[VIDEO] Sen. Coons: Nothing would ‘ruin [Xi Jinping’s] day’ like seeing Republicans & Democrats working with Biden to solve problems

Source: United States Senator for Delaware Christopher Coons

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) joined Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday for a joint interview on bipartisanship and future legislative priorities, including infrastructure and U.S. competitiveness with China.

“The broader question you’re really asking is what’s in it for our country and what’s in it for the people we represent from our states if Republicans and Democrats work together to solve problems,” Senator Coons said. “I think that if we come together in a bipartisan way to pass that $800 billion hard infrastructure bill that you were talking about, that I’ve been urging, then we show our people that we can solve their problems. We’ve all agreed for a long time that we need to invest more in American infrastructure, we just disagree about how to pay for it, and I think in the next few weeks we should roll up our sleeves and sit down and find ways that both parties can support to make these critically needed investments.”

Senator Coons continued, “That’s here at home, but Chris, it’s also critical for our standing in the world. The worst thing that could happen to Xi Jinping, that would ruin his day, would be for him to see Republicans and Democrats working together in the Senate and the House to solve the problems facing the American people in partnership with President Biden. That’s showing that our framers’ vision of principled compromise in Congress can still work, and so whether it’s working with John on a basic bill about teaching civics in our schools, or it’s working together with John on the more challenging issues of immigration or mental health or gun violence or investing in infrastructure, I think we have to show folks we can and will do our best to work together.”

Full audio and video available here

###

Cornyn Appears on Fox News Sunday with Democrat Chris Coons

Source: United States Senator for Texas John Cornyn

WASHINGTON — Today on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) joined Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) to discuss upcoming opportunities for bipartisan cooperation on key legislative priorities. Excerpts of the interview are below, and video can be found here.

On the Biden Presidency and Bipartisanship:

“I think we were all encouraged when we heard President Biden on January the 20th talking about healing the divisions in the country and appealing to national unity. Unfortunately, as I have complained to my friend Chris Coons, with 30 executive orders and a partisan $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, that only 10% of which was actually COVID-19 relief, we are not off to a great start. Having said that, Chris and I are working together to try to come together on some bipartisan bills. The truth is it’s very hard to get anything done in the Senate unless it is bipartisan. There are some exceptions to the rule, but in a 50/50 Senate neither party has a mandate, and so we simply have to work together to make progress where we can. I’m encouraged that Chris is a good partner and willing to work with me to try to accomplish some important things.”

On His Bipartisan Track Record:

“Well, what we’ve tried to do is identify areas where we agree, and the truth is the parties are not as divided on some of these issues as you might imagine just from reading the papers, or watching the news online, or on cable news. We’re trying to identify areas where we can make progress. I know [there’s] a lot of concern about gun violence in the country. That’s been a chronic problem. I worked with Chris Murphy, the Senator from Connecticut. We passed something called the Fix NICS bill which has now resulted in millions of new background checks being uploaded to the background check system, and as I’ve told Chris, I’m very proud of our work together on that because I believe it saved lives. So, Chris Coons and I have tried to identify those areas like civics education, like I said, the background check denial report to local police, AmeriCorps, things like that, where we can make some progress and hopefully bring back some of the muscle memory of previous years when Congress actually worked better together.”

On Democrats’ Partisan Infrastructure Proposal:

“In the interest of bipartisanship, I’ll agree that Senator Coons is half right. There is a core infrastructure bill that we could pass with appropriate pay-fors like roads, and bridges, and even reaching out to broadband, which this pandemic has exposed a great digital divide in the country. We’ve seen advances in telemedicine, we’ve seen more people learning online. I think we could all agree to that, but I think that’s the part we can agree on, so let’s do it.”

Shaheen, Rounds Reintroduce Bill to Help Service Members & Their Families Exposed to PFAS Contamination

Source: United States Senator for New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen

April 18, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced her bipartisan legislation with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) last week to help track contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at military installations. The PFAS Registry Act would create a national database for service members and veterans and allow them to receive updates on recent scientific developments – including the effects of PFAS exposure, availability of possible treatment options and information on what resources may be available to address their health concerns.

PFAS chemicals, like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), have emerged as widespread contaminants in drinking water sources of military bases across the country and are tied to serious illness and health effects. The Pease International Tradeport formerly served as an Air Force base and experienced considerable drinking water contamination from PFAS chemicals. These emerging contaminants have been found in the drinking water of 600 military installations nationwide

“After dedicating their lives to serve our nation, our service members deserve every resource available to stay healthy after being exposed to PFAS contamination,” said Shaheen. “The federal government has a duty to ensure access to information and treatment so families can stay safe, and establishing a national database for service members is crucial to that mission. Our service members and their families deserve nothing short of the best care available – especially after being exposed to potentially harmful PFAS chemicals.”

“As the military continues to clean up PFAS contamination around our bases, we owe full transparency to the individuals likely impacted,” said Rounds. “Our bipartisan legislation will create a national PFAS registry and hold the VA accountable for regularly updating our service members and veterans on the latest information and treatments related to PFAS contamination.”

Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. Shaheen has consistently secured and boosted federal funding for the PFAS health impact study that she worked to establish four years ago. Because of her efforts, Pease is serving as a model site for the nationwide study. The study at Pease is actively seeking participants. Shaheen added numerous provisions to the fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that became law, including a provision based on her standalone legislation to authorize a comprehensive study of the personal protective equipment worn by firefighters to determine the identity and concentration of PFAS, as well as firefighters’ risk of exposure to these harmful chemicals from the gear. The FY21 NDAA also establishes a federal grant program and authorizes $2.5 million to advance the development of safe alternatives to PFAS chemicals in personal protective equipment. Shaheen also boosted funding for the health impact study for the year to $15 million.



Murphy Statement on Refugee Admissions Under the Biden Administration

Source: United States Senator for Connecticut – Chris Murphy

April 17, 2021

WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement on the importance of raising refugee admissions:

“There’s been bipartisan consensus for decades that resettling refugees in America, as has been our proud tradition over the course of our nation’s history, is the right thing to do. I hope President Biden fulfills his promise to raise refugee admissions for this year. We have a moral responsibility to welcome those fleeing persecution and violence, and doing so strengthens our country. But increasing refugee admissions also furthers our nation’s security since a low refugee goal makes it significantly harder for the United States to ask other countries to accept refugees and asylum seekers as a means of relieving pressure in conflict zones. America can resettle refugees and process asylum requests at the same time. I urge the president to raise the refugee admissions goal when he makes his final decision next month, and as Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, I stand ready to advocate for any additional funding necessary to get this done,” said Murphy.

###

Manchin, Capito Announce National Science Foundation Award to WVU

Source: United States Senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin

April 16, 2021

Charleston, WV – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $50,000 for the West Virginia University Research Corporation (WVURC) through the National Science Foundation (NSF). This funding will support a research project that seeks to develop technology to assist the general public, military, first responders, and medical professionals with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

“The National Science Foundation continues to be a great partner for West Virginia and our universities. This research project will help design technology that is easy to use and will help guide and provide feedback for first responders, medical professionals and the general public performing CPR. I look forward to seeing the benefits of this important and life-saving research, and I will continue prioritize research and technology development conducted here in the Mountain State,” Senator Manchin said.

“It’s great to see WVU at the center of research into technology that has the potential to save lives. This project aims to advance easy-to-use tech that can provide real time feedback to individuals performing CPR and could potentially improve survival of cardiac arrest both in and out of the hospital. I will continue to be a strong advocate for federal funding that supports projects like this in our colleges and universities right here in West Virginia,” Senator Capito said



Manchin, Capito Announce $17.2 Million For Health Centers In West Virginia

Source: United States Senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin

April 16, 2021

Charleston, WV – U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $17,265,820 for six health centers in West Virginia from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

“Our health centers are the backbone of our healthcare system and provide quality care for West Virginians, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am pleased HHS is continuing to invest in health centers across West Virginia to help them provide essential medical services and ensure all West Virginians have access to quality, affordable healthcare, regardless of where they live. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to advocate for funding to support health centers in the Mountain State,” said Senator Manchin.

“Health Centers play such an important role in expanding access to life saving medical services in our state, especially in our more rural communities. I’m glad to see this annual HHS funding headed to West Virginia to support operations and ensure access to adequate health services. Our health care professionals have been essential throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, stepping up to help their fellow West Virginians. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to advocate on behalf of our medical professionals and health centers across our state,” Senator Capito said.

Last week, Senator Manchin announced that all Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) funded health centers and look-alike health centers in West Virginia have been invited to participate in the COVID-19 Vaccine Program, which allows the 31 health centers in West Virginia to order COVID-19 vaccine doses directly from the federal government, increasing West Virginia’s overall dose allocation.

Individual awards listed below:

  • $7,511,870 – Valley Health Systems
  • $2,588,380 – Minnie Hamilton Health Care Center
  • $2,429,878 – Bluestone Health Association
  • $2,079,690 – Preston Taylor Community Health Center
  • $1,366,449 – E A Hawse Health Center
  • $1,289,553 –Clay-Battelle Health Services Association


Murphy, Bera, Dem Members Applaud Biden Administration’s Global Health Initiatives, Urge Regular Funding of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

Source: United States Senator for Connecticut – Chris Murphy

April 16, 2021

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. Representative Ami Bera (CA-07), a member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Friday led four Democratic Members of Congress in applauding the Biden administration for their global health initiatives since taking office, and urged the administration to include regular funding for multilateral COVID-19 initiatives in the FY2022 budget request. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator Gloria Steele, the members specifically highlighted the Biden administration’s commitment to strengthening multilateral COVID-19 coalitions like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and asked for regular funding for CEPI in the FY2022 budget request as we continue to fight COVID-19.

“We are particularly glad to see, in a recent National Security Directive released by the White House, a provision directing the Secretary of State and the Secretary of HHS to develop a plan to engage with and strengthen multilateral COVID-19 initiatives ‘such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations,’ or CEPI. We were also pleased to see President Biden sign the American Rescue Plan into law on March 11th, which includes funding for ‘a contribution to a multilateral vaccine development partnership to support epidemic preparedness,’” the members wrote. In addition to this important emergency funding, we urge you to request regular funding for CEPI in your Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request to Congress.”

The members continued: “Including a request for funding for CEPI in your administration’s budget would enable Congress to appropriate funds specifically to CEPI, as it does for other international organizations like Gavi and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Such an action is supported by a wide variety of global health experts and is a key recommendation of the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security, a report authored by many of the senior global health officials now working in the Biden administration.”

“Requesting funds for CEPI will enable the U.S. to fund and contribute to the ever-shifting fight against COVID-19 and to invest in solutions to respond to or even prevent the next pandemic,” the members concluded.

Murphy and Bera were joined by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly (VA-11).

A full copy of the letter can be found here and below.

The Honorable Antony Blinken

Secretary of State

United States Department of State

2201 C St, NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

The Honorable Gloria Steele

Acting Administrator

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, D.C. 20523

Dear Secretary Blinken and Acting Administrator Steele,

This is a time of unprecedented crises, but we know that you are bringing the best of America’s expertise in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing future outbreaks. We are encouraged by the Biden administration’s support for global health security and recognition that global health security is national security. We are particularly glad to see, in a recent National Security Directive released by the White House, a provision directing the Secretary of State and the Secretary of HHS to develop a plan to engage with and strengthen multilateral COVID-19 initiatives “such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations,” or CEPI. We were also pleased to see President Biden sign the American Rescue Plan into law on March 11th, which includes funding for “a contribution to a multilateral vaccine development partnership to support epidemic preparedness.” In addition to this important emergency funding, we urge you to request regular funding for CEPI in your Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request to Congress.

As you know, CEPI is a public-private partnership dedicated to developing and bringing to manufacture vaccines and vaccine technology to combat diseases with epidemic and pandemic potential. In the fight against COVID-19, they have raised over $1.1 billion and invested in 12 vaccine candidates. They provided early catalytic funding in the Moderna vaccine, spurring its initial development, and are a major investor in the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, both which are among the first vaccines to be brought to bear against this catastrophic pandemic. And this month, CEPI has announced a groundbreaking $3.5 billion plan to break the cycle of panic and neglect that has characterized our response to epidemic and pandemic disease.

While not historically a contributor to CEPI, in the fall, the United States Agency for International Development entered into a small cooperative agreement with CEPI to fund some its work combatting Lassa fever, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Nipah, Chikungunya, Rift Valley Fever, and Ebola. This is an important first step but more needs to be done.

Including a request for funding for CEPI in your administration’s budget would enable Congress to appropriate funds specifically to CEPI, as it does for other international organizations like Gavi and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Such an action is supported by a wide variety of global health experts and is a key recommendation of the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security, a report authored by many of the senior global health officials now working in the Biden administration.

Within Congress, we are working for U.S. participation and funding of CEPI, specifically the bipartisan Securing America From Epidemics Act, which passed the House of Representatives three times in 2020 and was again reported favorably by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 25, 2021. Leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have also expressed support for U.S. participation and funding of CEPI in global health legislation.

We believe that participating in and providing funds for CEPI will enable the world to defeat COVID-19 faster and more effectively, strengthening America’s health and economic security. We also know that even as CEPI continues its fight against COVID-19, it is looking for the next threat to our health security. We have now invested billions in the vaccines and vaccine technologies, enabling a quantum leap in the fight against emerging infectious disease. With these recent advances in vaccine technology and with a modest investment, CEPI will be able to develop vaccines for a wide variety of infectious disease threats before they ever become outbreaks, let alone epidemics or pandemics.

The United States can and should participate in these efforts. Requesting funds for CEPI will enable the U.S. to fund and contribute to the ever-shifting fight against COVID-19 and to invest in solutions to respond to or even prevent the next pandemic.

Thank you and we look forward to working with you on this and many other critical issues. 

Sincerely,

###

Rob’s Rundown: Week of April 12 – April 16, 2021

Source: United States Senator for Ohio Rob Portman

April 16, 2021 | Rob’s Rundown

Senator Portman was back in Washington this week, where he delivered remarks on the Senate floor Monday outlining the glaring problems with the infrastructure plan put forth by the Biden administration, as well as the tax hikes they are proposing to pay for it that will hurt working families and undermine our economy just as we are beginning to recover from this pandemic. While Portman supports improving America’s aging roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure, he noted that more than $2 trillion of the President Biden’s proposal funds policy priorities that are a far cry from what has ever been considered infrastructure, including billions in spending on health care, child care, and other non-infrastructure policy priorities. Portman went on to say that the proposal is made worse by the massive tax hikes the Biden administration is proposing as a means of funding most of the legislation.

During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, Portman pressed witnesses on why the federal government struggled in its initial preparedness efforts leading into the COVID-19 pandemic, especially problems the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention faced with surveillance systems and inaccurate tests. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Portman released a statement reacting to new CDC data showing that more than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September 2020. Portman explained that the new information must serve as a catalyst for bipartisan action to address the worsening addiction epidemic.  

On Thursday, Portman sent a letter to President Biden and Archivist of the United States David Ferriero today, urging them to address the backlog of the 480,000 requests for military service records from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the NPRC in St. Louis, Missouri, dropped significantly due to employee health and safety concerns and challenges with processing records requests remotely. This has resulted in severe delays in NPRC responses to requests for service records of U.S. veterans.

Finally, Portman applauded the Biden administration’s decision to impose new sanctions on Russia for the continued aggressive and harmful activities by the Government of the Russian Federation, including the occupation of Crimea, interference in the 2020 Presidential election, and cyberattacks against the United States. Portman has been vocal on the need to hold Russia accountable for its continued aggression against the United States and our allies and sent letters to the administration last week urging immediate action for Russia’s role in last year’s SolarWinds Orion cyberattack.

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

Monday, April 12, 2021

Portman Announces Federal Aviation Administration Grants to Ohio Airports Impacted by COVID-19

Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) award of more than $300,000 to Ohio airports to provide economic relief from COVID-19. 

The Airport Coronavirus Relief Program was created through the bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 relief package within the end-of-year spending agreement. Senator Portman played a key role in negotiating the legislation through the bipartisan 908 Coalition, which proposed a $908 billion package that included this critical relief for airports and served as a basis for the final package. This funding builds upon the previously announced $30 million in federal funding. 

“The aviation industry’s recovery is critical to our nation’s economy. During this pandemic, the sharp decline in air travel left the industry in an uncertain economic position,” said Portman. “I’m pleased to see this continued support for our airports as they ramp up services to meet the increasing demands of air travel as our country continues on the path to recovery.”

Portman Op-Ed in The Columbus Dispatch: Trolley Barn Complex, Athens Company Show Why Tax Credit Program Works and Should Be Made Permanent

The Columbus Dispatch published Senator Portman’s Op-Ed highlighting the New Markets Tax Credit (NTMC) program and the success that it has had in Ohio and around the country for the past 20 years. 

This past February, Portman continued his support to make the NTMC permanent, leading efforts with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to reintroduce New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act (S.456) for the 117th Congress. This bill would permanently authorize a federal tax credit for businesses or economic development projects in areas with poverty rates of at least 20 percent, or median incomes at or below 80 percent of the area median. After seeing significant benefits for Ohio cities, Senator Portman previously led the effort to preserve the credit during the 2017 tax reform and helped secure the five-year extension in the end-of-year spending package that passed Congress in December 2020.

The entire op-ed can be viewed here.

On Senate Floor, Portman Criticizes Proposed Tax Hikes, Calls for Bipartisan Approach to Infrastructure

Portman discussed the recent infrastructure plan put forth by the Biden administration, as well as the tax hikes they are proposing to pay for it. 

While Portman supports improving America’s aging roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure, he noted that more than $2 trillion of the President Biden’s proposal funds policy priorities that are a far cry from what has ever been considered infrastructure, including billions in spending on health care, child care, and other non-infrastructure policy priorities. He argued that including these provisions breaks the bipartisan consensus on infrastructure demonstrated through recent votes on infrastructure bills. 

Portman went on to say that this proposal is made worse by the tax hikes the Biden administration is proposing as a means of funding most of the legislation. Portman, who played a key role in writing the 2017 tax reforms, argued that undoing those reforms will hurt American workers’ and American companies’ ability to compete in the global economy, and that it will cost more jobs and investment here in America during a time when our economy is beginning to recover. 

Rather than pursue these drastic tax hikes, Portman urged Congress and the Biden administration to work together to find common-sense ways to fund infrastructure legislation. 

A transcript of his remarks is here and a video can be found here:

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Portman, Kaine Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Support Training for Skilled Infrastructure Jobs

Senators Rob Portman and Tim Kaine (D-VA), both co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), and Jim Langevin (D-RI) reintroduced the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act. The legislation would ensure workers are prepared with the skills needed for in-demand infrastructure jobs in fields like construction, transportation, maritime, and energy. 

“The U.S. infrastructure system is in critical need of updates while at the same time infrastructure industries struggle to meet workforce demands,” said Portman. “With the BUILDS Act we can improve worker training and provide more resources for job training programs targeted toward in-demand infrastructure-related jobs. This bipartisan bill can help us ensure that we are able to fill jobs in the infrastructure industry quickly and help those struggling with job loss, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, get the skills they need to succeed.”

At Senate Finance Hearing, Portman Discusses Concerns Regarding IRS’ Processing Backlog of Tax Filings, Modernization

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Portman highlighted the current processing backlog at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and concerns from constituents that the backlog would affect their current and future tax return filings. Senator Portman asked IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to address concerns that the Independent Office of Appeals, an office within the IRS, created by legislation introduced by Senator Portman in 2018, was not being given the resources it needed to be truly independent, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Portman also highlighted an upcoming legislative proposal he is working on to define cryptocurrency for tax purposes and the information reporting requirements, which would aid in efforts to close the tax gap. 

A transcript of the exchange can be found here and a video can be found here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

As Ranking Member of HSGAC, Portman Delivers Opening Remarks at Hearing on Federal Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Portman delivered opening remarks at a hearing to examine the federal response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. In his statement, Senator Portman discussed the need for clarity from the witnesses on why the federal government struggled in its initial preparedness efforts leading into the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the need to identify recommendations to improve federal preparedness for future pandemics and other public health threats. Portman highlighted three specific issues areas that he hoped to address in the hearing, including issues with the CDC surveillance systems and the lack of testing; determining which federal agencies were accountable; and understanding why the pandemic crippled the U.S. medical supply chain in the initial weeks of the outbreak. 

A transcript of his opening remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

Portman Statement on Planned Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan

Portman issued the following statement in response to the announcement by the Biden administration to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021: 

“While the American people are understandably weary after two decades of war, any move to draw down our military presence in Afghanistan should be based on conditions on the ground, not in accordance with an arbitrary date. I believe the president’s decision is ill-advised and disappointing. The Taliban are not committed to combating terrorist networks and have not pledged to serve as responsible governing partners. This rushed and arbitrary withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan fails to guarantee America’s safety and also endangers the brave men and women currently stationed there. I have held this conviction through multiple administrations, and I believe that now. Prior to 9/11, al Qaeda used Afghanistan as a safe haven to plan, train, and execute attacks on the U.S. and our allies around the world. We cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a safe haven for terrorists aiming to attack the United States. The Biden administration must develop and execute a deliberate strategy that ensures America’s safety and an appropriate transition so that all of our efforts – the sacrifices of our service members, diplomats and their families and the enormous costs to U.S. taxpayers – are not in vain.”

At HSGAC Hearing, Portman Questions Witnesses About Federal Government’s Lack of Preparedness in Early Days of COVID-19 Pandemic

Portman questioned witnesses during a hearing to examine the federal response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Portman asked the witnesses why the federal government struggled in its initial preparedness efforts leading into the COVID-19 pandemic, especially problems the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention faced with surveillance systems and inaccurate tests. As Portman discussed during the hearing, CDC’s defective tests resulted in a lack of in-state testing in Ohio from February 7, 2020 until March 5, 2020.

Portman highlighted the need to identify what reforms need to be made to improve federal preparedness for future pandemics and other public health threats. 

The video can be found here.

Portman: New Data on Overdose Deaths Underscore Need for CARA 3.0, Further Bipartisan Efforts to Combat Addiction

Portman released the following statement after the CDC released preliminary data showing that more than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September 2020. Overdose deaths surged by 29 percent nationwide and 24 percent in the state of Ohio.  

“The stunning surge in overdose deaths is heartbreaking. Never before have 87,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in a single twelve-month period. My heart goes out to the countless families and communities that have been ravaged by this nationwide crisis.  

“What’s worse is that over the prior several years, we made real progress in curbing the addiction epidemic. By expanding treatment options, getting help to those afflicted, and clamping down on the influx of deadly synthetic opioids, we began to turn the tide of this crisis and save lives. My home state of Ohio, for instance, saw a 22 percent reduction in Ohio overdose deaths in 2018. 

“However, these new figures from the CDC lay bare a devastating reality: the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the national drug and addiction epidemic, reversing decades of hard-fought progress. 

“As we look toward the future, these new figures must serve as a resounding wake-up call. The addiction crisis is again raging in America and we must take immediate action to combat it. Congress should start by passing CARA 3.0 – sweeping, bipartisan legislation that will bolster evidence-based programs, expand treatment options, and provide communities with the resources they need to save lives. We must also enact the FIGHT Fentanyl Act to permanently criminalize the deadly synthetic opioids that are fueling this nationwide epidemic.  The heartbreaking surge in overdose deaths underscores the need for government officials and community leaders alike to redouble our efforts to combat the addiction epidemic, and these bipartisan solutions will help.”

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Portman, Brown Urge President Biden and National Archives to Address Backlog of Requests for Military Service Records

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero today, urging them to address the backlog of the 480,000 requests for military service records from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the NPRC in St. Louis, Missouri, dropped significantly due to employee health and safety concerns and challenges with processing records requests remotely. This has resulted in severe delays in NPRC responses to requests for service records of U.S. veterans. 

“Ready access to their military records is an obligation we owe to veterans and their families. We understand that working remotely has complicated NPRC’s ability to process these request as approximately 90 percent of the records are on microfilm or paper,” said the Senators. “A slowdown in processing the vital service records held at NPRC affects our veterans’ and their families’ ability to access Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare, benefits, and other services they have earned.  This is especially troubling because more veterans have had to rely on these essential VA services during the pandemic and consequent economic downturn.”  

The full text of the letter can be found here.

Following Portman Bipartisan Letter, Biden Administration Sanctions Russia for Occupation of Crimea, Cyberattacks, Election Interference

Portman released the following statement on the Biden administration’s announcement of new sanctions on Russia for the continued aggressive and harmful activities by the Government of the Russian Federation, including the occupation of Crimea, interference in the 2020 Presidential election, and cyberattacks against the United States. Portman has been vocal on the need to hold Russia accountable for its continued aggression against the United States and our allies and sent letters to the administration last week urging immediate action for Russia’s role in last year’s SolarWinds Orion cyberattack. 

“I am pleased the Biden administration has announced sanctions against Russia for its malign activities, including the occupation of Crimea, cyberattacks, and its attempts to influence the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. These sanctions and the attribution of the SolarWinds hack to SVR follow the bipartisan letter I sent the administration last week calling for real-world consequences for cyberattacks against the United States—including sanctions and attribution. 

“I am glad to see the Biden administration finally address Russia’s continued occupation of Crimea through these sanctions as well. It is vital that we continue to support our allies in Ukraine. The Ukrainian military and people have fought bravely and made tremendous strides against Russian aggression. These sanctions help to show that the United States continues to stand with Ukraine in their fight to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future.

“Consistent with the recommendations announced in my July 2020 bipartisan PSI investigation, I applaud the Biden administration for moving quickly to announce expanded sanctions authorities and to designate sanctioned individuals and entities at the same time. As our PSI investigation showed, two Russian oligarchs sanctioned in response to the 2014 annexation of Crimea transferred over $120 million to Moscow during a four-day window between the announcement of sanctions and being named. Senator Carper and I recently reminded Secretary Yellen of the importance of concurrent announcement and naming in a letter to her in February.

“That said, given the extent to which these actions by Russia have caused damage to the United State and our allies, my hope is that this is only the beginning of actions taken by the Biden administration.”

Portman, Blunt, Lankford, Inhofe Introduce Legislation to Support U.S. Manufacturers 

Senators Rob Portman, Roy Blunt (R-MO), James Lankford (R-OK), and James Inhofe (R-OK) announced that they have introduced the Permanently Preserving America’s Investment in Manufacturing Act of 2021. The bill would ensure that American manufacturers can continue to make large investments, hire workers, and produce goods in the United States.

“At a time when we are just beginning to recover from the pandemic – when many companies took on additional debt during this challenging time – limiting the ability of these businesses to deduct interest is the wrong policy,” said Portman. “We must do more to support American manufacturers that are investing in the United States and hiring workers here, and it is vital that we stop tax increases on our manufacturers from going into effect.”

Portman, Durbin, Members of Bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus Urge President Biden to Continue to Support Ukraine and Reject Unprovoked Aggression by Russia

Senators Rob Portman and Dick Durbin (D-IL), along with other members of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, sent a letter to President Biden, calling on the administration to continue support to Ukraine, as it faces an unprovoked buildup of Russian military forces. In just the past month, attacks on Ukraine by Russia killed 31 Ukrainian soldiers. The Senators also pointed out that Congress has provided robust assistance to Ukraine in the past and stands ready to do so again.

Senator Portman and Durbin were joined by Senators John Barasso (R-WY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ben Cardin, (D-MD), Sherrod Brown, (D-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI)

“Ukraine is a strategic security partner of the United States that desires to align itself with democratic values. Since 2014, President Putin has engaged in an unrelenting campaign of military and political actions designed to deny Ukraine this dream and draw them back into the Kremlin’s sphere of influence,” said the Senators. “It is critical that we continue to push back against Putin’s aggression and support the brave people of Ukraine.”

In the Senate-passed FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Portman worked to ensure that Ukraine has the necessary lethal aid to defend against continued Russian aggression. The Senate-passed FY 2021 NDAA includes $250 million in security assistance for Ukraine to fund additional training, lethal and non-lethal equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. In addition, the bill includes a Portman proposal to require DoD and DoS to develop a new, multi-year strategy to support the development of Ukraine’s military forces, increasing its capability and capacity and providing a resource plan for US security assistance. This report will better synchronize and prioritize future U.S. security assistance to Ukraine by identifying gaps and shortfalls that need to be addressed. Portman also highlighted bipartisan legislation he co-sponsored called the Ukraine Security Partnership Act, which will provide security assistance and strategic support to Ukraine. 

Text can be found here.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Portman, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Build More than Two Million New Units of Affordable Housing Nationwide

As millions of Americans experience increasing housing insecurity and communities throughout the country face affordable housing shortages and high levels of homelessness, a bipartisan, bicameral group of U.S. Senators and Representatives introduced legislation to build more than two million new affordable housing units nationwide in the next 10 years and better meet the needs of at-risk groups. 

The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2021 was introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Representatives Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Don Beyer (D-VA), Brad Wenstrup, and Suzan DelBene (D-WA). 

Senator Portman has been a leader addressing our nation’s housing crisis and expanding opportunities for affordable housing. He is a longtime supporter of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and recognizes the impact the credit has had on improving Ohio’s affordable housing stock. In Ohio, LIHTC has helped generated $12.6 billion in economic impact over the course of the credit’s existence. This Congress, Portman also reintroduced the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, which would provide another tool in the economic toolkit for housing development that pairs well with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to improve our nation’s supply of affordable housing.  

“For the past 35 years, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit has been instrumental in providing affordable housing throughout Ohio and across the nation. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would strengthen this important tool and help further expand our supply of housing,” said Senator Portman. “Congress must continue to improve the country’s supply of affordable housing, especially as many are still working to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Portman Statement on Biden Administration Commission to Study Expansion of Supreme Court

Portman issued the following statement in response to the recent moves by the Biden administration to study the potential expansion of the Supreme Court: 

“What started as a study commission announced by the president less than a week ago has quickly turned into a partisan attempt to substantially alter one of our government’s most important institutions and a significant part of an entire branch of government. The attempt to turn the Supreme Court of the United States into another legislative branch should be soundly rejected by the American people, no matter their political persuasion. 

“Justice Stephen Breyer warned against such a move recently when he said the Court’s authority depends on ‘a trust that the Court is guided by legal principle, not politics’ and that ‘structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that latter perception, further eroding that trust.’ The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed in 2019 that court packing would make the Supreme Court appear partisan, and would impair the idea of an independent judiciary. 

“Packing the Supreme Court with more justices simply to try and dictate preferred policy outcomes is dangerous and I hope Congress avoids going down this path. The structure of our judicial system should not be a political issue. If Congress increases the number of justices each time power changes hands, the Court will lose legitimacy and credibility. 

“Last fall I was proud to cosponsor a Constitutional amendment that would prevent the expansion or contraction of the Supreme Court to prevent court packing, and I continue to believe partisan moves to alter the makeup of the Court would irrevocably damage its reputation as an independent branch of the government. President Biden and Senate Democrats already have the opportunity to appoint and confirm new members to the bench in accordance with the procedure laid out in the Constitution. Pursuing this course of action honors the vision for the separation of powers laid out by the framers of the Constitution.”

Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Increase Global Cooperation in Fight Against Synthetic Drug Trafficking, Following Record Number of Synthetic Overdose Deaths During COVID-19

Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with U.S Representatives Michael McCaul (R-TX) and David Trone (D-MD) introduced of the Fighting Emerging Narcotics Through Additional Nations to Yield Lasting (FENTANYL) Results Act to increase global cooperation in the fight against synthetic drug trafficking. The group first introduced the bill last Congress, and the U.S. House passed the bill unanimously last year.  

The FENTANYL Results Act would authorize two programs through the State Department that would build foreign law enforcement capacity to detect synthetic drugs and carry out an international exchange program for drug demand reduction experts.   

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data revealing that a record breaking 87,000 Americans died from a drug overdose between September 2019 and September 2020 during the height of COVID-19. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were behind most of the deaths. 

“I’m proud to join my colleagues Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Representatives Michael McCaul and David Trone on this bipartisan, bicameral bill that will continue our work to reduce the devastating effects of synthetic opioid drug production like fentanyl,” said Senator Portman. “This legislation will strengthen State Department data collection on synthetic drug production while increasing international law enforcement capacity. This important effort will help us save lives and mitigate the devastating effects of deadly synthetic opioids, which have impacted families and communities across Ohio and our country. I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this important legislation and will continue to do everything I can to stop these deadly substances from destroying lives both in America and around the world.”

Portman, Brown, Mast, Ryan Introduce Legislation to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (R-FL) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), introduced legislation to help veterans who have been harmed by exposure to toxic burn pits. The bicameral, bipartisan bill, the SFC Heath Robinson Burn Pit Transparency Act, is named in honor of Heath Robinson, a central Ohio veteran who passed away last year and was exposed to burn pits while deployed.

“We owe our servicemembers a great 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,” said Portman. “I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan measure requiring VA to submit regular reports on veterans exposed to burn pits. The reports will provide valuable data on patterns of medical diagnoses and associated disability claims so we can better understand the impact of burn pit exposure and hold VA accountable for the medical treatment and benefits to which veterans may be entitled.” 

Portman, Brown Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Trade Remedy Laws, Protect American Workers

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Eliminating Global Market Distortions to Protect American Jobs Act, bipartisan legislation to strengthen U.S. trade remedy laws and ensure they remain effective tools to fight back against unfair trade practices and protect American workers. The Senators’ legislation would establish the new concept of “successive investigations” to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. trade remedy system in responding to repeat offenders and serial cheaters, helping to level the playing field for American workers. 

“This bipartisan bill will strengthen our antidumping and countervailing duty laws to challenge China’s unfair trade practices and protect American jobs in sectors that are important to Ohio. Nowhere is China’s disdain for the free market more evident than in the steel overcapacity crisis,” said Portman. “Twenty years ago, China produced 18 percent of the world’s supply of steel. Now it is roughly 50 percent. Today it is steel, but tomorrow it could be electric vehicles or semiconductors. This overcapacity is the result of deliberate choices by China to subsidize their industries and degrade the free market in pursuit of global market dominance, all at the expense of American jobs.”

Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral TRUST Act, Legislation to Rescue Endangered Federal Trust Funds and Rein in National Debt 

Portman joined his colleagues in introducing the Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation which would create a process to rescue the endangered federal trust funds and rein in the national debt.           

Some of the nation’s most important federal programs are financed through dedicated revenue sources and managed through trust funds. A number of the largest trust funds are heading towards insolvency — made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2020, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that four of the major trust funds will exhaust their reserves within the next 11 years. The bipartisan, bicameral TRUST Act would provide a vehicle to address the key structural issues behind the debt and allow Congress to put our major federal programs on a stronger footing.      

Along with Portman, the TRUST Act is cosponsored by: Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). U.S. Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ed Case (D-HI), Scott Peters (D-CA), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“If left unaddressed by Congress, federal trust funds will cause our nation’s deficit to rise and have detrimental effects on taxpayers, especially seniors,” Senator Portman said. “The TRUST Act takes a critical step in restoring, strengthening, and modernizing these important, yet endangered trust funds.

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

Sen. Rob Portman, who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine during clinical testing, urges Ohioans to get vaccinated despite setback

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who received the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine when it was being clinically tested, on Tuesday said he’s “discouraged” by reports that six women experienced a rare blood clotting disorder within two weeks after receiving the vaccine.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine urged providers in Ohio to pause using the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, in accordance with the federal government’s recommendation, and to instead use vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that require two doses.

Portman told reporters he’s confident the Centers for Disease Control and other researchers will review the data and “come to a science driven decision” on the vaccine’s safety .He observed that 6.8 million people have had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so the side effects were “a very rare occurrence.”

“It’s disappointing, because I do believe these vaccines are really important,” said Portman, who did not experience any side effects from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Ohio Republican said he hopes the reports won’t make people more hesitant to take the vaccine.

“I continue to encourage people to get the vaccines in Ohio,” Portman said. “We have the Moderna vaccine, we have the Pfizer vaccine that are available and we now are providing it to people who are 16 and up. We’ve made some progress in Ohio. We’ve got well over a third of Ohioans who have now at least gotten the first vaccine. And we’ve got to continue that progress because that’s how we’re going to get out of this situation and get back to a more normal life where we can get back to work, back to school, and the vaccines are the critical elements.”

A statement from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, stressed that the vaccines are “overwhelmingly safe and effective and they continue to be our best tool to fight back against COVID-19, protect ourselves and keep our friends and neighbors safe, and get back to normal.

“COVID-19 cases in Ohio are back on the rise – we need to redouble our efforts on an equitable distribution strategy and we cannot let up our fight now,” Brown continued. “I urge folks to follow the advice of their health care providers, keep their appointments, and get vaccinated as soon as they can. I’m glad that the CDC and FDA are being transparent with the public and taking these reports seriously, and I will continue to follow the situation closely.”

As of Monday, more than 4 million people – roughly 35% of the Ohio population – had received at least their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine,

A statement from White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said pausing the vaccine’s use “will not have a significant impact” on federal vaccination plans, and observed that fewer than 5 percent of the “recorded shots in arms in the United States to date” were from Johnson & Johnson. He said state and federal agencies are working to get anyone scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rescheduled for vaccination with shots from Pfizer or Moderna.

“Based on actions taken by the President earlier this year, the United States has secured enough Pfizer and Moderna doses for 300 million Americans,” Zients’ statement said. “Over the last few weeks, we have made available more than 25 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna each week, and in fact this week we will make available 28 million doses of these vaccines. This is more than enough supply to continue the current pace of vaccinations of 3 million shots per day, and meet the President’s goal of 200 million shots by his 100th day in office—and continue on to reach every adult who wants to be vaccinated.”

At a White House news conference, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said Johnson & Johnson vaccine use is being paused “out of an abundance of caution” to study the problems that arose and determine whether there are common denominators among the women who experienced the blood clots. He said people who have received the vaccine should watch out for side effects, particularly headaches, after getting it.

“We’re ruled by the science, not any other considerations,” said Fauci.

Trolley Barn Complex, Athens company show why tax credit program works and should be made permanent

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives and posed unprecedented health care and economic challenges.

But in this time of crisis, I am proud that Ohio businesses stepped up and answered the call, participating in the national response to the pandemic, helping save lives and exemplifying the innovating thinking that drives our state forward.

I also am proud that the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program, which for more than 20 years has fueled meaningful private investment into communities in need, has played a crucial role in helping defeat this disease.

The program gives businesses a credit on their taxes when they invest in hard-hit areas across the nation. Between 2003 and 2020, more than $26 billion in tax credits have been provided under this program to help private businesses participate in this important effort.

And the results speak for themselves.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted America’s widening economic rift, the NMTC helped companies in Ohio and across the country grow and invest in hard-hit communities, creating jobs and promoting economic development. Since being enacted in 2000, it has mobilized $5.5 billion in Ohio’s distressed areas through 529 separate projects, including manufacturing expansion, daycare and community centers, business incubators and much more – all with positive and lasting impact on Ohio families and  communities.    

For example, in Columbus, a collection of old, disused buildings known as the Trolley Barn complex, are being refurbished into a vibrant new community marketplace, funded in part by NMTC.

I have seen firsthand many of the other sites across Ohio that utilize this important tax credit, including the UH Rainbow Center for Women & Children in Cleveland, the Bowery Project and Ronald McDonald House in Akron, the YMCA in Youngstown, Dayton Children’s Hospital in Dayton, and Nehemiah Manufacturing in my hometown of Cincinnati. Each of these projects have helped create new jobs in poor communities.

These projects are standout examples of how NMTC projects grow and lead to further investments in these vulnerable communities for years to come.

In all, projects financed in connection with NMTCs have created nearly 56,000 jobs across Ohio. For example, in Athens, Stirling Ultracold has used an NMTC not only to invest in the community, but also to expand and grow their business. This investment has paid dividends for us all, as Stirling Ultracold has been a leader in safely refrigerating and transporting the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines we are relying on to defeat this pandemic.

With strong support from both sides of the aisle and 20 years of success stories, we know the NMTC works.

When other members tried to eliminate the NMTC program during tax reform in 2017, I successfully fought to preserve it and, most recently, I fought to ensure a five-year extension of the credit was included in the appropriations package signed into law last December.

But we must act to build on bipartisan support to make the New Markets Tax Credit permanent, giving businesses the peace of mind to make these life-changing investments in communities that need it. To that end, I was proud to join my colleague, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., to introduce bipartisan legislation earlier this year to permanently extend this critical program. 

Over the past two decades, we have seen the NMTC lift up communities in need across Ohio and all the U.S., generating investment, jobs and economic vitality.

The work of Stirling Ultracold during this pandemic shows how these investments can benefit all of us. If we can secure a permanent extension of the NMTC, it would help grow our economy by driving $5 billion of private investment into distressed communities across the U.S. each year and give more Americans the opportunity to find good-paying jobs with meaning.

We should seize the opportunity to help these long-overlooked communities grow and thrive for years to come.

##

 

 

 

 

 

Portman, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral TRUST Act, Legislation to Rescue Endangered Federal Trust Funds and Rein in National Debt

Source: United States Senator for Ohio Rob Portman

April 16, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has joined his colleagues in introducing the Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation which would create a process to rescue the endangered federal trust funds and rein in the national debt.
           
Some of the nation’s most important federal programs are financed through dedicated revenue sources and managed through trust funds. A number of the largest trust funds are heading towards insolvency — made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2020, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that four of the major trust funds will exhaust their reserves within the next 11 years. The bipartisan, bicameral TRUST Act would provide a vehicle to address the key structural issues behind the debt and allow Congress to put our major federal programs on a stronger footing.
              
Along with Portman, the TRUST Act is cosponsored by: Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). U.S. Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ed Case (D-HI), Scott Peters (D-CA), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
       
“If left unaddressed by Congress, federal trust funds will cause our nation’s deficit to rise and have detrimental effects on taxpayers, especially seniors,” Senator Portman said. “The TRUST Act takes a critical step in restoring, strengthening, and modernizing these important, yet endangered trust funds.”

“There is broad recognition that we need to address the looming insolvency of our federal trust funds,” Senator Romney said. “Getting our country through the COVID-19 pandemic has required us to borrow trillions of dollars, which has in turn threatened essential programs like Medicare and Social Security. Congress must respond in a way which will address this long-term problem, which is coming down the pike much sooner than was expected. Our TRUST Act is a bipartisan solution which will shore up our federal trust funds and put us on a path toward a stronger fiscal future.”
     
“Future generations of Americans should not be burdened by our poor financial decisions today,” 
Senator Manchin said. “Generations of irresponsibly cutting taxes combined with spending beyond our means has left the important programs on which we all depend – Medicare, Social Security, highways, and pensions – on the brink of insolvency. We must work to put the federal budget back on track to reflect our priorities while being fiscally responsible. It is past time we got our fiscal house in order, and I am proud to join my bipartisan colleagues in reintroducing this legislation to put our budget back on track.”
  
“We need to act now to save programs like Social Security and Medicare. If we don’t, these programs will go bankrupt and America’s safety net will disappear,” 
said Senator Young. “With the TRUST Act, we can set in motion a bipartisan national plan to finally begin tackling the long-term drivers of our national debt.”
  
“As we work to fuel a full economic recovery from the pandemic for Arizona, we must also plan for sustainable federal spending in the future. Our bipartisan, commonsense bill protects the retirement benefits Arizonans have earned and grows Arizona’s economic opportunities while helping address our nation’s debt,” 
said Senator Sinema.
   
“Without responsible action, many of our nation’s trust funds will eventually be depleted. I’m proud to join my colleagues once again to reintroduce the TRUST Act, which provides a path toward commonsense, bipartisan solutions that strengthens these programs and puts them on a solid foundation for years to come. Preserving these trust funds is critical to America’s future,” 
Senator Capito said.
 
“Social Security, Medicare, and the Highway Trust Fund fulfill some of our nation’s most pressing needs – healthcare and income for our senior citizens, repairs to our federal highways, care for our disabled citizens, and more,” 
said Senator King. “At the same time, the federal trusts that fund these programs are on unsteady financial ground; without action, they will become insolvent, and result in drastic benefit cuts, a heavy strain on the federal budget, or both. We can take on this challenge, and secure Social Security, Medicare, and our highways for future generations, if we act now. Every day that we delay, the problem grows larger and more difficult to solve. Now is the time for bipartisan work to secure the long-term financial health of our federal trusts and the vital programs that they fund.”
    
“Millions of Texans rely on the safety net provided by programs like Social Security and Medicare,” 
Senator Cornyn said. “We cannot continue to kick the can down the road and must ensure these funds are available for future generations, and this legislation would help ensure the solvency of these critical programs.”
    
“If programs like Medicare and Social Security are not reformed, they will continue down a path toward insolvency, and the benefits our seniors rely on will become unavailable to them,” 
said Senator Cramer. “The TRUST Act would form bipartisan committees tasked with crafting solutions to consider which would be aimed at fixing these vital programs and ensuring current and future recipients receive the benefits they have earned. We cannot continue to pretend doing nothing is acceptable and this problem will magically go away on its own. Congress needs to act.”

“Our national debt and fiscal deficits threaten our position as the world’s economic leader and the U.S. Dollar as the global reserve currency. We can’t stick to the status quo and expect our outlook to get better. I applaud Senator Romney for his leadership to begin righting our fiscal ship when it comes to federal trust funds. We cannot stop here and the bipartisan, bicameral TRUST Act is an important step in the right direction and gives me optimism about our fiscal future,” said Senator Lummis. 

A one-pager of the legislation is available here.
      
Support for the TRUST Act:
 
“More than a decade after the Fiscal Commission we co-chaired released common-sense, comprehensive recommendations to fix the debt and to secure our major entitlement programs, those programs still remain in serious financial jeopardy. The Social Security, Medicare, and Highway Trust Funds are all predicted to be insolvent in the next 11 years, triggering deep, across-the-board cuts in benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic has sped the timeline to insolvency and makes solutions even more urgent. While most people in Washington would prefer to burrow – or leave! – their heads in the sand, the TRUST Act would create a truly bipartisan process to save these important programs. We know from personal experience that when Democrats, Republicans, and Independents work together in good faith, they can identify real and lasting solutions: the Fiscal Commission recommendations were supported by 11 of 18 commissioners. We earnestly thank Senators Romney and Manchin, Representatives Gallagher and Case, and other co-sponsors for taking the lead on this important and vital effort. Time is running out to enact critical and thoughtful reforms to appropriately fund our infrastructure and return solvency to Social Security and Medicare.” – Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
 
“Senator Romney and these cosponsors deserve immense credit for developing a plan to fix the federal government’s most important trust fund programs, which are headed toward insolvency due to years of neglect. We just can’t wait any longer to fix a problem that leaves all who depend on these programs dangerously vulnerable. The TRUST Act is a sensible, bipartisan and balanced approach that would bring together lawmakers to develop fixes, without pre-baking any of the outcomes. We have known for decades that we must shore up the finances of these critical systems, and the current crisis is a reminder of how being prepared is a must in responsible governing. The TRUST Act would provide much-needed fiscal leadership.”
 – Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
 
“The Senate expressed bipartisan support for the TRUST Act in its recent budget resolution. It’s good to see momentum behind this and other proposals that would help ensure we don’t lose sight of the serious fiscal challenges that lay ahead.” 
– Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of BPC Action
 
“This proposal could prompt bipartisan action on key trust fund depletion dates that threaten indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to vital programs within the next 15 years. It is, in effect, a responsible call to repeal and replace the irresponsible ‘do nothing plan.’ Democrats and Republicans may have very different ideas about how to address the shortfalls in these trust funds, but neither party should want to be responsible for the damaging and disruptive consequences of inaction. Time is running out to enact reforms. The TRUST Act is a credible way to get the process started and The Concord Coalition applauds its bipartisan, bicameral leaders.” 
– Robert L. Bixby, Executive Director of The Concord Coalition

###

Miss. Delegation Requests Federal Disaster Declaration to Overcome February Storm Damage

Source: United States Senator for Mississippi Roger Wicker

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., with U.S. Representatives Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., Trent Kelly, R-Miss., and Michael Guest, R-Miss., issued a letter today asking President Biden to approve Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves’s request for a major disaster declaration due to the extreme winter weather that hit the state of Mississippi in February.

If approved, the disaster declaration would unlock additional federal resources to supplement state recovery efforts.

Governor Reeves this week formally requested a federal disaster declaration to gain access to FEMA Public Assistance funding for Adams, Attala, Choctaw, Claiborne, Copiah, Covington, Franklin, Grenada, Hinds, Jasper, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Kemper, Lafayette, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Leake, Lincoln, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Pike, Rankin, Scott, Simpson, Smith, Tallahatchie, Walthall, Warren, Winston, and Yazoo counties, and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The request also included statewide FEMA Hazard Mitigation assistance.

The full text of the delegation letter is below:

Dear President Biden,

In the wake of the extreme winter weather that hit the State of Mississippi beginning on February 11, 2021, we ask for your full consideration of Governor Tate Reeves’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration under the Stafford Act. Because of the numerous major declarations over the past year in Mississippi, including from COVID-19 and an active hurricane season on the Gulf Coast, federal support to state and local officials in Mississippi is necessary to ensure a complete recovery. 

We appreciate the continued efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and anticipate expeditious assistance from FEMA to aid state and local officials in Mississippi as they continue responding to and recovering from the devastating winter weather events that occurred beginning on February 11, 2021. 

As Governor Reeves indicated in his request, the Joint Preliminary Damage Assessments showed that the winter storms caused nearly $25 million in damages across Mississippi. Additionally, six Mississippians lost their lives because of these extreme winter weather events. Reports also stated that 170,224 customers lost power and 56 boil notices were in effect across Mississippi. The state used its resources to deliver drinkable water to the impacted counties, including to the City of Jackson, which did not have running water in parts of the city for nearly a month.

On February 14, 2021, Governor Reeves declared a State of Emergency in Mississippi to assist in the recovery. However, resources from the state government, local governments, and volunteer organizations are not adequate to offset these damages. Significant federal assistance is required for the 31 counties and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians requesting Public Assistance.

We are determined to assist our residents’ recovery by supporting the affected local communities and the State of Mississippi as they work to recover from these devastating winter weather events.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need further assistance in this effort.

Sincerely,        

Roger F. Wicker, United States Senator

Cindy Hyde-Smith, United States Senator

Bennie G. Thompson, Member of Congress

Steven Palazzo, Member of Congress

Trent Kelly, Member of Congress

Michael Guest, Member of Congress