Rob’s Rundown: Week of January 7 - February 11, 2022

February 11, 2022 | Rob's Rundown

Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where, on Wednesday, he delivered remarks on the Senate floor discussing Russia’s escalating threat to Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty. Portman made the point that he believes bipartisan action is possible, and it is his hope Congress will be able to come together to pass legislation that will deter a Russian invasion, and ensure Ukraine and its patriotic people remain strong in their quest for freedom. In an interview with Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto Portman further discussed the situation in Ukraine and also addressed his legislation prohibiting the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from accepting arrest warrants as valid proof of identification at airport security checkpoints and for other purposes.

Also on Tuesday, Portman delivered remarks on the senate floor highlighting his bipartisan legislation to name the Avondale Cincinnati Post Office for two Ohio World War II aviators, John H. Leahr and Herbert M. Heilbrun. The legislation advanced out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week. This bipartisan legislation has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was introduced in the House by Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) and co-sponsored by the entire Ohio delegation.

During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, Portman delivered opening remarks on the response to and lessons learned from the threat posed by the vulnerability in Log4j software – which experts have said is one of the most serious and widespread cybersecurity risks ever seen. Portman highlighted that this vulnerability, as well as several others including the 2014 Heartbleed vulnerability, and the vulnerability that led to the Equifax breach, demonstrate the need for Congress to pass the bipartisan Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act he introduced with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI). The legislation would significantly enhance our nation’s ability to combat ongoing cybersecurity threats against our critical infrastructure and the federal government – particularly in the face of potential cyberattacks sponsored by the Russian government in retaliation for U.S. support of Ukraine. 

On Sunday, Portman penned a joint op-ed for FOX News with Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) discussing the need for Congress to pass their bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities.  

Finally, Portman got together with California Senator Alex Padilla to place a little wager on the Super Bowl game this Sunday. Senator Portman is putting a 6-pack of Hudepohl's Hu-Dey lager beer and a few of Izzy’s world-famous Reuben sandwiches on the line. Sen. Padilla is wagering a pastrami sandwich from Langer’s Deli and a pack of Golden Road Brewing’s LA Rams Whose House Blonde Ale Beer

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2022

Portman, Carper Lead Senate Call for Administration to Relaunch a Comprehensive Tariff Exclusion Process 

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE) today led 39 of their colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai calling for the Biden administration to establish a more comprehensive exclusion process for imports from China subject to tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 in order to allow more small businesses and manufacturers to access relief. 

Following the expiration of the Trump administration’s tariff exclusion process, the Biden administration relaunched an exclusion process in October 2021. However, this process is more narrow in scope and limited to certain products. In their letter, the senators ask the administration to take a more comprehensive approach to ensure that American businesses and manufacturers can receive much needed relief — especially with the challenges imposed by the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We write to express our strong support for establishing a comprehensive exclusion process for U.S. manufacturers, producers, and importers to request relief from tariffs placed on products from China pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974,” the senators wrote. “We believe that a comprehensive exclusion process that gives an opportunity for businesses affected by the tariffs to apply for limited, yet renewable, relief is a valuable component of our strategy to counter China’s unfair trade practices. In addition to easing the tariffs’ negative impacts on U.S. businesses, it would also give those businesses additional time and resources to move supply chains out of China and return manufacturing to the United States.” 

This letter builds upon an April 2021 letter in which Senators Portman and Carper, along with 38 of their colleagues, requested the administration to restart the tariff exclusion process, following the expiration of the Trump administration’s process. In June of 2021, Portman and Carper authored an amendment to the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 that would require the United States Trade Representative to brief Congress on the findings of a report on the Section 301 exclusion process conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and detail how USTR is adopting the GAO’s recommendations to improve the process. The full text of the letter can be found here

Portman, Hassan FOX News Op-Ed: It’s Time for Congress to Pass the Bipartisan Pray Safe Act 

In a new joint op-ed for FOX News, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chair of the Emerging Threats Subcommittee, discussed the need for Congress to pass their bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities. The legislation has passed out of the Committee and must now be considered before the full Senate. 

Portman and Hassan have been leaders in the Senate in combatting terrorism and violent extremism. Last year, Senators Portman, Gary Peters (D-MI), and Hassan 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). Portman and Hassan helped double the amount of funding available for the NSGP in the FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement. 

As the recent hostage situation at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas demonstrates, targeted violence against houses of worship remains a prevalent threat and antisemitism in the United States unfortunately persists. That’s why Portman and Hassan have called on Congress to pass the Pray Safe Act to ensure houses of worship who face threats of violence and terror have the information and resources they need to protect their congregations from terrorism.The full op-ed can be found here

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Portman, Peters Introduce Landmark Legislative Package to Strengthen Public and Private Sector Cybersecurity  

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a landmark legislative package that would significantly enhance our nation’s ability to combat ongoing cybersecurity threats against our critical infrastructure and the federal government – particularly in the face of potential cyberattacks sponsored by the Russian government in retaliation for U.S. support of Ukraine. The legislation combines language from three bills Portman and Peters authored and advanced out of their Committee – the Cyber Incident Reporting Act, the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2021, and the Federal Secure Cloud Improvement and Jobs Act. The combined bill, known as the Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act, will require critical infrastructure owners and operators and civilian federal agencies to report to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) if they experience a substantial cyberattack. It would also require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report ransomware payments to CISA, modernize the government’s cybersecurity posture, and authorize the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) to ensure federal agencies can quickly and securely adopt cloud-based technologies that improve government operations and efficiency. Portman and Peters are working closely with U.S. Representatives John Katko (R-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), James Comer (R-KY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jody Hice (R-GA), and Gerald Connelly (D-VA) who have led these efforts in the House.   

“As cyber and ransomware attacks continue to increase, the federal government must quickly coordinate its response and hold bad actors accountable. This bipartisan legislation will give the National Cyber Director, CISA, and other appropriate agencies broad visibility into the cyberattacks taking place across our nation on a daily basis to enable a whole-of-government response, mitigation, and warning to critical infrastructure and others of ongoing and imminent attacks. This bill strikes a balance between getting information quickly and letting victims respond to an attack without imposing burdensome requirements,” said Senator Portman. “In addition, since 2019, through bipartisan investigative reports, I have highlighted the failings of federal agencies to protect their networks. I am glad this legislation will address recommendations in those reports to significantly update FISMA, providing the accountability necessary to resolve longstanding weaknesses in federal cybersecurity by clarifying roles and responsibilities and requiring the government to quickly inform the American people if their information is compromised.” 

Portman Highlights Need for Congress to Pass Bipartisan Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act to Ensure National Visibility into Cyberattacks

Senator Portman delivered opening remarks at a hearing on the response to and lessons learned from the threat posed by the vulnerability in Log4j software – which experts have said is one of the most serious and widespread cybersecurity risks ever seen. Portman highlighted that this vulnerability, as well as several others including the 2014 Heartbleed vulnerability, and the vulnerability that led to the Equifax breach, demonstrate the need for Congress to pass the bipartisan Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act he introduced with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI). The legislation would significantly enhance our nation’s ability to combat ongoing cybersecurity threats against our critical infrastructure and the federal government – particularly in the face of potential cyberattacks sponsored by the Russian government in retaliation for U.S. support of Ukraine. 

The legislation combines language from three bills Portman and Peters authored and advanced out of their Committee – the Cyber Incident Reporting Act, the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2021, and the Federal Secure Cloud Improvement and Jobs Act. The combined bill, known as the Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act, will require critical infrastructure owners and operators and civilian federal agencies to report to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) if they experience a substantial cyberattack. It would also require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report ransomware payments to CISA, modernize the government’s cybersecurity posture, and authorize the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) to ensure federal agencies can quickly and securely adopt cloud-based technologies that improve government operations and efficiency.  

A transcript of his opening statement can be found here and a video can be found here.

Portman, Republican Colleagues Remind President Biden That Any New Iran Deal Must Be Submitted to Congress For Approval

Senator Portman and 32 of his Republican colleagues sent a letter to President Biden rebuking the administration’s negotiations for a new Iran nuclear deal. In the letter, the senators state the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) requires the President to submit any Iran deal to Congress – and they will block implementation of any deal not submitted. 

“We write to call attention to a range of obligations that your administration is statutorily mandated to fulfill in relation to Congressional oversight over any such agreement, and to ensure that your officials know we are committed to providing availability, assistance, and resources so you can fully meet these mandates. We also write to emphasize that we are committed to using the full range of options and leverage available to United States Senators to ensure that you meet those obligations, and that the implementation of any agreement will be severely if not terminally hampered if you do not… the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (“INARA”, 42 USC § 2160e) mandates that your administration submit to Congress for evaluation, within 5 days after it is reached, any agreement related to the nuclear program with Iran, as well as all related documents and side deals. The submission of such materials then triggers a statutorily-defined review process, and includes the possibility of Congress blocking implementation of the agreement,” wrote the senators. 

Also signing onto the letter are Senators Cruz (R-TX), Hagerty (R-TN), Cotton (R-AR), Grassley (R-IA), Marshall (R-KS), Tillis (R-NC), Rubio (R-FL), Scott (R-SC), Cassidy (R-LA), Braun (R-IN), Scott (R-FL), Lummis (R-WY), Wicker (R-MS), Ernst (R-IA), Boozman (R-AR), Johnson (R-WI), Barrasso (R-WY), Young (R-IN), Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Cramer (R-ND), Inhofe (R-OK), Hoeven (R-ND), Sasse (R-NE), Daines (R-MT), Toomey (R-PA), Kennedy (R-LA), Cornyn (R-TX), Blackburn (R-TN), Lee (R-UT), Thune (R-SD), Risch (R-ID), and Sullivan (R-AK). 

Full text of the letter is available here

At Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, Portman Highlights Urgency of Combating Anti-Semitism

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed ways to combat root causes of anti-Semitism with Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt, nominee to be Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Both agreed that the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which Portman has been a long-time advocate of, has provided the Jewish community with valuable training and assistance in the face of anti-Semitic attacks. Portman highlighted his Pray Safe Act, which establishes a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship could access information on safety and security best practices, available federal grant programs, and training opportunities. Lastly, Portman emphasized the need to tighten our Visa Waiver program, as current standards have allowed terrorists into our country, like the man who took multiple people hostage in a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue.

A transcript of Senator Portman’s questioning can be found here and video can be found here

At Senate Finance Hearing, Portman Discusses Addiction Crisis, Importance of Keeping Schools Open

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing earlier, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) questioned United States Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, about what is being done to mitigate surging levels of drug abuse, particularly among minors. For more than three decades, Portman has led efforts to combat the addiction crisis. In 1997, he authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, which supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs. He is also the author of The Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) - sweeping, bipartisan legislation to combat addiction and expand treatment options. In addition, Portman also highlighted the importance of ensuring that schools remain open and kids stay in class. A transcript of Senator Portman’s questioning can be found here and video can be found here.

At Hearing, Portman Raises Concern of Russian Targeted Cyberattacks Against United States for Supporting Ukraine 

Senator Portman received confirmation from an expert witness at a hearing that Russia is targeting critical infrastructure and governmental organizations in Ukraine through cyberattacks in an effort to compromise the systems for the likely purpose of espionage. Portman expressed his concern that Russia may use cybersecurity vulnerabilities to attack the United States in retaliation for supporting Ukraine. Portman has introduced the bipartisan Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act to significantly enhance our nation’s ability to combat ongoing cybersecurity threats against our critical infrastructure and the federal government.

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

On Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, Portman Discusses the Need for Bipartisan Legislation to Help Ukraine and Prohibit TSA from Accepting Arrest Warrants as Valid ID

In an interview with Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto, Senator Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, discussed the escalating crisis in Ukraine. Portman underscored the need to support Ukraine and made clear that Russia will face severe consequences if they invade their sovereign neighbor. He also stressed the importance of passing a bipartisan package that will provide additional military assistance to Ukraine and sanction Russia for their aggressive posture. 

In addition, Portman discussed his legislation prohibiting the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from accepting arrest warrants as valid proof of identification at airport security checkpoints and for other purposes. 

A transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

On Senate Floor, Portman Highlights Bipartisan Legislation to Name Avondale Cincinnati Post Office for Ohio World War II Aviators 

On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, highlighted bipartisan legislation he has introduced with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to name the Avondale Cincinnati Post Office for two Ohio World War II aviators, John H. Leahr and Herbert M. Heilbrun. The legislation advanced out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week. This bipartisan legislation has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was introduced in the House by Congressmen Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) and co-sponsored by the entire Ohio delegation. 

A transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here

On Senate Floor, Portman Calls for Bipartisan Action to Counter Russian Aggression Towards Ukraine

Senator Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor discussing Russia’s escalating threat to Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty. Portman made the point that he believes bipartisan action is possible, and it is his hope Congress will be able to come together to pass legislation that will deter a Russian invasion, and ensure Ukraine and its patriotic people remain strong in their quest for freedom. 

A transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

Portman, Brown, Casey Urge Action from Administration to Protect Domestic Production of Grain-Oriented Electrical Steel

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Casey (D-PA) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai to express their concerns about the threat to domestic production of grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES). GOES is a necessary component of our electrical grid, which is part of our critical infrastructure and key to our national security. 

Cleveland-Cliffs, the largest producer of flat-rolled steel in North America, is North America’s only producer of GOES. Cleveland-Cliffs employs thousands of workers in good-paying union jobs between its plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 2018, Senators Portman, Brown, and Casey asked President Trump to make electrical steel a priority in any Section 232 trade remedy in an attempt to get relief for AK Steel (now Cleveland Cliffs), the last electrical steel manufacturer in the United States. Without relief, the company warned it might have to shut down the last production line in the entire country. In 2020, at the urging of the senators, the Department of Commerce initiated a Section 232 investigation into imports of GOES, in which the Department found that GOES products were “being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security.” Since the release of these findings Commerce has not acted to address the national security threat. 

Right now, foreign countries, including Russia and China, are shipping GOES to Canada and Mexico where it is transformed into downstream electrical steel products which can enter the United States in circumvention of the Section 232 tariffs. In their most recent letter, the senators requested that Commerce start by working with partners Canada and Mexico to either reduce their exports of down-stream GOES products to the United States, or utilize more U.S. GOES in the manufacturing of products containing electrical steel. 

The senators wrote, “…the Department of Commerce offered seven recommendations to remediate the national security threat posed by these imports. Of note is the first option, which suggested that the United States negotiate with Canada and Mexico to either reduce their exports of down-stream GOES products to the United States, or utilize more U.S. GOES in the production of those products. We believe this option is a constructive starting point to address the ongoing national security threat, and ask that you engage with your counterparts in Canada and Mexico as a first step.”

You can find the full text of the letter here.

Portman, Johnson, Romney Urge Archivist of the United States to Not Certify the Equal Rights Amendment as Part of Constitution 

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) have sent a letter to the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, urging him to confirm that he will not certify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as part of the Constitution. 

“We write to seek your reassurance that you will not certify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution unless and until it has been properly ratified and legal questions regarding such ratification have been resolved,” wrote the senators. “The office of the Archivist of the United States, although filled by presidential appointment with the advice and consent of the Senate under 44 U.S. C. § 2103, has always been regarded as a nonpolitical office—indeed, the statute explicitly requires that ‘the Archivist shall be appointed without regard to political affiliations and solely on the basis of the professional qualifications.’ Your handling of the matter of the Equal Rights Amendment from 2020 to date has conformed to this expectation by making clear that you would respect the formal DOJ opinions on the matter. In light of the calls for you to disregard your duty and certify the ERA, we write to ask for your commitment that you, and the acting Archivist who will take over in April, will not certify or publish the ERA, which failed to achieve ratification by the states and is no longer pending before them.” 

The full text of the letter can be found here.

Senators Portman, Murray Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Remove Barriers, Provide Support For Homeless and Foster Students in Higher Education 

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act to remove barriers and provide support to help students experiencing homelessness and students in foster care access and succeed in higher education. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“Kids in foster care, or who have experienced homelessness, face an uphill battle when they pursue higher education. It is in all of our interests to help these kids by ensuring that services for them are a priority in existing federal programs,” said Senator Portman. “This common-sense legislation will remove unnecessary barriers and make college more affordable for these youths, supporting college retention, helping them to graduate, pursue their dreams, and achieve their God-given potential.”

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Portman, Senate Republicans Urge IRS to Provide Maximum Taxpayer Support During Difficult Filing Season

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and his Senate Republicans colleagues are urging the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to do everything it can to support taxpayers during the current tax filing season. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, the senators press the agency to provide taxpayers with targeted, temporary relief during what is widely believed to be one of the most challenging and frustrating filing seasons in recent memory for both taxpayers and the IRS.   

The senators identify many of the challenges their constituents face, and recommend areas where the IRS could use its existing authority to offer meaningful relief to taxpayers.

 “…we continue to hear from constituents who have not yet had their paper and amended returns processed, and due to a lack of information on IRS processing dates and timelines, do not know if their returns ever made it to the IRS or if they should re-file. Other taxpayers are waiting for their tax refund, some related to their 2019 tax return. This situation is untenable. When our constituents cannot get help from those tasked to administer our tax laws, it diminishes the integrity of our voluntary tax system,” wrote the senators.

 The senators recommend the IRS halt automated collections for a meaningful period of time; provide targeted tax penalty relief for taxpayers; delay the collection process for filers until any active and pending penalty abatement requests have been processed; and communicate the status of IRS operations in a clear and timely manner, among other recommendations. Read the full letter and recommendations here.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Portman Praises Senate Passage of Legislation to End Forced Arbitration Agreements For Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

Senator Portman praised Senate passage of the bipartisan legislation he co-sponsored that will prevent perpetrators from being able to push survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault into secretive forced arbitration agreements. The bill would also invalidate existing forced arbitration clauses that prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors from seeking justice and public accountability under the laws meant to protect them. Portman discussed this issue with former Fox News anchor and advocate Gretchen Carlson, who is an advocate of this bipartisan legislation. He issued the following statement: 

“I'm proud to support this important legislation that will help change a system that has protected perpetrators and silenced victims of sexual assault or harassment. After strong bipartisan approval in both the House and Senate, this bill now heads to President Biden's desk. I hope the president will sign it into law quickly to help enable those who have suffered sexual assault and sexual harassment in the workplace have access to justice.”

Portman Applauds More Than $46 Million in Funding to Reclaim Abandoned Mine Lands in Ohio

Senator Portman applauded the Department of Interior (DOI) announcement that $46.4 million has been allocated to Ohio for fiscal year (FY) 2022 to reclaim abandoned mine lands (AML).  The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – which Portman was the lead negotiator on – provides $11.3 billion in AML funding to states over the next 15 years. 

“Thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law, Ohio is in a better position than ever to reclaim its abandoned mine lands and continue to make our communities safer for families and for businesses to grow,” said Senator Portman. “Abandoned mines present a safety and health risk, and with this additional funding, we can help to mitigate those risks while also supporting job creation in our coal communities.”

Portman at HSGAC Hearing: OMB Must Work with Congress to Address Challenges Facing America

Senator Portman applauded the Department of Interior (DOI) announcement that $46.4 million has been allocated to Ohio for fiscal year (FY) 2022 to reclaim abandoned mine lands (AML).  The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – which Portman was the lead negotiator on – provides $11.3 billion in AML funding to states over the next 15 years. 

“Thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law, Ohio is in a better position than ever to reclaim its abandoned mine lands and continue to make our communities safer for families and for businesses to grow,” said Senator Portman. “Abandoned mines present a safety and health risk, and with this additional funding, we can help to mitigate those risks while also supporting job creation in our coal communities.”

Portman Applauds Announcement of $140 Million to Ohio to Build Electric Vehicle Charging Network

Senator Portman applauded the announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy that they have established the $5 billion new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. This program was created through Senator Portman’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Ohio will receive $140 million to build out electric vehicle charging stations across the state over the next five years, $20.7 million of which is now available to the state for fiscal year 2022. 

“I am pleased that Ohio will receive this critical investment to develop its electric vehicle charging network,” said Senator Portman. “The building of this network will not only provide good-paying jobs for thousands of Ohioans and provide people with a reliable alternative to traditional vehicles, but will also ensure that the United States, and Ohio, remains a leader in EV technology.”

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

 

 

Ohio senator says Russia needs to be punished

Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, says lawmakers and the Biden Administration need to make sure Russia understands the consequences of an attack against Ukraine.

With thousands of Russian troops massing on their border with Ukraine, Portman said he’s concerned about a possible invasion. It’s something he says has already happened twice before. Portman believes the Ukrainian people will defend themselves using weapons provided by the U.S. and other allies, but he also says Russia needs to be punished, economically.

“There’s going to be devastating sanctions put in place. Not just by us, but by our allies around the world because you can’t just stand by and let this happen. And you gotta be sure that there is a price to pay, and the consequences are devastating for Russia,” Portman said.

Portman says he hopes Russia leaders will come to understand what could happen with an invasion and not go forward with its plans.

 

 

No more Texas synagogue attacks – pass bipartisan Pray Safe Act

As Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker was preparing to begin Saturday services on the morning of Jan. 15, 2022, he welcomed a man who had knocked on the window and looked cold inside his synagogue. Cytron-Walker made the man tea and then began his livestreamed Shabbat service. With his back turned to the man, the rabbi recalls hearing a click, turning around, and seeing a gun.

For over 10 hours, this man held Rabbi Cytron-Walker and three other congregants hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. The attack at Congregation Beth Israel was a blatant act of antisemitism and terrorism. Unfortunately, such acts are proving less of a rarity as senseless violence grows far too common in Jewish communities across the United States. 

In 2018, 11 congregants were killed and six were injured at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2019, one congregant was killed and three others were injured at the Chabad of Poway in southern California. In 2020, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported about 2,600 antisemitic incidents in the U.S. Five years prior, the number of reported incidents was about half that many. Across the board, we are seeing significant threats to faith communities. According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START)’s Global Terrorism Database, there were 118 attacks in the U.S. targeting religious figures and institutions in the 10 years between 2009 and 2019. That number accounts for over 25% of all terrorist attacks in the U.S. during that period. 

In addition to attacks, houses of worship in Ohio, New Hampshire and across the country have received direct threats – forcing them to have to take new measures to scale up their security. This should serve as a reminder that targeted violence against our houses of worship remains a prevalent threat, and that antisemitism in the United States is, unfortunately, still alive and well.

In the Senate, we’ve been working on ways to help strengthen the security of our religious communities. Last year, as members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, we introduced our bipartisan bill, the Pray Safe Act. The legislation directs the federal government to establish a centralized clearinghouse of safety and security best practices, training resources, grant application information, and other assistance – all dedicated to securing houses of worship and faith-based organizations.

The Pray Safe Act will help to address many concerns brought to life in this hostage situation. It will create a place for religious institutions to access trainings – like the trainings received by the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue that Rabbi Cytron-Walker lauded for providing lifesaving knowledge that was integral to the survival of the hostages.  During nearly 11 hours of being held at gunpoint, Cytron-Walker recalled what these trainings had taught him, and used what he learned to wait for the right moment to take action against the gunman. The rabbi bravely threw a chair at the terrorist, creating the opportunity for the congregants to escape to safety.

In addition to training, Congregation Beth Israel was a recipient of FEMA Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSPG) funds, which in part helped to pay for the synagogue’s camera system that Cytron-Walker credited for assisting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to monitor the situation. The Pray Safe Act will improve nationwide knowledge of NSGP, which will in turn improve the current unequal distribution of these grant funds across different states. 

Passing the Pray Safe Act will ensure that all houses of worship who face threats of violence and terror have information on security trainings and NSGP applications. That being said, the government has a lot more work to do in countering and preventing terrorism so we do not have to face these threats anymore. International and domestic terrorists undoubtedly look to attack U.S religious communities. This is why Congress must get to the bottom of why the Congregation Beth Israel hostage-taker, Malik Faisal Akram, was allowed entry into the United States. 

Congress must also combat domestic violent extremism originating within our country. These acts of violence, especially against our religious communities, threaten our First Amendment right to freedom of religion. No one should fear for their life when they enter a house of worship to reflect and pray, nor should houses of worship have to be locked down to keep their congregants safe. Yet as the horrific events at Congregation Beth Israel showed us, this is the new normal for far too many faith communities throughout the country. 

Addressing antisemitism and hate of all forms is a fight that no single piece of legislation can solve, but there are steps that Congress can take today. It’s time for Congress to pass the bipartisan Pray Safe Act and make sure that religious communities have the resources that they need to pray and gather in peace.