Rob’s Rundown: Week of July 8 – July 12, 2019
This week, Senator Portman joined a delegation of Senate Judiciary Committee members led by Committee Chairman Graham to visit the southern border. The delegation toured the federal migrant processing center in McAllen, Texas, and attended a roundtable discussion with Border Patrol agents and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership on the ground. Portman believes we have a crisis on our southern border – a drug crisis, an immigration crisis, and a humanitarian crisis and went to see firsthand some of the processing facilities and to talk to asylum seekers and law enforcement and other officials on the ground.
In addition, Portman spoke on the Senate floor this week and paid tribute to his friend, Ohio-native Neil Armstrong, in advance of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which takes place on July 20.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, July 8, 2019
Portman Visits Refuge Ministries, a Faith-Based Rehabilitation Facility in Columbus
Portman toured Refuge Ministries—a faith-based rehabilitation facility—and met with leadership and individuals who have successfully completed the faith-based, 13-month program.
“I was honored to visit and tour The Refuge Ministries today. The Refuge uses a faith-based, holistic approach to help those suffering from drug addiction,” said Portman. “I heard today from President and Founder, Tom Thompson, on how The Refuge is helping people improve their fundamental relationships to help save lives and help turn the tide of the opioid epidemic in the Central Ohio region and across Ohio. I was also encouraged to hear about their 100 percent success rate in helping these individuals find meaningful employment.”
Video from his visit can be found here.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Portman, Brown, Braun, Peters Announce ‘Build America, Buy America’ Legislation
Senators Portman, Brown, Braun, and Peters announced they will be introducing legislation this week to apply Buy America rules to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure and public works projects. Currently, Buy America rules have not been fully implemented with respect to all federal programs that provide grants for the construction of infrastructure. This means American-made iron, steel and manufactured products are required for some infrastructure projects, but not all. When Chinese- or Russian- made steel and other products are used instead of American products, it undermines U.S. workers.
The Senators’ bipartisan bill, the Build America, Buy America Act, would implement Buy America rules across the board – ensuring that American taxpayer dollars are used to buy American-made iron, steel and manufactured products for any federally funded infrastructure project.
“I’m proud to lead this legislation with Senator Brown because when the government spends American taxpayer money on an infrastructure project, it’s common sense that the materials used in that project should be purchased from those same taxpayers making those materials in the United States. We have the world’s best workers making the best materials we need right here at home,” said Portman.
Portman Applauds Announcement of Qatar Airways Contract for GE Aviation
Portman praised the announcement that GE Aviation was awarded a contract with Qatar Airways for engines and multiyear service agreements:
“I want to congratulate GE Aviation and their employees in Evendale for winning a contract to provide Qatar Airlines with their top of the line GEnx engines,” said Senator Portman. “These highly-reliable, fuel-efficient engines are the right choice to power Qatar Airways’ new fleet of Boeing 787-9 aircraft. GE’s selection is a testament to its commitment to excellence, investment in the best technology and most importantly the high quality of its workforce. This program is critical to maintaining America’s technological edge, and I am pleased that this contract will benefit GE and my home town of Cincinnati. This project will lead to increased investment in the region, which will help spur further economic growth, job creation and innovation, while enhancing Ohio’s reputation as a national leader in the aerospace industry.”
Portman Praises Proposed Tank Sale to Taiwan That Will Benefit Lima’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center
Portman applauded the State Department’s approval of a potential $2 billion foreign military sale that would include 108 Abrams tanks modernized at Lima’s Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) to Taiwan. Portman, who recently praised the Senate passage of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes more than $2.4 billion in funding for military systems that support jobs at the JSMC, released the following statement:
“Sales of military equipment to our allies both enhance our security and support good-paying American manufacturing jobs. This sale is an important signal of our support for Taiwan and it’s good news for Ohio and our workers at the JSMC. Keeping the Abrams production line thriving will help JSMC continue to meet the needs of our troops both at home and around the globe. I applaud the State Department’s approval of this sale to Taiwan. I look forward to this sale being finalized, and I will keep engaging with our allies to find new partners and continue existing partnerships that support Ohio jobs.”
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
On Fox Business, Portman Discusses the Crisis at the Southern Border & Highlights His Upcoming Visit
In an interview with Fox Business’s Varney & Company, Portman voiced his concern about the humanitarian crisis at the southern border and discussed solutions on how best to handle the influx of immigrants attempting to come into the United States. He plans to visit the border later this week to see the humanitarian crisis firsthand and talk to our border control agents on the ground to help come up with bipartisan solutions.
Video from the interview can be found here.
Portman Statement on the Passing of Civil Rights Icon Marian Spencer
Portman issued the following statement on the passing of Cincinnati civil rights icon Marian Spencer:
“Jane and I are saddened to learn about the passing of Marian Spencer, a true civil rights icon. As a granddaughter of a slave, Marion was a driving force for change in Cincinnati, devoting much of her life to fighting for justice in our city. Her lifetime of service and activism is truly an inspiration to us all. Today, her legacy in Southwest Ohio will continue on as we work to follow her example.”
Thursday July 11, 2019
Senator Portman Applauds USTR’s Decision to Open Section 301 Investigation into French Digital Services Tax
Portman applauded the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) decision to open a Section 301 investigation into the new French digital services tax (DST) proposal:
“The French digital services tax, like similar proposals before it, discriminates against U.S. companies, results in double taxation, and creates new barriers to transatlantic trade. Unilateral actions that target U.S. companies and U.S. revenue represent a dangerous precedent that will only lead to more countries going after other U.S. businesses, many of which support thousands of jobs throughout Ohio. I recognize the need to address the tax challenges presented by today’s global, digitalized economy, but countries should work to address these issues through the ongoing multilateral discussions at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – not through unilateral action and international tax chaos. I am pleased to see USTR launch this investigation into the potential discriminatory nature of this foreign tax, and I hope that other countries considering these unilateral proposals instead focus their efforts on the OECD process.”
Portman, Brown Urge President Trump to Swiftly Approve Ohio’s Request for Addendum to Major Disaster Declaration
Senators Portman and Brown urged President Trump to act swiftly on Governor DeWine’s request for an addendum to the Presidential Disaster Declaration granted on June 18, 2019. This addendum would include the Public Assistance Grant program for Columbiana, Greene, Mahoning, Mercer and Montgomery counties impacted by tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds, and flooding. The Public Assistance Grant program allows state, local, and tribal governments to fund projects for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures, and restoration of public infrastructure, among other things. This addendum will help ensure that the impacted state and local government entities – in addition to individuals and businesses already eligible – can access important federal assistance and resources to recover. Congressman Turner also sent a letter strongly supporting Governor DeWine’s request.
“We write to urge you to act swiftly on the request by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for an addendum to the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration granted on June 18 to include the Public Assistance Grant Program for 5 counties in Ohio… The State and local governments in the affected areas do not have the capability to sufficiently respond to this major disaster, and therefore, federal assistance is necessary to supplement recovery efforts,” wrote Portman and Brown in a letter to the president today.
Full text of the letter is found here.
In Advance of the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing, Portman Pays Tribute to His Friend & Ohio-Native, Neil Armstrong
On the Senate floor, Portman paid tribute to his friend, Ohio-native Neil Armstrong, in advance of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which takes place on July 20.
Friday July 12, 2019
Portman to Visit Southern Border Today in McAllen, Texas
Portman is joining a delegation of Senate Judiciary Committee members led by Committee Chairman Graham to visit the southern border. The delegation will tour the federal migrant processing center in McAllen, Texas, and attend a roundtable discussion with Border Patrol agents and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership on the ground. He released the following statement:
“It is clear we have a crisis on our southern border – a drug crisis, an immigration crisis, and a humanitarian crisis. That’s why I want to visit the border to see firsthand some of the processing facilities and to talk to asylum seekers and law enforcement and other officials on the ground. The massive number of border crossings, particularly by families and unaccompanied children, are overwhelming our Border Patrol agents and facilities. It is important that we treat people humanely. That’s why I advocated for the additional $4.6 billion in federal funding for humanitarian assistance that Congress finally approved in June. I thank Chairman Graham for organizing this fact-finding trip to the border, and I’m hopeful that it will inform our work and lead to bipartisan solutions to deal with the very real crisis at the border.”
Portman, Brown Release PSA Encouraging Ohioans to Sign up for FEMA Disaster Assistance Ahead of Aug. 19 Deadline
Senators Portman and Brown released a public service announcement encouraging Ohioans to apply for federal disaster assistance they helped secure through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The deadline for Ohioans to apply for federal assistance is Monday, Aug. 19. Ohioans can apply online at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362 for more information.
In June, FEMA approved federal assistance for Auglaize, Darke, Greene, Hocking, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Muskingum, Perry, and Pickaway Counties. The approval of federal disaster funding will help ensure that these counties can access important federal assistance and resources to recover.
“It’s important for all Ohioans who suffered damage from the storms to register – in addition to receiving FEMA aid for yourself, you’ll help the entire state. The more residents who receive funding, the more funds will be available to local communities to rebuild,” said the Senators.
Taiwan proposed $2 billion deal for Abrams Tanks
The U.S. State Department has approved a potential deal that could benefit the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center.
According to Senator Rob Portman, Taiwan has proposed a $2 billion deal that would modernize 108 Abrams tanks for them. This would be on top of the over $2 billion dollars of work, for Abrams and Stryker vehicles as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which has been approved by Congress. Foreign work was critical to help keep the plant open when the U.S. cut back on product at the JSMC a few years ago. The Lima plant in the past had deals with Morocco, Saudi Arabia and other countries for different versions of Abrams Tank.
“Very good news for Lima, the fact that countries around the world want our equipment,” says Senator Rob Portman. Our tanks are the highest quality, the best technology now, the best protective material for troops. It is a tribute to Lima and the workforce there that Taiwan chose us to upgrade their tanks.”
The sale with Taiwan still has to pass congress. Portman says he will keep urging Congress to pass the deal which will be decided on during a 30 day notification period.
(Hometown Stations, Taiwan proposed $2 billion deal for Abrams Tanks, July 10, 2019)
Congress can act to reclaim trade authority once and for all
Capitol Hill is focused on negotiations over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but there’s another discussion about trade policy that’s happening in the Senate Republican Conference.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, recently told reporters that legislation to curtail the president’s ability to unilaterally impose tariffs won’t be ready until after the August recess. Grassley has been vocal in his opposition to unilateral tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, although he has also acknowledged their actions are just reflective of a larger problem.
“It adds up to something pretty simple: Congress has delegated too much authority to the president of the United States,” he said in June. “The constitutional crisis comes from the elected representatives of the people over the last 80 years ... making a kingship out of the presidency of the United States.”
Indeed, Congress has ceded too much of its Article I authority to the executive branch. President Barack Obama’s runway federal bureaucracy that published hundreds of rules heightened congressional awareness of the growing regulatory state. Although Congress has undone some of the Obama administration’s midnight regulations through the Congressional Review Act, and the Trump administration has focused on deregulation, the regulatory state remains a threat.
The Constitution isn’t ambiguous on this subject: Lawmaking is the responsibility of the legislative branch. Tariffs, too, are a specifically enumerated responsibility of Congress, not the president, as outlined in Article I, Section 8. It states: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.”
The problem becoming apparent under the Trump administration is the president’s ability to unilaterally impose tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. The tariffs, unilaterally imposed by the Trump administration under the guise of “national security,” have diminished the positive impact of the 2017 GOP tax cut and represent the third-largest tax hike since World War II, according to a recent report from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.
The details of the bill Grassley envisions combating this presidential overreach remain to be seen, but there are competing bills already pending before the committee.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, has introduced the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, S. 287. This approach would require Congress to pass a joint resolution of approval within 60 days of a proposed trade action under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act. If the joint resolution of approval isn’t passed, the trade action cannot take effect.
Importantly, the bill would apply to recent trade actions, requiring congressional approval.
Not only would the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act restore congressional authority over tariffs and subject even recent trade actions to congressional approval, but the bill would also take the determination of national security implications over imports out of the Department of Commerce and transfer this investigatory process to the Department of Defense. The term “national security” would also be properly defined to mean “the protection of the United States from foreign aggression” and “does not otherwise include the protection of the general welfare of the United States.”
Another path is the Trade Security Act, S. 365, sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Like the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, the Trade Security Act would transfer investigatory authority and determinations of national security threats related to trade from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Defense.
The Trade Security Act would provide congressional disapproval of a trade action under Section 232, not approval. This is the key distinction between the Trade Security Act and the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act. Moreover, the Trade Security Act has another flaw. Unlike other disapproval resolutions that Congress has considered under the Congressional Review Act, the disapproval resolution under the Trade Security Act wouldn’t be privileged. Rather, it would subject to the normal legislative process, including a filibuster.
A disapproval resolution, even one that’s privileged, doesn’t address other concerns. Obviously, any president can veto a disapproval resolution and continue to impose a trade action unless there are enough votes in both chambers of Congress to override the veto. A disapproval resolution also doesn’t solve the core problem that creates trade uncertainty: A president can still impose these tariffs unilaterally.
The Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act is a far superior bill and provides a framework for the Senate Finance Committee to consider as it develops legislation to mitigate the damage that a protectionist agenda has done and will continue to do to the United States economy.
(Washington Examiner. Congress can act to reclaim trade authority once and for all. July 9, 2019)