Rob’s Rundown: Week of October 4 - October 8, 2021
Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where, on Thursday, he delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging his colleagues to oppose the massive tax hikes included in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending spree. Citing data from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the Tax Foundation, and other policy experts, Portman detailed how this broad set of tax hikes – from corporate taxes to income taxes to estate taxes and more – would negatively impact workers, families, businesses small and large, and the economy as a whole, while undoing many of the 2017 tax reforms Portman helped to author that unleashed strong economic growth before COVID-19. Portman further discussed the impact of the massive spending bill in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box, noting that middle class families will likely bear the brunt of the proposed tax increases.
In an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Wednesday, Portman discussed the broader negative effects of the Democrats’ $3.5 tax and spending spree. Portman noted that the massive spending package, which would be the largest bill in American history, is poised to slow economic growth, undercut American innovation, and exacerbate inflationary pressures.
Portman also delivered remarks on the Senate floor calling on Congress to address America’s broken asylum system. While in Latin America earlier this year, he spoke to presidents from four different countries, all of whom said that United States’ asylum system was creating a pull factor for their citizens – current immigration practice allows for those seeking asylum to wait in the United States, sometimes up to four or five years, before going in front an immigration judge. On top of this, most don’t make their court appearance since there is no enforcement to appear. Portman urged a legal, orderly system that works for everybody and one in which the U.S. system encourages people to apply for asylum in their home country, and if they are not comfortable or unable to do so, to apply from a third country.
On Wednesday, two of Portman’s bills - the Cyber Incident Reporting Act and Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2021 - were approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The bipartisan bills will require critical infrastructure owners and operators and civilian federal agencies to report to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) if they experience a cyberattack, and most entities to report if they make a ransomware payment. The bills will improve federal agencies’ understanding of how to best combat online attacks, including ransomware, and ensure our nation has the tools and resources it needs to protect America’s data.
Finally, Portman delivered remarks at a joint meeting of the University of Cincinnati Real Estate Center and the Urban Land Institute’s Cincinnati chapter Friday morning in which he touted the benefits of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and expressed his belief that this landmark piece of legislation will ultimately be signed into law.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, October 4, 2021
Portman, Peters Release Bipartisan Legislation to Bolster Federal Cybersecurity
Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released text of their bipartisan legislation that strengthens cybersecurity across the federal government, ensures attacks on federal networks and contractors are reported to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Congress in a timely manner, and clarifies roles and responsibilities in federal information security. The bipartisan legislation significantly reforms the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, which has not been updated since 2014, to ensure our nation has the tools and resources it needs to protect federal information technology systems. The bill will be considered by the Committee on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.
“The recent cyber and ransomware attacks against the federal government and critical infrastructure demonstrate the persistence and sophistication of our adversaries. I have authored two bipartisan reports demonstrating the cybersecurity weaknesses of federal agencies, and the need to update the Federal Information Security Modernization Act. These reports show that federal agencies are unprepared to meet the sophisticated, determined threat we face and have failed to address many vulnerabilities for nearly a decade, putting the sensitive data of all Americans at risk,” said Senator Portman. “This bipartisan bill provides the security the American people deserve and the accountability necessary to resolve longstanding weaknesses in federal cybersecurity by clarifying roles and responsibilities and requiring the government to quickly inform the American people if their information is compromised. I urge my colleagues to join in supporting this common-sense, bipartisan legislation to update the Federal Information Security Modernization Act.”
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Portman, Peters Seek Firsthand Accounts of Challenges to Secure PPE and other Medical Supplies in Early Months of COVID-19 Pandemic
As part of their ongoing oversight efforts of federal pandemic preparedness and the COVID-19 response, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are seeking firsthand accounts of efforts to secure personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies during the first half of 2020.
To help examine reports of fraud, exploitation, and faulty equipment and medical supplies, Portman and Peters invite health care providers, state and local governments, first responders, and others to share information about vendors, counterfeit medical products, price-gouging, or other challenges obtaining supplies during the response. The information received will help inform the senators’ bipartisan oversight of the federal pandemic response, and support their efforts to strengthen U.S. medical supply chains, improve emergency preparedness, highlight new and successful supply chain methods, and prevent bad actors from taking advantage of future national crises. Individuals can report their firsthand accounts to the senators by providing their information here.
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Portman, Cornyn & Colleagues Press DHS for Answers on Release of Haitian Migrants into U.S.
Senator Rob Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, joined Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety, and 36 of their colleagues in sending a letter asking Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to address reports that thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas were released into the interior of the U.S. instead of facing removal as the administration had previously pledged.
“While we applaud the Administration’s original stated intent to expel the majority of migrants under the CDC’s Title 42 order or to expeditiously remove them, we are concerned that DHS did not actually carry out this plan, deployed resources in a manner that weakened border security, and undermined the deterrent effect of any future statements that the Biden Administration will enforce our immigration laws at the border,” wrote the senators. “DHS has openly admitted that the rapid influx of Haitian migrants into the interior was orchestrated by smuggling organizations, which only makes some aspects of the agency’s response more puzzling… The Administration’s response to the ongoing border crisis only makes it more likely that we will continue to experience surges like the one in Del Rio.”
In addition to Senators Portman and Cornyn, the letter was also signed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Joni Ernst (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tom Cotton (R-AK), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Todd Young (R-IN), Jim Risch (R-ID), John Hoeven (R-ND), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), John Boozman (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tim Scott (R-SC), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Braun (R-IN), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and John Barrasso (R-WY). Full text of the letter is here.
Portman, Peters Bipartisan Bills Strengthening Federal and Private Sector Cybersecurity Advance in Senate
Senators Rob Portman and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced their Cyber Incident Reporting Act and Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2021 were approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The bipartisan bills will require critical infrastructure owners and operators and civilian federal agencies to report to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) if they experience a cyberattack, and most entities to report if they make a ransomware payment. The bills will improve federal agencies’ understanding of how to best combat online attacks, including ransomware, and ensure our nation has the tools and resources it needs to protect federal information technology systems.
“As cyber and ransomware attacks continue to increase, I’m pleased the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has passed our bipartisan Cyber Incident Reporting Act and bipartisan legislation to update the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) because the federal government must be able to quickly coordinate a response and hold bad actors accountable,” said Senator Portman. “The Cyber Incident Reporting Act will give the National Cyber Director, CISA, and other appropriate agencies broad visibility into the cyberattacks taking place across our nation on a daily basis to enable a whole-of-government response, mitigation, and warning to critical infrastructure and others of ongoing and imminent attacks. Our bipartisan legislation to significantly update FISMA will provide the accountability necessary to resolve longstanding weaknesses in federal cybersecurity by clarifying roles and responsibilities and requiring the government to quickly inform the American people if their information is compromised.”
On Fox News, Portman Discusses Democrats’ Reckless Spending Spree, Debt Limit
In an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, Senator Portman discussed his concerns with the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reckless tax and spending spree that will hurt the economy, job creation, and working families who are already paying higher prices at the pump and in grocery stores because of surging inflation.
On the debt limit, Portman explained how Democrats must vote to increase the debt limit because of their massive spending spree – their $1.9 trillion spending bill passed earlier this year and now a $3.5 trillion bill – the largest in American history – that they are gearing up to pass without a single Republican vote.
Thursday, October 7, 2021
Portman Emphasizes Importance of Protecting Whistleblowers to Merit System Protection Board Nominees
In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box, Senator Portman discussed the negative economic impact of Democrats’ $3.5 tax and spending spree. Portman noted that, despite President Biden’s promises, middle class families making under $400,000 a year will see their taxes increase if Democrats succeed in enacting their massive spending bill.
On the debt limit, Portman explained how Democrats must vote to increase the debt limit because of their massive spending bills. In March, Democrats forced through a $1.9 trillion package without any Republican support. And now, Democrats are gearing up to pass a $3.5 trillion bill – the largest in American history – without a single Republican vote.
On Senate Floor, Portman Warns Democrats’ Massive Tax Hikes Will Undermine U.S. Economy, Cost Jobs
On the Senate floor, Portman urged his colleagues to oppose the massive tax hikes included in the Democrats’ massive $3.5 trillion spending spree. Citing data from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the Tax Foundation, and other policy experts, Portman detailed how this broad set of tax hikes – from corporate taxes to income taxes to estate taxes and more – would negatively impact workers, families, businesses small and large, and the economy as a whole, while undoing many of the 2017 tax reforms Portman helped to author that unleashed strong economic growth before COVID-19.
As a result, Portman argued, the cost of this $3.5 trillion tax and spending spree is not zero dollars as has been claimed by the Biden administration, but instead an enlarged deficit, lowered wages, billions of dollars in lost economic growth, and hundreds of thousands of lost jobs.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, predicted Friday that the $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation he helped broker will eventually become law, despite infighting among Democrats in the House who are seeking to connect it to a $3.5 trillion social spending bill.
“It makes too much sense not to,” Portman told a joint meeting of the University of Cincinnati Real Estate Center and the Urban Land Institute’s Cincinnati chapter at the Hyatt Regency downtown.
Portman asked the audience for help in urging the House to pass the bill, explaining some of its lesser-known provisions, in addition to the potential to pay for the vast majority of the $2.7 billion Brent Spence Bridge project. Later in the program, Mark Policinski, CEO of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, estimated that 80% of the project could be paid for through the bill, with Ohio and Kentucky needing only to provide a 20% match.
Portman said a federal match "makes the project more and more likely.”
The legislation spends $550 million more on infrastructure than Congress normally would, Portman said, making the price tag not quite as high as has been reported.
“It’s really good legislation. A lot of that money would have been spent anyway. It provides funding for things we have allowed to lapse, let’s be honest,” Portman said. “There’s zero tax (increases). It is going to help the economy.”
Portman also noted the bill will direct funding to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport as it becomes a more vital nationwide cargo hub; rapid transit service; the region’s sewers, which Portman noted are having trouble handling repeated rain events that are supposed to only happen every 100 years; hillside stabilizations and enhanced broadband Internet.
Portman said he was disappointed that President Biden had allowed House Democrats to tie up the legislation. Democrats want assurances from their more moderate colleagues that they will act on the $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill, which includes items like universal preschool and tuition-free community college before the physical infrastructure legislation is passed.
“It was important ... to show the American people we can get something done. if you can’t get it done on infrastructure where are you going to?” Portman said. Congress and successive presidents have talked for decades about infrastructure but have not been as close as they are now, he said. “President Trump hasn’t been as supportive ... as I’d like,” Portman said. “He had proposed $1.5 trillion. Ours is $550 billion. We’re pikers.”
CONGRESS, FEDS MAKE MOVES ON RANSOMWARE ATTACKS, but a clear fix for the expensive cybercrime epidemic is far from clear. The Senate Homeland Security Committee took a step forward on Wednesday, advancing a bill that would require hospitals and oil and natural-gas pipeline companies, among other critical infrastructure operators, to report cyberattacks and ransom payments within 72 hours. Chairman Gary Peters said he wants the bill tacked onto the broader annual defense authorization package.
Who is responsible for reporting ransomware attacks remains a point of contention. Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott didn’t want reporting requirements for small businesses and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman successfully added an amendment to exempt small businesses from having to tell the government they paid a ransom. Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a separate reporting requirement bill for a broader group of companies and public entities—it exempts individuals—that pay ransoms to regain access to their computer systems so federal authorities will have more comprehensive data on the extent of the problem.
The executive branch picked this week to move, too. On Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department said it would require “high-risk” rail and transit systems to have plans for major cyberattacks and will require reporting of cyber incidents, among other measures. That same day, the Justice Department said it would impose large fines on federal contractors that fail to disclose cybersecurity breaches.
Ransomware attacks have gotten more expensive as emboldened thieves demand higher and higher payments that the FBI has tried to discourage companies from paying. From 2019 to 2020, the total amount paid by ransomware victims increased by 311%, according to a report by the Institute for Security and Technology. Recent attacks have hobbled oil infrastructure like the Colonial Pipeline and meatpacker JBS SA before the companies paid millions to regain control.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill currently awaiting passage in the House also includes $100 million over the next five years to support a cyber rainy-day fund for government agencies that face major cyberattacks.