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Government & Politics

Ohio Senator Rob Portman Says Democrats Are Holding Bipartisan Bill 'Hostage'

 U.S. Senator Rob Portman
U.S. Senator Rob Portman speaks during a joint press briefing near the Presidential office in Ukraine. He says he’s frustrated that a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would improve roads and bridges and allow new investments in broadband hasn't passed.

Ohio’s Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says he’s frustrated with majority Democrats for not passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill that would infuse $550 billion into existing roads and bridges as well as allow new investments in things like broadband.

“It's a great bill. It will fix our crumbling infrastructure. It strengthens our economy," Portman said.

Leaders in Congress are tying that proposal to a larger $3.5 trillion plan that doesn’t have bipartisan support.

That package includes investments that have long been on Democrats’ wish lists, such as expanding Medicare to pay for eyeglasses, hearing aids, or dental care. Even though Ohio’s population is older than many states, Portman says he’s against expanding Medicare because the program’s trust fund is set to run out in three years.

“To add more to Medicare at this point rather than fixing the problems that we have and ensuring seniors in Ohio continue to get strong Medicare coverage, I think is a mistake,” he said.

Portman suggests older Ohioans who want those services can get them through Medicare Advantage, a supplemental program that many seniors find is too expensive on their limited incomes.

Andy Chow
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown supports both the larger and smaller infrastructure bills that have been proposed. The larger bill expands Medicare to include certain services that are currently only covered by Medicare Advantage plans.

Ohio’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is on record as supporting this expansion. He also supports lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 55 but that is not part of the $3.5 trillion package. While Brown supports both bills under consideration, the larger one has divided his party and doesn't have support from any Republicans.

The smaller infrastructure bill that both Brown and Portman support is paid for with unspent emergency relief funds, corporate user fees, and revenue growth. The larger bill relies on tax increases levied on businesses and wealthier Americans.
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