Press Releases

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $40,942,352 in federal funding to support affordable housing development across Virginia. The funding was awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block, Emergency Solutions, HOME, HOPWA, and Housing Trust Fund grant programs.

“Virginia families deserve access to safe and affordable housing,” the Senators said. “We are pleased that this federal funding will provide people across the Commonwealth with opportunities to improve their living conditions.”

The funding will be awarded as shown below:

The Community Development Block (CDBG) Grants program provides annual grants to state and local governments to develop communities by expanding economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income Americans and providing decent housing and a suitable living environment. The following will receive CDBG funding:

Recipient                              Amount

ALEXANDRIA                     $ 1,027,042

ARLINGTON COUNTY     $ 1,345,258

BRISTOL                               $ 257,838

PETERSBURG                      $ 617,397

VIRGINIA                             $ 18,152,427

The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides annual grants to state, local, and private entities to help people regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness.  The ESG program also provides funding for improving both the quality and number of emergency homeless shelters. The following will receive ESG funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 2,885,391

The HOME program works to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low-income families by providing grants to state and local governments to support housing programs that meet local needs and priorities. The following will receive HOME funding:

Recipient                              Amount

ALEXANDRIA                     $ 535,017

VIRGINIA                             $ 9,890,363

ARLINGTON COUNTY     $ 712,272

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program provides housing assistance and related supportive services to state and local governments, and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income Americans medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families. The following will receive HOPWA funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 1,087,223

The Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is an affordable housing program that complements existing efforts to increase and preserve the supply of decent, safe, and sanitary affordable housing for low-income households, including homeless families. The following will receive HTF funding:

Recipient                              Amount

VIRGINIA                             $ 4,432,124

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) urging it to review and approve the leasing prospectus submitted more than two months ago by the General Services Administration (GSA) for a new Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility in Hampton Roads. While GSA had initially anticipated receiving OMB sign-off on the project by the end of last month, nearly three weeks later, the project is still awaiting review at OMB, further delaying plans to complete the much-needed new facility in South Hampton Roads by the fall of 2023.

“This clinic is essential to reducing VA wait times in a region with one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country. From 2012 to 2016, patient visits at the Hampton VA Medical Center increased by 21.4 percent, a rate nearly triple the national average of 7.3 percent. As of March 2019, patients were waiting an average of 57 days to access primary care at the Hampton VA Medical Center,” wrote Sen. Warner in today’s letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. “Meanwhile, at the region’s other VA facility, an outpatient clinic in Chesapeake, veterans experienced wait times of 59 days for primary care. Any further delays constructing and opening this new health facility will only exacerbate the VA’s existing capacity challenges in Hampton Roads, where the veterans population is anticipated to increase approximately 22 percent between 2017 and 2027.”

In 2017, Congress approved leases for 28 VA facilities around the country, including two in Virginia. In an effort to ensure timely completion of the facilities, the VA passed off procurement authority for six of the projects, including the Hampton Roads clinic, to the GSA, which has been conducting the lease procurement process for the Hampton Roads facility since March 2018 and is currently in the ‘prospectus authority’ phase of the project. On May 8, 2019, GSA submitted a lease prospectus document to OMB, which must approve the plan in order to proceed with the design and construction of the Hampton Roads VA medical facility.

“As you know, OMB approval is required for lease projects over $3.095 million. GSA cannot proceed on this lease procurement until both OMB and Congress authorize the prospectus document. However, congressional authorization cannot be sought until OMB approves the prospectus. Therefore, in order for this project to move forward, your approval is urgently needed,” continued Sen. Warner. “According to GSA estimates, this project can be completed and turned over to the VA in the fall of 2023 – approximately six years after the leases were tardily approved by Congress. However, this timeline was produced by GSA on the assumption that OMB would approve the project by the end of June. Now that we are more than halfway into the month of July, each additional day that goes by without OMB approval is one more day that Hampton Roads veterans could have to wait to see this long-promised facility up and running.”

In the letter, Sen. Warner asked OMB to approve the project within the next week, and reiterated his commitment to help expedite the process.

“The prospectus document is no more than a few pages – it should not take OMB over two months to review the proposal,” Sen. Warner noted. “Once OMB is finished, I will do my part to ensure that the Senate conducts our approval process in an expedited manner, and together I hope that we can put this lease project back on track so that veterans in need of the facility will be able to use it as soon as possible.”

Since Congress approved the Hampton Roads clinic in 2017, Sen. Warner has repeatedly pushed the VA and GSA to expedite their work to get it up and running swiftly. In a personal meeting at his Washington office in December of 2018, Sen. Warner pressed GSA leadership to provide an update on the agency’s progress in opening the new facility. Dissatisfied with the lack of headway, the following month Sen. Warner again demanded a plan from GSA to speed up the procurement and construction process for the clinic. Sen. Warner followed up with the VA and GSA last week to express his continued outrage at “the glacial pace” of the Hampton Roads project, as well as another VA medical facility awaiting construction in Fredericksburg, Va., and to demand real plans from both for completing the already-delayed projects on a faster timeline.

A copy of today’s letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Director Mulvaney:

I write to urge the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to expeditiously approve the prospectus on a Veterans Affairs (VA) Outpatient Clinic in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, which was submitted on May 8, 2019 by the General Services Administration (GSA). Further delays will only prolong a process that is already significantly and unnecessarily behind schedule. 

In 2017 Congress authorized leases for 28 VA facilities around the country, two of which are in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VA passed procurement authority to the GSA for six of the projects, including the Hampton Roads outpatient clinic, in an effort to ensure timely completion of the facilities. GSA has been conducting the lease procurement process for the Hampton Roads facility since March 2018, and is currently in the “prospectus authority” phase of the project.

This clinic is essential to reducing VA wait times in a region with one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country. From 2012 to 2016, patient visits at the Hampton VA Medical Center increased by 21.4 percent, a rate nearly triple the national average of 7.3 percent. As of March 2019, patients were waiting an average of 57 days to access primary care at the Hampton VA Medical Center. Meanwhile, at the region’s other VA facility, an outpatient clinic in Chesapeake, veterans experienced wait times of 59 days for primary care. Any further delays constructing and opening this new health facility will only exacerbate the VA’s existing capacity challenges in Hampton Roads, where the veterans population is anticipated to increase approximately 22 percent between 2017 and 2027.

As you know, OMB approval is required for lease projects over $3.095 million. GSA cannot proceed on this lease procurement until both OMB and Congress authorize the prospectus document. However, congressional authorization cannot be sought until OMB approves the prospectus. Therefore, in order for this project to move forward, your approval is urgently needed. According to GSA estimates, this project can be completed and turned over to the VA in the fall of 2023 – approximately six years after the leases were tardily approved by Congress. However, this timeline was produced by GSA on the assumption that OMB would approve the project by the end of June. Now that we are more than halfway into the month of July, each additional day that goes by without OMB approval is one more day that Hampton Roads veterans could have to wait to see this long-promised facility up and running.

I ask that OMB do everything possible to expedite the review and approval of this prospectus document within the next week. The prospectus document is no more than a few pages – it should not take OMB over two months to review the proposal. Once OMB is finished, I will do my part to ensure that the Senate conducts our approval process in an expedited manner, and together I hope that we can put this lease project back on track so that veterans in need of the facility will be able to use it as soon as possible.

I look forward to your response, or even better, to the notice that OMB has approved the lease prospectus.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Ahead of President Trump’s fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) today sent a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray amid growing concerns about the adequacy of visitor screening procedures at the president’s properties. The letter follows the March 30th, 2019 arrest of Yujing Zhang, the Chinese National apprehended at Mar-a-Lago while carrying malware, whose trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida is scheduled to begin this summer.

The senators note in their letter that on April 3rd, 2019, they requested that the FBI, in consultation with the Secret Service, determine the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to Mar-a-Lago to conduct electronic surveillance or acquire other materials.

Senators Schumer, Feinstein, and Warner also note that because the president’s properties are not currently considered “permanently protected facilities” like the White House, the Secret Service does not maintain visitor logs and has a substantially reduced physical security presence on days when the president is not present. They ask if additional security measures, including enhanced background checks of all visitors at all times, might reduce or help address potential national security risks at the president’s properties.

Text of Senators Schumer, Feinstein, and Warner’s letter to Director of the Secret Service James Murray is below and available here:

 

Mr. James M. Murray

Director

U.S. Secret Service

950 H St. NW

Washington, DC 20223

Dear Director Murray:

We write regarding the recent security breach at Mar-a-Lago and reports that foreign intelligence services may be targeting the property for surveillance or influence operations.

On March 30th, Yujing Zhang, a Chinese national, was apprehended by the Secret Service with a thumb drive containing malicious software (malware) after she allegedly made false statements to bypass security at the President’s Mar-a-Lago club. It was revealed that Zhang, whose trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida is scheduled to begin in August, had in her hotel room a device for detecting hidden cameras along with over $8,000 in U.S. and Chinese currency. On July 9th, the federal judge hearing the case granted prosecutors’ request to use the Classified Information Procedures Act and file under seal classified information the disclosure of which “could cause serious damage to the national security of the United States.”  

The apparent ease with which Zhang gained access to Mar-a-Lago has raised concerns regarding the adequacy of visitor screening procedures and other security measures at the club.  We were troubled to learn that Mar-a-Lago employees—and not the Secret Service—determine who is granted access to the property, where secure areas are established for handling classified information during the President’s frequent visits. Additionally, because the property is not considered a permanently protected facility like the White House, the Secret Service does not maintain visitor logs and has a substantially reduced physical security presence on days when the President is not present.

On April 3rd, we requested that the FBI, in consultation with your office, determine the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to Mar-a-Lago or President Trump’s other properties in order to conduct electronic surveillance or acquire other materials. The possibility that the March 30th security breach at Mar-a-Lago could be connected to broader surveillance or influence operations targeting this property illustrates the need for Congress to understand the extent of the national security risks posed by the President’s frequent use of the club and his other properties.

We understand that while the Secret Service remains committed to its mission of ensuring the safety of our nation’s highest elected leaders, securing Mar-a-Lago has presented heightened security and budgetary challenges due to the semi-public nature of what remains the President’s private business. Accordingly, we request that you provide Congress with an assessment of whether additional security measures, including enhanced background checks of all visitors at all times, might reduce or help address potential national security risks at Mar-a-Lago, Bedminster, and the President’s other properties.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) led a bicameral letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue about the proposed relocation of the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

He was joined on the letter by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and U.S. Representatives Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), and Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). 

While members continue to oppose the relocation, they have raised two specific issues with the Secretary following his conversation with Senator Van Hollen on Sunday:

·         First, it is our understanding that AFGE Local 3403 sent a letter to USDA requesting an extension of the July 15 deadline to accept or decline the employee reassignment to Kansas City.  The union issued a demand to bargain on June 18, and requested to meet on June 24 to begin bargaining. However, ERS and USDA management and labor relations officials refused to meet before July 15.  Working out some issues with the union would help to ensure more employees can make an informed decision about whether to relocate, potentially mitigating at least some of the serious damage that this move will do to the ability of these agencies to carry out their missions.  We understand that in your view, July 15 was a preliminary deadline, and that the final deadline is September 30.  Can you confirm that the deadline for employees to accept or decline reassignment to Kansas City is now September 30?

·         Second, the General Services Administration recently extended the deadline by one month for Kansas City real estate companies to submit bids to hold the future lease for the ERS and NIFA.  It is our understanding that the process of securing and building out a new space in Kansas City could take up to two years.  This predicament makes it nearly impossible for your employees to determine where they will be living, where to send their children to school, and other important decisions until they know where the final office space will be located in Kansas City.  Will you also commit to utilizing available office space and teleworking capabilities to keep your employees in the National Capital Region unless and until a final office space is completed and ready for occupancy in Kansas City? 

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

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We again write to express our opposition to your proposal to reorganize USDA, specifically the proposal that would relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) away from the National Capital Region to Kansas City. 

These agencies are national research institutions that provide vital information on national and local issues that are critically important to farmers, families, and rural communities. In order to provide this world-class research, ERS and NIFA need to be able to coordinate with other U.S. statistical agencies as well as other stakeholders that are connected to on the ground efforts, which are headquartered in the National Capital Region. We remain concerned that this restructuring will gut the ability of these agencies to successfully carry out their important missions.  We also remain concerned that the quality of work being done at ERS and NIFA has already been undermined and will continue to degrade. 

In particular, data compiled by American Federal Government Employees Local 3403, as part of a summary of all employees, found that ERS could expect more than 4 out of 5 of its more than 200 employees and more than 90% of NIFA’s more than 300 employees to decline reassignment to the temporary offices in Kansas City, and instead seek employment elsewhere. With such a high rate of projected attrition, this move will have catastrophic impacts on the scientific capabilities of USDA, thereby hurting the farmers, families, and rural communities who benefit from the important work of these agencies. 

While we oppose entirely the relocation and will continue to work to stop this move, we write today with two principal requests on which we ask for your immediate response.

First, it is our understanding that AFGE Local 3403 sent a letter to USDA requesting an extension of the July 15 deadline to accept or decline the employee reassignment to Kansas City.  The union issued a demand to bargain on June 18, and requested to meet on June 24 to begin bargaining. However, ERS and USDA management and labor relations officials refused to meet before July 15.  Working out some issues with the union would help to ensure more employees can make an informed decision about whether to relocate, potentially mitigating at least some of the serious damage that this move will do to the ability of these agencies to carry out their missions.  We understand that in your view, July 15 was a preliminary deadline, and that the final deadline is September 30.  Can you confirm that the deadline for employees to accept or decline reassignment to Kansas City is now September 30? 

Second, the General Services Administration recently extended the deadline by one month for Kansas City real estate companies to submit bids to hold the future lease for the ERS and NIFA.  It is our understanding that the process of securing and building out a new space in Kansas City could take up to two years.  This predicament makes it nearly impossible for your employees to determine where they will be living, where to send their children to school, and other important decisions until they know where the final office space will be located in Kansas City.  Will you also commit to utilizing available office space and teleworking capabilities to keep your employees in the National Capital Region unless and until a final office space is completed and ready for occupancy in Kansas City?

We know you care deeply about improving customer service at the Department; however, customers cannot be served if there are not an adequate number of employees to get the job done.  Thank you for your prompt attention to these urgent matters that are of critical importance to our farmers, families, and rural communities.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –  A bipartisan group of senators, led by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Senator James Lankford (R-OK), is calling on the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make a list of all federal programs publicly available on a central government-wide website in order to identify and eliminate program waste and duplication. In addition to Senators Enzi and Lankford, the group included Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Braun (R-IN), Mike Crapo (R-ID), David Perdue (R-GA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Providing a comprehensive list of these federal programs “is critical to helping Congress make informed budgetary decisions and ensuring that we are able to identify – and take appropriate steps to eliminate – duplication, fragmentation, and overlap in federal programs,” wrote the senators.  This list “is a key component of ongoing efforts to improve the federal budgeting process, including by better incorporating performance metrics into budget decision-making.”

The Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 requires OMB to issue guidance to agencies for implementing the inventory requirement and identifying information about each program for publication. An initial program inventory published by OMB in May 2013 had 1,524 programs, but in October 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the 2013 effort had fallen short. GAO made a number of recommendations to OMB to update relevant guidance, develop a more coherent picture of all federal programs, and better ensure information is useful for decision-makers. These recommendations remain open.

The senators specifically want to know OMB’s strategy and timeline for the program inventory. They also are requesting information about the process OMB is using in its approach to developing a federal program inventory.

Read the full letter here.

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WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the ISA Student Protection Act to improve an innovative financing tool for students pursuing postsecondary education.

Income Share Agreements (ISAs) provide opportunities for students to design financial aid best suited to their needs based on their future income and job success. Under an ISA, a student agrees to pay a percentage of their income over a given time period in exchange for tuition payments from nongovernmental sources. When the agreed timeframe ends, the student stops payments regardless of whether the initial amount was paid back to the ISA funder. 

This bipartisan bill would help safeguard ISAs with consumer protections to improve their effectiveness – protecting students and ensuring their success in the workforce.

“Far too often I hear of students and their families being forced to endure financial hardship in exchange for a quality education. Government-provided student loan debt continues to skyrocket while the average household income decreases,” said Senator Young. “That’s why I have introduced a bill to offer students from all backgrounds with a private – or philanthropically – funded, debt-free financing option catered to their own income needs through the use of Income Share Agreements (ISAs). If we strengthen the framework of ISAs, we can help colleges and career and technical schools prepare Americans for rewarding careers, all without any additional cost to taxpayers.”

“Income-Share Agreements are a promising way to finance postsecondary education and an attractive alternative to private student loans and PLUS loans. ISAs are also proving to be uniquely responsive to the needs of students who are ineligible for existing federal student aid programs—including DACA recipients, some justice-involved individuals, and those attending short-term training programs,” said Senator Warner. “There are students across the country who are already benefitting from ISAs and deserve the safeguards and certainty the ISA Student Protection Act would provide, including protections during periods of low earnings, dischargeability in bankruptcy, and oversight authority by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I’m pleased to be introducing this legislation with a bipartisan group of my colleagues and look forward to working to ensure ISAs continue expanding in a student-focused way.”

“It’s getting harder and harder for American families to afford the rising costs of college, and graduates are often forced to run up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt,” said Senator Rubio. “I am proud to re-introduce this innovative legislation to empower students to leverage their future income today and access the financial resources of businesses, individuals, and nonprofit organizations in order to achieve their higher education goals.”

“Despite $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loan debt, millions of well-paying jobs continue to go unfilled. In an economy in need of more investment in postsecondary education and training opportunities, Income Share Agreements are a promising tool. Most importantly, ISAs protect students from the risk of onerous debt and elevate programs that guide students to well-paying jobs. The ISA Student Bill of Rights Act will allow the innovation of ISAs to proceed safely and with more government oversight, to the benefit of American students and families,” said Senator Coons.

This legislation has been endorsed by The Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, Colorado Mountain College (CMC), JFF, Marymount University, the Progressive Policy Institute, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, Purdue University, and the University of Utah.

President Mitch Daniels, Purdue University said, “Purdue will offer ISAs for a fourth academic year at Purdue this fall. Since its inception, our ‘Back a Boiler’ program has drawn a flood of inquiries from universities hoping to implement similar ISA programs. This bipartisan legislation should receive prompt consideration to provide the framework necessary to expand this student-friendly option to more students nationwide who wish to be protected against the risks of excessive student loans.”  

Chok Ooi, CEO and Co-founder of Kenzie Academy, an Indianapolis-based career college focused on providing technology training to anyone looking to accelerate their career said, “ISAs are a tool that can make post-secondary skills training more accessible and affordable for the millions of adult learners aspiring to acquire today's most in-demand jobs. Given ISAs are a powerful – and necessary – access tool, we want to make sure there are standards and best practices in place so they are used appropriately to protect the consumer and hold bad actors accountable.”

Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia said, “As a small university with finite resources in a major metropolitan area, we are constantly looking for solutions in support of our students who face unique challenges in completing their postsecondary education. Marymount has identified income-share agreements as a promising solution to some of these challenges. Income-share agreements will help us fill financial gaps in serving all of our students, regardless of their socioeconomic background. I applaud the sponsors of the ISA Student Protection Act for their efforts to support programs like ours and ensure income-share agreements continue expanding in a student-focused way.”

Kevin James, Founder and CEO of Better Future Forward said, “ISAs have tremendous promise as a tool to help address gaps in educational equity. However, like any financial tool, ISAs also create opportunities for bad actors. We, therefore, commend Sens. Warner, Young, Rubio and Coons for their critically important work to protect students and foster innovation in the student financing space. We believe this bill will advance a healthy public conversation about ISAs and the best approach to crafting a legal framework that protects students and supports access to this innovative new option."

Former Governor Jack Markell said, “Income Share Agreements have given students who have not otherwise had access to financial aid - such as Dreamers and adult learners - the ability to finance their postsecondary education. I commend the bi-partisan sponsors of The ISA Student Protection Act for legislation that authorizes critical consumer protections which will provide greater certainty to students and this growing market.”

To see a full list of endorsement quotes, please click here

The ISA Student Protection Act would codify the following safeguards and consumer protections for ISA recipients:

  • Individuals making less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($24,980 in 2019) are exempt from making payments towards their ISA.
  • ISA providers cannot make agreements with students that require payments higher than 20 percent of income for shorter-term contracts, with the cap decreasing to 7.5 percent for the longest contracts allowed (30 years).
  • ISAs are dischargeable in bankruptcy.
  • Funders must disclose to students how their monthly payments would compare under the ISA to payments on a private or federal loan for the same amount of money and number of payments.
  • Applies federal consumer protection laws (i.e. Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Military Lending Act, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act) to ISAs.
  • Gives the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau oversight authority over ISAs.
  • Clarifies the tax treatment of ISA contributions for both funders and recipients.

Last Congress, Senators Young and Rubio introduced a version of this bill entitled the Investing in Student Success Act, and other versions were previously introduced in the House and Senate. This is the first Senate version of the bill to have bipartisan support.

For the full bill text, click here.

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“ISAs have tremendous promise as a tool to help address gaps in educational equity. However, like any financial tool, ISAs also create opportunities for bad actors. We, therefore, commend Sens. Warner, Young, Rubio and Coons for their critically important work to protect students and foster innovation in the student financing space. We believe this bill will advance a healthy public conversation about ISAs and the best approach to crafting a legal framework that protects students and supports access to this innovative new option,” said Kevin James, Founder and CEO of Better Future Forward.

WASHINGTON — Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), along with Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) today introduced legislation to reinforce the Trump administration’s efforts to prevent the Chinese-owned telecom company Huawei from threatening America’s national security. The Defending America's 5G Future Act would codify President Trump’s recent Executive Order and would prohibit the removal of Huawei from the Commerce Department Entity List without an act of Congress. It also would empower Congress to disallow waivers that any administration might grant to U.S. companies engaged in commerce with Huawei. Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), Jimmy Panetta (D-California), Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), and Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Huawei isn’t a normal business partner for American companies, it’s a front for the Chinese Communist Party. Our bill reinforces the president’s decision to place Huawei on a technology blacklist. American companies shouldn’t be in the business of selling our enemies the tools they’ll use to spy on Americans,” said Cotton.

“The best way to address the national security threat we face from China’s telecommunications companies is to draw a clear line in the sand and stop retreating every time Beijing pushes back. By prohibiting American companies from doing business with Huawei, we finally sent an unequivocal message that we take this threat seriously and President Trump shouldn’t be able to trade away those legitimate security concerns,” said Van Hollen. “This legislation will make sure he doesn’t by codifying the President’s original executive order on Huawei and prohibiting the Administration from relieving penalties on Huawei without the approval of Congress.”

“This bill codifies Huawei’s addition to the Commerce Department’s banned Entity List, and thus protects one of the Trump Administration’s most important moves in America’s long-term strategic competition with the totalitarian Chinese government and Communist Party,” said Rubio. “Huawei, a malign Chinese state-directed telecommunications company that seeks to dominate the future of 5G networks, is an instrument of national power used by the regime in Beijing to undermine U.S. companies and other international competitors, engage in espionage on foreign countries, and steal intellectual property and trade secrets.”

“President Trump’s executive order and the Department of Commerce’s Entity List designation reflect the reality that companies like Huawei represent a threat to the security of U.S. and allied communications networks. It shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in a larger trade negotiation. This bipartisan bill will make sure that Congress has a chance to weigh in if the President attempts to make concessions on our national security,” said Warner.

“Huawei poses an alarming and unacceptable threat to our nation’s critical telecommunications networks. Our bipartisan bill is a no-brainer. Preventing Huawei from doing business in the United States protects our national security. We must act swiftly to make sure this dangerous company does not cause us harm,” said Blumenthal.

“We must make a concerted effort to confront the threat China poses to U.S. national security, intellectual property, and technology,” said Romney. “Our bill will prohibit U.S.-based companies from doing business with Huawei until they no longer pose a national security threat.”

“Huawei is an appendage of the Chinese Communist Party and should be treated as such,” said Rep. Gallagher. “The President’s actions to protect America’s telecommunications supply chain and restrict the sale of American technology to Huawei were critical steps to protect the future of 5G. It is time we codify these decisions into law and ensure American innovation does not fuel Huawei’s CCP-directed campaign to dominate the global telecommunications market.”

“Huawei is a threat to our international communications and, thus, our national security.  This bipartisan legislation prevents compromises of our communications and stops foreign adversaries from benefiting from our ingenuity.  It is time for Congress to come together and reassert its authority to protect American business and consumers and the safety of our constituents,” said Rep. Panetta.

“Huawei is a serious threat to American prosperity and security, and the United States must remain vigilant against this Chinese state-directed company and its efforts to gain access to American data, defense supply chain, and other crucial information. The Defending America’s 5G Future Act codifies the President’s wise decision to blacklist Huawei, and sends a clear message that Huawei continues to be a vehicle the Chinese Communist Party is using to gain commercial and security advantages and threaten the United States,” said Rep. Cheney.

“The threat from Huawei to U.S. and allied information networks is real. We cannot allow safeguards and restrictions placed on them to backslide without Congress having a say in the matter. I’m proud to work across the aisle to ensure that American and allied communications are protected against this problematic company for the foreseeable future,” said Rep. Gallego.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), demanding that both agencies present a plan to expedite the completion of outpatient VA medical facilities in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg. The letter comes on the heels of a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of the Inspector General (IG) that revealed severely delayed completion times for a group of VA medical clinic projects from 2014.

“I write to convey my serious concerns and frustrations with the glacial pace of two Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) lease procurement projects in the Commonwealth of Virginia: an outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads run by the General Services Administration (GSA) and an outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg run by the VA. I request that both the VA and the GSA work to expedite the timelines for both clinics to meet the urgent needs of our veterans, as well as present a plan to my office, outlining phases in the timeline that can be reduced,” wrote Sen. Warner.

Plans to build the two new VA clinics in the Commonwealth are a direct result of Sen. Warner’s successful bipartisan effort to secure congressional approval for 28 overdue VA medical facility leases in 2017. While the new outpatient in Fredericksburg is under the purview of the VA, the GSA has undertaken the procurement and construction of the new Hampton Roads clinic in an effort to accelerate the process. In his letter to the VA and GSA, Sen. Warner conveyed grave concern that both agencies’ processes for site selection and construction are far behind schedule. Currently, both agencies have indicated that the completion of the clinics may take until 2023, more than 6 years after the leases were approved.   

The veteran population in Hampton Roads, one of the fastest-growing in the country, is anticipated to increase approximately 22 percent from 2017 to 2027. As Sen. Warner emphasized in his letter, the completion of the new clinic in the region is essential to reducing wait times and expanding healthcare options for veterans.

“I am particularly outraged that of the 28 leases approved as part of the 2017 legislation, the two Virginia facilities are among the last to be scheduled for completion. The Hampton Roads area is home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country and is in particular need of additional centers. In March 2019, the Hampton Roads VA Medical Center was seeing long wait times for primary care, specifically 57 days for the Hampton VAMC and 59 days for the Chesapeake VA Outpatient Clinic. Despite additional reforms on site to help care for veterans, it is clear that from these numbers that the region desperately needs more capacity to provide care for our veterans,” continued Sen. Warner.

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

 

The Honorable Robert Wilkie

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20420 

Emily W. Murphy

Administrator

U.S. General Services Administration

1800 F Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20405

Dear Secretary Wilkie and Administrator Murphy:

I write to convey my serious concerns and frustrations with the glacial pace of two Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) lease procurement projects in the Commonwealth of Virginia: an outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads run by the General Services Administration (GSA) and an outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg run by the VA. I request that both the VA and the GSA work to expedite the timelines for both clinics to meet the urgent needs of our veterans, as well as present a plan to my office, outlining phases in the timeline that can be reduced.  

As you know, in 2017, after extended delays, Congress finally authorized leases for 28 VA facilities around the country, two of which are in Virginia. The VA passed procurement authority to the GSA for six of the projects – one of which was the Hampton Roads outpatient clinic, largely due to the need to ensure timely completion of the facilities. 

Despite both the VA and the GSA having had ownership of these projects for roughly two years and a year and a half, respectively, neither project has posted a Solicitation for Offer. In the case of the Hampton Roads facility, GSA began working on the project in March 2018, and GSA’s current timeline anticipates awarding the lease in February 2021, nearly three years later. This is prior to construction starting. The latest timelines put both the Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg facilities’ completion dates in the fall of 2023 – more than six years after the approval of these leases. This is unacceptable and reflects poorly on the GSA, the VA and on the U.S. government overall.

I am particularly outraged that of the 28 leases approved as part of the 2017 legislation, the two Virginia facilities are among the last to be scheduled for completion. The Hampton Roads area is home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country and is in particular need of additional centers. In March 2019, the Hampton Roads VA Medical Center was seeing long wait times for primary care, specifically 57 days for the Hampton VAMC and 59 days for the Chesapeake VA Outpatient Clinic. Despite additional reforms on site to help care for veterans, it is clear that from these numbers that the region desperately needs more capacity to provide care for our veterans. 

I look forward to a response from each of you that indicates how the lease projects for the outpatient clinic in the Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg will be expedited, so that the veterans who need these facilities will be able to use them sooner than they are currently estimated to be delivered. In my last correspondence with Administrator Murphy, she indicated that GSA would in fact evaluate opportunities to expedite the delivery of this facility. I thus would ask that both GSA and the VA specifically identify these areas as well. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is to the veterans I represent in Virginia that every effort be made to expedite the procurement and building processes for these facilities. This matter is of the utmost importance to me, and I stand ready to help in any way I can.

Sincerely,           

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement regarding the Federal Trade Commission’s reported decision to approve a $5 billion settlement with Facebook for violating a 2011 consent decree requiring the company to enact privacy reforms:  

“Given Facebook’s repeated privacy violations, it is clear that fundamental structural reforms are required. With the FTC either unable or unwilling to put in place reasonable guardrails to ensure that user privacy and data are protected, it’s time for Congress to act.”

Last year, Sen. Warner called on the social media companies to work with Congress and provide feedback on ideas he put forward in a white paper discussing potential policy solutions to challenges surrounding social media, privacy, and data security. He has introduced several bipartisan bills to improve transparency, privacy, and accountability on social media. The Honest Ads Act, introduced with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite. The DETOUR Act, introduced in April with Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), would prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns,” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data. The most recent bill, the DASHBOARD Act, was introduced weeks ago with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), and would require data harvesting companies such as social media platforms to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers, and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit.

Sen. Warner plans to introduce additional legislation in the coming weeks.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) have joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) in cosponsoring legislation to protect the decennial census from partisan whims aimed at intimidating respondents and curbing participation. The Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (Census IDEA) Act will help safeguard the integrity of the 2020 census by ensuring that any proposed changes to the count are adequately studied and researched prior to being added to the questionnaire. This follows a United States Supreme Court decision on June 27 that blocked the Trump Administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, citing insufficient justification for adding the question.

“The census is a critical undertaking in our democracy that helps determine the number of representatives and federal dollars given to states. Additionally, many businesses rely on census population data to decide where to open new stores, buy advertising, or deploy wireless broadband infrastructure. Therefore, it’s extremely important that we ensure the accuracy of the count and prevent it from being shaped by political motives,” said the Senators. “This bill will ensure that any additional question be presented with enough time for Congress to review its effects and help keep the census an independent tool for the American people.”

Last year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross proposed adding a question to the census that would ask respondents about their citizenship status, likely preventing individuals from responding and thus drastically undercounting people in many immigrant and Latino communities. The Census Bureau’s own estimates indicate that the inclusion of a citizenship question would prompt a 2.2 percent drop in census responses – including an 8 percent drop in participation by households with at least one non-citizen. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to block this question, the Justice Department moved to replace its team of lawyers on the case – a move that was also rejected on Tuesday by a federal judge who cited a lack of satisfactory reasons for the swap.

In order to ensure the integrity of the census, the Census IDEA Act would:

  • Prevent last-minute operational changes that have not been properly researched, studied, and tested at least 3 years prior to the next decennial census date;
  • Ensure that subjects, types of information, and questions that have not been submitted to Congress according to existing law are not included;
  • Require biannual reports on the U.S. Census Bureau’s operation plan, including the status of its research and testing; a report on the agency’s operational plan 5 years prior to the next decennial census; and require that these reports be publicly available on the Bureau’s website;
  • Direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to determine and report to Congress that the subjects, types of information, and questions on the decennial census have been researched, studied, and tested to the same degree as previous decennial censuses; and
  • Apply the provisions of this bill only to the decennial census, and not the mid-decade census or the American Community Survey.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, who sponsored this bill last Congress, have opposed politically motivated efforts to change longstanding practices in asking about citizenship status and have advocated for robust funding for the 2020 census. Last month, Sen. Warner joined Sen. Schatz and 27 other Senators in calling for Secretary Ross to meet the administration’s previously set deadline of July 1 to begin printing materials for the 2020 Census.

The Census IDEA Act has the support of the American Anthropological Association, American Civil Liberties Union, American Sociological Association, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Coalition on Human Needs, Common Cause, Consortium of Social Science Associations, Japanese American Citizens League, NAACP LDF, NALEO Educational Fund, National Education Association, National Employment Law Project, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, National Urban League, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Service Employees International Union, Society for Research in Child Development, and Union of Concerned Scientists.

Other cosponsors of the Census IDEA Act include U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, urging the Department to strongly consider Hampton Roads as the location for a first-of-its-kind Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence.

“I write today to bring your attention to a proposal by Old Dominion University (ODU) to locate a Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, and to ask that you give this proposal serious consideration,” wrote Sen. Warner.

In a February memo by Secretary Spencer, the Navy suggested that enlisted servicemembers would highly benefit from further educational opportunities to help with naval readiness and professional development. To assist in that effort, the memo recommended that the Navy create a new Naval University System to assist with that mission. In response, Old Dominion University (ODU) President John R. Broderick proposed that the Navy consider Hampton Roads to house the future institution.

“We stand ready to move forward with a Naval University System-Naval Community College Center of Excellence in our region,” said John R. Broderick, President, Old Dominion University. “Hampton Roads already benefits from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation, with close interactions linking higher education, government agencies, the military, and the private sector. With our region’s unrivaled strengths in areas such as sea level rise, maritime trade and supply chain management, and modeling and simulation, we believe we are strongly positioned to help the Navy provide a dynamic educational experience and professional development to its personnel.”

In today’s letter, Sen. Warner urges the Navy to strongly consider ODU’s proposal to select Hampton Roads for the location of their Naval University System as the region boasts a large naval footprint. Additionally, with existing partnerships between the U.S. Navy and many local institutions – including ODU’s Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) and William and Mary’s Whole of Government Center of Excellence – Hampton Roads is the logical choice for this endeavor.

A copy of Sen. Warner’s letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Richard Spencer

Secretary of the Navy

1000 Navy Pentagon, Room 4D652

Washington, DC 20350

Dear Secretary Spencer:

I write today to bring your attention to a proposal by Old Dominion University (ODU) to locate a Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, and to ask that you give this proposal serious consideration.

On February 5, 2019, you released a memo entitled “Education for Seapower Decisions and Immediate Actions,” making a set of recommendations to create a Naval University System, including a Naval Community College, in order to integrate and align naval education and strengthen the professional development and war fighting competence of U.S. Sailors and Marines. 

In response to your memo, ODU submitted a proposal on May 15, 2019, in collaboration with a number of other stakeholders in the Commonwealth of Virginia, to partner with the Navy and offer the Hampton Roads region as an ideal location for the NUS-NCC Center of Excellence. The Hampton Roads region includes the seven cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Suffolk. For the purposes of this proposal, Williamsburg – home to The College of William and Mary (W&M) – is also included. 

The Hampton Roads region includes 14 universities, colleges, and community colleges, plus many satellite campuses, offering an intellectual ecosystem, significant infrastructure and partnership opportunities for your effort. In addition, it is strategically positioned given the large U.S. Navy presence in the region, existing relationships many institutions have with the U.S. Navy, and unique capabilities such as the ODU Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) and the W&M Whole of Government Center of Excellence, which are exclusive to this region.

I understand the search for the ideal partners and location for a NUS-NCC may be a complex and highly competitive process, and I appreciate your consideration of the ODU proposal. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about my request.

Thank you again for your consideration.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today joined Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) in introducing legislation to put an end to the Trump Administration’s cruel and neglectful treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act would reform the treatment of children fleeing persecution, starting the moment they arrive at the border to claim asylum until the ultimate resolution of their asylum case.

“The Trump Administration’s ongoing abuse of migrant children is barbaric and outrageous, and the damage being done to children at these detention centers is irreversible,” said Sen. Warner. “In addition to ending the cruel separation of families, this legislation will ensure that the government fulfills its responsibility of guaranteeing safe and sanitary conditions for children and families in government custody.”

"El abuso continuo de los niños migrantes, por parte de la Administración Trump, es bárbaro e indignante, y el daño que se les está haciendo a estos niños en los centros de detención es irreversible", dijo el senador Warner. "Además de ponerle un fin a la cruel separación de familias, este proyecto de ley asegurará que el gobierno cumpla con su responsabilidad de garantizar condiciones seguras y sanitarias a los niños y familias bajo custodia del gobierno".

“The Trump Administration’s treatment of immigrant families is both cruel and incompetent. We need to do everything we can in Congress to stand up against the heartless actions of this President and protect these kids,” Sen. Kaine said.

"El trato de las familias inmigrantes por la Administración Trump es cruel e incompetente. Tenemos que hacer todo lo posible en el Congreso para luchar contra las acciones crueles de este Presidente y proteger a estos niños", dijo el senador Kaine.

The Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act comes on the heels of reports highlighting that the poor treatment of children at the border – including horrific conditions, abuse, and retaliation against children – may be even more widespread than was previously known. The legislation would create clear, non-negotiable standards for the treatment of children in America’s care, including:

  • Ending family separations except when authorized by a state court or child welfare agency, or when Customs and Border Protection and an independent child welfare specialist agree that a child is a trafficking victim, is not the child of an accompanying adult, or is in danger of abuse or neglect.
  • Setting minimum health and safety standards for children and families in Border Patrol Stations, requiring access to hygiene products including toothbrushes, diapers, soap and showers, and a prompt medical assessment by trained medical providers.
  • Requiring that children receive three meals a day that meet USDA nutrition standards.
  • Ending for-profit contractors from operating new Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) standard shelters or influx facilities, and ensuring that temporary influx facilities are state-licensed, meet Flores standards, and are not used to house children indefinitely.
  • Expanding alternatives to detention and the successful Family Case Management Program.
  • Removing roadblocks to placing unaccompanied children with sponsors by lowering case manager caseloads, mandating lower staffing ratios, and ending the information sharing agreement between ORR and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These provisions would ensure that children are moved out of detention centers and into community-based settings – usually, sponsored by family members – as soon as possible.
  • Ensuring unaccompanied children have access to legal counsel and continue to be placed in a non-adversarial setting for their initial asylum case review.

The Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act would also provide resources to non-profit centers that are providing humanitarian assistance, and improve public oversight of facility conditions by allowing members of Congress and their staff, along with credentialed press (without cameras), to visit any facility with 24 hours’ notice.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Merkley, and Schumer, the legislation is being introduced by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA),  Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tom Carper (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Sens. Warner and Kaine have previously stressed the need to address the migrant crisis at the border, including its root causes. In May, they reintroduced legislation to provide a coordinated response to effectively manage the humanitarian crises in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

A section-by-section breakdown of the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act is available here and a one-pager is available here.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting an in-person meeting to get the timeline for the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert system, as required by legislation passed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018.

In March, Sen. Warner wrote to Attorney General William Barr to request an update on the implementation of the alert system. In response to Sen. Warner’s letter, the DOJ indicated that little progress had been made on the implementation of the federal Ashanti Alert system, with only a program coordinator and internal working group members identified. No timeline for a full implementation was provided. Additionally, in April, Sen. Warner held a press conference with Del. Jay Jones and Ashanti Billie’s family urging the DOJ to move swiftly to implement the Ashanti Alert system.

“I am disheartened that over seven months after being signed into law, I have been unable to get appropriate answers from the Department on the status of implementation, including a briefing from the person who was supposed to be designated as the national coordinator. Thus, I am requesting an in-person meeting this month with key individuals responsible to discuss next steps of the implementation process. At this meeting I would hope to get a detailed timeline of the Department’s plans on the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert communications network,” wrote Sen. Warner.

In the letter, Sen. Warner slammed the DOJ for making little-to-no progress on the Ashanti Alert communication network seven months after it was signed into law.

“President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401) on December 31, 2018. This law is critical to our nation’s efforts in saving the lives of missing adults. Given the urgency of improving public safety, I am especially frustrated at the Department of Justice’s slow pace of implementation of the law. In April 2018, Virginia passed its own legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and the first alert was issued in July 2018 – three months after it was signed into law by Governor Northam. While I understand that creating a nationwide alert system is a challenging undertaking, the current lack of progress is concerning and unacceptable. Virginia has led the way in fully implementing this critical alert system in a short period of time and now it is the federal government’s turn to act quickly and efficiently in order to start saving lives on a national level,” continued Sen. Warner.

The Ashanti Alert system is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because of Ashanti’s age, she did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert – tools utilized by law enforcement that make it easier for the public to assist in locating a missing person. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would create a new national communication system to notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems and assist law enforcement in the search.

In today’s letter, Sen. Warner also conveyed his concern that the DOJ has not yet appointed an Ashanti Alert Coordinator – the designee in charge of overseeing federal and state coordination of the system. In his letter, Sen. Warner asks whether a designated national coordinator has been appointed and if not, what is causing the delay.

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

 

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 yet again to request an update from the Department of Justice regarding the status of the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. I am disheartened that over seven months after being signed into law, I have been unable to get appropriate answers from the Department on the status of implementation, including a briefing from the person who was supposed to be designated as the national coordinator.

Thus, I am requesting an in-person meeting this month with key individuals responsible to discuss next steps of the implementation process. At this meeting I would hope to get a detailed timeline of the Department’s plans on the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert communications network.

President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401) on December 31, 2018. This law is critical to our nation’s efforts in saving the lives of missing adults. Given the urgency of improving public safety, I am especially frustrated at the Department of Justice’s slow pace of implementation of the law. In April 2018, Virginia passed its own legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and the first alert was issued in July 2018 – three months after it was signed into law by Governor Northam. While I understand that creating a nationwide alert system is a challenging undertaking, the current lack of progress is concerning and unacceptable. Virginia has led the way in fully implementing this critical alert system in a short period of time and now it is the federal government’s turn to act quickly and efficiently in order to start saving lives on a national level.

The law requires the Attorney General to appoint a national coordinator for Ashanti Alerts. Called the Ashanti Alert Coordinator, he or she plays a pivotal role in the success of the alert network. Among other responsibilities, the Coordinator will work with state authorities and federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, on how to implement the program into existing alert systems and what protocols to use. However, according to conversations with staff from the Department of Justice, there is currently not an Ashanti Alert Coordinator appointed. Can you confirm whether you have designated a national coordinator to lead the implementation effort? If not, can you explain what has been causing the delay?

I am eager to receive an update from either the appointed Ashanti Alert Coordinator or senior officials at the Department of Justice who are overseeing the implementation efforts. Please respond with a plan and a meeting date for no later than August 2nd, 2019. If your staff have further questions or there is more I can do to help move implementation forward, please contact Elizabeth Falcone in my office at elizabeth_falcone@warner.senate.gov.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) was being cheered by thousands of fans at the ticker tape parade in New York City today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in introducing a bipartisan Senate resolution congratulating the team for winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The resolution highlights the Senate’s solidarity with the team as they fight for equal pay. 

“The extraordinary athletes of our women’s national soccer team played their heart out this summer and truly earned this victory,” said Warner. “They dominated the field and, in the process, only strengthened the case that there’s no decent justification for paying them so much less than their male counterparts. These players are the best in the world, and they deserve to be compensated accordingly.” 

“I love the passion and energy of this team on and off the field. These phenomenal athletes represent the best of America. We’re not going to give up until they – and women across this country – get the pay they have earned,” Kaine said.

The resolution is also cosponsored by Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Doug Jones (D-AL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

 

Text of the resolution can be found below and here:

 

Congratulating the United States Women’s National Soccer Team for winning the 2019 FIFA World Cup.

 

Whereas on July 7, 2019, in Lyon, France, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (referred to in this preamble as the “USWNT”) won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup (referred to in this preamble as the “Women’s World Cup”);

 

Whereas during the Women’s World Cup the USWNT finished first in its group before eliminating teams representing Spain, France, and England in the knockout stages to reach the final;

 

Whereas the USWNT secured a decisive 2-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final, winning the Women’s World Cup championship twice in a row and becoming the first team to win the Women’s World Cup 4 times;

 

Whereas the USWNT scored the fist goal in every match it played during the Women’s World Cup;

 

Whereas, in the final match against the Netherlands, Megan Rapinoe scored in the 61st minute and Rose Lavelle scored in the 69th minute of the match;

 

Whereas Crystal Dunn, Alyssa Naeher, and other members of the defensive line played key roles in preventing the Netherlands from scoring against the United States;

 

Whereas all 23 players on the roster should be congratulated, including captains Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe, as well as Morgan Brian, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn, Julie Ertz, Adrianna Franch, Ashlyn Harris, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Ali Krieger, Rose Lavelle, Allie Long, Jessica McDonald, Samantha Mewis, Alyssa Naeher, Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh, Becky Sauerbrunn and Emily Sonnett;

 

Whereas head coach Jill Ellis—the first coach to win consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup titles, displayed extraordinary leadership in adjusting the team’s starting lineup as the tournament progressed in order to promote teamwork and capitalize on the talents of each player;

 

Whereas Megan Rapinoe was presented with the Golden Boot award, which is awarded to the individual who scores the most goals in the tournament, and the Golden Ball award, which is awarded to the tournament’s best player;

 

Whereas Alex Morgan was presented with the Silver Boot award, which is awarded to the individual who scored the second-most goals in the tournament, and Rose Lavelle was presented with the Bronze Ball award, which is awarded to the third-best player in the tournament;

 

Whereas the USWNT was bolstered by historic attacking prowess, setting all-time records for goals scored in a single game and throughout the entire Women’s World Cup, as well as a strong defensive record, conceding only 3 goals over 7 games;

 

Whereas every participant in the Women’s World Cup from nations all over the world showed the extraordinary quality and spirit of women’s soccer, and will serve as an inspiration to not only women and girls, but to all people as they chase their dreams;

Whereas for decades the USWNT has been leading the fight to grow and promote women’s soccer;

 

Whereas the USWNT is leading the fight for equal pay for female athletes; and

Whereas dedicated fans and citizens across the United States showed their unmitigated support for the USWNT as they competed in France: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1)   congratulates the USWNT for winning the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup through spectacular skill, teamwork, and determination;

 

(2)   recognizes the achievements of all of the players, coaches, and staff who contributed to the success of the USWNT;

 

(3)   stands in solidarity with the women of the USWNT as they strive for equal pay; and

 

(4)   celebrates the contributions of the millions of fans across the United States, and the world, who cheered the USWNT to victory, and made the players the best supported team in the world. 

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $1,060,000 in federal funding from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to support various improvement projects at airports in Newport News, Norfolk, Winchester, and Orange County.

“We’re happy to announce this federal funding for much-needed airport improvement projects,” said the Senators. “These grants will fund projects to upgrade our airports and make it safer to travel in and out of the Commonwealth.”  

  • Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport will receive $300,000.
  • Norfolk International Airport will receive $225,000.
  • Winchester Regional Airport will receive $420,000.
  • Orange County Airport will receive $115,000.

The funding was awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program, which supports infrastructure improvement projects at airports across the nation, including the construction and rehabilitation of runways, taxiways, and aprons. Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought for increased investments to infrastructure, including for Virginia’s airports, and have pushed back against the Trump Administration’s suggested budget cuts to DOT to ensure that critical upgrades like these can happen. Additionally, Sen. Warner introduced a bill earlier this year to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and generate economic stimulus.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today sent a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the Senate Committee that oversees the United States Postal Service (USPS), voicing their support for renaming the Princess Anne Post Office in Virginia Beach after Ryan “Keith” Cox, a long-time public utilities employee who sacrificed his own life to save others during the May 31st shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.

“One person’s sacrifice has emerged as a testament to the capacity of the human spirit to embody courage and selflessness in the face of unspeakable fear and confusion. Mr. Ryan Keith Cox was a public utilities account clerk who worked with Virginia Beach for 12 years. Described as ‘an angel of protection’ by one colleague, Mr. Cox disregarded his own wellbeing to usher seven colleagues to safety in the midst of the shooting. Instead of barricading himself as well, Mr. Cox continued seeking others in need of assistance. He died heroically in the process and is remembered lovingly for his kindness, positivity, and beautiful singing voice,” wrote the Senators.

To pay tribute to Cox’s heroism, Rep. Elaine Luria (VA-02) introduced bipartisan legislation supported by the entire Virginia delegation to rename the post office, located at 2509 George Mason Drive, in his honor.

“Naming the Princess Anne post office after Mr. Cox would be a fitting tribute to honor his memory and sacrifice. We are proud to offer our support for this bill, and appreciate your consideration of this legislation,” concluded the Senators.

Last month, Sens. Warner and Kaine secured unanimous passage of their resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting, as well as the first responders and city officials who have supported the community in the wake of the tragedy. Rep. Luria introduced a companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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

 

The Honorable Ron Johnson

Chairman

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs

340 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Gary C. Peters

Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs

442 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairman Johnson and Ranking Member Peters:

We write in support of H.R. 3305, a bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2509 George Mason Drive in Virginia Beach, Virginia, as the “Ryan Keith Cox Post Office Building”.

On May 31, 2019, the Commonwealth of Virginia suffered yet another mass shooting at Virginia Beach City’s Municipal Center. Twelve people were killed and four were injured in an act of violence that lasted nearly 36 minutes and tragically deprived the Virginia Beach community of beloved family members, dedicated public servants, and cherished friends.

One person’s sacrifice has emerged as a testament to the capacity of the human spirit to embody courage and selflessness in the face of unspeakable fear and confusion. Mr. Ryan Keith Cox was a public utilities account clerk who worked with Virginia Beach for 12 years. Described as “an angel of protection” by one colleague, Mr. Cox disregarded his own wellbeing to usher seven colleagues to safety in the midst of the shooting. Instead of barricading himself as well, Mr. Cox continued seeking others in need of assistance. He died heroically in the process and is remembered lovingly for his kindness, positivity, and beautiful singing voice.

Naming the Princess Anne post office after Mr. Cox would be a fitting tribute to honor his memory and sacrifice. We are proud to offer our support for this bill, and appreciate your consideration of this legislation. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Lauren Marshall at Lauren_Marshall@warner.senate.gov or Evan McWalters at Evan_McWalters@kaine.senate.gov.

Sincerely,

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are working together to further honor the heroes of September 11th, 2001.

In a bipartisan resolution, Senators Toomey and Warner highlight the significance of the September 11th National Memorial Trail (NMT) – a 1,300 mile network of roads and paths that connect the Pentagon Memorial (Arlington, Va.), the Flight 93 National Memorial (Shanksville, Pa.), the National September 11th Memorial and Museum (New York City, N.Y.), and the 9/11 Memorial Garden of Reflection (Yardley, Pa.). The NMT also passes through parts of Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

“September 11th, 2001 was one of the darkest days in American history, claiming the lives of thousands of American heroes. Pennsylvania remembers that had it not been for the sacrifice of those who overtook the terrorists on Flight 93, it could have been much worse,” said Senator Toomey. “In the wake of these attacks, the very best of our country shined through. First responders performed extraordinary acts of valor, communities from across the country donated food, blood, and money, and we honored those we lost. The September 11th National Memorial Trail connects key landmarks in a way that helps our country move forward positively and offers solemn remembrance to hallowed grounds.”

“The September 11th National Memorial Trail provides an opportunity for Virginians to reflect on those we lost and those who sacrificed their lives saving others,” said Senator Warner. “I am proud to know that our resolution will recognize this important trail and continue to honor the brave individuals who fought for our freedom. I encourage folks across the Commonwealth to take some time to appreciate the trail’s natural beauty and remember America’s heroes and their loved ones.”

 

RESOLUTION

Recognizing the September 11th National Memorial Trail as an important trail and greenway all individuals should enjoy in honor of the heroes of September 11th.

Whereas September 11th, 2001, is the date of one of the worst terrorist attacks on United States soil, claiming nearly 3,000 lives at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Virginia, and the Flight 93 crash site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania;

Whereas the United States came together to honor the loved ones who were victims of the attack and the heroes of September 11th, including the first responders, in the days, weeks, and months after the attack by erecting the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the Pentagon Memorial, and the Flight 93 National Memorial;

Whereas, as a further tribute to first responders and the individuals who lost their lives, the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, in partnership with State and local governments and other nonprofit organizations, was formed to develop a 1,300-mile trail and greenway to connect the 3 memorials;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail is a biking, hiking, and driving trail that provides a physical link between the 3 memorials;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail passes through Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and the District of Columbia;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail forms an unbroken triangle that links the cities, towns, and communities along the trail that are home to State and local memorials and other significant sites that reflect the spirit of United States patriotism and resilience;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail—

(1) starts at the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia;

(2) follows the Mt. Vernon Trail and then extends north along the 184-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

National Historical Park;

(3) connects at Cumberland, Maryland, with the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage, which the Trail then follows to Garrett in Somerset County, Pennsylvania;

(4) turns northeast and continues for approximately 21 miles to the Flight 93 National Memorial;

(5) continues east through the communities and historic sights of Pennsylvania until arriving at the 130-mile Liberty Water Gap Trail in New Jersey, which the Trail then follows to New York City;

(6) continues to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City;

(7) returns south, following important sections of the East Coast Greenway and connecting the 9/11 Memorial Garden of Reflection to the trail;

(8) continues along the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; and

(9) ends at the Pentagon Memorial;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail serves as an important recreational and transportation venue for promoting tourism, economic development, healthy bodies and minds, and cultural and educational opportunities;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail has the support of States, local communities, and the private sector;

Whereas recognition by the Senate of the September 11th National Memorial Trail does not confer any affiliation of the Trail with the National Park Service or the National Trails System;

Whereas recognition by the Senate of the September 11th National Memorial Trail does not authorize Federal funds to be expended for any purpose related to the Trail; and

Whereas States, local communities, and the private sector are encouraged to join together to complete the September 11th National Memorial Trail: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate recognizes the September 11th National Memorial Trail as an important trail and greenway all individuals should enjoy in honor of the heroes of September 11th.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – As incidents of hate crimes continue to rise, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to introduce the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. The legislation would improve hate crimes reporting and expand assistance and resources for victims of hate crimes. Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Pete Olson (R-TX) in the House of Representatives. 

“In 2017, Heather Heyer lost her life fighting the forces of hatred and white supremacy. But since the horrible events in Charlottesville nearly two years ago, we have continued to see an alarming increase in the number of hate crimes across the country,” said Warner. “We owe it to Heather and the victims of hate crimes everywhere to do everything we can to stamp out the voices of hatred that have been promoting violence against Jews, Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and other vulnerable Americans.” 

“We all need to come together to combat this onslaught of hate crimes. Virginians have seen too many horrific acts of hate, including when white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville and murdered Heather Heyer. Those of us in leadership need to stand up against hate and do everything in our power to support those who are hurt by it,” Kaine said

“The rise in hate crimes in the United States has reached epidemic proportions in the last few years, and we need law enforcement to have every possible tool to stop it,” said Beyer. “By tracking and reporting incidents of hate crimes nationwide, we can know whether we are making progress towards their prevention. I thank my colleague, Rep. Olson, for his leadership; this legislation has a real chance to move forward.” 

“Everyone knows my daughter’s name,” said Susan Bro, Heather Heyer’s mother. “Heather is everywhere—in the news, in our minds, in our hearts—but she’s not in the data, nor are the 35 people who were injured while marching alongside her in Charlottesville. If such a despicable act of hatred is not reflected in hate crime statistics, think of everything else that might be missing. The Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act is an important bill that will improve our response to hate crime, and I call on Congress to support this effort.”

“After Khalid was killed, our family released a statement expressing that his death was not just another murder to be added to crime statistics, that the circumstances surrounding his death laid bare the need for a better response from law enforcement and the justice system,” said Rami Jabara, Khalid Jabara’s brother. “In retrospect, we shouldn’t have assumed his death would be there reflected in the data, despite how straightforward that may have seemed. Congress must pass the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. No family should be subjected to what we endured and victims’ voices should be heard.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a sharp uptick in reported hate crimes in the fourth quarter of 2016. Researchers have shown that reported hate crimes following President Trump’s election made up the second largest surge since the FBI began collecting data in 1992. Yet the FBI’s annual Hate Crimes Statistics report vastly understates the true incidence of this problem. In 2017, the report reflected that approximately 7,000 hate crimes occurred nationwide, when the SPLC believes the number is closer to approximately 250,000 per year.

The Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act would help combat the recent surge in hate crimes by:

  • Improving Reporting of Hate Crimes: This legislation will improve reporting of hate crimes by supporting the implementation of and training for NIBRS, the latest crime reporting standard, in law enforcement agencies without it. This will allow law enforcement agencies to record and report detailed information about crimes, including hate crimes, to the FBI. In 2016, of the 15,254 agencies that participated in reporting hate crimes to the FBI, nearly nine out of 10 reported zero hate crimes; in Mississippi, agencies reported just seven incidents in the entire state. Helping law enforcement agencies recognize and report detailed information on hate crimes and report that data to the FBI will help establish a clear picture of the threats that vulnerable communities are facing across the country.
  • Encouraging Law Enforcement Prevention, Training, and Education on Hate Crimes: This legislation will provide support to law enforcement agencies that establish a policy on identifying, investigating and reporting hate crimes, train officers on how to identify hate crimes, develop a system for collecting hate crimes data, establish a hate crimes unit within the agency, and engage in community relations to address hate crimes in that jurisdiction. 
  • Establishing Hate Crime Hotlines: This legislation will provide grants for states to establish and run hate crime hotlines, to record information about hate crimes, and to redirect victims and witnesses to law enforcement and local support services as needed. This will make sure that hate crimes don’t go unreported and victims get the help that they need. 
  • Allowing Judges to Require Community Service or Education for Perpetrators of Hate Crimes: This legislation will allow for judges to require individuals convicted under federal hate crime laws to undergo community service or education centered on the community targeted by the crime.

The bill is endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union; the Arab American Institute; Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, California State University, San Bernardino; the Heather Heyer Foundation; Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights; the Matthew Shepard Foundation; Muslim Advocates; the National Center for Transgender Equality; the National Disability Rights Network; Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT); and the Sikh Coalition.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today joined Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and 27 other senators in calling for Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to meet the administration’s previously set deadline of July 1 to begin printing materials for the 2020 Census and move forward without adding a politically motivated question about citizenship.

Their call comes a day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s rationale for adding the question “appears to have been contrived.” President Trump also announced on Twitter yesterday that he had asked his lawyers to delay the Census.

“By continuing to pursue the citizenship question, you will further delay and jeopardize the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct a full, fair, and accurate decennial census as required by the U.S. Constitution and the Census Act,” the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary Ross. “We urge you to stop all efforts to add a citizenship question and allow the Census Bureau to proceed with preparation for a 2020 census without a citizenship question on the questionnaire.”

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

 

Dear Secretary Ross:

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Department of Commerce v. New York State, we urge you to uphold the rule of law and respect the Court’s decision. By continuing to pursue the citizenship question, you will further delay and jeopardize the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct a full, fair, and accurate decennial census as required by the U.S. Constitution and the Census Act. We urge you to stop all efforts to add a citizenship question and allow the Census Bureau to proceed with preparation for a 2020 census without a citizenship question on the questionnaire.

As a constitutionally mandated activity, the decennial census is a cornerstone of our democracy. We have one chance to get the count right and must complete the task on time to meet constitutional and legal requirements for congressional apportionment and redistricting. The 2020 Census is less than half a year away, and any unnecessary delay in operations would impact the ability of the Census Bureau to count every person in our country. We urge you to remove the citizenship question, and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in introducing legislation to encourage greater investment in rural and underserved areas. The Rural Jobs Act would build on the proven success of the New Markets Tax Credit (NTMC) by increasing the flow of private investment to rural areas. 

“During my time as Governor and in the Senate, I’ve supported initiatives to help create jobs and boost economic opportunity for all Virginians,” said Sen. Warner. “There’s a lot happening in parts of Southwest and Southside Virginia, but we still have more work to do to ensure that no part of Virginia is left behind. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation to set aside additional tax credits for rural and underserved regions.” 

“The proposed Rural Jobs Act specifically addresses the critical needs of places like Danville, Virginia, that have been struggling to regain their economic health in the twenty-first century.  New Markets Tax Credits have been a very valuable tool for this locality, and we are excited about the possibility of additional authorization to fund such Credits in smaller cities and rural areas.  We believe that this program is a model for the kind of investment programs that return dividends not only to the locality, but ultimately to the nation.  Our support for the Rural Jobs Act is total and passionate,” said Linwood Wright, Former Mayor and Consultant to the Office of Economic Development, Danville, Virginia.

“The Rural Jobs Zones initiative will drive more resources to projects such as the OnePartner/HMG Medical Center in Duffield, Virginia. Hampton Roads Ventures used the New Markets Tax Credit to finance a new facility that expanded medical services to residents in this medically underserved area. Rural Jobs Zones will benefit from billions in private sector financing for health centers, manufacturing businesses, broadband expansions, and Main Street revitalization efforts. We applaud Senator Warner for his continued commitment to rural economic development,” said Jennifer DonohueCEO of Hampton Roads Ventures, LLC. 

"Senator Warner’s Bill, the Rural Jobs Act, will create a powerful new tool for economic and community development in rural communities across Virginia and across the nation, it will lead to more quality jobs and better futures in rural America," said Rob Robert G. Goldsmith, President and CEO, People Incorporated Financial Services.

The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program currently provides a modest tax incentive to private investors to invest in low-income communities. Since the creation of the NMTC, a total of 70 businesses and economic revitalization projects in Virginia have already received financing, with a total of $735.9 million in NMTC allocations going towards $1.4 billion in project investments. Between 2003 and 2015, the program created 14,559 jobs across the Commonwealth.  

The Rural Jobs Act would help close the job creation gap by designating $500 million in NMTC investments for “Rural Job Zones” – low-income communities that have a population smaller than 50,000 inhabitants and are not adjacent to an urban area. Under this new definition, Rural Job Zones would be established in 342 out of the 435 congressional districts across the country. 

Under this legislation, Virginia would have more qualified census tracts than almost any other state, providing greater investment opportunity to support and grow businesses and create jobs in communities across the Commonwealth. The bill would also require that at least 25 percent of this new investment activity be targeted to persistent poverty counties and high-migration counties. There are approximately 400 persistent poverty counties in the United States, 85 percent of which are located in non-metro or rural areas.

Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Jason Smith (R-MO).

The full text of the bill is available here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) released the following statements on the Senate’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020, which included the Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020:

“I am thrilled to know that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan authorization act passed today through the Senate as part of our nation’s defense authorization bill,” said Vice Chairman Warner. “The bipartisan authorization bill ensures that the women and men of our intelligence agencies have the resources they need to do their jobs. I am particularly proud of a provision within the bill that will help recruit and retain top talent within the Intelligence Community by providing 12 weeks of paid parental leave to personnel, including adoptive and foster parents. I am also pleased that it includes a number of other provisions aimed at deterring foreign influence in our elections, tackling the technological threats from China as the U.S. and other nations move to 5G communications, revamping our outdated security clearance process, and enabling the IC to exchange talent with the private sector.”

“Today’s passage of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) marks a significant investment in the men and women of our Intelligence Community and the work they do to keep our nation safe,” said Chairman Burr. “The IAA was approved unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, and I am glad to see it included in this year’s bipartisan defense bill. This legislation is critical for advancing the IC’s mission of deterring foreign adversaries, strengthening our election security, protecting our technology supply chains, and building a capable workforce. It strikes the right balance between giving our intelligence agencies the resources they need to operate effectively, while keeping them accountable to American taxpayers. I look forward to the IAA’s passage in the House.”

Background:

The IAA for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 authorizes funding and enables comprehensive, Congressional oversight for the U.S. Intelligence Community. This legislation is named for two dedicated staff members on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Damon Nelson and Matt Pollard, who passed away last year.

Specifically, the bill improves the Intelligence Community’s ability to defend the United States by:

  • Deterring aggression from Russia and other foreign actors by increasing the United States’ capability of detecting malign activities, such as active measure campaigns, illicit financial transactions, and other intelligence activities.
  • Securing our elections from foreign meddling by requiring strategic assessments of Russian cyber threats and influence campaigns, and facilitating increased information sharing between local, state, and federal government officials.
  • Enhancing the security clearance process by requiring a plan to reduce the backlog, increase efficiencies, create an interagency information sharing program for positions of trust, and ensure compliance with uniform clearance eligibility procedures within the federal government.
  • Protecting the U.S. Government technology supply chain by creating a task force within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and improving the procurement process to defend against intrusion and sabotage.
  • Bolstering the recruitment and retention of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals by enhancing career path flexibility and benefits for cybersecurity experts working within the Intelligence Community.
  • Improving the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s oversight by establishing an effective appeals panel process and enabling consistency among Intelligence Community agencies’ processes and procedures.
  • Advancing the Intelligence Community workforce by requiring 12 weeks of paid parental leave for civilian IC personnel, and by establishing a Public-Private Talent Exchange to foster professional experiences and growth.

The IAA was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee on a bipartisan and unanimous 15-0 vote on May 14, 2019.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded more than $590,000 in federal funding for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to expand digital access to library collections.

“Academic libraries are an invaluable resource with the potential to benefit universities and communities across the Commonwealth, said the Senators. “We are thrilled that this grant will allow Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg community to activate a wealth of existing knowledge and continue to foster learning and innovation.”

  • $505,214 will allow Virginia Tech University Libraries to deploy cutting-edge computer science and machine learning technologies to advance discovery, use, and potential for reuse of the knowledge hidden in the text of books and book-length documents. In collaboration with Virginia Tech Computer Science and Old Dominion University Computer Science, the effort will devise methods for the extracting and analyzing segments of long documents (chapters, reference lists, tables, figures), as well as methods for summarizing individual chapters of longer texts to enable findability.
  • $87,151 will go towards developing a model for community engagement that fosters robust partnerships among academic libraries and regional organizations in Blacksburg, Va. This model will help expand digital access to collections and networks that are rich in cultural heritage but are isolated due to a lack of robust digital infrastructures.

This funding was awarded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grants for Libraries program, which funds projects that enhance the quality of library and archive services nationwide by advancing theory and practice.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Senate approved the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

“This year’s annual defense bill takes a bipartisan approach towards meeting our national security challenges and better supporting our servicemembers and their families. For too long, military families have been dealing with problems like mice, rodents, and mold, among other hazards in military housing. I’m pleased that this bill includes our legislation to improve oversight over the companies providing housing, including provisions establishing common credentials for environmental and health inspectors and authorizing the withholding of rental payments and incentive fees when these companies fail to perform. By improving accountability and oversight over military housing, we can ensure that servicemembers and their families have the protections they need,” said Sen. Warner.

The base text of the defense bill includes large portions of Sen. Warner’s Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act, legislation that strengthens accountability and oversight in privatized military housing following reports of hazardous living conditions in privatized military housing throughout the United States. The bill also includes a Tenant Bill of Rights, which outlines much-needed protections for servicemembers and their families, and obligations from the private housing companies and the military services.

“This year’s defense bill also advances a number of priorities critical to our servicemembers, as well as to the men and women in Virginia’s shipbuilding industry. I’m also proud to report that this bill authorizes a 3.1 percent pay raise for our servicemembers. In addition, the NDAA would provide for nearly $420 million to fund 12 military construction projects across the Commonwealth and includes robust funding for the Virginia-class submarine and carrier programs. And while the Trump Administration thankfully reversed its plan to retire the USS Truman decades ahead of schedule, this bill will require the Navy to continue with the nuclear refueling and complex overhaul needed to make sure the Truman can continue supporting the national security mission,” continued Sen. Warner.

The NDAA also includes language from Sen. Warner’s bill to provide financial relief for civilian federal employees so that they’re not hit with unexpected costs for relocating to a new duty station or returning home after completing their service. This additional cost on moving expenses is a result of the 2017 Republican tax bill, which eliminated the deduction for job-related moving costs, as well as the exclusion for reimbursements or in-kind contributions made by employers to cover the cost of moving. While the law excluded active-duty service members, it placed a burden on many federal civilian workers, like military civilian employees, law enforcement and military teachers, who are required to relocate for work, and who, as a result, have extra money withheld to cover the taxes on moving-expense “income” following the changes in the law. The NDAA now ensures 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.

The defense bill also includes several provisions by Sen. Warner to overhaul the antiquated security clearance process. And with the inclusion of the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020, Congress takes key steps to modernize the nation’s security clearance process by reducing the background investigation inventory and bringing greater accountability to the system. In addition, the legislation provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave to intelligence personnel.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $844,100 in federal grants and loans for the towns of Quantico, Stanley, Pennington Gap, Marion, Galax, Cape Charles, and Exmore to purchase nine vehicles and equipment through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Rural Development.

“We’re pleased to support rural communities in Virginia with federal funding to improve safety and boost public facilities,” the Senators said. “This funding will help ensure that these communities can replace outdated equipment and better serve residents.”

The following localities will receive funding as follows:

The Town of Quantico will receive a grant of $21,600 and a loan of $17,800 to purchase a 2018 Ford F-150 police truck to provide reliable public safety services for the town of Quantico's residents. This new vehicle will replace a 27-year-old high mileage truck.

• The Town of Stanley will receive a grant of $35,700 and loan of $29,300 to purchase two Dodge Durangos to provide public and emergency services in Page County. 

• The Town of Pennington Gap will receive a grant of $50,000 and loan of $269,000 to purchase a new, properly equipped pumper truck. The truck is a 2019 crew cab pumper with a 1,250-gallon-per-minute pump and a 1,000-gallon tank and will replace a 1987 pumper. The new truck will be able to transport up to five people instead of only two, as allowed in the old truck.

• The Town of Marion will receive a grant of $50,000 and loan of $180,000 to purchase a properly equipped 4x4 Type 1 ambulance. The current ambulances are 10 to 21 years old. The town has been affected by the opioid crisis in Southwest Virginia, which has increased the number of ambulance calls for the Emergency Services Department. The present ambulance fleet is not sufficient to provide adequate coverage and services for the town and surrounding areas.

• The City of Galax will receive a grant of $25,000 and loan of $23,700 to purchase two police vehicles. The police vehicles are used 24 hours a day/7 days a week by three rotating shifts. They accumulate high mileage quickly, averaging 40,000 miles a year. Some of the older, high-mileage vehicles need to be replaced because they are no longer considered safe and reliable.

• The Town of Cape Charles will receive a grant of $11,000 and loan of $23,000 to purchase a police vehicle. Each of the town of Cape Charles' six police officers has a vehicle. The town has a six-year rotation policy, where they take the oldest vehicle or the one with the most mechanical problems out of service for the safety of their officers and town residents.

• The Town of Exmore will receive a grant of $50,000 and loan of $58,000 to purchase a six-wheel sanitation vehicle to serve the town of Exmore's residents and businesses. The town has two trucks for trash pickup. One of those vehicles was retired due to its age and poor condition, leaving one high-mileage 10-year-old truck to service the entire town.

USDA’s Community Facilities Program provides funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas. An essential community facility is defined as a facility that provides an essential service to the local community in a primarily rural area, and does not include private, commercial or business undertakings.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced legislation today to expand the scope of the prohibition on political activity by foreign nationals. The Preventing Adversaries Internationally from Disbursing Advertising Dollars (PAID AD) Act would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) to prevent foreign nationals from purchasing broadcast, cable, satellite, or digital communications naming a candidate for office at any point in time, and prevents foreign governments and foreign lobbyists from buying issue ads.

“Our intelligence community has been clear—foreign powers continue to interfere in our elections and they’ll keep doing so unless we stop them,” Klobuchar said. “Strengthening our campaign finance laws to prohibit paid political advertisements by foreign nationals and foreign governments is necessary to ensure American elections are free and fair.”

“Russia’s massive and unprecedented interference in our last presidential election revealed a number of vulnerabilities in our election system,” Warner said. “And now that the Kremlin’s playbook is out in the open, we can expect more of the same in 2020, from Russia or elsewhere. We need to get serious about protecting our elections from foreign interference. This bill is just one commonsense measure we should adopt to strengthen our democracy against foreign intervention.”

A combination of statutes and Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules define the campaign and electoral activities in which participation by a foreign national is prohibited. Currently, the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits a foreign national from contributing directly to campaigns, making independent expenditures, or buying electioneering communications. However, the definition of electioneering communication is narrow and creates a loophole by which foreign nationals may lawfully exert influence in the American electoral system.

The PAID AD Act would make it illegal for foreign nationals to directly or indirectly make an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication at any time. The legislation would also prevent foreign governments from purchasing issue ads during an election year. Under the proposed legislation, FECA’s specified time horizons for “electioneering communication” are also removed for foreign nationals.

Representatives Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced bipartisan companion legislation as an amendment to H.R. 1 in the House of Representatives.

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