Rob’s Rundown: Week of January 4 – January 8, 2021

January 8, 2021 | Rob's Rundown

Happy new year everyone. On Wednesday, Portman condemned the violent and criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol saying that an attack on the Capitol building is an attack on every American. Likewise, an attack on our nation’s brave law enforcement officers is an attack on the rule of law and the safety and security of all Americans. He called on President Trump to embrace the peaceful transfer of power, and said the Senate should reconvene to get the work of the American people done. 

Once the Capitol was secured and the Senate reconvened on Wednesday evening, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor reiterating his condemnation of the attack on the Capitol and discussing his support for certifying the formal count of the Electoral College votes by Congress. As Portman stated on Monday, the Constitution was drafted by the Founders to ensure that the people and the states hold the power to choose the President, not Congress, and that voting to reject a state’s electors is an extreme remedy that runs counter to that intention. Ultimately, Portman reiterated that he could not support establishing a dangerous precedent where Congress can inappropriately assert itself to try to reverse the will of the voters. That is why he upheld his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States by voting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

On Friday, Portman and Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), the leaders of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the leaders of the Senate Rules Committee, announced their intention to hold hearings and conduct joint bipartisan oversight of security failures after a criminal mob stormed the Capitol and interrupted the formal count of the Electoral College votes, attempting to subvert American Democracy. 

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

Monday, January 4, 2021

Portman Statement on the Formal Count of the Electoral College Votes by Congress

Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) released the following statement on the upcoming formal count of the Electoral College votes by Congress: 

“The Constitution created a system for electing the President through the Electoral College that ensures the people and the states hold the power, not Congress. I cannot support allowing Congress to thwart the will of the voters.

“I voted for President Trump, campaigned for him as one of his Ohio co-chairs, and believe his policies are better for Ohio and America. Like nearly half the country, I was disappointed in the election results. Following the election, I supported the Trump campaign’s right to pursue recounts and legal challenges. There were instances of fraud and irregularities, as there are in every presidential election, and those who engaged in that conduct should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But after two months of recounts and legal challenges, not a single state recount changed a result and, of the dozens of lawsuits filed, not one found evidence of fraud or irregularities widespread enough to change the result of the election. This was the finding of numerous Republican-appointed judges and the Trump Administration’s own Department of Justice. Every state has now weighed in and certified its electoral slate based on its vote and the process set out in the Constitution. 

“I understand that despite these findings and the state certifications, many Americans believe the election was unfairly decided and, as I noted, there were instances of fraud and irregularities that occurred. For these reasons, for the past several weeks I have advocated that Congress should establish a blue ribbon bipartisan panel on election integrity that would provide transparency into issues in the 2020 election, and recommend best practices for the next election. 

“The process in Congress on January 6 is based on a federal law that allows Congress to consider objections to a state’s certification of its electors. If both a member of the House and a member of the Senate object to a state’s certification of electors, it requires a Congressional vote on whether to reject that state’s electors. This vote has only happened twice in the 133 years since Congress enacted this statute, and Congress has never voted to uphold a challenge. It is an extreme remedy because, counter to the Constitution, it allows Congress to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the voters, and for the judgment of the states that certified the results. 

“The only time this was attempted in the past 70 years was in 2005 when Democrats objected to the electors from my home state of Ohio, hoping to give the presidency to John Kerry instead of George W. Bush. I stood in opposition to Democrats then, saying Congress should not ‘obstruct the will of the American people.’ I was concerned then that Democrats were establishing a dangerous precedent where Congress would inappropriately assert itself to try to reverse the will of the voters. I cannot now support Republicans doing the same thing. Over the course of my public service career I have taken the same oath on numerous occasions, swearing to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I plan on honoring that oath by supporting the state certifications and the will of the people. I will vote to certify in accordance with my duty under the Constitution.” 

Portman, Peters Bipartisan Bill to Fix Security Vulnerability Posed by Foreign Ownership of Federally Leased Properties Signed into Law

A bipartisan bill authored by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI) that requires the federal government to determine if office space it leases is owned by foreign entities has been signed into law. Portman and Peters will lead the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the 117th Congress. 

“I applaud President Trump for signing into law this important legislation to help ensure our federal agencies are prepared to address the risk of espionage and unauthorized cyber and physical access to federally leased buildings,” said Senator Portman. “This bill, now law, will ensure that the federal government has access to leased properties’ ownership information so we can better protect our people and information.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Portman Names Pam Thiessen, Andy Dockham, Amanda Neely, Kirsten Madison & Emily Benavides to Senior Roles at Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Portman, who is expected to be the top Republican at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), announced that his senior HSGAC leadership team will include Pam Thiessen as Staff Director, Andy Dockham as Chief Counsel and Deputy Staff Director, Amanda Neely as Director of Governmental Affairs and General Counsel to Senator Portman, Kirsten Madison as Director of Homeland Security, and Emily Benavides as Communications Director.

“Pam is a great friend and trusted confidant, and I look forward to her leading our team at HSGAC,” said Portman. “I’m grateful for her loyal service over the past decade. She has been instrumental in our biggest legislative victories, whether it was passing tax reform, addressing the addiction crisis, combating online sex trafficking, and much more. I look forward to her leadership as Staff Director at HSGAC in the next Congress.” 

“Andy has led a team at PSI that built an incredible record of accomplishment through hard-hitting bipartisan investigations,” said Portman.  “He is a highly respected investigative professional and his knowledge and years of experience at HSGAC will serve our team well. I’m pleased that he will serve as my Chief Counsel and Deputy Staff Director.” 

“Amanda has led thoughtful PSI investigations to hold federal agencies accountable over the past four years and her oversight expertise will be invaluable as she takes on the Director of Governmental Affairs role at HSGAC,” said Portman.  “I look forward to her leadership of the Governmental Affairs team at HSGAC and I’m pleased that she will continue to serve as my General Counsel.” 

“I am pleased that Kirsten is joining our team as the Director of Homeland Security,” said Portman. “Her excellent reputation and wealth of experience on Capitol Hill, as well as in the Executive Branch, will be a great asset to the HSGAC team.”

“Emily Benavides is a talented communications professional and brings a wealth of experience and an unique perspective to this new role,” said Portman.  “An Ohio native of Mexican-American descent, Emily has been a critical member of my team for nearly five years. I’ve come to rely on her guidance and counsel, and I’m pleased she will serve as Communications Director at HSGAC.” 

Portman Announces Matt Lloyd Joining Team Portman as Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director

Portman announced today that Matt Lloyd has joined his personal office as Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director.  In that role, Matt will oversee communications for the Portman operation.  The move comes as Portman is taking on additional responsibilities as either chairman or ranking member of the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.  As previously announced, Emily Benavides will serve as Portman’s Communications Director at the Committee. Portman issued the following statement:

“Matt brings tremendous experience to our already strong team and I’m excited he is coming on board.  From his national security work at the Justice and State Departments, his work in House Republican leadership, and his years of service to Mike Pence when he served as Governor and in the House, Matt is a results-oriented pro who will make our team stronger.  We have a lot of work ahead of us in this new Congress.  I’m excited about our team as we focus on continuing to deliver results for Ohio and the country.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2020

Portman, Shaheen Applaud Signing of Bipartisan Legislation to Reauthorize Peace Corps Commemorative Project into Law

Senators Portman and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) applauded the president for signing their bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Peace Corps Commemorative project into law. Representatives Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Garret Graves (R-LA) led the legislation in the House. In 2014, Senators Portman and Shaheens’s and Rep. Kennedy’s bipartisan Peace Corps Commemorative Act was signed into law to create a commemorative memorial in Washington, D.C.’s National Capital Area to celebrate the mission of the Peace Corps and the ideals on which the Peace Corps was founded. This bipartisan legislation designated the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation as the lead nonfederal sponsor for the project, and prohibits the use of federal funding. The current authorization for the project is set to expire in January 2021. This legislation would extend the authorization for the project for an additional seven years, to January 2028, in order for the project to secure the necessary design approvals and raise the funding for construction.  

“For more than 50 years, the Peace Corps has served as a powerful vehicle for volunteers who wish to use their talents to carry America’s humanitarian values to other parts of the world,” said Portman.  “By reauthorizing this project, we can ensure the Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation can finish this important project and honor those Americans who have donated their time and talent to serving others. I applaud President Trump for signing this important legislation into law.”

Portman, Stabenow, Joyce, Kaptur Applaud Signing of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act into Law

Senators Portman and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), along with Representatives David Joyce (R-OH) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), applauded the signing of their bipartisan bill, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act, into law. The legislation reauthorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is set to expire at the end of FY 2021, for another five years. It also increases the current authorization level from $300 million to $375 million in FY 2022 and by $25 million annually until it reaches $475 million in FY 2026.  The FY 2021 Bipartisan Funding Agreement appropriated $330 million for the program for the next fiscal year.  Enactment of this legislation paves the way for higher funding levels in future years. 

“I applaud President Trump for signing the GLRI Act into law today. This is a victory for our efforts to protect our Great Lakes. GLRI is a successful public-private partnership that has helped address the greatest threats to the Great Lakes, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species, pollution, and contamination. Despite the program’s success, there is more work to be done,” Senator Portman said. “Lake Erie supports fishing and tourism industries totaling over $10 billion and is a top tourist destination in Ohio. With more than 10 million people depending on Lake Erie for their drinking water and hundreds of thousands of Ohioans depending upon the Lake for jobs, we must continue to protect our Great Lakes for the economic and environmental well-being of our region.”

Portman, Brown, Ryan Applaud Signing of Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Name Youngstown Veterans Affairs Clinic After Ohioan Carl Nunziato into Law

Senators Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) applauded the signing into law of their bipartisan and bicameral legislation to name a Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Youngstown, Ohio after Major Carl Nunziato, a veteran of the U.S. Army.   

Major Nunziato served two voluntary tours of combat duty in Vietnam, where he was severely injured by a mortar shell while protecting the village of Soui Da, resulting in the amputation of both his legs. For his bravery, he received the Bronze Star, the Army Air Medal, a Purple Heart, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. Throughout his admirable life, Carl Nunziato has served Youngstown and the United States, both at home and abroad, with bravery and honor. He has worked valiantly to improve accessibility, rights, and quality of life for veterans and people with disabilities, and the naming of the Youngstown Veterans Affairs Clinic after Mr. Nunziato would be a fitting tribute to his outstanding work and service.   

“Carl Nunziato is a true son of Ohio and an American patriot who deserves this honor,” said Portman. “I’m proud that President Trump signed this important legislation into law to name the Veterans Affairs clinic in Youngstown, Ohio after Major Nunziato. He has fought and sacrificed for our nation, for his fellow veterans, and for all disabled Americans and this legislation is a fitting tribute to his valuable achievements. I’m grateful for his service and proud to call him a fellow Ohioan.”  

Portman Statement on the Attack on the U.S. Capitol

Portman issued the following statement today on the attack on the U.S. Capitol: 

“I condemn the violent and criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol today.  These shameful actions to disrupt a session of Congress and vandalize the Capitol building should never happen in our great republic. The U.S. Capitol belongs to every American and is a symbol of the citadel of democracy. An attack on the Capitol building is an attack on every American. Likewise, an attack on our nation’s brave law enforcement officers is an attack on the rule of law and the safety and security of all Americans. 

“It is time for President Trump to embrace the peaceful transfer of power, which is mandated under the Constitution and a hallmark of our democracy.  The Senate should reconvene in our Chamber to get our work done. I urge the House and Senate to certify the electoral college results tonight.”

On Senate Floor, Portman Condemns Attack on U.S. Capitol and His Support for Certifying Electoral College Results

On the Senate floor, Portman condemned the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a criminal mob. In addition, he discussed his support for certifying the formal count of the Electoral College votes by Congress. As he has stated previously, he noted that the Constitution was drafted by the Founders to ensure that the people and the states hold the power to choose the President, not Congress, and that voting to reject a state’s electors is an extreme remedy that runs counter to that intention. Portman, who supported President Trump’s re-election, understands that many Americans believe the election was unfairly decided despite two months of recounts and legal challenges that found no evidence of fraud or irregularities widespread enough to change the result of the election. That is why he plans to introduce legislation to establish an independent, bipartisan, blue ribbon panel on election integrity that would provide transparency into issues in the 2020 election, and recommend best practices for the states moving forward. 

Ultimately, Portman reiterated that he cannot support establishing a dangerous precedent where Congress can inappropriately assert itself to try to reverse the will of the voters. That is why he is upholding his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States by voting to certify the results of 2020 presidential election. 

A transcript of the speech can be found here and a video can be found here.

Thursday, January 7, 2020

Portman Announces $2.7 Million FEMA Grant to Franklin County to Provide COVID-19 Protective Measures

Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for awarding a $2.7 million grant to help Franklin County with costs associated with continuing to provide COVID-19 emergency protective measures. FEMA awarded this grant from replenished funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan CARES Act, which Senator Portman supported and was signed into law by President Trump.  

“The $2.7 million FEMA grant is good news for Franklin County because it will help them continue to provide the protective measures that Central Ohioans desperately need during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Portman. “This pandemic has created significant and unprecedented challenges across Ohio and these funds will provide much-needed additional support. I will continue to work with my bipartisan colleagues in Congress to ensure that Ohio has the necessary resources during these uncertain times.”   

Portman: $2.2 Million Federal Grant for Ohio University Will Boost Economic Development Efforts Across Southeast Ohio

Portman praised the $2.2 million federal grant awarded by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. The federal grant will boost economic development efforts in Southeast Ohio by providing technical assistance to accelerate the economic transition to new industries in 18 Appalachian Ohio counties. The EDA grant will be matched with $550,000 in local funds. 

The funding announced today will catalyze private investment in nearby Opportunity Zones. As part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Portman fought for to include Opportunity Zones in the final tax reform package. This tax incentive is designed to encourage investment and job creation in low-income communities.  

“This $2.2 million federal grant to Ohio University is great news for our economic development efforts in Southeast Ohio and our workers and families in the region,” said Portman. “Opportunity Zones boost investments and jobs in struggling communities throughout Ohio which is exactly what Congress intended to accomplish when we created this incentive in the 2017 tax reform law. I want to thank Secretary Ross for this investment to allow Ohio University to help the Southeast Ohio region make the economic transition to new industries and ensure continued job creation as well as economic growth.” 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Bipartisan Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committee Leaders Announce Joint Oversight After Attack on the Capitol Building

Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), leaders of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, released the following statement announcing their intention to hold hearings and conduct joint oversight of security failures after a criminal mob stormed the Capitol and interrupted the formal count of the Electoral College votes, attempting to subvert American Democracy: 

“Wednesday’s violent and criminal acts directed at our Capitol, a symbol of American Democracy, will forever be a stain on our nation’s history. Due to the heroic acts of many, the perpetrators of this attack failed to achieve their goal. It is our duty as bipartisan leaders of the Senate committees with jurisdiction over homeland security, oversight and Capitol operations to examine the security failures that led to Wednesday’s attack. 

“Let us be clear: An attack on the Capitol Building is an attack on every American. We plan to conduct oversight and hold bipartisan hearings on these horrific events, and work together to make the necessary reforms to ensure this never happens again.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman won’t support electoral vote challenges in Congress

Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman announced Monday that he won’t side with Republicans who hope to challenge the electoral vote counts in several states on Jan. 6 in hopes of swaying the results of the 2020 presidential election to incumbent Republican Donald Trump.

“The Constitution created a system for electing the President through the Electoral College that ensures the people and the states hold the power, not Congress,” said a statement that Portman released on Monday. “I cannot support allowing Congress to thwart the will of the voters.”

Portman issued his statement as several Republicans in the U.S. Senate announced that they’ll back efforts to challenge the presidential election results when when Congress meets on Jan. 6 to count and certify Electoral College votes.

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden clinched the election with 306 electoral votes to 232 for Trump, but Trump has insisted that the results were tainted by fraud in several states that backed Biden. He has not provided evidence to back his claims, and courts have tossed out dozens of Trump-backed lawsuits aiming to overturn the election results. Despite the lack of legal success, a faction of Republicans loyal to Trump whose members include Champaign County Republican Rep. Jim Jordan and Holmes County Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs plan to challenge the electoral vote count of the states Trump disputes. After that happens, the Senate and House will meet individually to weigh the arguments.

In a statement released Monday, Gibbs said he doesn’t believe the fraud allegations got their day in court since many of the cases were dismissed on procedural grounds. He said he will object to the certification of the Electoral College for some states on Wednesday so Congress can provide a venue for the American people to hear evidence that wasn’t presented in court, and to “ensure the validity of our elections.”

“The Constitution gives state legislatures the authority and power to set elections, and I believe state judiciaries and state executive offices overstepped their authority in a handful of states,” said Gibbs. “Based on my reading of federal code, Congress has the authority to deem whether electors were appointed in accordance with state election law.”

GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River released a constituent letter on Thursday that cited reasoning similar to Portman’s for declining to contest the election results.

“There is simply no legal basis for Congress to throw out the the certified electoral vote and overturn the results of this election,” Gonzalez wrote

Because a majority in both the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate and the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives would have to reject any state’s results, the anticipated debate is unlikely to keep Biden from assuming the presidency, though it could have political fallout for elected officeholders like Portman.

Portman’s statement said he voted for Trump, campaigned for him, supports his policies, and was disappointed by the results of November’s election.

“Following the election, I supported the Trump campaign’s right to pursue recounts and legal challenges,” Portman’s statement said. “There were instances of fraud and irregularities, as there are in every presidential election, and those who engaged in that conduct should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But after two months of recounts and legal challenges, not a single state recount changed a result and, of the dozens of lawsuits filed, not one found evidence of fraud or irregularities widespread enough to change the result of the election. This was the finding of numerous Republican-appointed judges and the Trump Administration’s own Department of Justice. Every state has now weighed in and certified its electoral slate based on its vote and the process set out in the Constitution.”

Portman said that because there were some cases of election irregularities and he understands many Americans believe the election was unfairly decided, he has urged Congress to create a “blue ribbon bipartisan panel on election integrity that would provide transparency into issues in the 2020 election, and recommend best practices for the next election.”

He noted the objections to be lodged on Jan. 6 have happened only twice since Congress enacted the statute that enabled them, and the challenges were never upheld. He called it an “extreme remedy” that would allow “Congress to substitute its judgment for the judgment of voters, and for the judgment of states that certified the results.”

The statement observes that when Portman was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2005, he opposed an effort by Cleveland Democratic Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones to challenge Ohio’s electoral vote count to draw attention to voting problems in the state such as hours-long lines at the polls. Unlike the efforts on Trump’s behalf, the Tubbs Jones protest did not aim to overturn the results of the 2004 election, and was not endorsed by the losing candidate: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

“I stood in opposition to Democrats then, saying Congress should not ‘obstruct the will of the American people,’” Portman’s statement said. “I was concerned then that Democrats were establishing a dangerous precedent where Congress would inappropriately assert itself to try to reverse the will of the voters. I cannot now support Republicans doing the same thing.”

Even though Portman was re-elected in 2016 with a more than 20% edge over that year’s Democratic candidate, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, he has been loath to alienate voters in the state who support Trump, who won the state’s voters by an 8% margin each year he was on the ballot, observes Baldwin Wallace University political scientist Thomas Sutton.

Portman is up for re-election in 2022, and Sutton believes he’d prefer to avoid a primary challenge from a Republican such as Jordan who might argue Portman was insufficiently loyal to Trump. Shortly after GOP Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine referred to Biden as “President-elect” in a November CNN interview, Trump posted a message on Twitter that asked: “Who will be running for Governor of the Great State of Ohio? Will be hotly contested!” The comment was widely interpreted as an invitation for a DeWine primary challenge. Portman waited until December to call Biden “President-elect.”

Sutton said that Trump has “deep, broad, enthusiastic support among core Republican constituencies” in nearly all of Ohio’s 88 counties, and can have an effect on the state’s 2022 election if he remains politically active. Because Ohio voters have trended Republican in statewide elections in recent years, Sutton believes a primary challenge has greater potential to thwart Portman’s re-election than any Democrat. Sutton says Portman has low name recognition for an incumbent U.S. Senator, and is more of a policy expert than a “popular presence.”

A Trump loyalist like Jordan could mount a challenge if he doesn’t decide to remain in the U.S. House of Representatives to assume a party leadership role if Republicans win control of the legislative body in 2022, says Sutton.

“Trump is clearly a charismatic, dynamic presence on the political scene,” said Sutton. “People either really love him or really don’t.”

 

Portman calls for hearings, joint oversight of security failures during Capitol breach

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), alongside other Senate leaders, announced his intention to hold hearings and conduct joint oversight of the security failures that went on during Wednesday's breach of the U.S. Capitol.

Portman was joined by Gary Peters (D-MI), with whom he leads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, as well as Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who together lead the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

The Senators' announcement comes two days after a mob of President Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, leading to the death of five people, including a Capitol police officer.

The Senators released the following statement Friday, in response the violent interruption of the formal count of the electoral vote:

“Wednesday’s violent and criminal acts directed at our Capitol, a symbol of American Democracy, will forever be a stain on our nation’s history. Due to the heroic acts of many, the perpetrators of this attack failed to achieve their goal. It is our duty as bipartisan leaders of the Senate committees with jurisdiction over homeland security, oversight and Capitol operations to examine the security failures that led to Wednesday’s attack.

“Let us be clear: An attack on the Capitol Building is an attack on every American. We plan to conduct oversight and hold bipartisan hearings on these horrific events, and work together to make the necessary reforms to ensure this never happens again.” 

A number of lawmakers have called for Trump's removal from office following Wednesday's events, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).

Portman called on Trump to condemn the actions taken by his supporters that day, but has so far not supported the president's removal.