Sen. Rob Portman 2012: A Year In Review
On the big issues – like chronic deficits and a weak economy – Washington is broken. However, even in the partisan environment in Washington, my team and I have remained focused on achieving results for Ohioans and we’ve had a lot of success. We have responded to what we’ve heard from Ohioans, whether it is law enforcement concerned about human trafficking in Toledo, families worried about prescription drug abuse in Southern Ohio, National Guardsmen and their families in Mansfield, or Ohio’s many small businessmen and women. My efforts have focused on helping Ohioans, ensuring that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, promoting pro-growth policies, and protecting our national defense.
Here is a rundown of some of our legislative accomplishments that were ultimately signed into law by the President this past year:
Promoting Energy Efficiency
Important provisions from the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S.1000) I introduced with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in May 2011 to help the country save money by using less energy were enacted as part of The American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act (H.R. 6582), PL: 112-210.
Protecting National Security & Our Military Men and Women
In my role as a member of the Armed Services committee, I succeeded in including a number of Ohio-related provisions included in the Defense Authorization bill that passed Congress in December. We were able to help secure $150 million in funding to continue the American Centrifuge Project in Piketon (ACP), Ohio, an advanced-technology uranium enrichment effort critical to meeting our national security, nonproliferation, and energy security needs. The Piketon Plant, where ACP is located, is already one of the largest employers in SE Ohio and has the potential to be a huge economic boost to the region. This most recent funding is a bridge until the project finally receives the loan guarantee it deserves and the President supported as a candidate in 2008, which could create 4,000 new jobs.
Also this year, after hearing from Toledoans who were deeply concerned about the human trafficking problem in their area and learning more about this serious issue, I worked with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to found the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking. We also introduced the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act, which was ultimately signed into law as part of the Defense Authorization. It strengthens existing protections against human trafficking, ensuring that overseas government contracts, paid for by taxpayer dollars, operate in a manner consistent with our deeply-held values as a nation.
Over the course of 2012, Ohio community colleges and universities came to me and helped me about how the different branches of the armed services were giving their separating veterans different educational transcripts. This was counterproductive, interfering with colleges’ ability to give the vets credit for the extensive education they received while in uniform. So we got to work and passed legislation — also as part of the Defense Authorization — that directs the Department of Defense to establish a plan to standardize the services’ educational transcripts.
Combating Drug Abuse
Fighting drug abuse was one area where I was able to help, including making changes to the laws to help Ohio families. In the summer of 2011, I participated in a townhall on prescription drug abuse in Portsmouth, Ohio with White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske. At the meeting, local police officers, family members of recovering addicts, and community activists talked about the effects of epidemic levels of prescription drug abuse in the area and asked for my help in supporting a community anti-drug coalition, bolstering law enforcement and stopping people from being able to get drugs legally by crossing state lines to Kentucky or West Virginia because of the lack of interstate prescription drug monitoring. We were able to help in all three areas by assisting the local coalition obtain federal support, working with others to designate the area as a (HIDTA) to improve law enforcement and introducing and enacting new bipartisan legislation that enables states to share information in their prescription drug monitoring programs. Drug trafficking is an interstate problem, and Ohio can now communicate effectively with Kentucky and West Virginia and other states where drugs are coming into and going from Ohio.
The bipartisan Strengthening Medicare and Repaying Taxpayers (SMART) Act of 2011 (S.1718) I introduced with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to help strengthen and protect Medicare beneficiaries and the Medicare Trust Fund by improving and increasing efficiency within the Medicare Secondary Payer system was enacted as part of H.R. 1845, the Medicare IVIG Access Act.
Protecting Ohio’s Waterways
The bipartisan Stop Invasive Species Act (S.2317) I introduced with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to stop Asian carp from entering our waterways was enacted as part of the Transportation Bill, PL: 112 – 141. The Stop Invasive Species Act requires the expedited creation of an action plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to block Asian carp from entering Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes through a number of rivers and tributaries across the Great Lakes region. During this time of weak economic growth, we cannot afford to let this threat harm tourism, weaken the boating industry, or threaten the 100,000 fishing industry jobs in Ohio.
Mitigating Flood Damage While Protecting Ohio’s Taxpayers
A measure I introduced to help the City of Findlay cope with flood protection in as cost-effective a way as possible was also enacted as part of the Transportation Bill, PL: 112 – 141. Findlay suffered one of its most damaging flood events in 2007, causing $50 million in damages while forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate and halting operations at Marathon Petroleum, Cooper Tire, and other area businesses. In 2008, the land was purchased using the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which prohibits the construction of flood walls or levees on purchased properties. Soon after, the Army Corps of Engineers notified the city that the land was needed for flood mitigation improvements and that to build around the land would increase costs by more than $3 million. My amendment will enable the city of Findlay to build a levee or other flood improvements on this land that was previously off-limits for its Blanchard River Flood Protection Project, saving the city unnecessary costs while keeping local residents and businesses safe.
Honoring Our Nation’s Veterans
The bipartisan Veterans Missing In America Act of 2012 (S.2244) I introduced with Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) to enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with veterans groups to help determine whether unidentified or abandoned remains are those of veterans eligible for burial at a National Cemetery was enacted as part of the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act (S. 3202). Ohioans initiated this effort and Ohio Congressmen Pat Tiberi (R-OH-12) and Steve Stivers (R-OH-15) took the lead in the House of Representatives.
S.2153, bipartisan trade legislation I worked on with Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) to protect American jobs and exports by ensuring the U.S. Commerce Department can continue to apply countervailing duties in cases involving non-market economy nations like China and Vietnam, was enacted as part of PL: 112 – 99.
Fighting for Fiscal Responsibility
This year, I also led Senate Republicans on several policy initiatives to restore fiscal responsibility and get our economy back on the right track:
- During the fiscal cliff discussions, I called on the Administration to rescind its Executive Order to raise salaries for Members of Congress during a time of record debt and deficits. This pay increase for Members of Congress was ultimately removed from the fiscal cliff agreement.
- I spearheaded a letter sent to President Obama in which 44 U.S. Senators underscored the need for any deficit reduction deal to ensure that the people’s elected representatives will continue to have a say over the nation’s debt limit. The Obama Administration’s initial offer in fiscal cliff negotiations gave the President unilateral power to raise the debt limit without any Congressional oversight.
- Throughout the year, I continued to put pressure on HHS for its taxpayer-funded promotion of the President’s health care law.
In addition, we introduced and promoted over a dozen other bills that were not passed into law. I am proud of the good work our team accomplished on behalf of the Buckeye State.