Rob’s Rundown: Week of January 27 – January 31, 2020

January 31, 2020 | Rob's Rundown

This week, Senator Portman praised President Trump for signing into law the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). He released two videos highlighting the economic benefits of the agreement. 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.

In addition, Portman and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost published an op-ed in the Toledo Blade Tuesday morning highlighting the need to permanently criminalize fentanyl-related substances.  On Friday, as the United Kingdom officially exited the European Union, Portman published an op-ed on Fox News highlighting the economic benefits of a U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement.

Finally, Portman released a statement Friday afternoon announcing his vote against witnesses in the Senate Impeachment trial, making clear he believed it was time for the House and Senate to get back to addressing the issues the American people are most concerned about, like lowering prescription drug costs, rebuilding our roads and bridges, and strengthening our economy.   

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

Monday, January 27, 2020

Portman, Stabenow, Bipartisan Colleagues Request $320 Million for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in President’s FY 2021 Budget Request 

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Co-Chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, along with Vice-Chairs Todd Young (R-IN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and other members of the task force including Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Bob Casey (D-PA) today sent a letter urging the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide at least $320 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 president’s budget request. GLRI is a results-driven program designed to address the most serious issues that threaten the ecological and economic well-being of the Great Lakes basin, including invasive species, pollution, and toxic contamination.  

“Now is not the time to scale back our nation’s commitment to restore the Great Lakes environment and economy,” wrote the Senators. “Because of the partnership we have with federal agencies, our region is making progress and seeing results. The GLRI is a locally driven restoration effort and its success depends on the collaboration between all levels of government and with industrial, commercial, and non-governmental partners. We ask that you provide no less than the FY 2020 appropriated amount of $320 million for the GLRI in next year’s budget request.”  

Full text of the letter can be found below and here. 

Portman, Peters Announce Bipartisan Legislation Authorizing Security Resources for Faith-Based Communities & Institutions Signed into Law

Senators Portman and Peters (D-MI) today announced that President Trump signed their bipartisan Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act into law. This legislation authorizes $75 million annually for five years, from FYs 2020-2024, for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP).  The program provides grants to nonprofits and faith-based organizations to help secure their facilities against a potential terrorist attack.  Of the $75 million total, $50 million will be available for nonprofits located within high-risk urban areas, and the remaining $25 million will be available for organizations that fall outside of those areas. Under the legislation, funding may be used for target-hardening activities, training for personnel, and any other appropriate activity, as defined by the FEMA Administrator. The text of the bill is here.

“Ensuring that synagogues, religious and cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations have the resources and training they need to secure their facilities is one way Congress can help address this unnecessary violence that has tragically become more and more common,” said Portman. “As I’ve said many times, there is no place for hatred or bigotry of any kind toward our fellow citizens. The threats and senseless attacks we’ve seen across our country are attacks on our values and this bipartisan legislation will help protect faith and cultural based institutions in Ohio and across our country. I’m proud that President Trump has signed this important legislation into law.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Portman Applauds the Signing of President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush Coin Act into Law

Portman applauded President Trump for signing the President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush Coin Act into law. In honor of the country’s 41st President and First Lady’s lives and service to the nation, the President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush Dollar Coin Act, which Portman co-led alongside Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), authorizes the immediate issuance of coins that bear their image. 

“An early boss and mentor, President Bush was one of the most decent and honorable men I’ve ever known, and a model that I have tried to follow in my years in public service,” said Portman.  “Meanwhile Barbara Bush was one of only two women in history who was both First Lady and the mother of a president, and she consistently used her role and influence in positive ways. She was a champion of empowering people through literacy and an eloquent voice for bipartisanship and national unity. Their partnership in service to the country was an inspiration and I’m pleased this legislation has been signed into law to honor their legacy.”

Portman’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Recently Released Report Documenting Concerns about Chinese Theft of Taxpayer-Funded Research at American Colleges

Portman issued a statement in response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment of the chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department for not disclosing his affiliation with the Chinese government’s Thousand Talents Plan. Portman, as chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, unveiled a bipartisan report last November that highlights concerns about China’s Talent Recruitment Plans. He issued the following statement: 

“Today’s charges by the Department of Justice reflect the concerns highlighted in the bipartisan Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report issued last year detailing China’s ongoing efforts to recruit academics at U.S. universities and research institutions as a means of facilitating intellectual property theft.   

“The charges show the lengths that China will go for access to top-notch research here in the United States.  Under his Thousand Talents contract, China paid Dr. Lieber up to $50,000 a month in salary and $150,000 a year for living expenses.  Dr. Lieber was also awarded more than $1.5 million to run a shadow research lab in China and recruit others for his research team.  The court documents show that Dr. Lieber received $18 million in research grant funding from DOD and NIH and allege that he lied about his association with the Thousand Talents program. 

“I applaud the Justice Department and the FBI for taking proactive steps towards cracking down on China’s talent recruitment programs, but we must do more to ensure that taxpayer-funded American research is not misappropriated to benefit our rivals like China. In the coming weeks, I intend to introduce bipartisan legislation to help protect the integrity of our world-class research enterprise and I look forward to working with my colleagues on these bipartisan legislative solutions.” 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Portman Applauds President Trump for Signing U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Into Law

Portman praised President Trump for signing into law the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Portman, a former U.S. Trade Representative, has played a leadership role in helping the Trump administration move the agreement through the House and Senate. He issued the following statement: 

“I applaud President Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer for their persistence and determination in getting USMCA across the finish line. By opening more markets, this agreement is a significant improvement over the status quo of NAFTA that will benefit American workers, farmers, and manufacturers, and it will create thousands of new jobs here in the United States.   

“Canada and Mexico are Ohio’s top two trading partners, and thus this agreement is particularly good for Ohio. This agreement expands market access for Ohio farm products, incentivizes more auto production in the state, and makes online sales easier for Ohio companies. And these provisions will now be in other agreements, which will help America’s economy compete on a level playing field. If our trade is fair, America can compete, win, and create more jobs and better wages. 

“This agreement is going to add a nice shot in the arm to our economy and it’s going to be great for Ohio. 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 two of our biggest trading partners.”    

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Portman Applauds House Passage of Legislation to Temporarily Extend Criminalizing Fentanyl-Related Substances

Portman applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for passing compromise legislation that will temporarily extend the scheduling order to criminalize fentanyl-related substances and require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the implications of class-wide scheduling.  The current scheduling order is set to expire on February 6, 2020, and this new legislation will extend the current temporary order until May 6, 2021. This legislation will now head to the president’s desk for his signature.

“I’m pleased that the House passed legislation today to extend the temporary DEA scheduling order on fentanyl-related substances until May 2021 and I urge the president to sign this legislation into law soon,” said Portman. “However, we must take action to criminalize these drugs permanently. Fentanyl knows no zip code and is devastating individuals and families in Ohio and all across the country. This legislation is a vital step in our efforts to keep fentanyl copycats out of our communities by allowing law enforcement to continue to crack down on these dangerous drugs. I will continue to work to pass my FIGHT Fentanyl Act to permanently criminalize fentanyl-related substances in the United States.” 

VIDEO: Portman Praises Historic USMCA Signed into Law

In a new video, Portman praised the historic signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement into law by President Trump yesterday. Portman highlighted the economic benefits of 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. Portman received praise from U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and other key leaders for his efforts to help pass this historic trade agreement. The video can be found here.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Portman Statement on Witnesses in Senate Impeachment Trial

Portman issued the following statement on the issue of witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial: 

“I do not believe that additional witnesses are needed.  I have said consistently for the past four months, since the Zelensky transcript was first released, that I believe that some of the president’s actions in this case – including asking a foreign country to investigate a potential political opponent and the delay of aid to Ukraine – were wrong and inappropriate.  But I do not believe that the president’s actions rise to the level of removing a duly-elected president from office and taking him off the ballot in the middle of an election. 

“I also believe that processing additional witnesses will take weeks if not months, and it’s time for the House and Senate to get back to addressing the issues the American people are most concerned about – lowering prescription drug costs, rebuilding our roads and bridges, and strengthening our economy.   

“House Democrats sent the Senate a flawed case built on what respected law professor Jonathan Turley calls ‘the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.’  Instead of using the tools available to compel the Administration to produce documents and witnesses, the House followed a self-imposed and entirely political deadline for voting on these articles of impeachment by Christmas, only to inexplicably stall for 28 days – time they could have used to subpoena witnesses and resolve privilege claims.  

“The House did not even bother to subpoena and resolve privilege claims of key witnesses they now want the Senate to subpoena for them. I believe it sets a dangerous precedent – all but guaranteeing a proliferation of highly partisan, poorly investigated impeachments in the future – if we allow the House of Representatives to force the Senate to compel witness testimony that they never secured for themselves.  

“Our country is already too deeply divided and we should be working to heal wounds, not create new ones. It is better to let the people decide. Early voting has already begun in some states in the presidential primaries.  The American people will have the opportunity to have their say at the ballot box.” 


Portman op-ed: Fighting a killer opioid

Ohio has been on the front lines of the addiction crisis in America for years, and opioids in particular have taken a heavy toll on our families and communities. In fact, in 2017, our opioid overdose death rate was almost three times the national average, with nearly a dozen Ohioans dying from these drugs every day, surpassing car crashes as our state’s No. 1 killer.


While much of the improvement in the fight against opioid addiction has come from addressing  heroin and prescription painkiller abuse, synthetic opioids, and in particular, fentanyl, continue to show up in overdose reports nationwide. Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin — in fact, one pound of fentanyl could kill nearly half a million people. It’s also cheap to manufacture and can be mixed with drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and others.


It’s a real threat in our state — in 2017 alone, we had a record 3,523 overdose deaths attributable to fentanyl-related substances. Last fall, Ohio’s Regional Agencies Narcotics & Gun Enforcement Task Force seized 45 pounds of fentanyl in a single drug bust in Montgomery County, enough to kill everybody in Ohio.

That’s why the Drug Enforcement Administration made the right call in 2018 by making fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances illegal to possess, transport, or manufacture. Thanks to that designation, law enforcement has been able to protect our communities by seizing and destroying large amounts of fentanyl.

Unfortunately, because of federal law, the DEA made these dangerous substances illegal only temporarily. Last week, the Senate approved a short-term extension of the DEA’s criminalization order through May, 2021, but we need a permanent solution. In May, 2021, fentanyl and related drugs once again will be legal, and it will be much harder to protect vulnerable communities from these deadly substances. We must prevent this.

Congress can make fentanyl permanently illegal, and we’ve teamed up to push legislation called the Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act to do so. FIGHT Fentanyl has strong bipartisan support and all 56 U.S. state and territory attorneys general have endorsed it.

We’ve made a lot of progress in combating addiction in Ohio, and passing FIGHT Fentanyl will help Ohio recover from this devastating epidemic.

Portman op-ed: Brexit Presents New Opportunity for Trade with Britain

Between the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and a substantial Phase One trade agreement with China, 2020 has already been an outstanding year for American trade. However, further opportunities are on the horizon to knock down barriers to trade and deliver wins for our workers, farmers and businesses.

A new opportunity arises as the United Kingdom finally leaves the European Union, drawing to a close a four-year-long process that has often been tumultuous and uncertain. While much of the talk around Brexit has been focused on the challenges that this fundamental shift will bring, the newfound independence of the U.K. also creates the chance for a new bilateral U.S.-U.K. trade agreement that further brings together our two countries.

Thanks to our longstanding and deep economic ties, the potential benefits of a new trade agreement between our two countries are immense. The U.K. is the fourth-largest export market for American goods and services, and our seventh-largest trading partner overall with more than $200 billion annually in trade. What’s more, we are each the other country’s largest foreign investor, with total foreign direct investment more than $1 trillion per year.

Still, the economic relationship between our two countries has not reached its full potential thanks to some remaining barriers to trade. As U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer noted in his negotiating objectives for the U.K., a new comprehensive agreement would aim to eliminate tariffs, expand market access for agricultural goods by eliminating restrictions on quota and non-tariff barriers, harmonize the services trade, and set bold rules for trade over the internet. As we saw with the USMCA just recently signed by President Trump, these provisions are achievable and worth pursuing.

Beyond these economic considerations, it is worth noting that the U.S. has no better ally than the U.K. When we look back on the experiences of our joint history, we find that our shared values, as well as our common political and cultural traditions, are bonds that have endured.

A new trade agreement is more than mutually beneficial economics. It is also an opportunity to reaffirm this crucial alliance and demonstrate the role that trade agreements play as ballast for strategic relationships.