Rob’s Rundown: Week of December 11 – 15, 2017
As a conferee in the House-Senate tax reform conference committee, Senator Portman continued to be a leading player in the negotiations of the final tax reform bill between the House and the Senate, with the goal of getting it to the president’s desk for his signature before Christmas. Portman is working to fix our broken tax code to provide tax relief to help boost the middle class and create more jobs and boost wages for American workers. Also this week, the National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law by President Trump. The legislation included Portman’s provisions to support Ohio’s men and women in uniform, strengthen Ohio military installations such as the Wright-Patterson Air Force base, counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from countries like Russia, and support and defend allies like Ukraine. For a detailed look at his week, please see the following:
Tuesday, December 12
Portman, Murphy Announce Measure to Counter Foreign Propaganda in NDAA Conference Report Signed Into Law
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced that the president signed into law the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report, which includes their language to improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies. The language builds on their Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, legislation signed-into-law last year, by helping them to promote more seamless coordination between the Department of Defense and the State Department in countering foreign propaganda and disinformation.
“Last year, the United States took a critical step towards confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us by our foreign adversaries by passing the bipartisan Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, and today marks another step forward,” said Senator Portman. “By better coordinating and synchronizing our government’s response to foreign propaganda and disinformation, the United States will be more successful in ensuring that our ideas win. I am pleased the president signed this legislation into law to build on our previous efforts and encourage proper coordination between government agencies so that the disinformation and propaganda used against us, our allies, and our interests will fail.”
For more information about the bill, please go here.
President Signs Into Law Portman, Brown Amendments to Support Jobs & Research at Wright-Patt’s Air Force Research Lab
Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the NDAA includes several bipartisan amendments they offered that will support jobs and the important research mission at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base's Air Force Research Lab.
“I have seen firsthand the innovative research and development conducted at the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patt that is critical to our national security and to maintaining our military’s technological edge,” said Portman. “I am pleased the president signed this legislation into law that will further support Wright-Patt’s mission, and I will continue to work with Senator Brown to support Wright-Patt and ensure that its highly-skilled workforce has the tools and resources it needs to carry out its missions.”
For more information about the bill, please go here.
Following Portman Request, President Authorizes $15 Million for New Toledo Air Base Hangars
Portman also announced that the NDAA authorizes $15 million to support the construction of upgraded fighter aircraft hangars for the 180th Fighter Wing in Toledo, Ohio. Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) included this funding after Portman sent a letter earlier this year urging them to do so. The 180th Fighter Wing, which Portman visited earlier this year as part of his Ohio Defense Tour, carries out the critical Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) mission to protect America’s airspace.
“This is a huge win for the Airmen of the 180th Fighter Wing in Toledo who are carrying out one of our nation’s most important homeland defense missions: protecting our skies through the Aerospace Control Alert,” said Portman. “Defending the homeland remains the number one national security mission for our military, so it is critical that the 180th Fighter Wing in Toledo has the best equipment available. The current ACA hangars are outdated and don’t provide the protection needed for the aircraft and the airmen maintaining them. Now that the president has authorized funding to replace these outdated hangers, the men and women serving our country in Toledo will be able to better perform their critical national security mission. I look forward to returning to the 180th soon to see these hangars fully operational.”
For more information about the bill, please go here.
Portman Announces President Signs Into Law Funding to Modernize Stryker Vehicles, Increase Production of Abrams Tanks as Part of NDAA
Portman announced that the NDAA authorizes funding to upgrade Abrams tanks and Stryker vehicles. Critical work is done on both systems at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima, where Portman recently hosted an employee town hall as part of his Ohio Defense Tour. The NDAA includes more than $1.6 billion for upgrading Abrams tanks to increase the rate of production of the newest upgraded Abrams tanks in Lima and ensure that our forward deployed tanks have the most cutting-edge survivability enhancements. The bill also includes authorization of $622 million in funding to complete the fourth Stryker brigade with upgraded survivability and mobility improvements as well as a second brigade of Stryker vehicles with an upgraded weapons system. The funding authorization was included by Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) in the NDAA following a letter sent by Senators Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), and builds on last year’s NDAA which included $652 million to support upgrades to the Abrams tank and $579 million for the Stryker vehicle.
“In this heightened global security environment, we need to ensure our soldiers have the proper resources and tools necessary to carry out their critical missions,” said Portman. “The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima is now producing the latest-generation Abrams tank and Stryker vehicles, the Army’s most versatile and deployable combat vehicle. The additional funding provided in the NDAA would allow JSMC to increase the rate of production of the newest Abrams tank and make needed upgrades to Stryker vehicles. The work done at JSMC boosts Lima’s economy and provides critical national security assets that strengthen our military resolve. I am pleased that the president signed this bill into law to support the skilled JSMC employees I met with in August. I believe it will make a difference for our military and allow JSMC to continue assisting our men and women in uniform.”
For more information about the bill, please go here.
Portman Announces Ukraine Security Assistance Amendment Signed Into Law as Part of NDAA
Portman a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, announced that his amendment boosting security assistance for Ukraine has been signed into law as part of the NDAA. As amended by Portman’s provisions, which he introduced with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the FY 2018 NDAA authorizes $350 million in security assistance, including lethal and non-lethal equipment, training, and technical assistance. For the first time, the amendment authorizes assistance to bolster Ukraine’s naval capabilities, which were severely degraded following Russia’s seizure of Crimea. The amendment also conditions U.S. aid on progress towards key reforms including instituting civilian control of the military, cooperation and coordination with Ukrainian parliamentary efforts to exercise oversight of the Ministry of Defense and military forces, and improvements in sustainment capabilities, inventory management, and security of sensitive foreign technologies. This year’s Ukraine security assistance package maintains the framework that Portman’s previous amendments to the FY 2016 and FY 2017 NDAAs helped build.
“There is longstanding bipartisan agreement on the policy tools that the United States should utilize as part of its comprehensive strategy to support Ukraine, deter future aggression against our allies and interests, and uphold the fundamental principles of the U.S.-led international system that Russia’s actions ultimately threaten. Now, the United States Senate is taking a critical step forward in its support for Ukraine,” said Senator Portman. “As Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine persists, and as it continues to utilize hybrid warfare techniques such as propaganda and disinformation, it is critical that the U.S. and NATO provide the sustained economic, political, and military support necessary to allow Ukraine to secure its democratic future. An independent Ukraine is critical not just to Eastern Europe, but it also impacts broader U.S. interests in the region and beyond. I am pleased the president signed this measure into law. I now urge the administration to quickly get Ukraine the assistance they need.”
For more information about the bill, please go here.
A summary of Portman’s provisions that were signed into law in the NDAA can be found here.
Wednesday. December 13
Portman Discusses How Tax Reform Will Help the Middle Class at House-Senate Conference Committee Negotiations
Portman delivered remarks during Wednesday’s conference committee meeting detailing how tax reform will help the middle class, create jobs, and boost wages for American workers. Portman, who has held six tax reform roundtables in Ohio with local business leaders in recent months, has been vocal on the national stage calling for tax reform, including during recent interviews on CBS This Morning, Fox News, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg TV, and NBC’s Meet The Press twice, as well as recently in op-eds in the Akron Beacon Journal, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Delaware Gazette, and Cincinnati Enquirer. The tax reform effort is widely supported by Ohio small businesses, manufacturers, farmers, and other state and local organizations.
Also at the hearing Portman discussed with Joint Committee on Taxation Chief of Staff Tom Barthold how tax reform will help provide tax relief to every tax bracket and will give three million Americans—who currently have tax liability and are working hard—no tax liability at all.
Thursday, December 14
Bipartisan Senators Say New House Bill Won’t Help Trafficking Survivors Get Justice, Echo Concerns Expressed by Victims Advocacy Groups
Senators Portman, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) today issued the following joint statement on a new House trafficking proposal rushed through the House Judiciary Committee yesterday:
“Here in the Senate, we’ve taken a thoughtful, deliberative approach to our efforts to help combat online sex trafficking, meeting with key stakeholders for months before ever introducing legislation. Our work together culminated in the Senate Commerce Committee’s unanimous support for the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act – bipartisan legislation now cosponsored by 53 senators. We are pleased that this legislation has the strong support of major stakeholders in this debate, including victims and advocates, law enforcement, the civil rights community, faith-based groups, and the larger tech community. We are confident the full Senate will pass this proposal very soon in an overwhelming, bipartisan fashion.
“It is disappointing that the House Judiciary Committee rushed through a new proposal after House members expressed concerns that it had not been fully vetted and was opposed by all of the leading organizations dedicated to supporting trafficking victims. Any legislative effort must ensure that trafficking survivors get the justice they deserve. Unfortunately, this rushed House proposal raises the legal standard and ensures that bad actors like Backpage continue to have blanket immunity. Don’t take our word for it; the victims advocacy groups have told us with a clear voice that the House Judiciary bill is harmful to our efforts to protect trafficking survivors.
“We’re in this fight to help trafficking survivors who’ve long been denied justice and ensure that state and local prosecutors have the tools they need to hold accountable bad actors that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking. As this process moves forward, we will continue the dialogue with all stakeholders, but we’re not going to enact a hollow proposal masquerading as a serious solution.”
Portman, Cantwell Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help People Receive Care in their Homes, Reduce Health Costs
Senators Portman and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have introduced the Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources, and Care Act – or EMPOWER Care Act – to help Medicaid beneficiaries receive long-term services and support in their community or home and help save taxpayer dollars in the process. The bill would renew and expand the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Demonstration Program, which promotes community-based care and services and is as a sterling example of an initiative that improves patient outcomes while saving money for state and federal taxpayers.
The program extended in Portman and Cantwell’s legislation provides states with funding and flexibility to help Medicaid beneficiaries, particularly elderly and disabled individuals, transition from institutional to home and community-based long-term care settings.
“I’m proud to continue my support for the Money Follows the Person program, by introducing the EMPOWER Care Act. Money Follows the Person has provided over 10,000 Ohioans with the opportunity receive the care that they need in their homes and communities, and I will continue to fight to ensure that all Ohioans can continue to have a choice in where they seek long-term care support,” said Senator Portman.
For more information, go here.
On Fox Business, Portman Discusses Tax Reform Negotiations, How Tax Cuts Will Boost Middle Class, Jobs & Wages
During an interview on Fox Business, Senator Portman, a conferee on the House-Senate conference committee that is negotiating the final tax reform bill, discussed how tax reform will help the middle class, create jobs, and boost wages for American workers.
Friday, December 15
Portman, Brown Work to Ensure Ohio & Erie Canalway Can Continue Supporting Northeast Ohio Jobs
U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) this week introduced legislation to ensure that the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, which spans more than 110 miles between New Philadelphia and Cleveland, can continue to draw investment, and support local jobs, tourism and economic development in northeast Ohio.
“This legislation will provide greater funding certainty for the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, which will help ensure that this site is protected and continues to attract jobs and investment,” said Portman. “The canal holds great significance to the state of Ohio, from helping our early towns and communities prosper to linking our state to the rest of the nation. I am proud to be one of the 2.5 million visitors who enjoy the canal’s towpath trail each year, and I look forward to working with my colleague Senator Brown on getting this legislation signed into law.”
“Ohioans take great pride in our state’s historic role in building the Erie Canal and connecting our state to the rest of the country,” said Brown. “From Tuscarawas County to Cuyahoga County, the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area draws millions of dollars to our state each year, supporting thousands of jobs. We owe it to all Ohioans and visitors to continue to support this treasure.”
The Senators’ bill makes a legislative fix to make sure the Canalway doesn’t face funding uncertainty each year. In 2015, Congress reauthorized the Canalway through 2021, but failed to simultaneously lift its funding cap to reflect its extended authorization, leaving the Canalway’s work to enrich the communities it spans in jeopardy each year. The Senators want to permanently lift this cap, so it can continue to receive its federal funding, which helps it raise additional funds from the State of Ohio, private organizations and foundations.
The Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition supports Portman and Brown’s efforts.
“On behalf of all of our partners along the Ohio and Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, we are grateful to Senator Brown and Senator Portman for their continued strong support and commitment for the Ohio and Erie Canalway, Towpath Trail and Connector Trail Trails,” said Daniel Rice, Co-Executive Director, and President and CEO of the Ohio and Erie Canalway Coalition. “Working together, we are fulfilling the legacy of Congressman Ralph Regula and creating a legacy for future generations.”
Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area spans the first 110 miles of the canal. The annual economic impact on Ohio is more than $408 million.
On Fox News, Portman Discusses Outlook for Tax Reform, How Tax Cuts Will Boost Middle Class, Jobs & Wages
During an interview on Fox News today, Senator Portman, a conferee on the House-Senate conference committee that is negotiating the final tax reform bill, discussed how tax reform will help the middle class, create jobs, and boost wages for American workers.
Portman Praises Final House-Senate Conference Agreement on Tax Cuts & Jobs Act
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) issued the following statement after the House and Senate conference committee released the conference report for the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, which will help middle-class families, create more jobs, and increase wages for American workers:
“Today marks another important milestone in our efforts to provide tax relief for middle-class families and reform our business tax code to create more jobs and increase wages for American workers,” said Portman. “I was proud to play a significant role in this conference, working alongside my colleagues in the House and Senate to craft this bill and improve it on behalf of middle-class families. Through this tax reform plan, Congress is helping create a better economy and a better future for all Americans. I look forward to both the House and Senate passing this legislation next week and the president signing these historic tax cuts before Christmas.”
NOTE: The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act is focused on helping middle-class families. More information on Senator Portman’s work to improve the Senate-passed Tax Cuts & Jobs Act can be found here. Statements of support from Ohio small businesses, manufacturers, farmers, and other state and local organizations can be found here.
Portman Statement on Final Tax Agreement Preserving Key Tax Incentives for Undergraduate & Graduate Students
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) issued the following statement regarding the House-Senate conference report on the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act and its support for college students:
“I fought alongside my colleagues in the Senate to preserve key tax incentives for undergraduate and graduate students in the final tax reform legislation. This was a hard-fought victory for Ohio students struggling with the cost of college. I’m also pleased that the final bill includes my Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act, which will eliminate a tax penalty levied on student loans forgiven for families after the death of their child and Americans who develop permanent disabilities. I am pleased to continue my support for this important legislation that will not only help middle-class families, but also assist undergraduate and graduate students as they work finish their education and enter the workforce.”
The final House-Senate agreement preserves key tax incentives that support undergraduate and graduate students, incentives that were preserved in the Senate-passed bill but repealed in the original House bill. Chief among these tax incentives, the final agreement:
- Preserves the deduction for interest paid on student loans;
- Preserves the deduction for tuition and related higher education expenses up to $4,000;
- Preserves the exclusion for interest earned from U.S. savings bonds if used to cover for higher education expenses;
- Preserves the exclusion for tuition reductions (i.e., if a graduate student is teaching a class in addition to pursuing their degree, the college may absorb their costs of tuition as a form of compensation for their service); and
- Preserves the exclusion for employer-provided education assistance payments of up to $5,250.
Of note, the final conference report also includes Portman’s Stop Taxing Death & Disability Act, which exempts families from paying tax on the forgiveness of a student loan that automatically occurs if when the student dies or becomes permanently disabled.