Ohioans are tired of Washington gridlock and want to see things getting done that will help them and their families. That’s how I feel. We don’t all agree on what those specific policies should be, but in general most of us just want to see Republicans and Democrats work together for the greater good. That’s what I’ve tried to do over the past six years during my first term in the U.S. Senate, and I’ve had a lot of success finding common ground, not on every issue, but on some important ones. In my first term, more than 50 of my bills were signed into law by President Obama. These measures are making a difference for working families in Ohio.
At yearend, I like to give a report on specific progress made over the past year. I work for you, and you deserve to know what my office and I have accomplished. In 2016 alone, more than a dozen of my bills were signed into law. For a more extensive list of 2016 accomplishments, please go on our website, at Portman.Senate.Gov, but below is a summary.
My top priority has been creating more and better jobs in Ohio. This year, I successfully fought for Ohio workers who have been hurt by the unfair trade practices of our competitors around the world. I co-authored the ENFORCE Act, which helps Ohio manufacturers by cracking down on foreign competitors who launder their goods through other countries to get around our tariffs. Trade laws I’ve authored, including the ENFORCE Act and the Level the Playing Field Act, also helped a number of Ohio companies—including steel companies like AK Steel in Middletown, ArcelorMittal in Cleveland, and U.S. Steel in Loraine—win 2016 trade cases at the International Trade Commission.
I also authored several laws this year that protect our environment. Earlier this month, President Obama signed into law my bill to establish public-private partnerships to help our National Park system reduce its $12 billion backlog of maintenance projects and preserve national treasures like Cuyahoga Valley National Park. He also signed into law my measure stopping the Army Corps of Engineers from dumping dredged material into the Cleveland Harbor without permission from the state of Ohio, my bill to help finish Smale Riverfront Park in Cincinnati, my bill to fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative—which is helping to clean up Lake Erie—and my bill to save nearly 2,000 jobs by continuing to clean up the former Piketon Gaseous Diffusion plant in Piketon, Ohio.
But maybe the most important bill that became law this past year was the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA. It’s the first comprehensive reform to federal addiction policy in at least 20 years and it modernizes the federal government’s response to the epidemic of heroin and prescription drug addiction that is devastating Ohio. A new study shows that Ohio leads the country in overdoses and we now lose more of our fellow citizens to overdose deaths than car accidents.
CARA authorizes $181 million annually in new federal investments in prevention, treatment, and long-term recovery programs, and it channels that funding toward the programs that have been proven to work. I’ve secured a down payment on fully funding CARA in the spending bills and I also fought for legislation in the spending bill for this year that provides additional funds to empower states like Ohio to fight this epidemic. CARA and this additional funding will help save lives, reduce crime, and reunite families and communities that have been torn apart by this epidemic.
But my job as a United States Senator is about more than just writing laws. I’ve also held the administration accountable to ensure that our laws are being enforced. For example, this year, as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, I led a bipartisan investigation into human trafficking that examined how the federal government had placed migrant children with a human trafficking ring in Marion, Ohio. After law enforcement arrested them, the ringleaders were sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison in June. Our investigation also revealed that backpage.com—the online leader in commercial sex—likely edited their advertisements to conceal evidence of sex trafficking minors.
Ohioans also hired me to be their advocate with the federal government. In 2016, my casework team worked on more than 3,000 new cases for Ohioans who came to our office in need of help with problems like Social Security checks, getting a passport in a hurry, or helping veterans get the health care that they deserve. Over my first term in the United States Senate, we successfully resolved 84 percent of more than 16,700 cases. This past year, we resolved more than 87 percent successfully. If I can help you or your family navigate the federal bureaucracy, you can contact my office at Portman.Senate.gov or by calling 1-800-205-6446.
I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish for Ohio this past year, and I’m not slowing down. With a new Congress and a new Administration I hope we can make even more progress on big issues like getting the economy going and restoring American global leadership. Just like 2016, my focus will be on delivering results for Ohio.
Rob Portman is an Ohio US Senator and a guest columnist.