Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), members of the Senate Committee on the Budget, filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution to ensure military families have safe and healthy housing. The amendment would protect the wellbeing of our nation’s military families by creating a reserve fund to address health hazards in military housing.

“Thousands of servicemembers call Virginia home, and their experiences with unsafe living conditions in housing are disturbing and unacceptable,” said Sen. Warner. “This amendment would ensure we can improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families, whether they’re stationed here in the Commonwealth or across the country.”

“Too many of our troops and their families are living in unacceptable conditions,” said Sen. Kaine. “When servicemembers are deployed, their families not only have to worry about their loved ones in harm’s way, but many of them have to endure added anxiety caused by lead, mold, or rodent infestations in their homes. Military families sacrifice so much to serve our nation – they shouldn’t have to tolerate horrible housing conditions, and our amendment is part of an effort to make sure they never have to again.”

“Members of our military and their families in California and across the nation make sacrifices every day and their housing should be clean and free from health hazards,” said Sen. Harris.  “I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this common-sense amendment to ensure our nation’s military families live in the safe and comfortable housing that they deserve.”  

The proposed amendment would reaffirm a commitment by Congress to address pervasive allegations of health hazards at privatized military housing under the budget resolution. The health hazard allegations include mold blooms, lead poisoning, cockroaches, rodent infestations, and water leaks.  

In February, Sens. Warner, Kaine and Harris introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, which would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to begin its two-day markup on the FY20 budget resolution on Wednesday, March 27.

The budget amendment text can be found here.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced that the Air Force recommends relocating the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton Roads: 

“We are pleased that after careful evaluation, the U.S. Air Force has determined that Joint Base Langley-Eustis should permanently house the F-22 training squadron. There is nowhere better to house these aircraft, the unit and supporting personnel and their families than Hampton Roads – a region celebrated for its defense assets and long history of strengthening our nation’s national security. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard as it moves forward with the relocation process.”

While Joint Base-Langley Eustis (JBLE) is designed to accommodate three squadrons, the base currently houses two squadrons. In February, Sens. Warner and Kaine led the entire Virginia delegation in a letter urging the Air Force Secretary to permanently house the F-22 training squadron at JBLE after Hurricane Michael devastated Tyndall Air Force Base. The unit was then temporarily relocated to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida while the Air Force determined the most appropriate permanent home for the Formal Training Unit. 

Today, the U.S. Air Force announced that it has determined JBLE is the most suitable F-22 location to support Formal Training Unit operations. The Air Force will make its final basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), members of the Senate Committee on the Budget, filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget resolution to ensure military families have safe and healthy housing. The amendment would protect the wellbeing of our nation’s military families by creating a reserve fund to address health hazards in military housing that does not affect the national deficit.

“Thousands of servicemembers call Virginia home, and their experiences with unsafe living conditions in housing are disturbing and unacceptable,” said Sen. Warner. “This amendment would ensure we can improve housing conditions for servicemembers and their families, whether they’re stationed here in the Commonwealth or across the country, and it would do so without adding to our deficit.” 

“Too many of our troops and their families are living in unacceptable conditions,” said Sen. Kaine. “When servicemembers are deployed, their families not only have to worry about their loved ones in harm’s way, but many of them have to endure added anxiety caused by lead, mold, or rodent infestations in their homes. Military families sacrifice so much to serve our nation – they shouldn’t have to tolerate horrible housing conditions, and our amendment is part of an effort to make sure they never have to again.” 

“Members of our military and their families in California and across the nation make sacrifices every day and their housing should be clean and free from health hazards,” said Sen. Harris.  “I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this common-sense amendment to ensure our nation’s military families live in the safe and comfortable housing that they deserve.”  

The proposed amendment would reaffirm a commitment by Congress to address pervasive allegations of health hazards at privatized military housing under the budget resolution. The health hazard allegations include mold blooms, lead poisoning, cockroaches, rodent infestations, and water leaks.  

In February, Sens. Warner, Kaine and Harris introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, which would create stronger oversight mechanisms over private military housing, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to begin its two-day markup on the FY20 budget resolution on Wednesday, March 27.

 The budget amendment text can be found here.

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III delivered his report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to U.S. Attorney General William Barr:

"Congress and the American people deserve to judge the facts for themselves. The Special Counsel's report must be provided to Congress immediately, and the Attorney General should swiftly prepare a declassified version of the report for the public. Nothing short of that will suffice.

"It is also critical that all documents related to the Special Counsel's investigation be preserved and made available to the appropriate Congressional committees.

"Any attempt by the Trump Administration to cover up the results of this investigation into Russia's attack on our Democracy would be unacceptable."

 

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Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today wrote to Attorney General William Barr to request an update on the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act – a piece of crucial bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018. The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a national communications network to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults, filling a gap for missing persons who are too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert.

“It has now been more than two months since the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, and I continue to consult with stakeholders who are eager to make progress in implementing this new network so we can start saving lives,” said Sen. Warner. “I remain strongly committed to the Ashanti Alert Act and plan to actively monitor its implementation to ensure that the Department, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders can work together to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.”

The Ashanti Alert will notify the public about missing or endangered adults ages 18-64. The law instructs the Attorney General to designate a national Ashanti Alert Coordinator responsible for helping states establish alert systems and develop voluntary guidelines. Under the law, the coordinator is also tasked with providing Congress with an annual report detailing the use and progress of Ashanti Alerts in states.

In requesting a status update on DOJ’s implementation efforts, Sen. Warner also presented the Attorney General with the following questions:

  1. Have you designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort?
  2. Can you provide a timeline through which you plan to achieve important milestones in establishing this new network?
  3. What is the Department’s strategy to solicit and incorporate input from subject matter experts, local law enforcement agencies, and relevant federal agencies? Has the Department begun this outreach?
  4. What barriers or challenges to implementation had you identified and how do you plan to address them?
  5. What additional assistance or direction from Congress is necessary to assist in your efforts? 

The Ashanti Alert Act was named after Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017, whose body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of this bill through the Senate in December 6, 2018 by working with his colleagues to make modifications to the House bill, which was introduced by then-Congressman Scott Taylor and had previously been blocked from passing the Senate. The bill was then signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2019.

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

March 21, 2019

The Honorable William Barr 

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C., 20530

 

Dear Attorney General Barr,

I write to respectfully request an update from the Department of Justice regarding the status of implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. As you are aware, on December 31, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401). The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. Last Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives secured strong bipartisan support for the legislation and it passed both chambers by a near-unanimous margin.

As you know, the Ashanti Alert, similar to other missing person alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, through a national communications network to assist law enforcement in searching for the missing person, helping to save lives. This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19 year old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion.

It has now been more than two months since the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, and I continue to consult with stakeholders who are eager to make progress in implementing this new network so we can start saving lives. Last year, Virginia passed legislation of its own to create an Ashanti Alert network and issued its first alert last month. Extending this effort to all 50 states is, of course, a difficult and comprehensive undertaking. I strongly urge that you direct senior Department officials to prioritize implementation at the federal level.

Under the new law, the Attorney General must designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks. Called the Ashanti Alert Coordinator, he or she would be responsible for consulting with the Secretary of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission, Assistant Secretary for Aging of the Department of Health and Human Services, and other DOJ offices in coordinating activities to support Ashanti Alerts. The Coordinator is also expected provide an annual report to Congress detailing the states that are in the process of establishing or have already established Ashanti Alerts and information on Ashanti Alert use in states.

As you move forward with implementation of this law, I ask that you provide me an update on the status of your efforts. More specifically: 

  • Have you designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort?
  • Can you provide a timeline through which you plan to achieve important milestones in establishing this new network?
  • What is the Department’s strategy to solicit and incorporate input from subject matter experts, local law enforcement agencies, and relevant federal agencies? Has the Department begun this outreach?
  • What barriers or challenges to implementation had you identified and how do you plan to address them?
  • What additional assistance or direction from Congress is necessary to assist in your efforts? 

I remain strongly committed to the Ashanti Alert Act and plan to actively monitor its implementation to ensure that the Department, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders can work together to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.

I look forward to hearing back from you with this information by April 21, 2019. If I can be of assistance in addressing implementation challenges at your agency, please contact Nicholas Devereux on my staff at (202) 224-2023. Thank you again for your efforts to prioritize the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act and to fully leverage the potential of this opportunity to transform the lives and safety of Americans.

Sincerely,

Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today wrote to Attorney General William Barr to request an update on the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act – a piece of crucial bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018. The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a national communications network to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults, filling a gap for missing persons who are too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert.

“It has now been more than two months since the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, and I continue to consult with stakeholders who are eager to make progress in implementing this new network so we can start saving lives,” said Sen. Warner. “I remain strongly committed to the Ashanti Alert Act and plan to actively monitor its implementation to ensure that the Department, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders can work together to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.” 

The Ashanti Alert will notify the public about missing or endangered adults ages 18-64. The law instructs the Attorney General to designate a national Ashanti Alert Coordinator responsible for helping states establish alert systems and develop voluntary guidelines. Under the law, the coordinator is also tasked with providing Congress with an annual report detailing the use and progress of Ashanti Alerts in states. 

In requesting a status update on DOJ’s implementation efforts, Sen. Warner also presented the Attorney General with the following questions:

  1.  Have you designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort?
  2. Can you provide a timeline through which you plan to achieve important milestones in establishing this new network?
  3. What is the Department’s strategy to solicit and incorporate input from subject matter experts, local law enforcement agencies, and relevant federal agencies? Has the Department begun this outreach? 
  4. What barriers or challenges to implementation had you identified and how do you plan to address them?
  5. What additional assistance or direction from Congress is necessary to assist in your efforts? 

The Ashanti Alert Act was named after Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017, whose body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of this bill through the Senate in December 6, 2018 by working with his colleagues to make modifications to the House bill, which was introduced by then-Congressman Scott Taylor and had previously been blocked from passing the Senate. The bill was then signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2019.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

March 21, 2019

 

The Honorable William Barr  

Attorney General 

U.S. Department of Justice 

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C., 20530 

 

Dear Attorney General Barr,

 

I write to respectfully request an update from the Department of Justice regarding the status of implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. As you are aware, on December 31, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401). The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. Last Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives secured strong bipartisan support for the legislation and it passed both chambers by a near-unanimous margin.

 

As you know, the Ashanti Alert, similar to other missing person alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, through a national communications network to assist law enforcement in searching for the missing person, helping to save lives. This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19 year old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion.

 

It has now been more than two months since the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, and I continue to consult with stakeholders who are eager to make progress in implementing this new network so we can start saving lives. Last year, Virginia passed legislation of its own to create an Ashanti Alert network and issued its first alert last month. Extending this effort to all 50 states is, of course, a difficult and comprehensive undertaking. I strongly urge that you direct senior Department officials to prioritize implementation at the federal level.

 

Under the new law, the Attorney General must designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks. Called the Ashanti Alert Coordinator, he or she would be responsible for consulting with the Secretary of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission, Assistant Secretary for Aging of the Department of Health and Human Services, and other DOJ offices in coordinating activities to support Ashanti Alerts. The Coordinator is also expected provide an annual report to Congress detailing the states that are in the process of establishing or have already established Ashanti Alerts and information on Ashanti Alert use in states. 

 

As you move forward with implementation of this law, I ask that you provide me an update on the status of your efforts. More specifically: 

 

·         Have you designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort?

·         Can you provide a timeline through which you plan to achieve important milestones in establishing this new network?

·         What is the Department’s strategy to solicit and incorporate input from subject matter experts, local law enforcement agencies, and relevant federal agencies? Has the Department begun this outreach? 

·         What barriers or challenges to implementation had you identified and how do you plan to address them?

·         What additional assistance or direction from Congress is necessary to assist in your efforts? 

 

I remain strongly committed to the Ashanti Alert Act and plan to actively monitor its implementation to ensure that the Department, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders can work together to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.

 

I look forward to hearing back from you with this information by April 21, 2019. If I can be of assistance in addressing implementation challenges at your agency, please contact Nicholas Devereux on my staff at (202) 224-2023. Thank you again for your efforts to prioritize the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act and to fully leverage the potential of this opportunity to transform the lives and safety of Americans.

 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C.  - U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) to introduce bipartisan legislation to improve veterans' access to mental health care and help ensure veterans’ lives are not lost to suicide. The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act is a comprehensive approach to connect more veterans with the mental health care they need. The bill seeks to improve care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by bolstering the VA's mental health workforce, increasing rural access to care, and making sure veterans have access to alternative treatment options like animal therapy, outdoor sports, yoga, and acupuncture. 

“We’ve got to make sure that servicemembers who’ve faithfully served our country receive the support they need when they transition to civilian life,” said Warner. “This bipartisan legislation strengthens access to mental health treatment for our men and women in uniform.” 

“Too many of our veterans suffer in silence because they don’t have access to the resources necessary to cope with mental health issues following their service,” said Kaine.“I’m hopeful this bill will create avenues for veterans to receive the help they deserve after sacrificing so much to serve our country.” 

It is estimated that more than 20 veterans die by suicide every day. Of those, 14 have received no treatment or care from the VA. The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act will improve outreach to veterans and their mental health care options in five major ways:

1. Bolster the VA's mental health workforce to serve more veterans by giving the VA direct hiring authority for more mental health professions, offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers, and placing at least one Suicide Prevention Coordinator in every VA hospital.
2. Improve rural veterans' access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services and offering grants to non-VA organizations that provide mental health services or alternative treatment to veterans.
3. Strengthen support and assistance for servicemembers transitioning out of the military by automatically giving every servicemember one full year of VA health care when they leave the military and improving services that connect transitioning veterans with career and education opportunities.
4. Study and invest in innovative and alternative treatment options by expanding veterans' access to animal, outdoor, or agri-therapy, yoga, meditation, and acupuncture, and investing in VA research into the impact of living at high altitude on veterans' suicide risk and identifying and treating mental illness.
5. Hold the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the VA manages its suicide prevention resources and how the VA provides seamless care and information sharing for veterans seeking mental health care from both the VA and community providers. 

The bill is named in honor of Commander John Scott Hannon, a retired Navy SEAL from Montana who took his own life following a struggle with PTSD.

The bill is endorsed by a growing number of veterans and mental health advocates, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), American Veterans (AMVETS), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Volunteers of America (VOA), American Psychological Association (APA), and American Association of Suicidology. 

A one page summary of the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act can be found online HERE. The full text of the bill can be found HERE.

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee at Warner’s office in Washington, D.C.

In the meeting, Sen. Warner emphasized the need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act – bipartisan legislation to address the maintenance backlog at national parks across the country. New numbers from the National Park Service (NPS) show that the national backlog of deferred maintenance needs grew by more than $313 million last year – with a $100 million increase in Virginia alone. Deferred maintenance on the Blue Ridge Parkway increased by more than $46 million in 2018, bringing the total for the parkway to $508,077,342, including $212,702,891 in Virginia alone. The total overall cost of backlogged maintenance projects at NPS sites nationwide now reaches $11.9 billion. 

“The Blue Ridge Parkway has some of the most significant and pressing maintenance needs of any park property in Virginia,” said Sen. Warner. “Kicking the can down the road on needed repairs will lead to further deterioration of the Parkway and harm the many small towns and communities whose economies depend on it. Congress needs to finally make the proper investments in our national parks by passing the Restore Our Parks Act.”

According to the National Park Service, the Blue Ridge Parkway ranks #1 in visitor spending among Park Service properties. Parkway visitor spending supports 15,300 jobs and more than $1.3 Billion in economic output. Last year, 14.6 million Americans visited the Blue Ridge Parkway and the surrounding communities.

The Restore Our Parks Act has widespread support among legislators and conservation groups. It would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. 

The latest data on Virginia’s national park deferred maintenance backlog as of 2018 is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement on the President’s nomination of U.S. Magistrate Judge David J. Novak for the vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division following Judge Henry E. Hudson’s decision to take senior status: 

 “We are pleased that the President has nominated Judge Novak to fill the vacancy. Based on Mr. Novak’s distinguished record, we are confident he would serve capably on the bench. We hope our colleagues will join us to support this well-qualified nominee.”

In September, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to President Trump, recommending Judge Novak for the vacancy. Mr. Novak has served as U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District since 2012. He was previously nominated to fill a seat in the Richmond Division during the 110th Congress, but his nomination expired before Congress could confirm him. 

 

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Kennedy (R-LA), members of the Senate Banking Committee, introduced the Securities Fraud Enforcement and Investor Compensation Act, bipartisan legislation that would give the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) power to seek restitution for Main Street investors harmed by securities fraud.

The bill would give the SEC a broader range of tools to seek compensation for investors who’ve lost money to Ponzi schemes and other investment scams. It also extends the window of time for which the SEC can pursue a claim on an investor’s behalf from five years to ten.

“As Bernie Madoff demonstrated, financial fraudsters can sometimes go on for years, even decades, before they finally get caught. They shouldn’t be able to rip off investors just because some arbitrary five-year window has expired,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill will give the Securities and Exchange Commission more time and additional tools to seek restitution for everyday Americans who fall victim to investment scams.”

 “Investors who are scammed by con artists like Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford lose their life savings. All too often, the victims of financial fraud aren’t wealthy people,” Sen. Kennedy said. “They’re middle class Americans who lose every penny they set aside for their retirements. Because of a narrow window of time for recouping stolen investment dollars, fraudsters are actually incentivized to keep the shell game going for decades. This bill addresses that problem.”

 

Background:

On June 5, 2017, the Supreme Court in Kokesh v. Securities Exchange Commission ruled that the SEC only has five years to bring disgorgement claims against bad actors to try to compensate harmed Main Street investors. Although the SEC strives to bring cases as soon as possible, sometimes well-concealed frauds are not discovered for many years. (As an example, Bernie Madoff was able to defraud investors for decades before his investment fund was revealed as Ponzi scheme in 2009.) Under the Kokeshprecedent, clever fraudsters can manage to retain any ill-gotten gains from outside the five-year window.  

The implications of the Kokesh ruling limiting the SEC’s enforcement window to five years have been significant. The SEC’s 2018 enforcement report noted that “the court’s ruling in Kokesh may cause the Commission to forgo up to approximately $900 million in disgorgement, of which a substantial amount likely could have been returned to retail investors.” The Securities Fraud Enforcement and Investor Compensation Act addresses this problem by expanding the range of tools available to the SEC to pursue compensation for scammed investors, subject to a 10-year statute of limitations.

Today, the SEC typically compensates harmed investors by bringing disgorgement claims, which allow the SEC to recoup any ill-gotten profits from the perpetrator and turn them over to the investor. Sometimes, the profits are small, and the compensation can represent just a small fraction of the overall loss to the investor as a result of the fraud. Under the terms of the bill, the SEC would retain the power to bring disgorgement claims for up to five years, but would also gain the authority to file claims of restitution, which would increase the amount of compensation available to make whole harmed investors. Rather than limiting the compensation to just the profit margin of the perpetrator, as with a disgorgement claim, restitution would allow the SEC to recover from fraudsters and refund investors the full amount of their losses, up to ten years after the fact.

Bill text is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) reintroduced bipartisan legislation today to provide financial relief to certain civilian federal employees who have to relocate for work. The Relocation Expense Parity Act will ensure that all federal employees who qualify to have their moving costs reimbursed by the government are also repaid for the taxes owed on relocation reimbursements.

“Straddling our loyal public employees with part of the cost of their employment-related relocation is not just wrong, it’s also a disservice to our workforce,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will make sure that the government does not push these costs onto workers or inadvertently deter talented individuals from accepting positions that may force them to relocate.”

“The cost of moving is high. When public servants relocate in order to serve our nation, we should offer our support to alleviate that financial burden. This bill is an effort to ensure we’re giving talented workers the resources they need to work in our government,” Sen. Kaine said.

“When federal employees are required to relocate to continue their public service in a different part of the country or the world, they should not have to worry about paying additional federal taxes on their reimbursement for moving costs,” said Sen. Collins.  “Although the vast majority of federal workers are fully reimbursed for this additional cost, this bipartisan legislation would ensure that the remaining five percent of affected workers are fairly compensated for their moving expenses.”

“Federal civilian workers – from FBI agents to teachers on our military bases – work tirelessly to provide crucial services to Americans around the world. However, these men and women can face significant cost burdens when moving to their duty stations or returning home,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “This bill makes an important fix to address that issue. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation, and I will continue working to support our federal workforce.”

“Moving to Hawaii is expensive, but our country is better off when our Federal workers are able to relocate to serve our veterans, keep our country safe, protect the environment, and provide other forms of public service. This legislation helps to ensure that the cost of moving does not impede the important work civilian federal employees do in Hawaii and across the country every day,” said Sen. Hirono.

“The FBIAA supports the Relocation Expense Parity Act because it would authorize agencies to offset new tax burdens on employees who receive moving reimbursements.  It is important to close the gap in current law and help protect FBI Special Agents facing new financial burdens.  As part of our work to protect the Nation, Special Agents sign mobility agreements that subject them to transfer to meet the needs of the FBI. These moves are often expensive for Special Agents and their families. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates the moving expense deduction, which historically offset this financial burden. Now, Special Agents who relocate to serve the FBI can face thousands of dollars of additional tax liability because moving reimbursement is considered ordinary income. Agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation are attempting to offset these new financial burdens, but their options are limited under the law.  We urge Congress to act quickly because Special Agents make sacrifices for the nation every day and should not confront financial penalties as result of being willing to serve anywhere they are needed,” said Thomas O’Connor, President of the FBI Agents Association.

“The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association strongly supports the Relocation Expense Parity Act. Federal agents and law enforcement officers are subject to mobility agreements and frequently relocate to new duty stations throughout their career to protect and serve the American public. Such moves are stressful and costly enough for federal agents and their families - they do not need the additional burden of significant tax bills because they were required to relocate for their job. Agencies are also facing challenges hiring and deploying law enforcement officers, especially to border areas, and those barriers would be lowered with passage of this legislation. I commend Senators Warner, Kaine, Collins, Van Hollen, and Hirono for their leadership on this issue and for their support of federal law enforcement,” said Nathan Catura, National President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

“Changes to how a federal employee is reimbursed for expenses related to their relocation have caused federal employees – many of them in law enforcement – to pay unexpected and unfair taxes. Fortunately, the Relocation Expense Parity Act, introduced by Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Susan Collins, Mazie Hirono, and Chris Van Hollen, helps to address this issue. NTEU commends the senators for their commitment to making sure our nation’s civil servants are treated fairly, especially those whose job requires them to uproot their families and relocate,” said Tony Reardon, National President of the National Treasury Employees Union.

“Federal employees who relocate to new duty stations or return home following completion of their service should not be thanked for their service with a huge tax invoice from the government. Especially as the government is competing for talent in a tight labor market – including in critical fields like law enforcement, cybersecurity, STEM - removing barriers to agencies hiring the talent they need and placing the employee where most needed is more essential than ever. SEA strongly supports the Relocation Expense Parity Act and commends Senator Warner and his colleagues for their continued focus on this issue,” said Bill Valdez, President of the Senior Executives Association.

“I worked for DoDEA schools for decades, ensuring military dependents received a great education, and it was always with the understanding that the government would pay to move my family and our possessions back home when my DoDEA career ended. Suddenly, just months before I was set to retire, I learned the new tax law would make such moving assistance taxable, causing my tax liability for this year to increase by thousands of dollars. Being saddled with this tax debt is a huge unforeseen cost to retirees like myself. It deals a severe blow to my financial situation for retirement and I believe it will cause other current employees to delay their retirements because they cannot afford the tax bill they would incur by moving back home. We’ve been told throughout our careers that the government would pay to ship our stuff home when we left DoDEA. To suddenly make those moving services taxable to us is unfair and hurtful!” said Alex Veto, recently retired teacher from Vilseck High School in Germany, a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school.

“Taxing moving allowances and benefits for new hires into the Department of Defense Education Activity will create a huge financial burden for these individuals and make the task of recruiting and hiring qualified employees for overseas locations much harder. Why would anyone agree to uproot themselves – and, in many cases, their families – in order to move halfway around the world if doing so will cause them to incur thousands of dollars in tax liability? And that’s on top of the enormous expenses and stresses anyone agreeing to relocate overseas for government work already faces. The fact is, DoDEA will find it increasingly difficult to find top-tier educators to come work in its schools and the military dependents who have come to rely on such excellent educators staffing DoDEA schools will the ones who suffer as a result,” said H.T. Nguyen, Executive Director of the Federal Education Association.

Currently, some federal workers who have to relocate for work are eligible to have their moving expenses paid by the government, which allows them to relocate without worrying about whether they will be able to afford it. However, the 2017 tax bill eliminated the deduction for job-related moving costs, as well as the exclusion for reimbursements or in-kind contributions made by employers to defray the cost of moving. As a result, almost all moving cost reimbursements became recognized as taxable income. This situation is causing a particular burden for civilian federal employees who, after being assigned to a new duty station, have discovered that hundreds or even thousands of dollars have been withheld from their paychecks, often with little advance notice, in order to cover the cost of taxes associated with moving reimbursements from the federal government.

Following a letter sent by Sens. Warner and Kaine, the General Services Administration (GSA) clarified its rules, allowing about 95 percent of federal workers to be repaid for these taxes. Unfortunately, the remaining five percent of eligible workers remain responsible for covering thousands of dollars in taxes out of pocket.

The Relocation Expense Parity Act would close the gap for these five percent of workers, benefiting agencies who are likely to have recruitment problems if they do not refund employees for their relocation reimbursement taxes. The Department of Defense, for example, hires thousands of teachers for schools on military bases across the globe, and moving cost reimbursements can artificially inflate teachers’ salaries, burdening them with steep taxes. Departments like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would also benefit from this legislation, as they have a high number of transfers upon hire.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

More information about this bill can be found here. For the text of the bill, click here. The legislation was previously introduced in the 115th Congress.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), joined with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the Committee, to introduce bipartisan legislation to protect the integrity of the security clearance process and ensure that it cannot be abused for political purposes.

“Americans should be able to have confidence that the security clearance process is being used only to protect our nation’s greatest secrets,” said Sen. Warner. “Our bipartisan bill will make clear that security clearances are not to be used as a tool to punish political opponents or reward family members, but to ensure personnel are thoroughly vetted to the highest standards.”

“The security clearance system is critical to protecting our country from harm and safeguarding access to our secrets. Americans should have the utmost confidence in the integrity of the security clearance process,” said Sen. Collins. “This bipartisan bill would make the current system more fair and transparent by ensuring that decisions to grant, deny, or revoke clearances are based solely on established adjudicative guidelines.” 

The Integrity in Security Clearance Determinations Act will ensure that the security clearance process is fair, objective, transparent, and accountable by requiring decisions to grant, deny, or revoke clearances to be based on published criteria. It explicitly prohibits the executive branch from revoking security clearances based on the exercise of constitutional rights, such as the right to freely express political views, or for purposes of political retaliation. It also bans agencies from using security clearances to punish whistleblowers or discriminate on the basis of sex, gender, religion, age, handicap, or national origin.

The bipartisan bill also codifies in statute the right of government employees to appeal decisions to deny or revoke a security clearance, and requires the government to publicly publish the results of such appeals – providing transparency, accountability and basic due process rights in an otherwise opaque and irregular process. 

The legislation aims to enhance the rigor and accountability of our security clearance process and to prevent abuses. It complements other reforms the executive branch is undertaking to modernize how the government processes clearances, and was developed with input from a wide range of experts across the government and in private law practice. 

A copy of the bill text is available here. 

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Bob Casey (D-PA) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to increase access to grocery stores in areas designated as “food deserts” by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act would benefit low-income rural and urban communities that have limited or no access to nutritious food by providing incentives to food service providers such as grocers, retailers, and nonprofits who expand access to nutritious foods in underserved communities.

“Families in Virginia must be able to count on reliable access to healthy and affordable foods no matter where they live,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will increase the availability of dependable nutritious food for more than one million Virginians, and support grocery markets and non-profits in their efforts to serve the communities that need them the most.”

“Living in the breadbasket of our nation, it is easy to forget that chronic hunger is still prevalent in many of our own communities,” said Sen. Moran. “It is estimated that food insecurity threatens nearly 1 in 6 Kansans, and yet many grocery stores in both rural and urban communities are struggling to stay open. Our bipartisan Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act would incentivize food providers to establish and renovate grocery stores, food banks and farmers markets in communities that traditionally lack affordable and convenient food options. All Kansans and Americans, regardless of where they live, deserve access to healthy food.”

“Individuals and families living in rural communities – like many of those in West Virginia – often have a very difficult time accessing fresh and nutritious foods,” Sen. Capito said. “This legislation will help improve access to groceries and healthy foods across West Virginia and make it easier for businesses and non-profit organizations to serve our rural communities.”

“All Americans, no matter where they live, should have access to affordable and nutritious food,” said Sen. Casey. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to help combat food deserts by incentivizing food service providers to reach new communities. We must swiftly pass this measure so that we can address the seriousness of hunger and food insecurity across the country.”

“Locally owned, independent grocers are the bedrock of their communities, spurring economic growth and providing access to healthy and affordable food choices. On behalf of our members, the National Grocers Association applauds Senator Warner for his efforts to work towards a solution that tackles the barriers to entry faced by grocers in rural and urban communities that are without a supermarket. We look forward to working with Congress on a bipartisan basis to move this important piece of legislation forward,” said Greg Ferrara, Executive Vice President of the National Grocers Association.

“Feeding America commends Senator Warner for confronting the unfortunate fact that the burdens faced by the 40 million Americans living with hunger are even worse for those who live in food deserts. Our network of 200 member food banks understands that areas without affordable, healthy food options have higher rates of food insecurity exacerbated by the lack access to adequate transportation to the nearest food pantry or grocery market. Feeding America supports the Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act and believes it is a critical step to give nonprofits and retailers support to increase food access in underserved areas,” said Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer at Feeding America. 

“Everyone deserves access to fresh produce and a place to shop for groceries in their community. This legislation will create jobs, improve health, and prevent hunger by supporting the development of food banks, grocery stores and farmers markets in low-income, underserved areas,” said Yael Lehmann, President and CEO of The Food Trust. 

“Grocery stores and healthy, affordable food options are out of reach for many of the neighbors we help in the Richmond community. Imagine having to take a 45-minute bus, one way, just to get groceries for your family. There is no one solution for food deserts; to tackle this issue will require collaboration across the non-profit, for-profit and government sectors. The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act is a significant step in the right direction. By empowering hunger-relief organizations like Feed More to improve access to nutritious food in low-income communities, we will be able to provide these neighbors with a hand up in their times of need,” said Doug Pick, President and CEO of Feed More.

“Bread for the World is encouraged to see a bipartisan effort to address food deserts and improve access to nutritious food in low-income and underserved communities in America. Hunger costs the U.S. economy at least $160 billion in poor health outcomes and additional health care costs every year. This bill is an important step to reduce hunger and improve health across the country,” said Heather Valentine, Director of Government Relations of Bread for the World. 

“Grocery stores and supermarkets play a vital role in the health and welfare of the communities we serve.  Developing a successful enterprise that can thrive financially and socially in the long-term is a multi-tiered process that requires community support, economic investment and creative partnerships.  The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act is an important and common sense approach to addressing the problem of underserved communities and expanding access to healthy food choices.  It establishes incentives to bring together the elements necessary to create successful operations and expand healthy food options, while recognizing the opportunities presented by technology and the changing nature of the marketplace.  The HFAAA is an important step in addressing the issue of underserved populations and food deserts; Food Marketing institute is pleased to support this effort,”said Andy Harig, Senior Director of Sustainability, Tax, and Trade, Food Marketing Institute.

“To end childhood hunger in America, we must ensure that low-income families have access to healthy, affordable food options. Ending food deserts will help more families put food on the table and help children get the nutrition they need to grow up healthy, educated and strong. Share Our Strength supports The Healthy Food Access for All Americans Act and thanks Sens. Warner, Moran, Casey, Capito and Rep. Ryan for their leadership on this issue,” said Billy Shore, Founder and Executive Chair of Share our Strength. 

Currently, an estimated 37 million Americans live in food deserts – areas with no grocery stores within one or more miles in urban regions, and ten or more miles in rural regions. Individuals who live in communities with low-access to healthy food options are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The HFAAA Act – which defines a grocery market as a retail sales store with at least 35 percent of its selection (or forecasted selection) dedicated to selling fresh produce, poultry, dairy, and deli items  – would spark investment in food deserts across the country that have a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, or a median family income of less than 80 percent of the median for the state or metro area. It would grant tax credits or grants to food providers who service low-access communities and attain a “Special Access Food Provider” (SAFP) certification through the Treasury Department. Incentives would be awarded based on the following structure:

  • New Store Construction – Companies that construct new grocery stores in a food desert will receive a onetime 15 percent tax credit after receiving certification.
  • Retrofitting Existing Structures – Companies that make retrofits to an existing store’s healthy food sections can receive a onetime 10 percent tax credit after the repairs certify the store as an SAFP.
  • Food Banks  Certified food banks that build new (permanent) structures in food deserts will be eligible to receive a onetime grant for 15 percent of their construction costs.
  • Temporary Access Merchants  Certified temporary access merchants (i.e. mobile markets, farmers markets, and some food banks) that are 501(c)(3)s will receive grants for 10 percent of their annual operating costs.

Sen. Warner has long advocated for the healthy eating and physical wellness of families. Earlier this year, he called for USDA to ensure sustained funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) amidst the government shutdown.

The full text of the bill is available here and a summary can also be found here. The legislation was previously introduced in the 115th Congress. A similar bill is being introduced in the House by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), and Roger Marshall (R-KS).

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), in light of newly-released deferred maintenance numbers, emphasized the need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act – bipartisan legislation to address the maintenance backlog at national parks across the country. New numbers from the National Park Service (NPS) show that the national backlog of deferred maintenance needs grew by more than $313 million last year – with a $100 million increase in Virginia alone. The total overall cost of backlogged maintenance projects at NPS sites nationwide now reaches $11.9 billion. 

“Unfortunately, these numbers show what we already know – the longer we wait, the worse this backlog becomes,” said Sen. Warner. “Our national parks are hurting, and with the parks maintenance backlog in Virginia alone totaling $1.1 billion, we cannot afford to delay these repairs any longer. We need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act and fund the critical renovations our parks require.”

According to NPS, despite completing more than $671 million in needed repair work during FY18, the deferred maintenance backlog at the Park Service has ballooned to over $11.9 billion – an increase of over $300 million from FY17. Additionally, Virginia’s total maintenance backlog increased from $1 billion dollars in FY17 to $1.1 billion in FY18. This includes an increase of almost $10 million in deferred maintenance at Shenandoah National Park, more than $12 million at Colonial National Historical Park, more than $60 million for the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and more than $26 million for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Restore Our Parks Act has widespread support among legislators and conservation groups and would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.

Sen. Warner, who will be meeting with Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee on Thursday to discuss the backlog and other issues, reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act in February along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME). A similar bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and has the backing of more than 120 cosponsors.

VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2018 is available here. The chart below reflects VA data for FY17 and FY18.

National Park:

FY17 Deferred Maintenance

FY18 Deferred Maintenance

Change   

 

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

$1,998,224

$3,263,249

$1,265,025

 

Assateague Island NS

$2,774,577

$2,545,865

– $228,712

 

Blue Ridge Parkway

$186,619,608

$212,702,891

 $26,083,283

 

Booker T Washington National Monument

$1,370,913

$1,418,420

$47,507

 

Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP

$327,072

$823,242

$496,170

 

Colonial National Historical Park

$421,872,932

$433,899,266

$12,026,334

 

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

$1,848,864

$1,805,537

– $43,327

 

Fort Monroe National Monument

$2,280,548

$2,495,127

$214,579

 

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP

$10,371,731

$12,688,403

$2,316,672

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

$1,306,614

$1,648,576

$341,962

 

George Washington Memorial Parkway

$233,441,316

$293,494,667

$60,053,351

 

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

$64,760

$498,101

$433,341

 

Maggie L Walker National Historic Site

$531,648

$702,422

$170,774

 

Manassas National Battlefield Park

$6,516,560

$8,186,965

$1,670,405

 

Petersburg National Battlefield

$11,754,041

$8,924,807

– $2,829,234

 

Prince William Forest Park

$18,619,932

$24,148,020

$5,528,088

 

Richmond National Battlefield Park

$6,581,205

$5,261,371

– $1,319,834

 

Shenandoah National Park

$79,208,621

$88,765,195

$9,556,574

 

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

$31,149,289

$34,175,868

$3,026,579

 

 

Total

 

$1,018,629,457

 

$1,137,447,992

 

$118,818,535

 

 

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WASHINGTON – At a Senate Banking Committee hearing today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) pressed the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Kathy Kraninger, on the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind a rule that would have protected Virginians from predatory lending practices.  

The CFPB’s payday lending rule would have required payday lenders to determine upfront whether or not a borrower can afford to pay back a loan without having to take out another loan – an important step in reining in predatory business practices by payday lenders nationwide that are designed to exploit the financial hardships facing millions of hardworking families. The payday lending rule was first proposed under the Obama Administration and finalized in 2017 after more than five years of study and reviewing 1 million public comments. However, last month, Kraninger – President Trump’s choice to lead the CFPB – proposed changes that would effectively gut the rule, leaving consumers exposed to predatory, high interest rate loans. Warner pressed Kraninger to explain that decision.

“I think you made a dreadful error in rescinding the payday lending rule. What I am trying to also understand is that the agency spent five years doing research into this rule. And I can remember when the CFPB issued this rule back in 2017, and opponents of the rule at that moment in time, said ‘Oh my God!’ I think it was, 1690 pages, ‘This is way too much information! Way too much data!’ Now, when you rescind [the rule], you are basically throwing all that data and all that information out, for this new approach. What has factually changed that undermined the five years of data and research that went into the original payday lending rule that has allowed you to make this determination?” Warner pressed Kraninger.

Payday lenders typically offer small loans to borrowers who are required to pay them back in a short amount of time. The loans can come with annual interest rates of 300 percent or more, according to the CFPB’s own data. More than 80 percent of those loans are rolled over into another loan within two weeks, meaning the borrower is adding to their debt before they’ve paid off the initial loan.

Warner told Kraninger at today’s hearing, “I respectfully remember how long this rule took to put in place. We remember how much research was done. I don’t believe you’ve got a factual basis. I think this was a politically-driven decision. And I’m deeply concerned by your decision” to rescind the payday lending rule.  

Congress created the CFPB to protect Americans from unfair, deceptive and abusive lending practices. Predatory lenders often target hardworking borrowers who find themselves in need of quick cash – often for things like necessary car repairs or medical emergencies – by charging them excessive interest rates and hidden fees that trap them in long-term cycles of debt. Nearly 12 million Americans use payday loans each year, incurring more than $9 billion annually in fees.

This is not the first time Warner has raised concerns about the Trump Administration rolling back the payday lending rule. Last April, in a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Warner pressed then-Acting Director of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney, not to undo the rule. Sen. Warner also previously wrote to Mulvaney, urging the Administration not to repeal the payday lending rule.

The full transcript of Sen. Warner’s exchange with Director Kraninger today follows:

 

Warner: I think you made a dreadful error in rescinding the payday lending rule. And what I’m trying to also understand is that the agency spent five years doing research into this rule. And I can remember when the CFPB issued this rule back in 2017. And opponents of the rule at that moment in time said,  ‘Oh my God!’ I think it was, 1690 pages, ‘This is way too much information! Way too much data!’ Now, when you rescind [the rule], you are basically throwing all that data and all that information out, for this new approach. What has factually changed that undermined the five years of data and research that went into the original payday lending rule that has allowed you to make this determination?

Kraninger: Senator if I could, the full record from the prior rulemaking is absolutely part of the process going forward. So that’s an important thing that I would just note –

Warner: But that full rule making included conclusions that were indicated, based upon the Senator from Maryland’s criteria, that this was a rule that was well-needed to protect a whole host of consumers. The fact that we’re now, all this work is kind of, in a sense, thrown out. What has factually changed in the underlying analysis that has allowed you to, I believe, rather arbitrarily throw out this rule?

Kraninger: The bureau is an active litigation over the very issue that the reconsideration is intended to address. And that is the legal and factual basis, whether is it robust and rigorous enough to warrant the determination of abusive and unfairness in this market without those mandatory underwriting requirements. And so that is the very issue that is being looked at in the reconsideration. 

Warner: I respectfully remember how long this rule took to put in place. We remember how much research was done. I don’t believe you’ve got a factual basis. I think this was a politically-driven decision. And I’m deeply concerned by your decision.

 

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WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation to improve the cybersecurity of Internet-connected devices will be introduced today in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 would require that devices purchased by the U.S. government meet certain minimum security requirements. 

The legislation is being introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner(R-CO), co-chairs of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, along with Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Steve Daines (R-MT), while Reps. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“While I’m excited about their life-changing potential, I’m also concerned that many IoT devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place, with the device market prioritizing convenience and price over security,” said Sen. Warner, a former technology entrepreneur and executive and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “This legislation will use the purchasing power of the federal government to establish some minimum security standards for IoT devices.” 

“The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand, with most experts expecting tens of billions of devices to be operating on our networks within the next several years,” Sen. Gardner said. “As these devices continue to transform our society and add countless new entry points into our networks, we need to make sure they are secure, particularly when they are integrated into the federal government’s networks. Agencies like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has a major campus in Boulder, are key players in helping establish guidelines for improved IoT security and our bill builds on those efforts. As co-chairs of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, Senator Warner and I remain committed to advancing our nation’s cybersecurity defenses.”

“As the government continues to purchase and use more and more internet-connected devices, we must ensure that these devices are secure. Everything from our national security to the personal information of American citizens could be vulnerable because of security holes in these devices,” said Rep. Kelly. “It’s estimated that by 2020 there will be 30 million internet-connected devices in use. As these devices positively revolutionize communication, we cannot allow them to become a backdoor to hackers or tools for cyberattacks.”

“Internet of Things devices will improve and enhance nearly every aspect of our society, economy and our day-to-day lives. This is groundbreaking work and IoT devices must be built with security in mind, not as an afterthought,” said Rep. Hurd, former computer science major, cybersecurity entrepreneur and Chair of the House Subcommittee on Information Technology. “This bipartisan legislation will make Internet of Things devices more secure and help prevent future attacks on critical technology infrastructure.”

“With everything from LED lights to thermostats connected to the internet, we need to act swiftly to step up security for ‘internet of things’ devices to prevent hackers from disrupting our economy and threatening public safety,” Sen. Hassan said. “By requiring the federal government to only purchase devices that meet certain cybersecurity standards, this bill will help protect federal agencies against hackers who are seeking to exploit internet of things devices in order to steal critical national security information and the private data of Granite Staters and Americans.”

“As the Internet of Things landscape grows – we must ensure that Montanan’s information is safe and the security of our critical infrastructure is protected,” said Sen. Daines. “This bill helps establish proper safeguards that balance the need to protect Montanan’s privacy and our national security with the growing tech economy and high-paying jobs it provides.”

The Internet of Things, the term used to describe the growing network of Internet-connected devices and sensors, is expected to include over 20 billion devices by 2020. While these devices and the data they collect and transmit present enormous benefits to consumers and industry, the relative insecurity of many devices presents enormous challenges. Sometimes shipped with factory-set, hardcoded passwords and oftentimes unable to be updated or patched, IoT devices can represent a weak point in a network’s security, leaving the rest of the network vulnerable to attack. IoT devices have been used by bad actors to launch devastating Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against websites, web-hosting servers, and internet infrastructure providers. 

At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. General Robert Ashley, described exploitation of insecure IoT devices as one of the two “most important emerging cyber threats to our national security.” Last May, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security published a report highlighting the IoT market forces that reward low-price and convenience at the expense of security. The signature recommendation of the May 2018 report was that the Federal government should “lead by example” by requiring the acquisition of more secure and resilient products and services, particularly IoT. The IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act will address both this market failure and the supply chain risk to the federal government stemming from insecure IoT devices by establishing light-touch, minimum security requirements for procurements of connected devices by the government. 

Specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 would:

  • Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue recommendations addressing, at a minimum, secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management for IoT devices.
  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency that are consistent with the NIST recommendations, and charge OMB with reviewing these policies at least every five years.
  • Require any Internet-connected devices purchased by the federal government to comply with those recommendations.
  • Direct NIST to work with cybersecurity researchers and industry experts to publish guidance on coordinated vulnerability disclosure to ensure that vulnerabilities related to agency devices are addressed.
  • Require contractors and vendors providing IoT devices to the U.S. government to adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that information is disseminated.

“BSA applauds Senators Warner and Gardner for their leadership in securing the IoT, and calls on Congress to act swiftly to advance this important legislation,” said Tommy Ross, Senior Policy Director, BSA | The Software Alliance. “As IoT devices increasingly bring greater productivity and quality of life to consumers and businesses across sectors, we must be proactive in addressing the unique security considerations they bring.” 

“Internet-aware devices raise deep and novel security issues, with problems that could arise months or years after purchase, and spill over to people who aren't the purchasers. This bill leverages the government procurement market, rather than direct regulation, to encourage Internet-aware device makers to employ basic security measures in their products,” said Jonathan Zittrain, Co-Founder of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

“Insecure and unsecured IoT devices are a risk we must address, and it will only happen if the government and the private sector both step up. I'm glad that Senators Warner and Gardner and Representatives Kelly and Hurd are continuing to push this issue,” said Jeff Greene, Vice President of Global Government Affairs & Policy at Symantec.

“Weak IoT security with little oversight puts the American public at risk, particularly as these devices become more and more common in our offices and in our homes. We need a coordinated approach. Empowering NIST to set standards for the development and management of these devices, as the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 proposes, will help secure the sensitive data held by the government and the private information shared within our homes,” said Alan Davidson, Vice President of Global Policy, Trust, and Security at Mozilla. 

“The proliferation of insecure Internet-connected devices presents an enormous security challenge. The risks are no longer solely about data; they affect flesh and steel. The market is not going to provide security on its own, because there is no incentive for buyers or sellers to act in anything but their self-interests. I applaud Senator Warner and his cosponsors for nudging the market in the right direction by establishing thorough, yet flexible, security requirements for connected devices purchased by the government,” said Bruce Schneier, Fellow and Lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. 

“Cloudflare applauds Senators Warner and Gardner, Representatives Kelly and Hurd, and their cosponsors for their continued efforts to address the risks posed by improperly secured IoT devices with the introduction of this latest bill. Using the government procurement process to encourage security research and innovation will make the U.S. Government a leader in this area, and should open up a robust discussion of these issues. Cloudflare looks forward to continuing to work with them as this bill moves forward,” said Doug Kramer, General Counsel, Cloudflare Inc. 

“IoT device insecurity is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Although much must be done to address this problem, the longest journey begins with a single step—and this bill is just such a step in moving the ball forward on IoT security for government procurements,” said Dr. Herb Lin, senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Hank J. Holland Fellow in Cyber Policy and Security at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University.

"Billions of devices connect our world and in the coming years we will see billions more. Each device adds to an expanding and elastic attack surface that creates a massive gap in the ability to truly understand cyber risk at any given time. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act, introduced by Representatives Robyn Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX), tasks NIST with developing security guidelines to address critical vulnerabilities in the development of IoT devices that the federal government purchases. This legislation will help the government better manage its cyber risks, and provide a strong example for other organizations.  We also strongly support the call for NIST to develop a report that addresses Cyber Exposure considerations related to the increasing convergence of IT, IoT, and OT devices, networks and systems, as the modern enterprise must manage risk across all these environments," said James Hayes, Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Tenable.

“We applaud Senators Warner and Gardner and Representatives Kelly and Hurd for introducing the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019. The wireless industry is committed to ensuring the security of IoT devices and we look forward to working with the sponsors of the legislation on policies that will help protect consumers,” said Kelly Cole, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at CTIA.

The bill is also supported by Rapid7. Similar legislation was previously introduced in the 115th Congress.

Sen. Warner wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in July 2016 raising concerns about the security of children’s data collected by Internet-connected “Smart Toys.” In May 2017, the Senator wrote a follow-up letter to Acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen reiterating his concerns following comments by the Chairwoman that the risks of IoT devices are merely speculative. In response to the Senator’s concerns, the FTC issued updated guidance on protecting children’s personal data in connected toys. Immediately in wake of October’s devastating DDoS attack on the nation’s internet infrastructure by the Mirai botnet, Sen. Warner wrote the FCC, FTC, and NCCIC to raise concerns about the proliferation of botnets composed of insecure devices. Sen. Warner also wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in May 2017 asking what steps the Federal Government had taken to defend against WannaCry ransomware.

Sen. Warner, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus and a leader in Congress on security issues related to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Bill text is available here.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, today released the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s budget proposal:

“There is much to be concerned by in the Trump Administration’s proposed budget, which is chock-full of short-sighted, draconian cuts to critical programs like medical research, education, environmental protection, transportation, and health care. It’s difficult to take seriously the Administration’s newfound commitment to deficit reduction after they pushed through a budget-busting tax cut that is already adding $1.9 trillion to the deficit, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. 

“It’s particularly galling that, just weeks after the longest government shutdown in history, the President’s proposed budget takes direct aim at the federal workers who bore its brunt by pushing for yet more cuts: retirement cuts. Benefit cuts. Another pay freeze. Federal workers are the backbone of a functioning government, and they deserve better than what we’ve seen from this Administration.”

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R Warner (D-VA) and a bipartisan group of 38 Senators sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the inclusion of back pay for federal contract workers impacted by the government shutdown within the upcoming disaster relief package. While federal workers harmed by the government shutdown have since been compensated for their lost wages, federal contract employees –  including janitorial, food, and security services workers – who were furloughed or forced to accept reduced work hours have not. In their letter, the Senators urge the Appropriations Committee to include provisions to fix this wrong in upcoming appropriations legislation. 

The Senators write, “Contractor workers and their families should not be penalized for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause.”

They continue, “Contractor employees perform jobs that are critical to the operations of our government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. These are often low-wage jobs that require workers to live paycheck to paycheck. As a result, the shutdown has left contractors struggling with unpaid rent and other mounting bills that many of these workers still cannot afford without back pay.”

The Senators close the letter stating, “There are bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress that would provide back pay to compensate contractor employees for their lost wages. As supporters of this effort, we urge you to include back pay for contractor employees in a supplemental appropriations bill for FY2019 or as part of the regular appropriations process for FY2020.”

In addition to Senator Van Hollen, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Mark Warner (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

In January, Senator Van Hollen joined Senator Tina Smith and others in introducing the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act, which now has 48 cosponsors in the Senate and 68 in the House of Representatives. Senator Van Hollen also led a letter with 33 Democratic Senators to the Office of Management and Budget to urge them 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 during the shutdown. Under their existing authority, federal contracting officers could use provisions that allow them to modify the terms of the contract to work with contractors to provide back pay for employees who lost wages as a result of the government shutdown.

A copy of the letter is available here and the text of the letter is available below:

 

Dear Chairman Shelby and Vice Chairman Leahy:

 

As discussions proceed for upcoming appropriations bills, we urge you to include a provision to provide back pay to compensate federal contractor employees for the wages they lost as a result of not being able to report to work during the recent government shutdown. 

 

Contractor workers and their families should not be penalized for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause. While federal employees received back pay at the end of the shutdown, federal contractors did not. Contractor employees perform jobs that are critical to the operations of our government, such as food service, security, and custodial work. These are often low-wage jobs that require workers to live paycheck to paycheck. As a result, the shutdown has left contractors struggling with unpaid rent and other mounting bills that many of these workers still cannot afford without back pay.

 

There are bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress that would provide back pay to compensate contractor employees for their lost wages. As supporters of this effort, we urge you to include back pay for contractor employees in a supplemental appropriations bill for FY2019 or as part of the regular appropriations process for FY2020.

 

Sincerely,

 

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Washington – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, wrote today to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, requesting areview of the Trump administration’s compliance with security clearance policies and procedures. This request comes on the heels of alarming reports that detail how President Trump ignored objections from White House Counsel Donald McGahn and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, and granted security clearances to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner.

“We write to request that you review compliance by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) with policies and procedures governing security clearances and access to secure compartmented information (SCI),” the Senators wrote. “We also request that you review the adequacy of policies and procedures to ensure that mitigation measures are implemented when eligibility to access to classified information is granted despite potential security risks. We believe that you have the authority and expertise to conduct this review, including in your role as Security Executive Agent under Executive Order 13467.” 

The improper handling of these clearances is just the latest in a series of allegations that highlight substantial irregularities and questionable decisions by the Trump Administration. Additional reports claim that former White House Staff Secretary Robert Porter was allowed to handle extremely sensitive information for over a year with an interim clearance, despite his record of domestic abuse, and that the White House overturned an unprecedented 30 clearance adjudication recommendations made by career security professionals. 

Noting that the Trump Administration is currently working on transforming the security clearance system to reflect new threats, modern technologies, and the nation’s mobile workforce, the Senators emphasized the need to ensure that today’s system operates with integrity, especially at the White House.

Sen. Warner has been an outspoken critic of the Trump Administration’s abuse of the security clearance process. He also recently reintroduced legislation to modernize the government’s antiquated security clearance system and reduce the background investigation backlog.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

March 8, 2019

 

The Honorable Daniel Coats

Director of National Intelligence

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Washington, DC 20511

 

The Honorable Michael K. Atkinson

Inspector General of the Intelligence Community

Washington, DC 20511

 

Dear Director Coats and Inspector General Atkinson:

 

We write to request that you review compliance by the Executive Office of the President (EOP) with policies and procedures governing security clearances and access to secure compartmented information (SCI).  We also request that you review the adequacy of policies and procedures to ensure that mitigation measures are implemented when eligibility to access to classified information is granted despite potential security risks.  We believe that you have the authority and expertise to conduct this review, including in your role as Security Executive Agent under Executive Order 13467.

 

Public reporting over the last two years has raised serious concerns of alleged irregularities and questionable decisions related to eligibility determinations for EOP personnel access to classified information. These allegations include abuse in granting interim clearances, to include for access to SCI; revoking a former senior intelligence official’s eligibility for access to classified information seemingly for reasons of political retribution; overruling unfavorable adjudications made by career security professionals in some 30 cases; and the President’s decision himself to grant his daughter and son-in-law clearances despite the documented concerns from the White House Counsel and Chief of Staff.

 

The Administration is undertaking an important transformation of the security clearance system to reflect today’s threats, today’s mobile workforce, and modern technologies.  While we must stay focused on that larger reform effort, we must ensure that today’s system operates with integrity, particularly at the White House.

 

We look forward to your attention to this matter and request you brief us on the results of your reviews within 60 days.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today reintroduced legislation to ensure that a wide range of comparative data about higher education programs is more readily available for prospective students and their families. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2019 will increase access to information about school graduation rates, debt levels, how much graduates can expect to earn, and other education and workforce-related measures of success as they make important decisions about higher education.   

“Choosing a college or university is a major financial decision—it can affect students’ likelihood of graduating, the amount of student loan debt they will incur, and their future earning potential,” said Sen. Warner. “Students and families making such critical decisions have the right to know whether they are making a worthwhile investment, and this legislation will make important information available for those weighing different options.”                        

According to data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), 62 percent of recent Virginia graduates have student loan debt, with an average debt of more than $33,000. With rising educational costs and uncertainty in the job market, students must be able to inform themselves as much as possible before making costly decisions about their futures. However, individuals considering a higher education are often forced to make life-altering financial and educational decisions based on information that is inadequate, inaccurate, or both. Institutional data available through the Department of Education’s College Scorecard is limited, and similar data published by individual states typically looks only at first-time, full-time students or students who remain in the same state after graduating. 

The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act would make available accurate information about college and student outcomes while also prioritizing the privacy of student information. The bill would safeguard student privacy by using secure multiparty computation (MPC), an advanced encryption technique, to generate statistical data based on student information from colleges and universities, as well as loan and income information from government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Education. MPC ensures that no entity has to “give up” sensitive information in a way that is accessible to others. 

Sen. Warner has introduced several bills to improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in higher education, and help borrowers better manage their student loan debts. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to apply pre-tax income to help their employees with student loan payments. The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act would make income-based repayment the default option for borrowers. The Go to High School, Go to College Act would give eligible students access to their Pell Grant dollars while enrolled in early college courses. Finally, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act would promote financial literacy by providing students who are recipients of federal financial aid with comprehensive counseling services.

Bill text can be found here. A summary and chart of the bill’s key provisions can be found here. A section-by-section summary of the bill can be found here.

 

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U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris (both D-CA) today introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, a bill to address health, safety and environmental hazards in private military housing.

The legislation is in response to a recent Reuters investigation that found hazardous living conditions in privatized military housing throughout the United States, including service members and their families living in homes with persistent mold blooms, water leaks and rodent and insect infestations.

“Military families deserve first-rate housing, but I have heard from many servicemembers stationed in Virginia that companies providing private housing consistently fail to resolve health and safety problems in a timely fashion,” said Sen. Warner. “That’s unacceptable. Our legislation will give military officials and families more power to hold these companies accountable and make sure that they don’t get paid if they fail to fulfill their basic obligations.”

“The military must act quickly to address these dangerous housing conditions, and Congress should pass legislation to protect military families from ever having to go through this again,” Sen. Kaine said. “Our bill would help improve military oversight and increase accountability. This is about making sure service members can feel safe in their own homes, and I’ll be pushing for legislation like this to be included in this year’s national defense bill.”

“Service members shouldn’t have to worry about the health and safety of their families while protecting our country,” said Sen. Feinstein. “Unfortunately, many living in private military housing are dealing with hazardous conditions with little or no recourse and a military chain of command that has failed them. Our legislation would fix that. It would withhold rent from contractors until hazards are properly fixed, require military officials to ensure all private housing is up to code and empower service members to leave any home that is unsafe without fear of financial penalty.” 

“Our nation’s service members and their families make daily sacrifices to protect the nation, and they deserve fair treatment and comfortable living conditions back at home. I was extraordinarily troubled by reports last year of inadequate housing conditions at Camp Pendleton and visited with families living there in order to learn more about their housing needs,” Sen. Harris said. This legislation is an important step forward ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to provide quality housing for our service members and their families across the country.”

The Reuters investigation and military advocacy groups report that the companies that operate military housing are often non-responsive, provide only superficial fixes or blame the service member for the problems. In some instances, service members have been charged fees associated with the remediation of their own homes, including fees for leaving homes with persistent hazards. A recent survey conducted by the Military Family Advisory Network showed that more than 55 percent of respondents had a negative or very negative experience with privatized military housing.

The legislation would create stronger oversight mechanisms, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.

Provisions of the bill include:

  • Basic allowance for housing: The installation commander shall withhold payment of a service member’s housing allowance until a military housing official has inspected an environmental, safety or health hazard, verified that appropriate remediation has taken place, and the service member concurs that the remediation is satisfactory. In the case that the hazard requires the service member to leave the housing unit, the housing company will pay all relocation costs. 
  • Housing costs: Ensures service members don’t have to pay a deposit, and any fee or penalty related to ending a lease early, except for normal wear and tear. The bill also requires contractors to reimburse service members for damage to their private property caused by a hazard.
  • Withholding incentive fees: Requires the Secretary of Defense to withhold incentive fees to any contractor who persistently fails to remedy hazards.
  • Common credentials: Creates standard credentials for health, safety and environmental inspectors across services, and including contractors, to ensure consistent inspection practices. 
  • Additional transparency for service members: Requires the Defense Department to establish an electronic system so that service members can track and oversee their work orders.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been outspoken advocates for service members and their families, pressing the Defense Department to address the health and safety hazards on military bases across Virginia. In August, Sens. Warner and Kaine asked the Army for a plan to address the dangerous conditions found on its bases, including Fort Belvoir in Virginia. In February, Sen. Warner met with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, pressing for steps the Department plans to take to resolve serious health hazards in military housing.

Last week, the Senators wrote to the Secretaries of the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army, urging each branch to make improving military housing conditions a priority and requesting more information on the existing contracts with several private companies that manage thousands of family housing units at military bases across Virginia. In November, Sen. Warner also wrote to then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressing what the Senator termed “unacceptable conditions” in the homes, and demanded a briefing from the Defense Department on the situation as well as a plan from the Defense Department to ensure the safety of military families residing in private housing moving forward.  

Today in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Kaine called on military leaders to take immediate action to address the horrific conditions that have been found in military family housing. Tomorrow, Kaine will tour housing for military families in Hampton Roads and hear from residents about their experiences with privatized military housing.

On Monday, March 11, Sen. Warner plans to meet with Virginia military families in Newport News to hear firsthand about the hazardous living conditions they have experienced living in privatized military housing. Sen. Warner previously intervened in 2011 on behalf of military families stationed in Norfolk who described persistent problems with Lincoln Military Housing, one of the contractors identified in the recent Reuters report alleging hazardous living conditions.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in calling for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to protect U.S. military personnel and their families from predatory lenders. In a letter addressed to CFPB Director Kathleen Kraninger, the Senators urged CFPB not to cease checking for compliance with the Military Lending Act (MLA) in the Bureau’s routine lender examinations.

“When the CFPB was making every effort to protect servicemembers and their families, its own routine examination of one payday lender uncovered a violation of the MLA, where loans at rates higher than 36% were being extended to more than 300 active-duty servicemembers or their dependents,” the Senators wrote. “We urge you to continue these examinations in order to pursue the clear bipartisan goals of supporting military readiness, saving taxpayer money, and protecting our servicemembers and their families from predatory lenders.”

They concluded, “The CFPB should not have to be persuaded to stand up for consumers, especially military consumers and their families who simply do what’s right when asked to protect and defend our nation.  We urge you to do your duty and carry out the CFPB’s mission by standing with servicemembers and their families and ensuring that they receive all of the MLA protections they have earned.”

The MLA was passed in 2006 with bipartisan support to help safeguard active-duty military members and their families from financial fraud, predatory loans, and credit gouging. The law caps at 36% the annual interest rate for an extension of consumer credit to a servicemember or their dependents. It also strengthens military readiness by helping to preventing unnecessary servicemember separations caused by predatory lending. According to the Department of Defense (DOD), losing a servicemember due to personal issues, such as financial instability, costs taxpayers and DOD more than $58,000 per separated servicemember. In their letter, the Senators also requested that the bureau provide a full justification of its decision put servicemembers at risk. 

Sens. Warner and Kaine have previously pressed the administration on this issue, and have been outspoken advocates for Virginia’s active duty military personnel, veterans, and their families. In February, they wrote to the Secretaries of the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force, requesting information about military housing contracts with private companies after allegations surfaced of health hazards for military families. They also called on the VA in November to resolve payment issues that threatened to displace veterans from their homes.

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

Hon. Kathleen Kraninger

Director

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

1700 G St. N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20552

 

Dear Director Kraninger:

 

We write to request that you fulfill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) mission by including compliance with the Military Lending Act (MLA) in the Bureau’s routine lender examinations, as was its practice prior to November 2018.  In short, we urge you to stand up to predatory lenders and stand with servicemembers and their families.

 

In 2006, Republicans and Democrats set aside partisanship and worked across the aisle to enact the MLA, which not only caps at 36% the annual interest rate for an extension of consumer credit to a servicemember or his or her dependents, but also strengthens military readiness by preventing unnecessary servicemember separations caused by predatory lending.  According to DOD, losing a servicemember due to personal issues, such as financial instability, costs taxpayers and DOD more than $58,000 for each separated servicemember.

 

Indeed, when the CFPB was making every effort to protect servicemembers and their families, its own routine examination of one payday lender uncovered a violation of the MLA, where loans at rates higher than 36% were being extended to more than 300 active-duty servicemembers or their dependents.  We urge you to continue these examinations in order to pursue the clear bipartisan goals of supporting military readiness, saving taxpayer money, and protecting our servicemembers and their families from predatory lenders.

 

The CFPB’s existing statutory authorities are more than sufficient to justify including MLA compliance in routine examinations, and to our knowledge, the CFPB’s authority in this regard has never been challenged.

 

As explained by the Consumer Federation of America in its November 1, 2018 legal analysis - Missing in Action? Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Supervision and the Military Lending Act - the relevant statutory provisions give the CFPB more than one basis for including the MLA in CFPB examinations.

 

For instance, one such provision, Section 1024(b)(1)(C) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, explicitly states that the CFPB “shall require reports and conduct examinations on a periodic basis…for purposes of…detecting and assessing risks to consumers and to markets for consumer financial products and services.”  Charging servicemembers and their families more than 36% interest for loans is clearly a risk to consumers and indeed, DOD has stated that “high-cost debt can detract from mission focus, reduce productivity, and require the attention of supervisors and commanders.”  Therefore, the CFPB is authorized under Section 1024(b)(1)(C) to conduct examinations for this purpose. 

 

When Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney removed MLA compliance from CFPB examinations, he argued that “such a broad statutory reading offers little to restrain the Bureau from supervising for compliance with a wide variety of other laws.”  To be clear, based on the plain text of Section 1024(b)(1)(C), Congress specifically intended this broad statutory reading.  In the aftermath of the worst financial crisis in decades where safety and soundness regulators failed to keep a watchful eye over Wall Street and predatory lenders, Congress provided the CFPB with broad powers to protect consumers – with an explicit focus on servicemembers and their families – so that risks could be spotted before they caused irreparable harm.  In short, the CFPB continues to have all the authority it needs to include the MLA as part of its routine lender examinations.  There is no law that prevents you from doing so.  

 

The CFPB should not have to be persuaded to stand up for consumers, especially military consumers and their families who simply do what’s right when asked to protect and defend our nation.  We urge you to do your duty and carry out the CFPB’s mission by standing with servicemembers and their families and ensuring that they receive all of the MLA protections they have earned.  Please provide a full justification of the current CFPB leadership’s decision to put servicemembers at risk by failing to do its duty no later than Friday, March 8, 2019.

 

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with miners from the United Mine Workers of America at his office in Washington, D.C.

In the meeting, Sen. Warner stressed the need to pass the American Miners Act, legislation he sponsored that would permanently protect the healthcare and pension benefits for thousands of Virginia’s retired coal miners and their families. The bill will also protect healthcare coverage for 500 Virginia miners who are at risk of losing their benefits due to the 2018 bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co, which previously operated in Wise County, VA.

“Southwest Virginia’s retired miners worked hard their entire careers to power this country, and the least we can do is make sure they’re able to retire with the pensions and benefits they earned,” said Sen. Warner. “Frankly, this is a crisis for the 500 Virginians who stand to lose their benefits in the near future. The American Miners Act would protect the hard-earned benefits these families and thousands more across the Commonwealth count on, while also taking needed action to address the black lung outbreak facing coal country.” 

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. The American 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. 

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

Lastly, the bill also calls for an extension of the tax that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung. The Black Lung Disability Trust Fund 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 was cut in half 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.

Sen. Warner is a strong advocate for coal miners and their families. In August 2018, he 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), Tim Kaine (D-VA), 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 – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) as original co-sponsors of Senate legislation to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state. The Washington, D.C. Admission Act would establish congressional boundaries for the 51st state and grant D.C. residents Congressional representation.  

“It’s time to end taxation without representation,” said Sen. Warner. “It’s time for Virginia’s neighbors – who pay their fair share in taxes – to be treated like any other American.”

“Virginia’s neighbors in D.C. deserve representation just like every other American,” said Sen. Kaine. “It’s far past time to recognize D.C. as our nation’s 51st state and grant hundreds of thousands of taxpaying Americans this fundamental right.”

In November 2016, D.C. residents voted overwhelmingly to petition the federal government to become a state. The referendum also approved a name, constitution, and boundaries for what would become the new state called Washington, Douglass Commonwealth (D.C.). 

Also joining Sens. Warner, Kaine and Carper on the legislation are Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

This week, Sen. Warner met with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to discuss several issues affecting Virginians and D.C. residents, including his decision to support the city’s renewed push for D.C. statehood in the 116th Congress. 

Del. Eleanor Norton Holmes (D-DC) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. The legislation is part of the For the People Act of 2019, a landmark voting rights and election reform package.

The full text of the legislation can be found here. A summary of the bill is available here. 

 

Washington – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to issue a comprehensive and unclassified report on China’s participation in the international standard-setting bodies (ISSBs) for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (5G). This report would allow companies in the U.S. to fully assess any existing threats to fair competition and push back against them.

“In 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on Huawei and ZTE drew attention globally to the security concerns associated with certain Chinese telecommunication and information technology companies,” wrote the Senators.“Similarly, we believe Chinese influence in our ISSBs is not fully appreciated, and the IC can play an essential role in filling the publicly available information gap—a necessary first step to countering this trend.”

American companies do not currently have access to crucial information regarding China’s alleged use of political influence in ISSBs or other anti-competitive practices, such as the state-directed coordination of large Chinese telecommunications firms. These practices can undermine fair competition, hinder the ability of us companies to sell and scale their technologies, and raise serious economic and security concerns for U.S. networks and future generations of wireless technologies.

Prompted by a series of anecdotal concerns raised to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) regarding China’s attempt to politically influence the ISSBs, the Senators urged Director Coats to issue a report detailing: 

1.             Overall trends in the ISSBs over the past decade and the implications of politicization of ISSBs;

2.             Specific examples of attempts by China and other foreign adversaries to exert pressure or political influence within the ISSBs or at major telecommunication conferences to secure standards that are favorable to Chinese companies and patent holders, or that might introduce deficiencies into 5G networks; and,

3.             How Chinese-led standards for 5G technologies will affect U.S. economic and security interests, including efforts by U.S. companies to sell and scale its technologies, the ability of the U.S. to position itself for future generations of wireless technology, and to protect against cyber intrusions and security vulnerabilities.

They concluded, “We hope that this report will be part of an ongoing effort to share more timely and relevant information with U.S. companies and our allies. The U.S. cannot tackle this issue alone and must work closely with our international partners—including the European Union, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—on how we may collectively strengthen security standards, supply chain management, and market share of critical technologies. To the greatest extent possible, we urge the IC to declassify relevant information.”

Sens. Warner and Rubio are the lead sponsors of bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China. 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.

 

Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.

 

Director Dan Coats

Director of National Intelligence

1500 Tysons McLean Drive

McLean, VA 22102

 

Dear Director Coats:

 

We are writing to request an unclassified report on the participation of China and other adversarial nations in the international standard-setting bodies (“ISSBs”)  for fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technologies (“5G”). Over the past year, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (“SSCI”) has heard anecdotal concerns that China is attempting to exert pressure or political influence in the ISSBs, which have historically functioned as technological meritocracies. Not only does political influence undermine fair competition, it also raises serious economic and security concerns for 5G and future generations of wireless technologies.

 

Currently, U.S. companies do not have access to critical information about the nature of this threat, and the degree of state-directed coordination amongst large Chinese telecommunication firms seeking to gain a critical edge in wireless technologies. Without adequate information, U.S. companies cannot effectively push back against this behavior, nor can the United States coordinate with our allies to deter anticompetitive practices in the ISSBs. 

 

Specifically, we request a detailed and unclassified report, to the extent possible, from the Intelligence Community (“IC”) on the following items:

 

1.                  Overall trends in the ISSBs over the past decade and the implications of politicization of ISSBs, if there is evidence of such trends;

 

2.                  Specific examples and case studies of attempts by China and other foreign adversaries to exert pressure or political influence within the ISSBs or at major telecommunication conferences to secure standards that are favorable to Chinese companies and patent holders, or that might introduce deficiencies into 5G networks; and,

 

3.                  Implications of Chinese-led standards for 5G technologies and how that will affect U.S. economic and security interests, including efforts by U.S. companies to sell and scale its technologies, the ability of the U.S. to position itself for future generations of wireless technology, and to protect against cyber intrusions and security vulnerabilities.

 

In 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on Huawei and ZTE drew attention globally to the security concerns associated with certain Chinese telecommunication and information technology companies. Similarly, we believe Chinese influence in our ISSBs is not fully appreciated, and the IC can play an essential role in filling the publicly available information gap—a necessary first step to countering this trend. 

 

We hope that this report will be part of an ongoing effort to share more timely and relevant information with U.S. companies and our allies. The U.S. cannot tackle this issue alone and must work closely with our international partners—including the European Union, Great Britain, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada—on how we may collectively strengthen security standards, supply chain management, and market share of critical technologies. To the greatest extent possible, we urge the IC to declassify relevant information.

 

We appreciate your attention to this important matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

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