Rob’s Rundown: Week of June 12-16, 2017


Courtesy Sen. Rob Portman’s Office



This week was marked by the return of Otto Warmbier to his hometown of Cincinnati from North Korea, Senate passage of sanctions against Russia and Iran, and more. Senator Portman spent his Friday in the Cleveland area, launching the new Office of Opioid Safety at the MetroHealth Center in Cleveland and visiting with local pastors. For more information about Portman’s week, please see the following:

Monday, June 12

Portman, Brown Applaud Nomination of Justin Herdman for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) applauded President Trump’s decision to nominate Justin Herdman for the position of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio on Monday. The Northern District of Ohio consists of the 40 northern counties in Ohio and has offices in Cleveland, Toledo, Akron and Youngstown. Portman and Brown recommended the appointment of Justin Herdman for U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Ohio on February 3. Herdman must now be confirmed by the full U.S. Senate.

“Justin Herdman has the unique qualifications that are needed to lead as the next U.S. Attorney for the Northern District,” said Portman. “His legal, military, and public service background, combined with his skill set addressing complex legal issues, makes him a strong candidate for this position that will serve the citizens of Ohio well. I look forward to his approval by the full Senate so that we can work together to address the heroin epidemic impacting our state, combat human trafficking, and stop violent crime in our communities.”

Tuesday, June 13

Portman Statement on the Release of Otto Warmbier

Portman issued the following statement after Otto Warmbier was released by North Korea:

“The Secretary of State has confirmed to me that Otto has been released by North Korea, and is being returned to his family. Fred, Cindy, and the Warmbier family have been remarkably strong throughout this ordeal. Over the last 18 months, they have had to endure more than any family should have to bear. In the days and months ahead, I would urge everyone to continue to lift them up in prayer and to respect their privacy.

“Otto’s detainment and sentence was unnecessary and appalling, and North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior. Otto should have been released from the start. For North Korea to imprison Otto with no notification or consular access for more than a year is the utmost example of its complete failure to recognize fundamental human rights and dignity.

“We still have three Americans who are being held unjustly by North Korea. They should be released immediately.”

Portman Praises Bipartisan Russia Sanctions Bill

Portman praised the introduction of bipartisan legislation imposing sanctions on Russia for its ongoing aggression in Ukraine in Syria, its attempt to interfere in the U.S. election, and its actions to undermine U.S. allies and interests. The legislation also outlines a number of policy responses to counter Russian influence. The legislation, introduced as an amendment to a bill imposing sanctions on Iran, contains a number of important Portman policy priorities he has pushed for in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), including non-recognition of Russia’s illegal occupation in Crimea, robust sanctions to hold Russia accountable for its actions, strong resources and authorities to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation, support for defensive lethal military assistance to better enable the Ukrainians to defend themselves, and language linking sanctions relief to Russia’s actual implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreements.

“This bipartisan legislation is an important step by the U.S. Senate to hold Russia accountable for its aggression against U.S. allies and interests and efforts to undermine faith in our democratic institutions and values. Russia’s destructive actions must have consequences, and with this legislation, the Senate is sending a clear signal that the United States will stand up for its allies and interests and hold Russia accountable for its behavior. The important sanctions and policies included in this legislation will also provide constructive guidance to the administration as it continues to formulate its policies and demonstrate the depth of the support in Congress for a firm and principled approach to Russia.”

The policy portion of the Russia sanctions amendment is based on the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act, sponsored by Senators Portman, Cardin and Coons, which passed the SFRC by a vote of 20-1. The bill includes a Portman initiative to counter Russian influence and disinformation which passed by a bipartisan vote of 18-3.

The Russia sanctions legislation will be offered as an amendment to the Iran sanctions legislation – the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act – which is currently being considered on the floor of the Senate. Portman is also a cosponsor of this important bill to hold Iran accountable.

Wednesday, June 14

Portman Praises Senate Passage of Bipartisan Russia Sanctions Legislation

Portman praised Senate passage of bipartisan legislation imposing sanctions on Russia for its ongoing aggression in Ukraine and in Syria, its attempt to interfere in the U.S. election, and its actions to undermine U.S. allies and interests. The legislation also outlines a number of policy responses to counter Russian influence and contains a number of important Portman policy priorities he has pushed for in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), including non-recognition of Russia’s illegal occupation in Crimea, robust sanctions to hold Russia accountable for its actions, strong resources and authorities to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation, support for defensive lethal military assistance to better enable the Ukrainians to defend themselves, and linking sanctions relief to Russian implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreements. Speaker of Ukraine Parliament Andriy Purabiy was in attendance during the vote as a guest of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, which Portman co-chairs with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 97 to 2.

“The United States Senate today took an important step towards holding Russia accountable for its aggression against U.S. allies and interests and its efforts to undermine faith in our democratic institutions and values. I was honored to have Speaker of Ukraine Parliament Andriy Purabiy with me today as the Senate passed these important sanctions and policies that send a clear signal that Russia’s destabilizing and destructive actions must have consequences, and that the United States will stand up for its allies like Ukraine while holding Russia accountable for its bad behavior. The important sanctions and policies included in this legislation will also provide constructive guidance to the administration as it continues to formulate its policies and demonstrate the depth of the support in Congress for a firm and principled approach to Russia.”

Thursday, June 15

Senate Passes Key Portman Priorities in Legislation Imposing New Sanctions Holding Iran, Russia Accountable

Portman praised Senate passage of the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act, bipartisan legislation that Portman co-sponsored to impose sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, human rights violations, and support for terrorism. The bill passed 98-2. The legislation includes an amendment approved yesterday by a 97-2 vote that includes key provisions authored by Portman.

“The United States Senate today took an important step towards holding Iran and Russia accountable for their aggressive and destabilizing behavior,” said Portman. “Both of these countries actively undermine U.S. allies and interests and this legislation sends a clear signal that their actions have consequences.”

Portman, Brown Help Spearhead Bipartisan Provision Affirming U.S. Commitment to NATO

Portman and Brown on Thursday led passage of a bipartisan provision that reaffirms the United States’ commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), particularly NATO’s Article 5 which outlines the obligation of collective defense.

“For decades, NATO has been fundamental to America’s national security,” said Portman. “From preserving peace and stability and deterring Russian aggression in Europe to fighting alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan, NATO remains highly relevant and critical to addressing some of our most pressing national security challenges. A strong NATO means a stronger America, and this important measure sends a message to friend and foe alike about the depth of America’s commitment to our NATO allies.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined Portman and Brown in offering the amendment. The provision was attached to legislation that cleared the Senate this morning to strengthen U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Portman helped secure passage of key priorities to improve U.S. efforts to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation. The measure, included as part of the policy portion of the bipartisan sanctions bill, originally passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 25 by a vote of 18-3.

Senators Portman and Baldwin Lead Bipartisan Effort to Improve Family Care Services for America’s Most Vulnerable Youth

Portman and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve home-based health and mental health services for thousands of America’s most vulnerable youth on Thursday. The Family-Based Care Services Act increases access to quality care by clarifying Medicaid policy that directly affects children, including foster children, with special behavioral health needs and/or medical disabilities, as well as vulnerable children living with kinship and biological caregivers. Original cosponsors included Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

“This commonsense bill will allow vulnerable children to have better access to high-quality foster care,” said Senator Portman. “By improving health care and mental health services for kids with unique needs, we will provide a sense of stability for these children and better equip foster parents to care for them.”

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Courtesy Sen. Rob Portman’s Office