Rob's Rundown: Week of January 21 - 26, 2018
On Monday night, the government shutdown ended, and with it, a long-term extension for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was passed. Portman was vocal in urging his Senate Democratic colleagues to open the government and end shutdowns for good, saying in a speech on the Senate floor that the “shutdown isn’t helping anyone. It isn’t helping Americans who need access to vital government services. It isn’t helping federal employees who should be working instead of being furloughed. And it sure isn’t helping nine million children who need basic health care services. Let’s re-open the government and let’s get back to work.” Portman was also vocal in getting CHIP extended for the 219,000 Ohio children who rely on the program. Portman has consistently spoken out against government shutdowns and will continue to push for his End Government Shutdowns Act to be signed into law.
Also this week, Portman released a stunning new bipartisan report that details how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States. He held a hearing on the report on Thursday. Portman has been a national leader in the effort to fight addiction, and this marks another step in his commitment to helping Ohioans in need.
On Monday night, Portman hosted his first tele-town hall of the year. During the call, Portman discussed the amazing results of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. He was also asked to include a link to a tax calculator for those looking to see how the tax cuts will impact them and their families. That link is here.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Sunday, January 21
Ahead of Senate Vote to Re-Open the Federal Government, Portman Urges Colleagues to End the Shutdown
Ahead of a vote on Sunday night to re-open the federal government, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor calling on his colleagues to end the government shutdown. Portman discussed real-world impact of the shutdown as well as his bipartisan legislation called the End Government Shutdowns Act to avoid these types of unnecessary disruptions that ultimately hurt our economy, hurt families, and hurt our troops. Said Portman in his speech, “This shutdown isn’t helping anyone. It isn’t helping Americans who need access to vital government services. It isn’t helping federal employees who should be working instead of being furloughed. And it sure isn’t helping nine million children who need basic health care services. Let’s re-open the government and let’s get back to work.”
Monday, January 22
Portman Statement on Senate Passage of Bill to Re-Open the Federal Government
Portman issued the following statement after the Senate passed a bill to re-open the federal government:
“I’m pleased that a sufficient number of my Democratic colleagues have joined Republicans to re-open the federal government. Shutdowns are unnecessary, counter-productive, and often end up costing more taxpayer dollars. The past three days are proof of that, and that’s why I introduced the End Government Shutdowns Act in 2012 to avoid these types of disruptions.
“One of the things the bill does is provide long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). There are 219,000 children in Ohio and nine million children nationwide who receive health care through this program. This six-year CHIP extension is the longest since the program was enacted more than 20 years ago. I’ve fought to renew this important program for months, and I’m pleased we are on the verge of delivering the long-term stability and certainty the program needs.
“I’m glad we were finally able to come to an agreement that funds the government and provides quality health care for American children in need. We have more work ahead of us before the next deadline, on February 8, and I will continue working with my bipartisan colleagues on these issues. Government shutdowns ultimately hurt our economy, hurt families, and hurt our troops. I hope that in the future we can end shutdowns for good.”
Long-Term CHIP Extension Portman Fought for Now Law
On Monday night, the president signed into law legislation not just to re-open the federal government, but to extend – for six years – funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the longest extension of CHIP ever authorized. Portman has long called for a long-term funding solution for CHIP in order to provide certainty and stability to the 8.9 million American children—and the 219,000 Ohio children—enrolled in CHIP. Here is a look at how Senator Portman fought to get the long-term CHIP extension into law:
- In October, Senator Portman, as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, voted in favor of the bipartisan Keeping Kids’ Insurance Dependable and Secure (KIDS) Act, legislation to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Portman delivered remarks at a Finance Committee hearing on the importance of CHIP, saying “it’s urgent that we do move quickly and extend this funding to ensure these low-income kids continue to have access to high quality health coverage.”
- In December, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor to address the need for bipartisan cooperation to enact a long-term funding solution for CHIP to help some the most vulnerable members of society, children in need. Said Portman in his speech: “Funding it should be a top priority. Regardless of your partisan position, regardless of the political climate, it should be out of the political fray.”
- Last week, Portman again delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to act. CHIP, Portman said, “should not be a bargaining chip for other political purposes.”
- On Friday night, Portman voted to keep the government open and provide six years of certainty and stability to the 8.9 million American children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- On Sunday night, Portman delivered a speech on the Senate floor urging his Democratic colleagues to re-open the federal government and support this long-term CHIP extension.
After Senate Democrats relented, the House and Senate voted to re-open the federal government and reauthorize the CHIP program for six years. This was an important day for families and children in Ohio who have been waiting for Congress to renew the program. Senator Portman helped lead the effort to do just that.
Tuesday, January 23
Portman Keeps Pledge to Donate Salary Earned During the Shutdown
Portman announced on Tuesday that he will donate his salary that he received over the recent three-day shutdown to the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial in Sunbury and PreventionFIRST! in Cincinnati. The Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial pays tribute to all of the men and women in uniform from Ohio who have given their lives defending our country in the Global War on Terrorism since September 11, 2001 and PreventionFIRST!, formerly known as the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati, exists to provide a comprehensive effort to address youth substance abuse.
“I’m pleased to make these donation to two important causes here in Ohio,” said Portman. “The Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial pays tribute and respect to those in uniform who have sacrificed their lives, and as Ohio’s only recognized memorial honoring Ohio military personnel killed in the War on Terrorism, it’s important to ensure that this memorial is maintained for years to come. Just as important, I have chosen PreventionFIRST!, which serves the population of the tri-state region providing much-needed efforts to fight the drug epidemic.”
Portman, Brown Applaud Trump Decision to Provide Trade Relief for Ohio Whirlpool Workers
Senators Portman and Brown applauded President Trump’s decision to enforce our long-standing trade rules by establishing a tariff on imports of large residential washing machines. At a White House signing ceremony later today President Trump will impose remedies to protect against surging imports of washing machines. In doing so, President Trump is standing up for the workers at Whirlpool’s Clyde, Ohio plant who had been hurt by unfair washing machine imports by Samsung and LG. Portman and Brown both testified at ITC on behalf of Whirlpool, and urged ITC to take make a positive ruling. In October, the ITC ruled in favor of Whirlpool, and then presented a list of recommended remedies to Ambassador Lighthizer. Earlier this month, the Senators also sent a letter to Ambassador Lighthizer, asking that the recommendation to President Trump be to provide broad relief for the U.S. washing machine industry in response serial trade violations by companies like LG and Samsung.
“I am pleased that the President and the U.S. Trade Representative have taken decisive action to level the playing field and protect American jobs,” said Portman. “After moving their production from overseas back to Clyde, Ohio, Whirlpool has had to fight a series of cases against companies who would rather cheat than compete. Senator Brown and I fought for Whirlpool’s hardworking Ohio employees earlier this month, and I am pleased to see that much of our recommendation is reflected in today’s remedy.”
For more information, go here.
Portman, Bipartisan Senate Coalition Introduces Bill to Permanently Ban Earmarks
Senators Portman, Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Claire McCaskill (D- MO), Pat Toomey (R-PA), John McCain (R-AZ), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today introduced a bill to make permanent the temporary moratorium on congressional earmarks, which has been in effect since 2010.
The Earmark Elimination Act would create a point of order against any provision contained within a bill that matches the definition of an earmark. An earmark is defined as any congressionally directed spending item, tax benefit, or tariff benefit targeted to a specific recipient or group of beneficiaries. This point of order would only apply to the earmark, not the entire bill. If the point of order is raised, the earmark would be stricken unless a two-thirds vote of the Senate waived the earmark point of order.
“Instead of debating whether earmarks should be revived, Congress should be pushing to ban earmarks permanently,” said Portman. “At a time of record debt, it is more important than ever to eliminate unnecessary pet projects and wasteful spending. I am happy to join Senator Flake on this important legislation.”
For more information, go here.
President Trump Signs Portman Bill to Stop Unnecessary Printing of the Federal Register, Save Taxpayer Dollars
On Tuesday, Portman announced that the president signed into law his Federal Register Printing Savings Act, legislation that would save taxpayer dollars by eliminating the mandatory daily printing and delivery of the Federal Register to congressional offices. The measure was included in the Continuing Resolution legislation to re-open the federal government and extend funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years. He issued the following statement:
“This common-sense bill will save taxpayer dollars and make the federal government more efficient and effective. I am pleased that the president signed this measure into law.”
NOTE: The Federal Register Printing Savings Act will save an estimated $1 million annually by eliminating the daily printing and delivery of the Federal Register to congressional offices. A congressional office could still receive the federal register if they ask for it, but the Government Publishing Office would no longer proactively deliver it to offices. Portman’s measure (S. 1195) was approved by the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee in July and passed in the Senate unanimously in December. The Senate passed the House-passed version of Portman’s bill (H.R. 195) on December 21, 2017.
Wednesday, January 24
Portman, Carper: Stunning Bipartisan Report Shows How Drug Traffickers Exploit International Mail System to Ship Illegal Opioids Into the United States
Senators Portman and Tom Carper (D-DE), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), published a stunning new report detailing the Subcommittee’s findings from its nearly year-long investigation into how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States. Last year, 318 million international packages entered the U.S. with no advanced electronic data on shipper and recipient name, address, or contents--which is used by federal law enforcement agencies to target packages containing illegal items, like fentanyl.
“In my home state of Ohio, fentanyl is now the number one killer, surpassing heroin, prescription drugs, and car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death,” said Portman. “It’s so powerful that just a few flakes of it can kill you, and those who use it not only put themselves in danger, but they also put law enforcement and children at risk. We must keep this poison off our streets and out of our communities. Thanks to our bipartisan investigation, we now know the depth to which drug traffickers exploit our mail system to ship fentanyl and other synthetic drugs into the United States. The federal government can, and must, act to shore up our defenses against this deadly drug and help save lives. The STOP Act is one solution that will help, but we must do much more. I look forward to tomorrow’s hearing and to continuing my work with Senator Carper and my bipartisan colleagues to keep these deadly drugs out of Ohio and our country.”
The report’s key findings include:
- Fentanyl sellers in China operate openly on the internet, their preferred method of shipping is the U.S. Postal Service because the risk of seizure by Customs & Border Protection (CPB) is small and delivery is basically guaranteed, and their preferred method of payment is cryptocurrency like bitcoin. Fentanyl use and possession is illegal in the U.S. unless prescribed by a physician.
- Online sellers in China transship purchases through other countries to reduce the risk of illegal opioids being identified and seized by customs officials.
- The investigation linked online sellers in China to seven confirmed synthetic opioid-related deaths in the U.S. and 18 arrests for drug-related offenses. It also identified several suspected distribution networks that transship purchases into the U.S. from China. The street value of the 500 online transactions discovered by the Subcommittee in its investigation conservatively translates to around $766 million in fentanyl pills to sell on the streets of our communities.
- The Postal Service and CBP failed to recognize and prepare for the increase in international shipments. For more than a dozen years after 9/11, the Postal Service failed to set up a system to secure advanced electronic data (AED) that would help CBP better target illegal opioids, rather than CPB manually inspecting packages, which was inefficient and the equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack. The Postal Service’s efforts since – starting up a pilot program at JFK Airport in 2015 – have been rife with problems, a lack of coordination between agencies, and other setbacks that have left the agency wholly unprepared to prevent the shipment of illegal synthetic opioids into the U.S.
- The Postal Service receives AED on only 36 percent of all international packages. Given the international volume handled by the Postal Service, that means last year the United States received approximately 318 million international packages with no advanced data. China is capable of providing AED on its packages and currently only does so for about half of the packages it ships to the United States. The AED that the Postal Service does receive from foreign postal operators is of low quality, sometimes indecipherable, and potentially useless.
Thursday, January 25
Portman Opening Statement at PSI Opioid Hearing: How Many More People Have to Die Before We Keep This Poison Out of Our Communities?
CBS This Morning Highlights Bipartisan Investigation About Chinese Drug Traffickers Shipping Fentanyl Through the U.S. Mail
Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, CBS This Morning highlighted the bipartisan investigation into the influx of fentanyl from China and the need for Congress to act. Said Portman in his interview:
“The problem is the P.O. Box in America that gets the shipment, through our Postal Service, straight from China… When that 49-year-old man outside of Cleveland, Ohio dies of an overdose of fentanyl within a couple of weeks of getting his delivery, you realize we're not doing our job.”
A video of the CBS This Morning piece can be found here.
On CNN, Portman Discusses New Report on How Drug Traffickers Use the Postal Service to Ship Fentanyl Into the U.S.
On CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, Portman discussed his stunning new bipartisan report released on Wednesday that details how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States. Portman also discussed the FBI’s Russia investigation into their meddling in the U.S. election and his hope that investigators will deliver a thoughtful, nonpartisan report to the American people sooner rather than later.