Ohio Senator Rob Portman says Democrats are holding bipartisan bill "hostage"
Portman calls on Democratic leaders to bring the smaller of two infrastructure bills up for a vote now.
Ohio’s Republican US Sen Rob Portman (R-Ohio) says he’s frustrated with majority Democrats for not passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill that would infuse $550 billion dollars 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 says.
Leaders in Congress are tying that proposal to a larger $3.5-trillion-dollar 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, Senator Rob 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.”
Portman suggests older Ohioans who want those services can get them through Medicare Advantage – a supplemental program that Democrats say many seniors find is too expensive on their limited incomes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projects enrollment in Medicare Advantage in 2022 will reach 29.5 million people compared to 26.9 million enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021. The average premium for Medicare Advantage plans will be lower in 2022 at $19 per month, compared to $21.22 in 2021. And the Kaiser Family Foundation says nearly two-thirds of Medicare Advantage enrollees pay no supplemental premium (other than the Part B premium) in 2021.
Ohio’s Democratic Senator, Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), 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-dollar 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.