Rob’s Rundown: Week of May 2 – May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022 | Rob's Rundown

Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where he spoke on the Senate floor for the tenth consecutive session week to discuss Russia’s barbaric and unprovoked war against Ukraine. In his speech, Rob commended the security assistance provided to Ukraine by U.S. allies in Europe and around the globe, and called on the Senate to swiftly pass additional emergency supplemental funding to support Ukraine this week. He also discussed his efforts to seize, not just freeze Russian assets through his bipartisan RELIEF Act as well as his efforts to appoint a Ukraine Security Assistance Coordinator.

On Monday, Portman took to Twitter to celebrate the 2022 National Teacher of the Year and Ohio native, Kurt Russell. Mr. Russell is a veteran educator at Oberlin High School and was honored by the President and First Lady.   

On Wednesday, Portman joined Fox News to preview a Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing that afternoon where he pressed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Mayorkas about the unprecedented crisis at the southern border. Portman highlighted to Secretary Mayorkas how lifting Title 42 without an adequate plan to deter unlawful immigrants once the order is lifted will lead the current border crisis to catastrophe.

During Portman’s questioning of Mayorkas, the Secretary refused to commit to re-implementing effective policies like enhanced technology along the southern border, migrant protection protocols also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, and quick asylum adjudication at the border. On Thursday, Portman followed up with Biden administration officials on their plan to address the catastrophic surge of unlawful migrants and illicit deadly narcotics, like fentanyl, without Title 42.

Finally, Senator Portman released a statement on the Supreme Court opinion leak.

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

On Senate Floor, Portman Commends Aid From Allies For Ukraine, Calls on Senate to Pass Stand-Alone Ukraine Emergency Funding Legislation This Week

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor about Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine. This is the 10th consecutive week Portman has spoken on the Senate floor to highlight Russian war crimes while the Senate is in session. Portman commended the security assistance provided to Ukraine by our allies in Europe and around the globe, and called on the Senate to swiftly pass additional emergency supplemental funding to support Ukraine this week.

Portman also spoke about his efforts to seize, not just freeze Russian assets through his bipartisan RELIEF Act as well as his efforts to appoint a Ukraine Security Assistance Coordinator. The administration heeded Portman’s bipartisan efforts and appointed such a coordinator and endorsed seized Russian assets toward humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery aid for Ukrainians.

Earlier this year, Portman visited the Polish-Ukrainian border and met firsthand with refugees seeking safety from their war-torn homeland. Portman has been a consistent voice for Ukrainians, refugees, and all those standing up to President Putin’s war machine.

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

Portman, Colleagues Urge Commerce Secretary Raimondo to Reconsider Russia’s Status as a Market Economy

Rob Portman led a bipartisan group of colleagues in a letter urging Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to reconsider Russia’s status as a market economy within the meaning of the anti-dumping (AD) law of the Tariff Act of 1930. Although the Commerce Department classified Russia as a market economy in 2002, Russia has backslid in recent years towards less and less of a free market economy. Now after its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has taken further steps to centralize control over the Russian economy. Classifying Russia as a non-market economy would likely increase the anti-dumping duties on Russia in future AD cases.

“Russia imposes restrictions on eight of the eleven types of capital transactions tracked by the International Monetary Fund, and since Russia’s invasion, the conversion of the ruble has become only more difficult. Recently, the Central Bank of Russia announced it will prevent banks from selling foreign currency to Russians and limit how much foreign currency individuals can withdraw from their accounts. These edicts are explicitly designed to restrict access to foreign currency,” said the senators.

The senators continued, “Russia’s economy is also marked by government ownership and control over production. According to Russian government sources, the state’s share in the Russian economy may be as high as 70 percent. This growth of economic intervention by the Russian government tracks the rapid expansion of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in Russia. According to the International Monetary Fund, Russia has the third most SOEs per capita in the world.”

Along with Portman, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), James Lankford (R-OK), Mike Braun (R-IN), Angus S. King Jr. (I-ME), Todd Young (R-IN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY), Steve Daines (R-MT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) also signed onto the letter.

You can read the full letter here.

Portman, Brown Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reform Supplemental Security Income Program to Stop Punishing Americans for Saving for Emergencies
Senators Introduce First Significant Bipartisan SSI Legislation in More than 30 Years

 Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced the introduction of the Savings Penalty Elimination Act to update the asset limits for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries, which would enable beneficiaries to have more savings in case of an emergency without affecting their benefits. The senators’ bill, the first significant bipartisan legislation in decades, would bring the SSI program into the 21st Century and ensure disabled and elderly Ohioans are able to live with dignity.

An often-forgotten part of America's Social Security system, SSI is a federal program that provides vital income assistance to nearly eight million elderly and disabled Americans with low-incomes and limited resources, including over one million disabled children. But due to decades of shameful federal neglect, the program now consigns millions to deep and enduring poverty, when it should instead offer a lifeline out of it.

“Rising costs and inflation is hurting all Americans, but especially our nation’s seniors and those with disabilities. Yet the Supplemental Security Income program that serves these vulnerable populations hasn’t been updated in decades and punishes them for trying to save responsibly,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased to introduce this legislation with Senator Brown to update SSI’s restrictive asset limits and better meet the needs of vulnerable seniors and Ohioans with disabilities.”

The current SSI program hasn’t been updated since the 1980s, and punishes these Americans for working, saving for the future, and getting married. Right now, individuals getting SSI are limited to $2,000 in assets; for married couples it’s $3,000. The average current monthly benefit is $585 for individuals. For approximately 60 percent of recipients, SSI is their only source of income.

The senators’ Savings Penalty Elimination Act would:

  • Update the asset limits for SSI beneficiaries, enabling them to have more savings in case of an emergency without affecting their benefits.
  • The bill will amend those caps, which have not been changed since 1984, to $10,000 and $20,000, respectively, and index them to inflation moving forward

Portman, Coons, Blunt Introduce Senate Resolution to Recognize Poland’s Support of Ukrainian Refugees and Resistance to Russian Aggression

Senators Rob Portman, Chris Coons (D-DE), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced a resolution in the Senate in recognition of Poland’s efforts in welcoming Ukrainian refugees and supporting the Ukrainian resistance. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, over three million Ukrainians have fled across the border into Poland. Poland continues to accept the highest number of refugees compared to surrounding countries, since the war started, and provide critical military aid to Ukraine.

“In the two months since Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, more than five million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their country; over three million of those refugees have traveled to Poland. It has been incredible to see the response by Poland, doing everything they can do to help their neighbors escape violence,” said Portman. “I want to thank the Polish people for opening their hearts and homes and continuing to donate their time and resources to help these refugees. Also, to the Polish government for giving $1.6 billion worth of military aid, which has been vital to Ukraine’s efforts to defend its homeland.”

“The people of Poland are demonstrating to the world what it means to care for the stranger, the widow, and the orphan in our midst,” said Coons. “When I was in Poland in February, I witnessed firsthand the strength of our alliance and commitment to standing behind the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression. Their generosity, their role in arming the Ukrainian military, and their relentless efforts in support of displaced Ukrainian refugees, accepting over 3 million of those displaced by the conflict and welcoming many into their own homes, is a moving example for the rest of us. I am glad to join with Senator Portman and Senator Blunt on Poland’s Constitution Day in recognition of these efforts.”

You can find the text of the resolution here.

At Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, Portman Presses State Department Official on U.S. Diplomatic Return to Ukraine, Status of Global Engagement Center

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, Senator Rob Portman pressed Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon on U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s return to the city, after being forced to leave the country and conduct operations out of neighboring Poland, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Senator Portman expressed concern about the speed of which we are returning, given 17 other countries have already done so.

Senator Portman also questioned Deputy Secretary McKeon on the status of the Global Engagement Center (GEC), which plays a central role in combating disinformation by countries like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Portman expressed concern, especially given the disinformation surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the Biden administration has yet to appoint someone to lead the office and that the amount of funding the administration is contributing to the GEC is too low to effectively counter the threat of Russian disinformation. Senators Portman and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced an amendment, which was accepted, into the United States Innovation and Competition Act that included $150 million for the GEC.

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

Portman, Peters Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Streamline How Government Accountability Office Informs Congress About Unimplemented Recommendations

Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the bipartisan Improving Government for America’s Taxpayers Act, which will require the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as part of its annual reporting to Congress, to submit a report listing unimplemented matters for congressional consideration and identify actions Congress can take to help agencies implement the GAO’s open recommendations.

The GAO, through its individual reports and Recommendations Database, provides information on unimplemented recommendations, but under current reporting requirements, does not submit a report consolidating and listing all unimplemented matters for congressional consideration, nor do their current annual letters to committees list actions Congress can take to help agencies implement open GAO recommendations. This bipartisan legislation will streamline how the GAO informs Congress of the status of unimplemented recommendations by requiring the GAO to submit an annual report listing unimplemented matters for congressional consideration, organized by policy topic, and including the amount of time the recommendations have been unimplemented.  It also requires that the GAO’s annual letters to agencies and congressional committees identify congressional actions that can help agencies implement open GAO recommendations and publish any known costs of unimplemented recommendations. This legislation is the Senate companion to the House bill, H.R. 7331, which was introduced by Representatives William Timmons (R-SC) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA).

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Bipartisan Bill Introduced by Portman, Duckworth to Protect Infants from Deadly “Crib Bumpers” Passes Congress, Soon to Be Signed Into Law
Since 1985, dozens of deaths and more than 100 serious injuries have been directly attributed to these dangerous products

Legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to protect infant lives by banning the sale of padded crib bumpers — which have been proven to pose an unnecessary, deadly risk to sleeping infants — passed Congress last evening and is now headed to the White House to be signed into law by President Joe Biden. The Safe Cribs Act, which was included in the legislation also banning dangerous inclined sleeper products, would make it unlawful nationwide to manufacture and import crib bumpers, which remain widely sold by retailers despite current recommendations advising parents to keep cribs bare to prevent sudden infant death syndrome. The senators’ legislation would direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to enforce a ban on padded crib bumpers nationwide.

“The use of padded crib bumpers poses an unnecessary threat to the health and safety of infants everywhere, there is no reason the sale of these items should continue,” said Portman. “I am pleased that this legislation is finally heading to the president’s desk. I urge him to sign it into law quickly so that we may immediately begin protecting infants from the unnecessary and unacceptable risk of these products.”

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Portman Presses Administration Officials on Catastrophic Surge of Unlawful Migrants and Illicit Narcotics Without Title 42

At a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on securing and ensuring order on the southwest border, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of HSGAC, pressed Biden administration officials on their plan to address the catastrophic surge of unlawful migrants and illicit deadly narcotics, like fentanyl, without Title 42. Last month, the administration announced its intent to lift Title 42. Title 42 is public health order put in place to allow border authorities to turn unlawful immigrants away due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Currently about half of the unlawful immigrants who attempt to enter our country are turned away using Title 42. Portman expressed his concern over lifting Title 42 without an adequate plan to deter unlawful immigrants once the order is lifted as it will lead the current border crisis to catastrophe. In addition to the unprecedented number of individuals, children, and families attempting to enter the country unlawfully, illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, are also coming across the border and into the United States, resulting in a record number of overdose deaths in Ohio and throughout the country. 

Portman discussed how the March CBP operational statistics showed fentanyl seizures at the southern border increased 56 percent in March compared to March 2021 a year ago and over 300 percent increase from March 2020. Those same statistics showed a 33 percent increase in encounters of unlawful migrants at the southern border compared to February and a 78 percent increase from last March, and a 300 percent increase from March 2020.

He also highlighted the need to reform the asylum process that acts as a pull factor to bring unlawful migrants to the southern border and into the United States. Portman voiced his frustration over the reported plans by the Department of Homeland Security to bring more buses, planes, and personnel to the border to process unlawful migrants into the country more quickly when coronavirus-related policies at the border end. This policy change will only increase the worst migration crisis in our nation’s history.   

Finally, Portman also asked officials how they are working to ensure the safety of unaccompanied children at the southern border. Since 2015, PSI has been conducting oversight of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program to place unaccompanied minors with sponsors in this country following reports that HHS placed eight unaccompanied minors with human traffickers who put those children into forced labor in Ohio. PSI has documented its findings in two reports, one released on August 15, 2018 and the other on January 28, 2016. In 2019, Portman introduced bipartisan legislation – the Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act – which requires HHS to better care for and keep track of unaccompanied minors and ensure they appear at their immigration court proceedings.   

A transcript of the exchange can be found here and videos can be found here and here.