Rob’s Rundown: Week of January 20 – January 24, 2020

January 24, 2020 | Rob's Rundown

While the Senate continues to hear arguments and evidence from the House managers and the president’s legal team, Senator Portman maintained a busy schedule this week beginning with two events in Ohio last weekend. Saturday morning, Portman visited Dayton’s National Aviation Heritage Area where he participated in a roundtable discussion highlighting the passage of his legislation to reauthorize funding for Dayton’s NAHA through September 30, 2022.

Saturday afternoon, Portman visited Beavercreek to discuss ongoing recovery efforts from the 2019 Memorial Day weekend tornadoes with Beavercreek’s City Manager, Pete Landrum, and Mayor Bob Stone. Portman visited the Martin Luther King Memorial to honor Dr. King on Monday evening.

Also this week, Senator Portman delivered remarks at the Senate signing ceremony of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement. Business and trade leaders have praised Portman for efforts to help pass the modernized trade agreement. 

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

Saturday, January 18, 2020

In Dayton, Portman Visits the National Aviation Heritage Area 

Today, Senator Portman visited Dayton’s National Aviation Heritage Area (NAHA) where he participated in a roundtable discussion highlighting the passage of his legislation to reauthorize funding for Dayton’s NAHA through September 30, 2022. NAHA spans eight counties throughout western Ohio, with a large presence in Dayton, the home of the Wright Brothers. There are a variety of cultural sites within the NAHA, including the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park, Armstrong Air and Space Museum, Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial, Huffman Prairie Flying Field, and Grimes Flying Field, as well as resources related to the Wright Brothers. Portman discussed his bipartisan efforts to address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service. After the discussion, Portman toured the National Park.

“I had a great discussion today with the leadership at NAHA about our two year funding extension victory in the final FY 2020 funding measure as well as the deferred maintenance that needs to be addressed throughout the cultural sites,” said Portman. “NAHA is a public-private partnership that has also generated economic growth in the region. It supports 1,500 jobs and generates $35 million in economic impact from the more than two million visitors per year. NAHA is home to our nation’s aviation history and I am proud of the progress we have made to help ensure that it is preserved and enjoyed by future generations. I will continue working at the federal level to ensure the NAHA has the resources it needs to help the National Park Service address its maintenance needs through my bipartisan Restore Our Parks legislation.”

Photos from the visit can be seen HERE 

In Beavercreek, Portman Discusses Ongoing Tornado Recovery & Rebuilding Efforts

Today, Senator Portman visited Beavercreek to view tornado damage from the 2019 Memorial Day weekend tornadoes and to discuss ongoing recovery efforts with Beavercreek’s City Manager, Pete Landrum, and Mayor Bob Stone. 

“Today, I was pleased to once again have the opportunity to view and discuss the tornado damage in Beavercreek with the City Manager and Mayor,” said Portman. “I saw first-hand the ongoing recovery efforts, and I’m proud of this community for coming together to help with the relief efforts. Our discussions were informative and I’ll continue to work on behalf of this community at the federal level to ensure that we continue to help the rebuilding efforts.”  

Photos from the visit can be seen HERE

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Portman, Gillibrand Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Medicaid Coverage for Direct Support Professionals

Today, Senators Portman and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the bipartisan Ensuring Access to Direct Support Professionals Act to provide Medicaid coverage for services from direct support professionals (DSPs) while a patient whom a DSP is supporting is in the hospital. DSPs are indispensable in supporting the daily needs of the elderly and people with disabilities, and have been shown to be effective in supporting the physical, mental, and emotional needs of their patients when their services are allowed to continue while a patient is hospitalized. Current law restricts Medicaid from paying for the DSP services while a patient is hospitalized. This bipartisan legislation will extend coverage to DSP services in hospital settings so that Medicaid beneficiaries can continue to receive the care that they need.    

“Elderly patients and those with disabilities rely heavily on their direct support professionals for care and independence,” said Portman. “Being in a hospital is distressing on its own, and for these patients, hospitals can be especially confusing and upsetting. By ensuring that Medicaid covers DSP services while a patient is in the hospital, we can ensure our nation’s most vulnerable have the level of comfort and familiarity they need to respond better to treatment.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Portman Praises U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement Ahead of President’s Signature

Senator Portman delivered remarks at the Senate signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley thanked Portman for his efforts in helping to help pass USMCA. Portman has been a leading advocate for USMCA, which will create at least 176,000 new jobs, expand opportunities for agricultural trade, encourage new opportunities for auto jobs in America, and add a new section on digital trade to make online sales easier. He has been consistently supportive of this modernized trade agreement, which will replace the 26-year-old NAFTA. USMCA passed the Senate last week with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 89-10. It now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

A transcript of his remarks can be found HERE, and a video can be found HERE

Business and Trade Leaders Praise Portman’s Efforts to Get USMCA Done

The U.S. Trade Representative and other key leaders in Ohio have praised Senator Portman for his efforts to help pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement. Here’s what they are saying:

“I thank Senator Portman for helping to make the USMCA a huge success for Ohio and for America’s workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses.  His outstanding leadership and expertise are tremendous assets as we work to negotiate better trade agreements and strengthen America’s trade policy,” said United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“Ohio has a long, proud history of a productive and industrious workforce uniquely capable of manufacturing the products and growing the commodities that consumers all over the world want to purchase,” said President and CEO of the Ohio Business Roundtable, Pat Tiberi.  “USMCA will ensure continued access to the Canadian and Mexican markets, guarantee that Ohio’s exports enter these markets tariff free, and usher in greater prosperity for Ohioans, our communities, and our businesses.  The Ohio Business Roundtable congratulates the House, Senate and the President for working in bipartisan collaboration for the good of the American economy.”

“For years, the strong trade relationship between the U.S., Mexico and Canada has been invaluable for Ohio farmers and USMCA solidifies that relationship. With the Senate passage of USMCA, we celebrate this hard-fought win and we commend Sen. Portman for all of his efforts to help solidify the relationships we have with our North American trading partners,” said President of Ohio Farm Bureau, Frank Burkett III.

“On behalf of America’s automakers, we wish to thank Senator Portman and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their leadership in passing USMCA, a 21st-century trade agreement that will help the U.S. auto industry and the millions of jobs it supports remain competitive,” said Governor Matt Blunt, President of the American Automotive Policy Council. 



Portman Column: Historic week for U.S. trade and American workers

Last week, I participated in a roundtable at Fecon, an agricultural equipment manufacturer in Southwest Ohio. Our discussion included some of the biggest issues affecting Ohio business owners, farmers, and employees, including tax reform, workforce development, and the international trade agenda.

Like many other businesses in Ohio, Fecon cares about trade because they want to see a level playing field — they want fewer barriers so they can sell more of their products overseas while ensuring that foreign products are not competing unfairly with them in the U.S. market.

It’s no surprise that Ohioans care about this issue — we depend on trade to help our economy thrive. About 25 percent of Ohio’s factory workers make products that get exported, and one out of every three acres planted by Ohio farmers are exported. These are good jobs, too – jobs dependent on trade pay, on average, 16 percent more than their non-trade counterparts, and have better benefits. That’s why it’s good news that these last few days have brought two historic trade agreements that will reform some of our most critical trade relationships and provide more opportunities and certainty to Ohio’s economy.

Canada and Mexico are Ohio’s two biggest trading partners, so I’m pleased we passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). I supported the Trump administration’s efforts to negotiate a strong agreement and helped secure the votes for it in Congress. USMCA helps to level the playing field for U.S. workers, farmers, and small business owners in a number of ways.

First, USMCA will raise labor standards and increase North American content requirements for automobiles to bring more manufacturing jobs to Ohio. NAFTA requires 62.5 percent of an auto to be North American-made to get the benefits of the trade agreement. USMCA increases that to 75 percent, and says 70 percent of the steel in automobiles must also be made in USMCA countries. That’s the highest of any U.S. trade agreement, and it means more jobs in the U.S. and fewer auto parts, steel, and other imports from other countries like China that might seek to free ride on our trade agreement.

USMCA also expands market access so that the farmers who produce milk, eggs, poultry, wheat and more so Ohio can export more. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Ohio farmers who have been dealing with bad weather and low prices. And it will benefit locally owned businesses like Fecon, who will see more farmers buying agricultural equipment as their sales increase.

Finally, USMCA puts in place rules of the road for internet sales to make it easier for Ohio small business to sell to customers in Canada and Mexico.

Unsurprisingly, the independent International Trade Commission (ITC) estimates that USMCA will create at least 176,000 new jobs, including more than 20,000 in our auto industry.

In addition to the Senate passing USMCA, this past week President Trump also signed phase one of a new trade relationship with China. This first part of a two-part agreement makes significant strides in ensuring that China plays by the rules on trade. Right now, China is able to use currency manipulation, intellectual property (IP) theft, favoritism towards state-run enterprises, and a lack of transparency for U.S. companies to disadvantage U.S. companies and workers. These unfair and often illegal trade practices are part of the reason why we’ve had a trade deficit with China of almost $400 billion.

Fortunately, the phase one trade agreement takes a number of positive steps towards fixing the U.S.-China trade relationship. It helps reduce our trade deficit by requiring China to increase its purchases of American products by at least $200 billion over the next two years, with additional increases likely in the future. This includes $50 billion of agricultural products along with reduced barriers for specific products like beef, soybeans, and corn.

Beijing has also committed to eliminating unfair pressure on U.S. companies to transfer IP to Chinese firms as a condition of doing business in China. This is a critical step in addressing the IP theft that China uses to unfairly fuel its rise.

The agreement also allows U.S. trade enforcers to better monitor any potential currency manipulation by China, which they have used in the past to unfairly boost their exports.

Overall, this phase one agreement is a good first step towards creating a more balanced relationship between our two countries, but our trade relationship will remain durable only if we enforce these agreements. That is why we can re-impose tariffs if needed.

There will be more work in the months ahead to solve some remaining trade challenges. In particular, we must ensure the phase two agreement with China fully addresses their unfair trade practices.

For Ohio farmers, workers, and businesses, however, it was a good week, because now they have a better opportunity to compete. If our trade is fair, I have confidence that we can compete, win, and create more jobs and better wages. Thanks to the hard work of the Trump administration, American workers, small business owners, manufacturers, and farmers will soon benefit from healthier trade relationships with our three biggest trading partners.

(Historic week for U.S. trade and American workers. Record Herald. January 22, 2020)

Rob Portman Tries to Crack Down on Fentanyl Copycats

Rob Portman wants to tackle copycats of fentanyl, permanently classifying them as some of the most dangerous drugs out there, a reform he thinks would crack down on drug trafficking and help prevent overdose deaths. The Ohio senator, a Republican, is trying to give the Drug Enforcement Administration the authority to classify, in a lasting way, drugs that are almost chemically identical to fentanyl but much deadlier. For now, the agency can criminalize these drugs, called fentanyl analogs, for short durations of time until Congress renews a temporary order.


“Permanent scheduling has to happen,” Portman told the Washington Examiner. “There’s an opportunity for the DEA to do more in terms of scheduling, to avoid Congress having to go through this issue of scheduling something that so clearly should be illegal and is dangerous.” Unless the House approves the reauthorization recently passed by the Senate, the current temporary scheduling order, first enacted in February 2018, will expire Feb. 6. Portman says renewing the temporary measure isn’t enough. “This is a short-term extension, and then we’ll have to grapple with it in 15 months or so,” he said. Portman wants fentanyl analogs to be classified as Schedule I drugs, which also include heroin, LSD, marijuana, and ecstasy.

“I had the opportunity to speak with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio for trying to keep this poison out of our communities,” Portman said. “If these analogs come off the schedule, it’ll be impossible to stop them.” Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman is not endorsing Portman’s bill in particular, but he supports enacting a permanent ban on all substances similar to fentanyl.

A permanent ban would be even better, sending “a message to illicit manufacturers that the U.S. will take this seriously.” “Since this [temporary] ban has been in place, we have seen fewer and fewer novel analogs, those that appear so suddenly that we have to develop new testing methods for them,” Herdman said. “Manufacturers don’t have the incentive to create new, molecularly different ones because we’ve already banned them with this prohibition.” The only people legally permitted to manipulate the makeup of fentanyl are medical researchers, and Portman’s bill wouldn’t prohibit researchers from trying to find new uses for fentanyl and other opioids.


However, Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s health research group, said people “don’t need new opioids.” “We already have on the market legal opioid products approved by the FDA for treating severe pain,” he told the Washington Examiner. “It doesn’t appear there’s a need for more.” Portman’s bill would not prohibit the creation of new opioids or take prescription fentanyl drugs off the market. Still, it would allow the DEA to crack down on the illicit trafficking of fentanyl and help bring more traffickers to justice. The FIGHT Fentanyl Act has bipartisan support in the Senate, as well as backing from 56 state and territorial attorneys general. It has not gone to the full floor for a vote, though.

(Rob Portman Tries to Crack Down on Fentanyl Copycats. Washington Examiner. January 23, 2020)