Rob’s Rundown: Week of April 26 – April 30, 2021

April 30, 2021 | Rob's Rundown

Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where, ahead of President Biden’s address before a joint session of Congress, he delivered remarks on the Senate floor discussing the president’s first 100 days in office and criticizing his failure to keep his inaugural pledge to unify the country. Portman pointed to how past presidents, including Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, passed major policy initiatives with broad bipartisan support during the early days of their administrations, and urged the Biden administration to reverse course and get back to the bipartisanship it promised.

On Thursday, Portman joined FOX Business’ Kudlow to share his concerns over the long-term outlook for the economy given the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, proposed tax hikes, and monetary policy. Portman believes these factors could contribute to higher inflation and higher interest rates down the road and make America less competitive. He also highlighted the need to put in place common-sense policies that get more people back to work, like robust skills training programs, rather than expanded unemployment benefits that create a disincentive to work.

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday, Portman discussed the need to cut down on permitting times so that infrastructure projects can get off the ground faster. Portman also highlighted carbon capture and direct air capture technologies, which can be prohibitively expensive, and ways to use the tax code to help support the deployment of these important technologies.

On Thursday, Portman applauded the Senate passage of legislation extending the temporary emergency scheduling of fentanyl-related substances for five months. Portman emphasized the need for Congress to quickly pass his bipartisan Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act to permanently schedule illicitly manufactured and deadly fentanyl-related substances known as fentanyl analogues. 

Finally, Portman released a statement last Sunday commending the Biden administration for recognizing the mass killings of Armenians more than 100 years ago as genocide. 

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

Monday, April 26, 2021

Portman Joins Bipartisan Senate Defense Communities Caucus  

Portman joined the bipartisan Senate Defense Communities Caucus. The Senate Defense Communities Caucus provides a forum for members to engage in dialogue and provide a unified voice in Congress for the hundreds of communities that host military installations. The caucus supports those communities in their efforts to assist service members and their families by raising awareness of the unique challenges facing defense communities. 

In addition, the caucus serves as a liaison among Congress, the Defense Department, and the private sector and advances dialogue on issues important to defense communities, such as defense infrastructure, innovative partnerships that strengthen communities and enhance installation efficiency, renewable energy projects, and military families and veterans support.

“Ohio is home to some of the best and brightest serving our country, and some of our nation’s premier defense installations. Ohio houses 13 major defense and military installations, as well as, a number of National Guard and Reserve units,” said Portman. “In conjunction with these facilities there are very active and engaged defense community organizations that provide leadership for their communities on defense issues. I’m proud to join this caucus to continue to help support and bolster our military communities throughout Ohio.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Portman, Sinema, Rubio, Carper Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Accessibility of Home Care for Seniors

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Tom Carper (D-DE), introduced the bipartisan Homecare for Seniors Act. The legislation allows seniors to use Health Savings Account funds for home care expenses, saving seniors money, providing relief to family caregivers, and helping seniors remain safely at home.  

“As the senior population in this country continues to grow, the need for home health care assistance to support the day-to-day needs of our seniors increases every day,” said Portman. “Seniors and their families deserve flexibility to utilize the funds in their Health Savings Account for home care services, in order to cover the services needed to support simple, everyday activities. In doing so, we can help ensure that our seniors have the means to live healthily and independently at home in their communities.”

At Finance Hearing, Portman Discusses Bipartisan FAST-41 Permitting Reforms, the Importance of Carbon Capture

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Portman addressed the need to cut down on permitting times so that infrastructure projects can get off the ground faster, highlighting the effectiveness of the permitting reforms in the bipartisan FAST-41 Act in doing just that and the need to eliminate its sunset provisions. Portman also highlighted carbon capture and direct air capture technologies, which can be prohibitively expensive, and ways to use the tax code to help support the deployment of these important technologies. In the coming weeks, Portman plans to reintroduce an expanded version of his bipartisan legislation, the Carbon Capture Improvement Act, to make it easier to finance carbon capture and direct air capture projects through the use of private activity bonds. 

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Bipartisan Bill Introduced by Portman, Duckworth, and Blumenthal to Protect Infants from Deadly “Crib Bumpers” Passes Senate Committee  

Bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to protect infant lives by banning the sale of crib bumpers — which have been proven to pose an unnecessary, deadly risk to sleeping infants — passed the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) Committee unanimously today and will now be considered by the full Senate. The Safe Cribs Act would also make it unlawful nationwide to manufacture and import padded crib bumpers, which remain widely sold by retailers despite current recommendations advising parents to keep cribs bare to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. The senators’ legislation would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to enforce a ban nationwide. 

“The use of padded crib bumpers poses an unnecessary threat to the health and safety of infants everywhere, there is no reason the sale of these items should continue,” said Portman. “I applaud the Senate Commerce Committee for unanimously passing this legislation and I look forward to continuing to work with Senators Duckworth and Blumenthal so that this act may become law, protecting infants from the unnecessary and unacceptable risk of these products.”

On Senate Floor, Portman Discusses President Biden’s First 100 Days, Broken Promise on Unifying the Country

On the Senate floor, Portman delivered remarks on President Biden’s first 100 days in office and his failure to keep his inaugural pledge to unify the country. Portman, who has a long record as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress, highlighted examples of how President Biden unveiled the latest COVID-19 relief package with no Republican input, despite Congress coming together on a bipartisan basis to pass five separate COVID-19 bills in 2020, and how that legislation was subsequently passed under reconciliation with no Republican support.

Portman pointed to how past presidents, including Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, passed major policy initiatives with broad bipartisan support during the early days of their administrations, and urged the Biden administration to reverse course and get back to the bipartisanship that was promised. 

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

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Portman Applauds U.S. Department of Commerce Investment of Almost $3.2 Million in CARES Act Recovery

Portman applauded U.S. Secretary of Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) for awarding almost $3.2 million in CARES Act Recovery Assistance grants to help the state of Ohio prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. 

This grant comes from funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Portman supported and was signed into law last year. 

“These grants totaling $3.15 million are great news for Northwest Ohio,” said Portman. “Provided through the CARES Act, these grants will help our workforce in Lucas, Wood, Ottawa, and Fulton counties that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic by providing them with the resources they need to continue to build a strong, local infrastructure. These grants will also support local efforts to retain and create jobs. 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 work to overcome this crisis and get back to normal.” 

Portman, Feinstein Bill Would Align HUD Definition of Homelessness to Better Meet Youth Needs

Senators Rob Portman and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Homeless Children and Youth Act, a bill that would amend the definition of homelessness used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to verify eligibility for federal homeless assistance programs. In addition to Portman and Feinstein, the bill is cosponsored by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). 

By standardizing the definition across the government, children living in motels and staying with people other than their parents would be recognized by all federal agencies as homeless. This would make them eligible to receive assistance from programs like the Continuum of Care Program and facilitate cross-program collaboration. 

 

“Homelessness makes a child more vulnerable to illness and to crime, including human trafficking,” said Senator Portman. “The effects of homelessness on a child can last a lifetime. It is in all of our interests to ensure that vulnerable kids get a roof over their heads in a safe and stable environment. Our common-sense reforms will help do just that and make a difference in the lives of thousands of kids across our country.”

 

On FOX Business, Portman Discusses Economic Outlook, Need for Bipartisan Approach to Infrastructure

 

On FOX Business’ Kudlow, Portman discussed his concerns over the long-term outlook for the economy given the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, proposed tax hikes, and monetary policy. Portman believes these factors could contribute to higher inflation and higher interest rates down the road, and make America less competitive. He also highlighted the need to put in place common-sense policies that get more people back to work, like robust skills training programs, rather than expanded unemployment benefits that create a disincentive to work. 

In addition, Portman expressed optimism that a bipartisan agreement on a targeted infrastructure bill is possible if the Biden administration is willing to work with Republicans. 

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

Portman: Senate Passage of Temporary Extension to Keep Deadly Fentanyl-Related Substances Illegal a Positive Step, But Congress Must Pass Permanent Solution

Portman lauded Senate passage of legislation that extended the temporary emergency scheduling of fentanyl-related substances for five months. In February 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a temporary scheduling order to schedule fentanyl analogues that allowed federal law enforcement authorities to bring criminal actions against individuals who manufacture, distribute, or handle these deadly drugs. With this scheduling order set to expire on May 6, the House passed H.R. 2630, the Extending Temporary Emergency Scheduling of Fentanyl Analogues Act by voice vote. The Senate passed the measure today by unanimous consent. Portman emphasized the need for Congress to quickly pass his bipartisan Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act to permanently schedule illicitly manufactured and deadly fentanyl-related substances known as fentanyl analogues.  

“While I commend the work of Congress today to extend the temporary emergency scheduling of these deadly substances, more work needs to be done to protect the American people. Congress needs to do the hard work and make deadly fentanyl-related substances illegal permanently by passing my bipartisan FIGHT Fentanyl Act. This bill will send the message to the makers of these deadly drugs that we are serious about addressing this problem. Doing so will give law enforcement the tools it needs to keep these substances from coming across our borders.” 

Friday, April 30, 2021

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

Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) award of $72,000 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, $300,000, and over $100,000 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, Colleagues Introduce SENIOR CARE Act to Ensure Working Seniors with Disabilities Keep Medicaid Coverage

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the bipartisan Supporting And Empowering the Nation to Improve Outcomes That Reaffirm Careers, Activities, and Recreation for the Elderly (SENIOR CARE) Act to lift the Ticket To Work Program’s Medicaid age restriction and to allow for seniors over the age of 65 to continue to work and keep their Medicaid coverage. Senators Portman and Casey first introduced the SENIOR CARE Act in 2019. 

The Ticket To Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 brought in new opportunities to increase workforce participation, including the ability for people with disabilities to maintain their Medicaid coverage when they accept higher-paying jobs and exceed Medicaid’s income eligibility limits. As the largest payer in the nation for long-term services and support, Medicaid remains a vital program for supporting daily living needs for people with disabilities. 

“I believe that every disabled American over age 65 should have the opportunity to work and maintain Medicaid coverage,” Portman said. “The Ticket To Work program’s arbitrary age limit at 65 forces working disabled seniors to make an impossible choice between maintaining their independence and livelihood or keeping their Medicaid coverage. This is unacceptable and that’s why I’m proud to work with Senators Casey, Scott, and Cortez Masto to introduce this important legislation that removes this unnecessary and obsolete barrier for working seniors with disabilities.”

Portman, Durbin Introduce Resolution to Allow Remote Voting During National Emergencies

Senators Rob Portman and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have introduced a bipartisan resolution to amend the Standing Rules of the Senate to allow senators to vote remotely during a national crisis. During certain crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be challenging to convene the full Senate in the Capitol. However, that should not prevent Congress from safely engaging in its constitutional responsibility to convene during a crisis, conduct its basic constitutional duties, and enact responsible legislation for the nation.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the Senate must be able to convene and complete our constitutional duties for the people we represent, even if we can’t be in the Capitol. We’ve taken a positive step forward with the addition of remote hearings, and I’m proud to have led the first virtual hearing in May of 2020 when I chaired the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Now we must take the next step and allow for remote voting during national emergencies,” said Portman. 

Portman, Klobuchar Applaud Passage of Their Resolution Designating April as “Second Chance Month”

Senators Rob Portman and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) applauded passage of their resolution to designate April 2021 as “Second Chance Month,” honoring those who work to remove unnecessary barriers that prevent those with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society. Portman, who is the author of the Second Chance Act, introduced a similar resolution in April 2019 and April 2018, which the Senate passed unanimously. 

“I’m proud to lead the Senate effort to name April as Second Chance Month. Renewing and strengthening the idea that people deserve second chances is critical to our efforts to stop the revolving door of incarceration and help former inmates live up to their God-given potential.said Portman. “Since the Second Chance Act was first signed into law in 2007, thousands of Ohioans and more than 164,000 people in 49 states have received reentry services, changing thousands of lives in Ohio and across the country. The mistakes of our past don’t have to define the potential for our future. By designating April as Second Chance Month, we are supporting those who are returning from prison and want a fair shot at living an honest and productive life by increasing public awareness and getting them the help they need.”

Portman, Brown Introduce Bill to Spur Investment in New Energy Technology

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation to spur investment in an innovative new energy technology and support jobs in Ohio. The bill would benefit companies like Sunpower Inc., located in Athens, which has developed a promising electric power generation technology – the high-efficiency linear generator. The senators’ bill would provide parity to these companies by allowing them to access an investment tax credit that will help them scale their product to market.  

“Linear generators are exactly the type of innovative technology that can help lower utility bills for homeowners and businesses in Ohio and throughout the U.S.,” said Portman. “Yet, this technology is at a disadvantage because of inconsistencies between the tax code and the practical, technical definitions for fuel cell technology. This legislation simply levels the playing field, making our linear generators competitive enough to fully enter the market during the phaseout of the existing investment tax credit.”

Portman, Cortez Masto Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Further Combat Chinese Government’s Influence on Technology Standards Setting

Senators Rob Portman and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) have introduced bipartisan legislation to make sure the United States is positioned to lead international standards-setting, counter the Chinese government's influence and protect American jobs. This legislation would require the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to create a task force that would counter Chinese influence and ensure the United States is leading the emerging technology standards-setting process, and builds on Portman and Cortez Masto’s bipartisan Ensuring American Leadership over International Standards Act, which was signed into law last year. 

“Standards setting is a critical, if often unsung, aspect to American competitiveness,” said Senator Portman, co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus. “Unfortunately, the United States has fallen behind in terms of participating in many standards setting bodies related to emerging technology, while China’s membership has surged. This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that standards setting processes remain neutral, industry driven, and focused on sound technical decisions, rather than techno-national protectionism.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

 

Summit County father hopes opioid-focused bill helps families battling addiction

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities throughout the country and in Ohio.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office said the state’s death rate from opioid overdoses in the second quarter of 2020 was the highest in 10 years.

Now, Greg McNeil, a Summit County father who lost his son to an opioid overdose, is hoping a new bill called Non-opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act can help families better cope with addiction before it's too late.

It's been six years since McNeil, of Hudson, lost his youngest son, Sam.

“He had the best sense of humor. He was generous, and he was fun-loving,” McNeil said.

His son was also selfless. Back in 2007, McNeil says Sam was at a party and was beat up badly while defending a young woman.

He wound up in the E.R., had screws put in his face, and underwent some plastic surgery.

“And they sent him on his way with some opioids,” McNeil said. “It just took him weeks to get addicted to that.”

Soon, his son became hooked on heroin.

McNeil said they sent him to two rehab facilities over the years, one in Ohio and another in Florida. They helped, but his son eventually relapsed.

In October 2015, his son overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl.

“He didn't stand a chance. They found him the next day alone. Gone,” McNeil said. “And obviously that changed our lives forever.”

After his death, McNeil started a non-profit called Cover2 Resources, which works to highlight people and programs making a difference in the opioid epidemic. That’s why he’s now backing the NOPAIN Act.

The bill, co-authored by several U.S. senators, including Ohio Senator Rob Portman, aims to increase access for doctors and patients enrolled in Medicare to non-opioid forms of pain management.

Under current law, hospitals receive the same payment from Medicare regardless of whether a physician prescribes an opioid or a non-opioid. As a result, hospitals rely on opioids, which are typically dispensed by a pharmacy after discharge at little or no cost to the hospital.

The Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act would change this policy by directing CMS to provide separate Medicare reimbursement for non-opioid treatments used to manage pain in both the hospital outpatient department (HOPD) and the ambulatory surgery center (ASC) settings.

“The problem is, the doctors have a financial disincentive to offer alternatives to opioids, but there are many out there,” McNeil said. “Be it acupuncture, be it nerve blocks -- there's many things out there that are alternatives to opioids.”

McNeil believes right now is a critical time for the bill to be introduced and passed with opioid deaths on the rise.

In addition to the Ohio Attorney General’s warning, health officials in Stark, Summit, and Cuyahoga counties have reported spikes in overdose deaths.

“That population that's struggling with opioid use disorder has been very much impacted by laying a pandemic on top of an epidemic that way,” McNeil said.

He’s hoping the legislation will make a difference for families struggling with addiction so they don’t have to endure the pain his family has.

“I think it's time for us to put families in the driver's seat and give them the opportunity to make the decisions for themselves, but we have to start by not making it a disincentive for the doctors to do that,” McNeil said.

 

Sen. Portman discusses anti-Semitism, security with Jewish media

Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman addressed Jewish media about combating anti-Semitism in Ohio and nationwide, and other topics April 26 in a Zoom briefing.

Speaking from Washington, D.C., Portman was the third speaker in the Jewish media briefing series, following Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. The event was organized by Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities in Columbus, and co-sponsored by the Cleveland Jewish News, the Columbus Jewish News and The Dayton Jewish Observer.

Growing up in Cincinnati surrounded by a large Jewish community has impacted the way he handles Jewish issues in politics, specifically focusing on making sure Jewish institutions have security protections, Portman said.

As part of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, he was able to secure up to $180 million for Ohio security needs, which is being used “widely in Ohio, particularly in the Jewish community.”

Referencing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, Portman said he has an issue with people treating Israel differently than other countries, working to remove the double standard placed on Israel.

“It’s not going to lead to peace in the Middle East, in fact it has the opposite effect,” he said. “I’m also the author of a bipartisan Israel relations normalization act with Cory Booker of New Jersey. Our goal is to build on the success of the Abraham Accords. That was focused on the United Arab Emirates. We’re trying to strengthen that and spread it around the Arab world. We’re trying to normalize relations with Israel, which is important to peace in the Middle East.”

But a lot of Portman’s briefing focused heavily on the rise of anti-Semitism in Ohio and nationally.

“Unfortunately, the past few years has been a tough time in terms of anti-Semitism,” Portman said, a day before the Anti Defamation League released their numbers April 27 stating a record-high 43 anti-Semitic incidents had been logged in Ohio in 2020 – 72% higher than the 25 incidents logged in 2019. “We’ve seen it all over the place. I’m from Cincinnati, where there is a branch of the Hebrew Union College. There was graffiti there, and bomb threats at various Jewish community centers, including the Shaw JCC of Akron last year.”

Recalling the protesters who brandished anti-Semitic signs outside of former Ohio director of health Dr. Amy Acton’s house in May 2020, Portman said incidents like that all across Ohio and the nation “indicates that anti-Semitism sadly has been on the rise and that is concerning.” That’s why public officials like himself need to condemn hateful language, he added.

“(The Republican Party) can never be a party that is viewed as supporting white supremacists or any group that would be for anti-Semitism or discrimination,” he said. “So, it’s important to speak up. It sounds like maybe (speaking up) is not that effective, but it’s the foundation that you build on. Then you work on legislation and initiatives to ensure that you’re putting your funding behind your words.”

But it’s also important that the average member of the Jewish community feels empowered by their identity and ability to speak up against injustice, Portman said.

“For people in the Jewish community who may not feel safe telling people they are Jewish or sending their kids to Jewish day school, that is unacceptable in this country,” he said. “They’re just living their lives, but there is sort of a quiet desperation. I think we all need to stand up and win. We have got to stop this, and I think that is important for everyone, not just someone in an elected office like me.”

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