Cantwell Applauds Restoration of Tongass Forest Protections

Source: United States Senator for Washington Maria Cantwell

06.11.21

Cantwell Applauds Restoration of Tongass Forest Protections

Biden Admin signals they will reverse Trump directive that stripped protections for over 9 million acres of pristine Alaskan forestlands, including old-growth stands

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released a statement following President Biden’s announcement that they plan to “revise or replace” a Trump Administration proposal to lift roadless rule protections within Alaska’s Tongass National Forest.

“I commend the Biden Administration for ensuring the future of our shared public lands is based on science, a legally sound process, and stakeholder input. The fate of one of the world’s last great remaining temperate forests shouldn’t be a political decision made on a whim.” said Senator Cantwell, the Senate’s longtime champion of the Roadless Rule. “The salmon runs, carbon storage, and tourism appeal that the Tongass currently provides will always be more valuable to Pacific Northwest communities than any subsidized logging projects.”

Cantwell led Congressional criticism of the Trump Administration flawed Tongass rulemaking. Last October, she led a bicameral group of lawmakers in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue that blasted the administration’s decision to strip protections from protected areas of the world’s largest temperate rainforest. In July 2019, Senator Cantwell led another bicameral letter to Purdue expressing concerns over the rulemaking process, the lack of adequate consultation with local stakeholders, and urging the Department to schedule additional scoping meetings in other areas of the country, like Seattle. And in August 2019, she blasted the administration over its decision to move forward with eliminating protections for the Tongass.

Senator Cantwell has also been the lead Senate champion of the 2001 Roadless Rule, which for two decades has shielded almost 60 million acres of some of the most pristine and treasured areas within the National Forest System from roadbuilding and logging. She has repeatedly introduced legislation to codify the Roadless Rule into law, including as early as 2001. Last January, on its twentieth anniversary, Cantwell announced the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2021 that would permanently protect 58.5 million of acres of national forest from logging and development—more than 31 percent of America’s National Forest System—including the South Quinault Ridge in Northwest Washington, the Dark Divide in Southwest Washington, The Kettle Range in Northeast Washington, and much of the Methow Valley Headwaters in Central Washington. 

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Capito, Manchin Announce $236k for Innovative Energy Sector Research at West Virginia University

Source: United States Senator for West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $236,903 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for an energy sector research project through the West Virginia University Research Corporation. This project studies the conversion of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, to value-added fuels and chemicals. This project also works directly with elementary and high schools through outreach activities to demonstrate innovative energy concepts.

“As an energy state, West Virginia continues to play a key role in advancing energy sector research, which is why programs like this are necessary to grow that aspect of our state in innovative ways and increase opportunities for students. I’m glad to see NSF providing support for initiatives within this field and their continued investments into the research capacities of West Virginia University. I will continue to be a strong advocate for additional projects that fortify the future of West Virginia,” Senator Capito said.

“West Virginia plays a vital role in innovative energy sector research and manufacturing that will help lead the United States and the world in the changing energy market. This research project at West Virginia University is just the latest example that demonstrates the potential of West Virginia’s energy industry. I am thrilled the National Science Foundation is investing in this important research to study innovative energy conversion, and I look forward to seeing the results of this research. As Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to advocate for funding that supports research projects in the Mountain State and innovative energy solutions,” said Senator Manchin.

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Sen. Cramer: USDA to Make Disaster Payments for Qualified Ag Producers Starting June 15

Source: United States Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND)

BISMARCK – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) issued the following statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcing today it will release over $1 billion in payments beginning June 15, 2021, to qualified producers who suffered losses from 2018 and 2019 natural disasters:

“North Dakota’s producers have suffered significant hardship in recent years, and at a time of extreme drought with soaring input costs and dramatic supply chain disruptions, these funds will provide much-needed relief to help them cover losses caused by events that were out of their control. I am grateful to see progress being made in getting our producers this assistance, and I urge the Agriculture Department to get these payments into the hands of qualified applicants as quickly as possible.”

The payments will go through USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to agricultural producers with approved applications for the Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA) program and those who have already received payments through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+). Last fall, Senator Cramer urged North Dakota producers to apply for disaster programs made available by USDA.

Rob’s Rundown: Week of June 7 – June 11, 2021

Source: United States Senator for Ohio Rob Portman

June 11, 2021 | Rob’s Rundown

Senator Portman was in Washington this week where he continued working with a bipartisan group of 10 senators, five Republicans and five Democrats, to craft an infrastructure proposal that focuses on core infrastructure without raising taxes. On Thursday evening, Portman joined the group in announcing that a bipartisan agreement had been reached on a framework to modernize America’s infrastructure.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Portman discussed his recent bipartisan congressional delegation (CODEL) to Eastern Europe and the need for the United States to continue supporting Ukraine, Lithuania, and Georgia. Portman also called on President Biden to send a strong message against Russian aggression in the region when he meets with President Putin next week.  

Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday outlining his opposition to the Biden administration’s budget, which calls for unprecedented federal spending and for allowing the 2017 tax cuts for middle class families and others to expire. Portman urged the Biden administration to reverse course on their budget proposal, which he believes will not fuel an economic recovery and instead lead the nation further down the current path of rising inflation, labor shortages, and record deficit spending. 

During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) hearing Tuesday morning, Portman pressed the President and CEO of Colonial Pipeline, Joseph Blount, on gaps in their cybersecurity practices. In his questioning, Portman highlighted the importance of strong cyber hygiene, including the need for multi-factor authentication, which prior to the ransomware attack, Colonial Pipeline did not have for all accounts. Portman also questioned Mr. Blount about the need for further cyber mandates from the federal government to better protect private and public entities from future cyberattacks. 

On Monday morning, Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor in which he honored the 77th anniversary of D-Day by reading the prayer that President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to the nation on the morning of June 6, 1944, now known as the D-Day Prayer. Portman authored the World War II Memorial Prayer Act which directs the Secretary of the Interior to install a plaque or inscription at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. with the words from Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer 

In a joint op-ed for Roll Call with Rep. John Katko, Portman called on President Biden and his administration to address the ongoing surge in illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, coming across the southern border and into the U.S., resulting in an increase of overdose deaths. This comes only days after the  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics for May 2021 which revealed that the crisis on our border continues to worsen. 

Finally, Portman penned an op-ed for Fortune on Friday outlining his sweeping, bipartisan legislation – Retirement Security & Savings Act (S. 1770) – to  strengthen Americans’ retirement security. The bill addresses four major opportunities in the existing retirement system: (1) allowing people who have saved too little to set more aside for their retirement; (2) helping small businesses offer 401(k)s and other retirement plans; (3) expanding access to retirement savings plans, including for low-income Americans without coverage; and (4) providing more certainty and flexibility during Americans’ retirement years.  

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

Monday, June 7, 2021

New Portman-Cardin Retirement Security Legislation Receives Widespread Praise

Recently, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the bipartisan Retirement Security & Savings Act (S. 1770), a broad set of reforms designed to strengthen Americans’ retirement security. The bill addresses four major opportunities in the existing retirement system: (1) allowing people who have saved too little to set more aside for their retirement; (2) helping small businesses offer 401(k)s and other retirement plans; (3) expanding access to retirement savings plans, including for low-income Americans without coverage; and (4) providing more certainty and flexibility during Americans’ retirement years. The measure includes more than 50 provisions to accomplish these objectives.   

Numerous national stakeholders have stepped forward to voice their support for this landmark piece of legislation.

Portman Honors 77th Anniversary of D-Day by Reading FDR’s D-Day Prayer on Senate Floor

On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) honored the 77th anniversary of D-Day by reading the prayer that President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to the nation on the morning of June 6, 1944, now known as the D-Day Prayer. 

Portman discussed his work to ensure the prayer is permanently inscribed at the Circle of Remembrance, just north of the World War II Memorial. The World War II Memorial Prayer Act, authored by Senator Portman and Representative Bill Johnson and signed into law in 2014, directs the Secretary of the Interior to install a plaque near the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., inscribed with the words of the D-Day Prayer. The legislation requires that the plaque comply with the Commemorative Works Act and prohibits the use of federal funding. A temporary plaque was donated to the Friends of the National World War II Memorial to honor our WWII veterans and their families during the 75th anniversary and was installed in 2019. Construction of the permanent plaque is expected to be completed next year. 

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

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Portman, Peters, Blunt, Klobuchar Release Bipartisan Report Investigating January 6th Capitol Attack

U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member and Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration, released a bipartisan report on the security, planning, and response failures related to the violent and unprecedented attack on January 6th.  

The report also includes a series of recommendations for the Capitol Police Board, United States Capitol Police (USCP), federal intelligence agencies, the Department of Defense (DOD), and other Capital region law enforcement agencies. 

“The January 6 attack on the Capitol was an attack on democracy itself. Today’s joint bipartisan congressional oversight report from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Rules Committee details the security and intelligence failures in the days leading up to the attack, the lack of preparedness at the Capitol, and the slow response as the attack unfolded,” said Senator Portman. “We make specific recommendations to address key failures in the Capitol Police Board structure and processes; ensure Capitol Police has the training and equipment necessary to complete its mission; update how the intelligence agencies assess and issue intelligence bulletins, particularly as it relates to social media; enhance communications between the chain of command at the Department of Defense; and ensure timely and effective cooperation and coordination amongst federal, state, and local law enforcement. We must address these failures and make the necessary reforms to ensure this never happens again.”

On CBS This Morning, Portman Highlights Bipartisan Report on January 6th Capitol Attack

This morning on CBS This Morning, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, joined Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member and Chairwoman of the Committee on Rules and Administration, to discuss their new, bipartisan report on the security, planning, and response failures related to the violent and unprecedented attack on the Capitol on January 6th. Portman highlighted the bipartisan nature of the report and how it demonstrates that Congress is able to work together on a bipartisan basis to find solutions to ensure that an attack like January 6th never happens again. 

The report also includes a series of recommendations for the Capitol Police Board, United States Capitol Police (USCP), federal intelligence agencies, the Department of Defense (DOD), and other Capital region law enforcement agencies. 

Excerpts of the interview can be found here and a video can be found here.

Portman: We Need to Reevaluate How We Defend Against Ransomware

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), delivered opening remarks at a hearing to examine the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack and the ongoing cyber threats to critical infrastructure. In his remarks, Portman highlighted four topics: that these attacks have real-world consequences; determining if ransomware victims should pay the ransom; identifying the gaps in information sharing between impacted organizations and the federal government, and; recognizing these ransomware attacks as a serious national security threat. 

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

Portman Presses President and CEO of Colonial Pipeline on Gaps in Cybersecurity Practices

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), pressed the President and CEO of Colonial Pipeline, Joseph Blount, on gaps in their cybersecurity practices. In his questioning, Portman highlighted the importance of strong cyber hygiene, including the need for multi-factor authentication, which prior to the ransomware attack, Colonial Pipeline did not have for all accounts. Portman also questioned Mr. Blount about the need for further cyber mandates from the federal government to better protect private and public entities from future cyberattacks. 

Last month, Senator Portman and Senator Gary Peters’ (D-MI), Chairman of HSGAC, bipartisan Cyber Response and Recovery Act was unanimously approved by the full Committee. The legislation will help improve the federal response to cyber breaches, like the recent attack against the Colonial Pipeline. The bill establishes a Cyber Response and Recovery Fund for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to provide direct support to public or private entities as they respond to and recover from significant cyberattacks and breaches, following a declaration of a significant incident by the Secretary of Homeland Security. 

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

At Finance Hearing on the IRS’ Proposed Budget for FY 2022, Portman Questions IRS Commissioner on Modernization and Cryptocurrency

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) spoke about the need to modernize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and ensure the agency has adequate staffing to provide effective and efficient taxpayer services. When IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig appeared before the committee in April they discussed the challenges the agency faces in adapting to the growing use of cryptocurrencies. Portman inquired as to whether the IRS had the necessary authority to issue appropriate regulations in relation to cryptocurrency information reporting or whether congressional authority was needed. 

In their proposed budget, the IRS has requested funding to implement the administration’s 10-year plan which calls for the IRS to expand its workforce by 15 percent per year, nearly doubling the size of the IRS in a decade. Portman questioned whether the IRS has the ability to train a larger workforce and if there is a qualified labor pool big enough to fill these new positions. 

A transcript of Senator Portman’s questioning can be found here and video can be found here.

Portman, Kelly, Murkowski, Warren, Tester Introduce Legislation to let Children of Servicemembers Stay on Healthcare Until Age 26

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Jon Tester (D-MT) introduced the Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow young adults to stay on their parents’ TRICARE plan until they are 26 without a premium increase – a critical lifeline as our nation works to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation for TRICARE was laid 65 years ago this week through enactment of the Dependents Medical Care Act. Today, TRICARE is a Department of Defense health insurance program that serves 9.6 million active duty and retired servicemembers, and their families. The Health Care Fairness for Military Families Act would bring TRICARE plans in line with private insurance plans. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in January by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL). 

“Servicemembers and their families deserve the same access to health care benefits as civilians,” said Senator Portman. “This bill would allow for people under the age of 26 to stay on their family’s TRICARE plan, just as the ACA allows for in civilian healthcare, saving some military families hundreds of dollars a month in costly premiums.” 

Portman, Carper, Rubio Applaud Senate Passage of Bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act to Stop Theft of U.S. Research & Intellectual Property by Global Competitors

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Tom Carper (D-DE), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), applauded the Senate passage of the Safeguarding American Innovation Act as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act invests more than $100 billion of taxpayer funds to solidify the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation critical to national security and economic competitiveness. The bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act, which passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this month, will protect the more than $100 billion investment American research and IP from global competitors, like China. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), James Risch (R-ID), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Coons (D-DE), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Barrasso (R-WY), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), James Lankford (R-OK), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) are cosponsors of the legislation.

Portman and Carper, as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), led a year-long investigation into this issue culminating in a bipartisan report and hearing that detailed how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s military and economy over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Starting in the late 1990s through its “talent recruitment programs,” China began recruiting U.S.-based scientists and researchers to transfer U.S. taxpayer-funded IP for China’s military and economic gain. This legislation will ensure that the federal government is taking decisive action to safeguard American innovation. 

This legislation also addresses the findings of PSI’s February 2019 report, which highlighted the Department of Education’s lack of enforcement of foreign gift reporting at U.S. colleges and universities, which the department admitted was “historically lax.” This bill gives the department increased authority to enforce foreign gift reporting rules and lowers the reporting threshold to increase transparency and prevent foreign interference on U.S. campuses. 

“The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act invests billions of taxpayer dollars in national security and technological innovation at the National Science Foundation, so I’m pleased that the final legislative package includes the guardrails of my bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act to ensure that the American taxpayer does not unwittingly fuel the rise of China. We cannot continue to allow our adversaries to steal taxpayer-funded research and innovation to the detriment of hard-working Americans,” said Portman. “For nearly two decades, as we detailed in the November 2019 PSI report, the federal government has been asleep at the wheel while foreign governments have exploited the openness of our education system and bought access and influence on our school campuses. This bill will help us stop foreign governments from stealing our research and innovation, so that American taxpayer-funded research will be used to level the playing to create jobs for hard-working Americans. By including my Safeguarding American Innovation Act in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that passed today, this legislative body is taking critical steps to ensure that American taxpayer investments in scientific innovation benefit hard-working Americans, not our global competitors.

Senate Passes Portman, Murphy, Graham, Brown, Stabenow “Buy American” Bill to Improve Transparency & Support U.S. Manufacturing Jobs

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Chris Murphy (D-CT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) applauded the United States Senate for passing their bipartisan BuyAmerican.gov Act as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. This legislation will establish a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods in compliance with existing law. Under current law, federal agencies may use domestic content waivers to Buy American laws to purchase goods or services from foreign companies only in certain circumstances: for example, when an American-made good is unavailable or will significantly increase the cost of a product. However, there is currently no easily accessible government-wide system tracking the use and abuse of these waivers by federal agencies.  

The bipartisan legislation will direct the General Services Administration to establish a central, publicly available website, at the link currently known as BuyAmerican.gov, to collect and display information about each requested waiver to Buy American laws. This website will allow manufacturers and other interested parties to identify contract opportunities and hold federal agencies accountable for abusing Buy American waivers. The measure also will give manufacturers the chance to challenge pending waivers sought by federal agencies. President Biden’s recent Buy American executive order proposes a website for the same purpose.  

We must do everything we can to protect and maximize American jobs, and that starts by ensuring that our tax dollars aren’t used to create jobs overseas. I’m pleased my colleagues in the Senate have passed this legislation as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act and agreed with President Biden and me about the need for a website to better identify contracting opportunities American manufacturers,” said Portman. “By improving transparency, the BuyAmerican.gov Act will encourage federal agencies to support American workers and American jobs by faithfully complying with Buy American laws. This is a bipartisan bill that is needed now to help support American jobs.” 

Senate Passes Portman, Peters Bipartisan Make PPE in America Act

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the United States Senate for passing their bipartisan legislation, the Make PPE in America Act as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. This legislation will strengthen efforts to onshore production of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the United States by requiring federal agencies to issue long-term contracts for American-made PPE. Reshoring production will ensure American workers, health care professionals, and more have the PPE they need as the economy continues to reopen. Domestic production of PPE supplies also will create American manufacturing jobs and ensure that America is better prepared for the next pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it evident that the American people should not have to rely so heavily on foreign countries for personal protective equipment, and that’s why we must bring PPE production back to our shores. I applaud my Senate colleagues for passing the Make PPE In America Act as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act,” said Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “When I talk to PPE manufacturers about re-shoring this production to America, the number one thing I hear about is the need for long-term contracts. Multi-year contracts give producers the certainty to know that their investment in the United States will be worth it because the government will be there to buy the PPE they produce.”

Portman, Murphy Applaud Inclusion of Provision to Fight Global Propaganda and Disinformation in Senate Passage of U.S. Innovation and Competition Act 

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), both members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Tuesday applauded passage of their provision to authorize $150 million in FY 2022 funding for the Global Engagement Center (GEC) in order to counter propaganda and disinformation from countries like China and Russia, as well as foreign non-state actors, as part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (S. 1260). This authorization more than doubles the amount Congress appropriated for the GEC in FY 2021.   

“State sponsored disinformation is a threat to democratic societies throughout the world. As we see today with Russian aggression in Ukraine or with vaccines, these tactics are inexpensive, easily deniable and can be devastatingly effective if left unchecked,” said Portman. “The Global Engagement Center is the United States Government’s agency that coordinates our interagency efforts to combat disinformation abroad. Time and time again, it has demonstrated its effectiveness in assisting our allies as they push back against Chinese and Russian disinformation efforts. This increase in funding is much needed and will provide the GEC with the resources it needs to continue to effectively combat disinformation and propaganda.”

At Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, Portman Presses Secretary Blinken on Nord Stream II, U.S. Support for a NATO Membership Action Plan for Ukraine and Georgia

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Biden administration’s decision to waive the congressionally-mandated sanctions against Nord Stream II. Portman noted that the move undermines U.S. national interests, effectively benefits Russia, and undermines the safety and security of our ally Ukraine.  Senator Portman also emphasized the importance of continued U.S. support for the NATO Membership Action Plan for Ukraine.  

A transcript of Senator Portman’s questioning can be found below and video can be found here.

Senate Approves Portman, Carper Amendment to Enhance Congressional Oversight of Tariffs on China

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE) released the following statements after the Senate approved their amendment requiring the United States Trade Representative to brief Congress on the findings of a forthcoming Government Accountability Office (GAO) study into the Section 301 exclusion process and detail how they are adopting GAO’s recommendations to improve the process. 

This comes nearly two months after Senators Portman and Carper, along with 38 other members of the Senate, sent a letter to United States Trade Representative Katherine C. Tai, asking her to restart the exclusion process for imports from China subject to tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. The Trump administration set up an exclusion process to help U.S. manufacturers and businesses receive relief from the tariffs when an imported good was not available outside of China, or when the tariffs caused severe economic harm to U.S. industry. Unfortunately, those exclusions expired at the end of 2020, and the Biden administration has not restarted a process for businesses to apply for new exclusions.

“China must be held accountable for continuing to break both the letter and spirit of international trade rules. And measures such as targeted tariffs are necessary to combat China’s unfair trade practices and address the inequities in our trade relationship,” said Senator Portman. “At the same time, though, we must accommodate our domestic manufacturers and small businesses that rely on inputs that are exclusively produced in China. This amendment will help us to address the inequities in our trade relationship with China without inhibiting the competitiveness and capacity of American businesses and manufacturers.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Senate Approves Bipartisan Legislation to Combat China’s Economic Coercion Around the World

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and James Risch (R-ID) applauded the Senate passage of their legislative initiative aimed at helping countries facing economic coercion from China. The provision was included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which just passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support. 

This legislation creates a pilot program to deploy economic crisis action teams to countries facing economic coercion, including threats from China. These teams of experts have the ability to review, at the invitation of U.S. allies and partners, contracts including those that are a part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. This is a powerful tool that empowers the United States to go on the offensive against the most destructive aspects of China’s economic practices.  

“Over the past several years, we have seen China weaponize economic investment to expand its reach, undermine global competition and commerce, and manipulate the rules-based trading system for their own benefit. The United States cannot stand on the sidelines. We must step up and help protect our international allies and partners by providing technical expertise where we can to countries that experience economic coercion,” said Portman. “Passage of this amendment will help provide our friends and allies with the critical support they need to combat China’s nefarious and coercive economic practices. 

Portman Applauds Senate Passage of Provision to Strengthen America’s Manufacturing Industry and Workforce, Improve Economic Competitiveness

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Chris Coons (D-DE applauded passage of their provision to establish an Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Policy (OMII) overseen by a Chief Manufacturing Officer (CMO) in the Executive Office of the President. This new office will help strengthen America’s manufacturing industry and workforce and improve global competitiveness following the coronavirus pandemic. The provision was included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which just passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support. 

This bipartisan legislation will also develop a long-term plan to ensure the growth and national security of the U.S. manufacturing industry and workforce and coordinate efforts to support manufacturing across the federal government, improve workforce development and job creation, and enhance research and development. 

“A strong manufacturing sector is critical to maintaining American competitiveness, to our national security, and to a robust economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis,” said Portman. “The Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation will work to coordinate existing federal programs and resources for manufacturers, while providing the President with analysis and perspective. Much like the National Security Advisor, the Chief Manufacturing Officer will create a strategic plan to ensure our nation’s manufacturing and industrial sector remains world-class.”

Senate Passes Portman, Brown ‘Buy America’ Provisions For Taxpayer-Funded Infrastructure Projects

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that their bipartisan legislation – the Build America, Buy America Act to apply Buy America rules to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure and public works projects, has passed the Senate as part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

Currently, Buy America rules have not been fully implemented with respect to all federal programs that provide grants for the construction of infrastructure. When Chinese- or Russian- made steel and other products are used instead of American products, it steals jobs from U.S. workers. 

Their legislation would implement Buy America rules across the board – ensuring that American taxpayer dollars are used to buy American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products for any federally funded infrastructure projects. Portman and Brown introduced the bill with Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Gary Peters (D-MI). 

“I applaud my Senate colleagues for passing the bipartisan Build America, Buy America legislation as a part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. When the government spends American taxpayer money on an infrastructure project, it’s common sense that the materials used in that project should be made in America. We have the world’s best workers making the best materials we need right here at home,” said Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

At Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, Portman Questions Ambassador on Russian Activity in Belarus and Sectorial Sanctions

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) questioned Julie Fisher, United States Ambassador-designate to the Republic of Belarus, on Russian activity in Belarus and potential retaliatory measures the U.S. can take against the Lukashenko regime.  

Last week, Senator Portman traveled to Lithuania to reaffirm America’s commitment to our partners in the region and to meet with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. 

A transcript of Senator Portmans questioning can be found below and video can be found here.

Portman, Cardin Applaud Senate Passage of Resolution Supporting Reform of the World Trade Organization

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) applauded passage of their bipartisan resolution expressing support for U.S. leadership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) while also calling for reform to parts of the institution. The resolution was included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which just passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support. 

The resolution describes the long history of productive American leadership at the WTO, as well as the ways in which the WTO has failed to address new trade barriers and market distortions by countries like China. 

“As a former U.S. Trade Representative, I understand the value and usefulness of the United States’ involvement in the WTO,” said Portman. There has been a consistent bipartisan critique of certain aspects of the WTO and with the passage of this resolution we can start to address and fix some of the shortcomings of the WTO in order to support American workers against unfair foreign trade practices and enhance the ability of American farmers, workers, and businesses to access foreign markets.” 

Senate Passes Portman, Peters Bipartisan Legislation to Create Significant Cyber Incident Declaration for Major Cyberattacks

The Senate passed the Cyber Response and Recovery Act, authored by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which will provide additional resources and better coordination for serious cyberattacks or breaches that risk the safety and security of Americans. 

The legislation, which was included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, will help improve the federal response to cyberattacks, such as the recent ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline, by establishing a Cyber Response and Recovery Fund for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to provide direct support to public or private entities as they respond to and recover from significant cyberattacks and breaches. 

“Our nation is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks every day, as the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack showed. Cyberattacks are getting worse and more frequent while the government and critical infrastructure are more dependent on information technology,” said Senator Portman. “Our legislation passed by the Senate will provide important emergency resources when major cyberattacks occur and overwhelm the organizations attacked.”

On Senate Floor, Portman Discusses President Biden’s “Radical” Budget Proposal for Massive Spending & Tax Hikes

On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed the recently unveiled budget proposal from the Biden administration that calls for unprecedented federal spending and for allowing the 2017 tax cuts for middle class families and others to expire. Portman discussed how these tax cuts were a key driver of the pre-COVID opportunity economy, which saw strong wage growth, a 50-year low in unemployment, and the lowest poverty rate on record. 

Portman urged the Biden administration to reverse course on their budget proposal, which he believes will not fuel an economic recovery and instead lead the nation further down the current path of rising inflation, labor shortages, and record deficit spending. 

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

Portman Statement on May 2021 CBP Operational Data Showing Increased Flow of Illicit Narcotics

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, issued the following statement after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics for May 2021 regarding the crisis at our southern border: 

“I find it very troubling that once again, CBP operational statistics show the situation at our border getting worse. The surge in illicit narcotics coming over our border this fiscal year so far is already 56 percent higher than all of last year. These illicit narcotics, including deadly fentanyl, are taking lives in communities across our country. CBP also reported more than 180,000 total encounters at the border, an increase from last month’s record of the highest amount in more than two decades. This includes more than 44,000 migrant family members, 40 times more than in May 2020; more than 120,000 single adult migrants, five times more than last year; and more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, bringing the three-month total number of children to more than 50,000, ten times more last year.   

“The Biden administration’s border crisis of surging numbers of illicit narcotics and unlawful migrants is a direct result of its decision to dismantle the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications. This situation is unacceptable and unsustainable. It’s time for action from the Biden administration.”

 In Interview with NPR, Portman and Shaheen Discuss Their Bipartisan CODEL to Eastern Europe, Biden-Putin Summit

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined Mary Louise Kelly on NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss their recent congressional delegation (CODEL) to Eastern Europe where they met with leaders from Lithuania, Ukraine, and Georgia to reaffirm U.S. commitment to regional partners and strengthen democratic reforms. 

While in Lithuania, they also met with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya to discuss the Lukashenko regime’s increasing human rights abuses against political opposition. Today, Tsikhanouskaya testified at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Portman and Shaheen are both members, to discuss the Lukashenko regime and the U.S. policy on Belarus. Portman and Shaheen agreed that the U.S. needs to place sectoral sanctions on the country to make the biggest impact on the regime. 

The senators also touched on the upcoming Biden-Putin summit, set to take place on June 16, recommending that President Biden take a hardline stance against the aggressive actions being taken by Russia and President Putin against other countries in Eastern Europe. 

Excerpts of the interview can be found here and you can listen to the interview here.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Portman Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal: How Biden Can Stand Up to Putin in Geneva 

In a new op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Senator Portman discusses his recent bipartisan congressional delegation (CODEL) to Eastern Europe, where he met with leaders from Lithuania, Ukraine, and Georgia and with Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who is currently living in Lithuania. While there, Portman observed that Baltic and Eastern European countries are facing increasing pressure from Russia, including military threats on their borders, cyberattacks and political disinformation campaigns. In Ukraine and Georgia, Russia continues to occupy and militarize territory it annexed illegally. 

Portman provides a thorough analysis on the situation and calls on President Biden to send a strong message against Russian aggression in the region when he meets with President Putin in the coming days. 

The full op-ed can be found here.

Portman, Murray, King Introduce Major Bipartisan Legislation to Close Digital Divide, Promote Digital Equity  

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Angus King (I-ME) introduced new bipartisan legislation aimed at closing the growing digital divide in communities across the country. The Digital Equity Act of 2021 would create new federal investments targeted toward a diverse array of projects at the state and local level that promote “digital equity” — a concept defined by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance as the “condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy.”

 “Too many Americans – especially in overlooked and underserved communities – lack access to broadband internet, negatively impacting the way they live and work,” said Portman. “This bill aims to address these access gaps by encouraging the creation and implementation of comprehensive digital equity plans in all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico and supporting digital inclusion projects undertaken by groups, coalitions, and/or communities of interest. With this support, we can further our efforts to bridge the digital divide.”

Portman, Colleagues Send Letter to Treasury, Commerce, and Labor Requesting Answers for Delphi Salaried Retirees

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Todd Young (R-IN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) sent a letter to Secretaries of the Treasury, Commerce, and Labor requesting a status update regarding the review of Delphi pension plans requested by former President Trump on October 20, 2020. 

“In 2009, the Delphi Salaried Pension Plan was unfairly terminated. This unfair action devastated the long-term financial security of the nearly 6,000 salaried employees at Delphi whose benefits were reduced by up to 70 percent. These employees deserve the benefits they have earned,” said the senators. “As of June 10, 2020, we have not seen this report or have been made aware of its completion. We understand this review was due on January 20, 2021 – before you assumed your current roles. We believe it is important that Congress still have the opportunity to review the recommendations provided by your agencies.”

Portman Statement At Hearing to Consider Cybersecurity and Government Services Nominees

This morning, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, delivered remarks at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to consider the nominations of Robin Carnahan to be Administrator, General Services Administration; Jen Easterly to be Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security; and Chris Inglis to be National Cyber Director. 

Senator Portman’s remarks, as prepared, can be found here.

At Hearing, Portman Presses Cybersecurity Nominees on Transparency, Importance of Having Single Point of Accountability

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pressed Robin Carnahan, nominee to be Administrator, General Services Administration; Jen Easterly, nominee to be Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security; and Chris Inglis, nominee to be the National Cyber Director, on the need for transparency in providing information to the Committee as it performs its oversight duties. The nominees committed to Portman that they would promptly provide the Committee with any documents and information that are requested. Portman also stressed with Easterly and Inglis the importance of establishing a single point of accountability for federal cybersecurity and developing a national cybersecurity strategy. As Senator Portman highlighted, having someone with ultimate accountability for cybersecurity in the federal government ensures that the government can more effectively defend our country against cyberattacks. 

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

Portman, Bipartisan Senators’ Statement on Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after reaching an agreement on a framework to modernize America’s infrastructure: 

“Our group – comprised of 10 Senators, 5 from each party – has worked in good faith and reached a bipartisan agreement on a realistic, compromise framework to modernize our nation’s infrastructure and energy technologies. This investment would be fully paid for and not include tax increases. We are discussing our approach with our respective colleagues, and the White House, and remain optimistic that this can lay the groundwork to garner broad support from both parties and meet America’s infrastructure needs.”

Friday, June 11, 2021

Portman, Peters Seek Input as Committee Works to Address Relentless Ransomware Attacks

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan seeking input from the administration as they work to address the relentless wave of ransomware attacks against our nation’s critical infrastructure. Recent attacks include dangerous breaches of a major oil pipeline, the New York City transportation system, and meatpacking centers across the nation. 

“As highlighted in recent weeks, a single ransomware attack against a vulnerable target can have widespread and devastating impacts for communities across the United States. Criminal actors have infiltrated and held critical infrastructure companies hostage, disrupting essential elements of society ranging from our nation’s fuel distribution networks to food supply chains,” wrote the senators. “The federal government needs to do more to support partners in the public and private sectors as they work to secure their systems against ransomware attackers and punish the bad actors that perpetrate these crimes to deter future attacks.”

Senate Passes Key Portman Priorities in U.S. Innovation and Competition Act

This week, the U.S. Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which will invest more than $100 billion of taxpayer funds to solidify the United States’ leadership in scientific and technological innovation critical to national security and economic competitiveness. Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, had a number of bills included in the package which will encourage investment in the United States, protect American research and intellectual property from global competitors, increase U.S. cyber defenses in the public and private sectors, strengthen America’s manufacturing industry and workforce, counter propaganda and disinformation from countries like China and Russia, and deploy economic crisis action teams to countries facing economic coercion. 

Senator Portman’s priorities which passed the Senate in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act can be viewed here.

Portman Op-Ed in Roll Call: Biden’s Border Policies are Worsening the Opioid Crisis

In an op-ed for Roll Call, Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Representative John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, called on the Biden administration to address the ongoing surge in illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, coming across the southern border and into the United States resulting in an increase of overdose deaths. 

Earlier this week, Portman issued a statement after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics for May 2021 regarding the crisis at our southern border, highlighting that the surging numbers of illicit narcotics is a direct result of the Biden administration’s decision to dismantle the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications.

In March, Portman visited the southern border in El Paso, Texas, where he witnessed firsthand the ongoing crisis and spoke to Border Patrol agents about how smugglers were using vulnerable individuals, particularly families and unaccompanied children who require significant processing time, as a way to distract agents to allow them to then move large quantities of illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, into the United States

The full op-ed can be found here.  

Portman Op-Ed for Fortune: “People Still Aren’t Saving Enough for Retirement. Congress Can Help”

In a new op-ed for Fortune, Senator Portman highlights the opportunity in front of Congress right now to help more Americans achieve a financially secure retirement. 

Even before the pandemic, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that nearly half of all near-retirees over age 55 have no retirement savings at all. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey shows that while 67 percent of private-sector workers have access to an employer-sponsored plan, that number drops to 49 percent for individuals working for the smallest businesses and 39 percent for part-time workers. Actual participation rates in workplace plans lag even further behind, especially for those individuals in the bottom quartile of wage earners. Among those lowest-paid workers, only about one in five earn retirement benefits, with just 22 percent of low-income workers participating in a retirement plan. The final challenge is the lack of adequate lifetime savings as Americans are living longer post-retirement. 

In his op-ed, Portman argues that we can solve these challenges through bipartisan Retirement Security & Savings Act (S. 1770), a broad set of reforms designed to strengthen Americans’ retirement security. The bill addresses four major opportunities in the existing retirement system: (1) allowing people who have saved too little to set more aside for their retirement; (2) helping small businesses offer 401(k)s and other retirement plans; (3) expanding access to retirement savings plans, including for low-income Americans without coverage; and (4) providing more certainty and flexibility during Americans’ retirement years. The measure includes more than 50 provisions to accomplish these objectives. 

The full op-ed can be found here.

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

How Biden Can Stand Up to Putin in Geneva

I traveled to Eastern Europe last week with a small, bipartisan group of senators to meet with the leaders of Ukraine, Lithuania and Georgia. These former Soviet republics have become reliable U.S. allies as their citizens have sought a democratic future with greater freedom and prosperity. But they need our help.

What I found most troubling on this trip was the renewed Russian effort to destabilize these young democracies. Each is facing increasing pressure from Russia, including military threats on their borders, cyberattacks and political disinformation campaigns. In Ukraine and Georgia, Russia continues to occupy and militarize territory it annexed illegally.

The U.S. must continue to stand with democracies under threat and opposed to Russia’s tyranny. When President Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva later this month, he must take a strong stand for freedom, democracy and human rights. The free world will be watching.

Specifically, Mr. Biden must raise the May 23 hijacking of a passenger airliner by Belarusian security forces. In a clear violation of international law, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an economic client of Mr. Putin’s, ordered his fighter jets to ground the plane forcibly so police could seize Roman Protasevich, a prominent Belarusian journalist and critic of the government, and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega.

This was no isolated incident for Mr. Lukashenko, who was fraudulently re-elected last August to his sixth term as president. In March, the State Department released a human-rights report calling Belarus “an authoritarian state.” Its list of human-rights abuses committed in the wake of the election included “unlawful or arbitrary killings as well as torture” and “widespread use of brute force against and detentions of peaceful protestors.”

Mr. Biden should continue to call for the immediate release of Mr. Protasevich and Ms. Sapega, make clear that their detention is illegal and immoral and voice strong support for Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who stands opposed to autocratic rule. I had the privilege of meeting this courageous leader in Lithuania and I admire her unwavering commitment to democracy for Belarus. Mr. Putin has it in his power to denounce Mr. Lukashenko’s actions and remove all Russian troops from Belarus.

Words from U.S. leaders are important but not enough. Mr. Biden should impose sectoral sanctions targeted at the Lukashenko regime. I called for this when I was in the region last week because it would send the signal that America means what it says.

At the coming summit the president must also confront Mr. Putin over Ukraine. Russia’s latest buildup of military forces in Crimea and Donbas is illegal, and despite Mr. Putin’s claims to the contrary, the great majority of Russian-aligned forces remain in the region. It is in Russia’s interest to see Ukraine struggle, so Mr. Putin will stay the course until America and its allies push back in Ukraine’s defense.

The Trump administration took bold steps to assist Ukraine against Russian aggression, including America’s first-ever sale of lethal arms to Ukraine, so it could defend itself. As co-chairman of the Ukraine Caucus, I have worked to ensure the Senate has provided more-robust security assistance every year—on a bipartisan basis—to this vital ally.

The best way for Mr. Biden to help Ukraine now is to reverse his decision to waive the congressionally mandated sanctions against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. The pipeline runs under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine. It would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas supplies and hurt Ukraine by depriving it of billions of dollars in transit fees. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in March that the administration believed the pipeline was “a bad idea.”

Ukraine has its own work to do in enacting economic and judicial reforms. The state must continue to build trust with citizens by increasing transparency and developing a system of checks and balances. In my meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, we talked about strengthening democracy and rooting out corruption as well as Ukraine’s goal of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Biden administration should support this to signal that the U.S. and Europe are serious about standing up for our friends in the region and against Russian belligerence.

Finally, while in Georgia, I visited the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia and witnessed firsthand Russia’s occupation of Georgian territory and its continued “borderization” efforts to legitimize an illegal annexation.

Georgia is one of America’s closest allies in the region, so Russia’s actions should be concerning. While meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and other leaders, including from opposition parties, we emphasized the need to collaborate to implement the electoral, judicial and economic reforms necessary for a more secure future.

As with Ukraine, the Biden administration should urge NATO to provide a Membership Action Plan for Georgia and help fulfill the promise made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit. Getting both countries on the path to NATO membership would help protect them against Russia’s aggression.

There is bipartisan support in Congress for those in Eastern Europe fighting for a democratic future, but Russia will continue to place obstacles in their way. Mr. Biden should address this forcefully at the coming summit. Strong American leadership will unite the free world in pushing back against Russia’s malign behavior.

 

People still aren’t saving enough for retirement. Congress can help

It’s good to encourage everyone to save more for their own secure retirement. More private retirement savings is good for the economy, and it is key to people’s standard of living in their later years, particularly as people are living longer. Right now, Congress has the opportunity to provide everyone more peace of mind in retirement through similar bipartisan legislation in the House and the Senate.

During my time in Congress, I have worked with members of both parties to expand access to private savings accounts for millions of Americans and help more hardworking families build a nest egg. Although we have made real progress, there are still too many families who aren’t saving enough or have no savings at all.

Adding to the challenge is that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the initial slowdown helped to widen the gap between those who have retirement savings, and those who do not. According to a recent study, a higher percent of U.S. households risk losing their standard of living in retirement now than before COVID. With the uptick in the stock market, those who had healthy retirement plans did well, but those who did not are on average worse off.

The good news is that Congress is in a position to help. Last December, I chaired a bipartisan Senate finance subcommittee hearing focused on this opportunity. The consensus in our hearing was that we have the common ground needed between the Senate and the House to pass bipartisan retirement reform that will make a real difference. Recently, I reintroduced the Retirement Security and Savings Act (Cardin-Portman) alongside my colleague Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat from Maryland, to do just that.

Cardin-Portman contains dozens of provisions designed to help more Americans achieve a safe and secure retirement by addressing four major challenges in our retirement system. First, it will help low-income and part-time workers save more for retirement. Before the pandemic, only one in four American workers in the lowest income bracket participated in a workplace retirement plan, and among part-time workers in the private sector, only 22% had access to a savings plan. Experts believe that these low levels of retirement savings for these groups were even further eroded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our bill expands the Saver’s Credit tax credit to help more low-income Americans increase their retirement savings and makes the credit directly refundable into a retirement account. It also increases the credit amount available for many low-income savers, and requires employers to allow part-time workers who have completed two years of service to participate in 401(k) plans. This means that the single mother working part-time to support herself and her children will have a chance to sock away some retirement savings.

Second, we have a baby-boomer problem: America faces a looming wave of retirees who do not have private retirement accounts. Among households over the age of 55, nearly three in 10 have no retirement savings or pension plan whatsoever. 

Cardin-Portman will help these near-retirees to more quickly build up their nest eggs by increasing the catch-up retirement plan contribution limits after age 60, letting workers save more money in less time. The law will also encourage employers to make larger contributions to their employees’ retirement funds through both tax credits and regulatory improvements. More baby boomers will be able to have the kind of financially secure retirement their parents enjoyed.

Third, less than half of small-business workers have access to a workplace plan, compared with 88% of employees at large businesses. Small-business workers at family-owned companies help drive our economy, and we need to ensure they have the opportunity to save. 

Our bill will help small businesses offer plans by strengthening the tax credit they receive for starting a new retirement plan and creating a tax credit and legal relief for small-business plans that do things to get more workers covered, like automatic enrollment features and a minimum 3% employer match. It also includes another credit for small-business plans with automatic reenrollment every three years.

Finally, in an age where more individuals are living longer and healthier lives, there is an increasing risk that people will outlive their retirement savings. And more people who enjoy the work they do are choosing to hold off on retiring until later in life, like my dad, who worked well into his seventies. 

Current rules, called the required minimum distribution, say that when you hit 72 years old, you have to start taking funds out of your retirement account and paying taxes on them. Our bill will help individuals save longer for retirement and put off those taxes by raising the required minimum distribution age from 72 to 75. For people with less than $100,000 in their retirement account, our bill removes the requirement entirely.

Cardin-Portman provides a strong base for overhauling our private retirement system to provide more savings opportunities to those who need it the most. I’m pleased to say that 25 of its provisions are included in the leading retirement bill in the House of Representatives, Neal-Brady, which has already cleared the House Ways and Means Committee with strong bipartisan support. 

I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to do the same and help more Americans have a safe and secure retirement.

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Finance Committee Republicans Demand Investigation into Massive, Illegal IRS Data Leak

Source: United States Senator for Idaho Mike Crapo

June 11, 2021

U.S. Senate Finance Committee Republicans are demanding an investigation into the apparent massive leak of more than 15 years of legally protected, personal taxpayer information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to the media outlet ProPublica.  In a letter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the senators note the nature of the information suggests it came directly from the IRS, constituting a serious breach of privacy and criminal violation of tax law.  They also highlight this privacy breach comes at a time when the Administration is proposing to increase the amount of data collected by the IRS from checking, savings, and other accounts of almost every taxpayer.

From the letter:  

ProPublica’s description of the data and the nature of the information published strongly suggests that the information originated from within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  If this is true, this constitutes a serious breach of privacy and is a criminal violation of our tax laws.  It would be one of the most significant and widespread breaches in the agency’s history and considerably damages the foundational bedrock of our tax system, including American taxpayers’ confidence that the IRS will keep their personal information confidential.   

The apparent massive leak of more than 15 years of legally protected personal taxpayer information that ended up in the hands of ProPublica demands immediate and vigorous investigation and prosecution of anyone who played any role in violating laws protecting taxpayer information or otherwise illegally obtaining or providing any such information.    

The American people deserve a thorough, independent investigation into how this information came to be published to understand how and why confidential information is apparently being leaked or obtained from the IRS, to find those responsible, and to criminally prosecute where warranted.

The letter, signed by all fourteen Finance Committee Republican members, can be accessed HERE or below.

Dear Inspector General George:

We request that your office immediately investigate the apparent recent egregious leak of private individual taxpayer information from the IRS to determine its scope, legal issues that could arise, and how the IRS protects personal identifiable information from breach and political or other improper purposes.  

On the morning of June 8, 2021, ProPublica published an article titled, “The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax.”  The article states that “ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years.”  ProPublica’s description of the data and the nature of the information published strongly suggests that the information originated from within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  If this is true, this constitutes a serious breach of privacy and is a criminal violation of our tax laws.  It would be one of the most significant and widespread breaches in the agency’s history and considerably damages the foundational bedrock of our tax system, including American taxpayers’ confidence that the IRS will keep their personal information confidential.   

Unfortunately, this would not be the first time that confidential taxpayer information held by the IRS has been disclosed or been misused.  In 2012, ProPublica obtained confidential pending applications for tax-exempt status originally submitted to the IRS; and, again in 2013, ProPublica obtained applications or documentation for 31 groups, including some that had not yet been approved, meaning that they were not supposed to be made public.  On May 14, 2013, TIGTA released a report detailing that inappropriate criteria were used to identify tax-exempt applications for review.  In that report, TIGTA highlighted that “[e]arly in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to review for indications of significant political campaign intervention.”

The purposeful release by IRS employees of confidential taxpayer information and the IRS’s inappropriate targeting of select Section 501(c) organizations less than a decade ago was unacceptable, violated the public’s trust in the fairness and secrecy of the tax system, and damaging to the integrity of tax administration.  The apparent massive leak of more than 15 years of legally protected personal taxpayer information that ended up in the hands of ProPublica demands immediate and vigorous investigation and prosecution of anyone who played any role in violating laws protecting taxpayer information or otherwise illegally obtaining or providing any such information.    

This most recent publication of taxpayer data is especially concerning in light of the Administration’s proposal to provide the IRS with a massive amount of unprecedented mandatory funding aimed partly at mandating collection of additional private and personal information from everyday Americans through financial institutions, including detailed information about their checking and savings accounts.  

The IRS’s demonstrated history of failing to keep confidential data safe, and what appears to be a massive IRS data breach that facilitated ProPublica’s publication of protected taxpayer information to provide politicized advocacy for targeting certain taxpayers, is unacceptable and should be strongly condemned.  The American people deserve a thorough, independent investigation into how this information came to be published to understand how and why confidential information is apparently being leaked or obtained from the IRS, to find those responsible, and to criminally prosecute where warranted.

For these reasons, Congress must know that IRS systems are secure and that personal individual and business tax information is secure from threats, both internal and external, to violations of taxpayer privacy rights.  TIGTA’s investigation and examination must be thorough, including close scrutiny of any porous elements at IRS that could allow leaks, external unauthorized access to personal information, or external researchers who the IRS hires for special projects and provides access to confidential taxpayer information, especially if any have tax-related political agendas.  

Congress and the American people have a right to know how and why it appears that confidential information was allegedly obtained or leaked from the IRS and how their information will be used and protected moving forward.  We ask that TIGTA provide Members of the Finance Committee with regularly scheduled updates and briefings on the progress of your investigation.

Sincerely,

Peters, Stabenow Announce Over $42,000 for the Mount Clemens Fire Department

Source: United States Senator for Michigan Gary Peters

06.11.21

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) today announced that the Mount Clemens Fire Department will receive $42,999 in federal funding to improve operations and safety for firefighters and personnel. This federal grant comes from the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program. 

“Firefighters in Michigan put their safety on the line to protect their neighbors and communities, and it’s critical they have the resources needed to do their jobs safely and effectively,” said Senator Peters, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “These resources will allow firefighters in Mount Clemens to continue working to ensure our communities are even greater places to live, work and raise a family.”

“Our firefighters in Mount Clemens put their lives on the line to protect our families, homes, and communities,” said Senator Stabenow. “These new resources will help keep the public safe and give our first responders the equipment they need to do their jobs more safely and effectively.”

“The City of Mount Clemens Fire Department is pleased to announce that we have received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant Award in the amount of $42,999.63,” said Gregg S. Shipman, Fire Chief, Mount Clemens Fire Department. “The department will utilize these funds to replace aging radio equipment. The ability to communicate on the fire ground is one of the most critical functions in today’s fire service. Radio communication is relied on every day to perform our job functions. Having sound reliable communication equipment is critical. We cannot thank our U.S. Senators enough for their efforts in helping us to secure the funding for this purchase. This equipment will increase the life safety of our fire department as well as our community.”

Eligible fire departments and Emergency Medical Services organizations in Michigan and across the country can apply for Assistance to Firefighters Grants. These competitive grants help first responders purchase the equipment and obtain the training needed to handle fire-related hazards. More information about the grant can be found at http://www.fema.gov/firegrants.

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Senators Braun, Daines, Lankford, Ernst, Inhofe, and Thune’s bill would outlaw animal-human hybrid research

Source: United States Senator Mike Braun (Indiana)

WASHINGTON – Senator Mike Braun, Senator Steve Daines, Senator James Lankford, Senator Joni Ernst, Senator James Inhofe, and Senator John Thune have introduced a bill that would make it a crime to engage in chimera research, or the creation of animal-human hybrid organisms.

Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey introduced the original legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A chimera is an organism that contains cells from two distinct species, such as an animal-human hybrid created in a laboratory setting. In recent years, research programs involving chimeric organisms have become more prevalent.

“Human life is distinct and sacred, and research that creates an animal-human hybrid or transfers a human embryo into an animal womb or vice versa should be completely prohibited and engaging in such unethical experiments should be a crime,” said Senator Braun.

While the National Institute of Health (NIH) does not currently fund this research directly, chimera research programs continue in local universities as exhibited by last year’s creation of a mouse embryo with 4% human cells.

In 2016, the NIH considered lifting their moratorium on experimentation involving human stem cells in animal embryos. Though the NIH has not to date lifted that moratorium, chimeric research has continued to advance in private research settings with alarming results.

In April of this year, researchers at the Salk Institute in California created a human-monkey chimeric embryo by injecting human stem cells into embryos from long-tailed macaques. The human cells survived within the monkey embryo and generated additional cells; the researchers noted that all 132 macaque embryos injected with human cells still contained human cells seven days after fertilization.

Acting on the significant ethical concerns and ramifications such animal-human hybrid research has for the sanctity of human life, the senators introduced this bill which would make it a crime for any person to knowingly 1) create or attempt to create a prohibited human-animal chimera; 2) transfer or attempt to transfer a human embryo into a nonhuman womb; 3) transfer or attempt to transfer a non-human embryo into a human womb; 4) transport or receive for any purpose a prohibited human-animal chimera.

This bill is endorsed by the following groups: 

·         Family Research Council

·         March for Life Action

·         National Right to Life

·         Senate Pro-Life Caucus 

·         Susan B. Anthony List

·         US Council of Catholic Bishops

·         White Coat Waste Project

Senator Murray Announces Millions in American Rescue Plan Funding for Major Transportation Projects Across Washington State

Source: United States Senator for Washington State Patty Murray

Senator Murray announced the five Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program awards funded by the American Rescue Plan totaling more than $47 million

Projects in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Vancouver, and Snohomish County all received funding

ICYMI: Senator Murray Introduces Public Transit Capital Investment Relief Act to Support Critical National Public Infrastructure Needs – MORE HERE 

Senator Murray: “The demand for transit has been a constant refrain across our state that I’ve heard loud and clear and taken back to the other Washington. And the major federal awards announced today show the other Washington is listening”  

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced five new Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Small Start program awards administered by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) for transit projects across Washington state. The funding for the awards comes from the American Rescue Plan. These projects include the Spokane Transit Central City Line project, the Sound Transit Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension project, the Community Transit Swift Orange Line project, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, and the Clark County Public Transit Benefit Area Authority (C-TRAN) Mill Plain BRT project. Senator Murray was instrumental in securing the transit funding in the American Rescue Plan and has been a strong advocate for these CIG projects, writing letters of support and communicating to the administration directly on the importance of these projects to Washington state.

“One thing I hear across our state—from Spokane to Seattle and everywhere in between—is that people want more public transit options,” Senator Murray said. “Whether it’s to shorten commutes, decrease traffic, reduce emissions, create jobs, or make our communities more equitable, the demand for transit has been a constant refrain across our state that I’ve heard loud and clear and taken back to the other Washington. And the major federal awards announced today show the other Washington is listening. This funding from the American Rescue Plan means local taxpayers will save money on new buses and light rail, and I’m going to keep working to see these projects through and make sure the other Washington keeps listening to the people of our state.”

The CIG program is a discretionary funding program for the construction and expansion of new and existing fixed-guideway public transit systems such as heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, streetcars, ferries, and certain corridor-based bus systems. Agencies applying to the CIG program work closely with the FTA through rigorous project development and engineering phases, after which the FTA decides whether to give the project a grant agreement and the corresponding federal dollars.

Seattle, WA: Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit Project

SDOT will receive a $10.9 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding for the Madison Street BRT project, a 2.3-mile east-west BRT line along Madison Street from downtown Seattle to the Madison Valley neighborhood in the east, with connections in First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the Central Area. It will connect people to hospitals, schools, businesses, and other destinations as well as to dozens of bus routes, the First Hill Streetcar, and ferry service at the Colman Dock Ferry Terminal.

“Seattle is building one of the best transit and transportation infrastructure in the country, and support from our federal partners is always critical to our climate and transit goals. After unfortunate delays by the last administration, Senator Murray, Secretary Buttigieg, and the federal delegation have prioritized projects that are good for Seattle, good for jobs, and good for transit. Senator Murray has been relentless to support this critical project and other City and regional priorities like Sound Transit,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “Expanded funding for Madison helps Seattle recover and build back better from COVID-19. It is more important than ever to invest in a transportation system that gets our frontline workers, historically underserved communities, and communities of color where they need to go quickly and reliably. Thank you, Senator Murray, for your consistent help, and your commitment to improving public transit in the City of Seattle.”

Tacoma, WA: Tacoma Link Extension Project

Sound Transit will receive a $20.7 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding for the Hilltop Tacoma Link extension, a 2.4-mile light-rail line that will run along Commerce Street and Stadium Way to the Hilltop District in Tacoma, Washington. The project is currently under construction.

“We are grateful to Senator Murray, our congressional delegation and the Biden Administration for supporting our Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension with this additional funding,” said Sound Transit Board Chair Kent Keel. “In less than a year, residents will have greater access to housing, businesses, medical facilities and educational opportunities in the Stadium and Hilltop neighborhoods. This would not be possible without our strong federal partnership.”

Spokane, WA: Central City Bus Rapid Transit Project

Spokane Transit Authority will receive a $5.8 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding to establish a 5.8 mile bus rapid transit route to provide fast, reliable transit service between Browne’s Addition and Spokane Community College, with connections to downtown Spokane, the University District, and Gonzaga University. The Spokane Central City Line would provide frequent service, with longer hours and weekend service. It would feature permanent stations with better amenities, streetscape and road improvements, and battery-electric, zero-emission vehicles. Establishing the Spokane Central City Line would improve transit travel times, reliability, and accessibility for commuters and residents in Spokane and the surrounding area, and is estimated to generate more than $175 million in economic impact through surrounding land improvements. The project is currently under construction.

“We welcome this exciting news from the Biden Administration and are grateful for strong partnership we have with our congressional delegation,  the Federal Transit Administration, Washington State and the local community. We look forward to launching the City Line bus rapid transit service next year,” said Susan Meyer, Chief Executive Officer, Spokane Transit Authority.

Everett, WA: Swift Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit Project

Community Transit will receive a $6.5 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding to construct their third BRT line, the Swift Orange Line. The new line would provide residents of Snohomish County with efficient rapid transit options from the Lynnwood Transit Center, the northern terminus of Sound Transit’s Link light rail line. The Lynnwood Link extension, which Senator Murray also helped secure federal funding for, is scheduled to open in 2024 and will provide service every four minutes through downtown Seattle and south of the city. Daily ridership is expected to reach over 47,000 by 2026 with 1,900 parking spots available, so bus to rail service provided by Community Transit will be critical in easing traffic congestion and helping commuters get to where they need to be. The line would run 11.3 miles with 15 station pairs and would provide service every 10 minutes on a fleet of 16 buses. The agency predicts that the line will be used by 5,300 daily riders.

“Such incredible news for this community and transit users. Swift Orange Line will expand the bus rapid transit network to connect with light rail, providing faster and more frequent service to get people from where they are to where they want to be,” said Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz. “We are so grateful to Senator Murray for her ongoing commitment to public transportation, helping to improve access for people to jobs, medical care, education and other essential services.”

Vancouver, WA: Mill Plain Bus Rapid Transit Project

C-TRAN will receive a $3.7 million allocation of American Rescue Plan funding to construct their second BRT line, the Mill Plain BRT line. The new 10-mile line would run along Mill Plain Boulevard, the agency’s second highest ridership transit corridor, and connect downtown Vancouver to east Vancouver. The BRT service would connect riders to several of the region’s key economic, medical and educational centers, including Clark College, Columbia Tech Center, Vancouver Clinic and PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. The route that currently serves the Mill Plain Boulevard corridor carried over 776,200 passengers in 2018. The implementation of a BRT line would allow C-TRAN to improve travel time and reliability along the Mill Plain corridor, where population and employment growth are increasing.

Earlier this year, Senator Murray introduced the Public Transit Capital Investment Relief Act of 2021. The legislation would provide relief for public transportation agencies through the CIG Program by increasing the federal cost share of the total project cost for qualifying projects that are under construction or near completion. In Washington state, there are currently two major transit projects that would qualify for an increase in federal cost sharing under the legislation: the Lynnwood Link Extension and the Federal Way Link Extension, both in Seattle. Senator Murray’s legislation would increase funding for the Lynwood Link Extension by a projected $978 million and for the Federal Way Link Extension by $948 million. A full list of current CIG projects can be found HERE

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray has consistently fought to increase and protect federal transportation and infrastructure grant programs, including the CIG program. Senator Murray has also been a strong advocate in Congress for securing and strengthening federal investments in Washington state transportation priorities, including previously helping Sound Transit secure a $1.4 billion commitment from the federal government to help fund the Federal Way light rail extension, making the project possible. Senator Murray was also instrumental in securing more than $1.2 billion in federal funding commitments for the Lynnwood Link extension project in 2018. Earlier this year, Senator Murray commended President Biden for recommending CIG allocations for two Washington state transit projects in his budget proposal.

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Shaheen Announces More than $1.3 Million to Support NH Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice System

Source: United States Senator for New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen

June 11, 2021

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the Chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice (DOJ), announced that the DOJ awarded $1,380,376 in federal funding for New Hampshire to support Granite State law enforcement agencies. Specifically, the funding was awarded through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, which funds state and local law enforcement and criminal justice system initiatives, including those associated with fighting drug trafficking and responding to the substance abuse crisis. Of these federal dollars, the state was allocated $1,070,078, while eight localities received $310,298.

“I’m very pleased to announce these critical investments to support New Hampshire’s dedicated law enforcement officers and our state’s criminal justice system,” said Shaheen. “This funding will support initiatives to improve public safety in our communities, support victims of crime, strengthen crime prevention and much more. Supporting law enforcement and our criminal justice system will continue to be a top priority for me as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that determines funding for these grant programs.”

Breakdown of Local Allocation Byrne JAG Awards

Eight New Hampshire localities received a combined total of $310,298 in funding through the Byrne JAG Program. Below is a breakdown of the awards:

Grantee

Amount

Manchester

$176,731

Nashua

$34,600

Rochester

$30,360

Concord

$23,151

Laconia

$12,551

Keene

$12,297

Derry

$10,516

Claremont

$10,092

TOTAL

$310,298.00



Shaheen Celebrates Opening of Senior Behavioral Health Unit at St. Joseph Hospital

Source: United States Senator for New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen

June 11, 2021

(Nashua, NH) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) delivered remarks celebrating the opening of the Senior Behavioral Health Unit at St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua. Shaheen’s office helped the hospital expedite the opening of the new facility by coordinating with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. With 24 beds designed for adults aged 65 and older, the health unit will help respond to the mental and behavioral health needs of seniors living in Nashua and the Southern Tier and help to respond to New Hampshire’s ongoing mental health crisis. During the event, Shaheen was joined by hospital and local officials, including Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, and received a virtual tour of the health unit. 

“I was thrilled to be on hand this morning with the dedicated health care workers and administrators at St. Joseph to celebrate the opening of this critical new facility. As our state continues to grapple with a serious mental health crisis, expanding access to care for our most vulnerable populations, including seniors, has never been more important,” said Senator Shaheen. “When St. Joseph contacted my office regarding a bureaucratic hurdle they were experiencing that threatened to delay the opening of this unit, my office got to work to resolve the issue. I thank St. Joseph staff for all their hard work to get local seniors the mental health treatment and support they need and I will continue working to address this ongoing crisis.”