Rob’s Rundown: Week of February 4 – February 8, 2019
Senator Portman took steps to protect American jobs and Ohio’s economy by introducing the bipartisan Trade Security Act this week. The legislation will reform the Section 232 trade process to rein in misuse of the law and preserve the trade remedy tool when there is a genuine threat to national security. Portman spoke about the legislation on the Senate floor Thursday night urging his colleagues to support it. With the Continuing Resolution deadline approaching next Friday, Portman continued to push his legislation to permanently end government shutdowns. The bill now has 33 cosponsors and he continues to push for its inclusion in any final government funding bill. Portman’s guest for the State of the Union on Tuesday was Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown. Portman praised the president’s call for unity during the speech, especially his message that we should “govern not as two parties but as one nation.”
On Friday in Ohio, toured the Rhinestahl Corporation and participated in a roundtable discussion with the leadership of the company, Butler Tech, students, and other regional manufacturers to discuss Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and how to help more Ohioans get the skills and training they need to find good jobs. He also delivered remarks at the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting and Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Business Awards luncheon.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, February 4
Portman Invites Mayor of Youngstown Tito Brown to Attend State of the Union Address
Ahead of the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Portman invited Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown to accompany him as his guest:
“I’m honored to invite my friend Mayor Brown to join me for the State of the Union address,” said Portman. “I’m proud of the work Mayor Brown has done for the community of Youngstown and continue to be impressed with his leadership that is moving this city forward. Recently, Youngstown received a federal BUILD grant that will be used to provide great multimodal access between key employers in the Mahoning Valley, and I’m excited about how these transportation improvements will strengthen economic growth and job creation in Northeast Ohio.”
“It is truly an honor to be invited by Senator Portman to attend the State of the Union Address,” said Mayor Brown. “Sen. Portman and I have developed a great working relationship since I’ve been elected Mayor of the city of Youngstown. I am honored and look forward to representing Youngstown and it’s citizens at the President’s State of the Union address.”
Tuesday, February 5
Portman Statement on the Senate Passing Bipartisan Legislation to Protect U.S. Allies, Strengthen Israel Relationship
Portman issued the following statement after the Senate passed the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act (S. 1) by a bipartisan margin of 77-23:
“I was proud to support this legislation and pleased it passed by an overwhelming bipartisan margin. This measure will strengthen America’s partnerships with crucial allies in the Middle East, and it will hold accountable the brutal Assad regime in Syria for its violence against its own people. Importantly, this bill also allows state and local governments to divest from entities that engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) activities against our ally Israel. This bill provides key protections to those that chose not to participate in BDS actions that ultimately harm our long time strategic partner.” Editorial Boards Back Portman Effort to End Government Shutdowns
Portman Statement Ahead of President Trump’s State of the Union Address
Portman released the following statement ahead of President Trump’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night:
“The State of the Union is an opportunity to bring the country together, assess where we are, and look to the future. I’m looking forward to hearing the president’s speech. I hope he uses this opportunity to focus on our shared goal of continuing to improve the economy for working families. Despite the partisanship in Washington, we’ve made real progress on the economy with pro-growth tax reforms and regulatory relief that has helped to create millions of new jobs, boost wages and investment, and strengthen retirement savings. Friday’s jobs report was more evidence of this fact, with an impressive 304,000 jobs created in January and, after a decade or more of wage stagnation, real wage growth. In fact, over the last 12 months we’ve seen the strongest wage growth since the Great Recession a decade ago.
“Over the past two years, I have worked with the administration and my Senate colleagues from both parties to deliver results for Ohio on other issues as well. I have taken the lead in enacting common-sense solutions to combat the opioid crisis, including my STOP Act, and curbing online sex trafficking with my SESTA legislation. We enacted a major criminal justice reform package, which included my legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act to stop the revolving door of incarceration and help former inmates live up to their God-given potential. In all, 31 of my bills have become law in the past year. However, there is still much more work to be done.
“I hope the president outlines his plans to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, improve job training programs to fill the in-demand jobs of today, tackle unfair trade and inequities in our economic relationship with China, and address the high prices for prescription drugs in our country.
“The president should discuss his responsible plan to strengthen our security on the southern border, which is backed by government experts who tell us we need more barriers and fencing in certain locations, but also more border agents, more technology and drones, more humanitarian assistance, and better screening at ports of entry to help stop the flow of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and crystal meth being smuggled into our country.
“This is also an opportunity for us to join together to end government shutdowns once and for all, and I’m pleased there is growing momentum behind my End Government Shutdowns Act, which now has 33 cosponsors in the Senate.
“These are just a few of the important issues ahead of us. I will continue to do my part to deliver results for Ohio, and I stand ready to work with the president, his administration, and my colleagues in both parties on solutions that will make a difference for Ohioans and the American people.”
Portman Welcomes White House Announcement that Ohioan Ashley Evans Will Attend State of the Union Address
Portman welcomed the announcement that President Trump has invited Ashley Evans from Kettering to attend Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Portman released the following statement:
“I’m pleased that President Trump invited Ashley Evans of Kettering, Ohio to attend tonight’s State of the Union address. Last May, I was able to spend time with Ashley when I visited Brigid’s Path, where we discussed her story of recovery and how I was working to pass bipartisan CRIB Act, which would help folks like Ashley and her newborn born dependent on drugs recover. I’m so proud of all she has accomplished, now celebrating more than a year of sobriety, and in 10 days she will be reunited with her daughter full time. I applaud President Trump for inviting her and highlighting her story.”
Wednesday, February 6
Portman, Heinrich Applaud Appointment of Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism
Portman and Senator Martin Heinrich applauded the appointment of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, a position at the U.S. Department of State. The senators sent President Trump a letter in May 2018 emphasizing the importance of filling the position to ensure the United States continues to lead global efforts to combat anti-Semitism.
“I applaud the Trump Administration for filling this critical position at the State Department,” said Portman. “With anti-Semitic incidents increasing at an alarming rate both in the U.S. and around the world, this position is needed now more than ever to help stem the tide of hate. No one should have to live in fear of bias and hate. America was founded on the principle of religious freedom, and we must stand up for this right for people around the world who are persecuted for their beliefs. With this important position now filled, the United States will be better able to lead global efforts to combat anti-Semitism.”
On Bloomberg, Portman Discusses President’s State of the Union, Trade & His End Government Shutdowns Act
In an interview with Bloomberg’s Daybreak, Portman discussed President Trump’s State of the Union address, our trade relations with China and the misuse of Section 232 of our trade laws. Portman introduced his bipartisan Trade Security Act, which will preserve the Section 232 trade remedy tool while ensuring it is used only for genuine national security threats.
Portman also highlighted his legislation to permanently end government shutdowns. Earlier this year, for the fifth time, Portman introduced the End Government Shutdowns Act to permanently prevent the federal government from shutting down, ensuring that government services aren’t disrupted and protecting taxpayers who must bear the resulting cost. The bill now has 33 cosponsors. He also urged his colleagues to support the president’s border security proposal, which draws upon the top 10 priorities of the Border Security Improvement Plan outlined by the government’s border security experts.
Portman, Brown Introduce Bill to Spur Investment in New Energy Technology
Portman and Sherrod Brown 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 for Sunpower and other companies, making their linear generators competitive enough to fully enter the market during the phaseout of the existing investment tax credit.”
Portman, Jones, Ernst, Alexander, Feinstein, Fischer, Sinema & Young Introduce Trade Security Act to Reform National Security Tariff Process
Senator Portman, Jones, Ernst, Alexander, Feinstein, Fischer, Sinema and Young introduced the Trade Security Act, legislation that will reform Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to better align the statute with its original intent as a trade remedy tool for the president and Congress to respond to genuine threats to national security. In keeping with the original intent of Section 232, this bill makes common-sense reforms that require the Department of Defense to justify the national security basis for new tariffs under Section 232 and increase congressional oversight of this process.
“We must hold countries that violate our trade laws accountable, but we must do so in a way that protects American jobs and strengthens the U.S. economy,” said Senator Portman. “I have repeatedly expressed concerns about the misuse of the Section 232 statute to impose tariffs on automobiles and auto parts, and its impact on Ohio jobs and the U.S. economy as a whole. This bipartisan legislation preserves this trade tool while properly placing the national security designation at the Department of Defense and expanding the role of Congress in the process. As a former USTR, I know that misusing our trade tools not only hurts our exports and our manufacturers, but also our consumers, so I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation.”
Thursday, February 7
Portman, Brown Invite Ohioans to Apply for Nomination to U.S. Service Academies
Portman and Brown encouraged Ohioans interested in 2020 admission to U.S. Military Service Academies to apply to each senator’s office for a congressional nomination.
“As a United States Senator, it is an honor and privilege every year to nominate a number of Ohio’s top young achievers for entry into one of our nation’s service academies,” said Portman. “Our nation has never had to look further than the Buckeye State to find those individuals who exhibit the sterling qualities of leadership, daring, and the sense of adventure needed to turn their biggest dreams into reality, and to rise to any occasion.”
Each year, Portman and Brown nominate up to 10 students for each service academy: the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
On Fox Business, Portman Discusses His Support for Stronger Border Security
In an interview with Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Portman discussed his support for the president’s border security proposal, which draws upon the top 10 priorities of the Border Security Improvement Plan outlined by the government’s border security experts. Portman believes enhanced border security is needed to help stem the flow of drugs and trafficking that remain significant problems on America’s southern border.
Friday, February 8
More Editorial Boards Back Portman Effort to End Government Shutdowns
A growing number of the nation’s editorial boards – including the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Newark Advocate, Crain’s Cleveland Business, Daily Sentinel, Waterways Journal, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Post, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Toledo Blade, Akron Beacon Journal, and Cincinnati Enquirer – are praising Senator Portman’s efforts to end government shutdowns for good. Earlier this year, for the fifth time, he introduced his End Government Shutdowns Act legislation which will permanently prevent the federal government from shutting down, ensuring that essential government services aren’t disrupted and protecting taxpayers who must bear the resulting cost. The legislation currently has 33 cosponsors in the Senate and a bipartisan companion in the House. Portman has made clear he will strongly push for its inclusion in any final government funding bill.
Excerpts of the editorials can be found here.
Portman Delivers Remarks on Need to Reform National Security Tariff Process, Protect American Jobs
Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor on new bipartisan legislation he introduced this week called the Trade Security Act, which will rein in misuse of the Section 232 trade law while preserving this trade remedy tool when there is a genuine threat to national security. In keeping with the original intent of Section 232, this bill makes common-sense reforms that require the Department of Defense to justify the national security basis for new tariffs under Section 232 and increase congressional oversight of this process.
In Mason, Portman Tours Local Manufacturer & Participates in a Workforce Development Discussion
Portman (R-OH) toured the Rhinestahl Corporation and participated in a roundtable discussion with the leadership of the company, Butler Tech, students, and other regional manufacturers to discuss Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and how to help more Ohioans get the skills and training they need to find good jobs. Portman previously visited Butler Tech in 2016.
“Ohio employers are struggling to find people with the skills to fill open jobs. We have a skills gap, but I was encouraged by the discussion I had today,” said Portman. “I enjoyed learning about the workforce development partnership with Rhinestahl Corporation and Bulter Tech, and I will take their ideas, feedback, and the good-work I saw here back to Washington because we need more like it. I will continue my work at the federal level to make sure that Washington is an effective partner with local communities in providing Ohioans with the skills training they need to succeed.”
Photos from the event are here.
Portman Delivered Remarks at Clermont County Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Small Business Development Center Business Awards Luncheon
Portman participated in Clermont County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting and Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Business Awards luncheon. Portman discussed his work to enact pro-growth policies, including the tax reform law which is helping the economy grow and create jobs, expanding exports of Made in Ohio products, and empowering Ohioans to ensure that they have a better tomorrow.
“I enjoyed participating in Clermont County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting today, and congratulations again to all the award winners,” said Portman. “Throughout my travels around Ohio I have seen firsthand the real, positive difference that tax reform is making for Ohio families, workers, and businesses. Businesses throughout the state are hiring more workers, making new investments, raising wages, paying bonuses, and expanding benefits for their workers all because of tax reform. This is exactly what Congress intended to accomplish when we crafted this new law, and I expect these terrific results to continue. I appreciated the feedback I received today, and I will continue working to improve the economy and help working families and small businesses succeed and flourish.”
Photos from the event are here.
On Social Media
Lawmakers, businesses warn of long-term damage of tariffs
The Trump administration may have pushed trading partners to come to the negotiating table with tariffs, but a Delaware soybean farmer and a Virginia distillery owner say business people like them are paying a price for the tactic.
At a Wednesday press conference by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, Senate Republicans Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin joined Democrats Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Mark Warner of Virginia in decrying the tariffs, which they said are squeezing businesses and could eventually take a bite out of the U.S. economy. Tariffs Hurt the Heartland represents 150 organizations from several industries.
They want steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico lifted, pointing to President Donald Trump’s pledge to cancel the duties once the U.S. renegotiated the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with the two countries. The three countries signed the product of those talks, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, on Nov. 30. Implementing legislation for the revised trade pact has yet to be sent to Congress.
The lawmakers also urged the administration not to increase the tariff rate from 10 percent to 25 percent on imports from China valued at $200 billion or to pursue tariffs on foreign-made autos and auto parts, as Trump has threatened to do with European car imports.
Toomey, whose bill would limit the ability of the president to impose levies for national security reasons, said U.S. tariffs in 2018 sparked retaliatory duties that raise costs for businesses and make U.S. products more expensive and less competitive against foreign competitors in those markets.
Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman filed legislation Wednesday that would shift the authority to the Defense Department to determine if a national security rationale exists for imposing future tariffs. The Commerce Department determined there was a national security basis for the steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and other countries…
“Tit-for-tat tariffs as a negotiating tactic are very, very dangerous.” Toomey said.
(Lawmakers, businesses warn of long-term damage of tariffs. Roll Call. February 7, 2019.)
Senators make a bipartisan push to limit Trump’s trade powers
As President Donald Trump prepares to once again make a bipartisan appeal in his State of the Union address Tuesday, members of Congress are linking arms on one of his favorite issues: trade.
Yet they’re working against the president, seeking to limit his authority to impose tariffs unilaterally on national security grounds, as he did last year on steel and aluminum, sparking a dispute with the European Union and alienating close partners such as Canada and Mexico.
Multiple Republican lawmakers are working alongside Democrats to put forward legislation curtailing Trump’s existing national security tariff powers. They include Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who recently introduced a bill with Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner that would require congressional approval to impose trade restrictions for national security reasons.
“It is not impossible for there to be a very good reason to use trade measures in response to a genuine national security threat,” Toomey told reporters after introducing the bill. “However, we have seen this administration use this tool in a way that was never intended.”
Even as Trump and some of his closest GOP allies in the House continue to push for the US Reciprocal Trade Act, which would give the president authority to raise tariffs in response to various duties and trade barriers American products face abroad, senators are renewing their efforts to challenge the White House’s approach after a bruising year of escalating trade fights, including a painful tit-for-tat trade war with China that cost US farmers and importers while also contributing to economic turmoil in Asia.
Toomey’s bill, a revamped version of legislation initially introduced by former Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker — a frequent Trump antagonist before his retirement last year — expands on the legislation by granting the Defense Department, rather than the Department of Commerce, the power to investigate whether different goods threaten national security.
Toomey’s bill would also provide a narrow definition of “national security” and would limit the items that can be considered under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act to those related to military equipment, energy resources, and critical infrastructure.
Toomey and Warner have nine cosponsors in the Senate, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced a companion bill in the House, but proponents could find the same uphill climb Corker faced last year. His original legislation never got a full vote in the Senate, though it passed 88-11 as a non-binding, symbolic measure in July.
But they’re not the only game in town. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman says he plans to reintroduce a more moderate bill with Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones as early as Wednesday that would preserve the president’s flexibility under the provision, while still increasing oversight of decisions citing national security concerns.
While Toomey’s bill would require Congress to approve any new trade restrictions, Portman — a former U.S. trade representative — would leave wiggle room for the White House by allowing Congress to disapprove of such tariffs only after the fact.
Portman’s approach would also put the Defense Department in charge of determining national security threats under Section 232 but would not rescind Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, a point that could win over more labor-friendly Democrats.
Portman expressed optimism in an interview Monday that the bill could receive a hearing and mark-up in the Senate Finance Committee now that Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley is chair. Grassley hasn’t endorsed one bill or another, but in December he pointed to Portman’s bill as “a prudent starting point for the discussion we need to have on Section 232 authority in the next Congress.”
“It’s important to actually accomplish something here, and that will require us to have a proposal that retains the tool and makes it workable, but also narrows it to its original purpose, which was for real national security crises,” said Portman.
Republicans for the most part remain hesitant to split with the President, and Democratic leaders may be unwilling to provoke steel interests by passing a bill that would lead to the removal of Trump’s current tariffs.
Others argue that Congress delegated such powers to the White House because the President needs to have a degree of autonomy to make key trade decisions.
“With trade policy, we’ve given the president authority, and just because they don’t like what this President does on tariffs — I don’t either like the way he’s done it — but I like that the President has the power on tariffs,” Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, who is eying a potential 2020 run, told CNN Monday night. “Because you have to be more agile and nimble than this Congress can be on something like that.”
That drew a joke from fellow Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who was walking with Brown and quipped: “Now that he’s going to be president, he’s all into presidential power now.”
(Senators make a bipartisan push to limit Trump’s trade powers. CNN. February 5, 2019.)