July 30, 2021
Senator Portman was in Washington this week as negotiations continued on the bipartisan infrastructure framework. On Wednesday night, Portman delivered remarks at a press conference touting the historic bipartisan infrastructure agreement, which secured Senate approval in a key procedural vote earlier that evening. Portman also penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal outlining the agreement’s many benefits for families and job creators.
During a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday morning, Portman pressed the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, on the decrease in the number of unlawful migrants that have been arrested and removed from the United States as we face the worst border crisis in two decades. Portman reiterated that the current crisis at the southern border is a direct result of its dismantling of the Trump administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications of removing those policies and how it would incentivize migration.
On Thursday, Portman introduced the bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its mission to counter deepfake technology. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur. The legislation would create a task force within DHS charged with producing a coordinated plan to explore how a “digital content provenance” standard could assist with reducing the spread of deepfakes, develop tools for content creators to authenticate their content and its origin, and increase the ability of civil society and industry leaders to relay trust and information about the source of the deepfakes to consumers. The task force would be comprised of experts from academia, government, civil society, and industry, and would be chaired by DHS.
Earlier in the week, Portman led a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, urging her to look into the antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders on steel trailer wheels from China and, specifically, whether the scope of these orders cover wheel parts produced in China and assembled in a third country. Portman and his fellow lawmakers expressed concern that China is attempting to work around these orders by nominally moving production to a third country, undermining how U.S. trade laws are intended to work, and hurting domestic companies like Dexstar Wheel, and its parent, Americana Tire & Wheel, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.
For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:
Monday, July 26, 2021
Portman Announces Nearly $5 Million In Federal Security Resources For Faith-Based & Nonprofit Institutions Across Ohio
Portman announced that the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) will distribute nearly $5 million to synagogues, churches, religious education facilities, and charity organizations across Ohio during FY 2021. This FY 2021 final allocation for Ohio is nearly double the initial FY 2021 target allocation announced earlier this year. The NSGP provides grants to faith-based and other nonprofit organizations to help secure their facilities against potential terrorist attacks and acts of hate. Portman helped double the amount of funding available for the NSGP in the FY 2021 bipartisan funding agreement that was signed into law late last year.
“With nearly $5 million in allocated funding for this year, it’s clear that Ohio is benefiting from the bipartisan work we’ve done in Congress to ensure that more synagogues, religious and cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations have the resources and training they need to secure their facilities,” said Portman. “I’m proud to have led the effort in Congress to both authorize the Nonprofit Security Grant Program and significantly increase its funding. Threats to houses of worship and other religious community sites have continued to increase and we must do everything we can to protect them in Ohio and across our country.”
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Portman Statement on the Passing of Mike Enzi
Portman issued the following statement following news Monday of the passing of former Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi:
“Mike Enzi’s sudden passing is heartbreaking and Jane and I are sending our thoughts to his wife, Diana, and his entire family. Mike was a great friend and I have tremendous respect for what he accomplished on behalf of the people of Wyoming and our country. During his time as Chair of the Senate HELP Committee he was a leader in passing crucial pension reforms, expanding access to health care and affordable education, and improving workplace safety.
“More recently, I saw him put his skills as an accountant to work as Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, where he spent the final part of his nearly 25 years in the Senate pushing for smarter spending in a time of exploding deficits. No matter what he did, Mike conducted himself with class and dignity and he was a model public servant. He will be dearly missed for the work he did and the example he set.”
Portman, Brown, Beatty, Ryan Stand Up For Ohio Manufacturing Workers, Urge Secretary of Commerce to Ensure U.S. Trade Remedy Laws Are Fully Enforced
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with U.S. Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-OH) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), wrote to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, urging her to look into the antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders on steel trailer wheels from China and, specifically, whether the scope of these orders cover wheel parts produced in China and assembled in a third country. The lawmakers are concerned that China is attempting to work around these orders by nominally moving production to a third country, undermining how U.S. trade laws are intended to work, and hurting domestic companies like Dexstar Wheel, and its parent, Americana Tire & Wheel, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.
“Ohio has a strong and proud manufacturing history. We want to be certain that Dexstar Wheel and other American manufactures and their employees are provided every opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Further, we believe it is important that the Department take the appropriate steps to ensure that the orders in place are not evaded or impacted by any decision that could have a negative outcome for the domestic industry,” wrote the lawmakers.
This case is the latest in a long list of global dumping cases targeting Ohio manufacturers. Senators Portman and Brown applauded the ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) last month, siding with American tire workers to fully and fairly enforce U.S. trade remedy laws. Portman and Brown have led efforts in pressing the ITC to give full and fair consideration to the United Steelworker’s petitions in these cases of unfairly traded imports.
In April, Senators Portman and Brown introduced the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0 to strengthen U.S. trade remedy laws and ensure they remain effective tools to fight back against unfair trade practices and protect American workers. This legislation builds upon the Leveling the Playing Field Act, a bill signed into law by former President Obama in 2015, that gives U.S. companies new tools to fight against unfair trade practices.
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
Portman on Border Crisis: What We’re Doing Is Not Working and the Biden Administration Must Change Course
Portman delivered an opening statement at a hearing with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, to examine the resources and authorities DHS needs to protect and secure the Homeland. In his opening statement, Ranking Member Portman pressed Secretary Mayorkas on the steps DHS is taking to address the ongoing border crisis. Senator Portman highlighted that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are overwhelmed by the surge of migrants at our southern border as well as the record amounts of illicit deadly drugs, like fentanyl, coming across the border and into the United States.
Earlier this month, Portman issued a statement on CBP operational statistics for June 2021 that showed that the United States is experiencing the worst migrant crisis in more than two decades. There were more than 188,000 total encounters at the border in June. Earlier this year, Portman traveled to the southern border in El Paso, Texas, with Secretary Mayorkas, where he witnessed firsthand the ongoing migrant and unaccompanied children crisis, including situations where children were held in close quarters and unable to adhere to CDC distancing guidelines.
Portman has made it clear that the Biden administration’s border crisis is a direct result of its dismantling of the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications of removing those policies and how it would incentivize migration. Portman has repeatedly urged the administration to change course and put in place smart policies that address the need for legal and orderly processes for migration and reduce the pull factors that encourage these migrant and young children to make the treacherous journey north, while also securing our borders and protecting the American people.
Portman Presses DHS Secretary Mayorkas on Decrease in Unlawful Migrant Arrests as U.S. Faces Worst Border Crisis in Two Decades
Portman pressed the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, on the decrease in the number of unlawful migrants that have been arrested and removed from the United States as we face the worst border crisis in two decades. As Ranking Member Portman highlighted in his questioning and has consistently made clear, the current crisis at the southern border is a direct result of its dismantling of the Trump administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications of removing those policies and how it would incentivize migration.
In addition, Portman highlighted the need for increased technology between the ports of entry in an effort to aid Border Patrol in their mission. The FY 2022 DHS budget request for border security assets and infrastructure for this year is $54 million, a deep reduction from the more than $1.5 billion funded for the same area last year. Portman detailed how DHS needs border security technology in addition to other tools in order to make the border safe and secure.
Portman, Colleagues Introduce UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act
Senator Portman and his colleagues in the Senate, led by Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID), introduced the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Accountability and Transparency Act . This legislation outlines a comprehensive approach to cease U.S. contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a successor entity, or to the U.N. regular budget for the support of UNRWA unless the Secretary of State certifies every 180 days to Congress that UNRWA meets strict accountability and transparency criteria.
Joining Portman and Risch in introducing this legislation were Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Todd Young (R-IN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rick Scott (R-FL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Boozman (R-AR), and John Thune (R-SD). U.S. Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) also led 27 Republican colleagues in introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Reform of UNRWA is necessary to ensure the organization does not support terrorism and that they are not endangering the security of Israel or promoting anti-Semitic ideology,” said Portman. “I encourage my colleagues in Congress to pass this bicameral bill so that we can bring much-needed accountability and transparency to the agency.”
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
At Press Conference, Portman Touts Historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement
During a press conference this evening, Senator Portman delivered remarks touting the historic bipartisan infrastructure agreement that secured Senate approval in a key procedural vote today. The agreement – which Portman has played a key role in crafting – represents the largest investment in core infrastructure in our nation’s history. It will modernize and upgrade roads, bridges, ports, and other key infrastructure assets across the country, without raising taxes. This historic investment will pave the way for decades of economic growth and prosperity while reducing the inflationary pressures the economy is currently feeling.
Portman, Colleagues Release Statement on Breakdown of Georgian April 19 Agreement
Senators Rob Portman, Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jim Risch (R-ID), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and John Barrasso (R-WY) releases a statement in response to the breakdown of the April 19 agreement reached earlier this year to address the political crisis in Georgia.
“We are very discouraged by recent developments in Georgia, which undermine the reform efforts agreed to in the April 19 agreement. The United States, in partnership with the European Union, worked closely with Georgian political parties to deliver a strong, multiparty agreement that paved the way for critical judicial and electoral reforms. It was disappointing that not all elected parties signed the agreement or implemented the agreement in good faith,” said the senators.
The senators continued, “At this pivotal time in Georgia’s democratic development, it was all the more disappointing that Georgian Dream today announced its intention to unilaterally walk away from the April 19 agreement. It is largely incumbent upon the ruling party to set aside political differences and pursue an inclusive, multiparty parliamentary process that benefits all Georgians. As lawmakers in the United States Senate, we call for free and fair elections in October, a continued commitment to strengthening the rule of law, and good-faith implementation of critical electoral and judicial reforms. A failure to advance democracy in Georgia may result in conditioning aid, jeopardize Georgia’s pursuit of EU and NATO membership, and damage the U.S.-Georgia bilateral relationship. Only the Kremlin benefits from such an outcome.”
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Portman, Risch, Menendez, Murphy Applaud Committee Passage of Comprehensive Global Health Legislation
Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-ID), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) applauded Committee passage of the International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act (S. 2297), comprehensive legislation to improve global health and pandemic preparedness and enhance COVID-19 response efforts.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed major gaps in our prevention and preparedness strategies when confronting global pandemics. It is clear that we are in need of increased national and international coordination, transparency, and accountability, as well as effective early warning systems,” said Portman. “I am pleased that this legislation has passed Committee, especially my amendment with Senator Coons that requires the Department of State to include excess domestic vaccine supply as part of its global vaccination strategy.”
Portman, Warren Praise Committee Passage of Veteran Homelessness Bill by Veterans Affairs Committee
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) praise passage of their Improving Housing Outcomes for Veterans Act, legislation to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) adequately serves veterans experiencing homelessness, which unanimously passed out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. This legislation follows a May 2020 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found shortcomings in how VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Homeless Programs Office administers programs to support veterans experiencing homelessness in collaboration with local partners and other federal agencies.
In a May 2020 report, GAO found deficiencies in VHA’s communication with VA medical centers, service providers, and local partners regarding the delivery of services for veterans experiencing homelessness. The remedial actions VA has taken in response to the GAO’s recommendations fall short of fully addressing these concerns. The Improving Housing Outcomes for Veterans Act will ensure that VA comprehensively and effectively corrects these issues.
“Too many of our veterans face homelessness in this country. We owe these brave men and women a debt of gratitude, and so we must work harder to ensure they receive the quality of care they deserve,” said Portman. “I am pleased this bipartisan legislation to ensure VA acts on the recommendations of the May 2020 GAO report to improve services for homeless veterans has passed committee, and I urge my colleagues to support it when it comes to the floor.”
Portman, Peters Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Direct DHS to Research Supply Chain Vulnerabilities That Threaten National Security
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the bipartisan Domains Critical to Homeland Security Act to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct research and development into the ways that supply chain vulnerabilities threaten our homeland security. Congressmen John Katko (R-NY) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) have introduced this legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Between shortages of medical supplies and semiconductors, the past year and a half has exposed how offshoring of our manufacturing base has weakened our homeland security,” said Senator Portman. “This bipartisan legislation puts the best and brightest minds at DHS on the job to identify where we have vulnerabilities in our supply chains and develop solutions to strengthen American manufacturing and re-shore jobs in critical sectors and I urge my colleagues to join in supporting this much needed legislation.”
Portman, Peters Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Create Task Force at DHS to Combat Deepfakes
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act to assist the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its mission to counter deepfake technology. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur. The legislation would create a task force within DHS charged with producing a coordinated plan to explore how a “digital content provenance” standard could assist with reducing the spread of deepfakes, develop tools for content creators to authenticate their content and its origin, and increase the ability of civil society and industry leaders to relay trust and information about the source of the deepfakes to consumers. The task force would be comprised of experts from academia, government, civil society, and industry, and would be chaired by DHS.
“Deepfakes represent a unique threat to our national security and our democracy,” said Senator Portman. “For most of human history seeing meant believing, but now that is becoming less and less true thanks to deepfakes. Combined with the network effects created by social media, fake videos or pictures can travel around the world in an instant, tricking citizens. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation because establishing a deepfake task force at the Department of Homeland Security will help solve this problem by making progress to develop standards so that companies, tech platforms, journalists, and all Americans can track and authenticate content so we can better separate the truth from the lies.”
Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement: New Jobs. No Inflation. No Tax Hikes.
Last night, a strong majority of U.S. Senators voted to approve the historic bipartisan infrastructure agreement in a key procedural vote.
The agreement – which Portman has played a key role in crafting – represents the largest investment in core infrastructure in our nation’s history to modernize and upgrade roads, bridges, ports, and other key infrastructure assets across the country.
Here are three key benefits Americans can expect from this landmark agreement.
Portman Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal: An Infrastructure Bill That Works
In a new op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Senator Portman discusses his new bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a historic investment in repairing and upgrading our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. In the op-ed, Senator Portman discusses why he felt it was important to work to negotiate a bipartisan alternative to the Biden administration’s $2.65 trillion “infrastructure” proposal in the spring that went far beyond the core infrastructure needs of our nation and was funded in part by massive tax hikes on American workers and businesses.
As Portman discusses in the op-ed, opposition to the Biden plan led him and a bipartisan group of senators to work on an infrastructure bill that focused on core infrastructure, was not funded through tax hikes, and would be able to garner bipartisan support. Studies have shown this approach will grow the economy, raise wages, and lower the national debt. Importantly, it will not contribute to the rising inflation rate the United States is experiencing.
Portman closes by calling on Republicans to support this common-sense legislation to help working families across the country have access to better roads, bridges, ports, broadband, and other essential infrastructure needs. The full op-ed can be found here.
Friday, July 30, 2021
Portman Statement on Passing of Carl Levin
Portman issued the following statement in response to news of the passing of former Michigan Senator Carl Levin.
“I was saddened to hear of the passing my friend Carl Levin. During our time together in the Senate, we worked together to promote the interests of our neighboring states. We fought to protect the men and women in the auto manufacturing industries of Ohio and Michigan as co-chairs of the Senate Auto Caucus. We also led efforts to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem our states share as co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force.
“Carl served as my predecessor as Chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and we shared the same commitment to rigorous and bipartisan congressional oversight of our federal government on behalf of the American people. Carl built a legacy serving the people of Michigan that will endure. Jane and I are thinking of his wife Barbara and the entire Levin family in this difficult time.”
Portman, Sinema Statement on Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement Legislative Text
Senators Rob Portman and Kyrsten Sinema issued the following statement on the efforts of the bipartisan working group of 22 members to finalize legislative text on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement:
“We are close to finalizing legislative text that reflects the work of the bipartisan working group and hope to make it public later today. While various pieces of legislative text have been circulating among members, staff and the public for days, if not weeks, none of it is the final legislative text and should not be considered as such. When legislative text is finalized that reflects the product of our group, we will make it public together consistent with the bipartisan way we’ve worked for the last four months.”
Tech Leaders Support Portman’s Bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act to Create Task Force at DHS to Combat Deepfakes
Tech leaders have expressed support for the bipartisan Deepfake Task Force Act introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The legislation will create a task force at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to strengthen its mission to counter deepfake technology. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur.
The legislation would create a task force within DHS charged with producing a coordinated plan to explore how a “digital content provenance” standard could assist with reducing the spread of deepfakes, develop tools for content creators to authenticate their content and its origin, and increase the ability of civil society and industry leaders to relay trust and information about the source of the deepfakes to consumers. The task force would be comprised of experts from academia, government, civil society, and industry, and would be chaired by DHS. Here are the tech leaders support the Deepfake Task Force Act.
Portman, Peters Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Improve Federal Workforce’s Understanding of Artificial Intelligence
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation that would help bolster the federal workforce’s understanding of artificial intelligence (AI). The bill would create a training program to help federal employees responsible for purchasing AI technologies better understand the risks and benefits it poses to the American people. It would also help ensure the United States maintains a global leadership role in rapidly-developing technologies as foreign competitors like the Chinese government continue to prioritize investments in AI technologies.
“We need a federal acquisition workforce that understands AI, how it works, how it can help the government run better, and the ways we can fix the problems with AI systems so those procurement professionals can know they are buying the right AI systems for the government,” said Senator Portman. “That’s why we are introducing this bipartisan bill to establish the kind of AI training program our acquisition workforce needs and I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation.”
Tax reform was a signature achievement of President Trump’s tenure. Before the pandemic, it helped fuel robust economic growth, leading to record low unemployment, higher wages, and the lowest poverty rate since the metric was established in 1959. Eliminating the 2017 reforms and imposing massive new tax hikes to fund huge spending increases for social programs will lead to even higher inflation, hurt working families, and disrupt our economic recovery.
This spring, Democrats used a special budget process to pass a purely partisan $1.9 trillion “pandemic relief” bill. And now, with the country already feeling the inflationary effects of this stimulus, they plan to use this same partisan budget process to pass another reckless tax and spending bill of at least $3.5 trillion that would further stall economic growth.
What isn’t partisan, however, is an entirely separate legislative initiative to invest long-term in the nation’s infrastructure. We can all agree that America’s roads, bridges, rails and ports need repair, and that without more investment in these long-term, hard assets, and the digital infrastructure needed to expand high-speed internet, we will continue to fall behind other countries. As a percentage of its economy, China spends nearly four times what the U.S. spends on infrastructure.
Presidents Obama and Trump advocated robust programs to invest in infrastructure. Neither succeeded because of partisan disagreements on how to pay for it.
When the Biden administration turned its attention to infrastructure earlier this year, it proposed a $2.65 trillion “infrastructure” bill with destructive tax increases and billions in spending unrelated to core infrastructure. I joined Republican colleagues in strongly opposing the bill. I knew that the same special budget process that was used to pass the $1.9 trillion relief package could be used to jam the infrastructure bill through without a single Republican vote.
Instead of simply opposing the $2.65 trillion proposal, a bipartisan group of senators said we could support a real infrastructure bill as long as three criteria were met. First, that the legislation covered only core infrastructure, not all of the so-called human infrastructure in the $2.65 trillion Biden proposal. That bill would cost $550 billion.
Second, we committed not to raise taxes to pay for the needed infrastructure investments. Instead of the largest tax increase in U.S. history, which the Biden approach would have delivered, we agreed to no tax hikes.
Finally, we agreed to make it a truly bipartisan process, building the vote from the middle out. The result is the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will make a long-awaited and historic investment in the nation’s infrastructure.
Notably, our legislation includes substantive reforms to the permitting process for the nation’s largest infrastructure projects. Despite issuing helpful executive orders regarding permitting, President Trump wasn’t able to secure any legislative victories on this issue even when Republicans had full control of the House and Senate. Our framework contains important permitting reforms, such as making permanent Title 41 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, known as FAST-41. Since becoming law in 2015, the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council created by FAST-41 has helped more than 50 projects save more than a billion dollars combined, created more than 100,000 jobs, and sped up permitting process substantially.
Just as important, according to a Penn Wharton study, the long-term spending from this infrastructure plan will improve economic efficiency and productivity while raising gross domestic product and government revenue.
A separate Penn Wharton study found that “an increase in public infrastructure by itself raises the productivity of private capital, as public capital is a complement to private capital.” The study’s authors noted that an increase in private capital “increases the productivity of labor and leads to higher wages and lower interest rates (borrowing costs), encouraging additional work and motivating higher investment in private capital.”
During the debate over the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion spending bill, some of us warned that increased stimulus spending would lead to an overheated economy and inflation. Unfortunately, those fears have been realized.
As economist Michael Strain wrote last week: “There are good reasons to believe this bipartisan infrastructure spending won’t be inflationary. Its focus is on improving longer-term productivity, not near-term demand. By strengthening the supply side of the economy, it would ease inflationary pressures. In addition, the spending would be spread out over a decade.”
Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum agreed. “Improving roads, bridges, and ports would make it less costly for businesses to operate, allowing them to increase their output per hour, and putting downward pressure on consumer prices,” he wrote. “In addition to boosting productivity, the timing of the proposed infrastructure plans mitigates concern about inflation.”
The Democrats’ coming partisan tax and spending spree must be opposed, but infrastructure is different. As Republicans, we can and should be for common-sense solutions to the most pressing needs working families face every day. This bipartisan effort to improve U.S. infrastructure helps address those needs, and is worthy of our support.
A bipartisan group of senators struck an agreement on a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package Wednesday after grinding months of talks, hammering out enough details to propel the deal past its first procedural hurdle just hours later.
The Senate voted 67-32 to begin consideration of the bill, above the 60 required and reversing a failed effort a week earlier when many specifics of the deal were still under negotiation. Republican negotiators said Wednesday they now had enough confidence in the details of the agreement to allow it to move forward. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) backed the motion. Negotiators cast the agreement and vote as proof that bipartisanship was still possible in a deeply divided Washington. Lawmakers have for years tried and failed to put together a bipartisan agreement on the issue.
“Despite the popularity and the need for it, Washington hasn’t been able to get it done. This time, we’re going to get it done,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio), the lead GOP negotiator in the talks. Completing the infrastructure agreement, which lawmakers and aides said would provide for roughly $550 billion in spending above projected federal levels, is the first step Democrats hope to take toward approving much of President Biden’s agenda on Capitol Hill in the coming months. That includes Democrats’ parallel $3.5 trillion child care, education, healthcare and climate-change plan.
Mr. Biden supported the bipartisan approach and cheered the deal Wednesday, calling it “the most significant long-term investment in our infrastructure and competitiveness in nearly a century.”The bipartisan group of 10 senators has been working for weeks toward an agreement on the details of a loose framework for fresh spending on roads, bridges, water infrastructure and broadband access, among other measures.
The package still faces a long road to becoming law. Having cleared this first procedural hurdle, lawmakers will now need to navigate a potentially lengthy amendment process while maintaining a bipartisan coalition that faces pressures from conservatives and progressives. Some progressive support for the infrastructure deal hinges on Democrats also moving forward with the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, itself still the subject of negotiation and disagreement in the party.
“My goal remains to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution during this work period. Both,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) on the Senate floor after Wednesday night’s vote. “We are going to get the job done. And we are on track.”
The infrastructure agreement is expected to include $110 billion for improvements to roads and bridges and $39 billion in new funding to modernize public transit and replace thousands of buses with zero-emission vehicles, according to Senate and White House summaries. The legislation will also allot $66 billion for passenger and freight rail systems, including Amtrak, as well as $7.5 billion to build a national network of electric vehicle charging stations.
The bill will target $17 billion toward ports, $25 billion for airport improvements, as well as roughly $50 billion to better equip communities to withstand extreme weather events and cyberattacks, according to the summaries. A $65 billion expansion of broadband Internet access, $55 billion for clean drinking water and a $73 billion investment in clean energy transmission are also expected to be included. Much of the rest of the funding in the bill will go toward authorizing existing infrastructure programs.
Lawmakers have long promised that the cost of the spending will be covered with new revenue and savings measures. Roughly $200 billion of the cost of the deal will be covered by repurposing existing Covid-19 relief funds, $49 billion will come from delaying a Trump-era rule on Medicare rebates, and $87 billion from past and future sales of wireless spectrum space, according to a summary of the agreement distributed at a lunch among Senate Republicans on Wednesday.
The summary also listed returning unused unemployment-insurance supplemental funds and revenue generated from applying information-reporting requirements for cryptocurrency as among the other payfors. “They’re very credible. This is not made-up stuff,” Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.) said of the group’s collection of ways to pay for the bill. The agreement’s procedural victory relied upon Republicans outside the core group of five negotiators, including a broader set of GOP senators who had pledged support late last week if a more detailed agreement were reached.
The legislation is expected to need the support of most if not all 50 members of the Democratic caucus, who huddled Wednesday afternoon to discuss the agreement. Some top Democrats had raised concerns about the contours of the agreement, including Sens. Tom Carper (D., Del.) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), each leaders of key Senate committees. Mr. Carper, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said he and his staff spent the night making his case to negotiators on final issues.
Mr. Carper said Wednesday that the water provisions of the agreement remained incomplete, and that he would push to restore $6 billion in grants to poor communities for drinking water and wastewater treatment. However, he voted to begin debate on the bill. Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), one of the members of the bipartisan group, said concerns from other Democrats were understandable, given the small-group nature of the negotiations. “I think anytime you do a bipartisan deal that doesn’t go through regular order, people are understandably upset,” Mr. Warner said.
The agreement capped a tumultuous weekslong stretch after the bipartisan group of lawmakers reached a deal with the White House in late June on a loose framework for the package. The porousness of that deal quickly became apparent as lawmakers scrapped one of their key sources of revenue and spent days working out disputes over major policy provisions, including how much money to spend on public transit and how to administer expanded broadband access.
Earlier this month, Mr. Schumer turned up the pressure on the group by giving them a midweek deadline. Although the lawmakers missed the deadline, the pace of negotiations intensified. Lawmakers had spent marathon days locked into a room with White House officials and broke into small groups to hammer out specific provisions. The agreement marks an important step as Mr. Biden tries to advance the rest of his agenda through a divided Congress. Top Democrats have tied the infrastructure effort to the broader, $3.5 trillion plan that they hope to advance along party lines through a budget process called reconciliation.
Some liberal Democrats have said they would only support the infrastructure deal if the party also commits to the broader package, while some moderate Democrats have said Congress must pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan before they consider the $3.5 trillion outline. Advancing the infrastructure bill will allow Democrats to turn to the $3.5 trillion legislation in earnest—a possibility that pushed some Republicans to oppose the infrastructure deal, hoping to cut off Democrats’ ability to pass the broader bill. Mr. Schumer has said he wants to pass both the infrastructure bill and a budget blueprint for the $3.5 trillion legislation, which also is expected to include tax increases on corporations and high-income households, in the coming weeks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) has said she won’t bring the infrastructure bill up in the House until the broader $3.5 trillion package has passed the Senate, effectively yoking the two bills’ fates together. The balance Democrats hope to strike is fragile in a 50-50 Senate. On Wednesday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) said she was opposed to the $3.5 trillion cost of the budget package, though she supported many of its goals and indicated she would vote for the budget resolution, the first step paving the way for the larger package.
Ms. Sinema’s statement quickly unsettled other Democrats. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) suggested in a tweet that progressive Democrats in the House would block the infrastructure deal, if Ms. Sinema balked at the $3.5 trillion bill.“Good luck tanking your own party’s investment on child care, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you’ll survive a 3 vote House margin,” she wrote.
The delicate negotiations among Democrats are set to last several more months, as they craft the details of the wide-ranging package, which is expected to provide a variety of tax incentives for clean energy, expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision, and create universal prekindergarten, among many other measures. “We’re still going to face multiple near-death experiences, as is the case with any major legislation, but we’re going to do this,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii).