Rob’s Rundown: Week of September 13 - September 17, 2021
Senator Portman was back in Washington this week where, on Tuesday, he delivered remarks on the Senate floor honoring the life of Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, a native of Berlin Heights, Ohio, who was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26 as part of U.S. efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from the country.
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, Portman grilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Biden administration’s rushed and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Portman forcefully pushed back on the idea that the United States faced a binary choice of either escalating the war or leaving in a precipitous, chaotic withdrawal that embarrassed us around the globe.
Later that afternoon, Portman joined Fox News’ Neil Cavuto to discuss the hearing with Secretary Blinken. During the interview, Portman reiterated his belief that Democrats were falsely framing the situation as a zero sum, binary choice. Instead, Portman said, it was entirely possible to have left troops on the ground in Afghanistan in order to have an organized transition and not leave citizens and allies behind.
Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon outlining his opposition to the $2 trillion worth of tax hikes Democrats are proposing in order to help pay for their reckless $3.5 trillion spending spree. Portman explained how these tax hikes will undermine economic growth, kill jobs, send businesses overseas, and ultimately hurt American families and workers.
In addition, Portman penned an op-ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday in which he outlined how his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would help the long-awaited effort to address the Brent Spence Bridge. As Portman details, the unprecedented resources in this $542 billion infrastructure agreement will provide new federal funding and certainty for state and local partners to help move this critical project forward. In total, it has $33.5 billion in available funding that could be directed towards the Brent Spence Bridge, including $12.5 billion from Senator Portman’s bipartisan Bridge Investment Act.
In an op-ed published Friday in the Washington Examiner, Portman discussed how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act makes needed, commonsense investments in infrastructure resiliency to protect vulnerable communities against extreme weather disasters like the hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and floods that have hit the United States this summer.
Finally, Portman wrapped up the week by delivering remarks at the Advanced Healthcare Innovation Summit Friday morning before giving the keynote address at the OKI (Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana) Regional Council of Governments’ annual luncheon in the afternoon on the economy and the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Portman received The Henry M. Mann award which is bestowed on individuals whose special service to the entire OKI region covers not just a year, but a lifetime.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, September 13, 2021
Portman Op-Ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer: A Path Forward for the Brent Spence Bridge
In a new op-ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Senator Portman discusses how his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a historic investment in repairing and upgrading our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, would help the long-awaited effort to address the Brent Spence Bridge.
The Brent Spence Bridge, which crosses the Ohio River to connect Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, is heavily trafficked and plays a key role in national commerce, with three percent of America’s economic activity crossing over it every year. The bridge, which was built in 1963 to handle 80,000 vehicles a day, is now used by double that amount – 160,000 vehicles a day. With no shoulder and heavy traffic, the bridge is considered a safety risk as well.
As Portman details, the unprecedented resources in this $542 billion infrastructure agreement will provide new federal funding and certainty for state and local partners to help move this critical project forward. In total, it has $33.5 billion in available funding that could be directed towards the Brent Spence Bridge, including $12.5 billion from Senator Portman’s bipartisan Bridge Investment Act. While state and local funding is still necessary to fully fund the project, this investment moves us significantly closer to a long-term solution to the Brent Spence Bridge than ever before.
The full op-ed can be found here.
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Portman Presses Secretary of State Blinken on Rushed and Chaotic Afghanistan Withdrawal
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Rob Portmangrilled Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Biden administration’s rushed and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which resulted in the death of 13 American service members – including Ohio-native Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak.
Portman Presses DC Superior Court Judge Nominees on the Need to Address Rising Crime in Nation’s Capital
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pressed Judges Sean Staples, Kenia Lopez, and Rupa Puttagunta, the nominees to be Associate Judges for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, on how they planned to address the rise in crime in DC should they be confirmed. Portman highlighted the increase in crime, not only in Washington, DC, but also across the entire country, and discussed the need for the DC court systems to address this growing problem.
On Senate Floor, Portman Remembers Life Ohio-Native Max Soviak
Senator Rob Portmanspoke on the floor in honor of the life of Navy Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, a native of Berlin Heights, Ohio, who was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26 as part of U.S. efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from the country.
On Fox News, Portman Discusses Withdrawal from Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken Testimony
In an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, Senator Rob Portman discussed the United States’ recent chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which led to a weakened standing for the U.S. on the world stage.
He also discussed Secretary Blinken’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, of which Senator Portman is a member. Portman pushed back on the secretary and Democrats’ narrative that the only choice in Afghanistan was to expand our military presence in the country or have a chaotic exit. Portman said Democrats continue to use a false choice as it was entirely possible to have left troops on the ground in Afghanistan in order to have an organized transition and not leave citizens and allies behind.
The interview can be found here.
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
On Senate Floor, Portman Says Democrats’ Massive Tax Hikes Will Destroy Jobs, Undermine U.S. Economy
Senator Rob Portman Delivered remarks on the Senate floor outlining his opposition to the $2 trillion worth of tax hikes Democrats are proposing in order to help pay for their reckless $3.5 trillion spending spree. Portman explained how these tax hikes will undermine economic growth, kill jobs, send businesses overseas, and ultimately hurt American families and workers.
Portman also touted the effectiveness of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts – highlighting the legislation’s role in fueling the pre-COVID opportunity economy, which saw strong wage growth, a 50-year low in unemployment, and the lowest poverty rate on record.
Portman Calls on Biden Administration to Act as Migrant Crisis Continues to Worsen
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, issued the following statement after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics for August 2021 regarding the crisis at our southern border:
“Once again, CBP operational statistics show that we are seeing the worst unlawful migration crisis in more than twenty years. The Border Patrol has now made more than a million apprehensions of unlawful migrants since President Biden took office. CBP reported more than 208,000 total encounters at the border in August, quadrupling the number from last August. This includes more than 86,000 migrant family members, a four percent increase from last month; more than 103,000 single adult migrants, which comprised nearly half of all encounters; and nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children.
“I look forward to Secretary Mayorkas’ testimony at Tuesday’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing and the opportunity to ask him when the administration will change course and address this surge of unlawful migrants. I urge the Biden administration to take action because the migrant crisis is a direct result of its decision to dismantle the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the historic influx it would incite.”
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Senate Passes Portman, Brown Bipartisan Resolution Honoring Northeast Ohio Native, MacNolia Cox
The Senate passed U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) bipartisan resolution yesterday honoring the life, legacy, and achievements of northeast Ohio native MacNolia Cox, who in 1936 became one of the first two Black students to compete in the National Spelling Bee as finalists. That same year, MacNolia became the first Black participant to win the Akron Spelling Bee at the Akron Armory. She helped inspire students like Zaila Avant-garde, who earlier this summer became the first Black American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan resolution to honor the life and legacy of Ohio native MacNolia Cox,” said Senator Portman. “As a 13-year old girl, MacNolia traveled to Washington, D.C. as one of the first Black students to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee where she endured segregation and racial discrimination. MacNolia’s determination to display her talents, all while many did not want to see her succeed, continues to encourage and inspire young students of color today.”
From wildfires in the west to hurricanes and heavy flooding in the east, the United States has recently suffered several significant natural disasters. Experts say these extreme weather events are becoming more frequent.
This summer’s heat, fires, and flooding took the lives of at least 338 people ; destroyed thousands of homes, businesses, and crops; and cost the U.S. billions in damages. Regardless of how you feel about the causes of climate change, it makes sense to take smart steps to strengthen our infrastructure and bolster our resiliency against these destructive events to reduce deaths, injuries, and significant economic costs.
Some on the Left argue the only solution is radical Green New Deal policies such as those expected to be in the partisan $3.5 trillion reconciliation package with job-killing mandates and taxes that Democrats are trying to jam through Congress. However, there are more commonsense ways to ensure communities in the path of the next big hurricane, tornado, wildfire, flood, or drought are better able to prepare and protect their citizens from harm: the Senate-passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, which invests $542 billion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure — all without mandates or other punitive measures.
I worked with colleagues to write this legislation to focus on making us safer from natural disasters while making sure we don’t harm our economy in the process. We invest $46 billion in key resiliency investments that will help fortify our country against the kinds of severe weather events affecting our nation in recent months. This includes $1.5 billion for hazard mitigation through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, allowing communities across the nation to plan and undertake projects to reduce the risk they face from natural disasters.
It includes investing $5.5 billion to support drought resiliency and nearly $9 billion to protect communities against wildfires and support recovery and restoration efforts such as reforestation. One provision, the bipartisan REPLANT Act, will help the U.S. Forest Service plant 1.2 billion trees in areas hit by wildfires, tree disease, and other damage. Reforestation will help make our communities more resilient by making it less likely for landslides, flooding, and other catastrophic events to occur.
For communities across the southeast that have seen unprecedented levels of rainfall and destructive hurricane-force winds and the coastal communities along the shores of the Great Lakes that continue to experience coastal erosion and flooding, there is $12 billion in federal programs to counter the effects of flooding, strengthen our coastlines, and protect vulnerable communities.
In addition to providing funding for protection against extreme weather, the bill also invests $65 billion in supporting energy innovation and the resiliency of our grid. It develops next-generation energy technologies — including hydrogen, geothermal, energy efficiency, and carbon capture — to allow us to continue to use our abundant natural resources, such as coal and natural gas, while reducing our emissions in the long term.
In fact, this bill includes key provisions from my energy efficiency legislation with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, that would improve the efficiency in buildings and the industrial sector to help reduce emissions, protect the environment, and create jobs.
These investments don’t just keep us safer from the next big weather disaster and help us make more effective and sustainable use of our natural resources — they’re good for the economy, too. The REPLANT Act alone will create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next decade. One recent study from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers found that the entire infrastructure legislation could create about half a million good-paying jobs by 2024 in fields such as construction, plumbing, electrical engineering, and software development. And unlike the Democrats’ partisan wish list, these investments are not designed to fuel consumer demand or disenfranchise energy industries or lead to further inflation in our economy.
The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act represents an important investment to address the threat of natural disasters facing communities across the country and mitigate their impacts while creating thousands of jobs for hard-working Americans. Through our balanced, bipartisan approach to building up our resiliency and mitigating the effects of hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and other major threats, we will be better prepared to handle whatever Mother Nature sends our way.
The Senate already passed this landmark legislation with strong, bipartisan support. Holding up this legislation in the House of Representatives for political gain, as some Democrats have proposed, is unacceptable. The House must bring this needed Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act to the floor for a vote as soon as possible.
For decades, people have called for action to address the Brent Spence Bridge. More than 160,000 vehicles cross the Brent Spence Bridge every day, even though the bridge was only intended to handle half of that number. As any commuter or trucker who gets stuck in the daily rush hour traffic jams knows, it is a bottleneck where I-71 and I-75 come together. Any accident or breakdown on the bridge, which now lacks shoulders due to the necessary addition of more lanes, can have a devastating impact. Just last fall, we saw a two-truck accident shut down the bridge for nearly two months.
For years, even decades, federal, state and local groups tasked with finding a solution have been unable to work out an agreement on how to pay for the now estimated $3 billion it will take to fund it. This has been further complicated by the fact that two states, Kentucky and Ohio, are involved and must cooperate. The good news is that a plan has emerged that most can get behind called the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project, which will rehabilitate the existing bridge to make it safer and more usable while adding an adjacent secondary bridge to address the heavy traffic flows.
Fortunately, there has recently been a major breakthrough at the federal level that provides a path forward on Brent Spence. Last month, the U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, a landmark $542 billion investment in repairing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. I was proud to help negotiate this historic legislation, and pleased it received significant bipartisan support, including the critical backing of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator and a proponent of fixing the Brent Spence Bridge. The key now is to get this bill passed in the House of Representatives and signed into law.
This legislation includes billions of dollars in available grant funding across multiple programs for which the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project could apply. Most importantly, the bill provides $12.5 billion in a new federal program to repair old and outdated bridges like Brent Spence that are regionally significant based on legislation I introduced called the Bridge Investment Act. In total, our legislation contains $33.5 billion in available funding that could be directed towards the Brent Spence Bridge.
While this federal investment is historic, it is important to note that the new funding streams in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act cannot fund the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project alone. State and local government in Ohio and Kentucky must continue to work constructively together to find other ways to cover their share of the costs, and with this new federal funding I believe they will. Every year the costs go up on fixing Brent Spence, every year our regional economy pays the price of the traffic jams and closures, and every year the safety issues grow worse. It is time to get this done.
As a lifelong resident of Southwest Ohio who crosses the bridge regularly on my commute back and forth from Washington, I know how important the Brent Spence Bridge is to our region. Completing the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project will strengthen our economy, improve safety, and ease travel throughout our region for decades to come.
The next step forward is for the House of Representatives to pass this bill when it reconvenes later this month and President Biden to sign it into law. Then we can get to work. With federal, state and local officials working together, I believe we can fix this long-running traffic headache once and for all.