Rob’s Rundown: Week of May 17 – May 21, 2021  

May 21, 2021 | Rob's Rundown

Senator Portman was in Washington this week where he delivered remarks on the Senate floor calling on the Biden administration to discontinue the disincentive to work caused by the expanded federal unemployment insurance (UI) supplement continuing through Labor Day. Portman discussed how this $300 per week supplement, combined with the in-place state unemployment benefits, results in 42 percent of workers making more money by staying home as opposed to returning to work. Portman also addressed the issue in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday morning. 

Also this week, Portman joined FOX Business’ Kudlow to discuss President Biden’s recent tax increase proposals, the negative effects they would have on workers’ wages and benefits, and how they would make America less competitive on a world stage. He also touted the successes of 2017 Republican tax reforms, which led the country to achieve the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, made our tax code more attractive for American companies, and questioned why Democratic leaders would undo those successes. 

Portman teamed up with Senator Peters to introduce bipartisan legislation to set the United States Postal Service on a more sustainable financial footing and support the goal of providing long-term reliable service across the country. The bill strengthens transparency and accountability for Postal Service performance, eliminates unnecessary financial burdens, and helps ensure the Postal Service can better serve the American people.  

During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Portman highlighted the importance of diversifying supply chains away from China, reshoring manufacturing to the United States, and incentivizing production in the Western Hemisphere. Portman outlined three specific issue areas that he hoped to address in the hearing, including what steps the United States should take to reduce overreliance on foreign countries for critical medical supplies, how to foster a strong “Industrial Commons” for medical supplies throughout the country, and how to ensure that the Strategic National Stockpile is adequately stocked and prepared for any future outbreak. 

Finally, Portman introduced landmark retirement security reform legislation which aims to strengthen our nation’s retirement security system and ensure Americans have the savings to retire with dignity and peace of mind.  

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

Monday, May 17, 2021

On FOX Business, Portman Outlines How President Biden’s Massive Tax Hikes Will Hurt American Workers

This afternoon, on FOX Business’ Kudlow, Senator Portman discussed President Biden’s recent tax increase proposals, the negative effects they would have on workers’ wages and benefits, and how they would make America less competitive on a world stage. He also highlighted the successes of 2017 Republican tax reforms, in which the country achieved the lowest unemployment rates in 50 years and made our tax code more attractive for American companies, and questioned why Democratic leaders would undo those successes. 

Excerpts of the interview can be found here and a video can be found here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

On CNBC, Portman Discusses Negative Effects of Federal Unemployment Supplement, Closed Schools

During an interview this morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Senator Portman discussed the federal $300 per week unemployment supplement, passed by Democrats in the last spending bill, and how it has hurt the economy. Many Americans are not returning to work because their expanded unemployment insurance is more than their previous income, leading to a large number of unfilled jobs. He also pointed out how keeping schools closed has become a massive burden on families, especially women, who are unable to return to work because they cannot afford child care. Moreover, Portman discussed how Republicans have been able to unify and focus on policy, given recent unpopular proposals by Democrats. 

The transcript of the interview can be found here and you can watch the interview here.

Portman Highlights Importance of DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis Distributing Information, Collecting Intelligence & Quickly Assessing & Confronting New, Evolving Threats to Protect the Homeland

Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered an opening statement at a hearing to examine the role of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A). Portman spoke on the importance of I&A to protect the United States from threats both foreign and domestic, and highlighted the need to examine how I&A can more effectively do its job, including better distribution of information, collecting intelligence from social media platforms, and leveraging relationships with state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners to quickly assess and confront new and evolving threats. 

Portman highlighted how I&A’s partnership with a fusion center in Columbus, Ohio resulted in the identification of a suspect who intended to cause mass violence at a music concert venue in Columbus. However, Portman also noted that a lack of intelligence and information sharing from I&A and other intelligence agencies resulted in a lack of coordination and preparation for the Capitol attack on January 6th. 

In today’s hearing, Portman heard from witnesses about how I&A can appropriately and efficiently provide intelligence collection, production, and dissemination at a time when the United States faces dynamic and complex threats, both foreign and domestic. 

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

At Hearing, Expert Witnesses Agree with Portman on Importance of DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked expert witnesses about the importance of having the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) at the Department of Homeland Security to protect the United States from threats both foreign and domestic. The former I&A officials agreed with Portman that the office is essential to safeguarding the United States from evolving threats. 

Portman also highlighted the need to examine how I&A can more effectively do its job, including leveraging relationships with state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners to quickly assess and confront the growth of transnational criminal organizations, or TCOs, which are responsible for a large number of criminal activities in the United States, including the movement of illicit, deadly synthetic drugs, like fentanyl, throughout the country.   

Finally, Portman urged the administration to put in place leadership at I&A in an effort to boost morale and address workforce issues within the office. 

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

Portman, Kelly Introduce the ROCKS Act to Make Transportation Projects More Efficient and Cost Effective

Senators Rob Portman and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced the Rebuilding Our Communities by Keeping Aggregates Sustainable (ROCKS) Act, a bill that would make federal transportation projects more sustainable, efficient, and beneficial to local economies by advancing the use of locally-sourced aggregate resources, like sand, stone, and gravel. In the House, a companion bill has been introduced by Reps. Troy Balderson (R-OH) and Greg Stanton (D-AZ).  

Aggregates are needed to build roads, bridges, homes, and commercial buildings. Yet, builders are often unable to access locally-sourced aggregates, causing an increase in both the cost of transportation and infrastructure projects. Currently, federal projects are not required to identify nearby sources of aggregates when beginning construction projects, despite significant evidence that demonstrates locally-sourced aggregates are both more cost effective and environmentally friendly. The ROCKS Act strives to change that by requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to convene a working group to study the use of aggregate resources in federal transportation projects. 

“Aggregates – stone, sand, gravel – are the building blocks of every new home, building, road, bridge, and other public works project. Over the past few decades, aggregates have increasingly gone from being locally-sourced to being hauled long distances, resulting in increased construction costs and inefficient project delivery,” said Senator Portman. “This bipartisan legislation would bring together federal, state, and local stakeholders to determine the best way to source aggregates around the country, in an effort to reduce costs and emissions, while improving project development and delivery. I encourage my Senate colleagues to support this bill as we look to address our nation’s infrastructure needs.”

At Finance Hearing, Portman Questions Witnesses on Solutions for Financing Infrastructure Upgrades 

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Portman questioned the various witnesses on potential solutions to pay for major infrastructure upgrades, such as public-private partnerships, infrastructure banks, and greater flexibility for states to employ unused COVID funds for infrastructure.  

While Portman supports improving America’s aging roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure, he opposes President Biden’s $2.3 trillion plan, which is filled with policy priorities that are a far cry from what has ever been considered infrastructure. Portman believes that a responsible infrastructure bill can be financed without raising taxes on American families and job creators.  

Excerpts of Senator Portmans questioning can be found here and video can be found here.

Portman, Brown Urge Administration to Work with Congress to Develop New Trade Remedy Tools

Portman sent a letter to Department of Commerce (Commerce) Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai, to offer their support to the administration in hopes of working with USTR and Commerce to provide new trade remedy tools that would combat market-distorting trade practices, especially those pushed by the People’s Republic of China. USTR Tai and Secretary Raimondo have recently expressed a desire for Congress to provide new tools to address market distortions, such as industrial overcapacity. Senators Portman and Brown emphasized the importance of their bipartisan legislation, the Eliminating Global Market Distortions to Protect American Jobs Act, which contains multiple proposals that would modify the trade remedy law in ways that answer the need for new tools. 

“We were encouraged by Ambassador Tai’s remarks in front of the Senate Finance Committee last week, that the United Stated needs ‘2021 tools for addressing the 2021 challenges we have rather than relying on 1962 tools and retrofitting them for the challenges we now have.’ While 1962 is a reference to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962—the authority for the current tariffs on steel and aluminum—we agree that Section 232 is not the only example of the concept described in your testimony. The United States is also stuck retrofitting tools for our anti-dumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) laws established in the Tariff Act of 1930. We cannot adequately support and defend American workers and manufacturers against China’s techno-nationalism with tools designed for the Herbert Hoover presidency. We agree with you, Ambassador Tai: 21st century trade challenges require 21st century solutions,” the senators wrote. 

The senators continued, “In both of these statements, we see an opportunity to work with the USTR and the Department of Commerce to provide new tools to achieve these aims. The bipartisan Eliminating Global Market Distortions to Protect American Jobs Act would add to existing AD/CVD law the concept of successive investigations, ensuring our domestic industry does not lose valuable time restarting trade cases when foreign cheats move factories to new countries in order to escape the reach of existing U.S. trade remedies.” 

Text of the letter can be found here.

On Senate Floor, Portman Calls on Biden Administration to Address Nationwide Worker Shortage Due to Expanded Unemployment Benefits

on the Senate floor, Senator Portman once again called on the Biden administration to address the current shortage of workers by dismantling the disincentives to work put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. He discussed how the federal $300 per week unemployment supplement, passed by Democrats in the last spending bill, is undermining employers’ efforts to hire new workers for the more than eight million job openings around the country. Many Americans are not returning to work because their expanded unemployment insurance is more than their previous income, leading to a large number of unfilled jobs

While Portman supported bipartisan proposals to expand UI when the pandemic forced widespread business closures and resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs through no fault of their own, he argued that the widespread vaccinations have allowed our economy to reopen and that now the focus should be on filling the record number of jobs that are available. 

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Portman, Warren Introduce Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act to Support Military Families

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act to amend Title 10 of the U.S. Code to prohibit the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) from clawing back any Department of Defense (DoD) retirement benefit overpayments received in the month when the veteran was alive for at least 24 hours. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and John Boozman (R-AR) are cosponsors of the bill. Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Michael Turner (R-OH) have introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

DoD retirement benefits are deposited electronically into the bank accounts of military retirees at the beginning of the month. When a veteran / DoD retirement beneficiary dies, DFAS can immediately take back retirement benefit overpayments. Survivors who jointly own bank accounts with the veteran are often unaware of this insensitive practice, which results in financial hardship and overdraft fees while they are still mourning the veteran’s death. 

“The last thing families of veterans and retired servicemembers need to worry about after the death of their loved ones is overdraft fees,” said Senator Portman. “This bipartisan bill would end DoD’s practice of taking back benefits without account holders’ knowledge and avoid any unnecessary financial hardships for grieving military families during an already difficult time.”

Portman Joins Colleagues in Sending Letter to President Biden Opposing Executive Action to Revoke Federal Agencies Requirement to Post Guidance Documents in Searchable Database

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Ron Johnson (R-WI) led 19 of their Senate Republican colleagues in calling on President Biden to reverse his executive order that revoked a requirement that federal agencies post guidance documents in a searchable database. The earlier executive order revoked by President Biden was modeled after bipartisan legislation, the Guidance Out of Darkness Act (GOOD Act) that was approved by voice vote by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in the last two sessions of Congress. 

“Since February, a number of federal agencies have taken steps to eliminate public access to guidance documents in order to comply with your directive. We believe these actions run counter to the principles of an open, transparent government and the rule of law,” wrote the senators. 

“In the past, efforts to promote a more open and transparent government have been bipartisan, and we see no reason why they should not be today,” continued the senators. “Again, we respectfully urge you to reconsider your revocation of the Public Access to Guidance EO, Executive Order 13891, or support our efforts to pass S. 628, the Guidance Out Of Darkness (GOOD) Act this Congress.” 

Joining Portman and Johnson were Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Richard Burr (R-NC), Joni Ernst (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). 

The senators’ letter from February 8, stated, “Executive Order 13891 was modeled on bipartisan legislation, the Guidance Out Of Darkness Act, or the GOOD Act. The GOOD Act was approved by voice vote by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs the last two Congresses. The House of Representatives also passed the companion bill by voice vote in 2018. The revocation of an executive order with such widespread and long-standing bipartisan support seems inconsistent with the administration’s stated desire for compromise and to “reach across the aisle, and work together.” 

The full text of the letter is here.

Portman, Bennet Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase U.S. Small Business Participation in International Standards Setting

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced their bipartisan legislation, the Leadership in Global Tech Standards Act, to establish a grant program for U.S. small businesses in order to increase their participation in international technology standards-setting efforts. 

Earlier this year, the congressionally chartered National Security Commission on AI (NSCAI), released a report recommending a number of ways Congress could improve the Artificial Intelligence (AI) capacity and capabilities of the United States. As the NSCAI recommended, this bill would authorize a grant program for small and medium-sized U.S. AI companies to cover the high costs of engaging in international standardization efforts, including conducting relevant research, developing requisite skills and expertise, preparing standards proposals, and attending technical standards-setting meetings. 

“Being involved in international technology standards-setting efforts remains a critical aspect of American competitiveness,” said Senator Portman, co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus. “Unfortunately, in recent years, U.S. participation has fallen behind, while China’s participation surges. This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that the U.S. continues to be engage in the standards-setting process by providing smaller sized companies the necessary funds to participate in the many international events involved in the process.”

Portman, Peters Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Stabilize U.S. Postal Service and Promote Long-Term Sustainable Service

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to set the United States Postal Service on more sustainable financial footing and support the goal of providing long-term reliable service across the country. The bill strengthens transparency and accountability for Postal Service performance, eliminates unnecessary financial burdens, and helps ensure the Postal Service can better serve the American people. U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Shelley Capito (R-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Roy Blunt (D-MO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined Portman and Peters in introducing the bill as original cosponsors. A bipartisan companion bill was approved by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week. 

“While its role in American life has changed over the years, the United States Postal Service remains a key part of American life, serving Americans through its delivery of vital medicines, important packages, and other mail,” said Ranking Member Portman. “For that reason, I am proud to join Senator Peters in introducing the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021, which will, when coupled with the Postal Service’s transformative 10-year plan, help turn around the substantial losses at the Postal Service over the last decade and ensure self-sustaining, high-quality postal service for all Americans.” 

Portman: We Need to Diversify Supply Chains, Reshore Manufacturing & Incentivize American Production to Prepare for Future Pandemics

Senator Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered opening remarks at a second hearing to examine the supply chain vulnerability during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Portman highlighted the importance of diversifying supply chains away from China, reshoring manufacturing to the United States, and incentivizing production in the Western Hemisphere. Portman highlighted three specific issues areas that he hoped to address in the hearing, including what steps the United States should take to reduce overreliance on foreign countries for critical medical supplies, how to foster a strong “Industrial Commons” for medical supplies throughout the country, and how to ensure that the Strategic National Stockpile is adequately stocked and prepared for any future outbreak. 

Portman has led efforts to reshore personal protective equipment (PPE) production and his bipartisan Make PPE in America legislation passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week. This legislation will strengthen efforts to onshore production of PPE in the United States by requiring federal agencies to issue long-term contracts for American-made PPE. Reshoring production will ensure American workers, health care professionals, and more have the PPE they need during future pandemics and other public health threats. 

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

On Senate Floor, Portman Calls for End to Expanded Federal Unemployment Insurance Supplement, Highlights Impact on Ohio Businesses

On the Senate floor, Portman joined his colleagues to again call on the Biden administration to dismantle the disincentive to work caused by the expanded federal unemployment insurance (UI) supplement continuing through Labor Day despite the economy reopening. Portman discussed how this $300 per week supplement, combined with the in-place state unemployment benefits, results in 42 percent of workers making more money by staying home instead of returning to work.

The disincentive to return to the workforce has created hiring problems in Ohio and across the country, with the economy only adding 266,000 jobs in April despite a record 8.1 million job openings. This has serious consequences, as Portman highlighted a number of businesses in Ohio that have reduced their operating hours or closed permanently due to being understaffed.  

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

Expert Witnesses Agree with Portman that the United States is Too Dependent on China for Critical Public Health Supplies

Senator Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, questioned witnesses at a second hearing to examine supply chain vulnerabilities during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and what the United States can do to be better prepared for future pandemics. All four of the expert witnesses agreed with Senator Portman that the United States is too dependent on foreign countries, like China, for supplies critical for the pandemic response. Portman highlighted the importance of diversifying supply chains away from China, and reshoring manufacturing to the United States. 

Portman has led efforts to reshore personal protective equipment (PPE) production and his bipartisan Make PPE in America legislation passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week. This legislation will strengthen efforts to onshore production of PPE in the United States by requiring federal agencies to issue long-term contracts for American-made PPE. Reshoring production will ensure American workers, health care professionals, and more have the PPE they need during future pandemics and other public health threats. 

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

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Portman Opposes the Biden Administration’s Decision Not to Impose Congressionally-Mandated Sanctions on Nord Stream 2 Entities, Decision Helps Russia, Hurts Ukraine

Senator Rob Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European and Regional Security Cooperation, issued the following statement after Congress received the mandatory report from the State Department concerning sanctionable activities by builders of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline. The Biden administration has announced that it will cite U.S. national security interests and waive congressionally-imposed sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 AG holding company and its CEO, Mattias Warnig. 

“I am opposed to the Biden administration’s decision to waive the congressionally-mandated sanctions against Nord Stream 2 AG. This choice is contrary to our national interests, and at an especially volatile period, helps Russia while hurting Ukraine and our European Union allies. 

“There is clear and convincing evidence that Nord Stream 2 AG and CEO Mattias Warnig are committing sanctionable acts and should be subject to these sanctions under U.S. law. In addition, the State Department is on record saying that the Biden administration believes the pipeline is a bad idea, will hurt Europe, and is against our U.S. national interests. I, and my bipartisan colleagues in Congress, see this project for what it really is — an attempt by Russia to gain control over its European neighbors through the region’s energy supply.   

“At a time when President Putin continues to place unremitting military, political, and economic pressure on Ukraine, we need to stand with our ally and follow our own laws — which call for sanctions, not waivers. The Biden administration must explain how they will offset the negative strategic impacts of this policy to ensure security of our European partners and allies. It is clear from this decision that it is time to support a NATO Membership Action Plan for Ukraine.” 

Expanded Unemployment Benefits Continue to Undermine Hiring In Ohio

With the economy heating up, businesses across the state of Ohio and the nation are looking to hire but increasingly unable to fill job openings. Although 9.8 million Americans are unemployed, there are currently 8.1 million jobs waiting to be filled, the highest in our nation’s history.  

The disparity can be explained, in part, by the $300 per week federal unemployment insurance (UI) supplement that, when combined with the state unemployment benefits, has created a situation where more than 40 percent of workers can make more staying home than they would earn returning to work. 

Senator Portman has led efforts in Congress to end the enhanced unemployment benefit and encourage a return to work. He notes that with vaccines widely available and a record number of job openings, there is no reason the federal government should be paying people not to work. Meanwhile, 21 states, including Ohio, have taken matters into their own hands by deciding to phase out the $300 per week supplement.  

Here is a sampling of Ohio media reports highlighting the struggle by business owners to get workers back in the labor force and how it’s affecting their businesses:

Friday, May 21, 2021

Portman, Cardin Renew Call for Sweeping Reforms to Strengthen Retirement Security

Senators Rob Portman and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Retirement Security & Savings Act (S. 1770), a broad set of reforms designed to strengthen Americans’ retirement security. The bill addresses four major opportunities in the existing retirement system: (1) allowing people who have saved too little to set more aside for their retirement; (2) helping small businesses offer 401(k)s and other retirement plans; (3) expanding access to retirement savings plans, including for low-income Americans without coverage; and (4) providing more certainty and flexibility during Americans’ retirement years. The measure includes more than 50 provisions to accomplish these objectives. 

Real progress has been achieved in strengthening overall retirement savings since the senators’ first landmark legislation 20 years ago; however, significant challenges in our private sector retirement system remain. Those include an aging baby boomer population that has not saved enough for retirement, lack of access to employer-sponsored plans in smaller businesses, too many low-income Americans without retirement savings at all, or those whose retirement security has taken a hit during the pandemic, and inadequate lifetime savings. Further, the financial strain and economic effects of the pandemic will be felt for years to come. Millions of Americans were out of work and small businesses struggled to survive. It will take years for these individuals to get their retirement plans back on track. 

Even before the pandemic, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that nearly half of all near-retirees over age 55 have no retirement savings at all. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey shows that while 67 percent of private-sector workers have access to an employer-sponsored plan that number drops to 49 percent for individuals working for the smallest businesses and 39 percent for part-time workers. Actual participation rates in workplace plans lag even further behind, especially for those individuals in the bottom quartile of wage earners. Among those lowest-paid workers, only about one in five earn retirement benefits, with just 22 percent of low-income workers participating in a retirement plan. The final challenge is the lack of adequate lifetime savings as Americans are living longer post-retirement. This legislation seeks to address all of these issues through bipartisan, commonsense measures.  

“This bipartisan legislation includes sweeping reforms to help Americans save more for retirement by allowing people who have saved too little to set more aside for their retirement, helping small businesses offer 401(k)s and other retirement plans, expanding access to retirement savings plans for low-income Americans without coverage, and providing more certainty and flexibility during Americans’ retirement years,” said Senator Portman. “Many Americans’ 401(k)s have grown significantly in the last year, but many Americans with low incomes have struggled during the pandemic through the loss of jobs and as a result their retirement security has taken a hit. Through the Saver’s Credit and other provisions, this bill focuses on expanding access to retirement plans for low-income Americans and helping those who already have them save more for their retirement. I look forward to working with Senator Cardin, Chairman Wyden, and Ranking Member Crapo to move this legislation through the Finance Committee and urge all of my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill so we can strengthen the retirement security of all Americans.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Overhaul Postal Service

Senators on Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation that would be the most significant overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service in years, after the beleaguered agency repeatedly asked Congress for help to address its bleak financial situation.

Legislation to address the Postal Service’s dire finances has languished in Congress for years. But with enough Republican support to pass the Senate, the announcement of the bill, called the Postal Service Reform Act of 2021, is an unexpected indication of bipartisan compromise in a divided Congress.

The legislation would eliminate the requirement that the agency pre-fund its health benefits for retirees under a 2006 law and would integrate its health care with Medicare, which the senators and the Postal Service both estimate could save the agency more than $40 billion over the next decade.

In addition, the bill would require that the agency publish easily accessible weekly service data on its website, which would allow customers to search information by street address, ZIP Code or post office box. The Postal Service would also have to issue a detailed report on its finances and operations to Congress every six months and maintain a delivery standard of at least six days a week.

The agency, which is supposed to be self-sustaining, has lost $87 billion in the past 14 fiscal years and is projected to lose another $9.7 billion in fiscal 2021.

In March, the Postal Service published a 10-year plan to stabilize its finances that included the elimination of the pre-funding requirement as a pillar. Other provisions, including the lengthening of promised delivery times and reduced hours, were immediately condemned by congressional Democrats. The legislation would not reverse the service cutbacks.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the top Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the legislation, coupled with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s divisive 10-year plan, could “help turn around the substantial losses at the Postal Service over the last decade and ensure self-sustaining, high-quality postal service for all Americans.”

The Post Service “remains a key part of American life,” said Mr. Portman, who pushed the bill with Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan.

Ten Senate Republicans joined Mr. Portman as co-sponsors, including Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley of Missouri, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Dan Sullivan of Alaska. Their support would give Democrats the requisite Republican support to overcome a potential filibuster in the Senate. A companion bill passed through the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week with bipartisan support. In statements, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the committee’s chairwoman, and its top Republican, Representative James R. Comer of Kentucky, underscored the support from both parties.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Postal Service said the agency was “encouraged” by the introduction of bipartisan and bicameral legislation.

Although the Postal Service has not yet reviewed the Senate language, the House bill “does contain the long-requested reforms of our retiree health benefits,” said the spokesman, David Partenheimer. “This will be a major step forward for financial sustainability of the Postal Service.”

The agency was under intense scrutiny last summer, when Mr. DeJoy, the new postmaster general and a Trump megadonor, instituted operational changes that coincided with nationwide slowdowns in mail delivery. Democrats accused Mr. DeJoy and the agency’s board of governors, which was made up entirely of Trump appointees, of trying to sabotage the 2020 election, in which a record number of votes were cast by mail.

A slew of lawsuits filed in federal court forced the agency to halt its operational changes and publish regular reports on service performance that would disclose its rate of on-time delivery and specifically the rate of on-time delivery of ballots. However, those disclosures became much more infrequent after the election, even as on-time delivery rates reached record lows during a crushing holiday season.

Mr. DeJoy testified to Congress several times in the past year, and congressional Democrats grilled him about his ties to President Donald J. Trump and his plans for the agency’s future. Republicans also lambasted Democrats for the political sparring over the Postal Service last summer. Some Democrats continued to call for Mr. DeJoy’s resignation well after the election, along with those of the Trump appointees confirmed to the agency’s board of governors.

Since the release of the Postal Service’s 10-year plan, the Senate has confirmed two of President Biden’s three picks to the agency’s board of governors, which will offset the Republicans’ advantage on the board. The agency has also installed a new deputy postmaster general, Douglas Tulino, a 41-year veteran of the Postal Service and its chief human resources officer.

Despite the partisan fight over the plans, Democrats appeared willing to fulfill Mr. DeJoy’s requests. Mr. Peters called the legislation common sense.

“For decades, the Postal Service has struggled to overcome unfair and burdensome financial requirements that risk its ability to continue providing reliable service in the long run,” the senator said in a statement. “This common-sense, bipartisan legislation would help put the Postal Service on a sustainable financial footing, ensure it is more transparent and accountable to the American people, and support hardworking postal workers who deliver rain or shine to communities all across the country.”

 

Ohio Senator urges Washington to stop Federal Unemployment Supplement (WTRF, Shelby Davis)

Ohio Senator Rob Portman is speaking out against the current Federal Unemployment Supplement.

He says the extra 300 dollars those on unemployment are receiving weekly is keeping people in their homes instead of at a job.

Right now– there are 8.1 million jobs in the U.S… The highest amount of available jobs ever. But, 42 percent of those on unemployment are making more staying at home than working.

So– he’s urging to end the supplement and instead entice those to go back to work by giving them 100 dollars per week for six weeks. Portman says this would be on top of the incentive many businesses are already offering for those new hires.

“I drove by Frisch’s Big Boy Restaurant on the way to the airport, and they’re paying a $250 bonus. Others are paying a $500 bonus. Others are paying a lot more. I mean, people are just desperate to get workers and the federal government ought not to be standing in the way of that.”

Currently– the federal unemployment supplement goes until labor day. Portman hopes congress will discuss options to move forward and consider the extra $100 weekly incentive he suggested.

 

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