Rob’s Rundown: Week of October 14 – October 18, 2019

October 18, 2019 | Rob's Rundown

This week, Senator Portman applauded the State Department decision to require Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department before any meetings with U.S. colleges or universities or with any local or state officials.  This decision stemmed from Portman and Senator Tom Carper’s (D-DE), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), bipartisan report that detailed China’s one-sided treatment of key State Department diplomacy programs in China.  The report described more than 80 instances where the Chinese government directly interfered with U.S. diplomacy efforts in China to engage with Chinese audiences.  The report also included a key recommendation that the State Department demand “reciprocal and fair treatment of its diplomats and employees in China.”

In addition, Portman delivered remarks at Ohio’s 2019 Recovery Conference hosted by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities in Columbus. The fourth annual Recovery Conference offers education on topics relevant to recovery from mental illness and/or addiction. In Toledo, he visited Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio and met with leadership and those involved in the organization’s “Stay the Course” reentry program, which targets medium to high risk incarcerated individuals who need help preparing to rejoin the community, including by getting and retaining a job. They recently received a nearly $1 million grant from Portman’s Second Chance Act for the program. Finally, in Cleveland, he toured Talan Products and met with leadership to discuss Career and Technical Education and how his bipartisan JOBS Act legislation will help more Ohioans get the skills and training they need to find in-demand jobs.

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

Monday, October 14, 2019

In Columbus, Portman Delivers Remarks at Ohio’s 2019 Recovery Conference

Portman Highlights His Bipartisan Legislative Efforts to Help Combat the Addiction Crisis

Portman delivered remarks at Ohio’s 2019 Recovery Conference hosted by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities. The fourth annual Recovery Conference offers education on topics relevant to recovery from a mental illness and/or addiction.

“I enjoyed participating in this year’s Recovery Conference, discussing my work at the federal level to ensure that state and local organizations have the resources they need via my bipartisan CARA and CURES grants, and seeing so many friends and great advocates at the Conference. Our communities are in crisis right now as more and more Ohioans of every age suffer from addiction. I appreciate everything that the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities and their partners are doing to flight this crisis,” said Portman. “I will continue to work with local communities and organizations across Ohio to help ensure they have the support and funding they need to continue their good work.”  

In Toledo, Portman Visits Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio and Participates in Reentry Discussion

Goodwill Received a Nearly $1 Million Grant through Portman’s Bipartisan Second Chance Act

Portman visited Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio and met with leadership and those involved in the organization’s “Stay the Course” reentry program that targets medium to high risk incarcerated individuals who need help preparing to rejoin the community which includes getting and retaining a job.

“I had a wonderful visit today with Goodwill leadership and with those participating in their reentry and workforce development programs,” said Portman. “I’m pleased they recently received a $999,974 DOJ grant through my Second Chance Act to help break the cycle of incarceration through drug treatment and job training programs. It also makes our communities safer and saves taxpayer dollars. The Second Chance Act has changed thousands of lives in Ohio, and my bipartisan JOBS Act will complement it by ensuring that individuals in programs like those run by Goodwill Industries have the opportunity to learn the skills for the jobs available today. I’m pleased that Goodwill has a strong presence in Northwest Ohio and that they will continue to help former inmates live up to their God-given potential.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

In Cleveland, Portman Tours Talan Products and Hosts Workforce Discussion

Discusses Bipartisan Efforts to Improve Skills Training with Company Leadership & Local Stakeholders

Portman toured Talan Products, a full-service metal stamping company and manufacturer of tooling and engineered parts in Cleveland. Following the tour, Portman met with the company’s leadership; the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET,) an organization dedicated to helping manufacturers grow and compete in Northeast Ohio; and local stakeholders to discuss Career and Technical Education and how his bipartisan JOBS Act legislation will help more Ohioans get the skills and training they need to find in-demand jobs.

“I enjoyed my visit at Talan Products and the productive discussion with the company’s leadership team as well as with local business leaders about how best to ensure Ohio’s workers get the skills training they need to succeed in the jobs available today,” said Portman.  Strengthening Career and Technical Education by passing the JOBS Act will help ensure we make skills training more accessible and affordable. I will continue my work on the federal level to make sure that Washington is an effective partner with local communities in providing Ohioans with the skills training they need to succeed.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Portman Receives ANCOR Congressional Champion Award for His Work to Support People with Disabilities

Portman Continues to Champion Bipartisan Bill to Help People Receive Care at Home, Reduce Health Costs

Portman received the American Network of Community Options and Resources’ (ANCOR) Congressional Champion Award for his leadership in supporting policies, like his efforts to extend the Money Follows the Person Demonstration Program, that help people with disabilities. ANCOR is a national, nonprofit trade association representing more than 1,600 private community providers of services to people with disabilities. Combined, they support over one million individuals with disabilities and are viewed as a leading voice on all issues for people with disabilities.

Portman is the author of the bipartisan Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources, and Care Act – or EMPOWER Care Act – to help Medicaid beneficiaries receive long-term services and support in their community or home. The bill would renew and expand the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Demonstration Program, which promotes community-based care and services and is a sterling example of an initiative that improves patient outcomes while saving money for state and federal taxpayers. According to analysis from Mathematica and MACPAC, MFP provides states with funding and flexibility to help Medicaid beneficiaries, particularly elderly and disabled individuals, transition from institutional settings to home and community-based long-term care settings in a manner that can save up to $1,800 per enrolled beneficiary. Upon receiving the award, Portman released the following statement:

I’m proud to receive this ANCOR Congressional Champion Award for my support for the Money Follows the Person program, and my bipartisan EMPOWER Care Act.  Money Follows the Person has provided more than 10,000 Ohioans with the opportunity receive the care that they need in their homes and communities, and as funding is set to expire again this December for the program, I will continue to fight to renew MFP and ensure that all Americans can continue to have a choice in where they seek long-term care support.”

 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Portman Applauds State Department Decision to Demand Greater Reciprocity with China Following PSI Investigation

PSI Report Urged State Department to Take Additional Steps Toward Ensuring Reciprocity With China on Key Public Diplomacy Efforts

Portman applauded the State Department decision to require Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department before any meetings with U.S. colleges or universities or with any local or state officials.  Earlier this year, Portman and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), unveiled a bipartisan report that detailed China’s one-sided treatment of key State Department diplomacy programs in China.  The report described more than 80 instances where the Chinese government directly interfered with U.S. diplomacy efforts in China to engage with Chinese audiences.  The report also included a key recommendation that the State Department demand “reciprocal and fair treatment of its diplomats and employees in China.”

“China’s persistent interference with U.S. public diplomacy efforts contradicts the important diplomatic principle of reciprocity that is recognized in international tradition and law,” said Senator Portman. “I’m pleased that the U.S. State Department is now working to level the playing field with China on U.S. public diplomacy efforts.  Our PSI report detailed instance after instance of the Chinese government interfering with U.S. visits, programs, and events throughout China.  For too long the United States has modeled appropriate behavior in the hope that China will change.  As we have learned to our disappointment, China will not change unless it sees its actions have consequences and this news is a positive first step.”

Portman, Cardin Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Create U.S. Tax Code Parity for Beauty Services Providers

Senators Rob Portman and Ben Cardin (D-MD), both members of the Senate Finance Committee, today introduced the Small Business Tax Fairness and Compliance Simplification Act—legislation to empower beauty services providers, such as barbers, manicurists, skincare specialists, and hairstylists. The measure expands the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) tax tip credit to include the beauty service industry, bringing the industry in line with the food and beverages sector. Today, more than 80 percent of the 1.2 million establishments that provide beauty services, such as hair and nail salons, have 10 or fewer employees and the majority are owned and operated by women and minorities.

“Much like the restaurant industry, employees at barbershops and beauty salons across the country rely heavily on tips to supplement their wages. The US tax code should reflect that reality, however, the restaurant industry is currently the only industry that is eligible for a tax incentive designed to encourage accurate tip reporting by their employees,” said Senator Portman. “That is why I am pleased today to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Cardin to simplify and create parity in the tax code for countless small businesses in the beauty services industry, so many of which are women or minority-owned.”

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

Senator Portman Column: Progress Treating Addiction, More to do

For far too long, prescription pain medication, heroin, and fentanyl have broken families apart and devastated communities in Ohio.

In 2017, our opioid overdose death rate was almost three times the national average, with nearly a dozen Ohioans dying from these dangerous drugs every day surpassing car crashes as our state’s number one killer.

Since 2017, we’ve started to turn the tide against opioids. Last year, after a decade of increased overdose deaths every year, we’ve led the country with a 22 percent decrease in overdose deaths.

This is good news, and federal laws I have worked on like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century CURES Act have helped by providing state and local government and nonprofit groups in Ohio with support for proven prevention, recovery, and treatment programs to help addicted individuals heal. Grants have also been available for naloxone, the miracle drug that saves lives by reversing the effects of an opioid overdose.

Nearly $4 billion in additional assistance nationwide has been matched by additional support from states and local governments and countless selfless volunteers and charities.

Thanks to our local law enforcement, there’s less heroin and fewer prescription pills on our streets. What’s more, first responders are using innovative new approaches to ensure individuals whose overdoses are reversed by naloxone go into treatment.

I saw this firsthand when I recently participated in a ride-along with the Columbus Fire Department’s RREACT team. RREACT is using an $800,000 CARA grant on an intervention program with a rapid response team made up of EMS officials, law enforcement, and social workers.

The team not only reverses overdoses, but also provides comprehensive post-overdose care by getting addicts into treatment.

These sorts of breakthrough programs are making a difference, but there is still a long way to go. That’s why I was pleased that the Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that Ohio would receive more than $55 million in additional State Opioid Response (SOR) Grant funding to help sustain these efforts.

Ohio led the country in the decline of overdose deaths last year – nationwide overdose deaths are lower too, for first time since 1990.

Still, there are still far too many individuals losing their lives to the scourge of addiction. In fact, the threat of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin, seems to be increasing. In August, six individuals in the Cleveland area fatally overdosed on fentanyl in a single day, and last month, 10 people in Columbus died of fentanyl-related overdoses within 26 hours.

These losses are tragic, and highlight the need for the U.S. Postal Service to fully implement my STOP Act, which helps keep dangerous drugs like fentanyl from entering our communities from other countries via our own mail system.

In addition, we’re continually hearing that, while we’ve made progress on the opioid epidemic, other drugs are becoming more common.

Recently, I visited Seneca and Huron counties and met with the boards of the local Mental Health and Addiction Services to learn how the addiction epidemic is affecting their communities.

While they’ve been able to use federal funds to help lower rates of opioid abuse, they’ve also seen an increase in the use of other drugs, particularly meth and cocaine, sometimes laced with fentanyl.

This matches what I’m hearing from law enforcement all across Ohio. In Portsmouth, $35,000 worth of meth was recently seized in an apartment. Authorities in Whitehall outside Columbus found nearly 30 pounds of cocaine in a drug bust in September, and nearly two dozen individuals were arrested recently for trafficking meth and heroin in Ohio and West Virginia.

These communities are looking for help. Since we know this surge of cheap and powerful meth and cocaine is coming across the southern border, one thing the federal government can do is tighten border security to reduce the supply and increase the cost. But we also need to broaden our successful efforts on prevention and getting addicts into treatment and recovery.

That’s why one of my top priorities this fall is passing legislation that will ensure we can tackle drug addiction in all its forms.

My Combating Meth and Cocaine Act will allow current federal opioid grant funds to also be used for programs focused on treating meth and cocaine addiction. The bill also reauthorizes the federal SOR Grant program for five years, providing $500 million annually.

These simple changes provide needed certainty and flexibility as we combat addiction.

We’re beginning to turn the tide on the worst drug epidemic ever.

Moving forward, let’s keep doing what’s worked on opioids and respond aggressively to the new threats from meth and cocaine.

(Senator Portman Column: Progress Treating Addiction, More to do. Gallipolis Daily Tribune. October 15)

Washington gives Chinese diplomats a taste of their own medicine

For years, the Chinese government has become accustomed to doing things in our country that it doesn’t let us do in its. But those days may now be coming to an end. The Trump administration is focusing on the concept of “reciprocity” to pressure China to compete fairly or suffer consequences. The implications for the U.S.-China relationship are huge.

On Wednesday, the State Department announced that Chinese diplomats inside the United States are now required to notify the U.S. government before visiting state or local officials as well as academic or research institutions. David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Thursday that the goal was not to constrain such interactions but to respond to Beijing’s severe and unfair restrictions on U.S. diplomats inside China.

“We’re not going to say no; we just want to have an idea who they are talking to,” he said. “Our goal is also a relationship with China that is fair and reciprocal with China living up to its many commitments.”

And as a side benefit, the U.S. government will now have far more information about how Chinese government officials are working to spread Chinese influence here. Stilwell said the United States must realize that Beijing has a long-term, deliberate strategy to take advantage of our open systems and manipulate them to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) strategy and ideology.

The Chinese Embassy tweeted that the State Department’s restrictions violate the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and that China imposes no similar restrictions on U.S. diplomats. That’s false. The Chinese government has been violating the rights of U.S. diplomats egregiously for years.

Earlier this year, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a bipartisan report detailing how the Chinese government treats U.S. diplomats and thwarts U.S. public diplomacy in China while expanding CCP influence here.

Chinese officials routinely require and then deny permission for U.S. diplomats to engage with various actors and institutions in China, the report states. U.S. diplomats were often prevented from even visiting American Cultural Centers (ACC), outposts of U.S. public diplomacy funded by U.S. taxpayers.

According to an internal State Department memo, in March 2018 a Chinese foreign affairs officer denied a U.S. diplomat’s visit to an ACC by falsely claiming it was “no longer in existence.” In October 2017, a diplomat arrived at an ACC and the staff “claimed not to have the keys.” The Chinese government thwarted the program so thoroughly, the State Department Inspector General concluded oversight of the $5.1 million program was impossible. The State Department eventually shut it down.

Now, compare that with the approximately $158 million the Chinese Communist Party has spent on establishing about 100 Confucius Institutes on U.S. campuses, with no restrictions or monitoring of who visits or what goes on there. Beijing wants its public diplomacy but won’t accept ours.

The State Department’s notification requirement isn’t nearly as onerous as what Beijing puts U.S. diplomats through, but it’s just an opening salvo. Officials told me they plan to apply the principle of reciprocity to as many aspects of U.S.-China relations as they can.

“For too long, the United States has modeled appropriate behavior in the hope that China will change,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the chairman of the Senate committee, said. “As we have learned to our disappointment, China will not change unless it sees its actions have consequences and this news is a positive first step.”

Congress is also focused on reciprocity with China. Last December, Congress passed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, which President Trump signed into law. It denies access to the United States to Chinese officials who are known to have been involved in restricting Americans’ access to Tibet. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has been pushing “true reciprocity” in U.S.-China trade and economic relations, something Trump talks about often.

The media space is also ripe for U.S.-China reciprocity. During the Cold War, the United States used reciprocal actions to protest restrictions placed on U.S. journalists in the Soviet Union — and Moscow improved its behavior. Today, the Chinese Communist Party severely restricts U.S. journalists’ activity in China while punishing those who get out of line. Meanwhile, hundreds of Chinese journalists enjoy our free and open media environment.

Reciprocity is not a panacea and doesn’t always apply. We can’t take it so far as to compromise the values that make our open system preferable to China’s model. But as a guiding principle, it’s simple to understand and hard to argue against. Mostly, it’s a way of calling out Beijing’s long pattern of unfair behavior across the board.

This shift toward reciprocity in U.S.-China relations won’t be easy, and Beijing is not going to like it. The Chinese government has been breaking its commitments and getting away with it for so long, it’s reluctant to change. But the best hope of avoiding conflict is to compel Beijing to compete fairly and for us to realize China won’t stop its bad behavior on its own.

(Washington gives Chinese diplomats a taste of their own medicine. Washington Post. October 17)

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