Press Releases

WASHINGTON – During a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today to consider the nomination of Bill Evanina to serve as the nation’s top counterintelligence official, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), the Committee’s Vice Chairman, voiced concern that rolling back trade restrictions on Chinese telecom company ZTE would pose significant national security risks to the United States.

In recent days, President Trump has publicity expressed his desire to reverse trade restrictions placed on the company for violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea. 

“On the question of counterintelligence with China, a number of members of this committee have raised concerns about certain Chinese telecom companies and their penetration into the American market. I was actually pleased that the President acted on one of those companies, ZTE. Now it appears that that is simply a bargaining chip in negotiations with China. I don’t think that is the appropriate way,” said Sen. Warner during the nomination hearing. 

“If this is a security threat, then it is a security threat and needs to be dealt with as such — not as a bargaining chip in greater trade negotiations,” added Sen. Warner.

On Sunday, May 13 Trump tweeted, “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” The next day, Trump followed with another tweet: “ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.”

Earlier today, Sen. Warner joined a group of 34 Senators urging President Trump not to reverse trade restrictions on ZTE.

 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) expressed increased concern over how President Trump’s trade war would hurt Virginia’s soybean production, which is the Commonwealth’s number one cash crop. China’s Ministry of Commerce has recently announced they will begin proactively taxing Chinese companies that import some American agricultural products at 178.6% to discourage imports. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has confirmed that China is the Commonwealth’s biggest export market for agricultural goods and suggestedPresident Trump’s tariffs could hurt Virginia businesses and employees. Soybean production in Virginia accounts for roughly $187 million in economic output, which helps supports thousands of jobs in the Commonwealth. Amid escalating rhetoric by the Trump Administration, China announced that it is considering raising tariffs on soybeans, beef, and other critical agriculture commodities produced in Virginia.  

“Virginia’s soybean producers should not be held hostage to the uncertainty of President Trump’s trade games,” said Sen. Warner. “While China should be held accountable for its unfair trade practices, this should not be done at the expense of the hardworking soybean farmers in this country. President Trump needs to work with us to find the best way to resolve these disputes and avoid threatening an industry that creates thousands of new jobs and brings millions of dollars to rural communities in Virginia.”

“Clearly China is not taking President Trump’s threats lightly and we’re going to start feeling the pain of his rash actions. Our farmers deserve better than this,” said Sen. Kaine. “President Trump says he wants to create jobs and stimulate the economy yet his actions will have the opposite effect. His inflammatory, bullying tactics are going to hurt Virginians.”

“Exports are a vital source of income for Virginia’s farmers and here in the Commonwealth we have worked hard to open new markets around the world for our agriculture and forestry exporters. However, these efforts are jeopardized by threats of tariffs and trade wars at the national level,” said Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “I hope that our trade negotiators will keep our hardworking farmers and agribusinesses front of mind when working with their Chinese counterparts to solve this trade dispute.”

“The Virginia Soybean Association is concerned with the potential of trade wars within the global marketplace, including China. International trade is vital for the economic viability of the soybean industry,” said Nick Moody, President of the Virginia Soybean Association. “Uncertainty in trade agreements directly affect the stability of markets and price, which is a major concern for producers in a business that is already largely dependent on weather. Our hope is for the administration to work with leaders in international markets to create solid solutions to these trade disputes, which will not continue to disrupt soybean markets.”

According to VDACS, agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry, with an economic impact of $70 billion annually that provides more than 334,000 jobs.The agriculture and forestry industries combined have a total economic impact of over $91 billion and provide more than 442,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy. Production agriculture alone employs 54,000 Virginians and accounts for more than $3.8 billion in economic output. Almost 10 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly tied to agriculture and forestry.

Sens. Warner and Kaine previously raised concerns about how President Trump’s trade war with China could hurt Virginia businesses and employees, listing the set of products grown and made in Virginia that have been targeted by the Chinese for duties. They also wrote to the Administration last week warning that withdrawing from the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—another significant source of agricultural exports for Virginia—would negatively impact Virginia’s agricultural industry.

 

Below is a detailed list of soybean producing areas in Virginia as of 2017. A comprehensive list can be found here

 

COUNTY

PRODUCTION (Bushels)

NORTHERN VA/VALLEY

 

Culpeper

524,000

Fauquier

642,000

Frederick

68,500

Loudoun

301,000

Madison

384,000

Page

25,400

Rockingham

405,000

Shenandoah

259,000

Other NOVA counties

314,100

 

 

CENTRAL VIRGINIA

 

Amelia

429,000

Bedford

20,300

Campbell

162,000

Caroline

1,056,000

Chesterfield

66,000

Cumberland

134,000

Goochland

183,000

Louisa

224,000

Orange

380,000

Prince Edward

48,400

Spotsylvania

180,000

Other Central Counties

1,413,300

 

 

EASTERN SHORE

 

Accomack

1,577,000

Charles City

434,000

Essex

971,000

Gloucester

284,000

King and Queen

718,000

King George

222,000

King William

740,000

Northampton

937,000

Northumberland

767,000

Richmond

779,000

Westmoreland

895,000

Other Eastern Counties

1,041,000

 

 

SOUTHSIDE

 

Charlotte

240,000

Halifax

299,000

Lunenburg

148,000

Nottoway

128,000

Pittsylvania

193,000

Other Southside Counties

253,000

 

 

HAMPTON ROADS

 

Brunswick

364,000

Dinwiddie

553,000

Greensville

353,000

Isle of Wight

728,000

Prince George

437,000

Southampton

992,000

Surry

592,000

Chesapeake

887,000

Suffolk City

898,000

Virginia Beach

454,000

Other HRVA Counties

1,459,000

 

 

TOTAL

25,960,000

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged the Trump Administration to protect Virginia’s agriculture producers and the national agricultural economy as negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enter a critical stage. Last week, President Trump threatened to stop the free trade agreement as a way to pressure Mexico on border security.

“Throughout the negotiation process, we have been concerned by President Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA, along with other protectionist trade policies being pursued by the Administration. Withdrawal from the agreement would have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy that would affect each state and nearly every job sector,” Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agriculture is Virginia’s largest private industry, with an economic impact of $70 billion annually that provides more than 334,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. The agriculture and forestry industries combined have a total economic impact of over $91 billion and provide more than 442,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. Every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy. Production agriculture alone employs 54,000 Virginians and accounts for more than $3.8 billion in economic output. Almost 10 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly tied to agriculture and forestry.

“In Virginia alone, 46,000 to 96,000 jobs could be at risk if the U.S. exited the agreement. Thousands of these job losses would include farmers and workers in other agriculture and forestry-related industries across the country…actual withdrawal from NAFTA would seriously destabilize the integrated supply chains that have taken decades to establish and imperil the livelihoods of thousands of Virginians and millions more across the U.S.,” added the Senators.

“The Virginia Cattlemen's Association appreciates the support Senators Warner and Kaine are offering for continued negotiation of NAFTA, an important facilitator of continued trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico that has greatly benefited the vast majority of Virginia and US agricultural commodities,” said Jason H. Carter, Executive Director of the Virginia Cattlemen's Association & Virginia Beef Industry Council.

“The NAFTA markets are important to Virginia’s poultry industry, and it is critical that the current renegotiation not only preserve, but actually expand access to these markets,” said Hobey Bauhan, President of the Virginia Poultry Federation.

Sens. Warner and Kaine also pushed the Administration to negotiate greater access of U.S. poultry exports to Canadian markets. According to the Virginia Poultry Federation, Virginia’s poultry industry employs as many as 17,637 people across the Commonwealth and generates an additional 32,983 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. As of 2016, Virginia ranks 10th nationally in broiler chicken production and 6th in turkey production.

Last week, Sens. Warner and Kaine similarly raised concerns about how President Trump’s trade war with China could hurt Virginia businesses and employees, listing the set of products grown and made in Virginia that have been targeted by the Chinese for duties.

A PDF of the letter can be found here. The full letter text is below.

The Honorable Robert Lighthizer

U.S. Trade Representative

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

600 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20508

 

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

As negotiations over the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) enter a critical stage, we write to you today to highlight the importance of a do-no-harm approach for Virginia’s agriculture producers and the national agricultural economy. In the face of an increasingly volatile global trade environment, we believe it is necessary to reiterate the importance of maintaining the core components of NAFTA for our agricultural community.

In Virginia, agriculture and forestry remain the largest private industries, accounting for a combined economic impact of $91 billion annually and providing more than 442,000 jobs. Each job in the agriculture and forestry sector in Virginia supports nearly two additional jobs elsewhere in the economy. Production agriculture alone employs 54,000 Virginians and accounts for more than $3.8 billion in economic output for the Commonwealth. Almost 10 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is directly tied to agriculture and forestry.

The continued success of Virginia’s agriculture economy is in part due to the expansion of the global marketplace over the last several decades. Since the implementation of NAFTA, Virginia agriculture producers have witnessed tremendous growth in the number of exports to both Canada and Mexico. From 1996 to 2016, Virginia’s agriculture and forestry exports to Canada grew by 400 percent, from $58.4 million to $296.5 million. Exports to Mexico grew even faster during this time period, from $7.9 million to $113.6 million – an increase of over 1,300 percent. Today, Canada and Mexico represent Virginia’s first and third largest export markets, respectively.

While NAFTA has benefitted American agriculture producers, there are areas in which it can be improved. For example, under NAFTA, U.S. poultry exports have faced significant barriers in gaining access to the Canadian marketplace. Strict quotas and high tariffs implemented by the Canadian government have prevented American poultry producers from fully reaching this lucrative market. I am pleased this issue of market access was included in USTR’s negotiating objectives for NAFTA, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to expand opportunities for our agriculture community.

Throughout the negotiation process, we have been concerned by President Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA, along with other protectionist trade policies being pursued by the Administration. Withdrawal from the agreement would have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy that would affect each state and nearly every job sector. A recent study predicted that if the U.S. left NAFTA, 1.8 million to 3.6 million jobs would be lost in the following years. In Virginia alone, 46,000 to 96,000 jobs could be at risk if the U.S. exited the agreement. Thousands of these job losses would include farmers and workers in other agriculture and forestry-related industries across the country. We are supportive of efforts to modernize NAFTA, including updating labor protections to reflect the May 10 Agreement and improving environmental protections. However, actual withdrawal from NAFTA would seriously destabilize the integrated supply chains that have taken decades to establish and imperil the livelihoods of thousands of Virginians and millions more across the U.S.

As NAFTA negotiations progress, we ask that you pursue a do-no-harm approach to modernizing free trade agreements and supporting the agriculture economy in Virginia and throughout our country. We look forward to working with you to ensure that our farmers have access to the global marketplace.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine raised concerns after Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed that proposed tariffs could hurt Virginia businesses and employees, as China is the Commonwealth’s biggest export market for agricultural goods. Yesterday China announced that it is considering raising tariffs on soybeans, beef, and other critical agriculture commodities produced in Virginia in response to President Trump’s proposed tariffs. President Trump recently tweeted that “trade wars are good.” 

“President Trump should be making it easier for Virginia farmers and families to get ahead, not driving us head-first into a harmful trade war,” the Senators said. “The President’s reckless actions aren’t ‘good’ for the farmers and local businesses whose products would face huge taxes from China. And President Trump causing massive volatility in the stock market sure isn’t ‘good’ for our economy or Virginia families’ retirement savings. We wish the President would think about hardworking Virginians before making rash decisions with serious implications for our communities.”

China announced tariffs on 106 U.S. products yesterday, including items produced in rural communities in Central, Southern, and Southwest Virginia, as well as the Valley, the Eastern Shore, and the Northern Neck. Below is the full list of products that are set to be subject to duties, many grown in Virginia: 

1. Yellow soybean

2. Black soybean

3. Corn

4. Cornflour

5. Uncombed cotton

6. Cotton linters

7. Sorghum

8. Brewing or distilling dregs and waste

9. Other durum wheat

10.  Other wheat and mixed wheat

11.  Whole and half head fresh and cold beef

12.  Fresh and cold beef with bones

13.  Fresh and cold boneless beef

14.  Frozen beef with bones

15.  Frozen boneless beef

16.  Frozen boneless meat

17.  Other frozen beef chops

18.  Dried cranberries

19.  Frozen orange juice

20.  Non-frozen orange juice

21.  Whiskies

22.  Unstemmed flue-cured tobacco

23.  Other unstemmed tobacco

24.  Flue-cured tobacco partially or totally removed

25.  Partially or totally deterred tobacco stems

26.  Tobacco waste

27.  Tobacco cigars

28.  Tobacco cigarettes

29.  Cigars and cigarettes, tobacco substitutes

30.  Hookah tobacco

31.  Other tobacco for smoking

32.  Reconstituted tobacco

33.  Other tobacco and tobacco substitute products

34.  SUVs with discharge capacity of 2.5L to 3L

35.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 2500ml, but not exceeding 3000ml for SUVs (4 wheel drive)

36.  Vehicles with discharge capacity of 1.5L to 2L

37.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 1000ml, but not exceeding 1500ml for SUVs (4 wheel drive)

38.  Passenger cars with discharge capacity 1.5L to 2L, 9 seats or less

39.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 1000ml, but not exceeding 1500ml for 9 passenger cars and below

40.  Passenger cars with discharge capacity of 3L to 4L, 9 seats or less

41.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 3000ml, but not exceeding 4000ml for 9 passenger cars and below

42.  Off-road vehicles with discharge capacity of 2L to 2.5L

43.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 2000ml, but not exceeding 2500ml for off-road vehicles

44.  Passenger cars with discharge capacity of 2L to 2.5L, 9 seats or less

45.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 2000ml, but not exceeding 2500ml for 9 passenger cars and below

46.  Off-road vehicles with discharge capacity of 3L to 4L

47.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 3000ml, but not exceeding 4000ml for off-road vehicles

48.  Diesel-powered off-road vehicles with discharge capacity of 2.5L to 3L

49.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 2500ml, but not exceeding 3000ml for diesel-powered off-road vehicles

50.  Passenger cars with discharge capacity of 2.5L to 3L, 9 seats or less

51.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement exceeding 2500ml, but not exceeding 3000ml for 9 passenger cars and below

52.  Off-road vehicles with discharge capacity of less than 4L

53.  Other vehicles equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source. Cylinder capacity displacement not exceeding 4000ml for off-road vehicles

54.  Other vehicles which are equipped with an ignited reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor and can be charged by plugging in an external power source

55.  Other vehicles that are equipped with a compression ignition type internal combustion engine (diesel or semi-diesel) and a drive motor, other than vehicles that can be charged by plugging in an external power source

56.  Other vehicles which are equipped with an ignition reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor and can be charged by plugging in an external power source

57.  Other vehicles that are equipped with a compression-ignition reciprocating piston internal combustion engine and a drive motor that can be charged by plugging in an external power source

58.  Other vehicles that only drive the motor

59.  Other vehicles

60.  Other gasoline trucks of less than 5 tons

61.  Transmissions and parts for motor vehicles not classified

62.  Liquefied Propane

63.  Primary Shaped Polycarbonate

64.  Supported catalysts with noble metals and their compounds as actives

65.  Diagnostic or experimental reagents attached to backings, except for goods of tariff lines 32.02, 32.06

66.  Chemical products and preparations for the chemical industry and related industries, not elsewhere specified

67.  Products containing PFOS and its salts, perfluorooctanyl sulfonamide or perfluorooctane sulfonyl chloride in note 3 of this chapter

68.  Items listed in note 3 of this chapter containing four, five, six, seven or octabromodiphenyl ethers

69.  Contains 1,2,3,4,5,6-HCH (6,6,6) (ISO), including lindane (ISO, INN)

70.  Primarily made of dimethyl (5-ethyl-2-methyl-2oxo-1,3,2-dioxaphosphorin-5-yl)methylphosphonate and double [(5-b Mixtures and products of 2-methyl-2-oxo-1,3,2-dioxaphosphorin-5-yl)methyl] methylphosphonate (FRC-1)

71.  38248600a articles listed in note 3 to this chapter containing PeCB (ISO) or Hexachlorobenzene (ISO)

72.  Containing aldrin (ISO), toxaphene (ISO), chlordane (ISO), chlordecone (ISO), DDT (ISO) [Diptrix (INN), 1,1,1-trichloro-2 ,2-Bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane], Dieldrin (ISO, INN), Endosulfan (ISO), Endrin (ISO), Heptachlor (ISO) or Mirex (ISO). The goods listed in note 3 of this chapter

73.  Other carrier catalysts

74.  Other polyesters

75.  Reaction initiators, accelerators not elsewhere specified

76.  Polyethylene with a primary shape specific gravity of less than 0.94

77.  Acrylonitrile

78.  Lubricants (without petroleum or oil extracted from bituminous minerals)

79.  Diagnostic or experimental formulation reagents, whether or not attached to backings, other than those of heading 32.02, 32.06

80.  Lubricant additives for oils not containing petroleum or extracted from bituminous minerals

81.  Primary Shaped Epoxy Resin

82.  Polyethylene Terephthalate Plate Film Foil Strips

83.  Other self-adhesive plastic plates, sheets, films and other materials

84.  Other plastic non-foam plastic sheets

85.  Other plastic products

86.  Other primary vinyl polymers

87.  Other ethylene-α-olefin copolymers, specific gravity less than 0.94

88.  Other primary shapes of acrylic polymers

89.  Other primary shapes of pure polyvinyl chloride

90.  Polysiloxane in primary shape

91.  Other primary polysulphides, polysulfones and other tariff numbers as set forth in note 3 to chapter 39 are not listed.

92.  Plastic plates, sheets, films, foils and strips, not elsewhere specified

93.  1,2-Dichloroethane (ISO)

94.  Halogenated butyl rubber sheets, strips

95.  Other heterocyclic compounds

96.  Adhesives based on other rubber or plastics

97.  Polyamide-6,6 slices

98.  Other primary-shaped polyethers

99.  Primary Shaped, Unplasticized Cellulose Acetate

100. Aromatic polyamides and their copolymers

101. Semi-aromatic polyamides and their copolymers

102. Other polyamides of primary shape

103. Other vinyl polymer plates, sheets, strips

104. Non-ionic organic surfactants

105. Lubricants (containing oil or oil extracted from bituminous minerals and less than 70% by weight)

106. Aircraft and other aircraft with an empty weight of more than 15,000kg but not exceeding 45,000kg

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate Banking Committee, issued a statement after the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on five Russian entities and 19 individuals for interference in the 2016 election:         

“This is a welcome, if long-overdue, step by the Trump Administration to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 election. Our nation’s top intelligence officials have testified that Russia continues to interfere in our democracy, with no intention to stop. Yet these sanctions do not go far enough. Nearly all of the entities and individuals who were sanctioned today were either previously under sanction during the Obama Administration, or had already been charged with federal crimes by the Special Counsel. With the midterm elections fast approaching, the Administration needs to step it up, now, if we have any hope of deterring Russian meddling in 2018.”

 

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WASHINGTON – On Net Neutrality National Day of Action, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of Senate and House Democrats in introducing a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) partisan decision on net neutrality. The Senate CRA resolution of disapproval stands at 50 supporters, including Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The House resolution currently has 150 co-sponsors.

The FCC’s Open Internet Order prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online. Repealing these net neutrality rules could lead to higher prices for consumers, slower internet traffic, and even blocked websites. A recent poll showed that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC’s action to repeal net neutrality rules.

“From the start, the FCC’s process to determine whether to keep previously established rules that guarantee a free and open internet was marred by partisan fights and troubling irregularities in the public comment system,” said the Senators. “By repealing these open internet principles, we believe the agency greenlighted potential anti-competitive practices that could negatively impact consumers. We will continue urging our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand together to protect the integrity of our nation’s most crucial information network.”

Last week, the FCC’s rule repealing net neutrality was published in the Federal Register, leaving 60 legislative days to seek a vote on the Senate floor on the CRA resolutions. In order to force a vote on the Senate resolution, the Senators will submit a discharge petition, which requires a minimum of 30 Senators’ signatures. Once the discharge petition is filed, Senate Democrats will demand a vote on the resolution. A simple majority of 51 votes is needed to pass a CRA resolution in the Senate. 

A copy of the CRA resolution can be found here.

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with Tim Thomas, President Trump’s nominee to be the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. During the meeting, Senator Warner and Thomas discussed their shared priorities for Appalachia, including workforce development and combatting the opioid crisis.

“While I remain concerned about the Trump Administration’s proposal to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission, I was encouraged to hear Mr. Thomas lay out his priorities for an active ARC that carries out its mission of fostering economic development in Appalachia,” said Sen. Warner. “When it comes to jumpstarting the region’s economy, we need to take off our Republican and Democratic hats and work together. I encourage my colleagues from both parties to give fair consideration to Mr. Thomas’ nomination for this important post.”

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that has invested in 25,000 projects across Appalachia’s 420 counties. For more than fifty years, ARC has provided funding and support for job-creating community projects across the 13 Appalachian states, producing an average of $204 million in annual earnings for a region often challenged by economic underdevelopment. Since its inception in 1965, ARC has generated over 300,000 jobs and $10 billion for the 25 million Americans living in Appalachia.

In his FY2018 budget, President Trump proposed eliminating funding for the ARC entirely. In response, Senator Warner and a bipartisan coalition of Senators who represent Appalachian states called on President Trump to reverse his proposal to zero out funding for this important federal-state partnership. In 2017 alone, Senator Warner announced over $7 million in ARC grant funding for projects in Virginia’s Appalachian counties, including:

  • Falls Mills Senior Center Project (Tazewell County) - $500,000. This grant to the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, Inc., in partnership with the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, will help build a community service and senior facility at the Falls Mills Elementary School site.
  • Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone (Covington, Va.) - $100,000. This grant will be matched with $100,000 in local funds to complete a feasibility study and design, marketing, and business plan for the new “Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone,” a business accelerator program and facility to support local enterprises in this emerging industry. It is anticipated that space for 12 businesses will be available in a city owned building that has been identified for renovation, and the project is expected to support the creation of three to five new businesses a year, according to ARC.
  • Floyd Regional Commerce Center (Floyd County) - $1,081,958. This grant leverages $30 million in private investment—will fund approximately 0.21 miles of access road, an industrial cul-de-sac, as well as pedestrian and bike path to facilitate Floyd County’s development of the Floyd Regional Commerce Center. The Floyd County Economic Development Authority estimates that completion of the Commerce Center would promote economic development with the potential to support more than 100 new jobs in the region.
  • William King Museum of Art (Abingdon, Va.) - $500,000. This grant will help the William King Museum of Art will help fund Phase 1 of a larger cultural campus expansion project. The funds will go towards access improvements, additional parking and renovating a currently vacant facility that will become the new Center for Studio Art and Education. With the improvements at the campus, 10 artisans will take up residency at the facility, 2 jobs will be created and 2,500 new visitors are anticipated. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $657,000, bringing the total project funding to $1,157,000. 
  • Southwest Virginia Early Childhood Workforce Development (Abington, Va.) - $99,933. This grant will help United Way of Southwest Virginia assist 70 workers obtain child care credentials and improve child development services for 20 existing businesses in a 13-county area. In addition, the grantee will provide training and other assistance to individuals who wish to establish their own childcare programs in underserved areas, resulting in 10 new enterprises capable of serving 120 children. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $61,783 in matching funds. 
  • Project Discovery Program (Abingdon, Va.) - $75,844. This grant will help People Incorporated of Virginia expand its academic advancement and college attendance program to serve more low-income, first-generation college-bound high school students. The project will provide assistance to 60 students with college readiness skills and financial opportunities. The project will serve Dickenson, Buchanan, Russell, and Washington Counties. In additional to ARC funds, local sources will provide $39,391, bringing the total project funding to $113,235.
  • Frog Level Phase II Water Project (Lee County) - $500,000. This grant will help provide reliable public water supply to Lee County as well as support economic development for the newly-established school of veterinary medicine. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $948,680, and local sources will provide $108,652, bringing the total project funding to $1,557,332.
  • Cool & Connected Pennington Gap Project (Pennington Gap, Va.) - $7,500. This grant will help the city of Pennington Gap fund the renovation of space and the creation of a community computer center at the basement of the Lee Theatre, purchase computer equipment, and provide Wi-Fi access in Leeman’s field. In addition to ARC funds, Sunset Digital Communications will provide $4,000, bringing the total project funding to $11,500.
  • Cool & Connected Jonesville Project (Jonesville, Va.) - $7,500. This grant will help fund the renovation of a community computer center in Jonesville, Virginia at an existing town-owned building located in the town’s Cumberland Bowl Park. The minor renovations will include computer equipment and Wi-Fi access at the park. In addition to ARC funds, Sunset Digital Communications will provide $4,000, bringing the total project funding to $11,500.
  • Tacoma Sewer Project (Wise County) - $500,000. The grant will help the Wise County Public Service Authority begin a project that will provide public sewer collection to a previously unserved community of 48 households and two businesses, and eliminate public and environmental health concerns related to improperly disposed raw sewage. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $750,000, and local sources will provide $155,901, bringing the total project funding to $1,405,901.
  • Lyric Theater Project (St. Paul, Va.) - $300,000. This grant will help the Town of St. Paul renovate and stabilize the interior and exterior of the Lyric Theater to stabilize the building. The renovation will equip the building to hold conferences, events and performing arts for visitor and tourists. The facility will be affiliated with The Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. In addition to ARC funds, local sources will provide $135,000, bringing the total project funding to $435,000.
  • Spearhead Trails in SW Virginia Project (Coeburn, Va.) - $92,300. This grant will help the Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA) to fund a study that will examine existing and potential economic benefits of the Spearhead Trails on the surrounding region, identify priorities for future development, and help SRRA develop a sustainable organizational model. SRRA was chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2008 to support outdoor recreation and tourism investment in the Coalfields of Southwest Virginia. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $30,000 and local sources will provide $7,700, bringing the total project funding to $130,000.
  • Donnkenny, Breaks and Tivis Pump Stations Replacement Project (Dickenson County) - $441,740. This grant will help replace three deteriorating below-ground pump stations with above-ground facilities that meet current design standards. The new pump stations will provide water to 571 households and 10 businesses in distressed communities, as well as to nine tourism-related businesses in the Breaks Interstate Park, and will ensure that reliable infrastructure is in place to support future economic development, particularly that which is related to tourism. In addition to ARC funds, state sources will provide $150,000, and local sources will provide an additional $102,260, bringing the total project funding to $694,000.


Senator Warner serves as a co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Appalachia Initiative, which has laid out a roadmap for bipartisan legislation to jumpstart economic growth in the region.

Mr. Thomas currently serves on the state staff of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a field representative based in the senator’s Bowling Green office. A native Kentuckian, Thomas previously served in the administration of former Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher as a special assistant to the secretary of the Kentucky Environmental Cabinet, handling matters including legislative initiatives for the agency, according to the ARC.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced today the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act to hold large credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—including Equifax—accountable for data breaches involving consumer data. The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) more direct supervisory authority over data security at CRAs, impose mandatory penalties on CRAs to incentivize adequate protection of consumer data, and provide robust compensation to consumers for stolen data.

In September 2017, Equifax announced that hackers had stolen sensitive personal information – including Social Security Numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and passport numbers – of over 145 million Americans. The attack highlighted that CRAs hold vast amounts of data on millions of Americans but lack adequate safeguards against hackers. Since 2013, Equifax has disclosed at least four separate hacks in which sensitive personal data was compromised.

“In today’s information economy, data is an enormous asset. But if companies like Equifax can’t properly safeguard the enormous amounts of highly sensitive data they are collecting and centralizing, then they shouldn’t be collecting it in the first place,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill will ensure that companies like Equifax – which gather vast amounts of information on American consumers, often without their knowledge – are taking appropriate steps to secure data that’s central to Americans’ identity management and access to credit.”

“The financial incentives here are all out of whack – Equifax allowed personal data on more than half the adults in the country to get stolen, and its legal liability is so limited that it may end up making money off the breach,” said Sen. Warren. “Our bill imposes massive and mandatory penalties for data breaches at companies like Equifax – and provides robust compensation for affected consumers – which will put money back into peoples’ pockets and help stop these kinds of breaches from happening again.”

The Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act would establish an Office of Cybersecurity at the FTC tasked with annual inspections and supervision of cybersecurity at CRAs. It would impose mandatory, strict liability penalties for breaches of consumer data beginning with a base penalty of $100 for each consumer who had one piece of personal identifying information (PII) compromised and another $50 for each additional PII compromised per consumer. To ensure robust recovery for affected consumers, the bill would also require the FTC to use 50% of its penalty to compensate consumers and would increase penalties in cases of woefully inadequate cybersecurity or if a CRA fails to timely notify the FTC of a breach.

The Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act is supported by cybersecurity experts and consumer groups:

“U.S. PIRG commends Senators Warren and Warner for the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act. It will ensure that credit bureaus protect your information as if you actually mattered to them and it will both punish them and compensate you when they fail to do so,” said U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director, Ed Mierzwinski.

"This bill establishes much-needed protections for data security for the credit bureaus. It also imposes real and meaningful penalties when credit bureaus, entrusted with our most sensitive financial information, break that trust," said National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, Chi Chi Wu. 

"Senator Warner and Senator Warren have proposed a concrete response to a serious problem facing American consumers,” said Electronic Privacy Information Center President, Marc Rotenberg.

"This bill creates greater incentive for these companies to handle our data with care and gives the Federal Trade Commission the tools that it needs to hold them accountable,” said Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America, Susan Grant.

Sen. Warner has been a leader in calling for better consumer protections from data theft. Following the Equifax data breach, Sen. Warner asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine whether credit reporting agencies such as Equifax have adequate cybersecurity safeguards in place for “the enormous amounts of sensitive data they gather and commercialize.” He slammed the credit bureau for its cybersecurity failures and weak response at a Banking Committee hearing with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton last year. Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2013 Target breach that exposed the debit and credit card information of 40 million customers, Sen. Warner chaired the first congressional hearing on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers’ online systems. Sen. Warner has also partnered with the National Retail Federation to establish an information sharing platform that allows the industry to better protect consumer financial information from data breaches.Warner, Warren Introduce Legislation to Hold Credit Reporting Agencies like Equifax Accountable for Data Breaches 

To view a fact sheet about the legislation, click here. The bill text can be found here.  

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to delay a planned December 14th vote to roll back net neutrality rules until an investigation can be completed into reports that internet “bots” – automated computer programs designed to pose as people – filed hundreds of thousands of comments to the FCC during the net neutrality policymaking process.

“A free and open Internet is vital to ensuring a level playing field online, and we believe that your proposed action may be based on an incomplete understanding of the public record in this proceeding,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Chairman Pai. “In fact, there is good reason to believe that the record may be replete with fake or fraudulent comments, suggesting that your proposal is fundamentally flawed.”

“Without additional information about the alleged anomalies surrounding the public record, the FCC cannot conduct a thorough and fair evaluation of the public’s views on this topic, and should not move forward with a vote on December 14, 2017,” the Senators continued.

“The FCC must invest its time and resources into obtaining a more accurate picture of the record as understanding that record is essential to reaching a defensible resolution to this proceeding,” the Senators concluded.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the letter was signed by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Al Franken (D-MN), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). 

The full text of the letter appears below. A copy of the letter is available here.

 

December 4, 2017

 

The Honorable Ajit Pai

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street Southwest

Washington, DC 20554

 

Dear Chairman Pai:

 

We are deeply concerned by your recently released proposal to roll back critical consumer protections by dismantling the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) current net neutrality rules. A free and open Internet is vital to ensuring a level playing field online, and we believe that your proposed action may be based on an incomplete understanding of the public record in this proceeding. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the record may be replete with fake or fraudulent comments, suggesting that your proposal is fundamentally flawed.

 

To this end, we request a thorough investigation by the FCC into reports that bots may have interfered with this proceeding by filing hundreds of thousands of comments. Furthermore, an additional 50,000 consumer complaints seem to have been excluded from the public record in this proceeding, according to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by the National Hispanic Media Coalition.  Without additional information about the alleged anomalies surrounding the public record, the FCC cannot conduct a thorough and fair evaluation of the public’s views on this topic, and should not move forward with a vote on December 14, 2017. 

 

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has spent the past six months conducting an investigation into the fraudulent comments, and found that “hundreds of thousands” of comments may have impersonated New York residents, a violation of state law. He further asserts that the FCC has not cooperated with requests for additional data and information. Data scientist Jeff Kao has also run an analysis of the public record, and estimates that over a million comments filed in support of repealing net neutrality may have been fake. These reports raise serious concerns as to whether the record the FCC is currently relying on has been tampered with and merits the full attention of, and investigation by, the FCC before votes on this item are cast. 

 

A transparent and open process is vitally important to how the FCC functions. The FCC must invest its time and resources into obtaining a more accurate picture of the record as understanding that record is essential to reaching a defensible resolution to this proceeding.  As a result, we are requesting that you delay your planned vote on this item until you can conduct a thorough review of the state of the record and provide Congress with greater assurance of its accuracy and completeness.  

 

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement on the Federal Communications Commission's plan to repeal net neutrality rules:

“The FCC Chairman has decided to move forward to repeal net neutrality rules without any plan in place to uphold longstanding open internet principles supported by both Democratic and Republican Administrations. I am deeply concerned that the FCC’s current plan would amount to a green light for potential anti-competitive practices by certain internet service providers, with the Chairman signaling the Commission’s unwillingness to protect consumers and small businesses from potential abuse.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today joined Republicans and Democrats, including Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), to introduce the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, bipartisan legislation to reduce regulatory burdens on community banks and credit unions and provide new protections to consumers.

The legislation is the result of bipartisan negotiations among Warner, Crapo, and Banking Committee members Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

“This bipartisan bill is the result of years of tough negotiations among Democrats and Republicans,” said Sen. Warner. “The goal is simple: to help Main Street by rolling back unnecessary and burdensome regulations on credit unions and small community banks while ensuring that larger banks remain subject to the rules I helped put in place after the financial crisis to prevent another meltdown on Wall Street. This proposal makes targeted, commonsense fixes that will provide tangible relief to the community banks that are lifelines for smaller and rural communities. It also strengthens protections for veterans, the elderly and other consumers, and encourages community-based lending to boost economic growth and create jobs.”

“A strong and vibrant economy is important for American consumers, businesses, and the stability of the financial sector,” said Chairman Crapo. “The bipartisan proposals on which we have agreed will significantly improve our financial regulatory framework and foster economic growth by right-sizing regulation, particularly for smaller financial institutions and community banks.”

Following the 2008 financial meltdown, Sen. Warner helped write and pass into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and he continues to support the important reforms included in the law. The legislation introduced today is carefully written to provide needed regulatory relief to main street—community banks and credit unions—which were inadvertently burdened by rules and regulations intended to hold Wall Street accountable. This bill will promote economic growth by making commonsense reforms to increase consumer lending, while protecting consumers.

Among provisions in the regulatory relief package are several proposals to protect and deliver relief to Virginia consumers:

  • Community Banks and Credit Unions: This package includes a number of provisions related to community banks and credit unions that would increase their ability to extend credit to Virginia small businesses and families, while maintaining important consumer protections.
  • Free Annual Credit Freeze for Consumers: This provision would require credit bureaus to include one free credit freeze and a free credit unfreeze per year, which would help protect consumers after the massive Equifax data breach that may have compromised the personal information of approximately 145 million Americans.
  • Protecting Veterans Credit: This provision would protect the credit ratings of veterans wrongly penalized by medical bill payment delays by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This measure would prohibit medical debt from services received through the Choice Program and other VA community care programs from being reported to credit reporting agencies for one year. In addition it would establish a dispute process for veterans seeking to remove adverse actions already on their reports.

Full bill text is available here. A section-by-section can be accessed here.

“I thank Virginia's Congressional Delegation for their support of this legislation. Virginia's more than 725,000 veterans have served and sacrificed for our Nation and our Commonwealth. This service can sometimes lead to wounds and injuries that require ongoing care - which is not always fully covered by their veterans benefits. When they must incur out of pocket expenses for themselves and their families’ medical care, we must ensure that this does not also come with a bad credit score that could affect them for years to come. This bill will help our veterans in addressing credit issues or preventing a small credit problem from escalating,” said Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins.

Virginia Bankers Association (VBA) President and CEO Bruce Whitehurst stated, “This package represents an important first step toward better tailoring of regulation to allow banks to serve their customers and communities more effectively and efficiently, much to their benefit. This bipartisan compromise also underscores the fact that the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 took the regulatory pendulum too far and created unintended consequences for borrowers. It is great to see movement toward a more balanced approach to financial regulation and we appreciate the leadership of Senators Warner and Kaine.”

“This is a major step forward. Our community bankers are eager to do more to build their local economies, but over-regulation holds them back. The best provisions in this bill make getting a mortgage less complicated and more possible, and other good provisions simplify rules and reports, freeing bankers to do more good work with their customers and their communities,” said Virginia Association of Community Banks (VACB) President Steve Yeakel. “In particular, we want to acknowledge the leadership of both Senator Warner, who helped to forge the compromise, and Senator Kaine, whose early support gives the bill a strong foundation and a real chance at success on the Senate floor.”

“ICBA strongly supports the bipartisan regulatory relief package announced today and thanks Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo and Sens. Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester and Mark Warner for driving this agreement,” Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) President and CEO Camden R. Fine said. “Community bank regulatory relief is needed to improve lending and strengthen economic growth at the local level. We are pleased to see many provisions of ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity included in the agreement and thank all senators from both sides of the aisle who have contributed to this important initiative.”

“NAFCU thanks Chairman Crapo and his Democratic partners in the Senate for including provisions in this package that would lead to regulatory relief for credit unions,” said National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions (NAFCU) President and CEO Dan Berger. “We look forward to working with members of the Senate Banking Committee, their staff and other senators as this package moves through the legislative process. This bill is a step in the right direction, and we will continue to push for more relief for the industry and its 110 million member-owners.”

“This bill includes credit union-specific provisions that provide meaningful regulatory relief, a sign that policymakers are paying close attention to the needs of credit union members,” Credit Union National Association (CUNA) President/CEO Jim Nussle said. “We thank Sen. Crapo and his colleagues for working across party lines to advance regulatory relief legislation, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them as the bill moves through the legislative process.”

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the bill was introduced by Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Jon Tester (D-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Michael Bennet (D-CO). Republican sponsors of the bill are Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Bob Corker (R-TN), Tim Scott (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Rounds (R-SD), David Perdue (R-GA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Kennedy (R-LA), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jim Risch (R-ID). The bipartisan bill was also sponsored by Sen. Angus King (I-ME).

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R.  Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a bipartisan coalition of 16 Senators to introduce the Sugar Policy Modernization Act, which will make commonsense reforms to the federal sugar support program that will save money for a variety of manufacturers that support jobs in Virginia and across the nation. 

The Sugar Policy Modernization Act would repeal domestic supply restrictions, reduce market distortions caused by sugar import quotas, and ensure taxpayers don’t foot the bill for bailouts of the sugar industry. The Sugar Policy Modernization Act has a broad coalition of support from consumer, business and environmental groups. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Virginia is home to the U.S. headquarters of both Mars and Nestle and has manufacturing and distribution facilities across the state – such as the McKee Foods plant in Stuarts Draft, Nestle packaging plant in Danville, Purina pet food plant in King William County, Frito-Lay plant in Lynchburg, Gatorade bottling facility in Wytheville, Sabra plant in Colonial Heights, and others – comprising thousands of jobs in industries whose growth is determined in part by sugar prices.

“This bill would make reasonable, commonsense reforms to federal sugar policies that artificially raise costs for consumers and American taxpayers,” said Sen. Warner. “These changes will save taxpayers money and protect thousands of manufacturing jobs in Virginia.”

“Senators from the right, left, and everywhere in between support this bill because it’s good for the economy,” said Sen. Kaine. “Manufacturing is driven by a variety of input costs, and this is an opportunity to reduce one of those costs, which is not only good policy generally but will also make Virginia even more competitive in attracting these manufacturing plants and the jobs that go with them.”

Sugar is the only commodity whose federal support program was not reformed by the most recent five-year reauthorization of agricultural programs in 2014.

The Sugar Policy Modernization Act would repeal U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sugar marketing allotments, which restrict the amount of sugar each domestic processing company can sell. No other U.S. commodity is under similar government supply controls. The bill would also repeal a program that requires the government to buy surplus sugar and sell it to ethanol companies at a loss.

The legislation would also direct the Secretary of Agriculture to manage the nation’s sugar program to ensure sugar is distributed in adequate amounts and reasonable prices, and it would repeal laws that arbitrarily restrict USDA’s authority to administer import quotas during certain times of the year. This bill would also express that it is the sense of Congress that U.S. trade policy goals should include elimination of sugar subsidies and pursuit of trade agreements that liberalize sugar trade. 

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the bill is sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Ed Markey (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). 

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“The SEC’s disclosure, which comes not even two weeks after Equifax revealed that it had been hacked, shows that government and businesses need to step up their efforts to protect our most sensitive personal and commercial information. Information has become one of our country’s most valuable resources, and control of that information comes with significant responsibility. The SEC should not retreat from its important market oversight role in order to limit its exposure to sensitive information.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Banking, Budget and Finance committees and cofounder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, today asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine the recent cyber hack of credit reporting agency Equifax. Last week, Equifax publically disclosed a breach which exposed sensitive personal information of 143 million Americans.

Sen. Warner requested an FTC investigation into the lapse in Equifax cybersecurity practices, and questioned the company’s widely-panned response to consumers potentially impacted by the breach. His letter asks the FTC to examine whether credit reporting agencies such as Equifax have adequate cybersecurity safeguards in place for “the enormous amounts of sensitive data they gather and commercialize.” 

Sen. Warner has been a leader in calling for better consumer protections from data theft. In the aftermath of the Target breach that exposed the debit and credit card information of 40 million customers, Sen. Warner in 2014 chaired the first congressional hearing on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers’ online systems. Sen. Warner also partnered with the National Retail Federation to establish an information sharing platform that allows the industry to better protect consumer financial information from data breaches.

Sen. Warner has been working to develop bipartisan legislation to create a comprehensive, nationwide and uniform data breach standard requiring timely consumer notification for breaches of financial data and other sensitive information. 

The text of the letter is below and can be found here

September 13, 2017

 

The Honorable Maureen K. Ohlhausen

Acting Chairwoman

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20580

 

Dear Acting Chairwoman Ohlhausen,

 

I write you in the wake of reports that one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies has suffered one of the largest, and potentially most impactful, breaches in recent history. According to reports, Equifax in May of this year experienced a breach affecting as many as 143 million consumers, with highly sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license records, birthdates, addresses, and credit histories potentially at risk. This information – critical to opening a new bank account or taking out a loan – will expose Americans to identity theft, tax fraud, extortion, and other risks.

 

By streamlining and routinizing the collection of consumer reports and credit history, the Fair Credit Reporting Act in part enshrined the nation’s major credit reporting agencies’ role as arbiters of Americans’ access to credit, and even employment and residential opportunities. At the same time, Congress sought to ensure that these firms “exercise their grave responsibilities” with a “respect for the consumer’s right to privacy,” including through “reasonable procedures…with regard to the confidentiality, accuracy, relevancy, and proper utilization of such information[.]”  And Congress directed the Federal Trade Commission (“Commission” or “FTC”) to enforce key aspects of the law, including by treating violations of the FCRA as unfair or deceptive practices under the Commission’s Section 5 authority. 

 

Today’s digital economy, in which data increasingly represents a key input, has only amplified the reach of these firms, and provided them with incentives to collect and centralize ever-growing amounts of sensitive personal information, and to commercialize this data in opaque ways. The volume and sensitivity of the data potentially involved in this breach raises serious questions about whether firms like Equifax adequately protect the enormous amounts of sensitive data they gather and commercialize. 

 

As someone who has worked for several years with stakeholders and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on legislation to establish a comprehensive, nationwide and uniform data breach standard, I recognize Congress’s unfinished work in this area. I am hopeful that this recent development will help galvanize action among my colleagues in Congress to safeguard American consumers and our nation’s economic security.

 

At the same time, aspects of this breach raise questions about the data security practices of Equifax that implicate the Federal Trade Commission’s existing authority. In particular, press reports and cybersecurity experts have identified a number of security lapses, including in the days following Equifax’s disclosure of the breach, that potentially indicate a pattern of security failings.

 

While the precise details of the “website application vulnerability” exploited in the Equifax breach are not yet known, experts have pointed to a wide range of other lapses by Equifax – including in the wake of the breach – that indicate exceptionally poor cybersecurity practices. For instance, experts have pointed to an exceedingly broad attack surface, with thousands of domains and subdomains managed by Equifax across hundreds of network hosts. And security experts have identified a range of antiquated, unpatched, or otherwise vulnerable systems maintained by Equifax.

 

Equifax’s post-breach actions also raise serious concerns about the company’s data security practices. For instance, Equifax chose to register a new domain, Equifaxsecurity2017.com – but not in its own name. Reports also catalogued a litany of security mistakes, including use of potentially insecure content management software and improperly configured web encryption.  These, and other lapses, resulted in a range of popular web browsers flagging Equifax’s site as a potential phishing or scam site. 

 

Equally alarming have been Equifax’s procedures for handling customer inquiries. In order for a concerned consumer to determine if they may have been impacted, Equifax requires the consumer to submit their last name and six digits of their Social Security number. The security of this procedure is as questionable as its efficacy: researchers noted that entering the last name “Test” and the Social Security numbers “123456” returned a confirmed breach.

 

Similarly alarming, when concerned consumers elect to place a credit freeze with Equifax – something the Commission encourages them to do – the PIN that Equifax assigns to that consumer is a simple, non-unique timestamp (formatted as, for instance, “0910170930” for a user that submitted a request at 9:30AM on the 10th of September). Separately, experts have noted that Equifax’s central website, where American consumers go to set up credit account monitoring, features cross-site scripting vulnerabilities that would enable an attacker to execute malicious code to, for instance, redirect submitted form data (such as the Social Security number the Equifax site requests) to an attacker. 

 

Taken as a whole, and given past breaches by other major credit bureaus, these lapses may potentially represent a systemic failure by firms currently incentivized to collect and store highly sensitive identification and financial data for Americans. The volume and sensitivity of the data involved – information critical to identity management and access to consumer credit – distinguishes this breach from many other breaches of consumer data. And in contrast to other breaches, where consumers might respond to the perceived lack of data security by taking their business elsewhere, those affected by last week’s breach in most cases do not have a direct consumer relationship with Equifax.

 

The implications of a breach of this magnitude are sobering, as this identifying data forms the basis for consumer credit and other financial transactions. Congress foresaw this threat in 1970, noting that failures of this industry could “undermine the public confidence which is essential to the continued functioning of the banking system.”  In ways similar to the financial service industry’s systemic risk designation, I fear that firms like Equifax may illustrate a set of institutions whose activities, left unchecked, can significantly threaten the economic security of Americans.

 

I respectfully request that you respond to the following questions:

 

  1. 1.      Equifax is currently under a consent decree with the Commission for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act related to improper handling of consumer information.  Does that consent decree provide the Commission with additional remedies in the context of Equifax’s data security practices? 

 

  1. 2.      Given the current inability of consumers to cease doing business with a credit reporting agency which displays an arguably cavalier attitude toward cybersecurity, should the Fair Credit Reporting Act be amended to provide the Commission authority to issue rules requiring credit reporting agencies to establish a way for consumers to “opt out” of having their information stored by a particular credit reporting agency? 

 

  1. 3.      In many cases, Equifax collects and maintains sensitive information about consumers as a service to other businesses. Under state data breach notification statutes, a breached service provider need only inform the business it provides service to about the breaches it suffers, and has no obligation to provide public notice that it incurred the breach. In recent breach incidents involving third-party service providers, some companies (e.g., Heartland, Experian, Anthem, etc.) have provided public notice that their breach affected consumers. Would the FTC support legislation that requires all entities suffering a breach of security that creates a significant risk of financial harm, to make public notice of that breach in order to ensure a more timely and effective form of notice? 

 

  1. 4.      Do you interpret the Fair Credit Reporting Act to include heightened data security standards and/or requirements, given Congress’s unique concern about the “confidentiality, accuracy…and proper utilization” of this highly sensitive data? 

 

  1. 5.      The Commission has suggested that consumers place a credit freeze with the three major credit bureaus.  Does the Commission consider a timestamp to be a sufficiently strong PIN for unfreezing a consumer’s account?

 

  1. a.      Has the Commission issued guidance to credit reporting agencies on adequate security and data protection measures associated with credit freezes? 
  2. b.      Should this guidance be updated in light of security concerns with the site Equifax maintains to process credit monitoring and freeze requests?

 

  1. 6.      Should Congress limit the ability of credit reporting agencies to sell data outside specific contexts, such as credit, banking, and employment inquiries?

 

  1. 7.      Does the Commission hold lapses in data security practices in response to a breach to a higher standard than data security practices related to the breach itself?

 

  1. 8.      Do adequate incentives to use reasonable data security practices, or penalties to deter unreasonable data security practices, exist to counter-balance the profit incentives to collect, centralize, and maintain large quantities of highly sensitive personal information of American consumers?

 

The American people deserve to know that their government is serious about learning from and responding to this truly concerning incident, and that it is taking all appropriate steps to help ensure it cannot happen again. Your response will be critical to this process, and I look forward to receiving that within the next two weeks. If you should have any questions or concerns, please contact my office.

 

As always, I appreciate your service in this important role. Thank you for your timely consideration of this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

MARK R. WARNER

United States Senator 

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WASHINGTON --The U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), members of the Senate Banking and Finance Committees, which would make it easier for private companies to award stock as part of an employee's compensation. The Encouraging Employee Ownership Act will entice private corporations to give their employees larger equity stakes in their companies and promote longer-term investing.

“Giving employees the opportunity to acquire stock provides them with a greater sense of ownership in their companies and has a positive impact in workplace culture,” said Sen. Warner, a former technology executive. “Allowing employees to have a stake in the success of where they work will help promote greater productivity and wealth creation and get this economy working better for more people.”

Established nearly two decades ago, current Securities and Exchange Commission rules force companies that wish to issue more than $5 million in stock to employees to comply with onerous reporting and disclosure requirements. For new and fast-growing companies, stock compensation is a valuable tool, but many privately-held companies are reluctant to cross this threshold due to the mandatory reporting requirement. 

Under the Warner-Toomey bill, this threshold would increase to $10 million and would automatically index to account for inflation every five years.

The bill has been endorsed by the private supermarket chain Wegmans, and the company BIO.  

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) today led a bipartisan group of 37 senators in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to push the Chinese government to end its ban on the sale of American poultry products. The ban was instituted by China in 2015 due to the detection of a wild duck with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influence (HPAI) and continues to be enforced today, in contradiction of World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, joined a bipartisan group of Finance Committee members in calling on the Trump Administration to protect Virginia jobs by addressing the harmful effects of unfairly traded Canadian softwood lumber on American mills and wood product companies.

Sens. Warner & Schumer Call on FTC to Protect Consumers from Digital Ad Fraud

Researchers have found that a substantial percentage of ad-clicks on major advertising platforms are executed by bots, not human beings

Jul 11 2016

In a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, the Senators – both members of the Senate Banking Committee – pointed to studies that have found rampant fraud in the $60 billion digital ad market.