Rob’s Rundown: Week of May 24 – May 28, 2021
Senator Portman was in Washington for what was a busy week ahead of Memorial Day weekend. Earlier today, Portman voted to allow debate on legislation establishing a commission to investigate the events of January 6th. Portman made clear that he will only support final passage of the legislation if common-sense changes are made to ensure it is non-partisan and fair.
Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to pass his bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. The bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, which passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this month, will protect the taxpayer investment in American research and IP from theft from global competitors, like China. The Senate is expected to pass this legislation when members return in June.
During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, Portman secured a commitment from Jonathan Meyer, the nominee to be General Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that he would provide complete and timely materials requested by the Committee for oversight purposes. As the Senate Committee responsible for oversight of DHS, it is crucial that requested documents and materials are provided in full, so the Committee can fulfill its Constitutional duty.
In addition, Portman penned an op-ed for Barron’s arguing that it is time to dismantle the expanded federal unemployment insurance (UI) supplement - which has proven to be a significant disincentive to work. Portman noted how this $300 per week supplement, combined with the in-place state unemployment benefits, results in more than 40 percent of workers making more money by staying home instead of returning to work.
Portman released a statement applauding Peloton on their decision to build the company’s first U.S. factory in Wood County, Ohio. Portman spoke at length with Peloton CEO John Foley urging him to choose the Buckeye state for the new factory.
Finally, Portman announced today that he would be traveling to Eastern Europe next week, along with Senators Shaheen and Murphy, as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation. The senators will travel to Lithuania to meet with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis in light of the Lukashenka regime’s increasing human rights abuses against the political opposition. The senators will meet members of civil society and with representatives of the Ukrainian and Georgian governments, including opposition party leaders in Georgia serving as Members of Parliament. In Ukraine, the senators will meet with Ukrainian leaders and speak with press to emphasize the urgent need to advance anti-corruption efforts and empower a free, independent media.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, May 24, 2021
Portman Applauds New Peloton Factory in Ohio
Portman released the following statement after Peloton announced its intentions to build its first U.S. factory in Wood County, Ohio:
“This is great news for Troy Township and the entire region. The new Peloton factory will create more than 2,000 well-paying manufacturing jobs and help spur economic growth and job creation throughout the region.
“I recently spoke with Peloton CEO John Foley at length about Ohio’s world-class workforce and urged him to choose the Buckeye state for their new factory.
“I applaud John and the entire Peloton team for investing in our workers and our communities. Here’s to a long and prosperous partnership between Peloton and the great state of Ohio.”
Twenty Union and Stakeholder Organizations Announce Support for Portman’s Bipartisan Make PPE in America Act
Twenty union and stakeholder organizations sent a joint letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressing strong support for the inclusion of the Make PPE in America Act, sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, into the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which is under consideration on the Senate floor this week. The twenty union and stakeholder organizations that signed the letter were: AFL-CIO, Alliance for American Manufacturing, American Apparel and Footwear Association, American Iron and Steel Institute, American Sheep Institute, Coalition for a Prosperous America, Georgia Association of Manufacturers, INDA: Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry Narrow Fabrics Institute, National Council of Textile Organizations, Parachute Industry Association, Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network, SEAMS: Association of the U.S. Sewn Products Industry, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Steel Manufacturers Association, U.S. Industrial Fabrics Institute, United States Footwear Manufacturers Association, United Steelworkers, Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition, and Workers United.
“We write to express our strong support for including robust domestic procurement policies for personal protective equipment (PPE) in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) currently being considered by the Senate,” the union and stakeholder organizations wrote. “We thank you for including such a provision in Section 4153 of the USICA, which is substantially similar to the bipartisan Make PPE in America Act (S.1306) introduced earlier this year by Senators Peters and Portman. As you consider legislation to respond to the legacy of manufacturing and technology offshoring to China, provisions like Section 4153 are vital to reduce U.S. dependency on China for essential medical supplies.”
The Make PPE in America Act recently passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The bipartisan bill 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 as the economy continues to reopen. Domestic production of PPE supplies also will create American manufacturing jobs and ensure that America is better prepared for the next pandemic.
The full letter can be found here.
On All the Best Podcast, Portman Discusses His Mentor President George H. W. Bush, His Call to Service
During an interview with the George and Barbara Bush Foundation podcast, All the Best, Portman spoke with Sam LeBlond, grandson of George and Barbara Bush, about Portman’s relationship with the Bush family and his life in public service. Portman described how his relationship with President George H.W. Bush grew from one of mentorship to one of friendship, starting when Portman volunteered on his 1980 campaign and culminating with visits to the Bush’s residence in Kennebunkport, Maine. He also discussed why he chose to lead a life of public service, crediting much his inspiration coming from President Bush.
Portman Op-Ed in Barron’s: It’s Time to Stop Paying Americans to Stay Home
In a new op-ed for Barron’s, Portman laid out why it is time to dismantle the disincentive to work caused by the expanded federal unemployment insurance (UI) supplement continuing through Labor Day despite the economy reopening. Portman noted how this $300 per week supplement, combined with the in-place state unemployment benefits, results in over 40 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. Numerous examples from Ohio point to how businesses have been unable to meet the demand of a rebounding economy due to labor shortages. This has resulted in some businesses closing permanently, operating reduced hours, or looking for ways to increase automation – all moves that can lead to the permanent elimination of thousands of jobs.
Since then, Ohio and at least 22 other states have opted out of the $300 per week federal UI supplement in order to encourage more people to safely get back to building careers and achieving the American Dream. Portman believes the time has come for the entire country to do the same.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
At Finance Confirmation Hearing, Portman Presses Department of Treasury Nominee on Tax Hikes Put Forth by Biden Administration
During a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing for Treasury Department nominations, Postman questioned Lily Lawrence Batchelder, nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Tax Policy, about the Biden Administration’s proposed tax increases and how they would impact U.S. companies and American workers.
Portman focused on the unlikelihood for U.S. companies to be able to compete globally when some countries do not have a GILTI (global intangible low-taxed income) tax and the Biden administration is proposing to double the GILTI tax, on top of other countries’ corporate tax rates.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan ‘Bridge Investment Act’ Ahead of Committee Markup, to Provide Significant Federal Investment in Bridge Repair
Senator Portman, along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Bob Casey (D-PA), introduced their bipartisan Bridge Investment Act ahead of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee highway markup this week. This bill would establish a competitive grant program to assist the repair and replacement of deficient and outdated bridges and ease the national bridge repair backlog. The EPW Committee will vote on this legislation tomorrow, and it is then expected to be included in a larger surface transportation bill considered on the Senate floor. The senators previously introduced this legislation in 2019.
“I’m pleased that the Bridge Investment Act will be included in the bipartisan transportation bill being considered by the Environment and Public Works Committee this week because this common-sense legislation will get us that much closer to a solution for the Brent Spence Bridge,” said Portman.
Portman, Brown Stand Up for American Tire Workers, Urge Trade Commission to Ensure U.S. Trade Remedy Laws are Fully Enforced
Senators Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are urging the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to side with American workers and fully and fairly enforce U.S. trade remedy laws. In a bipartisan letter to the ITC, Portman and Brown led their colleagues in pressing the ITC to give full and fair consideration to the United Steelworkers’ petitions in these cases of unfairly traded imports. Portman and Brown led the letter with Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Todd Young (R-IN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mike Braun (R-IN), John Boozman (R-AR), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
“U.S. trade remedy laws are intended to provide relief to U.S. companies and their workers when they are undermined by unfairly traded imports. We urge you to give full and fair consideration to the USW petitions in these cases and to ensure U.S. trade remedy laws are fully enforced,” the senators wrote.
For years, United Steelworkers’, at tire companies like Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio, have found themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage due to unfairly traded foreign imports. The United Steelworkers’ trade petitions seeks to secure relief for their members in the tire industry to ensure the U.S. tire industry can compete on a level playing field.
The senators’ letter follows their recent introduction of an amendment, the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0, to legislation the Senate is currently considering called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (previously called the Endless Frontier Act). This amendment is identical to legislation Portman and Brown introduced earlier this month to strengthen U.S. trade remedy laws and ensure they remain effective tools to fight back against unfair trade practices and protect workers at tire companies like Cooper Tire and across the country. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is a bipartisan bill aimed at advancing U.S. technology research, creating jobs, and improving economic and national security in order to counter China’s economic and political ambitions.
Senators Portman and Brown initially introduced the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0 in April as a stand-alone piece of legislation. This legislation builds upon the Leveling the Playing Field Act, a bill signed into law by former President Obama in 2015, that gives U.S. companies new tools to fight against unfair trade practices.
Full text of the letter is available here.
On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Passage of Safeguarding American Innovation Act to Protect American Taxpayer-Funded Research & Intellectual Property
On the Senate floor, Senator Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, urged his colleagues to pass his bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which is under consideration in the Senate this week. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act invests more than $100 billion of taxpayer funds to solidify the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation critical to our national security and economic competitiveness. The bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, which passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this month, will protect the taxpayer investment in American research and IP from theft from global competitors, like China.
Portman and U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), as then-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 for China’s 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.
Portman, Menendez, Brown Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Lead Testing for Children
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would ensure children enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are tested for lead poisoning at the appropriate ages. Lead hazards in a home pose serious health and safety threats to children and could cause irreversible and long-term health, neurological, and behavioral damage.
“Lead poisoning continues to be an issue in the U.S. and Ohio is no exception — lead exposure risk from low-quality housing is especially high in Ohio, specifically in Cuyahoga County. Lead poisoning is extremely dangerous for young children, causing brain and nervous system damage, learning and behavior problems, and other serious health issues,” said Portman. “Currently only 38 percent of children on Medicaid receive their required lead screening tests, a number far too low. This bipartisan legislation aims to bring that number up by codifying current Medicaid regulations and expanding the requirements to all CHIP programs, while also helping states to better identify which efforts are needed to track potential cases of lead exposure.”
At Finance Committee Markup, Portman Touts All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy, Legislation to Promote Carbon Capture, Energy Efficiency
During a Senate Finance Committee markup, Portman delivered opening remarks outlining the importance of an all-of-the-above energy strategy and touting his bipartisan efforts to promote common sense energy policy. Portman highlighted his work to increase energy efficiency, as well as his Carbon Capture Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to make it easier for power plants and industrial facilities to finance the purchase and installation of carbon capture and direct air capture equipment through private activity bonds.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
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, 24 states, including Ohio, have decided to phase out the $300 per week supplement.
Here are Ohio media reports highlighting the struggle by business owners to get workers back in the labor force and how it’s affecting their businesses:
Portman: DHS Nominees Have a Responsibility to Address Migrant Crisis at Southern Border, Combat Cyberattacks & Domestic Threats, and Ensure Preparedness During Extreme Weather
This morning, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing to consider key Department of Homeland Security (DHS) nominations, including John K. Tien to be Deputy Secretary, Robert P. Silvers to be Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy and Plans, and Jonathan E. Meyer to be General Counsel. Senator Portman highlighted the important responsibilities of these positions in his opening remarks, particularly the need to address the ongoing migrant crisis at our southern border and the influx of deadly synthetic drugs, like fentanyl, into the United States; combating the increasing prevalence of cyberattacks against the public and private sectors; countering acts of domestic terrorism while protecting civil rights and civil liberties; and finally, ensuring the agencies within DHS, like FEMA, are properly prepared to assist during extreme weather.
Portman Secures Commitment from DHS General Counsel Nominee to Provide Complete & Timely Oversight Materials to HSGAC
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), secured a commitment from Jonathan Meyer, the nominee to be General Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that he would provide complete and timely materials requested by the Committee for oversight purposes. As the Senate Committee responsible for oversight of DHS, it is crucial that requested documents and materials are provided in full, so the Committee can fulfill its Constitutional duty.
In addition, John Tien, the nominee to be Deputy Secretary at DHS agreed with Senator Portman on the importance of developing public and private sector relationships through the Department to ensure effective cybersecurity and secure critical infrastructure especially in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.
A transcript of the questioning can be found below and a video can be found here.
Portman Praises EDA $1.2 Million Federal Grant to Support Ohio University Innovation Center
Portman praised the $1.2 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Ohio University, which would provide technical assistance for biotech entrepreneurs and modify lab space at its Innovation Center. This EDA grant, to be matched with $304,225 in local funds, is expected to create 330 jobs, retain 450 jobs, and generate $25 million in private investment.
This grant comes from funds accessible thanks to the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Portman supported and was signed into law last year.
“This is exciting news for Ohio University. I’m pleased to see this $1.2 million federal grant go towards supporting Ohio University’s Innovation Center,” said Portman. “This grant, provided through the CARES Act, will help provide assistance to biotech entrepreneurs and is expected to create hundreds of jobs while spurring millions in additional private investment. I was proud to support the CARES Act last year, and I am glad to see that it continues to help local communities in our return to normalcy as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Friday, May 28, 2021
Portman, Kelly Introduce Bill to Address Homeland Security’s Response to Migration at our Southern Border
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced the Border Response Resilience Act to require DHS and federal partners to create a strategic plan and to conduct exercises to improve the federal response to increased migration at the border. The bill gives DHS access to contingency funding to activate the plan in case of future increases in unaccompanied children, asylum-seekers and migrants at the border.
DHS and Border Patrol are currently facing the worst year for increases in unaccompanied children, asylum-seekers and migrants in the last two decades and are doing so with a budget that does not meet this year’s needs. The Border Response Resilience Act would establish the “Irregular Migration Border Response Fund” with $1 billion so that DHS is not forced to transfer resources away from border security priorities to fund food, clothing, blankets, and transportation for unaccompanied children and family members. These contingency resources would be available immediately when numerical border metrics are met to quickly respond to increased migration at the border. The Fund is authorized for replenishing consumables, equipment, overtime and payroll funds for Border Patrol agents, health care and mental health care for individuals, and trauma-informed care for children. The bill text is available here.
“DHS has been unprepared for unlawful migrant surges at our southern border in 2014, 2019, and again during the current crisis. This is unacceptable. DHS and other federal agencies must be able to respond immediately to the need for shelter for migrants as well as additional personnel to handle surging numbers of unlawful migrants at our border,” said Portman. “DHS cannot wait until there are 5,000 unlawful migrants per day at the border to begin planning and contracting in response. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bill with Senator Kelly to give DHS contingency resources, require DHS to plan for these surges, and to conduct exercises and after-action reviews so they can effectively and efficiently carry out their national security mission.”
Portman Statement on Supporting January 6 Commission
Portman released the following statement after voting to advance the January 6 commission legislation:
“The January 6 attack on the Capitol was an attack on democracy itself. To keep it from happening again, a fair and objective investigation into what led to the attack, the lack of preparedness at the Capitol, and the slow response on that day are needed. Part of that will be provided the week of June 7, by the joint HSGAC/Rules Committee bipartisan report. It will focus on the Capitol security and intelligence failures leading up to and on January 6.
“I believe an independent outside commission can build on that report and ensure a complete picture for the American people, including why the attack occurred and who was involved. As I told the mother of Capitol Police Officer Sicknick in my meeting with her earlier today, I believe this only works if people believe the commission is fair and non-partisan.
“I voted yes on the motion to proceed on debate regarding legislation to create the independent January 6 commission. However, I have made it clear that I can only support passage of the legislation if there are some common-sense changes to ensure the commission is non-partisan and fair, including ensuring the staff are not chosen through a partisan process, as the House bill envisions. I support changing the chairman and vice-chair roles to co-chairs who mutually agree on staff. We must also ensure there isn’t duplication with the joint HSGAC/Rules Committee investigation and report, and ensure the commission’s report is completed by the end of this year.
“It’s important that this commission be viewed as non-partisan and operating on equitable terms, so that Americans can have confidence in its findings. Our country is too deeply divided already and needs to heal from the wounds caused by the attack on January 6 – not divide further due to a partisan commission report.”
Senate Committee Passes Portman, Brown Legislation to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that their bipartisan legislation – the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act – to help veterans who have been harmed by exposure to toxic burn pits, was reported out of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee as a part of a larger legislative package, the Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021.
“I’m encouraged by the bipartisan progress we are making on this important legislation. We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude for the safety and freedom we enjoy every day. It is our duty to stand by them and ensure transparency in the tracking of illnesses connected to their service, specifically burn pit exposure. We are now one step closer to fulfilling that responsibility. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this important piece of legislation over the finish line,” said Portman.
Portman, Peters Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Clawbacks of Assistance to Disaster Victims
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act, legislation that prevents the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from taking back assistance it has provided to victims of disaster due to an error made by the agency. Weeks, months, and sometimes years after victims have used federal assistance to recover from a disaster, FEMA has sought to reclaim funds, even when the agency was at fault and funds were used appropriately. The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act would require FEMA to waive the debt of disaster relief recipients in cases where the agency later determined it mistakenly granted assistance, but no fraud was committed. The bill would also require FEMA to report on the number of these mistakes made in individual assistance awards and efforts the agency takes to minimize such errors. The text of the bill is here.
“When victims of a disaster apply for assistance in good faith and begin rebuilding their lives, they should not fear that FEMA might claw back the money due to bureaucratic mistakes,” said Ranking Member Portman. “The Preventing Disaster Revictimization Act brings peace of mind and stability to victims by ensuring bureaucratic mistakes do not bring more trauma to those recovering from devastating disasters. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this commonsense legislation to safeguard hardworking Americans who have already faced a life-altering disaster.”
Portman, Shaheen & Murphy to Meet with Belarusian Opposition Leader on CODEL to Eastern Europe, Including Stops in Ukraine & Georgia
Portman announced that he will travel to Eastern Europe next week, as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation (CODEL) with U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), to reaffirm U.S. commitment to its partners. The senators will travel to Lithuania to meet with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis in light of the Lukashenka regime’s increasing human rights abuses against political opposition, including the recent hijacking of a civilian airliner to unlawfully arrest and detain journalist Raman Pratasevich. In Ukraine, the senators will encourage continued reforms to solidify its democracy and express solidarity with Ukraine, which continues to face an increasingly aggressive Russia. Portman and Shaheen will visit Georgia to send a bipartisan message that the U.S. stands with the people of Georgia in their efforts to strengthen their democracy.
“I am proud to join my colleagues Senators Shaheen and Murphy on this important trip to Eastern Europe,” said Portman. “It is fitting that we begin our trip by meeting with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to express our unwavering support for the people of Belarus as they seek a free and democratic future for their country. The recent forced landing of a civilian airliner and detention of journalist Raman Pratasevich is a clear violation of international law and I call for the United States and our European Union partners to take swift action in the form of international sanctions against those responsible. I look forward to meeting with senior officials in Ukraine and Georgia and reaffirming our commitment to these strategic security partners. Both of these countries face severe external challenges from Russia and are striving to enact critical domestic reforms which are key to our continued support.”
Portman Statement on Proposed Middle-Class Tax Hikes & Massive Spending Increases in President Biden’s Budget
Senator Portman released the following statement in response to President Biden’s newly proposed budget:
“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical we work together on a bipartisan basis to restore our economy back to where it was before the pandemic. President Biden’s budget proposal calls for allowing nearly all of the 2017 tax cuts to expire and proposes more massive spending increases. The president has said he wants to be a champion for the middle class, but the last thing our nation needs are tax hikes on the middle class and more exorbitant increases in government spending.
“Four years ago, Republicans took bold action to provide much-needed tax relief to middle-class Americans and their families. As a result, before COVID-19 we had one of the strongest economies on record, with a 50-year low in unemployment, the lowest poverty rate on record, and 19 straight months of annualized wage growth above three percent. This budget would only serve to hurt the middle class in the form of higher taxes, lower wages, and lost jobs, and it’s the wrong approach to getting our country back on track after an unprecedented pandemic.”
Portman, Luján Introduce Resolution to Recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced a bipartisan resolution to recognize May as National Mental Health Awareness Month. Earlier this month, Congressional Mental Health Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan resolution designating May 2021 as Mental Health Awareness Month. It is more important than ever that we recognize mental health as a national priority – as we have seen throughout the past year, social isolation and increased anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively impacted the mental health of too many Americans,” said Portman. “Throughout my time in Congress, I have fought for increased behavioral health funding to provide communities with the necessary tools to provide a comprehensive range of mental health and substance use disorder services to vulnerable individuals. I applaud all of those who work every day to bring awareness to the importance of mental health and provide support and services to Americans in need.”
Current law provides that at least until Labor Day, a supplemental federal payment of $300 per week will continue to be added to state unemployment insurance benefits, nearly doubling the average UI payment, and resulting in more than 40% of those on unemployment making more than they would at work.
On top of that, Democrats passed a law making the first $10,000 of UI payments tax-free, another disincentive to return to work.
At a time of record job openings and an economic recovery hampered by a lack of workers, the extraordinary federal unemployment supplement needs to end. By keeping in place this extra $300 per week on top of the state UI benefit, and not taxing the benefit, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are risking a jobs crisis that could have far-reaching, devastating consequences.
I believe a federal supplement to UI was needed when coronavirus hit. The pandemic and social distancing guidelines forced many businesses to temporarily close, and millions of employees lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Congress rightly put in place expanded unemployment benefits to help families get by when the economy was largely shut down.
But now the country is in a very different place. With more and more vaccinations, we are finally turning the corner on the pandemic. Restrictions are easing, businesses are fully reopening, and there are over 8 million job openings, the most ever.
Despite that, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department, the country only added 266,000 jobs in April, an alarming number because it was only about a quarter of what most economists predicted, and an early warning sign that should not be ignored.
Disappointing monthly jobs reports typically tell bad news on two fronts: not enough new jobs added and not enough available jobs. Adequate numbers of jobs is not our problem today. The jobs are available. But some of those record 8 million job openings will go away if the president and Congress don’t change course and dismantle some of the disincentives to work.
Already, some businesses, like Geordie’s in Columbus, Ohio, and Dale’s Diner in Waterville are closing because they cannot find workers. Others, like Muddy’s, Your Pizza Shop, and Donato’s in Wooster are being forced to close one day a week because they are understaffed. Facing no alternative, other businesses are figuring out ways to move forward with fewer employees. In some cases this may involve downsizing the business, in other cases it means using technology and automation to replace workers.
All this is to say, our country finds itself at a crossroads. We can stagnate and hurt working families or we can get people back to work and create robust and sustained economic growth.
Despite the strong jobs market and already strengthening economy, the Biden administration proposes the government spend an additional $6 trillion of taxpayer money to get the country back to work. To put that number in context, adjusting for inflation, it is six times what the government spent during the New Deal in the 1930s.
Yet part of that spending is the $300 per week expanded unemployment benefits from the federal government on top of the jobless benefits from their state, the very reason many people aren’t returning to the workplace right now.
To be sure, while there are other factors fueling the labor shortage, including the country’s skills gap, lingering fear of the virus and the cost of child care, especially because many schools still aren’t open, the main reason people aren’t returning to work is the expanded federal unemployment benefits.
Finding workers remains the biggest impediment to the strong economy we should all want. There are some simple steps we can take, including ending the supplement federal UI bonus and instead creating a smaller $100 per week short-term return to work bonus. Let’s get people back to work and back on a path to achieve their American Dream.
Republican lawmakers and the Biden Administration continue to be at odds over the situation at U-S southern border. Rob Portman, who is the top Republican on the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, says the only way to fix the situation on the Mexican border is to change the policies regarding immigration. If people have a true asylum claim, the United States will let you in, but Portman says we should not let them in and wait for that claim to be processed. There is currently a backlog of 1.3 million people who are waiting to have their cases reviewed. Portman also will be introducing legislation to help those on the front line of the crisis, the U.S. Border Patrol.
“As much as any federal law enforcement agency, they are the ones under a lot of pressure. The bad guys are not just trafficking people they are trafficking drugs,” says Portman. “So, when they overwhelm the Border Patrol with processing women and children and so on because of the way the Biden administration is insisting in letting them in, then the same people are taking drugs across the border at some other point when the Border Patrol is distracted. To the point, we think there is more of these deadly drugs like Fentanyl coming in than ever.”
Portman says Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has deported fewer people last month than any other April in history.