This week, Senator Portman introduced the bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act. This bill builds on the success of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), provides additional resources to help turn the tide of addiction, and puts in place policy reforms that will strengthen the federal government’s response to this crisis.

Also this week, Portman praised the House of Representatives for passing his Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) as part of a broader House effort to help end online sex trafficking and provide justice for victims. For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:

Monday, February 26

Portman, Murphy Welcome State-DOD Memorandum Operationalizing Global Engagement Center to Counter Foreign Propaganda 

Portman and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) issued the followings statement after the State Department and the Department of Defense (DOD) signed a Memorandum of Agreement to operationalize the programs and priorities of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) to help counter foreign propaganda and disinformation:

“This announcement is an important milestone in the development of an operational capability to counter foreign disinformation being waged against us by our foreign adversaries.  For more than a year, I’ve been pushing State and DOD to fully execute the purpose and intent of this counterpropaganda law that Senator Murphy and I worked to enact,” said Senator Portman.  “While long overdue, I’m pleased we now have a road map in place that operationalizes the GEC and details how the money will be spent and who is responsible for developing and executing these projects.  It is time for the Department of Defense to fulfill the promise made by senior DOD leadership to provide the full $40 million in funding to support the GEC.  Congress enacted legislation establishing the GEC more than a year ago, and the repeated delays are standing in the way of combatting a serious threat to our national security.”

“Though long overdue, I hope this announcement is a sign that the Trump administration will finally start to make use of the tools Congress gave them to fight back against Russian disinformation and terrorist propaganda,” said Senator Murphy. 

Portman, Blumenthal Welcome House Action to Help Stop Online Sex Trafficking

Portman and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) issued the following joint statement praising the House of Representatives for taking action this week to help end online sex trafficking:

“We’re pleased to see that the House is moving forward with a bipartisan effort to help stop online sex trafficking, ensure justice for trafficking survivors, and hold accountable websites like Backpage.com that knowingly facilitate these criminal acts.  We are particularly pleased that the House appears ready to consider the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which has 67 bipartisan supporters in the Senate, as well as strong support from trafficking survivors, anti-human trafficking advocates and law enforcement, 50 Attorneys General, the civil rights community, faith-based groups, the Internet Association and its member companies like Facebook and Google, and courts and judges who have made clear that it is Congress’ responsibility to act to protect online sex trafficking victims.  This bill was unanimously supported by the Senate Commerce Committee and it deserves every member’s support.  We look forward to continuing our work with Leader McCarthy, Representative Wagner and their bipartisan colleagues in the House to put a strong bill on the president’s desk for his signature.”

Tuesday, February 27

With New Tax Law in Place, Sens. Portman, Coons, & King Urge Trump Administration to Discharge Outstanding Federal Student Loans for Totally & Permanently Disabled Americans 

Portman and Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), and Angus King (I-ME) are leading an effort to urge the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, and the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Nancy Berryhill, to immediately discharge outstanding federal student loans for totally and permanently disabled Americans, including veterans.

Under the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, federal student loans that are discharged by the Department of Education due to the death or total and permanent disability of a borrower or the death of a borrower’s child are no longer required to be included in the gross income of the borrower.  Therefore, loan forgiveness in these cases is tax exempt.  Now that Congress has removed the potential tax consequence associated with this type of loan forgiveness, the Senators are urging the Department to immediately begin discharging student loans for eligible individuals.

In addition to Portman, Coons, and King, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with U.S. Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Peter Roskam (R-IL).

Portman, Whitehouse, Capito, Klobuchar, Sullivan, Hassan, Cassidy & Cantwell Introduce CARA 2.0 Act 

Portman and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0 Act to increase the funding authorization levels for the CARA programs enacted in 2016 and put in place additional policy reforms to help combat the opioid epidemic — including limiting opioid prescriptions to three days.  CARA was a bipartisan, national effort designed to ensure that federal resources were devoted to evidence-based education, treatment and recovery programs that work.  CARA 2.0 builds on this effort by increasing the funding authorization levels to better coincide with the recent budget agreement while laying out new policy reforms to strengthen the federal government’s response to this crisis.  The CARA 2.0 bill text is here, section-by-section here, and a brief summary here.

“Now that CARA has been implemented and is starting to help communities around the country, it’s time to start the discussion about reauthorizing this important federal law,” said Senator Portman.  “Passage of CARA was a historic moment, the first time in decades that Congress passed comprehensive addiction legislation, and the first time Congress has ever supported long-term addiction recovery.  Now we have the opportunity to build on this effort, increasing funding levels for programs we know work and implementing additional policy reforms that will make a real difference in combatting this epidemic.  I want to thank Senator Whitehouse and my bipartisan colleagues for their leadership and partnership on this important national effort.”

On Senate Floor, Portman Honors Westerville Police Officers Killed in the Line of Duty 

Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor recognizing the service and sacrifice of Officer Tony Morelli and Officer Eric Joering of the Westerville Police Department who were both killed while responding to a 911 call on February 10th.

Transcript of his speech can be found here and a video can be found here.

On Senate Floor, Portman Discusses the Opioid Epidemic, Introduction of the Bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act 

Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor discussing the nature of the opioid epidemic gripping our country as well as the introduction of the bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act. This bill will build on the success of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), provide additional resources to help turn the tide of addiction, and put in place policy reforms that will strengthen the federal government’s response to this crisis.

Said Portman in his speech, “This is a national crisis, and the national government needs to be a much better partner with state government, local government, communities, non-profits, those who are out there doing the hard work. This $6 billion commitment that has now been made over the next two years is a real opportunity to help turn the tide…CARA 2.0 gives us that opportunity. It represents the next step towards helping our communities address this epidemic and helping our communities heal.”

A summary of CARA 2.0 can be found here and a section-by-section can be found here.

Transcript of his speech can be found here and a video can be found here. 

Portman, Blumenthal, McCain, McCaskill, Cornyn, Heitkamp Applaud House Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Help End Online Sex Trafficking 

Portman and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) praised the House of Representatives for passing the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) as part of a broader House effort to help end online sex trafficking and provide justice for victims:

“I am pleased that the House voted unanimously to pass the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act,” said Senator Portman.  “This bipartisan effort will help stop online sex trafficking, ensure justice for trafficking survivors, and hold accountable websites like Backpage.com that knowingly facilitate these crimes. I urge the Senate to quickly pass this bipartisan bill and send it to the president’s desk so we can allow trafficking survivors to get the justice they deserve but have long been denied.”

NOTE: The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act in November. The bill, which now has 67 cosponsors, is supported by trafficking survivors, anti-human trafficking advocates and law enforcement50 Attorneys General, the civil rights communityfaith-based groups, the larger tech community, and courts and judges who have made clear that it is Congress’ responsibility to act to protect sex trafficking victims. 

Portman Appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans 

Portman announced that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has appointed him to serve on the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans, as established by the Bipartisan Budget Act enacted in February.  Portman has remained engaged with key stakeholders and members of both parties in working to find a comprehensive solution to resolve this pension crisis. 

“I am honored to be selected to serve on the Joint Select Committee, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle toward a comprehensive pension reform solution,” said Portman. “Since the passage of the unworkable Multiemployer Pension Reform Act, this has been my top priority in retirement policy. This Committee has an opportunity to resolve this multiemployer pension crisis once and for all. I am hopeful that we can achieve a comprehensive and permanent solution that protects earned pensions, protects taxpayer dollars, prevents the insolvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and alleviates pressure on employers.”

“Senator Portman has worked consistently behind the scenes to raise awareness about the fate of Central States retirees and the impacts to the economy if no action is taken and explored solutions,” said Mike Walden, President of the National United Committee to Protect Pensions. “I know that Rob truly cares about us and will use his position on the Committee to maximize our retirement security as long as he believes the solution can work.”

“Frankly, very few members of Congress understand the multiemployer pension issue, and Rob is a major exception,” said Sonny Nardi, President of Teamsters Local 416 in Cleveland, Ohio. “Rob has been a tremendous advocate for Ohio’s retired Teamsters and understands the impacts to the economy if no action is taken. With his inclusion on the Joint Select Committee, Teamsters know that Ohio’s pension participants will be well represented.”  

Thursday, March 1

White House Endorses Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act

After overwhelming passage in the House earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today expressed the Trump administration’s support for anti-trafficking legislation that includes the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA).  SESTA will help ensure justice for victims of sex trafficking and hold accountable websites such as Backpage.com that knowingly facilitate online sex trafficking.  Here’s what Sanders said:

“I’d like to highlight some positive and important work the House did on Tuesday by passing H.R. 1865.  This bill empowers federal, state, and local prosecutors to hold websites accountable for supporting the sale of sex-trafficking victims. 

“As you may recall, the President and Ivanka Trump met with survivors, law enforcement officials, and victims’ advocates here at the White House.  He made it clear that this administration will fight to hold sex traffickers accountable and to ensure survivors have the support they need.

“This bill is an important step forward.  And the White House appreciates the House taking action on a bipartisan basis.”

Senator Portman has repeatedly made clear that “every day we don’t act, there are more women and more children who are being trafficked,” and has urged the Senate to pass the bill as quickly as possible.  As Axios & Politico have reported, the Senate is expected to take up the House-passed bill in the next several weeks.

Friday, March 2

Portman Praises State Department Approval of Anti-Tank Missiles to Ukraine 

Portman, co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the State Department’s approval of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. The approval and pending sale marks the end of the interagency process for approving the sale of these important weapons, which can be transferred to Ukraine at the conclusion of the mandatory 30-day congressional review. The policy change, first announced in December, is a significant reversal from the previous administration’s ban on the sale or supply of U.S. weapons to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. 

“Providing lethal weapons to Ukraine will send a clear message that America stands with the Ukrainian people in their nearly four year struggle to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” said Portman.  “The final interagency approval and formal notification of Congress marks another important milestone towards the fulfillment of America’s promise to stand with Ukraine. As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and author of several provisions authorizing expanded U.S. military assistance — including lethal aid — and establishing the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, I look forward to the full implementation of the bipartisan legislation Congress has already passed to help the Ukrainians defend themselves against Russian aggression.

The new arms sale, publicly posted by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency on March 1, comprises 210 Javelin Missiles and 37 Javelin Command Launch Units (CLUs). Also included are Basic Skill Trainers (BST) and accompanying United States Government and contractor technical assistance, transportation, training and other related elements of logistics and program support.  The total estimated cost is not to exceed $47 million. The sale will be paid for using Foreign Military Financing, a State Department-led program to help bolster the defensive capabilities of U.S. allies and partners.

During Portman Visit, Cincinnati-Based Worldpay Announces Higher Wages & Expanded Benefits for Employees As a Result of Tax Reform

Portman, as part of his Results for the Middle-Class Tax Reform Tour, visited the corporate headquarters of Worldpay Inc., the largest credit card processing company in the world, processing more than 40 billion payment transactions representing $1.6 trillion in volume. During this visit, the company announced cash bonuses for hourly employees up to $2,000, an hourly wage increase for certain frontline positions, a 401K match increase to 100 percent dollar-for-dollar up to five percent, a larger investment in company-wide wellness and recognition programs, and an increase in charitable giving – all as a result of the recently-signed Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.

“This is great news, and I’m excited that we continue to see real, tangible benefits from tax reform. Worldpay is a wonderful example of another Ohio-based company using the money saved from tax reform to increase pay, reinvest and give back to the community,” said Senator Portman.  “This is exactly what Congress intended to accomplish while developing tax reform.  More than 400 businesses across the country have announced increased investments in their companies, pay increases, bonuses, additional retirement help or new benefits—specifically because of this tax bill. We are once again re-opening the American economy as the best place in the world to do business.”

“Senator Portman has been a champion of tax reform and ensuring Ohio companies like Worldpay can remain competitive and recruit the region’s top talent,” said Charles Drucker, executive chairman and co-CEO of Worldpay, Inc. “Thanks to the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, Worldpay is now offering its U.S. employee base additional benefits, as well as investing more in its charitable giving in the communities where we live and work.”

 On Social Media: 

Tax Reform is Increasing Optimism for Families and Businesses in the Miami Valley

Just two months since becoming law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is already creating a better economy and a brighter future for families in the Miami Valley—and businesses across Ohio.

According to a recent National Federation of Independent Business survey, a record number of business owners said now was a good time to expand. The new tax law, the report says, “produced the most recent boost to small-business optimism.”

I’ve seen this firsthand. I recently met with employees at Bruns General Contracting, a small employee-owned business in Tipp City, as it announced plans to purchase new and more productive equipment, hire more workers, take on new jobs, and increase retirement benefits as a result of the savings from the new law.

I’ve also visited small businesses in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and more that have reinvested in their operations, their employees, or both with the savings from tax reform.

Ohioans are also seeing the direct benefits of tax cuts in their paychecks. Last month, the IRS updated its withholding tables for employee paychecks. Ninety percent of Americans, and all middle-class income groups, are getting a tax cut. Starting this month, the proof is in the paycheck.

Tax reform, including lower tax rates and doubling the standard deduction and child tax credit, will take more than three million Americans who had federal income tax liability off the tax rolls altogether. A family of four at the median income level can expect to save $2,000 a year on their taxes. For families in Greene County—and across Ohio—that makes a real difference.

The new tax law is already having a positive impact on Ohio and Greene County. It gives direct tax relief to middle-class families, raises wages, provides benefits for workers, and increases investments in American companies. Through all that, it is bringing back hope and optimism for many Ohio families.

(“Tax Reform is Increasing Optimism for Families and Businesses in the Miami Valley,” Rob Portman. Xenia Gazette. February 27, 2018)

Craft Brewers Putting Tax Savings Toward Expansions and New Jobs

While craft brewers will have lighter tax bills this year, that savings won’t be hoarded away – it’s being put to work.

Members of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association met with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Friday to discuss how they’re reinvesting in their businesses and people while also pushing to make permanent recent tax changes that are only for the next two years at this point.

“For it to be permanent, you have to show that it is working,” Portman told the group. “Show me how you’re using the money.”

The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act was part of the broader tax reform packaged passed by U.S. Congress late last year. It reduced the federal excise tax to $3.50 a barrel from $7 a barrel for the first 60,000 barrels of beer produced annually at U.S. breweries making less than 2 million barrels a year.

It also reduced the tax to $16 a barrel from $18 a barrel on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and importers. According to the national Brewers Association trade group, that could be savings of $80 million for its members.

The meeting was held at Seventh Son Brewing Co., a timely visual representation of what’s happening in the industry. Seventh Son is in the midst of an expansion that will greatly increase the size and production capabilities at its 1101 N. 4th St. brewery in Italian Village. That means jobs beyond the brewery.

Portman said when he first got involved with the act two years ago, it was focused on independent craft brewers only. That was opposed by the large beer producers. Eventually a break for those manufacturers was added as well to get wide industry support.

He said although the growing deficit has some nervous, he believes that tax savings will encourage more investment and economic activity, as is happening in the brewing world….

(“Craft Brewers Putting Tax Savings Toward Expansions and New Jobs,” Dan Eaton. Columbus Business First. February 27, 2018)