Rob’s Rundown: Week of May 23 – May 27, 2022

May 27, 2022 | Rob's Rundown

Rob’s Rundown: Week of May 23 – May 27, 2022

Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where he spoke on the Senate floor for the 13th consecutive session week to discuss the swift passage of the Ukraine supplemental package that will replenish Ukraine’s defensive weaponry. Portman highlighted the United States’ renewed diplomatic presence in Ukraine with the U.S. Embassy reopening in Kyiv, and Ambassador Bridget Brink now confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. He also noted the importance of the NATO alliance and emphasized that the invasion only further united the NATO alliance. He also expressed his support for Finland and Sweden to join forces against Russian aggression and encouraged the Senate to swiftly confirm their application.

On Tuesday, Portman released a statement after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced federal charges against an alleged ISIS operative in Columbus, Ohio was in the United States with a pending asylum application, planning to use our unsecured southern border to bring in fellow terrorists, and plotting to murder President George W. Bush. Portman was alarmed that the alleged ISIS operative has been working in Columbus, Ohio with a pending asylum application and stated that it is clear that the vetting process for our asylum program is broken and the administration must take action immediately to ensure no more terrorists are allowed into Ohio or our country.

Tuesday, Senator Portman joined Bloomberg TV to discuss the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – though the framework does not include market access, Portman said it would lead to reducing barriers in the region. Portman also discussed Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and the United States’ record high inflation.

On Wednesday, Portman released a statement calling for the Conference Committee tasked with reconciling differences between the Senate’s United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and the House’s America COMPETES Act, to include his bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, in the wake of yet another Thousand Talent Plan award recipient being sentenced for stealing trade secrets, economic espionage, and wire fraud. Portman stated that any conference report with significant increased levels of federal funding for research without the protections included in the Safeguarding American Innovation Act would be a huge giveaway to Beijing.

In addition, Portman expressed his condolences to the families and victims of the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Portman Op-Ed for Columbus Dispatch: “OSU Deaths Example of Terrifying Rise of Counterfeit Drugs. National Action Needed.”

In a new op-ed for the Columbus Dispatch, Senator Portman discusses the deadly opioid epidemic that continues to tear apart families across the nation. Portman brings specific attention to the recent deaths of two students from The Ohio State University who tragically overdosed on pills they thought were Adderall, but were poisoned with the fatal synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

As Portman discusses in the op-ed, Congress can do much more to ensure our streets, neighborhoods, and communities are safe from this drug. Portman noted that besides legislative action to curb the treatment of addiction through telehealth, and nationwide addiction programs, we cannot ignore where the drugs are coming from: our Southern border.

Portman closes by asking Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass his bipartisan CARA 3.0, FIGHT Fentanyl Act, and TREATS Act legislation, which expands our health care and justice system’s scope to ensure that all Americans fighting addiction have the chance to overcome this disease, and those who sell synthetic opioids are punished.

The full op-ed can be found here.

Portman, Bipartisan Group of Senators Urge the Biden Administration to Swiftly Advance NATO Applications for Sweden & Finland

U.S. Senator Rob Portman today joined a bipartisan group of 81 others senators in sending a letter to President Biden urging him to expedite the Executive Branch’s process to advance Sweden and Finland’s applications for NATO membership and pledging to work with the administration to ensure swift ratification of the Washington Treaty.

In the letter, the senators noted that NATO’s expansion will send a clear message to Putin and authoritarian leaders across the globe that the free world stands ready to bolster the alliance and defend our values and sovereignty, including through NATO’s open door policy.

“As Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has proven, NATO, along with our democratic partners around the world, is more united than ever in opposition to the illegal acts of war waged by President Putin. Expanding NATO to include Finland and Sweden will send a clear message to Vladimir Putin, and any leader that attempts to follow in his path, that the free world stands ready to defend its values and sovereignty. We will also continue to support NATO’s open-door policy, which affirms that new members are welcome to the alliance,” the senators wrote.

 Final text of the letter is available here.

On Bloomberg TV, Portman Discusses Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, Ukraine, Soaring Inflation in the U.S.

Senator Portman joined Bloomberg TV this afternoon to discuss the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – though the framework does not include market access, Portman said it would lead to reducing barriers in the region, which is a good thing. When asked if including market access would be doable in a trade agreement in the region, Portman argued that an agreement of that nature would be most plausible with Japan – given the Trump administration already put a phase one agreement in place with Japan, the U.S. is about a third of the way towards an actual free-trade agreement with the country. Portman said such an agreement would put the U.S. in a much stronger position in the Indo-Pacific area and could lead to similar agreements with some of the smaller countries in the region.

Portman also discussed Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, particularly Odessa, which has not allowed for any Ukrainian exports to leave the country by sea. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and its inability to ship its products means that many poor countries, already suffering from food insecurity, will be devastated. Portman called for a humanitarian corridor to be opened to get the exports out, saying the United States should play a central role, but so should the United Nations and every other country who believe that it is important to have these exports continue.

Finally, he touched on this country’s record high gas prices, inflation, and the importance of supporting and expanding energy production in North America. With soaring demands for energy, leading to the highest inflation in forty years, Portman said it is crucial we address the supply side of the issue – energy production – in order to fight the surging inflation and the rising prices.

Watch the interview here.

On Senate Floor, Portman Commends Passage of Ukraine Supplemental Package, Confirmation of US Ambassador to Ukraine & Importance of NATO Alliance

Tonight, U.S. Senator Rob Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor for the 13th consecutive week while the Senate has been in session. Portman spoke about the swift passage of the Ukraine supplemental package that will replenish Ukraine’s defensive weaponry, as well as our stockpiles in the United States. Portman highlighted the United States’ renewed diplomatic presence in Ukraine with the U.S. Embassy reopening in Kyiv, and Ambassador Bridget Brink now confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Senator Portman noted the importance of the NATO alliance, Russian diplomatic and military defectors who have reversed course during this illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine, and also touched on President Biden’s first trip to Asia where he stressed China’s alliance with Russia and its threat in the Indo-Pacific.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and co-chair and co-founder of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, Senator Portman has long been an advocate for Ukraine and continues to push for further aid and bipartisan action to counter Russian aggression.

A video can be found here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Portman, Bipartisan Group of Senators Urge President Biden to Keep Section 301 Tariffs in Place, Enforce Phase One Agreement with China

U.S. Senator Rob Portman today led a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to President Biden urging him not to lift the Section 301 tariffs, which currently target China and their illegal and unfair trade practices. The Biden administration has publicly signaled a desire to lift the tariffs, a policy position long advocated for by the Chinese Communist Party. The Biden administration has also noted that China has failed to comply with provisions in the Phase One Agreement, which the Trump administration reached with China in January 2020. Despite China’s non-compliance, the Biden administration has signaled a reluctance to utilize the Agreement’s enforcement mechanism to hold China accountable.

“We write to express our continued support for the trade action taken against China pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. We share long-standing concerns about the ways in which China’s acts, policies, and practices have discriminated against U.S. exports and contributed to the offshoring of U.S. jobs, manufacturing, and innovation, all of which has undermined the competitiveness of our country. As you consider the future of the Section 301 action, we urge you to substantially maintain the tariffs in their current form. Rolling back the tariffs on China would undermine the U.S. position in negotiations, expose many U.S. companies and workers to a sudden flood of imports, and signal to China that waiting out the United States is preferable to changing their non-market behavior or complying with the Phase One Agreement,” said the senators.

They continued, “Rather than lifting the tariffs, the United States should use the enforcement tools guaranteed by that agreement to make clear that we are serious about rectifying its violations. We need to make clear to China that dialogue leads to commitments—and failure to adhere to these commitments are followed by robust enforcement. If we do not exercise the legal rights under the Phase One Agreement, it will only make it more difficult to make progress with China on the subsidies, state-owned enterprises, suppression of labor rights, and other unfair behaviors that are the core of the structural obstacles to a level playing field in bilateral trade.”

Final text of the letter is available here and below.

Ohio to Receive Infrastructure Investment to Remedy and Reclaim Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

Funding Made Available Through Portman’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

U.S. Senator Rob Portman announced that the Department of the Interior (DOI) will be making a $33 million investment to plug, remediate, and reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells and well sites in national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and on other public lands. This investment was made possible thanks to Portman’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which was signed into law last November. Today’s announcement includes funding for three wells in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

“Today’s announcement is great news for Ohio and for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Cleaning up orphaned oil and gas wells is an important way keep our communities and recreations areas clean and safe,” said Senator Portman. “I was proud to lead negotiations on the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will continue to benefit communities across Ohio. And this is just the beginning – I look forward to other similar, important projects in Ohio, and around the country, being funded thanks to this infrastructure law.”

The bipartisan IIJA provided a total of $21 billion to address legacy pollution, including funding to clean up clean up brownfield and superfund sites, reclaim abandoned mine lands, and plug orphan oil and gas wells. Specifically, IIJA provided $4.7 billion to address orphan wells for plugging wells on Federal land, and for issuing grants to States and Tribes on State, private and Tribal land.

Thursday, May 26, 2022 

Portman, Kaine Introduce Resolution Commemorating Holodomor, Designating May 28 as World Hunger Day

Resolution Comes on 90th Anniversary of Ukrainian Famine as Russia’s Illegal Occupation and Invasion Strangles Global Wheat Supply

U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced a resolution designating May 28 as World Hunger Day. The resolution comes on the 90th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933, known as the Holodomor, and as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to cause widespread destruction and strangles Ukraine’s ability to export much-needed wheat.

“Just as we look back and reflect on the 90th anniversary of the horrific famine created by Joseph Stalin, Ukraine is again in crisis,” said Senator Portman. “Russia’s illegal and brutal assault has caused devastation in Ukraine and potentially a global food shortage due to Vladimir Putin blocking Ukrainian ports. I am proud to support today’s resolution, commemorating Holodomor, while once again condemning Russia’s unjustifiable actions.”

“Millions of Ukrainians lost their lives in a horrific famine that was the direct result of Joseph Stalin’s cruelty,” said Senator Kaine. “90 years later, Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war in Ukraine is impacting tens of millions and fanning the flames of food insecurity around the world. We need to reaffirm our commitment to fighting world hunger and hold Russia accountable for making the food insecurity crisis even worse.”

As the producer of roughly a fifth of the world’s high-grade wheat, Ukraine has historically played an outsized role in the global food supply. The ongoing war has caused prices for grains to soar around the world and threatened to put millions of people in countries dependent on Ukraine’s food exports in danger.

The number of people around the world facing acute food insecurity greatly increased from 135 million in 2019 to 193 million in 2021. Last year, nearly 40 million people experienced emergency levels of acute food insecurity, which is just one step away from famine, and these figures are projected to worsen for 2022.

Full text of the resolution is available here.

Portman, Finance Committee Republicans Raise Questions, Concerns with Disturbing IRS Document Destruction

U.S. Senator Rob Portman and his fellow Senate Finance Committee Republicans wrote to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Chuck Rettig raising concerns and questions about the IRS’s destruction of an estimated 30 million paper-filed documents in March 2021 reportedly due to a backlog in processing paper documents.  A Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report brought the IRS’s destruction of the paperwork to light. 

Despite repeated requests from Congress for the IRS to exercise taxpayer penalty relief due to pandemic-related problems, the agency never disclosed that among the measures taken to reduce the backlog was the decision to destroy 30 million information returns.

“The information disclosed in the May 4 TIGTA report has surprised many in Congress and in the tax community. The destruction of documents ensuring taxpayers did not underreport income or inflate a deduction is concerning. It also raises questions about the IRS’s ability to administer the tax code and ensure compliance,” said the senators.  

The senators ask the IRS to clarify the potential damage to tax administration this destruction will cause, as well as who made the decision, how the IRS will address the consequences this decision will have for taxpayers and the potential harm to tax revenues.

The full letter can be found here or below.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Portman Travels to Europe to Meet with U.S. Military Leadership, Troops and Allies

Trip Will Include Military Briefings, Assessment of the Refugee Crisis and Strengthening of Alliances with Eastern European Countries

Senator Rob Portman, a member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, traveled to Stuttgart, Germany, today where he met with leadership of the United States European Command. He received several security briefings regarding the war in Ukraine. He also met with U.S. troops stationed at USAG Stuttgart, including many from Ohio. Portman’s visit to Stuttgart is part of a larger trip through eastern Europe that also includes stops in Bucharest, Romania and Chisinau, Moldova. Romania and Moldova have been strong allies of Ukraine during its war with Russia.

“U.S. military leadership in Europe is doing a good job keeping our allies together and focused. I was honored to meet with them today as well as to thank the troops stationed there, some of whom are from Ohio,” said Portman. “Our military assets in Germany are at the tip of the spear when it comes to supporting our allies in eastern Europe during this brutal invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin. There isn’t a country in eastern Europe that hasn’t been affected by this war so the U.S. presence is very important to our efforts in supporting Ukraine as it fights to remain free.”

Portman Urges Biden Administration to Immediately Provide Ukraine Multiple Launch Rocket System

Ohio Senator Travels to Europe to Meet with U.S. Military Leadership, Troops and Allies

U.S. Senator Rob Portman, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus issued the following statement today urging the Biden administration to immediately provide Ukraine with the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS. Portman is travelling through Europe where he is meeting with senior U.S. military leaders and allies in the region regarding the war in Ukraine. He was in Stuttgart, Germany, earlier today where he met with leadership of the United States European Command before travelling to Bucharest, Romania, for a series of meetings with Romanian officials.

“I urge the administration to immediately provide Ukraine with the multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) that Ukraine has requested. This has been one of President Zelenskyy’s top requests from the West for some time and we must provide it urgently. After my briefings at EUCOM today, it is clear that, although the Ukrainians are fighting bravely in the east, they are outgunned by the Russians. These MLRS systems can help balance the field in Ukraine’s favor. 

“As I said in my speech on the Senate floor this week, this administration must not deter itself from providing assistance to Ukraine for fear of ‘provoking’ Russia. Russia’s illegal and continuing invasion of Ukraine is the provocation, not our provision of lethal military assistance. We are entirely justified to respond by helping Ukraine defeat Russia’s onslaught. The U.S. and our allies must give Ukraine the tools it needs to win this war.”