Rob’s Rundown: Week of June 15 – June 19, 2020

June 19, 2020 | Rob's Rundown

This week the Senate passed Senator Portman’s bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, landmark legislation he has pushed for years to protect and preserve America’s national parks. The Restore Our Parks Act will support more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years by rebuilding critical park infrastructure to help address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS). The legislation awaits action in the House and the president has committed to signing it into law. 

On Thursday, Portman introduced the bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property developed at U.S. colleges and universities. Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday night highlighting the national security threats posed by China and outlining the details of this legislation. Numerous research leaders, hospitals, and colleges and universities in Ohio and across the nation have voiced their support for the legislation.

In addition, the Senate voted unanimously to approve Portman’s resolution to remember and celebrate the life of Cincinnati-native Otto Warmbier, who was wrongfully imprisoned and horribly mistreated by the North Korean regime which ultimately led to his death. Prior to the vote on the resolution, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor commemorating Warmbier and condemning the North Korean regime. 

Finally, Portman announced his support for the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. The JUSTICE Act builds on the success of the First Step Act to strengthen the training methods and tactics employed throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force, the use of force, and the duty to intervene; improve the collection of data on violence by and against law enforcement; provide funding to increase the use of body cameras; reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve; increase accountability and transparency; and make lynching a federal crime. The bill also includes the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, of which Portman is a co-sponsor. This new commission would issue a wide-ranging report on conditions affecting black men and boys, including education, health care, financial status, and the criminal justice system as a whole. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced that the Senate will consider this legislation on the Senate floor next week. 

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2020

Portman Highlights Restore Our Parks Act on Senate Floor: This is About “Doing What’s Right For Our Parks”

Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor for the fourth time and again urged his Senate colleagues to pass his bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, which will help rebuild our national parks infrastructure by addressing the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS) and support more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years. The Restore Our Parks Act is a part of a broader package, the Great American Outdoors Act -- landmark bipartisan legislation to address the deferred maintenance backlog across the federal land management agencies and to provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Portman introduced the Restore Our Parks Act with U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Angus King (I-ME) and has pushed the Senate to pass the bipartisan legislation over the last several years. The bill will establish the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating half of the existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development up to $1.3 billion per year for the next five years. Portman worked with his colleagues to expand the Restore Our Parks Act to address the more than $20 billion in deferred maintenance backlog across all land management agencies in the Great American Outdoors Act. This legislation now provides $1.9 billion per year for five years into the “National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund” from half of unobligated on and offshore energy revenues. Recently, Portman announced that a new National Parks Service (NPS) study of the Restore Our Parks legislation found that the legislation will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years to help address the delayed maintenance backlog and rebuild our national parks infrastructure. An additional National Park Service (NPS) study showed that in 2019, visitor spending in communities near national parks resulted in a $41.7 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 340,500 jobs.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act in November 2019 and President Trump has voiced his support for this legislative effort. The Senate is expected to vote on this legislation this week. 

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

Portman, Cardin, Lankford & Booker Statement on Administration’s Updated Rules on PPP Eligibility for Small Business Owners with Previous Criminal Records

Senators Rob Portman, Ben Cardin (D-MD), James Lankford (R-OK), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) released the following statement after the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Treasury Department announced updated rules with regard to past criminal justice involvement and eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The new rule reduces the timeframe for the exclusion of justice-involved small business owners in the PPP from five years to one year for felonies that do not involve fraud, bribery, embezzlement, or a false statement in a loan or federal assistance application. In addition, following last Wednesday’s Small Business Committee hearing, the agencies also made modifications to ensure that owners who had participated in a pretrial diversion program would be eligible for PPP loans. They do not, however, fix a major flaw within the old rules that penalizes those who have yet to have their day in court.  

On June 4, the four senators introduced the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program Second Chance Act, which would remove barriers to PPP for owners with unrelated felony records while preserving the presumption of innocence and keeping in place the five year timeframe for felony crimes related to financial fraud. This legislation follows Senators Portman and Cardin’s letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza urging that the SBA allow small business owners with criminal records to apply for the PPP. National and Ohioan reentry and second chance coalition leaders, law enforcement, and local officials have voiced their support of the initiative. 

“We appreciate the Administration’s willingness to engage with us on this issue, and we welcome this Interim Final Rule to remove some barriers to PPP loans for entrepreneurs who have been involved with the justice system,” the senators said. “We remain concerned that individuals who have not yet had their day in court will still be prevented from securing a PPP loan, which violates a core tenet of our society: the presumption of innocence. We further want to reiterate that it is inappropriate to exclude from the PPP any entrepreneur who has a prior felony unrelated to a financial crime. We will continue working with the Administration to ensure that small business owners and their employees are not unjustly prevented from securing these job-saving loans.”

Portman, Brown Introduce Bipartisan Resolution to Commemorate Ohio’s Otto Warmbier & Condemn North Korean Regime for Continued Human Rights Abuses

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a bipartisan resolution to remember and celebrate the life of Cincinnati-native Otto Warmbier who was wrongfully imprisoned and horribly mistreated by the North Korean regime which ultimately led to his death on June 19, 2017. The resolution also condemns the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and calls for the United States Government to continue to use its voice and vote in the United Nations to condemn systematic human rights violations in North Korea. 

Last year, Portman and Brown championed the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act which was included in the final FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and signed into law in 2019 which offers foreign banks and firms a stark choice: continue business with North Korea or maintain access to the U.S. financial system. It does this by imposing mandatory sanctions on the foreign banks and companies that facilitate illicit financial transactions for North Korea. The resolution introduced today will ensure those sanctions remain fully implemented until such time that the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea commits to the verifiable suspension of its proliferation and testing of weapons of mass destruction, and has agreed to multilateral talks, including with the United States Government.

“We must continue to hold North Korea accountable for their actions and human rights abuses against Otto Warmbier and everyone they’ve illegally held captive. It’s important that we continue to work together to confront the threat that North Korea poses. I’m honored to introduce this resolution to mark three years since Otto died due to his mistreatment by North Korea. Fred and Cindy Warmbier have been through more than any parent should have to endure and their commitment to holding North Korea accountable is admirable. I’m proud to be their friend and stand with them in that fight.  We must ensure that Otto is never forgotten,” said Portman.

Portman, Heinrich Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Department of Defense’s AI Capacity

Senators Rob Portman and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the co-founders of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, introduced the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence for the Armed Forces Act which will strengthen the Department of Defense’s artificial intelligence (AI) capacity by increasing the number of AI and cyber professionals in the department.

“The American military should utilize every tool available, including artificial intelligence, to carry out its mission. The National Security Commission on AI has done great work researching how to make the United States more competitive and capable when it comes to AI. But their work is only half the battle,” said Portman. “This bipartisan legislation builds on the Commission’s efforts to strengthen the AI capabilities of our military by enabling the increased hiring of AI and cyber professionals.” 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Portman Announces $5.2 Million in FEMA Grants to Ohio Health Care Systems to Help Continue to Provide Coronavirus Treatment, Testing & Protective Measures

Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for announcing two grants totaling $5.2 million that will go towards health care systems to help with costs associated with COVID-19. FEMA awarded these grants from replenished funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan CARES Act, which Senator Portman supported and signed into law by President Trump.   

“This FEMA funding is great news for University Hospital Health System and OhioHealth because it will help them continue to provide the treatment and health care that Ohio desperately needs during this ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” said Portman. “This pandemic has created significant and unprecedented challenges across Ohio and these grants will provide much-needed additional support for our response and recovery efforts. I will continue to work with my bipartisan colleagues in Congress to ensure that Ohio has the necessary resources during these uncertain times.”  

Portman, Cincinnati-Area Employers Discuss Economic Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic 

Portman joined a conference call with Cincinnati-area employers to discuss the federal response to the coronavirus health crisis and its economic impact. Members of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce joined the call. This is the latest in a series of conference calls Portman has had with outside stakeholders, such as employers, hospitals and health care providers, small business owners, workers and more.  

“It was clear on today’s call that employers in the Cincinnati area are focused on safely reopening the local economy. I was encouraged to hear about the local efforts already safely underway in the region, including how they are already taking advantage of some of the relief we provided in the CARES Act.   

“We also discussed the prospects for future legislation to continue addressing this pandemic, which I hope will build upon and add to what we’ve already done, like making sure we have a workforce that's ready to step into their old jobs or new, available jobs as the economy reopens. Some on the call were concerned that the expansion of federal unemployment benefits is serving as a disincentive for some lower wage individuals to return to work. When we crafted the legislation that created this generous benefit, I was also concerned that it would serve as a disincentive for many individuals to return to work, which is why I worked with Labor Secretary Scalia to clarify that no individual can choose to remain on unemployment if they have a job available to them. At the time, we were focused on keeping folks home to slow the spread of the virus now that we are slowly and safely reopening, we need to focus on incentivizing individuals to return to work, which will be critical to supporting a robust economic recovery. We discussed my $450 return-to-work bonus proposal to incentivize individuals to safely return to the workplace, meaning they’d receive their wages plus this $450 bonus. I believe this proposal would ensure that there are as few situations as possible where staying on unemployment is more lucrative than returning to work. I hope this provision will be a part of the next coronavirus response stimulus legislation considered in the Senate.

“We also discussed all of the improvements that Congress has made to the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that as many businesses as possible could take full advantage of the relief, as well as ideas for adding to the program to fully utilize the remaining PPP dollars. I will share the concerns and insights from the Cincinnati-area employers with my colleagues as we continue to work to help individuals, families, and small businesses stay afloat during this public health emergency so we can get our economy back to full strength as soon as safely possible,” said Portman. 

Senate Passes Portman’s Landmark Legislation to Protect & Preserve America’s National Parks

Portman praised Senate passage of the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, landmark legislation he has pushed for years to protect and preserve America’s national parks.  The bill will support more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years by rebuilding critical park infrastructure to help address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS). The Restore Our Parks Act is a part of a broader package, the Great American Outdoors Act, that addresses the deferred maintenance backlog across federal land management agencies and provides permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Portman released the following statement: 

Passage of this legislation is a big win for Ohio and our country.  It represents a landmark achievement that will help carry on Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy of protecting our national parks and public lands for generations to come. The bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act will help rebuild our national park infrastructure by helping to address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects throughout our park system while supporting more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years. In Ohio, this means helping to address the more than $100 million in critical infrastructure improvements necessary across our eight national parks. Now, more than ever, we need our parks and our parks need us. As an avid outdoorsman, I’m glad the president has embraced this legislative effort, and I look forward to the House of Representatives passing this legislation and seeing the president sign it into law.”

National Conservation Leaders Praise Passage of Portman Legislation to Fund Maintenance Backlog at America’s National Parks

Today the Senate passed Senator Portman’s bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, which will help rebuild our national parks infrastructure by addressing the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS) and support more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years. The Restore Our Parks Act is a part of a broader package, the Great American Outdoors Act -- landmark bipartisan legislation to address the deferred maintenance backlog across the federal land management agencies and to provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

Portman introduced the Restore Our Parks Act with U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) and has pushed the Senate to pass the bipartisan legislation over the last several years. Portman worked with his colleagues to expand the Restore Our Parks Act to address the more than $20 billion in deferred maintenance backlog across all land management agencies in the Great American Outdoors Act. This legislation provides $1.9 billion per year for five years into the “National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund” from half of unobligated revenues from on and offshore energy development on federal lands. Recently, Portman announced that a new National Parks Service (NPS) study of the Restore Our Parks legislation found that the legislation will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years to help address the delayed maintenance backlog and rebuild our national parks infrastructure. An additional [2019%20National%20Park%20Visitor%20Spending%20Effects]National Park Service (NPS) study showed that in 2019, visitor spending in communities near national parks resulted in a $41.7 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 340,500 jobs. 

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act in November 2019 and President Trump has voiced his support for this legislative effort. The list of national conservation leaders supporting the legislation can be found here.

String of High-Profile Arrests Shows Urgency for Portman’s New Bill to Prevent Theft of U.S. Taxpayer-Funded Research & Innovation by China

Portman has repeatedly called for foreign governments like China to be held accountable for the rampant theft of U.S. research and intellectual property (IP) at federally funded research institutions and universities. Portman, as chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), conducted a year long investigation last year that culminated in a stunning bipartisan report, which documented how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it.  

In response to the revelations from last November’s PSI report on this problem, the Department of Justice has in recent months announced that multiple academics and researchers affiliated with American universities and research institutions have been indicted in fraud cases that underscore the findings of the PSI report and highlight the need for action. 

  • In January, Dr. Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s Chemistry Department, was found to have been paid by both Harvard and the Thousand Talents Program without Harvard's knowledge. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Dr. Lieber was paid up to $50,000 a month in salary, $150,000 annually for living expenses and more than $1.5 million to establish and run a shadow lab in China. None of this was disclosed on his federal grant applications, meaning that Dr. Lieber was essentially defrauding Harvard and the U.S. government funding sources.

  • In March, Dr. James Lewis, a former West Virginia University (WVU) professor, pled guilty to fraud due to his membership in the Thousand Talents Plan. The Justice Department found that “Lewis defrauded a public university into giving him leave, so that he could satisfy his competing obligations to a Chinese institution, which he hid from the school.” Specifically, Dr. Lewis used time provided by WVU for paternity leave to instead travel to China to teach at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, receiving a living subsidy of about $143,000, a research subsidy of about $573,000, and a salary of about $86,000, while defrauding WVU out of about $20,000.

  • On May 8, former Emory University professor Dr. Xiao-Jiang Li pled guilty to falsifying his tax returns to conceal his work for the Chinese government. Dr. Li, a participant in China’s Thousand Talents Program, worked simultaneously for six years for both Emory and overseas for Chinese universities affiliated with the Communist Party of China, conducting similar research projects at both institutions. Despite this, Dr. Li. failed to report any of his at least $500,000 in foreign income on his federal tax returns.

  • Also on May 8, Dr. Simon Saw-Teong Ang of the University of Arkansas was arrested on charges of wire fraud for allegedly failing to disclose his ties to the Chinese government despite being required to do so as a recipient of grant money from NASA. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

  • On May 13, Dr. Qing Wang, previously affiliated with the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic, was charged with failing to disclose his affiliation with China’s Thousand Talents Plan while receiving American taxpayer-funded grant funding. Dr. Wang was found to have received grant funds from the Chinese government to conduct research identical to that which was funded by U.S. taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health. In addition, Dr. Wang was accused of misappropriating and hand-carrying proprietary research samples developed in Cleveland Clinic labs back to China. As a member of the Thousand Talents Plan, Dr. Wang received more than $3 million in research and living support from the Chinese government while he conducted research based on stolen American IP. 

This string of high-profile Department of Justice arrests underscores the urgency of passing new bipartisan legislation that Senator Portman will introduce tomorrow called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, which will protect American research and IP from global adversarial competitors.

At Hearing, Portman Highlights Importance of Bringing PPE Production Back to U.S., Continuing Trade Discussions with Kenya and U.K. & Reforming the WTO

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Portman highlighted important U.S. trade discussions with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, including the need to bring back production of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the U.S., ongoing trade discussions with Kenya and the United Kingdom, and the importance of reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Portman has been instrumental in helping to facilitate PPE production in Ohio-based companies, including encouraging the USTR to implement key tariff exclusions necessary for Gojo in Akron to be able to distribute larger quantities of Purell hand sanitizer, a key tool in slowing the spread of the virus. Portman also helped secure approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow Cleveland-based SecondBreath to begin producing ventilators for shipment across Ohio and the country and facilitated a donation by Dublin-based Cardinal Health of 2.2 million non-surgical gowns to the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile. 

In addition, Ambassador Lighthizer agreed with Senator Portman that WTO reform, especially within the appellate body, was necessary in order to put America on the same level playing field as the rest of the world.

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

On Senate Floor, Portman Highlights National Security Threats Posed By China & Upcoming Bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act

Portman as chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), highlighted various PSI investigations that he has led that have shown China’s pervasive national security threats. Portman also discussed his upcoming bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, legislation that will crack down on the theft of intellectual property at federally funded research institutions and universities by China and America’s global competitors. Portman led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs”, China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP to China for their own economic and military gain. This legislation is the product of that investigation and will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation. 

This legislation also addresses the findings of PSI’s February 2019 report, which highlighted the Department of Education’s lack of enforcement of foreign gift reporting at U.S. colleges and universities, which the department admitted was “historically lax.” This bill gives the department increased authority to enforce foreign gift reporting rules and lowers the reporting threshold to increase transparency and prevent foreign interference on U.S. campuses. 

In addition, Portman discussed PSI’s bipartisan investigation and report detailing how the federal government provided little-to-no oversight of Chinese state-owned telecommunications carriers operating in the United States for nearly twenty years. As demonstrated in recent PSI investigations, China routinely exploits the American education and scientific research sectors to further its national interest and engages in cyber-attacks against U.S. companies, like Equifax and Marriott. This PSI investigation revealed how the telecommunications industry has been similarly targeted. The Subcommittee’s year-long investigation found that the FCC and “Team Telecom”— an informal group comprised of officials from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense — have failed to monitor three Chinese government-owned carriers -- China Telecom Americas, China Unicom Americas, and ComNet USA -- that have been operating in the United States since the early 2000s. The Subcommittee also found that Team Telecom had no oversight of or interaction with China Unicom Americas since the FCC authorized it to provide international telecom services in 2002.  

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

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Portman, Carper, Rubio, Senate Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Theft of U.S. Research & Intellectual Property by Global Competitors

Senators Rob Portman, Tom Carper (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), James Risch (R-ID), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Barrasso (R-WY), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property developed at U.S. colleges and universities.  

Portman and Carper, as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP to China for their own economic and military gain. This legislation will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation. 

This legislation also addresses the findings of PSI’s February 2019 report, which highlighted the Department of Education’s lack of enforcement of foreign gift reporting at U.S. colleges and universities, which the department admitted was “historically lax.” This bill gives the department increased authority to enforce foreign gift reporting rules and lowers the reporting threshold to increase transparency and prevent foreign interference on U.S. campuses. 

“We cannot continue to allow our global competitors to steal taxpayer-funded research and innovation in order to benefit their military and economy. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation, which takes decisive action to safeguard American innovation, hold countries like China accountable for their actions, and ensure our world-class research enterprise is protected here in America,” said Portman. “For nearly two decades, as we detailed in the November 2019 PSI report, the federal government has been asleep at the wheel while foreign governments have exploited the lack of transparency in our education system and bought access and influence on our school campuses. This bill will help us stop foreign governments from stealing our research and innovation while also increasing transparency to ensure that taxpayers know when colleges and universities accept significant foreign funding. We must hold countries that act in bad faith, like China, accountable and I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this legislation.”

Widespread Support for Portman’s Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Theft of U.S. Research & Innovation

Research leaders, hospitals, and colleges and universities in Ohio have announced their support for Senator Portman’s bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property (IP) developed at U.S. colleges and universities.  

As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), Portman and Carper led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP to China for their own economic and military gain. This legislation will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation. 

This legislation also addresses the findings of PSI’s February 2019 report, which highlighted the Department of Education’s lack of enforcement of foreign gift reporting at U.S. colleges and universities, which the department admitted was “historically lax.” This bill gives the department increased authority to enforce foreign gift reporting rules and lowers the reporting threshold to increase transparency and prevent foreign interference on U.S. campuses. 

The list of national and Ohioan research leaders, hospitals, and colleges and universities who have voiced their support of the legislation can be found here

Portman Announces Support for JUSTICE Act

Portman announced his support for Senator Tim Scott’s (R-SC) Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act. The JUSTICE Act builds on the success of the First Step Act to strengthen the training methods and tactics throughout law enforcement jurisdictions, especially regarding de-escalation of force, the use of force, and the duty to intervene; improve the collection of data on violence by and against law enforcement; provide funding to increase the use of body cameras; reform hiring practices by providing more resources to ensure the makeup of police departments more closely matches the communities they serve; increase accountability and transparency; and make lynching a federal crime. The bill also includes the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, of which Portman is a co-sponsor. This new commission would issue a wide-ranging report on conditions affecting black men and boys, including education, health care, financial status, and the criminal justice system as a whole. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced that the Senate will consider this legislation on the Senate floor next week. Portman released the following statement:  

“America is hurting. In the midst of an unprecedented health care and economic crisis that is disproportionately affecting our minority communities, we’ve seen egregious examples of injustice and violence against African-Americans. I’ve made it clear that what happened to these Americans is outrageous and unacceptable. As I’ve said consistently, we need to work together to find solutions that promote stronger communities that treat each other with dignity and respect. The JUSTICE Act is an important step in that direction by helping to improve the collection of data on violence by and against law enforcement, provide funding to increase the use of body cameras, increase transparency and accountability while strengthening and reforming police training methods and hiring practices. I applaud Senator Scott for drafting this legislation and Leader McConnell for announcing the Senate will consider this bill next week. I look forward to a robust debate and hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this legislation.”

On CNBC, Portman Highlights Need for Return-to-Work Bonus & New Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Theft of U.S. Research & IP

On CNBC’s Squawk Box, Portman highlighted his proposal to incentivize individuals to return to the workplace, which will be critical to a robust economic recovery as the country continues to reopen. He highlighted his proposal of providing $450 a week for individuals returning to work, meaning they’d receive their wages plus this $450 bonus. Portman believes this proposal would ensure that there are as few situations as possible where staying on unemployment is more lucrative than returning to work. According to recent research from the American Action Forum and from the University of Chicago, between 60-70 percent of individuals currently on unemployment are making more than they did in their prior job thanks to this federal supplement. Furthermore, the bottom 20 percent of wage earners are making, on average, double what they made in the workforce through this UI program. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow praised Senator Portman’s work on this issue and said the White House is considering the proposal as discussions commence about the next COVID-19 legislative package. 

In addition, Portman also discussed his bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, which he introduced today along with Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), James Risch (R-ID), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Barrasso (R-WY), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). This legislation will crack down on the theft of intellectual property at federally funded research institutions and universities by China and America’s global competitors. Portman, as chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs”, China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP to China for their own economic and military gain. This legislation is the product of that investigation and will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation.  

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

Portman The Hill Op-Ed: Time to Make Our National Parks Great Again

Portman published an op-ed for The Hill highlighting his bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, which passed the Senate earlier this week by a bipartisan vote of 73-25, which will help rebuild our national parks infrastructure by addressing the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS) and support more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years. The Restore Our Parks Act is a part of a broader package, the Great American Outdoors Act -- landmark bipartisan legislation to address the deferred maintenance backlog across the federal land management agencies and to provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.   

Portman introduced the Restore Our Parks Act with U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) and has pushed the Senate to pass the bipartisan legislation over the last several years. Portman worked with his colleagues to expand the Restore Our Parks Act to address the more than $20 billion in deferred maintenance backlog across all land management agencies in the Great American Outdoors Act. This legislation provides $1.9 billion per year for five years into the “National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund” from half of unobligated revenues from on and offshore energy development on federal lands. Recently, Portman announced that a new National Parks Service (NPS) study of the Restore Our Parks legislation found that the legislation will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years to help address the delayed maintenance backlog and rebuild our national parks infrastructure. An additional National Park Service (NPS) study showed that in 2019, visitor spending in communities near national parks resulted in a $41.7 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 340,500 jobs. The full op-ed can be found at this link

Portman Announces $1 Million FEMA Grant to Harrison Township to Assist with Disaster Relief Efforts

Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for announcing a $1 million grant that will go towards funding Harrison Township’s Debris Removal Operations and incidental road repair damages as a result of severe storms last May. 

“This $1 million FEMA assistance is great news for Harrison Township as they continue with their recovery efforts,” said Portman. “I will continue to work closely with local officials to strengthen these recovery efforts and support their work to help rebuild this southwest Ohio community.”

On the Senate Floor, Portman Honors the Memory of Otto Warmbier, Condemns North Korean Regime

On the Senate floor, Portman delivered remarks honoring the life of Cincinnati-native Otto Warmbier, who was wrongfully imprisoned and horribly mistreated by the North Korean regime, which ultimately led to his death three years ago on June 19, 2017. Portman urged his colleagues to unanimously support a bipartisan resolution he introduced with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to remember and celebrate the life of Otto; condemn the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and call for the United States to continue to use its voice and vote in the United Nations to condemn systemic human rights violations in North Korea.  

The resolution was subsequently passed unanimously by the Senate. Transcript can be found here and a video can be found here.

Portman, Brown Applaud the Unanimous Senate Passage of Bipartisan Resolution to Commemorate Ohio’s Otto Warmbier & Condemn North Korean Regime for Continued Human Rights Abuses

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) applauded the unanimous Senate passage of their bipartisan resolution to remember and celebrate the life of Cincinnati-native Otto Warmbier who was wrongfully imprisoned and horribly mistreated by the North Korean regime which ultimately led to his death. The resolution also condemns the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and calls for the United States Government to continue to use its voice and vote in the United Nations to condemn systematic human rights violations in North Korea. The Senate passage of this resolution coincides with the three year anniversary of Otto’s passing on June 19, 2017. 

Last year, Portman and Brown championed the Otto Warmbier North Korea Nuclear Sanctions and Enforcement Act which was included in the final FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and signed into law in 2019 and offers foreign banks and firms a stark choice: continue business with North Korea or maintain access to the U.S. financial system. It does this by imposing mandatory sanctions on the foreign banks and companies that facilitate illicit financial transactions for North Korea. The resolution passed today will ensure those sanctions remain fully implemented until such time that the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea commits to the verifiable suspension of its proliferation and testing of weapons of mass destruction, and has agreed to multilateral talks, including with the United States Government. 

“Tomorrow marks three years since Otto died due to his mistreatment by North Korea, so Senate passage of this resolution is timely and important.  We must continue to hold North Korea accountable for their actions and human rights abuses against Otto Warmbier and everyone they’ve illegally held captive. It’s important that we continue to work together to confront the threat that North Korea poses. Fred and Cindy Warmbier have been through more than any parent should have to endure and their commitment to holding North Korea accountable is admirable. I’m proud to be their friend and stand with them in that fight.  We must ensure that Otto is never forgotten,” said Portman.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ohio Conservation Leaders Praise Passage of Portman Legislation to Fund Maintenance Backlog at America’s National Parks

On Wednesday, the Senate passed Senator Portman’s bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act, which will help rebuild our national parks infrastructure by addressing the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS) and support more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years. The Restore Our Parks Act is a part of a broader package, the Great American Outdoors Act -- landmark bipartisan legislation to address the deferred maintenance backlog across the federal land management agencies and to provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Restore Our Parks Act would help tackle the more than $100 million maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national park sites. President Trump has voiced his support for this legislative effort. 

Portman introduced the Restore Our Parks Act with U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) and has pushed the Senate to pass the bipartisan legislation over the last several years. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act in November 2019. Portman worked with his colleagues to expand the Restore Our Parks Act to address the more than $20 billion in deferred maintenance backlog across all land management agencies in the Great American Outdoors Act. This legislation provides $1.9 billion per year for five years into the “National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund” from half of unobligated revenues from on and offshore energy development on federal lands. Recently, Portman announced that a new National Parks Service (NPS) study of the Restore Our Parks legislation found that the legislation will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years to help address the delayed maintenance backlog and rebuild our national parks infrastructure. An additional National Park Service (NPS) study showed that in 2019, visitor spending in communities near national parks resulted in a $41.7 billion benefit to the nation’s economy and supported 340,500 jobs.  

Click here for a list of conservation leaders across Ohio who support the legislation.

Widespread Coverage Highlights Portman’s Bipartisan Legislation Stop Theft of U.S. Research & Intellectual Property

A number of national media outlets are highlighting Senator Portman’s bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, legislation to help stop foreign governments, particularly China, from stealing American taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property developed at U.S. colleges and universities.  Portman, as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded research and IP to China for their own economic and military gain. This legislation will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation.

Excerpts of the coverage can be found here.

Portman Joins Carper and Boozman in Introducing Bipartisan Legislation to Allow Waste and Recycling Costs to be Eligible for SBA Loan Forgiveness

Following the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee’s hearing to examine challenges facing the U.S. recycling industry, U.S. Senators Rob Portman, Tom Carper (D-DE), and John Boozman (R-AR) introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow businesses to include waste and recycling collection costs as eligible to be forgiven through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

This legislation builds upon Senator Portman’s leadership in improving our nation’s waste and recycling sector by introducing the RECYCLE Act (S. 2941), last November.

“I am pleased to join Senators Carper and Boozman in introducing this legislation today, which will amend the Paycheck Protection Program to include waste and recycling costs in the definition of expenses eligible for full loan forgiveness under the program,” said Senator Portman. “PPP already provides loan forgiveness for monthly operating expenses, such as rent payments and utility bills. This commonsense legislation will also allow the necessary expense of waste and recycling services to be forgiven. Not only will this provide additional flexibility and relief to small businesses, but it also recognizes that the waste and recycling industry is an essential service during this coronavirus crisis.”

Portman Announces Additional Federal Aviation Administration CARES Act Grants to Assist Ohio Airports Impacted By COVID-19

Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded an additional $60,000 in federal grants to Ohio airports to help provide economic relief for lost revenue because of COVID-19. A list of airports can be found below. 

In late April, Portman announced that the FAA awarded Northeast Ohio airports with more than $46.5 million in federal grants. In addition, Portman announced 28 Ohio airports received more than $42.1 million in federal grants, and Portman also announced additional FAA grants. Last month, Portman announced $782,000, $3.1 million, nearly $1 million, $189,000, $310,000, and $119,000 in FAA grants to Ohio airports to help address the impacts of COVID-19. In total, Ohio airports have received over $110 million in federal grants.   

These grants come from funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Portman supported and was signed into law by President Trump. Portman released the following statement:   

“A functioning and effective aviation industry is critical to our U.S. economy. During this ongoing coronavirus pandemic, travel has significantly changed leaving the aviation industry in a tough economic position. I’m pleased to see this CARES Act rescue money helping Ohio airports so they can continue to serve Ohio, and beyond this assistance, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure Ohioans have the resources they need during these uncertain times." 

Portman Announces Nearly $1 Million in Federal Grants to Help Health Care Facilities In Ohio Provide Telehealth Services

Portman announced that the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau awarded $947,000 million in telehealth grants to two health care facilities in Ohio that will use this funding to provide telehealth services targeted at low-income patients so that they can receive medical care in more flexible settings. The exact funding amount and details of the facilities telehealth services can be found below. 

This grant award follows previous announcements of telehealth grants for Ohio, including one announced in April for the Health Partners of Western Ohio located in Lima, Ohio. Earlier last month, three facilities received nearly $1 million in funding and four facilities received nearly $800,000 in funding, earlier this month six facilities received $1.8 million in funding, and an addition six facilities received $1.1 million. These grants come from funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Portman supported and was signed into law by President Trump. Portman released the following statement:  

“These new federal grants are good news for folks in Northeast and Central Ohio. During this ongoing coronavirus pandemic, telehealth has become a vital service for Ohioans to receive the health care consultations they need without having to leave the safety of their homes. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure Ohioans have the resources they need during these uncertain times.”

Portman Praises Federal Indictment of CityXGuide Owner on Online Sex Trafficking Charges

Portman praised the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox for seizing CityXGuide and indicting its owner Wilhan Martono, who DOJ described as “taking over from where Backpage left off.” Backpage was the market leader in commercial-sex advertising that has been linked to hundreds of reported cases of sex trafficking, including trafficking of children. The DOJ took action against Backpage in 2018 following a two-year Portman-led investigation into Backpage and online sex trafficking by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he chairs. The CityXGuide indictment was made possible by Portman’s Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), bipartisan legislation enacted in 2018 as part of a broader congressional effort to help stop online sex trafficking and provide justice for victims.  Portman issued the following statement:

“Sex traffickers who sell women and children online must be held accountable for their actions, and I applaud today’s action by the Justice Department against CityXGuide. This is good news for victims and survivors.  I’m pleased that my SESTA law made this indictment possible by clarifying that it is illegal to knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. The law also ensures that sex trafficking victims can seek justice through civil suits and that states may prosecute websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws. I will continue to work to ensure that no more women or children become victims of this terrible crime.”

Portman: Safeguarding American Innovation Act Will Empower the Government to Protect our Research Enterprise

Portman discussed the introduction of his new bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, legislation that will crack down on the theft of intellectual property at federally funded research institutions and universities by China and America’s global competitors in a statement for the Congressional Record. Portman led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs”, China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP to China for their own economic and military gain. This legislation is the product of that investigation and will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation.

This legislation also addresses the findings of PSI’s February 2019 report, which highlighted the Department of Education’s lack of enforcement of foreign gift reporting at U.S. colleges and universities, which the department admitted was “historically lax.” This bill gives the department increased authority to enforce foreign gift reporting rules and lowers the reporting threshold to increase transparency and prevent foreign interference on U.S. campuses. 

The Congressional Record statement can be found here on page S3104.

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

 

'Just scratching the surface': Rob Portman bill aims to expose and prevent Chinese theft of US research 

A top Senate Republican introduced legislation Thursday aimed at stopping foreign governments, particularly China, from engaging in the widespread theft of U.S. taxpayer-funded research and intellectual property developed at U.S. universities.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio spoke with the Washington Examiner about his bipartisan bill, called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act, that he said is co-sponsored by nine Republicans and six Democrats, with others showing interest in joining.

“I think it would be really important if we could get this bill passed to push back against what China has been doing now for two decades,” Portman said. “More and more people are waking up to the fact that our research, often supported by U.S. tax dollars, is leaving our shores and going to China to help fuel their economic and military rise.”

Portman’s legislation, if passed, would enact five major reforms to protect U.S. research. Portman argued the proposals “are all commonsense, nonpartisan approaches on how to tighten things up here in our country so that we continue to lead the world in research — but also so that research doesn’t leak to other countries, particularly China.”

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Portman, released a report last week detailing how the federal government provided "little-to-no oversight" of Chinese state-owned telecoms for two decades and how China is targeting U.S. communications the same way it has targeted education, research, and personal data. That subcommittee previously released reports on China’s foreign funding on U.S. campuses, theft of U.S. research, and cyberattacks against U.S. companies.

The first big change Portman's bill would put into law is punishments, including hefty fines, jail time, and grant prohibitions for those who intentionally fail to disclose foreign support when applying for federal grants.

Portman referenced last week’s revelation from an ongoing National Institutes of Health investigation that 54 scientists had lost their jobs over a failure to disclose financial ties to foreign governments. The vast majority of those cases involved funding from a Chinese institution. Portman said he was told that more than half the researchers were part of China’s Thousand Talents Program.

“The contracts with Chinese funding come with a price, and that is you’re not allowed to talk about it — and you have to agree to give your research to China,” Portman said.

The senator said his legislation would ensure that NIH and other federal grant-givers got a handle on this undue foreign influence. Portman said three other nonpublic actions have also been taken by U.S. authorities in the foreign-funding arena.

“I think we’re just scratching the surface,” Portman said. “I think it’s a bigger problem than you may realize.”

Portman noted the FBI said in one hearing that "they were basically asleep at the switch for the last two decades." But, he added, recently “they’ve been pretty aggressive, and as time goes on, I think you’re going to see more and more of these.”

The Justice Department has increased its scrutiny of China’s activities recently, launching the China Initiative in 2018 and charging espionage cases, cracking down on hacking schemes, prosecuting efforts to steal trade secrets, and going after the Thousand Talents Program, including Harvard professor Charles Lieber.

The Ohio Republican predicted that “if we pass the legislation, you’ll see a lot of this coming to the surface.”

“We cannot afford to have our taxpayer-funded research be going to other countries, and in some respects, being used against us in terms of global competition," Portman said. "Specifically, with regard to the military, certainly that’s direct competition to us — that the Chinese have been able to leapfrog some of the technological work that has been done by simply taking our research.”

The second reform would amend Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 by lowering the reporting threshold required for U.S. universities that receive foreign gifts from $250,000 down to $50,000 while empowering the Education Department to punish schools that fail to report.

Portman said that “transparency is a good thing” and the new law would eliminate the “ambiguity” that is the subject of complaints by universities.

“Overall, I think what you’ll see is a lot more reporting, and that’s good not just for the Department of Education and those who would be enforcing these laws, but also for taxpayers but for parents and for students too,” Portman said. “If you’re getting money from China or from other countries, that’s something that ought to be reported … so people can understand what strings are attached.”

"As the State Department said at one of our hearings, the universities and the Chinese Communist Party are working together," the senator said.

Last month, the Education Department told House Republicans it was concerned about the threat posed by the Chinese government and that its inquiry triggered “catch-up” reporting of more than $6.5 billion in previously undisclosed foreign funds “primarily” from Chinese and Middle Eastern sources on campuses nationwide.

The third big legislative change would strengthen the Student and Exchange Visitor Program by requiring the State Department’s exchange sponsors to put safeguards in place to stop unauthorized access to sensitive technologies. The fourth would increase the State Department’s authority to deny visas to foreign nationals seeking access to these sensitive technologies.

A number of Republican senators proposed a ban on issuing visas to graduate students in technology fields, while House Democrats have raised concerns that ethnically Chinese scientists are being racially profiled. The Trump administration announced in May it would revoke thousands of visas held by Chinese graduate students who had ties to the Chinese military.

Portman's fifth proposal would create a Federal Research Security Council within the Office of Management and Budget and would mandate a standardized U.S. government grant process and the creation of a government-wide grantee database.

“What’s happened is that for a couple decades our research, including U.S. taxpayer-funded research, has been taken by a country that has become a rival. And China is a rival in every respect," Portman said. "It’s not about the Chinese people … it’s about the Chinese Communist Party that has been very determined and persistent in taking research from the United States and taking advantage of it.”

The Ohio Republican said his concern was that "we have allowed this to happen by being naive about the world in which we live, where China is systematically, quite openly, and almost fragrantly targeting the most promising technology and the most promising researchers and has bought it, cheap, by paying the researchers and not paying the U.S. taxpayers — and we can’t let it continue.”

 

GOP senator: Lawmakers better get ‘creative’ before $600-per-week federal jobless benefit expires

Sen. Rob Portman told CNBC on Thursday that Washington lawmakers need a constructive solution to the federal unemployment supplement that is set to expire next month. 

The extra $600 per week on top of state-level benefits was created as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that was passed in March. As of now, it will go away at the end of July. 

“I think we need to come up with something creative,” the Ohio Republican said on “Squawk Box,” calling the looming expiration date “a cliff.” 

“We go from $600 to nothing,” he said. 

Portman has proposed a “return-to-work” bonus of $450 per week while also extending the federal unemployment supplement at a lower amount until the end of the year. “That will help people get back to work, which everybody should be for,” he said.  

Portman and others contend that the current $600-per-week federal supplement creates a disincentive for people to return to work because they can earn more money on unemployment. That could inhibit the U.S. economy’s recovery from the pandemic-induced devastation, they say. 

House Democrats have already passed legislation that includes a provision to extend the $600-per-week federal benefit into early next year. However, the bill is a nonstarter in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The U.S. economy has showed some signs of a stronger-than-expected recovery as states move to ease coronavirus-related restrictions on business. Some 2.5 million jobs were added in May, when economists expected millions of job losses. Retail sales also rose 17.7% last month, more than double expectations.

Former Obama advisor Jason Furman told CNBC earlier this week that extending the enhanced federal unemployment benefit is critical in keep the economic recovery alive. 

“The recovery we’ve seen so far has been assisted by extraordinary fiscal and monetary support, and if we pull that away too soon, we’ll pull the rug out of the prospects for the U.S. economy,” said Furman, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. 

But instead of $600 per week, Furman and a bipartisan group of economists and former policy makers have suggested tying the amount of the weekly benefit to the overall unemployment rate. “We’d start with replacing about 90% of what you’d get on the job and then with lower unemployment rates, that would go lower,” Furman said.

Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic advisor, has said the Trump administration is considering some sort of back-to-work “bonus.” Portman said he has had conversations with a few Democrats about his proposal, suggesting that there was some openness to the idea. 

“But I think they [Democrats] were told by their leadership, ‘Our plan is $600. That’s our negotiating position going into this,’” Portman said. 

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment. 

CNBC reported last week that White House and GOP negotiators plan to wait until late July to begin formal negotiations on a fourth coronavirus stimulus package. But the White House’s current stance on an additional stimulus measure is varied across different administration officials, The Washington Post reported Thursday.  

The Post, citing anonymous sources, reported that some Republicans in Congress are unhappy with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whom they view as too sympathetic to Democratic proposals. 

The lawmakers want Vice President Mike Pence or Mark Meadows, a former House member who is now White House chief of staff, to take on a bigger role in the negotiations, according to the Post.

“Any phase four economic package must prioritize pro-growth economic measures that incentivize employers and our great American workforce to return to the labor market,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Thursday. 

“Under the President’s leadership, the greatest comeback in American history has already begun as evidenced by the May jobs numbers and the recent surge in retail confidence. President’s Trump’s policies of lower taxes, deregulation, reciprocal trade, and energy independence built a booming economy once and they will do so again,” he added.