Rob’s Rundown: Week of January 18 – January 22, 2021
Senator Portman was back in Washington this week as the Senate reconvened to consider several of President Biden’s cabinet nominees. On Wednesday, Portman attended the Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and issued a statement congratulating the new President and Vice President.
On Tuesday, Portman participated in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing for Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Portman pressed Mr. Mayorkas on the 2013 DHS Inspector General report which found that he granted special access to politically connected Democrats and mistreated agency employees. Mr. Mayorkas committed to addressing cybersecurity threats from foreign actors, stopping the influx of deadly synthetic drugs at the southern border and through the U.S. Postal Service, ensuring that faith-based organizations and nonprofits are secured against threats through FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, strengthening the E-Verify program in an effort to make it more effective, and combatting human trafficking.
Later that afternoon, during the Senate Finance Committee hearing, Portman pressed Dr. Janet Yellen, nominee to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, about the long-term economic impact of the nation’s surging deficit and how we can begin to get back on a path towards greater fiscal stewardship. Yellen committed to Portman that she would be a voice for fiscal sanity and stated, “I completely agree with you, Senator Portman, that the Treasury Secretary has to be a voice for fiscal sanity, and I pledge to do that. Our finances need to be on a sustainable, long-run course. And that’s very important for us to focus on. I pledge to do that.”
During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing - which also took place on Tuesday - Portman secured commitments from President Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to support the efforts of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) to effectively combat disinformation and propaganda from foreign actors, like Russia and China.
Finally, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon expressing his gratitude for the men and women of the United States Capitol Police, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. National Guard who defended the Capitol during the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris in the wake of the violent mob that stormed the building on January 6. Portman also mourned the loss of USCP officers Brian Sicknick, who was killed in the attack, and Howard Liebengood, who died shortly after.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Portman Presses DHS Secretary Nominee Mayorkas on Granting Special Access to Politically Connected Democrats and Mistreatment of Agency Employees at HSGAC Hearing
Portman pressed Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, on the 2013 DHS Inspector General report which found that Mayorkas granted special access to politically connected Democrats and mistreated agency employees in his opening remarks at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the nomination.
Portman Secures Commitment from DHS Secretary Nominee to Address Cybersecurity, Stop Influx of Deadly Drugs, and Protect Faith-Based Organizations
Portman secured commitments from Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to address cybersecurity threats from foreign actors; stop the influx of deadly synthetic drugs at the southern border and through the U.S. Postal Service; ensure that faith-based organizations and nonprofits are secured against threats through FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program; strengthen the E-Verify program in an effort to make it more effective; and combat human trafficking.
Last year, Senators Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI) announced they will build upon their bipartisan cybersecurity work by holding hearings and work on bipartisan comprehensive cybersecurity legislation in response to the SolarWinds breach. Portman asked Mayorkas to ensure the entire government has the cybersecurity resources and tools to safeguard their work. Mayorkas committed to working with CISA and the whole government to ensure federal agencies have the cybersecurity tools and resources they need to carry out their missions securely.
Mayorkas committed to fully implementing Portman’s bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act which became law in 2018 and is working to help reduce the supply of fentanyl shipped into the United States through the U.S. Postal Service. On December 10, Portman pressed the federal agencies in charge of implementing the STOP Act on why they had not fully complied with the requirements as established in the law.
Finally, Senator Portman and Mayorkas discussed his bipartisan Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act which provides grants to faith-based and other nonprofit organizations to help secure their facilities against a potential terrorist attack. Mayorkas committed to continuing to work with this program.
During Questioning from Senator Portman, Treasury Secretary Nominee Yellen Agrees on Need for Greater Long-Term Fiscal Discipline, Pledges to Be Voice of Fiscal Sanity
Portman pressed Dr. Janet Yellen, nominee to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, about the long-term economic impact of the nation’s surging deficit and how we can begin to get back on a path towards greater fiscal stewardship. This comes days after President-Elect Biden laid out a plan to spend another $1.9 trillion – after Congress just enacted a $900 billion coronavirus relief package. Biden’s new plan would be funded entirely by deficit spending. Yellen committed to Portman that she would be a voice for fiscal sanity and stated, “I completely agree with you, Senator Portman, that the Treasury Secretary has to be a voice for fiscal sanity, and I pledge to do that. Our finances need to be on a sustainable, long-run course. And that’s very important for us to focus on. I pledge to do that.”
In addition, Portman highlighted the wide-ranging economic benefits brought about by the 2017 Tax Cuts And Jobs Act. Portman discussed how the 2017 tax reform law leveled the playing field for American businesses, helping to create jobs, spur investment and incentivize companies to move their operations and jobs back to the United States. Portman cautioned Dr. Yellen against raising the corporate tax rate, citing the negative impact a rate increase would have on our global competitiveness and broader economic health here at home.
Portman Secures Commitment from Nominee for Secretary of State to Effectively Use Global Engagement Center to Combat Disinformation
Portman secured commitments from the nominee to be U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that if confirmed, he would support the efforts of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) to effectively combat disinformation and propaganda from foreign actors, like Russia and China. Senator Portman has worked to combat disinformation and cyberattacks both in the United States and abroad through his bipartisan Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, which he authored with Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and was signed into law in December 2016. The law improves the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation by establishing the GEC, housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government in support of friends and allies overseas. The law provided funding and authorities to the State Department that authorizes the GEC to help counter the foreign propaganda and disinformation being waged against our allies by state and non-state adversaries.
In addition, Portman secured a commitment from Mr. Blinken to continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to defend themselves against continued Russian aggression. For the past four years, Portman has successfully championed language in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that expands U.S. military aid to Ukraine, while strongly encouraging the Ukrainian government to continue their efforts in eliminating corruption and continuing with much needed security sector reforms. These provisions helped build the primary statutory framework for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. In addition, he has repeatedly written letters, delivered multiple floor speeches, and pressed senior administration officials on the importance of providing meaningful assistance to help Ukraine stand up to Russia’s military aggression, and has praised its decisions to provide lethal assistance to the country.
Finally, Portman also urged Mr. Blinken to hold China accountable for their continued theft of American taxpayer funded research and intellectual property. Senator Portman, as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into China’s talent recruitment programs like the Thousand Talents Program, culminating in a bipartisan report in November 2019 that detailed how China has recruited U.S.-based scientists and researchers since the late 1990s and incentivized them to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded research and IP to China for their own military and economic gain. Last year, Portman introduced the bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act to protect American research and IP from global competitors.
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Portman Attends Inauguration, Congratulates President Biden and Vice President Harris
Portman issued the following statement after attending the Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris:
“I extend my congratulations to President and Dr. Biden, as well as Vice President Harris and Mr. Emhoff, on today’s historic Inauguration. I had the honor of attending, and I look forward to working with the new administration on areas where we agree in order to make a difference in the lives of Ohioans and all Americans. When we disagree, I will do so respectfully. Public service is a noble calling and anyone who serves deserves the respect of the American people, regardless of political affiliation.”
Portman Statement on Biden Administration Action to Block Development of KeystoneXL Pipeline, Cost American Energy Jobs
Portman issued the following statement in response to the Biden administration’s action to rescind the Presidential Permit needed for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline:
“As I’ve said previously, I want to work with the Biden administration to address the most pressing challenges facing our country. As the U.S. continues to struggle amid the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unfortunate that one of the Biden administration’s first actions will cost American jobs and hurt our economy. The pipeline is creating thousands of good-paying union jobs, boosting our manufacturing sector, and strengthening our energy security in cooperation with Canada, one of our closest allies.
“I have long said that the Keystone XL Pipeline is an essential component of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy that uses all sources of American energy – from nuclear to fossil to renewables to energy efficiency measures – that will enhance U.S. energy security needed to compete and succeed in the decades ahead. My stance has not changed, and I urge the Biden administration to re-examine its decision so that the Keystone XL Pipeline can create jobs, lower energy prices, and help grow our economy.”
Portman Thanks Ohio National Guard Troops Deployed To Washington D.C.
Portman issued the following statement after visiting today with members of the Ohio National Guard who have deployed to Washington D.C. to assist with security for President Biden’s Inauguration:
“I was honored to have a chance to thank a number of the Ohio National Guardsmen and women who have deployed to Washington, D.C. to help protect the U.S. Capitol and assist with security for the Presidential Inauguration. Time after time, our Guardsmen answer the call to serve and they have carried out their mission here with dignity and the utmost professionalism. These men and women represent the very best our state and nation have to offer and I thank them for their service.”
Thursday, January 21, 2021
On Senate Floor, Portman Commends Law Enforcement Officials and National Guardsmen Who Defended U.S. Capitol and Presidential Inauguration Ceremony
On the Senate floor, Portman expressed his gratitude for the men and women of the United States Capitol Police, the U.S. Secret Service, and the U.S. National Guard who defended the Capitol during the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris in the wake of the violent mob that stormed the building on January 6. He described visiting with some of the nearly 1000 Ohio National Guardsmen and women who were deployed to Washington ahead of the inauguration, and also highlighted the outstanding work the Ohio Army National Guard has done in helping the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Portman also mourned the loss of USCP officers Brian Sicknick, who was killed in the attack, and Howard Liebengood, who died shortly after. He committed to leading the bipartisan investigation into the security failings on January 6 in a fair, thorough, and expeditious manner along with the committees of jurisdiction – the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Rules Committee, Appropriations Committee, and the Intelligence Committee so that such a tragedy does not happen again. But Portman also commended the heroism displayed that day by individuals like Officer Eugene Goodman, who led rioters away from the Senate chamber, and Inspector Thomas Lloyd, who stood alongside his officers to push back against the mob.
Finally, Portman also honored the life of Toledo Police Officer Brandon Stalker who tragically gave his life in the line of duty on Monday.
Friday, January 22, 2021
Ahead of Virtual March for Life, Portman Introduces Child Custody Protection Act
Ahead of the virtual March for Life event next week, Portman introduced the Child Custody Protection Act, legislation which would make it a federal offense to transport a minor across a state line for an abortion if it would circumvent a state law requiring parental involvement in that minor’s abortion.
“While I’m disappointed that we can’t get together and March for Life this year like we usually do, I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation in an effort to give a voice to the voiceless,” said Senator Portman. “Parents have a right to be involved in the most important decisions that their children make. A large majority of Americans believe that minors should not make such an important decision without the guidance of a caring parent. This bill will strengthen state parental notification laws and ensure that parents and their daughters fully understand the consequences of this decision. I’m proud of my consistent pro-life record and I’m fully committed to protecting the sanctity of life.”
Portman, Shaheen, Capito, Whitehouse Introduce Bipartisan Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act to Combat Ongoing Drug Crisis
Senators Portman, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the bipartisan Drug-Free Communities Pandemic Relief Act in order to provide flexibility to Drug-Free Communities (DFC) coalitions during the COVID-19 pandemic by temporarily allowing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) the authority to waive the program’s local matching requirements if the grantee is unable to meet them due to the ongoing pandemic.
In 1997, Portman authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, which supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs. The Drug-Free Communities Act is designed to improve effectiveness and accountability in these programs by capping the amount spent on administrative and overhead expenses, requiring all coalitions that receive grants to have experience in drug abuse prevention, and to match federal funding with local funds. No other drug prevention program has achieved the same reduction in youth drug use that has been achieved consistently by the DFC program.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a heartbreaking surge in overdose deaths, which is why it is essential that we give these coalitions the flexibility they need in order to keep their programs running. The Drug-Free Communities program is a proven, evidence-based, and community-oriented program that reduces substance abuse among our nation’s youth. I authored this legislation more than 20 years ago during my time in the House of Representatives, and it remains today the most effective program for consistently reducing youth drug use. I founded the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati, now PreventionFIRST!, as a comprehensive effort to address youth substance abuse, and it’s something I care deeply about,” said Senator Portman. “I have seen firsthand that prevention is a powerful tool to counteract drug use in our community, and this funding helps youth throughout Ohio make better, more healthy choices. These grants will help those on the frontlines in Ohio combat this crisis as we work together to turn the tide of addiction. It is imperative, now more than ever, that we work together to combat the crisis of addiction gripping our country, and I will continue to lead efforts in the Senate to turn the tide of this drug epidemic.”
With the recent attack on the Capitol, Latin American migrants headed to the U.S. border, and other looming threats, the Biden Administration is pushing for quick Senate approval of national-security nominees. On Tuesday Sen. Josh Hawley (R, Mo.) inflicted a small setback by objecting to fast-tracking Mr. Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, to a confirmation vote.
The Senator says he has concerns about the Biden Administration’s immigration plans, and that Mr. Mayorkas “declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system.” Mr. Mayorkas is also well known as an architect of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Barack Obama pushed through by executive fiat after he couldn’t get it through Congress.
Those pushing for quick approval argue Mr. Mayorkas has been confirmed by the Senate three times over his political career. But as Ohio Republican Rob Portman noted at Tuesday’s confirmation Senate hearing, Mr. Mayorkas was last confirmed in 2013. That was before the release of a scathing Inspector General report in which individuals “throughout the ranks of USCIS” complained that, as director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mr. Mayorkas had intervened to benefit wealthy and politically connected foreign investors seeking EB-5 visas.
These investors were connected to people such as former Clinton associate and future Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and Tony Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s brother. The report further quotes one “high-ranking USCIS official” saying that employees with different views were afraid to speak up in meetings because Mr. Mayorkas would “cut them up, take them apart or put them in their place.”
The IG found nothing criminal, and Mr. Mayorkas insists he intervened only to ensure cases were decided correctly. But the report details Mr. Mayorkas’s troubling habit of communicating with applicants and stakeholders outside the normal process—and the “appearance of favoritism and special access” he created. The IG report adds that in each of the three instances investigated, “but for Mr. Mayorkas’ intervention, the matter would have been decided differently.” The IG at the time, Obama appointee John Roth, stands by his findings today.
This doesn’t sound like grounds for promotion to lead Homeland Security. Given the criminal investigation into his own son, President Biden should have a special interest in signaling there will be zero tolerance for cashing in on political connections in his Administration. The new Democratic Senate majority will nonetheless probably confirm Mr. Mayorkas, though on Tuesday the Senate delivered the message that people will be watching him closely.
Marching, singing and chanting in gently falling snow, hundreds of residents took to a blocked-off section of West Third Street on Monday afternoon to remember the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of justice.
The traditional march on the Third Street bridge, which is being renovated, has not happened in a couple of years. Participants Monday instead walked east from the Drew Health Center on Third Street, turning right before Edwin C. Moses Blvd. and gathering at a nearby park.
Joe Abrams, a Dayton resident, called the day the “best American holiday.”
“It’s an important tradition, and I think it’s important to keep it up,” Abrams said. “It’s important for the community to come together, and to remember (King’s) spirit of equality, unity and people.”
Kema Brown, a Dayton resident, said this event was her second MLK Day march in Dayton. She marched last year with her daughter, who died in July after a battle with cancer.
“Now I’m picking up the slack for her,” Brown said. “It’s my turn. It felt so good last year, and it feels good this year.
“I wanted to continue on with the legacy,” she added. “I love Martin Luther King.”
The march historically has crossed the Third Street bridge over the Great Miami River, also called the “Peace Bridge” as recognition of its role on that day. But a $16 million replacement/renovation project altered the route in January 2020 and on Monday. The bridge is scheduled to reopen in October this year.
King was remembered across the nation, with marches and rallies in many major cities.
“Following recent division and the violent assault on our Capitol, Dr. King’s message of hope and peace is one we must reflect on and work to uphold,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, tweeted Monday.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was scheduled to deliver keynote remarks at the Dayton Unit NAACP’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Monday evening.
“Dr. King moved mountains with his words,” Brown said on Twitter on Monday.
In a video posted on Twitter, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said King’s legacy “lives on in the hearts and souls of every person around the world committed to working toward a more just future.”
Portman observed that MLK Day is also the only federal holiday that is designated a “national day of service,” set aside to “encourage people to volunteer their time to help their community.”
Said Portman: “As Dr. King knew, many of the problems we face will be solved in our communities, in our families and ultimately in our hearts.”
A Martin Luther King Jr. event hosted by Sinclair Community College brought together more than 260 participants virtually.
“I hope this is the first and last time we have to do this by Zooming,” said Steven Johnson, Sinclair president.
Introducing some 30 minutes of poetry and music, Furaha Henry-Jones, Sinclair’s poet laureate and an English professor, told participants that King “was asking tough questions.”
“He asked these difficult questions and more. He provided answers that, as a nation, we haven’t wanted to hear,” she said.
In the wake of the violence in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, Henry-Jones said she has heard the phrase “This is not America” many times.