Rob’s Rundown: Week of June 7 – June 11, 2021 | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack



June 11, 2021

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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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