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This editorial was originally published in the Daily Press on 03/25/2019

Despite the public reverence our country displays for the military, a quiet crisis continues to linger that must be better addressed: Veterans continue to die by their own hand.

Even a handful of suicides each year would be too many. The real figure — more than 6,000 annually — is a haunting realization this country must continue to address mental health issues that persist among our nation’s military personnel, regardless of the visibility of the wars they 

A concerted public health approach developed and implemented through public and private partners at the national, state and community levels is needed to tackle this complex problem.

The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act would be one solution toward that goal.

The legislation wending its way through Congress seeks to improve care by bolstering the Department of Veterans Affairs mental health workforce, increasing rural access to care and ensuring veterans have improved access to alternative treatment options such as animal therapy, outdoor sports, yoga and acupuncture.

The bill has bipartisan support that includes Virginia’s Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine as well as U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.

The legislation is named after Commander John Scott Hannon, a retired Navy SEAL from Montana who took his own life following a struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If approved, the bill would give the VA direct hiring authority over some mental health job categories and offer scholarships to mental health professionals as a way to entice them to work at veterans centers.

At least one suicide prevention coordinator would be placed at every VA hospital nationwide.

Veterans living in rural areas would be given greater access to telehealth services — where they can reach a medical professional over the phone or via a live chat — and provide grants to medical professionals to provide mental health services to veterans.

Innovative and alternative treatment options — such as access to animal, outdoor, or agri-therapy, yoga, meditation and acupuncture — would all be funded.

And ultimately, the VA would be held to greater account for the quality of services it provides, taking into account the wait times and red tape that can frustrate the people who seek care in such facilities.

We must help reduce veterans’ risk for suicide before those men and women feel they have exhausted their options and reached a crisis point.

Expansive networks that can reach veterans where they are will help bring desperate service members back from the brink.

These expanded programs will save lives if they are implemented correctly. That’s all we could ask for — services that are reliable and can address the individual needs of each veteran that has considered or attempted suicide.

These service members have performed countless duties to save our lives, and now we must do everything we can to save theirs.

An estimated 20 veterans die by suicide every day, even though their population has steadily decreased throughout the past decade. Of those deaths, 14 have received no treatment or care from the VA. That needs to change.

If you are a veteran considering suicide, please make a free, anonymous call to any Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone.

Or send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder.

Begin a confidential online chat session at or find a VA facility near you by visiting

A bounty of other resources can be found at

Or, in you live on the Peninsula, consider visiting the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center which operates a walk-in mental health clinic for any veteran in need of immediate help.

Veterans have given their time and talents to protecting this country. This country must show them just how treasured they are by keeping mental health services at the forefront of our consciousness.

This legislation will expand and bolster veterans services, but that does not mean veterans need to wait for it to pass before seeking help.

Now is the best time to take that initial step to speak with a mental health professional. It’s a path well worth the walk.

This Editorial was originally published in the Daily Progress on 03/22/2019

A suicide-prevention coordinator at every VA hospital.

Given reports on the number of military veterans who take their own lives under the burdens of their mental and emotional injuries, such a basic level of care seems an obvious necessity.

But it isn’t a mandate. Not yet.

Virginia’s senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, are among the sponsors of legislation to improve the Veterans Administration’s response to mental health needs and suicide prevention.

The legislation, cosponsored with Sen Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, would help the VA add more mental health experts, increase access to care in rural areas, and expand access to “non-traditional” therapy options such as yoga and animal therapy — although we might argue that these modalities have been around long enough, and have proved effective enough, to no longer be considered as “alternative” treatments.

"We need to focus on new measures and new strategies in promoting mental health among veterans," Mr. Kaine said recently at the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

And not just new measures and strategies, but also additional staff to implement these strategies. The legislation would authorize the VA to hire more mental health professionals, and would place at least one suicide-prevention coordinator in every hospital. Access to mental health for veterans in rural areas would be addressed by expanding VA telehealth services.

The legislation also seeks to hold the VA accountable for how it provides care and how it manages its resources.

Suicide is a tragic and disturbing underside of veterans affairs. An oft-quoted statistic had been that, on average, 20 U.S. veterans daily took their own lives. Last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs clarified that figure, saying that it referred to veterans, active-duty and other personnel combined.

The 2018 report cites the total as 20.6 suicides per day. Of these, 16.8 were veterans and 3.8 were active-duty service members, guardsmen and reservists, according to Stars and Stripes. That means 6,132 veterans and 1,387 service members die by suicide per year.

That number is shocking — and far, far too high.

“We’ve got to make sure that service members who’ve faithfully served our country receive the support they need when they transition to civilian life,” Mr. Warner said in a press statement.

And that sums it up well: America’s military men and women have given so much to serve our country, keep us safe at home and protect our nation’s interests abroad.

Indeed, those who have returned have sometimes given up almost everything in sacrifice — including their physical, mental and emotional health. If their trauma is so severe that it compels them to end their own lives just to escape the suffering, then they have given everything.

The nation owes them gratitude for their service, gratitude for their sacrifice — but it owes them much more. It owes them effective care, therapy, treatment and support to help them make the often difficult transition back into healthy living and civilian life.

The new veterans’ legislation strives to do just that. We support it.

This article was originally published in the Coalfield Progress on 03/17/2019

 In a meeting with United Mine Workers of America coal miners in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner stressed the need to pass the American Miners Act of 2019, legislation he sponsored that would permanently protect the healthcare and pension benefits for thousands of Virginia’s retired coal miners and their families.

The bill would also protect healthcare coverage for 500 Virginia miners who are at risk of losing their benefits due to the 2018 bankruptcy of Westmoreland Coal Co., which operated in Wise County and had been a leading employer here for decades.

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. Warner said the American Miners Act would shore up the pension plan to make sure that 87,000 current beneficiaries and an additional 20,000 retirees who have vested won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades, Warner's office said. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 pensioners who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act.

In May 2017, Warner worked with several colleagues to pass bipartisan legislation to protect healthcare for retired miners — including more than 10,000 miners and their families in Virginia — who were orphaned by coal bankruptcies. But the recent Westmoreland bankruptcy has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents — including 500 people in Virginia. This legislation will extend the fix to ensure that miners who are at risk due to 2018 coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare.

Lastly, the bill also calls for an extension of the tax that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is supported by an excise tax on mined coal that was cut in half at the end of 2018. The American Miners Act of 2019 would restore the tax to previous levels for 10 years.

Locally, the Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance had supported the cut and advocated against an extension.

Here’s How You Make a Deal, Mr. President
By Sen. Mark R. Warner 
In the Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump ran for president telling a story of business prowess—the author of “The Art of the Deal” would come to Washington and solve the problems the politicians couldn’t. Two years later, the longest government shutdown on record is revealing gaping cracks in his facade.

Like the president, I’ve spent more time in business than in politics. In 20-plus years as an executive and investor, I did very well closing deals, building companies and creating jobs. As governor and a senator, I’ve relied on my business experience to get things done. Every day the shutdown drags on, it becomes clearer the president never learned lessons that successful executives know by heart:

• Always try to find a solution in which both sides come out ahead. Mr. Trump has refused to compromise or negotiate. As a result, he’s increasingly isolated in his demand that Congress fund his border wall. Each day it gets harder to find a face-saving solution to end his pointless standoff.

• Don’t surround yourself with yes men. You need smart experts who aren’t afraid to tell you when they think you’re making a mistake. Mr. Trump relies on a circle of sycophants, far-right lawmakers, and TV and radio hosts who either share his views or won’t voice their disagreements.

• Empower the people on your team. The president has made it clear that no one can credibly speak on his behalf. First, he indicated before Christmas that he would sign a continuing resolution the Senate unanimously passed—only to oppose the bill, leaving the majority leader holding the bag. He sent Mike Pence to the Hill to make an offer—then kneecapped the vice president by rejecting the proposal on national television. Later he undercut an attempt at negotiation by his Senate whisperer Lindsey Graham. The result? The President is left with nobody who can make sure the job gets done.

• Never burn bridges. Successful business leaders know that if a deal goes south, another is always around the corner. Mr. Trump has been so vicious during the shutdown that he might have crippled his ability to get things done in Congress. The White House keeps saying it wants to cut bipartisan deals on issues like infrastructure, but the president’s behavior suggests that he’ll continue to treat congressional Democrats the way he treated the contractors he stiffed on so many of his real-estate projects.

• Respect your workforce. When I was governor, we had to make painful cuts to balance the budget, which meant asking employees to do more with less. I made every effort to spend time with those affected and listen to their concerns. In contrast, Mr. Trump has shown no empathy for the 800,000 public servants who are going without pay. He’s been downright cavalier when asked how thousands of my constituents are supposed to pay their bills while he holds them hostage.

I don’t know how much longer this is going to go on, or how it’s going to end. But I do know this: Business-school professors and management consultants will have a case study of a self-proclaimed deal-maker with some of the worst negotiating and management instincts of all time.

Mr. Warner, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from Virginia.

By Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA)

The reason I believe William Barr’s nomination should be withdrawn has little to do with his experience. As attorney general for President George H.W. Bush, he has long been well-respected within the legal community. But the nominee for our nation’s highest law enforcement position must be measured by more than his résumé.

Nor is this a question of politics — which party can “win” Barr’s confirmation fight — but rather a question of character and fidelity to the Constitution. Will Mr. Barr rise to the defining challenge for an attorney general in the Trump era and defend the rule of law?

Based on his actions in the months before his nomination, I believe the answer is no.

Last June, Mr. Barr wrote a secret, unsolicited memo attacking special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice by the president, which Mr. Barr then passed to administration officials.

In November, President Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions after months of public abuse over the Mueller investigation. For a temporary replacement, he chose Matt Whitaker, whose primary qualification appears to be an op-ed he wrote decrying the scope of the Mueller probe.

With Mr. Barr’s nomination, it has become clear that the president’s sole concern is choosing a new attorney general who will shield him from the special counsel’s investigation. And Mr. Barr’s memo looks much more like a job application.

Special counsel Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s attack on our democracy has led to numerous indictments and convictions, including that of the president’s own campaign chairman. It must continue free from political interference until it gets to the truth.

In the meantime, our country deserves better than an attorney general who auditioned for the job by attacking that investigation. Under our constitutional system, no one is above the law, not even the president. We need an attorney general willing to vigorously defend this principle.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., is vice chair of the Intelligence Committee.

Black Americans Were Russia's Top Target For Voter Suppression In 2016. Here Are 3 Ways To Ensure It Doesn't Happen Again.
by Senator Mark R. Warner
In Blavity

In the wake of the 2018 election, our country is finally having an overdue conversation about voter suppression. It takes many forms — discriminatory voter ID laws, shady voter roll purges and racially gerrymandered electoral maps, just to name a few.

But over the past two years, we have learned of yet another threat to voters, and Black Americans in particular — this one from beyond our borders. In 2016, Russia attacked our democracy using cyber-attacks and a massive disinformation campaign via social media.

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I’ve helped lead the investigation into Russian election interference efforts. Perhaps the most disturbing detail we’ve uncovered in our investigation thus far is that Russians specifically targeted the Black community to sow division and suppress voter turnout.

But in recent reports commissioned by our committee, researchers found that Russia’s efforts to target Black Americans were much more sophisticated and systematic than previously known.

In fact, we now know that the Black community was the top target of the Kremlin’s misinformation campaign. Russia employed an army of paid internet trolls who posed as Black Americans on 30 Facebook pages, with over 1.1 million total followers.

Our investigation found a troubling pattern of Russian operatives mimicking legitimate online organizing efforts taking place in communities of color. Russian-backed Facebook posts exploited the Black Lives Matter movement and pitted Americans against each other on issues including race, religion and gun violence. They attempted to build online relationships with legitimate Black media figures and outlets, and even tried to recruit unwitting Americans as Russian intelligence assets.

Using ads as well as organic content, they built their social media followings around political issues related to racial justice, as well as non-political issues like supporting Black-owned businesses.

But as the election approached, these accounts began to change their message. According to the reports, they started posting content pushing “several varieties of voter suppression narratives.” By the end, they were even posting memes encouraging “African Americans for Hillary” to stay home and “vote by text.”

Unfortunately, these racist efforts are not a new strategy for the Russians. During the Cold War, the KGB tried to spread "fake news" smearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Russian intelligence officers were responsible for concocting the rumor that the AIDS virus was developed by the CIA to target non-whites.

But what’s different today is that social media makes it much easier to start and spread misinformation on a scale that the Soviets could never have dreamed of.

In that way, social media is truly a double-edged sword — the same online tools that in many ways gave rise to important movements like Black Lives Matter were also used by Russia to carry out information operations against Black Americans.

Defending against our adversaries’ attempts to exploit racial tensions via social media is an issue both of justice and national security. And it will take all of us — the federal government, platform companies like Facebook and Google, and the American people united together — to combat this threat.

Here are three steps we can take right now:

1. End domestic voter suppression and address injustices at home: The truth is, Russia’s racist propaganda efforts have long attempted to exploit real injustices and racial divisions here in the United States, and 2016 was no exception. So long as Black Americans’ civil rights are under threat from politicians here in the United States, Russia will seek to exploit that to its advantage. In this sense, making real progress on issues like voting rights, economic fairness, and criminal justice reform is not only the right thing to do — it is essential to our national security.

2. Combat social media misinformation and disinformation: Social media companies should work with Congress to develop common-sense regulations protecting users from foreign adversaries and other bad actors. I’ve put forward a number of proposals as a starting point. For example, I think folks have a right to know if an account they’re interacting with is a bot, or if someone posing online as Mark from Virginia is actually Boris from St. Petersburg.

3. Stand up to foreign cyberaggression abroad: We need to aggressively deter and respond to cyberattacks and information operations carried out by Russia and other adversaries. To that end, we should clearly articulate a society-wide cyber doctrine and be willing to defend ourselves in cyberspace. When foreign adversaries attack our democracy and our fellow Americans, there must be consequences.

Finally, we must deny Russia and other adversaries what they most desire — a further fracturing of our society and our democracy. At the end of the day, the best way to stand up to this cynical, disgusting attempt to undermine our democracy and suppress your vote is to continue making your voice heard at the ballot box and in the community.

in the Washington Post
Roughly 2 million civilian employees work for the federal government. They are men and women of every racial background and from every state in the country. Yet there is one thing they all have in common: They made a choice to serve, even knowing, in many cases, that they could be making more money in the private sector.
Unfortunately, it appears that we have a president who, rather than leading the nation’s public workforce, consistently chooses to belittle it. The latest example came when the president took to Twitter on Thursday morning, day six of an unnecessary government shutdown instigated by congressional Republicans at President Trump’s behest. In what has become a familiar pattern of politicizing the largely nonpartisan, nuts-and-bolts work of the federal government, Trump tried to exert political pressure on congressional Democrats to fund his ineffective border wall by asking: “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?”
What the president fails to understand is that federal employees don’t go to work wearing red or blue jerseys. What they do wear are the badges of law enforcement and the hats of park rangers and the uniforms of first responders, and they make up the backbone of our government. They bring their skills and expertise to strengthen our nation and make a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens, regardless of political affiliation.
As the senior senator from Virginia, I represent hundreds of thousands of federal employees and service members. I have no idea how many of them are Democrats, but I know this: They include voters and nonvoters alike; they are independents and Republicans and Democrats and libertarians and vegetarians. Those who are hurt by this shutdown include Forest Service firefighters and National Weather Service forecasters in red states, and U.S. marshals and Drug Enforcement Administration agents in blue states. What distinguishes them isn’t their partisan affiliation — it’s their commitment to serving our country.
Like all Americans, federal employees have a right to hold personal political beliefs. But what separates your average public servant from the president is an ability and, indeed, a legal obligation to leave their political views at home and do their jobs without regard for partisan politics.
The president who declared that he would be “proud” to shut down the government is holding one-quarter of the federal government’s agencies hostage in an effort to get $5.7 billion for a wall that experts say would fail to improve border security — in the process treating 800,000 federal workers like poker chips from one of his failed casinos. Sadly, this is only the latest salvo by a president determined to attack and undermine our country’s public servants.
It started with the hiring freezes that threw a wrench into the day-to-day operations of nearly every federal agency — with no apparent benefit to the taxpayers. It continued with executive orders undermining workplace protections for federal workers and their ability to organize as part of a union. The targeting was compounded by the administration’s plan to cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million federal retirees and survivors, and recently led to an attempt by the president to arbitrarily freeze the pay of the entire federal workforce. Thankfully, the Senate saw the shortsightedness of that endeavor and voted to override the administration’s freeze. The House can and should follow suit.
Instead of receiving thanks for their service, right now thousands of federal workers are simply wondering whether their next paycheck is going to come, and how they are going to pay their bills. About 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed — forced to take unpaid time off — while another 420,000 are being expected to work without pay for the duration of the shutdown.
During one of the busiest travel times of the year, thousands of air-traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration agents worked without pay so Americans could get home to spend the holidays with their families. Meanwhile, some of them didn’t know how they were going to pay for Christmas presents for their own kids.
While the Senate moved before Christmas to guarantee back pay for any federal worker hurt by the shutdown, the House left town without voting on the bill. This is to say nothing of the thousands of federal contractors also affected by this shutdown, most of whom are unlikely to ever receive retroactive pay.
These are real people with real families who are struggling. They aren’t bargaining chips, Mr. President. Please stop holding hard-working federal employees hostage. It’s time to work with Congress to reopen the government and end this pointless, painful government shutdown.

This editorial was originally published in The Virginian-Pilot on 12/18/2018

MEMBERS OF Congress, other government leaders and the private sector should heed Virginia Sen. Mark Warner’s call for a major overhaul of the nation’s approach to cyber security.

The technology that pervades our lives on almost every level is dangerously vulnerable to hackers, and neither the government nor the private sector is making much progress toward protecting sensitive and private information.

Cyber security seems to be like the old saying about the weather — everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.

In recent years, we’ve seen a rash of data breaches resulting in identity theft and fraudulent charges on credit cards. In 2013, a data breach at Target stores exposed 41 million customer payment cards. More recently, data breaches have exposed the personal data of millions of customers of the Marriott hotel chain and millions of people whose information was on file with Equifax, the giant credit-reporting company. The list of breaches goes on, with many smaller-scale security lapses causing problems for people but not making headlines.

Then there are the hacking attacks on social media, which range from mildly annoying to downright sinister, such as the Russian efforts to spread false information during our 2016 presidential campaign.

Even more alarming are the threats to national security, including the potential for cyber attacks on critical defense systems. The United States’ heavy use of technology and the Internet means it has highly sophisticated tools, but it also means it is especially vulnerable to cyber attacks. As home to some of the nation’s most important military installations, Hampton Roads and other areas of Virginia have a special interest in beefing up security.

Warner has good reason to be concerned, not only because he represents Virginia, but also as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. With U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the committee chairman, he’s leading the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

In a recent speech, Warner pointed out that despite lots of committee meetings and other talk, the government has failed to come up with a strong, workable plan to defend the country against cyber attacks and efforts to spread disinformation.

Among other measures, he called for more investment in cyber security at the Pentagon. He also criticized the Trump administration for cuts to cyber offices at the White House and the State Department.

Departing from the conventional governmental wisdom, Warner called for outlining predetermined responses to cyber attacks mounted by other nations, such as sanctions and even military action in extreme cases.

There will be differences of opinion and room for debate, but Warner reminds us that every day without action is another day at risk.

Meanwhile, a new report in the House of Representatives suggests interest in cyber security there as well, even as it makes clear some of the major obstacles.

The investigations panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which tackled the problem after the data breach at Target five years ago, issued a report with suggestions for the Democratic majority that will take over next year. The fact that the committee has been working since 2013 with few results speaks volumes.

The report warns that making changes will be difficult because so much of the Internet is owned by the private sector, but any successful approach must include government leadership. So far, government and industry have shied away from regulations that would require better cyber security in private business.

The report suggests some strategies, such as creating incentives to encourage consumers to abandon aged, insecure technology more quickly. That’s a real problem when expensive devices are rapidly outdated.

The House committee talked about coming up with a “holistic” approach to cyber security.

It should be clear to everyone that we’re all in this together — private citizens, tech companies, social media, government, the military. We’re all vulnerable to annoying hackers and more sinister cyber attacks, and we all need better defenses.

It makes sense that government should play a leading role in developing that strong defense. It’s time to move beyond endless talking and do something about cyber security.

This Editorial was originally published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 12/18/2018

According to a news story in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, “Chinese hackers are breaching Navy contractors to steal everything from ship-maintenance data to missile plans, officials and experts said, triggering a top-to-bottom review of cyber vulnerabilities.” While the entire Department of Defense has had its share of cyber vulnerabilities, the sea service seems to be having an especially egregious time with security breaches by its contractors. The news story says that “victims have included large contractors as well as small ones, some of which are seen as lacking the resources to invest in securing their networks.”

This is completely unacceptable. Last week, Sen. Mark Warner released “A New Doctrine for Cyberwarfare & Information Operations.” In it, he noted several notorious American intelligence failures of late and the urgency with which we need to develop a sound U.S. cyber doctrine. Warner said he believes “we have entered a new era of nation-state conflict: one in which a nation projects strength less through traditional military hardware, and more through cyber and information warfare.”

The senator is right. The entire nation, but especially our security, defense, and intelligence agencies, need to get deadly serious about cyber security. According to the consultancy firm Willis Tower Watson, 90 percent of all cyber claims stem from either human negligence, error, or malicious intent. We need to start holding people and organizations accountable when a security breach is caused by carelessness, ineptitude, or failure to install regular maintenance updates.

As for military contractors — if they can’t guarantee cybersecurity, they should not be granted a contract. If small contractors don’t have the resources to protect their networks, they shouldn’t be bidding for jobs. Chinese hackers are stealing us blind as it is; we don’t need to leave the front door wide open for them.

We have gotten so used to hyperpartisan sniping and dull-witted sound bites that when you finally hear one — two, even! — politicians demonstrate a granular grasp of the issues, pragmatism and farsightedness, it’s both surprising and invigorating. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce got a dose of grown-up governance on Thursday morning at a round table with Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Before the event I asked Kaine about the prospects for end-of-year legislation. “I think criminal justice prospects are high. ... The budget issue is a challenge, it really is.” Congress laid out two options, he said — $1.6 billion in border security funding (up from the $1.3 billion last year that the administration could not spend entirely) or pass everything else (there are six other, noncontroversial appropriations bills) and keep talking for two months. (Warner cracked, “I’m still waiting for the check from Mexico.”)

On the Yemen issue he said, “We are going to have a strong vote in the Senate. ... [It] sends two very important messages — that we are starting to pull back to ourselves the initiation of war ... and to the Saudis that they aren’t going to be able to walk around on Capitol Hill as if they have a free pass.” Interestingly, he noted that as his “last act of public service,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) “squirreled away” a provision in the newly passed farm bill that would make it unnecessary for the House to vote on whatever the Senate passes on Saudi Arabia.

Kaine and Warner were both enthusiastic about issues that don’t necessarily get headlines. Warner spoke passionately about the need to improve investment in “human capital” — be it by tax changes, accounting changes or changes in education policy. He said that we need to think much more “radically" in bolstering workforce capital. Kaine, who will be working on a new higher education funding bill next year, emphasized the need to promote alternatives to four-year colleges. (He noted that the labor shortage is so acute that employers are looking to take workers still under supervision in a drug rehabilitation program)

Both Democrats were enthusiastic about the new Amazon headquarters in Arlington, which they envisioned will help attract other high-tech businesses and retain millennials in the region. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Post.) Warner said that “this is going to be a game changer” for the region and the state as a whole, and he praised the decision to split the headquarters in two (the other location will be in New York City). “It makes it more palatable,” he said in reference to the challenges of integrating 25,000 new employees in Northern Virginia. Kaine said that a regional housing authority is needed to assure continued access to affordable housing and suggested that some Amazon partners and contractors could be located “downstate,” a nod to areas that have been economically left behind.

The senators ticked through the nitty-gritty of improved governance: reducing the backlog of security clearances which reached 700,000 at one point; investing in cybersecurity to push back when we are attacked; buying phones and computer equipment with better security; moving forward on climate change (Warner pointed out if they call it something else — “sea-level rise” — Republicans are more inclined to go along); fine-tuning Dodd-Frank; and getting federal priority to refurbish the Memorial Bridge. The two former governors showed their wonkiness, but also a recognition that these kinds of issues cumulatively make a big difference in livelihood and quality of life.

Warner called President Trump’s previous infrastructure plan “a scam extraordinaire,” since it actually took more money out of the federal highway trust fund than it put in. He said, “We have to put up new federal funding. We cannot simply wish money out of the sky.” Kaine was especially optimistic about the prospects for a bill, which could include broadband, noting that “there is no more natural connection between the president, who is a builder, and the Congress” than on infrastructure. He said that if Trump wanted to get something done, this would be the topic.

It was refreshing to hear two lawmakers praise free trade — while also acknowledging the need to help those displaced by trade and automation. On the new NAFTA, Kaine warned Trump not to “pull the plug” on the existing deal as a means of pressuring the Senate to pass the new deal. He said that it would be “idiotic” for Trump to try bullying the Senate. “We’re the Article I branch. We don’t play Mother May I.” Warner criticized Trump for creating a crisis in trade that has frayed relations with allies. He also expressed concern that having created a tariff war with China, he will settle for increased purchases of U.S. agricultural products but “give away the store” on issues such as intellectual property.

Warner was blunt about the impact of the tax code, asserting that it was a missed opportunity to use revenue for investment in human capital and infrastructure. He also said that thanks to the debt it rang up, it depleted “most of the tools in our toolkit” should a recession come along.

A Senate of 100 Tim Kaines and Mark Warners would be fully capable of tackling some complex problems. Yet what becomes apparent in listening to some of the most dedicated legislators is that our biggest problem is not trade or China or any other external challenge, but the hyperpartisan know-nothingism of many of their colleagues. Unless we start electing more serious problems, none of our policy challenges can be fixed.