputation as an independent branch of the government. President Biden and Senate Democrats already have the opportunity to appoint and confirm new members to the bench in accordance with the procedure laid out in the Constitution. Pursuing this course of action honors the vision for the separation of powers laid out by the framers of the Constitution.”

Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Increase Global Cooperation in Fight Against Synthetic Drug Trafficking, Following Record Number of Synthetic Overdose Deaths During COVID-19

Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with U.S Representatives Michael McCaul (R-TX) and David Trone (D-MD) introduced of the Fighting Emerging Narcotics Through Additional Nations to Yield Lasting (FENTANYL) Results Act to increase global cooperation in the fight against synthetic drug trafficking. The group first introduced the bill last Congress, and the U.S. House passed the bill unanimously last year.  

The FENTANYL Results Act would authorize two programs through the State Department that would build foreign law enforcement capacity to detect synthetic drugs and carry out an international exchange program for drug demand reduction experts.   

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data revealing that a record breaking 87,000 Americans died from a drug overdose between September 2019 and September 2020 during the height of COVID-19. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were behind most of the deaths. 

“I’m proud to join my colleagues Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Representatives Michael McCaul and David Trone on this bipartisan, bicameral bill that will continue our work to reduce the devastating effects of synthetic opioid drug production like fentanyl,” said Senator Portman. “This legislation will strengthen State Department data collection on synthetic drug production while increasing international law enforcement capacity. This important effort will help us save lives and mitigate the devastating effects of deadly synthetic opioids, which have impacted families and communities across Ohio and our country. I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this important legislation and will continue to do everything I can to stop these deadly substances from destroying lives both in America and around the world.”

Portman, Brown, Mast, Ryan Introduce Legislation to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), introduced legislation to help veterans who have been harmed by exposure to toxic burn pits. The bicameral, bipartisan bill, the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act, is named in honor of Heath Robinson, a central Ohio veteran who passed away last year and was exposed to burn pits while deployed.

“We owe our servicemembers a great debt of gratitude for the safety and freedom we enjoy every day. It is our duty to stand by them and ensure transparency in the tracking of illnesses connected to their service, specifically burn pit exposure,” said Portman. “I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan measure requiring VA to submit regular reports on veterans exposed to burn pits. The reports will provide valuable data on patterns of medical diagnoses and associated disability claims so we can better understand the impact of burn pit exposure and hold VA accountable for the medical treatment and benefits to which veterans may be entitled.” 

Portman, Brown Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Trade Remedy Laws, Protect American Workers

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Eliminating Global Market Distortions to Protect American Jobs Act, bipartisan legislation to strengthen U.S. trade remedy laws and ensure they remain effective tools to fight back against unfair trade practices and protect American workers. The Senators’ legislation would establish the new concept of “successive investigations” to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. trade remedy system in responding to repeat offenders and serial cheaters, helping to level the playing field for American workers. 

“This bipartisan bill will strengthen our antidumping and countervailing duty laws to challenge China’s unfair trade practices and protect American jobs in sectors that are important to Ohio. Nowhere is China’s disdain for the free market more evident than in the steel overcapacity crisis,” said Portman. “Twenty years ago, China produced 18 percent of the world’s supply of steel. Now it is roughly 50 percent. Today it is steel, but tomorrow it could be electric vehicles or semiconductors. This overcapacity is the result of deliberate choices by China to subsidize their industries and degrade the free market in pursuit of global market dominance, all at the expense of American jobs.”

Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral TRUST Act, Legislation to Rescue Endangered Federal Trust Funds and Rein in National Debt 

Portman joined his colleagues in introducing the Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation which would create a process to rescue the endangered federal trust funds and rein in the national debt.           

Some of the nation’s most important federal programs are financed through dedicated revenue sources and managed through trust funds. A number of the largest trust funds are heading towards insolvency — made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2020, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that four of the major trust funds will exhaust their reserves within the next 11 years. The bipartisan, bicameral TRUST Act would provide a vehicle to address the key structural issues behind the debt and allow Congress to put our major federal programs on a stronger footing.      

Along with Portman, the TRUST Act is cosponsored by: Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). U.S. Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ed Case (D-HI), Scott Peters (D-CA), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“If left unaddressed by Congress, federal trust funds will cause our nation’s deficit to rise and have detrimental effects on taxpayers, especially seniors,” Senator Portman said. “The TRUST Act takes a critical step in restoring, strengthening, and modernizing these important, yet endangered trust funds.

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

Sen. Rob Portman, who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during clinical testing, urges Ohioans to get vaccinated despite setback

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who received the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine when it was being clinically tested, on Tuesday said he’s “discouraged” by reports that six women experienced a rare blood clotting disorder within two weeks after receiving the vaccine.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine urged providers in Ohio to pause using the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, in accordance with the federal government’s recommendation, and to instead use vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that require two doses.

Portman told reporters he’s confident the Centers for Disease Control and other researchers will review the data and “come to a science driven decision” on the vaccine’s safety .He observed that 6.8 million people have had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so the side effects were “a very rare occurrence.”

“It’s disappointing, because I do believe these vaccines are really important,” said Portman, who did not experience any side effects from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Ohio Republican said he hopes the reports won’t make people more hesitant to take the vaccine.

“I continue to encourage people to get the vaccines in Ohio,” Portman said. “We have the Moderna vaccine, we have the Pfizer vaccine that are available and we now are providing it to people who are 16 and up. We’ve made some progress in Ohio. We’ve got well over a third of Ohioans who have now at least gotten the first vaccine. And we’ve got to continue that progress because that’s how we’re going to get out of this situation and get back to a more normal life where we can get back to work, back to school, and the vaccines are the critical elements.”

A statement from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, stressed that the vaccines are “overwhelmingly safe and effective and they continue to be our best tool to fight back against COVID-19, protect ourselves and keep our friends and neighbors safe, and get back to normal.

“COVID-19 cases in Ohio are back on the rise – we need to redouble our efforts on an equitable distribution strategy and we cannot let up our fight now,” Brown continued. “I urge folks to follow the advice of their health care providers, keep their appointments, and get vaccinated as soon as they can. I’m glad that the CDC and FDA are being transparent with the public and taking these reports seriously, and I will continue to follow the situation closely.”

As of Monday, more than 4 million people – roughly 35% of the Ohio population – had received at least their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine,

A statement from White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said pausing the vaccine’s use “will not have a significant impact” on federal vaccination plans, and observed that fewer than 5 percent of the “recorded shots in arms in the United States to date” were from Johnson & Johnson. He said state and federal agencies are working to get anyone scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rescheduled for vaccination with shots from Pfizer or Moderna.

“Based on actions taken by the President earlier this year, the United States has secured enough Pfizer and Moderna doses for 300 million Americans,” Zients’ statement said. “Over the last few weeks, we have made available more than 25 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna each week, and in fact this week we will make available 28 million doses of these vaccines. This is more than enough supply to continue the current pace of vaccinations of 3 million shots per day, and meet the President’s goal of 200 million shots by his 100th day in office—and continue on to reach every adult who wants to be vaccinated.”

At a White House news conference, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said Johnson & Johnson vaccine use is being paused “out of an abundance of caution” to study the problems that arose and determine whether there are common denominators among the women who experienced the blood clots. He said people who have received the vaccine should watch out for side effects, particularly headaches, after getting it.

“We’re ruled by the science, not any other considerations,” said Fauci.

Trolley Barn Complex, Athens company show why tax credit program works and should be made permanent

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives and posed unprecedented health care and economic challenges.

But in this time of crisis, I am proud that Ohio businesses stepped up and answered the call, participating in the national response to the pandemic, helping save lives and exemplifying the innovating thinking that drives our state forward.

I also am proud that the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program, which for more than 20 years has fueled meaningful private investment into communities in need, has played a crucial role in helping defeat this disease.

The program gives businesses a credit on their taxes when they invest in hard-hit areas across the nation. Between 2003 and 2020, more than $26 billion in tax credits have been provided under this program to help private businesses participate in this important effort.

And the results speak for themselves.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted America’s widening economic rift, the NMTC helped companies in Ohio and across the country grow and invest in hard-hit communities, creating jobs and promoting economic development. Since being enacted in 2000, it has mobilized $5.5 billion in Ohio’s distressed areas through 529 separate projects, including manufacturing expansion, daycare and community centers, business incubators and much more – all with positive and lasting impact on Ohio families and  communities.    

For example, in Columbus, a collection of old, disused buildings known as the Trolley Barn complex, are being refurbished into a vibrant new community marketplace, funded in part by NMTC.

I have seen firsthand many of the other sites across Ohio that utilize this important tax credit, including the UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children in Cleveland, the Bowery Project and Ronald McDonald House in Akron, the YMCA in Youngstown, Dayton Children’s Hospital in Dayton, and Nehemiah Manufacturing in my hometown of Cincinnati. Each of these projects have helped create new jobs in poor communities.

These projects are standout examples of how NMTC projects grow and lead to further investments in these vulnerable communities for years to come.

In all, projects financed in connection with NMTCs have created nearly 56,000 jobs across Ohio. For example, in Athens, Stirling Ultracold has used an NMTC not only to invest in the community, but also to expand and grow their business. This investment has paid dividends for us all, as Stirling Ultracold has been a leader in safely refrigerating and transporting the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines we are relying on to defeat this pandemic.

With strong support from both sides of the aisle and 20 years of success stories, we know the NMTC works.

When other members tried to eliminate the NMTC program during tax reform in 2017, I successfully fought to preserve it and, most recently, I fought to ensure a five-year extension of the credit was included in the appropriations package signed into law last December.

But we must act to build on bipartisan support to make the New Markets Tax Credit permanent, giving businesses the peace of mind to make these life-changing investments in communities that need it. To that end, I was proud to join my colleague, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., to introduce bipartisan legislation earlier this year to permanently extend this critical program. 

Over the past two decades, we have seen the NMTC lift up communities in need across Ohio and all the U.S., generating investment, jobs and economic vitality.

The work of Stirling Ultracold during this pandemic shows how these investments can benefit all of us. If we can secure a permanent extension of the NMTC, it would help grow our economy by driving $5 billion of private investment into distressed communities across the U.S. each year and give more Americans the opportunity to find good-paying jobs with meaning.

We should seize the opportunity to help these long-overlooked communities grow and thrive for years to come.

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