Rob’s Rundown: Week of February 28 - March 4, 2022

March 4, 2022 | Rob's Rundown

Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where, on Tuesday, he spoke on the Senate floor about the ongoing murderous assault on Ukraine from Russian military forces. He discussed the latest developments regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stressed the need for additional, tougher sanctions on the Russian government and economy. Portman also delivered remarks at two press conferences this week where he called for a ban on Russian oil and gas imports and revoking free trade privileges from Russia and other countries that invade sovereign nations.

Portman also joined CNBC’s Squawk Box and PBS’ NewsHour to discuss the situation in Ukraine and what more the United States and Western allies should be doing to support the Ukrainian people.  

On Wednesday, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor applauding the Senate passage of his bipartisan landmark legislative package, the Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act, to significantly enhance our nation’s ability to combat ongoing cybersecurity threats against our critical infrastructure and the federal government. Portman urged the House of Representatives to quickly pass the legislation as it is urgently needed in the face of potential cyberattacks sponsored by the Russian government in retaliation for U.S. support of Ukraine.

Also on Wednesday, Portman spoke on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to pass the bipartisan Postal Service Reform Act. The legislation will set the United States Postal Service on a more sustainable financial footing and support the goal of providing long-term reliable service across the country. The bill strengthens transparency and accountability for Postal Service performance, eliminates unnecessary financial burdens, and helps ensure the Postal Service can better serve the American people.

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

Monday, February 28, 2022

Portman Applauds Announcement by Ohio and Kentucky to Seek Federal Funding for Brent Spence Bridge Project

Senator Portman applauded today’s announcement by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear that they will jointly pursue up to $2 billion in federal funding to improve the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, which connects Cincinnati to Covington, Kentucky. Senator Portman served as the lead Republican negotiator on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which was signed into law last November.

 “Today’s announcement is great news for Cincinnati, as well as the larger region, and it brings us one step closer to a new companion bridge, which will ease traffic along the Corridor,” said Senator Portman. “Ohio’s transportation needs were a top priority of mine during negotiations of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has helped pave the way for today’s milestone. I will continue to work with state and federal partners on both sides of the river to ensure this project comes to fruition.” 

Portman, Coons Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Grant USTR Negotiating Authority to Strengthen World Trade Organization

Senators Portman and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Trading System Preservation (TSP) Act, which will enable the United States to negotiate new trade agreements and advance the interests of U.S. businesses and workers within the World Trade Organization (WTO) system. The TSP Act would direct the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to negotiate trade agreements with like-minded partners in certain sectors of the economy and would help reinvigorate the WTO, which has been hamstrung for years by a small handful of Members obstructing negotiations. These sector-specific agreements would not be subject to Most Favored Nation (MFN) requirements. Generally, MFN requires a country to give its trading partners market access that is the same as the access the country gives to its most favored trading partner.

“The World Trade Organization has a lot of value to the United States, but it’s disappointing that at the WTO the United States has lost its ability to negotiate,” said Senator, and former U.S. Trade Representative, Portman. “My proposal gives USTR the authority it needs to negotiate new agreements, and by limiting those agreements to a subset of WTO members it means we can actually make progress on the development of new rules to combat non-market practices, and open new markets to U.S. exporters, without being stymied by a veto from countries which do not share the same interest in upholding a rules-based trading system.”

 Tuesday, March 1, 2022

 Senators Portman, Durbin, & Menendez Lead Letter Urging Biden Administration to Designate Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status

 Portman, Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, along with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led 39 senators in a letter to President Biden urging the administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians in the United States following the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.  

 “In light of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, we respectfully request that your Administration promptly take all necessary steps to ensure that Ukrainian nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to Ukraine, including the designation of Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS),” the Senators wrote. “As you know, TPS can be granted to nationals of another country who are currently residing in the United States if returning to their country would pose a serious threat to their personal safety because of ongoing armed conflict, the temporary effects of an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.  TPS allows eligible nationals of designated countries to remain in the United States legally until the expiration of the TPS designation.”

 On Senate Floor, Portman Condemns Russian Invasion of Ukraine

 Portman spoke on the Senate floor about the ongoing murderous assault on Ukraine from Russian military forces. This is Portman’s fourth time coming to the Senate floor to shed light on unwarranted Russian aggression. Earlier this year, Portman led a bipartisan delegation of seven senators to Ukraine to assure President Zelenskyy of the United States’ commitment to our allies and sponsored bipartisan legislation to impose pre-invasion sanctions on Russia. Now, Portman is calling for further sanctions on Russian banks through their removal from the SWIFT system, which allows money transfers across borders, and increasing our defense funding both domestically and to Ukraine.

 As the Kremlin continues its baseless assault on Ukrainian armed forces and innocent civilians, Portman remains committed to ensuring swift, bipartisan action to support our ally Ukraine.  

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

 Portman, Durbin, Ukraine Caucus Meet With Ukrainian Ambassador Markarova

 Portman and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chairs of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, met with Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova. The Ambassador provided an update to the Senate Ukraine Caucus on the Russian military invasion into Ukraine. The bipartisan meeting was attended by 22 senators.

 “I appreciate Ambassador Markarova’s visit with the Senate Ukraine Caucus so we could discuss in detail the needs of Ukraine during this critical time,” said Portman. “I continue to be inspired by Ukrainian people, and the resolve they’ve shown to fight back against the illegal Russian invasion is admirable. The United States must continue to do all it can to help Ukraine by sending immediate military aid and imposing the toughest of sanctions on the Russian and Belarusian governments and economies, while also aiding Ukrainians who are fleeing the violence.”

  Senators Portman, Durbin, Cramer & Menendez Lead Letter Urging Biden Administration to Designate Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status

 Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, along with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led 39 senators in a letter to President Biden urging the administration to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians in the United States following the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.  

 “In light of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, we respectfully request that your Administration promptly take all necessary steps to ensure that Ukrainian nationals present in the United States are not forced to return to Ukraine, including the designation of Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS),” the Senators wrote. “As you know, TPS can be granted to nationals of another country who are currently residing in the United States if returning to their country would pose a serious threat to their personal safety because of ongoing armed conflict, the temporary effects of an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.  TPS allows eligible nationals of designated countries to remain in the United States legally until the expiration of the TPS designation.”

 On February 24, Ukraine declared a state of emergency and closed its airspace to commercial flights after Russia launched a series of unprovoked military strikes against major Ukrainian cities with forces attacking by land, sea, and air. Russian forces have employed hundreds of missiles against military and civilian targets across Ukraine in clear violation of international law, and troops continue to push to overtake major cities, including Kyiv. Ukrainian officials reported that at least 353 civilians have been killed so far since the Russian invasion began. The United States has closed its embassy in Kyiv and all embassy personnel and their family members have left Ukraine in recent weeks.

 Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to return safely to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions. The decision to deny, withdraw, or terminate TPS is in the sole discretion of the U.S. government.

Full text of today’s letter is available here.

 Senators Portman, Cardin Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Revoke Free Trade Privileges for Countries that Commit Acts of Aggression and Permanently Strengthen Sanctions

 Portman and Ben Cardin (D-MD) announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to revoke free trade privileges from Russia and other countries that invade sovereign nations. The No Trading with Invaders Act would automatically revoke Permanent Normal Trading Relations (PNTR) for any Communist, or formerly Communist, country that commits an act of aggression against another member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  It also would permanently reauthorize the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act which authorizes the President to impose sanctions on individuals and entities involved in major human rights abuses and acts of corruption.

 Portman Statement on State of the Union Address

 Portman released the following statement following tonight’s State of the Union address by President Joe Biden:

 “I was pleased to hear President Biden’s call for national and world unity in support of our ally Ukraine as it faces a brutal assault from Russia. While the administration has now implemented the sanctions some of us called them to implement before the invasion occurred, I urge them to do even more on sanctions and use all of the tools at their disposal to hold President Putin accountable. Most importantly, they must eliminate all bureaucratic hurdles and speed the assistance of lethal weaponry to Ukraine immediately.

 “On the domestic front, the country faces its worst inflation rate in 40 years, due in large part to the administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus spending bill last year that has caused prices to skyrocket on everything from groceries to gas. This inflation crisis is hurting working families, overwhelming wage gains, and undermining our economy. I was pleased that President Biden highlighted Intel’s investment in a new semiconductor plant in Ohio, and I was proud to play a role in securing that investment in our state. However, the best path for the administration to strengthen our economy and address the high prices the American people face every day is to work with Republicans on common-sense economic policies that grow our economy.

 “Republicans and Democrats came together on the bipartisan, counter-inflationary infrastructure law that will benefit our country and our economy for decades to come. We should use this as a model for future cooperation. Instead, Democrats continue to push for reckless tax and spending hikes, which would make this inflation crisis worse. I believe we can work together to boost American competitiveness and reduce government spending that is contributing to an overheated economy while increasing our domestic energy production and increasing wages. There are Republicans and Democrats who want to move the country forward in a constructive bipartisan manner on policies like these and I encourage the White House to choose this path.”

 Wednesday, March 2, 2022 

 On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Portman Discusses Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Urges Additional Action

 Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, discussed the latest developments regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stressed the need for additional, tougher sanctions on the Russian government and economy. He also touted the importance of domestic energy production, noting that American energy independence is critical to our national security.

 Earlier this week, Portman hosted a meeting between Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova and 21 of his Senate colleagues.

 You can also watch the interview here.

 Portman Joins Colleagues in Pressing White House for Accounting of Trillions in COVID-19 Spending

 After President Biden reiterated in his State of the Union address his plans to ask Congress for additional COVID-19 funding, Senator Portman joined 35 of his Republican colleagues in a letter to the President requesting an accounting of how the federal government has allocated trillions in taxpayer funds to combat the pandemic. Specific answers to these questions are vital before Congress considers additional COVID-19 funding requests from the White House.

 Senators joining Portman on the letter include Mitt Romney (R-UT), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Josh Hawley (R-MS), John Hoeven (R-ND), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Todd Young (R-IN).      

“Recent news reports indicate the Administration is poised to request an additional $30 billion from Congress for its response to COVID-19,” the senators wrote. “While we have supported historic, bipartisan measures in the United States Senate to provide unprecedented investments in vaccines, therapeutics, and testing, it is not yet clear why additional funding is needed.”

 “…Since passage of the American Rescue Plan in February, questions are mounting about where exactly the additional money has gone,” the senators continued. “A recent investigative report from the Washington Post headlined, “’Immense fraud’ creates immense task for Washington as it tries to tighten scrutiny of $6 trillion in emergency coronavirus spending” details the federal government’s shocking failure to provide the American public with a faithful accounting of how it has spent its money.”

“Before we would consider supporting an additional $30 billion for COVID-19 relief, Congress must receive a full accounting of how the government has already spent the first $6 trillion,” the senators concluded.   

The letter can be found here

 Portman’s CARA 3.0 is the Answer to POTUS’ Call to Address Drug Crisis

 In his State of the Union address last night, President Biden said both parties should work together to address the addiction epidemic. Portman agrees. Here’s what the president said:

 “There is so much we can do. Increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery. Get rid of outdated rules that stop doctors from prescribing treatments... If you’re suffering from addiction, know you are not alone. I believe in recovery, and I celebrate the 23 million Americans in recovery.”

 At Press Conference, Portman Condemns Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Calls for Additional U.S. Action

At a press conference Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, discussed the latest developments regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stressed the need for additional, tougher sanctions on the Russian government and economy.

 While delivering his remarks, Portman displayed a flag that was given to him by Ukrainian soldiers when he visited the “line of contact” in 2018.

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

 Thursday, March 3 2022

On PBS’ NewsHour, Portman Discusses Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Urges Additional Action

 In an interview with PBS’ NewsHour, Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, discussed the latest developments regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stressed the need for additional, tougher sanctions on the Russian government and economy. He also touted the importance of domestic energy production, noting that American energy independence is critical to our national security.

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

 Portman, Brown Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Restore Retirement Benefits for Delphi Salaried Retirees

 Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced new bipartisan, bicameral legislation to restore retirement benefits to over 20,000 Delphi Salaried Retirees. Congressmen Dan Kildee (D-MI), Michael Turner (R-OH), and Tim Ryan (D-OH) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

 When General Motors (GM) filed for bankruptcy in 2009, the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) unfairly cut retirement benefits by as much as 70 percent for more than 20,000 Delphi Salaried Retirees, including more than 5,000 retirees in Ohio. The PBGC assumed responsibility for the terminated benefits but could not pay an individual more than a statutory maximum benefit. Therefore, salaried retirees suffered significant losses to their benefits, with devastating impacts on many lives.

 This legislation would restore the terminated pensions, making these hardworking retirees whole. The bill would make up the difference between the pension benefits earned by Delphi Salaried Retirees and what they received following the GM bankruptcy in 2009. This means beneficiaries who have already begun receiving benefits will receive a lump sum payment of the difference between what was actually paid by PBGC and would have been paid without the limitations, plus 6 percent interest. Retirees may pay incomes taxes on this lump sum over three years to ease the tax burden. All beneficiaries will receive their full earned benefit amount moving forward.

 “I am pleased to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation with Senator Brown to reinstate the Delphi Salaried Pension Plan so that these retirees can finally receive the benefits they worked so hard to earn,” said Senator Portman. “In 2009, the Delphi Salaried Pension Plan was terminated, leaving the long-term financial security of the more than 20,000 salaried employees at Delphi in jeopardy. It is time to correct this unfair action.”

Portman, Bipartisan Group of Senators to Introduce the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act

 Portman joined his colleagues in introducing the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act, which would prohibit the importation of Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal. In 2021, the United States imported an average of 670,000 barrels of oil and petroleum products per day. The U.S. has also imported Russian LNG and coal despite having some of the largest reserves domestically. This import strategy puts American national security at risk and supports Vladimir Putin’s ability to stay in power.

 “We must do all we can to bankrupt President Putin’s economy and his war machine in order to defeat Russia’s assault on Ukraine. The United States should immediately stop buying Russian oil and increase domestic energy production here at home,” said Senator Portman.

 To read the full text of the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act, please click here.

 At Press Conference, Portman Calls For Ban On Russian Oil and Gas

 At a press conference Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, joined a bipartisan group of Senators to discuss the introduction of the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act, which would which would prohibit the importation of Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal. In 2021, the United States imported an average of 670,000 barrels of oil and petroleum products per day. He also discussed the latest developments regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and stressed the need for additional, tougher sanctions on the Russian government and economy. The U.S. has also imported Russian LNG and coal despite having some of the largest reserves domestically. This import strategy puts American national security at risk and supports Vladimir Putin’s ability to stay in power.

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

 Friday, March 4 2022

Portman Draws Attention to CBO Report that Says Inflation Jeopardizes U.S. Fiscal Position

 The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) responded to a request from Senator Portman (R-OH) and members of the Senate Finance Committee for information about budgetary effects of the high and rising inflation that continues to hurt American households.  According to the CBO, inflation and accompanying higher interest rates stemming from inflation further erode the fiscal position of the United States, including adding to the outsized and climbing $30.1 trillion national debt.  

 “Inflation is essentially a tax hike on working families and today’s letter from the CBO only reinforces this fact,” said Senator Portman. “As CBO also pointed out, it is also contributing to rising federal debt. It is time for the administration and congressional Democrats to work with Republicans on common sense economic solutions to get inflation under control and create more jobs for working Americans.”

 You can read the report here.