Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, Members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump on the direct and immediate consequences of the shutdown on housing security for more than four million households across the country. Both the short-term operations and long-term viability of affordable housing programs are dependent on Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) rental assistance initiatives. An estimated 2.2 million low-income households are among those at risk of eviction, including housing for thousands of veterans, seniors, and people living with disabilities. 

The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX-33).

“By now, virtually every American has either been hurt by this shutdown, or knows someone who has,” said Sen. Warner. “No one – particularly our most vulnerable citizens – should have to lose their home just so that the President can make a political point. This has to stop now. The President must allow the government to re-open before the damage gets even worse.” 

“Every day that the Trump shutdown continues, more Texas children and families are placed in immediate danger of losing their housing,” said Rep. Veasey. “Public servants and their families should never be faced with eviction from their homes. This must end. That’s why Senator Warner and I urged the President and Secretary Carson to put aside politics and consider the unjust burden on Americans across the country.”

Text of the letter can be found below. PDF of the letter is available here.

 

Dear President Trump:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the harmful impacts the current government shutdown is having on the ability of Americans to afford their homes. This partial shutdown is undermining both the short-term operations and long-term viability of our affordable housing programs that serve over four million Americans, the majority of whom are seniors and people with disabilities living on a fixed income. For the sake of the families whose homes are at stake, we urge you to end the shutdown and protect the American people.

An immediate result of the shutdown is that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been forced to scramble to find funds to renew federal contracts for over 1,100 project-based rental assistance properties, housing tens of thousands of low-income renters, that have expired since the government shutdown began. Additional contracts will expire later in January and February, should the shutdown continue, as HUD does not have funding to renew contracts while the government is shut down. HUD proposes that private owners use their individual funding reserves, where available, to cover shortfalls. The longer the shutdown continues, the more untenable this guidance becomes.

Additionally, the shutdown will delay public housing authorities from receiving funding to help address pressing capital needs, such as fixing boilers and repairing leaking roofs. Funding is also dwindling for grants that support developmental projects and programs in local communities that depend on such funding to serve low-income families. Finally, the lapse in federal funding is curbing economic growth as more Americans are unable to purchase homes due to the Federal Housing Authority’s (FHA) delay in processing loans. 

The American people should not be used as leverage, or be held hostage, to fulfill a political agenda. The longer we extend the shutdown, the more harm will be done to seniors, families with children, people with disabilities, and other Americans who rely on these programs. We urge you to end this shutdown and provide immediate relief to Americans being impacted by this funding crisis. In these times of uncertainty and tension, we must continue to prioritize the American people. We owe it to the people we serve to choose their best interest over politics.

 

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WASHINGTON – Following inquiries by Virginia and Maryland’s Senators, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) disclosed today that it is losing, on average, $400,000 each weekday during the government shutdown. In response, the Senators issued the following statement:

“At a time when Metro already is undertaking substantial, disruptive projects to improve safety and reliability, President Trump’s shutdown is jeopardizing the health and stability of the entire Metro system. This wasteful, destructive shutdown must come to an end.” 

On Friday, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD), wrote to WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld, seeking information on the impact that the partial government shutdown has had on WMATA’s transit system, ridership, operational services, staffing, financial position, and infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.  

In response, the Senators received a letter tonight from Wiedefeld detailing the multiple ways in which President Trump’s government shutdown is harming WMATA’s safety and finances:

  • According to Wiedefeld, “Our preliminary analysis estimates that for an average weekday when the government is closed, Metro is losing approximately $400,000 in fare and revenue.”
  • Additionally, the shutdown is putting $638 million in federal transit funding in jeopardy. If a prolonged shutdown of the Department of Transportation leads to delays in certifying the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) by the April 15, 2019 statutory deadline, “the [Federal Transit Administration] indicates that it would be prohibited by law from issuing a total of $638 million in FY2019 federal transit funding to all transit providers across the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia,” according to the letter.
  • As of January 10, the federal government owes Metro $33 million in unreimbursed expenses as a result of the shutdown. That number is expected to grow to $50 million by the end of this month.
  • Other federal funding sources are also on hold, including a $20 million BUILD grant that Metro was awarded last year, and $15 million in grant revisions that are awaiting FTA review. According to Wiedefeld, “If the federal shutdown continues for an extended period, Metro will be forced to either turn to its Line of Credit (LOC) to support the Capital program, incurring additional costs, or defer important state-of-good-repair projects, which could undermine our recent reliability gains.”
  • The combined shutdowns of the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service means environmental review work for a number of planned projects has also been delayed.

A copy of Wiedefeld’s full response to the Senators is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in introducing legislation to secure back pay for the federal contractor service employees who continue to go without pay during the government shutdown. The bill—the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act—aims to help low-wage federal contractor employees—including janitorial, food, and security services workers—who have been furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the government shutdown. 

“Thousands of people across the Commonwealth are out of a job right now because of President Trump’s unnecessary, destructive shutdown. Right now many low- and middle-wage federal contractors – whose paychecks often depend on the number of hours they work – are worrying about how they’ll afford to keep the lights on or pay their rent. Congress has already passed legislation to secure back pay for federal workers. Federal contractors – especially those who are already working paycheck to paycheck – deserve some peace of mind too. This important bill will ensure that federal service contractors, who work side-by-side with federal employees, get the pay they missed out on because of President Trump’s reckless shutdown,” Warner said

“Just like federal employees, federal contractors work hard to keep our government running. So many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck and this painful shutdown has meant that many of them can't afford to pay their bills. This legislation is an effort to ensure that these contractors who have been denied pay during a shutdown they had no role in causing receive the pay they deserve,” Kaine said.

The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act would provide financial relief for eligible federal service contractors missing pay during the shutdown by:

  • Completely replacing missed wages for workers making less than $50,200 per year (twice the poverty level for a family of four.)
  • Compensating workers earning more than $50,200 per year up to the $50,200 threshold ($965 per week.)
  • Restoring paid leave for workers who were required by the contractor to use it.

The bill appropriates funding for federal agencies to adjust the price accordingly of any contracts impacted by the shutdown. By building on existing contract review and approval processes, the bill provides financial relief for lower-wage workers without creating new administrative or financial burdens for contractors. Eligible employees include those covered under the Service Contract Act (which governs federal service contracts) and the Davis-Bacon Act (which governs federally-funded construction projects). Although the Service Contract Act does not apply to “executive, administrative, or professional” employees, they would be eligible for back pay under the bill.

The bill is also supported by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Doug Jones (D-AL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

 

Read a summary of the bill HERE.


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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led a bicameral letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of the National Park Service’s (NPS) grant application to secure $54 million in funding to repair more than 11 miles of the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown, Va. 

The Colonial Parkway is a major commuting route that connects Virginia’s Historic Triangle: Historic Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield. In some sections of the Parkway, more than four million vehicles travel across the Eastern Virginia route a year. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the Parkway is predicted to see a traffic increase of nearly 50 percent over the next 20 years.

The grant application, under the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects (NSFLTP) Program at the Department of Transportation (DOT), would help repair this stretch of highway, while addressing a substantial portion of Colonial National Historical Park’s $420 million deferred maintenance backlog.

“The Park Service’s proposed project along the Colonial Parkway will address significant safety and flooding concerns, preserve and improve access to historical sites like Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield, and extend the useful life of the Parkway by more than 40 years. If funded, the project will replace deteriorated concrete roadway slabs, rehabilitate deficient drainage systems, and stabilize roadway embankments along the York River. In addition, the proposed project on the Colonial Parkway would address a significant portion of Colonial National Historical Park’s $420 million deferred maintenance backlog,” wrote the Members of Congress.

“The views along the Colonial Parkway continue to inspire, but the Parkway, designed and built between 1931 and 1957, is in desperate need of repair. The 50-year old design life expires a generation ago for much of the Parkway. Significant rehabilitation and reconstruction are essential to preserve this scenic and historic drive for generations to come. This proposed project will help maintain this historic Parkway as an icon of the Park Service’s road network and as a primary visitor experience linking major historic sites of the Colonial National Historical Park,”they concluded.

 

Sen. Warner was joined on the letter by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (VA-2).

 

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Elaine Chao

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590-0001

 

 

Dear Secretary Chao,

 

We write today in support of the National Park Service’s application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Nationally Significant Federal Land and Tribal Projects (NSFLTP) Program seeking funding to rehabilitate a portion of the Colonial Parkway at Colonial National Historical Park (COLO). If approved, the project will restore an 11.8-mile section of the Parkway between Williamsburg and Yorktown, Virginia.

Completed in 1957, the Colonial Parkway is a 23-mile scenic roadway that extends from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. The Parkway connects Virginia’s Historic Triangle: Historic Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefields – three of the most historically significant sites in our county. In addition to linking these historic sites, the Parkway has become an important local commuter route in Eastern Virginia; some sections carry over four million vehicles per year and the Federal Highway Administration predicts a traffic increase of nearly 50 percent over the next 20 years. 

The Park Service’s proposed project along the Colonial Parkway will address significant safety and flooding concerns, preserve and improve access to historical sites like Jamestown and Yorktown Battlefield, and extend the useful life of the Parkway by more than 40 years. If funded, the project will replace deteriorated concrete roadway slabs, rehabilitate deficient drainage systems, and stabilize roadway embankments along the York River. In addition, the proposed project on the Colonial Parkway would address a significant portion of Colonial National Historical Park’s $420 million deferred maintenance backlog.

The views along the Colonial Parkway continue to inspire, but the Parkway, designed and built between 1931 and 1957, is in desperate need of repair. The 50-year design life expired a generation ago for much of the Parkway. Significant rehabilitation and reconstruction are essential to preserve this scenic and historic drive for generations to come. This proposed project will help maintain this historic Parkway as an icon of the Park Service’s road network and as a primary visitor experience linking major historic sites of the Colonial National Historical Park. 

We understand the NSFLTP grant program is highly competitive and we appreciate your consideration of this project. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about our request

Thank you again for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined 32 colleagues in writing to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb asking how the government shutdown has impacted the FDA and its work to protect public health. Warner and Kaine wrote out of concern about how the shutdown’s effects on the FDA could harm Virginians.

“The shutdown has severely limited federal oversight of the nation’s food supply and medical products and may result in slower approvals for drugs and devices. While we appreciate the efforts of the agency and the tireless work of your staff to help mitigate the impact of the shutdown on the public health, we remain deeply concerned about the halt of vital regulatory and compliance activities at FDA. FDA plays a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of families across the country, and it’s important we fully understand how the ongoing shutdown has impacted its ability to fulfill that role,” the Senators wrote

The Senators expressed concern that the shutdown may jeopardize the agency’s ability to detect and address preventable food safety issues and create a backlog in the approval process for innovative prescription drugs, generic drugs, and medical devices.  

Senators Warner and Kaine have been outspoken against President Trump’s use of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Warner and Kaine have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on a House-passed spending bill that would reopen the government and allow hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors to go back to work and get paid.

The full text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

 


January 11, 2019

The Honorable Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

Commissioner

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

10903 New Hampshire Avenue

Silver Spring, Maryland 20993

 

Dear Commissioner Gottlieb:

We are writing to request information regarding the effect of the partial federal government shutdown on the operations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This shutdown will be, as of midnight, the longest in U.S. history and is hampering your agency’s critical role in protecting the public health. The shutdown has severely limited federal oversight of the nation’s food supply and medical products and may result in slower approvals for drugs and devices. While we appreciate the efforts of the agency and the tireless work of your staff to help mitigate the impact of the shutdown on the public health, we remain deeply concerned about the halt of vital regulatory and compliance activities at FDA. FDA plays a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of families across the country, and it’s important we fully understand how the ongoing shutdown has impacted its ability to fulfill that role. 

While FDA has helped ensure that our nation has one of the safest food supplies in the world, foodborne disease results in 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths the United States each year.[1] The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enacted in January 2011, provided FDA with new enforcement authorities to work towards reducing those numbers and preventing future food safety problems.[2] In 2018 alone, there were two major, multistate outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7; the first resulted in 210 illnesses, 96 hospitalizations, and five deaths across 36 states, and the second resulted in 62 illnesses and 25 hospitalizations across 16 states and the District of Columbia.[3] 

However, during the shutdown, FDA’s inspectorate is unable to conduct any activities deemed non-critical, resulting in diminished oversight of many foreign and domestic food facilities. As the shutdown enters its fourth week, we are concerned that the agency will soon be unable to determine which food facilities pose an “imminent threat to health and life.”[4] Though FDA is able to use appropriated funds to support high-risk food recalls when products endanger consumers and patients, and respond to any outbreaks related to foodborne illness during the shutdown, we are concerned about the agency’s ability to detect and address otherwise preventable food safety issues before they occur. FDA field staff have voiced fears about immediate threats to health and safety as a result of the shutdown, including a consumer safety officer in FDA’s Stoneham, Massachusetts, office:  "When you go out to a restaurant or a grocery store, the American public trusts it. There is a higher risk of injury or death in a potentially very, very serious way."[5]           

We are also concerned about the effects of the shutdown on the agency’s medical product review process. During the shutdown, FDA is legally prohibited from accepting new submissions that require industry user fee payments,[6] which support the review and approval of applications for innovative new prescription drugs, generic drugs, and medical devices.[7] As a result, the agency will likely receive a large influx of applications from drug and device makers following the conclusion of the shutdown, requiring the agency to triage review activities and probably causing a backlog in the approval process. 

Although FDA is currently able to support ongoing medical product review processes with carryover user fee funding from Fiscal Year (FY) 2018,[8] the agency estimates the FY 2018 balances for these programs will run out if the shutdown continues. The first user fee program anticipated to burn through carryover funding is the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) program, which funds the review of new drugs. As of January 7, PDUFA has about one month of funding remaining in the FY 2018 balance, while the remaining user fee programs were estimated to have between one and two months of funding left.[9] Should the remaining FY 2018 balance for these programs expire, the vast majority of FDA’s ongoing product review functions will cease to continue, and user fee-funded employees (just under half of the agency) would no longer be paid.  

Given that, due to the shutdown, FDA is currently unable to perform essential regulatory and compliance activities, we want to ensure the agency is doing everything it can to fulfill its critical public health mission at this time. In order to better understand the impact of the shutdown on public health and FDA staff, and in light of the fact that President Trump has indicated he is willing to continue the government shutdown for months or years, we request answers to the following questions by January 18th:

 

1.      How has the agency scaled back food and medical product lab analysis, surveillance, and inspection activities during the shutdown?

2.      Which inspections of domestic food facilities does the agency plan to reinstate in the coming days, and what percentage of the currently ceased inspectional activities will be reinstated prior to the end of the shutdown?

3.      Please provide a detailed overview of the increase in anticipated backlog of applications for new medical products at this time, and for each additional week of the shutdown, including, to the agency’s best estimates, when normal functionality can be expected to resume. 

4.      Please provide an update on remaining FY 2018 carryover funds, and their anticipated burn rate, for user-fee funded programs, including prescription drug, generic drug, tobacco product, animal drug, biosimilar, and medical device review activities. 

5.      Please provide an update on the status of the guidance you released to FDA’s field force investigators and any additional steps FDA plans to take to mitigate financial burdens incurred by the inspectorate as a result of the shutdown. 

6.      What are FDA’s plans to address financial hardship sustained by excepted and furloughed employees as a result of the shutdown? Is FDA aware of any employees that have left the agency as a result of the shutdown?  

7.      How will the freeze on unfunded employee recruitment activities and new employee onboarding affect your strategic hiring plan for the agency?

8.      Please detail any delays in normal operations that you anticipate to occur once the shutdown is over. Will FDA be able to immediately resume all suspended activities upon receiving full funding for FY 2019?

 

We recognize FDA’s efforts to mitigate the impact of this government shutdown on the public health and its employees. However, we remain alarmed that the continued shutdown will result in increasingly harmful effects on the agency’s employees and the safety and security of the nation’s food and medical products. 

Thank you for your immediate attention to this important issue. If you have any questions, please contact Katlin McKelvie Backfield of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions at (202) 224-7675.

 

Sincerely,

 

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[1] https://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/estimates-overview.html

[2] https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm239907.htm

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-04-18/index.htmlhttps://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-11-18/index.html

[4] https://twitter.com/SGottliebFDA/status/1076329985143640064

[5] https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/08/health/fda-employee-concerns-shutdown/index.html

[6] https://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WorkingatFDA/ucm629100.htm

[7] https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R44576

[8] https://twitter.com/SGottliebFDA/status/1080632053220233216

[9] https://twitter.com/SGottliebFDA/status/1082441112005066755

 

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led a letter with U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.) to President Trump urging him to meet with federal workers suffering from the impacts of the shutdown. 

The Senators write, “We are writing to ask that you meet with some of the federal civil servants who are either working without pay or locked out of their job as a result of the government shutdown. We believe that you would benefit from listening to their stories.”

They continue, “When asked about the situation facing federal workers, you said, ‘I can relate. I'm sure the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do.’ Some federal workers – like millions of Americans – live paycheck-to-paycheck. According to the Federal Reserve, 40% of Americans cannot pull together $400 for an emergency, without going into debt or selling something. Speaking with some of the workers who cannot afford to miss a paycheck may help you better relate to the adjustments you expect them to make for your shutdown.”

The Senators closed the letter stating, “You already met a few carefully handpicked federal workers who support your position of shutting down the government to demand taxpayer dollars for a border wall. But the vast majority of federal workers oppose your shutdown, and we hope you will listen to them as well. Most of all, we hope that you will swiftly end this unnecessary and damaging shutdown.”

The full text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

Dear President Trump: 

We are writing to ask that you meet with some of the federal civil servants who are either working without pay or locked out of their job as a result of the government shutdown. We believe that you would benefit from listening to their stories. 

You have said that you are, “proud to shut down the government.” Earlier, you tweeted about the need for a “good shutdown.” We have spoken to federal workers who will not be able to afford to keep their home, purchase their medication, or put money in their child’s school lunch account if this shutdown continues. These civil servants are proud of their jobs, and this government shutdown is preventing them from doing important work for the American people. If you heard directly from them, it would be clear that there is no such thing as a good government shutdown.

When asked about the situation facing federal workers, you said, “I can relate. I'm sure the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do.” Some federal workers – like millions of Americans – live paycheck-to-paycheck. According to the Federal Reserve, 40% of Americans cannot pull together $400 for an emergency, without going into debt or selling something. Speaking with some of the workers who cannot afford to miss a paycheck may help you better relate to the adjustments you expect them to make for your shutdown.

You already met a few carefully handpicked federal workers who support your position of shutting down the government to demand taxpayer dollars for a border wall. But the vast majority of federal workers oppose your shutdown, and we hope you will listen to them as well. Most of all, we hope that you will swiftly end this unnecessary and damaging shutdown.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led a bicameral letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of the National Park Service’s (NPS) grant application to secure $126 million in funding to reconstruct an eight-mile stretch of the north end of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP).

The George Washington Parkway serves as a major commuting route for residents of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., facilitating the travel of more than 33 million vehicles per year. The north end of the roadway, which also serves as a memorial to the first president of the United States, was completed in 1962 and has since faced worsening conditions due to large increases in traffic.

The grant application, under the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects (NSFLTP) Program at the Department of Transportation (DOT), would help repair this 7.6-mile stretch of highway, while addressing a substantial portion of the George Washington Parkway’s $230 million deferred maintenance backlog.

“The proposed project will address serious deterioration of the GWMP and implement significant safety improvements. If funded, the Park Service plans to repave nearly eight miles of road along the parkway, repair storm water management systems to prevent erosion at drainage outfalls; and rehabilitate two historic, scenic overlook. The project will also include replacing guardrails, repairing walls, constructing new curbs, and building emergency turnarounds along the north end of the Parkway,” wrote the Members of Congress. 

“This project will improve a critical link in the National Capital Region’s transportation network while preserving the historical and cultural characteristic that make the Parkway one of the most scenic roadways in the country. These proposed improvements will increase the safety of visitors while significantly extending the life of the Parkway,” they concluded.

Sen. Warner was joined on the letter by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and U.S. Reps. Don Beyer (VA-8), Jennifer Wexton (VA-10) and U.S. Del. Eleanor Norton Holmes (D-DC).

 

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Elaine Chao

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590-0001

 

 

Dear Secretary Chao,

 

We write today in support of the National Park Service’s application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Nationally Significant Federal Land and Tribal Projects (NSFLTP) Program seeking funding to rehabilitate the north section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP). If funded, the GWMP North Section Rehabilitation Project will reconstruct a heavily-used 7.6-mile section of the GWMP from Spout Run Parkway to Interstate 495.

 

The GWMP is a scenic and historic roadway that serves as a memorial to the first president of the United States and connects Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The Park Service first completed the northern stretch of the Parkway in 1962, using the most up-to-date engineering methods of the time to maximize the lifespan of the roadway. However, in the decades since completion, traffic on the Parkway has increased dramatically as the population of the region has continued to expand. Today, the GWMP facilitates the travel of more than 33 million vehicles per year, with the northernmost section experiencing the heaviest traffic.

 

The proposed project will address serious deterioration of the GWMP and implement significant safety improvements. If funded, the Park Service plans to repave nearly eight miles of road along the parkway, repair storm water management systems to prevent erosion at drainage outfalls; and rehabilitate two historic, scenic overlooks. The project will also include replacing guardrails, repairing walls, constructing new curbs, and building emergency turnarounds along the north end of the Parkway. In addition, work on the north section of the Parkway will address a significant part of the National Capital Region’s $1.7 billion dollar maintenance backlog, which includes over $395 million for the Parkway alone.

 

This project will improve a critical link in the National Capital Region’s transportation network while preserving the historical and cultural characteristics that make the Parkway one of the most scenic roadways in the country. These proposed improvements will increase the safety of visitors while significantly extending the life of the Parkway.

 

We understand the NSFLTP grant program is highly competitive and we appreciate your consideration of this project. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about our request

 

Thank you again for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today wrote to two top Trump Administration officials to urge them to ensure that federal employees do not have their security clearances jeopardized due to the ongoing government shutdown.

In a letter to the heads of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Sen. Warner noted, “A key element of the background investigation that supports a security clearance or a determination of trustworthiness relates to financial considerations… Today, federal employees at agencies that lack an appropriation have missed  their first paycheck due to the government shutdown, and may be unable to make payments on rent, mortgage, credit cards, or other debts. This could impact their credit scores and thus jeopardize their ability to secure or maintain a clearance or hold a position of trust. Due to absolutely no fault of their own, the jobs of dedicated government personnel whom we entrust with the nation’s secrets could be at stake. The problem is particularly acute for younger workers who lack a long credit history.”

Warner asked the Administration to issue guidelines ensuring that agencies do not penalize employees if their finances are negatively impacted by the loss of a paycheck during this unnecessary and destructive government shutdown.

“While I understand that departments and agencies have discretion to consider broader factors that may affect credit (like a government shutdown), I ask you to issue clear and public guidance that departments and agencies may in no way penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness if their credit is effected by the shutdown.  This guidance should apply to any information used in an initial clearance, a periodic reinvestigation, or a continuous evaluation program,” Sen. Warner wrote.

In an open letter yesterday, the FBI Agents Association – the public representative for the nearly 13,000 active FBI Special Agents – raised similar concerns that the shutdown’s financial impacts could lead to delays renewing or securing security clearances, or even in agents losing their positions.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

January 10, 2019

The Honorable Mick Mulvaney
Director, Office of Management and Budget
Washington, DC

The Honorable Margaret Weichert
Acting Director, Office of Personnel Management
Washington, DC

Dear Directors Mulvaney and Weichert:

I write to express my concern about the impact of the government shutdown on the security clearances and determinations of trust for personnel employed by or applying to agencies that are experiencing a lapse in appropriations.

A key element of the background investigation that supports a security clearance or a determination of trustworthiness relates to financial considerations. Adjudicative guidelines established for all U.S. government personnel, consultants, and contractors, specify that “failure or inability to live within one’s means, satisfy debts or meet financial obligations… can raise questions about an applicant’s reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified national security information…”

Today, federal employees at agencies that lack an appropriation have missed their first paycheck due to the government shutdown, and may be unable to make payments on rent, mortgage, credit cards, or other debts. This could impact their credit scores and thus jeopardize their ability to secure or maintain a clearance or hold a position of trust. Due to absolutely no fault of their own, the jobs of dedicated government personnel whom we entrust with the nation’s secrets could be at stake. The problem is particularly acute for younger workers who lack a long credit history.

While I understand that departments and agencies have discretion to consider broader factors that may affect credit (like a government shutdown), I ask you to issue clear and public guidance that departments and agencies may in no way penalize employees’ clearances or determinations of trustworthiness if their credit is effected by the shutdown. This guidance should apply to any information used in an initial clearance, a periodic reinvestigation, or a continuous evaluation program.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – Today Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD), wrote a letter to Paul J. Wiedefeld, General Manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), seeking information on the impact that the partial government shutdown has had on WMATA’s transit system, ridership, operational services, staffing, financial position, and infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.  

WMATA “serves a unique national security role, providing transportation for federal employees traveling to and from the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security and ensuring continuity of federal operations during an emergency,” wrote the Senators. “Thus, it is critical that WMATA systems and services continue to serve riders in the nation’s capital.” 

In recent years, Metro’s investments to reverse declining ridership numbers have highlighted the extent to which transit systems depend on robust ridership to succeed. Federal employees currently make up about 40 percent of WMATA’s peak hour ridership. However, a government shutdown can adversely affect the transit system’s ridership and overall financial stance.

“During the October 2013 shutdown, the Metro system experienced a 22 percent decrease in ridership, or a decline of 1.7 million trips.  According to a 2015 report, ridership during that shutdown dropped nearly 50% at stations near federal facilities.  The shutdown not only affected ridership, but also put the WMATA long-term operations at risk,” continued the Senators.“The 16-day shutdown, according to the agency, resulted in a loss of $5.5 million in revenue and funding was delayed as the federal appropriation process was halted.”  

To gauge the impact of the shutdown’s effects, the lawmakers requested data on changes in ridership and asked how a decline could affect the WMATA’s financial situation in the long-term and short-term. They also solicited information on any lapses in federal funding and possible contingency plans. Additionally, the lawmakers asked for the details of any halted infrastructure or capital improvement projects, as well as specifics on how the WMATA’s credit rating could be weakened if the shutdown continues. According to recent reports, large and mid-sized transit agencies across the country have already tapped into their lines of credit to make payment obligations to their vendors and Moody’s has warned that a prolonged shutdown could negatively impact the credit ratings of mass transit systems.

The four lawmakers reassured Wiedefeld that they are actively working to reopen the government. Earlier today, Sens. Warner and Kaine met in Alexandria with federal workers and families who have been hurt by the ongoing government shutdown.  

 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

January 11, 2019

 

Mr. Paul J. Wiedefeld

General Manager & CEO

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

600 5th Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20001

 

Dear Mr. Wiedefeld, 

We write seeking information about the effects the current partial government shutdown has had – and the effects a prolonged shutdown could have – on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) transit system, ridership, operational services, staffing, and infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.

In recent years, WMATA has undertaken actions to prioritize safety, often through substantial rehabilitative projects that have caused significant disruption to the system. Metro’s recent investments to reverse declining ridership underscore the extent to which a functional and sustainable transit system depends upon robust ridership to succeed.

We have also seen that events outside the control of WMATA, such as a federal government shutdown, can adversely impact ridership and a transit system’s overall financial outlook. During the October 2013 shutdown, the Metro system experienced a 22 percent decrease in ridership, or a decline of 1.7 million trips.  According to a 2015 report, ridership during that shutdown dropped nearly 50% at stations near federal facilities.  The shutdown not only affected ridership, but also put the WMATA long-term operations at risk. The 16-day shutdown, according to the agency, resulted in a loss of $5.5 million in revenue and funding was delayed as the federal appropriation process was halted. 

Federal employees comprise approximately 40 percent of WMATA’s peak hour ridership, and during the current shutdown, many government employees continue to carry out their duties and rely on WMATA to do so. WMATA also serves a unique national security role, providing transportation for federal employees traveling to and from the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security and ensuring continuity of federal operations during an emergency. Thus, it is critical that WMATA systems and services continue to serve riders in the nation’s capital.

To understand how WMATA and its transit systems have been affected by the government shutdown and to prevent the negative impacts displayed during the 2013 shutdown, please provide us with the following information by January 15, 2019:

 

1.      Data on changes in ridership, both rail and bus operations, during the government shutdown. Has there been a decline in ridership from the same period in prior years, or from the period immediately preceding the shutdown? 

2.      Assuming there has been a decline in ridership during the shutdown, can you provide information on how that decline will affect WMATA’s financial situation, both in the short-term and the long-term? For example, what is the current (or estimated) loss in revenue? What would be the estimated revenue losses if the shutdown lasts a full month, or if it lasts two months? What other financial, safety or operational impacts would result from a prolonged and substantial decline in ridership brought on by the government shutdown? 

3.      Given that WMATA receives federal funding to help run its transportation network, can you detail any lapses in funding that have occurred due to the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration being shut down? Can you provide information on what funding may be at risk if the shutdown continues for a full month or even two? What contingency plans does WMATA have in place to address a lapse in expected funding?

4.      Please confirm if any planned infrastructure and capital improvement projects have been stalled or halted during the shutdown. What are the expected effects of the delay in starting and finishing these projects? 

5.      It has recently been reported that Moody’s believes a prolonged shutdown could negatively impact the credit ratings of the nation’s public transit systems, noting that the shutdown has already “interrupted an important source of operating, capital and debt-service funding.”  These interruptions, in turn, could lead to higher debt service costs and delays in numerous capital improvement projects. Can you provide information on how WMATA’s credit rating could be impacted if the government shutdown continues for a prolonged period of time? What effects would a credit downgrade have on WMATA’s overall financial position, capital construction plans and operational capacity? 

Please trust that all four of us are doing everything we can to support the federal workforce, re-open the government, and get back to working towards improving the lives of all Americans. We ask for answers to the above questions as soon as possible so that we better understand the impacts of the shutdown on the vital transportation networks that serve our constituents, and so we can continue to highlight all of the numerous reasons that the federal government should be re-opened. 

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – Twenty days into the federal government shutdown, the Senate has passed by unanimous consent a bill sponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and three dozen senators to ensure federal and other government workers who have been impacted by the current federal government shutdown will receive their back pay. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act stipulates that all employees shall be paid as soon as possible after the lapse in appropriations ends – this includes those forced to work without pay and those locked out of their jobs during the shutdown. The bill also clarifies that excepted employees who have scheduled previously approved leave occurring during an appropriations lapse may indeed take that leave without undue penalty.  It also clarifies that its provisions also apply to employees of the District of Columbia (DC) Government, D.C. Courts, and D.C. Public Defenders Service, who are also affected by federal government shutdowns.

“On the eve of the first missed payday, the Senate has acted to make sure that federal employees get paid just as soon as the government reopens for business,” said Senator Warner. “I expect that the Democratic House will take up and pass this legislation in short order. Our federal workforce – Americans who dedicate their lives to serving this country – shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of this unnecessary shutdown. The President must allow the government to re-open for business immediately.”

“Yesterday I alerted both caucuses that I would object to Senators leaving for the weekend while 800,000 federal employees were on the cusp of losing out on pay Friday,” Senator Kaine said. “I am thankful that as a result we were able to engage in a discussion that will give those employees some measure of comfort that they will receive their paychecks when the shutdown is over. This is not the same thing as knowing when the shutdown will be over, or receiving their paychecks on time, but it is the right thing to do for us to show these hard working Americans we’re there for them.” 

“Federal workers are dedicated public servants who shouldn’t continue to suffer – working dangerous jobs without knowing when their next paycheck may come, or being forcibly furloughed and unable to carry out their mission – because of the government shutdown. Passage of our bill may not answer the question of when a paycheck will come, but it will guarantee that a paycheck will come when this shutdown finally ends,” said Senator Cardin. “We need to reopen the government immediately. Until we do, passage of our bill should be a sign of good faith and respect for federal workers, as well as a sign to creditors that our public servants will be made financially whole again. The House of Representatives should pass this legislation quickly and send it to the president, who has said he would sign it into law.”

“For three weeks, I’ve heard from the federal workers that I represent who are worried about how they will make ends meet if this shutdown continues. These hardworking men and women have nothing to do with the political gamesmanship that led to the Trump Shutdown, but they’ve had to pay the price,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Today, the Senate has passed our legislation on a bipartisan basis to provide our federal workforce with the much-needed certainty that they will receive their paycheck when the shutdown ends. But they shouldn’t be without a paycheck at all – they should be at work. Now, we must work together to end this crisis and reopen the government without delay.”

“The partial government shutdown represents a failure to govern and harms not only those who need to interact with the closed agencies, but also hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families who don’t know when they will receive their next paycheck,” said Senator Collins.  “Civil servants bring dedication, competence, and experience to their work, and I appreciate all that they do for our government and our nation.  Our legislation would guarantee that they are paid retroactively as soon as appropriations are restored.  I am also continuing to discuss with the White House and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle ways to bring an end to the shutdown as quickly as possible so that furloughed federal employees can return to work.”

Additional cosponsors of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act are: Senators Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Angus King (I-Maine), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined 32 colleagues in writing to the Trump Administration urging them to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to pay low- and middle-income employees for the wages they have lost during the shutdown. The Senators point out that federal contracting officers typically have existing authority that allows them to modify the terms of contracts, and they are encouraging them to do so.  

The Senators write, “Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause. Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.”

They continue, “After past shutdowns, contractor employees have generally not received back pay. In addition to our fight to protect federal workers who are being hurt by this shutdown, we are committed to righting this wrong for contractor employees.”

The Senators close the letter, writing, “We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that contractor employees get the back pay that they deserve by providing clear directions for agencies and contractors to do so.”

In addition to Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Doug Jones (D-AL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Cory A. Booker (D-NJ), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), and Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT).

The text of the letter is available below and here.

 

Dear Mr. Vought:

We are writing to urge you to direct federal agencies to work with contractors to provide back pay to compensate low- and middle-income contractor employees for the wages they have lost as a result of not being able to report to work during this government shutdown.

Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown that they did not cause. Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.

After past shutdowns, contractor employees have generally not received back pay. In addition to our fight to protect federal workers who are being hurt by this shutdown, we are committed to righting this wrong for contractor employees. Government contracts typically have provisions to modify the terms of the contract. Federal contracting officers should use these provisions to work with contractors to provide back pay for employees who lost wages as a result of the government shutdown.

Providing back pay to these low- and middle-income contractor employees who are furloughed by their employers is the right thing to do, and it is in the federal government's best interest to provide funding to the extent necessary to ensure that contractors deliver back pay to their workers. Contractor employees cannot afford the chaos and uncertainty of government shutdowns, and some of these workers may seek other jobs if back pay is not provided to compensate for shutdown-related losses. 

Most of all, this wasteful and destructive government shutdown must come to an end. We all support the legislation passed by the House of Representatives to reopen the government, which mirrors legislation that previously passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. 

We urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that contractor employees get the back pay that they deserve by providing clear directions for agencies and contractors to do so.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to your reply.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sponsored two bills aimed at protecting Virginians from gun violence through expanded background checks on gun sales and banning military-style assault weapons.

“We owe it to the victims and families affected by gun violence in communities across the Commonwealth and the nation to take a commonsense approach to prevent future tragedies,” said Sen. Warner. “While these bills won’t stop every mass shooting, they include much-needed and widely-supported steps to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands and will save lives.” 

The Background Checks Expansion Act will expand federal background checks to all gun sales. Under current federal law, unlicensed or private sellers are not required to conduct a background check prior to transferring a firearm. Ninety-seven percent of Americans support comprehensive background checks, but research indicates that as many as a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check. The bill will extend the background check requirement to all unlicensed sellers, whether they do business online, at gun shows, or out of their home, with commonsense exemptions for transfers between law enforcement officers, loaning firearms for hunting and sporting events, and transfers between family members. Text for the bill is found here. 

The Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 will ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The bill exempts by name more than 2,200 guns for used for hunting, household defense or recreational purposes while ending the sale of assault weapons and military-style firearms that have been used in several recent U.S. mass shootings, including the tragic events in Newton, CT, Parkland, FL and Las Vegas, NV. Recent polls have found that 67 percent of Americans support restricting sale of military style assault weapons. Text for the bill is found here.

Sen. Warner continues to advocate for commonsense steps to curb gun violence. Last year, Sen. Warner penned an op-ed outlining his support for an assault weapons ban to help curb gun violence while still respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

 

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ASHINGTON – Twenty days into the federal government shutdown, the Senate has passed by unanimous consent a bill sponsored by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and three dozen senators to ensure federal and other government workers who have been impacted by the current federal government shutdown will receive their back pay. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act stipulates that all employees shall be paid as soon as possible after the lapse in appropriations ends – this includes those forced to work without pay and those locked out of their jobs during the shutdown. The bill also clarifies that excepted employees who have scheduled previously approved leave occurring during an appropriations lapse may indeed take that leave without undue penalty.  It also clarifies that its provisions also apply to employees of the District of Columbia (DC) Government, D.C. Courts, and D.C. Public Defenders Service, who are also affected by federal government shutdowns. 

“On the eve of the first missed payday, the Senate has acted to make sure that federal employees get paid just as soon as the government reopens for business,” said Senator Warner. “I expect that the Democratic House will take up and pass this legislation in short order. Our federal workforce – Americans who dedicate their lives to serving this country – shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of this unnecessary shutdown. The President must allow the government to re-open for business immediately.”

“Yesterday I alerted both caucuses that I would object to Senators leaving for the weekend while 800,000 federal employees were on the cusp of losing out on pay Friday,” Senator Kaine said. “I am thankful that as a result we were able to engage in a discussion that will give those employees some measure of comfort that they will receive their paychecks when the shutdown is over. This is not the same thing as knowing when the shutdown will be over, or receiving their paychecks on time, but it is the right thing to do for us to show these hard working Americans we’re there for them.” 

“Federal workers are dedicated public servants who shouldn’t continue to suffer – working dangerous jobs without knowing when their next paycheck may come, or being forcibly furloughed and unable to carry out their mission – because of the government shutdown. Passage of our bill may not answer the question of when a paycheck will come, but it will guarantee that a paycheck will come when this shutdown finally ends,” said Senator Cardin. “We need to reopen the government immediately. Until we do, passage of our bill should be a sign of good faith and respect for federal workers, as well as a sign to creditors that our public servants will be made financially whole again. The House of Representatives should pass this legislation quickly and send it to the president, who has said he would sign it into law.”

“For three weeks, I’ve heard from the federal workers that I represent who are worried about how they will make ends meet if this shutdown continues. These hardworking men and women have nothing to do with the political gamesmanship that led to the Trump Shutdown, but they’ve had to pay the price,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen. “Today, the Senate has passed our legislation on a bipartisan basis to provide our federal workforce with the much-needed certainty that they will receive their paycheck when the shutdown ends. But they shouldn’t be without a paycheck at all – they should be at work. Now, we must work together to end this crisis and reopen the government without delay.”

“The partial government shutdown represents a failure to govern and harms not only those who need to interact with the closed agencies, but also hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families who don’t know when they will receive their next paycheck,” said Senator Collins.  “Civil servants bring dedication, competence, and experience to their work, and I appreciate all that they do for our government and our nation.  Our legislation would guarantee that they are paid retroactively as soon as appropriations are restored.  I am also continuing to discuss with the White House and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle ways to bring an end to the shutdown as quickly as possible so that furloughed federal employees can return to work.” 

Additional cosponsors of the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act are: Senators Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Angus King (I-Maine), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

 

 

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Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) to introduce the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act, legislation that would protect federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown. 

“With each day that passes during President Trump’s shutdown, hundreds of thousands of federal employees are worrying about how they will pay for their bills even though their paychecks have stopped coming in,” said Sen. Warner. “This important legislation ensures that federal workers don’t face repercussions for making the hard choice between paying for basic necessities and paying their student loans. This unnecessary shutdown is already hurting federal workers, they don’t need additional hardships that could impact their financial future.”

The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act addresses the real threat of federal workers losing their homes, falling behind on student loans and other bills, having their car repossessed, or losing their health insurance because they have been furloughed during a shutdown or required to work without pay. Modeled after the Servicemembers Relief Act, the legislation will prohibit landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors who are hurt by the government shutdown and unable to pay rent or repay loans. The bill would also empower federal workers to sue creditors or landlords that violate this protection. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would safeguard workers impacted by a shutdown from the following:

  • Being evicted or foreclosed;
  • Having their car or other property repossessed;
  • Falling behind in student loan payments;
  • Falling behind in paying bills; or
  • Losing their insurance because of missed premiums.

The protection would last during and 30 days following a shutdown to give workers a chance to keep up with their bills. The partial government shutdown, now in its third week, hurts hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors. Virginia alone is home to more than 170,000 federal workers.

Additional cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

The Federal Employee Civil Act has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA). 

 

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WASHINGTON — Last night, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sent a letter to their Democratic colleagues urging them to refuse to conduct business as usual on the floor of the Senate this week. They argue that the first vote we take this year should be to end the government shutdown.

“We write to urge you to join us in voting against the motion to proceed on Tuesday evening because the Senate should vote on the House-passed Appropriations bills as its first order of business. We must restore services to the American people and address the plight of the more than 800,000 federal employees who are being denied pay and facing mounting bills,” the Senators wrote.

They added, “The New Democratic Majority in the House of Representatives did their job and made opening the entire government the first order of business when they passed two measures to achieve that goal. Republican Leader McConnell should immediately bring those bills to a vote in the Senate. The Republican Caucus must not be allowed to contract out their constitutional responsibilities as a separate branch of government to President Trump. They have the power to immediately schedule a vote on the House-passed bills and should make that, or another agreement to end the shutdown, the first order of business.”

 

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Colleague,

 

We write to urge you to join us in voting against the motion to proceed on Tuesday evening because the Senate should vote on the House-passed Appropriations bills as its first order of business. We must restore services to the American people and address the plight of the more than 800,000 federal employees who are being denied pay and facing mounting bills. Our position is strongly backed by the unions that represent federal employees, as well as a growing chorus of grassroots organizations who agree it would be wrong for the Senate to postpone action to reopen the government while one-quarter of the federal government is shut down and hard-working public servants are not being paid. 

The shutdown is now over two weeks old with no end in sight. In addition to the more than 450,000 federal employees working without pay to protect our nation, keep our air and waters secure, and patrol our borders and 380,000 furloughed workers wondering if and when their next paycheck will come, everyday Americans are feeling the pain of the government shutdown. More than 30 million small businesses lack access to federally-assisted loans, farmers preparing for the spring planting season are unable to reach Farm Service Agency support, and thousands of people trying to buy a new home with an FHA-insured mortgage are on hold indefinitely. Progress on CDBG grants is stalled, local businesses that rely on tourism from national parks are losing money every day, and the vast majority of IRS staff is furloughed, putting timely receipt of tax returns in jeopardy. 

We have also seen tragic consequences from this shutdown. The Trump Administration has decided to leave some national parks open with limited staff, and three people, including a 14-year-old girl, have died in accidents since the shutdown began. 

The New Democratic Majority in the House of Representatives did their job and made opening the entire government the first order of business when they passed two measures to achieve that goal. Republican Leader McConnell should immediately bring those bills to a vote in the Senate. The Republican Caucus must not be allowed to contract out their constitutional responsibilities as a separate branch of government to President Trump. They have the power to immediately schedule a vote on the House-passed bills and should make that, or another agreement to end the shutdown, the first order of business.

We also encourage you to continue to highlight the plight of federal employees trying to make ends meet, telling the stories of small business contractors and contract service workers who are being hard hit, and broadcasting the mounting harm to delivery of public services. The federal employee and contractor unions stand ready to assist your offices in developing these events around those issues.

We urge you to join us — and a growing number of grassroots organizations —in taking this position. The Senate should vote on the House-passed Appropriations bills as its first order of business. 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

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WASHINGTON — Today U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in calling for the Senate to vote on House-passed spending bills that would reopen the government immediately and allow hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors to go back to work.

In his floor remarks, Sen. Warner noted that federal workers are bearing the brunt of the government shutdown. Already into its 18th day, the shutdown has furloughed more than 380,000 federal workers and more than 450,000 are working without pay.

While President Trump continues to hold federal workers hostage to secure $5.7 billion in border wall funding, Sen. Warner warned that many federal employees tasked with protecting the nation’s borders and vulnerable points of entry – which includes TSA agents and the U.S. Coast Guard – continue to work without pay. 

Sen. Warner continues to be outspoken against President Trump’s use of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic. To reduce the financial hardships caused by the shutdown, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to secure back pay for federal workers and pledged to introduce legislation to reimburse low-wage federal contractors who have gone without pay during the shutdown.

Below is a transcript of his floor remarks:

 

Mr. President, I want to join my colleagues from Maryland and my friend, the Senator from Virginia as well, to speak out on this manufactured crisis.

This President is holding 800,000 federal workers hostage. Folks who are going to work, some of them without pay, others who are furloughed, as has been mentioned, this is not just affecting federal workers. Senator Kaine and I have been talking to a number of contractors and small business owners, a couple of them who are closing their doors this week because they have now gone for weeks without being paid. You can't put a business back together after you've closed your doors. So the 800,000 federal employees, the contractors and there are a slew of other folks who are already immediately affected.

The complete lack of thought this administration had in the shutdown, where they said ‘we're going to make it seem not like a shutdown so we are going to leave the parks open.’ Now we see destruction going on in our parks. We see in our state where Shenandoah National Park has trash overfilling, we have the battlefields where people have also had inappropriate activities, and we've seen as well a whole slew of businesses that depend upon a high volume of tourist travel during the holidays. None of that should have taken place. 

Mr. President, I also wonder whether Donald Trump, who says this is about security, well if this is about security we ought to make sure that our Coast Guard is paid. We ought to make sure our TSA agents are paid. We are seeing dramatic numbers of folks calling in sick, dramatically reducing the ability to maintain security at our airports where frankly, most of our vulnerability on the border takes place. 

That is going to get exponentially worse after Friday when these employees go without a paycheck. The fact of the matter is these workers don't work for Donald Trump, they work for America. And we, echoing what my colleagues said, our first order of business should be making sure we get the government open. 

The final point I want to make it is this: the heartlessness of this President and his comments about our federal workforce, that somehow they can manage through without a paycheck, that somehow they can negotiate with their landlord if they cannot pay the rent. Rather than Donald Trump putting on a political show tonight on TV and a political trip to the border tomorrow, I invite the President to come anywhere in Virginia, Maryland, or the District and sit down with federal employees an explain this crisis and why they are not getting paid. 

So my hope is that, echoing what our Senators from Maryland said, the Senate should not be complicit in this. We need to reopen the government. We need to negotiate additional border security, I am all for it. But not holding hostage, literally, our federal employees and countless others 

With that I yield to Senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine.

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WASHINGTON – Today Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking how Virginia taxpayers will be affected by the government shutdown, which has left the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) short-staffed and potentially underprepared for the beginning of the 2019 tax-filing season.

Funding for the IRS lapsed on December 22, 2018, leaving the agency to function on a contingency plan that provides some flexibility on operations during the first five days of a government shutdown. Now in the 17th day and nearing the 2019 tax-filing season that begins on January 29th, Sens. Warner and Kaine are asking for answers on how the IRS would accept and process tax returns, issue refunds, and address taxpayer correspondence.

“According to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Lapse Appropriations Contingency Plan, only 12.5 percent of the IRS’s workforce is authorized to work during a shutdown during a non-filing season and as a result, we understand the Treasury Department has furloughed roughly 70,000 IRS civil servants. While the contingency plan includes some flexibility in determining how the Department can respond to a lapse in government funding that continues beyond five business days, the issue of tax refunds is considered a ‘non-excepted activity,’ meaning that the funding lapse has led the IRS to stop issuing tax refunds in addition to other needed taxpayer services,” wrote the Senators.

Many hardworking families are counting on their tax refunds to catch up on bills or pay down their debt. However, with the IRS short-staffed during the government shutdown, many Virginia families are at risk of receiving a delayed return that could impact their personal finances. 

“The lapse in government funding has and will continue to pose other problems for taxpayers. Reports indicate many Americans are experiencing delays in financing or refinancing mortgages and other loans because of lenders inability to obtain tax transcripts to verify incomes for loans,” continued the Senators. “The American people deserve clarity during these uncertain times, particularly as it relates to their ability to afford their basic needs.”

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been outspoken against President Trump’s use of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Sens. Warner and Kaine have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on a House-passed spending bill that would reopen the government and allow hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors to go back to work.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

Secretary

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin: 

We write to raise concerns with the impact the government shutdown will have on the Department of the Treasury, its employees, and American taxpayers. According to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Lapse Appropriations Contingency Plan, only 12.5 percent of the IRS’s workforce is authorized to work during a shutdown during a non-filing season and as a result, we understand the Treasury Department has furloughed roughly 70,000 IRS civil servants. While the contingency plan includes some flexibility in determining how the Department can respond to a lapse in government funding that continues beyond five business days, the issue of tax refunds is considered a “non-excepted activity,” meaning that the funding lapse has led the IRS to stop issuing tax refunds in addition to other needed taxpayer services. 

According to IRS data through April 2018, the IRS processed over 130 million individual tax returns and issued close to 100 million refunds that totaled $275 billion. The average refund during that period was close to $2,800. This money is vitally important for American families and their ability to pay for their basic needs. A delay in refunds would cause hardship, particularly to those American workers and families who live paycheck to paycheck. By this time last year, the IRS had announced the beginning of the 2018 Tax Filing Season, informing taxpayers it would begin accepting tax returns on January 29, 2018. A delay in the announcement or opening of the tax filing season could adversely affect taxpayers and their ability to receive their tax refund on time.  

The lapse in government funding has and will continue to pose other problems for taxpayers. Reports indicate many Americans are experiencing delays in financing or refinancing mortgages and other loans because of lenders’ inability to obtain tax transcripts to verify incomes for loans. To understand how the Department and the IRS will serve American taxpayers now that we have passed the first five business days laid out by the IRS’s contingency plan, please provide us with the following information by January 11, 2019: 

  1. The date when the IRS will begin accepting tax returns for 2019. If the tax filing season opens later than last year—on January 29, 2019—please explain the delay and whether the lapse in government funding played a role.
  2. Please confirm whether the IRS will reevaluate its contingency plan and issue federal tax refunds at any time during the government shutdown. If so, please provide the anticipated date when the IRS will begin issuing refunds.
  3.  Please confirm if the IRS has a filing season contingency plan for Fiscal Year 2019. If not, please provide a date when the IRS expects to have finalized such a plan.
  4. A list of all IRS functions that have stopped or been reduced during the lapse in funding. Please indicate the percentage of the reduction if IRS functions have been reduced.

The American people deserve clarity during these uncertain times, particularly as it relates to their ability to afford their basic needs. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed a bill to reopen the government last night and sent it over to the Senate to consider: 

“Yesterday, the House passed funding bills that the Senate already supported in the last Congress. Leader McConnell should let us take a vote on those bills to reopen government and force President Trump to decide whether to sign them. Virginia is home to more than 170,000 federal employees and tens of thousands of government contractors. If we first end President Trump’s shutdown and stop the pain he is putting on them and their families, then we can focus from now until February 8th on agreeing to a reasonable approach on border security.”

Warner and Kaine have been outspoken against President Trump’s use of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Virginia is home to more than 170,000 federal employees. The bills that passed through the House would fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8th and remaining departments through September 30th.

 

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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced the American Miners Act of 2019, legislation that would secure pensions and healthcare benefits for our nation’s retired coal miners – including 500 Virginians affected by the recent bankruptcy of a Colorado-based mining company. 

“Congress made a promise in 1946 to protect coal miners after a lifetime of arduous and dangerous work to help power this nation,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation would ensure that we fulfill that promise by protecting retired coal miners across the country, including in Virginia, where roughly 500 miners and their dependents are at risk of losing their healthcare following the bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Company. This bill will also protect miners’ hard-earned pensions, and makes important changes I’ve been pushing for to defend and strengthen the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which provides healthcare and benefits for thousands of retirees suffering from this deadly disease.” 

“Virginia’s miners earned their pensions and health care benefits after years of difficult and dangerous work to provide us energy,” said Sen. Kaine. “I hope that Congress will quickly act on this legislation and give miners peace of mind.”

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. TheAmerican Miners Act of 2019 will shore up the 1974 UMWA 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. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 pensioners who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act.

The bill will also protect healthcare coverage for 500 Virginians. In May 2017, Sens. Warner and Kaine secured passage of 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 2018 bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co. has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents – including 500 people in Virginia. Today’s 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 was established in 1978 to pay benefits to disabled miners suffering from black lung disease when the coal company responsible for paying benefits is bankrupt, closed or otherwise not able to pay. More than 25,000 coal miners and their dependents rely on the fund. The fund, which due to a variety of factors is currently more than $4 billion in debt, is supported by an excise tax that automatically expired at the end of 2018. The American Miners Act of 2019 will extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund tax at $1.10 per ton of underground-mined coal and $0.55 per ton of surface-mined coal for ten years.

Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners.

The American Miners Act of 2019 is also sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Bob Casey (D-PA). For more information on the American Miners Act of 2019, click here.

  

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced plans to introduce legislation to secure back pay for the federal contractors who have gone without pay during the government shutdown. Warner and Kaine were joined by Senators Tina Smith, Sherrod Brown, Chris Van Hollen, and Ben Cardin. 

Each day, thousands of federal contractors provide critical services to support the federal government, often at low wages, and many have been furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours as a result of the government shutdown. Many of these workers are janitorial, food, and security services workers.

“The ripple effect of this unnecessary government shutdown has already been felt by families of all stripes and walks of life across Virginia. Federal employees should be—and always have been—paid retroactively after a government shutdown. That isn’t the case for many low-wage federal contractors—like janitors, security guards, and cafeteria staff—many of whom are already living paycheck to paycheck,” Warner said. “Virginians and Americans across the country have entrusted Congress to work on their behalf, not abandon them in favor of political brinksmanship.” 

“Virginia is being hit hard by President Trump’s shutdown because we have a high number of federal employees wondering if their paychecks will come, but we also have a lot of federal contractors. We often do bills to make sure that paychecks for federal employees are made whole after a shutdown, but it’s not the same for these hardworking federal contractors who just want to do their jobs. To make it worse, many of these federal contractors are living paycheck-to-paycheck, so this really hurts them. I’m glad we are trying to find a way to make sure some of these workers get paid. This shutdown was completely unnecessary and we need to protect people who have been hurt by President Trump’s actions,” Kaine said.

Warner and Kaine have been outspoken against President Trump’s use of a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic. Virginia is home to more than 170,000 federal employees and tens of thousands of federal contractors.

 

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WASHINGTON— Today, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Committee member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China and ensure U.S. technological supremacy by improving interagency coordination across the U.S. government. To do this, the bill creates an Office of Critical Technologies & Security at the White House responsible for coordinating across agencies and developing a long-term, whole-of-government strategy to protect against state-sponsored technology theft and risks to critical supply chains. 

“It is clear that China is determined to use every tool in its arsenal to surpass the United States technologically and dominate us economically. We need a whole-of-government technology strategy to protect U.S. competitiveness in emerging and dual-use technologies and address the Chinese threat by combating technology transfer from the United States, ” said Sen. Warner, a former technology and telecommunications executive. “We look forward to working with the Executive Branch and others to coordinate and respond to this threat.”

“China continues to conduct a coordinated assault on U.S. intellectual property, U.S. businesses, and our government networks and information with the full backing of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Sen. Rubio. “The United States needs a more coordinated approach to directly counter this critical threat and ensure we better protect U.S. technology. We must continue to do everything possible to prevent foreign theft of our technology, and interference in our networks and critical infrastructure. By establishing the Office of Critical Technologies and Security, this bill will help protect the United States by streamlining efforts across the government. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to enact this legislation and guard against these national security threats.”

China and other nations are currently attempting to achieve technological and economic superiority over the United States through the aggressive use of state-directed or -supported technology transfers. At the same time, the U.S. is also facing major challenges to the integrity of key supply chains as a result of reliance on foreign products that have been identified as national security risks. A national response to combat these threats and ensure our national security has, to date, been hampered by insufficient coordination at the federal level.

The Warner-Rubio bill would guarantee that there is a federal entity responsible for proactively coordinating interagency efforts and developing a national strategy to deal with these challenges to our national security and long-term technological competitiveness. Under the bill, the Office of Critical Technologies & Security would be directed to coordinate and consult with federal and state tech and telecom regulators, the private sector, nongovernmental experts and academic stakeholders, and key international partners and U.S. allies to ensure that every available tool is being utilized to safeguard the supply chain and protect emerging, foundational and dual-use technologies. The Office would also be responsible for raising awareness of these threats and improving the overall education of the American public and business leaders in key sectors about the threats to U.S. national security posed by the improper acquisition and transfer of critical technologies by foreign countries and reliance on foreign products – such as those manufactured by Chinese telecom companies ZTE and Huawei – that jeopardize the overall security of private sector supply chains. 

Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, has long expressed concerns about the risks to our national security posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. On October 12, 2018, Sen. Warner and Sen. Rubio sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging his country to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance. Warner has also urged the Administration to work with our allies to combat these technology threats. Sens. Warner and Rubio are also the authors of bipartisan legislation to enforce full compliance by ZTE with all probationary conditions of a U.S. Commerce Department’s deal struck with the company last year that ended U.S. imposed sanctions.

 

For a copy of the bill text, click here

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined 28 colleagues, led by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME), in introducing legislation to guarantee back pay as soon as possible for federal workers who go without a paycheck during the current government shutdown. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act also clarifies that employees who had previously scheduled approved leave occurring during a shutdown may take that leave without undue penalty. 

“Federal employees have worked hard to serve our country and we must ensure they don’t go without the pay their families were counting on just because of the President’s irresponsible actions,” said Warner and Kaine.  

View text of the Government Employee Fair Treatment ActHERE.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after President Trump signed the Ashanti Alert Actlegislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64—into law:

"Despite the tragic loss of Ashanti Billie, with the love and support of Meltony and Brandy Billie along with the Hampton Roads community, the Ashanti Alert Act is now law of the land. In this New Year, it is my hope that this important law enforcement tool can help save countless lives."

The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, through a national communications network to assist law enforcement in the search. 

In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor. After the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing in the Senate, Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage by unanimous consent in that chamber. In December, the House of Representatives passed the modified Ashanti Alert Act, sending it to the President’s desk for signature.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after the U.S. Navy announced they will block buy two Gerald R. Ford aircraft carriers:

“I am pleased that the Navy has announced its plan to move forward in the procurement of two aircraft carriers, which will generate significant cost savings for taxpayers.  This announcement is not only important for the men and women of the Newport News shipbuilding industry, it also makes a critical investment in our nation’s defense by ensuring the Navy has the capabilities needed to combat any adversary.”

Sen. Warner has continued to express support for the block buy of Ford-class aircraft carriers that would save taxpayer dollars and strengthen our national defense. In December 2017, Sen. Warner joined Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and 15 Senators in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis to support the Pentagon’s pursuit in the block buy in FY2019.

 

WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to President Donald Trump, urging him in the strongest possible terms to back off a planned pay freeze for civilian federal employees in 2019.

"We write to urge you in the strongest possible terms to reverse your decision to freeze pay rates for non-military federal workers in 2019. After months of indecisiveness and mixed signals, your decision further penalizes hard-working federal employees already straining under the impact of the unnecessary government shutdown that began on December 22nd," the Senators told Trump. "Freezing pay for federal workers adds insult to injury for dedicated public servants already subject to political attacks and gamesmanship."

While the White House's FY19 budget proposed an across-the-board pay freeze for non-military federal workers, in August, the Senate approved appropriations legislation providing for a 1.9 percent pay increase for federal workers. However, the House's failure to take up the bill allowed President Trump to sign an executive order on December 28 -- day six of the partial government shutdown -- unilaterally freezing pay for civilian federal employees.

In today's letter, the Senators pushed Trump to change course, highlighting bipartisan support for the Senate-passed 1.9 percent pay raise. They also underscored how freezing pay hinders the federal government's hiring competitiveness with the private sector, and called out the President for not doing more to prioritize human capital investments. The Senators also committed to working towards a pay adjustment for FY19 if President Trump fails to reverse his decision.

"There should be a particular sense of urgency in bolstering, rather than undermining, the competitiveness of the federal workforce considering that the share of federal employees eligible for retirement is expected to jump to 30 percent in five years," the Senators wrote. "As a businessman, we would expect you to understand the importance of human capital investments in recruiting and retaining talented employees. We are deeply troubled that you would abdicate your responsibility to ensure the sustainability of the federal workforce—particularly while so many federal employees are actively working without pay during a shutdown triggered by your own equivocation?"

 

The full text of today's letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you in the strongest possible terms to reverse your decision to freeze pay rates for non-military federal workers in 2019. After months of indecisiveness and mixed signals, your decision further penalizes hard-working federal employees already straining under the impact of the unnecessary government shutdown that began on December 22nd.

Freezing pay for federal workers adds insult to injury for dedicated public servants already subject to political attacks and gamesmanship. In February 2018, your administration’s budget proposed freezing federal civilian pay for 2019. In August 2018, the United States Senate included a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees in the appropriations bill that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. This action recognized the many contributions of federal workers and rebuked your unsubstantiated proposal to further hinder their economic security and our collective ability to compete with the private sector. There should be a particular sense of urgency in bolstering, rather than undermining, the competitiveness of the federal workforce considering that the share of federal employees eligible for retirement is expected to jump to 30 percent in five years.

As a businessman, we would expect you to understand the importance of human capital investments in recruiting and retaining talented employees. We are deeply troubled that you would abdicate your responsibility to ensure the sustainability of the federal workforce—particularly while so many federal employees are actively working without pay during a shutdown triggered by your own equivocation.

We strongly encourage you to take immediate action to reverse your ill-advised pay freeze and lift federal workers from this added layer of financial insecurity. Should you choose not to change course, we will continue working on a bipartisan basis to ensure federal workers receive a pay adjustment for Fiscal Year 2019.