Legislative Roundup: Aid package signed by Biden finds agreement among local reps, split among senators

Photo by Adam Michael Szuscik

Ohio’s U.S. senators split on a foreign aid package that will be key to sending weapons and equipment to war-torn Ukraine this week.

President Joe Biden signed the package on April 24.

In the 79-18 vote April 23, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown voted yes; Republican Sen. JD Vance voted no.

Portage County’s representatives joined the U.S. House of Representatives on April 20 in passing the $95 billion foreign aid package that also includes funding for Israel and Taiwan.

Republican Rep. Dave Joyce, whose district includes most of Portage County, voted yes, as did Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes, whose district includes a sliver of Portage County.

The votes April 20 were as follows: House Resolution 8034, the Israel Security Supplemental Appropriations Act that includes $26.38 billion to support Israel, 366-58; H.R. 8035, which appropriates $60.84 billion to address the conflict in Ukraine, 311-112; H.R. 8036, which appropriates $8.12 billion to counter China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific region and support Taiwan, 385-34; and H.R. 8038, the 21st Century Peace through Strength Act, which concerns TikTok’s ownership, Russian assets and sanctions on Iran, 360-58.

In the Senate, the FEND Off Fentanyl Act was included to crack down on fentanyl traffickers in Mexico and China, Brown said April 24 in a news release. Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina was sponsor of the bill, and Brown and Vance were among co-sponsors.

The bill, Brown explained, expands sanctions to fentanyl traffickers in Mexico and the creators of precursor chemicals in China. In Brown’s news release, several Ohio law enforcement groups praised the measure’s passage as a tool to stopping the flow of the deadly opioid.

Vance, who voted against the passage of the overall foreign aid package, issued a statement April 23 headlined “Senator Vance slams U.S. foreign policy establishment for decades of failure.” Vance highlighted his view that Europe should spend more money on its defense, rather than seeking U.S. aid, so that the United States has more funds for its domestic problems.

Joyce, meanwhile, criticized House Republicans who held up legislation for two weeks.

“Today (April 20) was not only a vote to support our allies when they need it the most, but also a vote to protect America’s national security,” the Bainbridge Township congressman said in a news release. “China, Russia and Iran are anti-American regimes that have no intent of stopping their aggressions with our allies. They also pose a strong and dangerous threat to Americans here at home.”

“While the time to act was weeks ago, this package provides the critical funding necessary for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan to defend their freedom,” he said.

In reporting on the bill that would ban TikTok in the United States if the social media platform’s Beijing-based owner doesn’t sell its stake, The Associated Press cautioned that it would face many legal challenges if it becomes law.

Both the parent company, ByteDance, and free-speech advocates promise to protect the platform. Supporters of the ban worry “that TikTok could harvest Americans’ user data for Beijing — or be used as a vehicle to spread Chinese propaganda,” ABC News wrote.

Surveillance law

Biden on April 20 signed H.R. 7888, which reauthorizes a key U.S. surveillance law.

This legislation passed the House April 12. It renews and reforms Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the Biden administration calls “one of the United States’ most vital intelligence collection tools.”

The vote in the Senate was 60-34, with six not voting. Among those not voting was Ohio’s Vance. Among the no votes was Brown in Ohio.

In the House, it passed 273-147, with Joyce and Sykes voting yes.

The Associated Press noted that the statute nearly lapsed as lawmakers differed on “whether the FBI should be restricted from using the program to search for Americans’ data.”

Sykes said in a press release that the national security measure is needed to “identify and combat the complex threats our nation faces every day, from terrorist threats to fentanyl supply chains to cyberwarfare from foreign adversaries.”

Help for birds

A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Joyce that reauthorizes and enhances a conservation program for migratory birds throughout the Americas passed the House and Senate in April. The bill would cost $28 million between 2024–2029, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Since 2002, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act program has provided nearly $75 million in grants to support 628 projects in 36 countries, Joyce said. The National Audubon Society said, for example, the program has helped conserve bird habitat from West Virginia to Colombia.

The birdwatchers who visit Lake Erie and other hotspots in Ohio provide a $26 million boost to our economy each year, Joyce said.

Joyce appointed to panel

Joyce announced on April 18 his appointment to serve on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. Joyce also serves as chairman of the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee and as a member of the Defense Subcommittee.

“I am honored to return to this subcommittee that will allow me to prioritize the critical infrastructure, transportation, and housing needs of Ohio’s 14th District and our country,” Joyce said in a news release. “Under the leadership of Subcommittee Chairman (Steve) Womack and Full Committee Chairman (Tom) Cole, we will work to ensure the roads, bridges, and housing in our communities remain updated and efficient while safeguarding American tax dollars.”

Vance introduces nursing act

Sens. Vance, R-Ohio, and Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, introduced the Continuous Skilled Nursing Quality Improvement Act, which would, in part, amend the Social Security Act to develop national quality standards for nursing services provided in homes through Medicaid.

Vance said in a statement that it would redefine “private duty nursing services” as “continuous skilled nursing services,” remove outdated provider red tape and mandate that the secretary of Health and Human Services convene a working group to establish national quality standards of care for these services.

The Home Care Association of America of Washington, D.C., and Maxim Healthcare Services, which has offices in Northeast Ohio, applauded the measure’s introduction.

Mary Kay Quinn
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