Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded $284,142 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to boost innovation and skills training in the Town of Pulaski, and to provide direct technical assistance for initiatives that help develop local economies and infrastructures in Virginia’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities

“As our economy continues to evolve, we need to make sure that we’re investing in workers across Appalachia and making sure they’re equipped with the skills they need to succeed in new industries,” said the Senators. “We are glad to know that these grants will help set the groundwork for important skills training and economic development in the region.”

  • The Town of Pulaski will receive $44,142 for a project that will help create a plan for a training center and makerspace. The center will seek to increase the number of workers trained in skills needed in the region and provide a location for innovators and entrepreneurs to work. The plan will also assess the potential for programming to include individuals not traditionally able or inclined to seek training such as those pursuing second careers, post-incarceration, or post-addiction.
  • The Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development will receive $240,000 to assist in the administration of the Virginia ARC program, which helps promote long- and short-term economic development, infrastructure development, skills training, telecommunications, local capacity building, entrepreneurial assistance, education, and health care in the Commonwealth’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities. The funding will support direct technical assistance for initiatives in ARC communities, as well as the salaries and benefits for nine staffers.  

The funding was awarded through ARC, an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties in the Appalachian region. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote to the U.S. Department of State to follow up on an Inspector General (IG) report that found the Department sent highly-trained bomb-sniffing dogs to foreign partner nations without proper follow-up to ensure they were receiving adequate healthcare. The IG found that as a result, at least 10 dogs trained to assist in fighting terrorism died in the Kingdom of Jordan from various medical problems, including largely preventable illnesses such as parvovirus and heat exhaustion. Many of the dogs were trained at a State Department-contracted facility located in Winchester, Va.

“The IG report outlined a series of problems in the program, which led to the premature deaths of many dogs due to preventable illness, lack of veterinary care, and poor working conditions. Overall, the report makes clear the Department of State is not adequately monitoring and protecting the canines it provides to these countries,” wrote Sen. Warner, a dog owner.

The State Department’s antiterrorism assistance program provides Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs) to foreign countries to support local law enforcement in deterring and countering terrorism. The program is primarily implemented by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance, in partnership with the Bureau of Counterterrorism. Although the State Department previously relied on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to provide and train the bomb-sniffing dogs, in 2016, the State Department established its own canine training center, the Canine Validation Center (CVC) in Winchester, Va., which is responsible for procuring dogs, training foreign students as handlers, and conducting assessments to determine a country’s ability to care for the dogs and operate a canine program. In addition, the CVC is responsible for conducting health and welfare assessments in foreign countries.

As of September 2018, 100 dogs had been trained at the CVC and provided under the antiterrorism program to six partner nations. In addition, the State Department retains responsibility for approximately 70 dogs that had previously been trained and provided under the ATF program to seven countries.

The IG report found several deficiencies in the program, including:

  • The Bureau of Counterterrorism and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security “do not have mechanisms in place to ensure effective management of the health and welfare of canines in the EDC program” including an absence of policies, procedures, written standards for the department, or written agreements with partner nations to ensure the dogs’ health and safety.
  • The Department does not sufficiently monitor the trained canines that are provided to partner nations, including through follow-up visits and agreements that outline standards.
  • The treatment and care of the dogs in Jordan, where the majority of the dogs are sent, is of particular concern. Despite longstanding concern over the treatment and care of the dogs in Jordan’s care, at least 100 EDCs have been sent to Jordan since 2008. From 2008 through 2016, at least ten dogs died as a result of medical conditions.

The report found multiple instances of dogs that had been severely mistreated in Jordan, including Zoe, a 2-year-old female Belgian Malinois that died of heatstroke; Mencey, a 3-year-old male Belgian Malinois that was euthanized after she contracted two diseases spread by sandflies and ticks; and Athena, a 2-year-old female Malinois who made a full recovery in the United States after a State Department veterinary team conducted a site visit in Jordan and found her “severely emaciated” and housed in a kennel that was “covered in dirt and feces,” according to the IG. While the IG advised that the State Department cease providing canines to Jordan until “there is a sustainability plan in place to ensure canine health and welfare,” the State Department has not yet agreed to that recommendation.  

“The Department spends millions of taxpayer dollars in order to train the canines, provide appropriate veterinary care, and embed mentors in partner nations, among other expenses associated with the program. Yet once the dogs are deployed, many face mistreatment, malnutrition and unsafe facilities,” Sen. Warner wrote today. “I ask that you provide my office with a plan for how you will improve this program to protect taxpayer resources and ensure the safety and health of these highly-trained bomb-detection dogs.”

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

 

September 17, 2019

The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

I am writing to express my concern over a recent State Department Office of Inspector General report, which documented the failure of the Department to protect highly skilled explosion-detection dogs trained by the U.S. government and deployed to Jordan, an important U.S. counterterrorism partner, and additional countries. 

Earlier this month, the Inspector General for the State Department released a report entitled, “Evaluation of the Antiterrorism Assistance Explosive Detection Canine Program – Health and Welfare,” which evaluated the Department’s program to provide Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs) to foreign countries for counterterrorism purposes. Many of these dogs were trained in the Canine Validation Center (CVC) in Winchester, Virginia.  As of September 30, 2018, the CVC had trained 100 dogs, which were sent to six foreign partner nations. In addition, 66-89 dogs trained by a pre-existing program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) were still active in seven partner nations.  

The IG report outlined a series of problems in the program, which led to the premature deaths of many dogs due to preventable illness, lack of veterinary care, and poor working conditions. Overall, the report makes clear the Department of State is not adequately monitoring and protecting the canines it provides to these countries. Some specific findings from their investigation include the following:

  • The Bureau of Counterterrorism and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security “do not have mechanisms in place to ensure effective management of the health and welfare of canines in the EDC program” including an absence of policies, procedures, written standards for the Department, or written agreements with partner nations to ensure the dogs’ health and safety.
  • The treatment and care of the dogs in Jordan, where the majority of the dogs are sent, is of particular concern.
    • Despite longstanding concern over the treatment and care of the dogs in Jordan’s care, at least 100 EDCs have been sent to Jordan since 2008. From 2008 through 2016, at least 10 dogs died as a result of medical conditions including canine parvovirus and heat exhaustion.
    • The Department does not sufficiently monitor the trained canines that are provided to partner nations, including through follow-up visits and agreements that outline standards.

The Department spends millions of taxpayer dollars in order to train the canines, provide appropriate veterinary care, and embed mentors in partner nations, among other expenses associated with the program. Yet once the dogs are deployed, many face mistreatment, malnutrition and unsafe facilities.

I ask that you provide my office with a plan for how you will improve this program to protect taxpayer resources and ensure the safety and health of these highly-trained bomb-detection dogs. Should you have any questions, please contact Caroline Wadhams in my office at (202) 224-2023. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Casey (D-PA) wrote to House and Senate leadership advocating for the inclusion of a permanent fix for miners’ health care and pensions in the short-term spending package that is currently being negotiated to keep the government open after September 30th, 2019.

“In July, we were alarmed to learn that 1,200 retired coal miners, their widows and their dependents would lose their health care benefits at the end of the calendar year. If we don’t take action now, these families in Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico will begin receiving health care termination notices at the end of October. Without congressional action to keep this from happening, they will spend their holiday season worrying about whether or not they will have to choose between their life-saving medications and putting food on the table,” wrote the Senators.

Currently, the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan is on the road to insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced the American Miners Act of 2019 to shore up the 1974 UMWA Pension Plan to make sure that 87,000 current beneficiaries and an additional 20,000 retirees won’t lose the pensions they have paid into for decades. In Virginia alone, there are approximately 7,000 retirees who are at risk of losing their benefits if Congress does not act. Additionally, the legislation would protect the 500 Virginians affected by the Westmoreland bankruptcy that has endangered health care benefits for additional miners and dependents.

In their letter, the Senators also request that congressional leadership extend the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund that finances medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung disease. 

“We are proud to cosponsor the American Miners Act (S. 27) which would protect and preserve not only these healthcare and pension benefits in perpetuity, but restore the Black Lung Trust Fund contribution rate to a much more sustainable level. During Senate consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the entire Democratic caucus cosponsored this bill. Unfortunately, we were blocked from even having a vote on that amendment,” continued the Senators.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have continued to advocate on behalf of Virginia’s coal miners and their families. In August 2018, they introduced and passed into law legislation to improve early detection and treatment of black lung disease among coal miners. The Senators also introduced legislation to make it easier for miners to access federal black lung benefits, make the benefit claims process fairer, and strengthen the benefits miners receive.

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

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, Leader McCarthy, and Leader Schumer:

As negotiations continue around a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on October 1st, 2019, we urge you to honor the promises made to America’s coal miners and include permanent protections for the retiree health care and pension benefits they earned through a lifetime of hard work as well as an extension of the coal excise tax contribution rate that expired at the end of last year, threatening the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

In July, we were alarmed to learn that 1,200 retired coal miners, their widows and their dependents would lose their health care benefits at the end of the calendar year. If we don’t take action now, these families in Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota and New Mexico will begin receiving health care termination notices at the end of October. Without congressional action to keep this from happening, they will spend their holiday season worrying about whether or not they will have to choose between their life-saving medications and putting food on the table. After all they have done for our country, the least we could do is keep our end of the bargain, honor the commitments that were made, and show them that we are thankful for the sacrifices they have made for our country.

In 1946, President Harry Truman ordered Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug to broker a deal to end a nationwide strike of coal miners. The subsequent agreement with the United Mine Workers of America guaranteed healthcare and pension benefits for coal miners with the full faith and credit of the United States Government. Unfortunately, due to numerous coal company bankruptcies and fundamentally flawed bankruptcy laws that allow corporations to shed their responsibilities to their workers, these very same federally guaranteed benefits are in jeopardy today.

We are proud to cosponsor the American Miners Act (S. 27) which would protect and preserve not only these healthcare and pension benefits in perpetuity, but restore the Black Lung Trust Fund contribution rate to a much more sustainable level. During Senate consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the entire Democratic caucus cosponsored this bill. Unfortunately, we were blocked from even having a vote on that amendment. 

We commend Speaker Pelosi and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) for advancing legislation to secure health care and pension benefits for our nation’s miners. On July 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019 (H.R. 397) with bipartisan support. Congress must act to ensure millions of Americans in multiemployer pension plans do not see cuts to the pension benefits they have worked hard to earn. We must pass legislation to comprehensively address both the insolvency of troubled plans and of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Also on July 24th, the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on H.R. 934 and H.R. 935, bills that would permanently secure miners health care and pension benefits. The full committee is poised to vote on those bipartisan proposals this month.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the U.S. Senate has not taken up any relevant legislation either in committee or on the floor all year. Because this is literally a life and death issue for thousands of families across this country, we urge you to include a permanent solution for miners healthcare and pension benefits in the short-term funding package that will ensure the continued operation of the U.S. government beyond September 30th, 2019, and we stand ready to work together in a bipartisan way to keep our promises to these great American families.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former tech entrepreneur, wrote to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and South Korean company Suprema HQ, following separate but alarming incidents that impacted both entities and exposed Americans’ personal, permanently identifiable data. In a letter to CBP, Sen. Warner inquired about the information security practices of CBP contractors, in light of a June cyberattack that resulted in the theft of tens of thousands of facial images belonging to U.S. travelers. In a separate letter, Sen. Warner requested more information from Suprema HQ, the company that owns web-based biometric lock system, Biostar 2, which experienced a cyber incident in August, resulting in the exposure of permanently identifiable biometric data belonging to at least one million people worldwide.

“While all of the stolen information was sensitive and required protection, facial image data is especially sensitive, since such permanent personal information cannot be replaced like a password or a license plate number,” wrote Sen. Warner to Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan.  “It is absolutely critical that federal agencies and industry improve their track records, especially when handling and processing biometric data. Americans deserve to have their sensitive information secured, regardless of whether it is being handled by a first or a third-party.”

In June, CBP announced the theft of at least 100,000 traveler ID photos from a CBP subcontractor that had improperly transferred copies of these photos from CBP servers to its own company database. In addition to facial images, the cyberattack resulted in the theft of several gigabytes of data, including license plate photos, confidential agreements, hardware blueprints for security systems, and budget spreadsheets.

In the letter to CBP, Sen. Warner expressed alarm regarding the failure of federal agencies to ensure that Americans’ sensitive information is safe in the hands of contractors. He also asked CBP to provide timely answers to a series of questions regarding the information security practices of CBP contractors and subcontractors. Among these questions, Sen. Warner requested details on CBP’s third-party contractual requirements concerning database encryption, biometric data management, vulnerability management, logging data retention, and identity and access management, among other security measures.

Similarly, in his letter to Suprema HQ, Sen. Warner raised concerns about the Biostar 2 incident, which exposed permanently identifiable biometric data, including user photos.

“Unlike passwords, email addresses and phone numbers, biometric information in voices, fingerprints, and eyes are unique data that are impossible to reset. Biometric data can be used effectively for unauthorized surveillance and access to secure facilities, to steal identities, and is even valuable in developing deepfake technologies,” wrote Sen. Warner to Suprema HQ CEO James Lee. “It is my understanding that your customers use your biometric security system to provide access to secure facilities, and that the product has also been integrated into Nedap’s AEOS access control systems, which are used by at least 5,700 organizations in 83 countries, including banks and foreign law enforcement entities.  Given the sensitivity of this information, it is absolutely critical that companies like yours exercise exceptional due care when collecting and securing biometric information, and when contracting with customers that collect permanent personal information.”

The Biostar 2 breach resulted in the online exposure of more than one million fingerprint records, in addition to user images, personal details, usernames and passwords, and employee security clearances. The breach also revealed that large portions of the Biostar 2 database were unprotected and unencrypted. In the letter, Sen. Warner asked Suprema HQ to list which U.S. businesses are served by the company. He also requested more information on the company’s practices regarding server security, biometric data storage security, and database encryption.

Sen. Warner has been a champion for cybersecurity throughout his career, and has been an outspoken critic of poor cybersecurity practices that compromise Americans’ personal information. In May, Sen. Warner introduced bold legislation to hold credit reporting agencies accountable for data breaches. He also introduced legislation earlier this year to empower state and local government to counter cyberattacks, and to increase cybersecurity among public companies.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released a statement today following a decision by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to include Warren County in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program:

“Despite increased public awareness about the dangers of opioids, this epidemic continues to devastate families all across the Commonwealth,” said the Senators. “We applaud the Office of National Drug Control Policy for including Warren County in the Washington/Baltimore HIDTA Program. We look forward to seeing these federal resources put to use to prevent future tragedies in Warren County as we continue working to channel additional federal dollars to fight this ongoing crisis.”

Opioid overdoses have surpassed car accidents and gun violence as the leading cause of accidental death in Virginia, with more than 1,500 overdose-related deaths in 2017. In Warren County alone, pharmacies distributed an average of 45 opioid pills per person, per year between 2006 and 2012.

HIDTA, a program created by Congress, is designed to facilitate law enforcement coordination at the federal, state, local, and tribal level in areas designated as critical drug-trafficking regions. In addition to facilitating law enforcement cooperation, HIDTA aims to enhance the sharing of intelligence among law enforcement agencies, facilitate the design of effective enforcement strategies and operations, and support coordinated law enforcement strategies in order to reduce the supply of illegal drugs in the United States.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long advocated for increased federal funding to combat the opioid epidemic in Virginia. Last year, the Senators worked to successfully pass bipartisan legislation to help communities across Virginia by improving opioid treatment and recovery efforts and providing new tools for law enforcement. In 2016, Sens. Warner and Kaine also successfully advocated for the inclusion of other Virginia counties into HIDTA.

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. and the 94 Members of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Caucus announced the start of the National HBCU Braintrust (Braintrust).  The Braintrust, which is hosted during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference (ALC CBCF), welcomes its inaugural student cohort and features the first-ever HBCU Innovation House.  Wells Fargo, AnitaB.org and American Airlines will power this three-day conference dedicated to celebrating the power and potential of Black innovation through substantive dialogues, powerful networking and scholarship presentations. The entire agenda is listed below.

“As the Chair and Founder of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, I am proud to serve as the honorary chair of the National HBCU Braintrust and to welcome their inaugural student cohort to participate this year's conference,” said Congresswoman Alma S. Adams. “This year’s Braintrust celebrates the power and potential of Black innovation by highlighting the role that HBCUs can play in addressing the diversity crisis in venture capital (VC). Despite the fact that there are more than 5,300 collegiate institutions across the US, nearly 40% of VC is awarded to graduates of two institutions. Neither is an HBCU.  Talent exists everywhere, but opportunity does not. HBCUs produce 42% of Black engineers, 47% of Black women engineers, and it is estimated that nearly 50% of all Black professionals attended an HBCU. The Braintrust is three days of dialogues, networking and scholarship giving geared towards helping HBCUs and their students learn more about VC.  It is time for Congress, industry, and schools to come together to address the fact that only 0.0006% of VC goes to Black women and 0.1% to Black men.”  

“For generations, HBCUs have stood as a core pillar of America’s education infrastructure, lifting up countless young Americans and empowering the next generation of leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  “As founder and co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus, Congresswoman Alma Adams has been an unwavering champion for students of color and HBCUs, helping secure robust, equitable funding and ensuring that Congress makes smart investments that expand opportunity and support diversity.  Through the powerful National HBCU Braintrust initiative, Congresswoman Adams and the entire HBCU Caucus are working to harness the transformative talent, imagination and leadership of HBCU students, and give them the tools they need to pursue their dreams, strengthen our communities and succeed in the 21st Century economy.”

“HBCU students represent a generation of leaders who will drive the innovation, creativity, and results businesses of tomorrow need to thrive,” said Marissa Horne, Managing Director of Talent Acquisition at American Airlines. “At American, we know that harnessing and supporting diversity in aviation, will provide us an extraordinary pipeline of future aviators from pilots to engineers.”

At AnitaB.org we value HBCUs and all of our nation’s esteemed Minority Serving Institutions. Our organization has an audacious mission of reaching 50/50 equity in the tech sector by 2025, and will never get there if black and brown students and professional technologists are left behind,” said President and CEO Brenda Darden Wilkerson. “That’s why we are proud to support the HBCU Braintrust for the second year running. This year, we once again support AMIE in an effort that drives tuition dollars directly to the hands of students pursuing engineering majors at HBCUs. We are thrilled that this year the Braintrust is amplifying entrepreneurship, because supporting women tech founders is an AnitaB.org priority. We more than doubled our contribution from last year, to also support HBCUvc, fueling innovation training at both HSIs and HBCUs. At AnitaB.org, we will continue to invest in gender equity in tech, and are proud to be a part of the 2019 Braintrust.”

“Wells Fargo is honored to continue its steadfast support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities through its marquee sponsorship of the 3rd Annual National HBCU Braintrust.  We applaud the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus and Rep. Alma Adams for creating a forum where HBCU leaders, students, industry and policymakers can work together to advance the important work of HBCUs,” said Georgette Dixon, Senior Vice President and Director of Strategic Partnerships for Wells Fargo. “Wells Fargo is committed to these important institutions that are critical in creating the next generation of innovative business leaders.”

“If America is to meet its heavy and growing need for STEM graduates and get the most from the knowledge economy, it will only do so with the full participation and continued leadership of its historically black colleges and universities, many of which already contribute disproportionately to these national priorities,” said North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “We at North Carolina A&T are proud to play a preeminent role in STEM education and innovation. We are energized to join with members of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus and our HBCU colleagues this week at the National HBCU Braintrust to strategize on how, together, we can do even more.”

“Xavier’s Division of Business prepares our students for success and a lifetime of meaningful service to their surrounding community,” said President Reynold Verret, “We believe that the entrepreneurial spirit is the key driver of sustainable business growth and that the true ethos of entrepreneurship is in full alignment with the Xavier mission, in empowering all people to contribute to our society in positive, humane, and lasting ways. Xavier, like many other HBCUs are producing top talent despite being underfunded, so it’s vital that the private sector and federal government  make greater investments in our students.”  

“As a former venture capitalist, I know that diversity in business can lead to more innovative ideas and better work products. Unfortunately, there is a broad diversity problem within venture capitalism, and it extends from a deficit of black investors to low African-American participation in venture capital. In fact, less than one percent of all venture capital in this country goes to African-Americans. That’s a crisis of opportunity that continues to be fueled by implicit and explicit biases, as well as centuries of institutionalized racism,” said U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA). “I applaud the National HBCU Braintrust for highlighting the vast potential of black invention and helping forge the path for HBCU students to take advantage of venture capital.”

“I congratulate my colleague, Rep. Alma S. Adams, for once again being selected as the honorary host of the National HBCU Braintrust.  I’m proud to be a part of the third annual Braintrust, promoting African-American entrepreneurship and innovation, hosted during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. “Our nation’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities graduate talented and driven young Americans eager to create new businesses, grow jobs, and disrupt old industries with positive new ideas.  As a strong supporter of HBCUs, I’m excited that the Braintrust will help graduates access venture capital and work to close broad disparities in entrepreneurship and financing. I look forward to supporting this initiative as a member of the Congressional HBCU Caucus and as Majority Leader in the Democratic-led House.” 

“HBCUs have made and continue to make tremendous contributions to our society. Their graduates have helped shape the course of our nation’s history and secure freedoms that they have not always enjoyed,” said Majority Whip James E. Clyburn. “HBCUs continuously serve as a hotbed for innovation and are pipelines to productive careers. As an HBCU graduate, I’ve benefited personally from the exceptional value and educational preparation that these institutions provide. I applaud Congresswoman Adams’s efforts with this year’s Braintrust highlighting the important role HBCUs play in producing top talent and connecting these students to venture capitalists, corporate executives, and Members of Congress.”

“As an engineer by trade, I know the importance of innovation in businesses and industries. We should be using all the tools at our disposal to increase young people’s access to the networks necessary for their success, and HBCUs play a huge role in this process,” said Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04). “All Americans should have equal access to these resources. This year’s Braintrust will move us closer to our shared goals.” 

“Our nation is stronger when everyone has an opportunity to achieve the American dream, and the HBCU Braintrust is an exciting way to collaborate and discuss innovative ways to create further opportunities for students at our nation’s HBCUs,” said Congressman Bradley Byrne, co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus.  

“HBCUs play an essential role in education in our country,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13). “For generations, HBCUs have been the training ground for many of our nation's best and brightest African-American entrepreneurs, even at a time when other doors to academic achievement were closed to them. With a 400% increase in African American owned businesses between 2017 and 2018, I believe it is more important than ever that we invest in HBCUs and uplift their vital role in education, as well as work for equal access to venture capital for African American entrepreneurs to further that entrepreneurial spirit.”

“HBCUs have a strong history of producing innovators and top talent in the African American community, the U.S., and the world. Their contributions to science, technology, and every other aspect of American society and development have served as tools for the survival and advancement of mankind,” said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30). “I am delighted that we are focusing on the innovative talents of our HBCU family and hope that we can open up more access to venture capital funds and opportunities so that we can continue to grow.”

“As a member of the HBCU Caucus, I’m excited to welcome HBCUs from my home state of Georgia and all across the nation to the third annual National HBCU Braintrust,” said Congressman Doug Collins (GA-09). “HBCUs are critical to diversifying the venture capital industry, and this year’s conference will ensure students have access to the tools they need to compete in today’s economy. I want to thank Rep. Adams for her steadfast leadership and for constantly working to build strong partnerships between innovators and HBCUs.”

“As a member of the bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, I’ve seen firsthand how HBCUs – like Fayetteville State University in my district – prepare our students for 21st Century opportunities,” said Congressman Richard Hudson, (NC-08).  “I remain committed to working with my colleagues to support our schools and build a more diverse and inclusive workforce.” 

“In Virginia and across America, HBCUs are key to educating the next generation of top entrepreneurs and business talent. Congress must continue to fight for HBCUs, and I am thrilled that students from Norfolk and beyond will be in Washington attending the Braintrust summit,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02). “This is a terrific opportunity for students to meet with top corporate executives and members of Congress. By promoting much-needed diversity in the business community, this event is clearly an asset to our nation and our economy.”

“Nashville’s four HBCUs are integral to the history and vitality of our community. American Baptist College, Fisk, Meharry, and TSU were founded when the pursuit of higher education was largely inaccessible to African Americans, providing opportunities to countless students,” said Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05). “Educators, Civil Rights Activists, and Olympians have walked the halls of these storied institutions – including Diane Nash, Congressman John Lewis, and Wilma Rudolph. Our HBCUs helped change America, and their impact continues to this very day.”

Full Schedule:

Day 1: Wednesday, September 11, 2019

  • 12:00PM - 1:30PM: Microsoft Luncheon and Networking Reception
  • 2:00PM – 4:30PM: Tour of the African American History Museum
  • 5:00PM – 6:30PM: Dinner with Facebook; Careers in Tech Policy
  • 6:00PM - 8:00PM:  Tech & Telecom Association’s Salute to Diverse Innovation & Scholarship Reception Benefiting the Advancing Minorities Interest in Engineering Foundation

Day 2: Thursday, September 12, 2019

  • 10:30AM - 11:30AM:  HBCU Braintrust Panel One - The Presidents 
  • 12:00PM - 1:00PM: HBCU Braintrust Panel Two - The Industry Partners
  • 1:30PM – 3:00PM: Model Congress with the Congressional Black Associates
  • 3:00PM – 6:00PM: Tech 101: Navigating 21st Century Careers

Day 3: Friday, September 13, 2019

  • 9:00AM – 10:30AM: Breakfast with McDonald’s & the National Football Player’s Association
  • 10:30AM - 2:00PM: HBCU Innovation House

The Braintrust is designed to connect HBCU students to new opportunities and experiences.  The Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus launched the Braintrust in 2017 to spur greater collaboration between industry and HBCUs.  The Braintrust brings together government, industry and educational leaders annually to discuss the condition of HBCUs and to find solutions to the issues impacting these schools and their students.  

This year, the Braintrust is proud to host leading Black venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to discuss strategies for cultivating the next generation of Black innovators. HBCUs produce 50 percent of all Black professionals, and 42 percent of all Black engineers; they are key to powering diverse innovation. Yet, only .1% of all venture capital is invested in Black men, and only .006% in Black women, and crafting stronger relationships between venture capitalists and HBCUs is essential to begin closing this gap. 

Participating Schools: North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Tuskegee University, Tennessee State University, Morgan State University, Bowie State University, Morehouse College, Prairie View Agricultural & Mechanical University, Howard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Norfolk State University, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, United Negro College Fund, Association of Public Land-Grant Universities, and National Society of Engineers

Industry Participants: AnitaB.org, Wells Fargo, American Airlines, T-Mobile, Microsoft, SAP, Intel Corporation, Google, Lyft, PayPal, eBay, SunTrust, Capital One, Duke Energy, Nvidia, Twitter, Facebook, Procter & Gamble, GlaxoSmithKline, Regions Bank, Adobe, IBM, FICO, Ally Financial, General Motors, FedEx, McDonald’s, NFL Players Association, Accenture, Amazon, Visa, Samsung, National Association of Broadcasters Foundation, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, Consumer Technology Association, Information Technology Industry Council, BSA Foundation, Plexo Capital, Kapor Capital, 645 Ventures, and MaC Venture Capital

Members of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus: Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), Rep. French Hill (R-AR), Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) Rep.  Don Beyer (D-VA), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD), Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. André Carson (D-IN), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA), Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), Rep.  Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Rep. David Price (D-NC), Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rep. David Scott (D-GA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. David Trone (D-MD), Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL)

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $110,000 in federal funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will help the Chickahominy Indian Tribe build environmental capacity.

“Last year, we fought for the federal government to finally recognize the Chickahominy tribe, allowing it to compete for educational programs and grants like this one,” said the Senators. “Today, we are glad to see that these federal funds will go towards assisting the Chickahominy people in building a strong environmental program.”

The $110,000 will assist the Chickahominy Indian Tribe in developing a tribal environmental program, developing foundational environmental documents and organizing community events.  

The funding was awarded through the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program, which assists federally recognized tribes and tribal consortia with planning, developing and establishing environmental protection programs in Indian country, and developing and implementing solid and hazardous waste programs on tribal lands. In 2018, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully passed legislation granting federal recognition for the Chickahominy tribe and five other Virginia tribes.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today announced that the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) in Blacksburg, Va. will receive $15 million in federal funding to support research on safe automated driving integration. The funding, from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), follows aggressive advocacy by Sen. Warner, who personally pressed Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao to grant Virginia the maximum award possible to continue the Commonwealth’s leadership in the growing unmanned systems industry.

“I’ve long called for increased funding for unmanned systems research because I know that innovation and advancement in this field can boost U.S. competitiveness, increase efficiency, and ultimately, improve lives across the globe,” said Sen. Warner, a former technology entrepreneur. “With new technologies, and particularly with automated driving systems, it’s important to get safety right the first time. That’s why I’m so excited to announce that this federal funding will support VTTI in continuing to safely blaze the trail for the future of transportation.”

“New technologies like automated vehicles create exciting opportunities, as well as some challenges, and there is no better place to hone our understanding of these issues than the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. From auto safety testing to road design to the incorporation of new technology into our transportation network, VTTI is the gold standard, and these grants will go toward research that will incur long-term benefits for the Commonwealth and beyond,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

“Receiving these prestigious awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation is an honor and fantastic for Virginia Tech and Virginia. Over the years, VTTI has established itself as a global leader for automated vehicle evaluation and development. We are very happy to take these important steps to move automated vehicles forward to save lives, improve mobility across the population, and reduce the impact of vehicle emissions,” said Tom Dingus, director of VTTI and endowed professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech.

The funding is comprised of two $7.5 million grants that will support two VTTI projects. One project will seek to define, develop, and demonstrate key dynamic scenarios and their potential solutions for safe interaction of vehicles equipped with automated driving systems in a Northern Virginia corridor optimized for vehicle automation. The other will seek to develop and demonstrate a Fleet Concept of Operations to provide the trucking industry with clear guidelines on how to safely implement, and benefit from trucks equipped with automated driving systems.

The grants were awarded through the Automated Driving System (ADS) Demonstration Grants program, which provides federal funding to demonstration projects that test the safe integration of automated driving systems into the Nation’s on-road transportation system. These grants aim to gather significant safety data to inform rulemaking, foster collaboration amongst state and local government and private partners, and test the safe integration of ADS on U.S. roads. 

Sen. Warner has been a longtime advocate for research and investment in unmanned systems, including driverless cars, drones, and unmanned maritime vehicles. Last year, he helped ensure Virginia’s participation in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP). He also introduced a successful bipartisan amendment to double funding for unmanned aircraft systems and introduced bipartisan legislation designed to advance the development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). 

Last month, Sen. Warner joined local and industry leaders at Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise, Va. to unveil a sign marking the first FAA-approved unmanned aircraft system delivery in the United States in 2015.

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WASHINGTON - On the 18th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks, the U.S. Senate has spoken with one voice honoring the heroes of that horrific day.  

A bipartisan resolution offered by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) that commemorates the historical significance of the September 11th National Memorial Trail (NMT) has been unanimously approved by the Senate. The September 11th NMT is 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.

“On September 11th, we remember the atrocities that were brought upon our country. We remember the lives lost and the destruction that was caused. But we also remember the heroes. The first responders that raced into burning and collapsing buildings, the communities that came together to donate food, blood, and money. And we remember the exceptional bravery of those aboard Flight 93,” said Senator Toomey. “The September 11th National Memorial Trail serves as another tribute and remembrance of that fateful day and it’s fitting that the Senate came together to unanimously approve this measure.”

“Virginia and our nation will forever remember the events of September 11, 2001,” said Senator Warner. “While we can never repay the sacrifices of our first responders or their families, the September 11th National Memorial Trail provides an opportunity for every American to remember the courageous individuals who sacrificed so much that day.” 

“Today, we remember the lives lost 18 years ago on September 11th, 2001,” said Senator Casey. “We must honor those who showed valor and courage, like the heroes on Flight 93 and the first responders who risked their lives to save others in New York and Washington. Their acts of selflessness and bravery in the midst of that day’s attack united us as a Nation, and continue to inspire us to defeat those who invoke terror on the world. The Senate’s passage of this measure is a fitting way to honor that selfless legacy for years to come.”

 

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 – U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA)  yesterday sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging the president to intensify efforts to build a durable pathway towards diplomatic denuclearization of North Korea, and more specifically, to recognize that North Korea’s series of ballistic missile tests clearly violate United Nations Security Council resolutions and are being used to advance their operational capabilities to deliver nuclear weapons. The Senators urge President Trump to push the United Nations to take enforcement action against North Korea for its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Senate Democrats note that the administration has downplayed the significance of North Korea’s series of ballistic missile tests and suggested that there is no rush to reach an agreement that freezes and reverses North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, despite these clear violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions and direct threats to our allies, and recent reporting and analysis that indicate these violations are akin to a research, development and testing program that are furthering North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

The Senators emphasize that finding a path to engagement with North Korea that minimizes, and subsequently eliminates, its nuclear and ballistic missile threat while providing stability and preserving our strategic edge in the region, is vital. They urge the president to pursue a more pragmatic, verifiable approach to pursue denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and to take advantage of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly session to push for strong enforcement of existing sanctions and accountability for North Korea’s on-going ballistic missile activities at the Security Council, while also seeking to establish the regular working-level negotiations necessary for diplomacy to succeed.

Senate Democrats’ letter to President Trump can be found here and below:

 

September 5, 2019

President Donald Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump,

We write to express our grave concern regarding your policy and diplomacy with North Korea and to urge you to redouble efforts to forge a successful and durable path towards denuclearization of North Korea – by diplomatic means – while the opportunity still exists.  Specifically, we urge you to recognize that North Korea’s series of ballistic missile tests clearly contravene United Nations Security Council resolutions and are being used to advance their operational capabilities to deliver nuclear weapons, and to press the United Nations to take enforcement action against North Korea for its violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions. While these tests did not directly threaten the United States, they are a clear threat to our treaty allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan, and they have allowed North Korea to continue to develop significant new ballistic missile technology alongside its still unconstrained nuclear weapons programs.

Despite these clear violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions – and direct threats to our allies – your administration has downplayed the significance of these tests and suggested that there is no rush to reach an agreement that verifiably freezes and reverses North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. Accepting North Korean ballistic missile tests represents, in our view, a significant step backwards in the negotiations, especially as you yourself have previously asserted that North Korea halting all ballistic missile tests and nuclear tests was a sign of your administration’s success. 

Moreover, by repeatedly calling into question the importance of our alliances and combined military exercises, you threaten to undermine strategic stability on the Korean Peninsula.  Our alliance architecture is critical to safeguard US national interests, and these exercises are a critical element of US strategic engagement on the Peninsula, a guarantee of the freedom and prosperity of the people of the Republic of Korea, and a vital element of any coherent strategy to assure that the United States maintains leverage for successful denuclearization diplomacy. Threatening to unravel the integrity of our alliance architecture in Asia makes us less capable of dealing with North Korea, not more.

Mr. President, we must find a path to engagement with North Korea that minimizes, and subsequently eliminates, its nuclear and ballistic missile threat while providing stability and preserving our strategic edge in the region.  Your success in this endeavor is vital for our national security interests, and we want to support your administration in the execution of a coherent, durable and sustainable strategy. 

As a first step to rebalance our denuclearization diplomacy with North Korea we urge you to undertake a more pragmatic, verifiable approach to pursue denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. We also urge you to take advantage of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly session to simultaneously push for strong enforcement of existing sanctions and accountability for North Korea’s on-going ballistic missile activities at the Security Council while also seeking to establish the sort of regular working-level negotiations necessary for diplomacy to succeed. A pathway for progress and successful diplomacy with North Korea that balances pressure and engagement in the right measure is still possible, and we urge you and your administration to take immediate and meaningful action.

Sincerely,

 ###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,455,722.85 in federal funding for the Lexington, Manassas, Bristol, and Portsmouth Fire Departments. The funding will be awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.

“It’s crucial for firefighters to have the tools necessary to best serve their communities,” the Senators said. “We’re pleased to announce this funding to help local fire departments across Virginia purchase equipment to enhance public safety.”

The following Virginia fire departments will receive funding under the AFG program:

  • The City of Lexington Fire Department will receive $88,460.95 to purchase equipment.
  • The City of Manassas Fire Department will receive $332,500 to purchase personal protective equipment.
  • The City of Bristol Fire Department will receive $404,761.90 to purchase communications equipment.
  • The City of Portsmouth Fire Department will receive $630,000 to purchase equipment.

FEMA’s AFG program works to strengthen the safety of the public and firefighters by providing direct financial assistance to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations, and State Fire Training Academies for critically-needed resources.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine condemned the Trump Administration’s plans to build portions of President Trump’s border wall by diverting $3.6 billion in military construction funds, including by taking funding from four projects in Virginia:

“The decision by the President to divert funding meant to support U.S. national security interests so that he can build a border wall only makes us less safe,” said Warner. “Taking money away from our military – including funding to support critical projects here in Virginia – will mean we are less equipped to tackle threats here at home and abroad.”

“I’m deeply concerned about President Trump’s plan to pull funding from critical national security projects – including millions of dollars from important projects in Virginia – so he can build his border wall. The well-being of American troops is the core responsibility of every commander in the military, yet the Commander-in-Chief is shirking that duty so he can advance his own political agenda,” said Kaine.

The Department of Defense informed Warner and Kaine that the Trump Administration plans to take the following funding away from military construction projects in Virginia:

  • Cyber Operations Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis will lose $10,000,000.
  • Navy Ships Maintenance Facility in Portsmouth will lose $26,120,000.
  • A project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Norfolk will lose $18,500,000.
  • A project to replace a hazardous materials warehouse in Portsmouth will lose $22,500,000.

Warner and Kaine have been outspoken against President Trump’s plan to pull money from military construction projects to build his border wall since it was initially announced earlier this year. Kaine has demanded details on the projects that will lose funding and called on his colleagues in the Senate to oppose the Administration’s efforts.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to explain its decision to reduce payments to Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) employees who have declined to relocate to Kansas City following the Trump Administration’s slapdash decision to move the two key research agencies out of Washington D.C.

“We are troubled by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to lower VSIP payments by such a large amount, and we have serious concerns about the timing of this announcement and the burden it places on federal workers who have already endured significant hardship throughout this rushed relocation process,” the Senators wrote.

“This expedited timeline places an undue burden on these employees who were led to believe they would be offered buyouts at or near the federal maximum,” the Senators continued. “USDA has failed to explain why employees were not notified earlier that VSIP offers would be significantly less than $25,000, considering the agency already knew that more than half of ERS and NIFA employees had declined to relocate by the time VSIP applications were due. We are troubled that USDA did not relay this information to its employees sooner considering the impacts this decision can have on an individual’s career.”

On June 13, USDA informed ERS and NIFA employees that only a limited number of Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIPs) would be available to those who would not be relocating to the Kansas City region. Then, nearly two months later, employees found that the USDA had reduced their VSIP offers from $25,000 to $10,000, or $15,000 less than what is permitted, and often standard, under federal law. To make matters worse, employees were only given six days to accept this reduced payment, or make the life-altering decision of relocating across the country.

In their letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the Senators reiterated their opposition to the proposed relocation while demanding that federal employees be treated with dignity and respect should relocation plans move forward. They also asked a series of questions, including how much USDA has budgeted for VSIP payments, why USDA was not prepared to offer the maximum buyout payment to employees, and why employees were not notified that the maximum buyout payment would be less than the federal maximum.

The Senators have been strong opponents of the USDA’s unnecessary relocation of ERS and NIFA. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen introduced legislation to bar the research agencies from leaving the National Capital Region. In May, they joined other members of Congress representing the National Capital Region in urging Secretary Perdue not to relocate the research agencies.

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

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We write today concerning the recent issuance of Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) acceptance letters to Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) employees that offer $15,000 less than what is permitted under federal law and what is standard in nearly all other cases. We are troubled by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to lower VSIP payments by such a large amount, and we have serious concerns about the timing of this announcement and the burden it places on federal workers who have already endured significant hardship throughout this rushed relocation process.

On June 13, 2019, USDA informed ERS and NIFA employees that a limited number of VSIPs would be available to individuals who declined to relocate to the Kansas City Region by September 30, 2019. Employees were subsequently given a deadline of July 15, 2019 to notify USDA if they did not plan to relocate. Employees who wished to apply for buyouts were only given one week – July 22, 2019 through July 29, 2019 – to submit their applications. This is a short timeline to a make a decision like this, especially considering that employees who accept these payments cannot work for the federal government for at least five years or are forced to return this payment.

Then, on August 20, 2019, those ERS and NIFA employees who received their VSIP acceptance letters found that their payments had been reduced from $25,000 to $10,000 – a reduction of 60 percent. Applicants were given only six days to accept or decline this payment by August 26, 2019. This expedited timeline places an undue burden on these employees who were led to believe they would be offered buyouts at or near the federal maximum. Traditionally, federal employees who resign with a VSIP have received close to the maximum amount of $25,000. From Fiscal Year 2012 to May 2017, nearly 37,000 federal employees resigned with a VSIP for an average payment of $24,470.

USDA has stated that its decision to reduce the amount per VSIP was made in order to accommodate all employees who were eligible to receive the buyout. However, USDA has failed to explain why employees were not notified earlier that VSIP offers would be significantly less than $25,000, considering the agency already knew that more than half of ERS and NIFA employees had declined to relocate by the time VSIP applications were due.

We are troubled that USDA did not relay this information to its employees sooner considering the impacts this decision can have on an individual’s career.

In response to this announcement, we would like to pose the following questions regarding VSIP payments:

How much does USDA have budgeted for VSIP payments, and from what authority?

Why was USDA not prepared to offer the maximum buyout payment or near the maximum to employees when that appears to be standard procedure among federal agencies?

Why were employees not notified ahead of the VSIP application window that the maximum buyout payment would be significantly less than the federal maximum?

As senators representing the National Capital Region, we remain opposed to this proposed relocation. However, should this process continue to move forward, we expect federal employees be treated with dignity and respect. We urge you to reconsider this decision and offer these employees the maximum VSIP payment allowable by law and extend the deadline for employees to consider these payments.

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

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $125,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update outdated equipment at police and fire departments in Augusta County, Halifax County, and the town of Glade Spring. The funding will help improve emergency response times and public safety in these communities.

“The men and women serving our communities need functional, up-to-date equipment that allows them to effectively do their jobs,” said the Senators. “We’re pleased that this funding will help enhance public safety in the Commonwealth.”

The following localities will receive funding:

  • In Augusta County, $50,000 will go towards the purchase of updated equipment for the Churchville Volunteer Fire Department.
  • In Halifax County, $50,000 will go towards the purchase of four new sheriff’s vehicles to replace outdated vehicles that pose a safety hazard to employees and, as a result of unreliable emergency response times, to the general public.
  • In Glade Springs, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of a 2019 Dodge Durango police vehicle. The purchase will allow the town to replace an older vehicle that poses a safety hazard to employees and, as a result of unreliable emergency response times, to the general public.

The funding comes from USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grants program, which seeks to develop key community facilities that provide essential services to the public in rural areas.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $8,288,283 in federal funding to support access to safe and affordable housing in Richmond and Suffolk. This funding, from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was awarded through four grant programs – the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program, the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program.

“We are glad to see this federal funding go towards supporting access to decent and reasonably-priced housing in Richmond and Suffolk,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing both of these cities put these funds to use and help those with the greatest need.”

The funding will be awarded as below.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons:     

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$4,462,031

Suffolk

$459,389

The HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program provides formula grants to states and localities to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership as well as providing direct rental assistance to low-income people. HOME is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$1,455,440

Suffolk

$348,260


The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program provides funding to engage homeless individuals and families living on the street, improve the number and quality of emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families, rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families, and prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$376,954

The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program provides states and localities with resources and incentives to devise long-term comprehensive strategies for meeting the housing needs of low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS. It is the only federal program dedicated to the housing needs of people living with HIV/AIDS:

Recipient

Amount

 

Richmond

$1,186,209


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Washington, D.C. – Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, 45 Senators sent a letter to Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella opposing the Labor Department’s recent proposal to undermine the highly effective and widely supported registered apprenticeship program. The proposed rule would create duplicative, unnecessary, and lower-quality “industry-recognized apprenticeship programs” (IRAPs), that would not provide the same crucial benefits and protections as long-established registered apprenticeships. The Department has also proposed the establishment of new “standard recognition entities” to oversee the IRAPs, allowing these programs to potentially evade accountability, even to apprentices themselves.

“Rather than invest federal taxpayer dollars in a duplicative, less rigorous, and unproven model of workforce training with little to no accountability, the Department and the Trump Administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to strengthen and modernize the registered apprenticeship system to build more pathways for workers to enter middle class jobs,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators also questioned whether the proposed rule is truly consistent with National Apprenticeship Act, which entrusted the Labor Department to “safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices.” In February, Senator Murray and her colleagues pressed the Department of Labor for answers on the proposed rule and raised questions about whether the Department was using funds appropriated by Congress for registered apprenticeships for IRAPs.

In addition to Senator Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Manchin (D-WV), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is below and the PDF is HERE.

 

August 26, 2019

 The Honorable Patrick Pizzella

Acting Secretary

Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20210

RE: DOL Docket Number. ETA-2019-000, RIN 1205-AB85, Apprenticeship Programs, Labor Standards for Registration, Amendment of Regulations

Dear Acting Secretary Pizzella:

We write in strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“Department” or DOL) proposed rule to create Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs or “Industry Programs”), and to request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM would undermine important standards around wages, training structure and quality, and equal opportunity employment, would create uncertainty for the regulated community by establishing a confusing, unnecessary, and duplicative program, and disregards congressional intent to “safeguard the welfare of apprentices.”[1]

In enacting the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937, Congress authorized and directed the Secretary of Labor to formulate and promote labor standards to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices.[2] The Department’s regulations implementing the Act establish such standards and prescribe policies and procedures for the registration of acceptable apprenticeship programs with the Department.[3] Under the Department’s longstanding regulations, apprenticeship programs seeking the Department’s approval, support, and financial assistance must commit to providing apprentices with a number of crucial protections and benefits.

The Department’s proposal, however, would not guarantee most of these benefits to apprentices who participate in IRAPs instead of registered apprenticeships.  This NPRM would enable so-called Industry Programs to circumvent the quality assurance standards and protections of the registered apprenticeship system. Instead, the Department proposes to authorize new, nongovernmental Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) to establish, recognize, and monitor the quality of IRAPs—with minimal accountability to the federal government, states, or apprentices themselves. We are especially concerned that the Department’s purported hallmarks of quality for IRAPs do not include some of the most crucial standards required of registered apprenticeship programs. In particular, this proposal would not require IRAPs to guarantee: minimum hours or specific requirements for on-the-job training and classroom-based instruction, nationally recognized stackable and portable credentials of value, workplace safety and equal opportunity protections beyond those already required by law, or guaranteed wage progression.

It is not clear how the Department’s proposal to upend registered apprenticeship is consistent with Congressional intent. The National Apprenticeship Act empowers the Department to “bring together employers and labor for the formulation of programs of apprenticeships”—that is not what the Department proposes. Rather, this rule would create a parallel system that outsources the Secretary’s statutory role in overseeing the Nation’s registered apprenticeship programs to unaccountable, nongovernmental entities.

The Department’s proposal is yet one more attempt to undermine the Nation’s registered apprenticeship system, which has existed for 80 years and enjoys broad support from Congress, workers, and industry alike. The Department undercuts the standards that have been the hallmark of registered apprenticeships by allowing IRAPs to bypass the Department’s longstanding approval and quality assurance process, removing the crucial role of state governments in maintaining the integrity of programs operating within their states, substantially weakening protections and guarantees for workers, and causing confusion for businesses and industries. This is particularly troubling coming on the heels of the Department’s repeated attempts to divert the annual discretionary appropriation to support the development of IRAPs, despite the Department having acknowledged on record that it must be spent exclusively on the registered apprenticeships in accordance with the law.

The Department asserts its proposed “industry-led, market-driven approach provides the flexibility necessary to scale the apprenticeship model where it is needed most and helps address America’s skills gap.” However, the Department has presented no evidence showing IRAPS will be effective, let alone superior, to registered apprenticeship programs. On the contrary, existing apprenticeship programs have one of the highest rates of return on investment for employers of any workforce advancement programs.  Rather than invest federal taxpayer dollars in a duplicative, less rigorous, and unproven model of workforce training with little to no accountability, the Department and the Trump Administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to strengthen and modernize the registered apprenticeship system to build more pathways for workers to enter middle class jobs.

We oppose the Department’s efforts to water down the quality of apprenticeship programs by removing worker protections, lowering the quality of credentials and training, and providing federal funds to unaccountable organizations to provide unproven training. We urge the Department to reconsider its proposal. We also request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the NPRM to allow Congress, stakeholders, and the public adequate time to respond to these potential changes, as well as a Departmental briefing on the proposal as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after China announced that it will instate additional retaliatory tariffs starting September 1 in response to President Trump’s plans to impose additional levies on Chinese goods:

“Time and time again, we have warned President Trump against escalating a trade war with China. Trade wars yield no winners and hurt consumers and producers all over the Commonwealth, especially the farmers and small business owners who count on Chinese demand for products grown in Virginia. We’re even seeing devastating second-order effects of this trade war, with the possibility that fires in the Amazon are being deliberately set to clear land for soybean exports to China. While the U.S. must absolutely crack down on China for its illegal trade practices, we can’t afford to do so in an incoherent and erratic way. Today’s announcement shows once again that the Trump Administration’s bizarre trade policies destabilize the economy, put the livelihoods of many Americans at risk, undermine global stability, and fundamentally fail to hold China accountable for its unfair practices.” 

According to an announcement by the Chinese finance ministry, China’s tariffs will range from five to ten percent on items such as agricultural products, apparel, chemicals, and textiles, in addition to a 25 percent tariff on automobiles and a five percent tariff on automobile parts. These levies are scheduled to take effect on September 1 and December 15, matching the dates of the President’s most recent tariffs.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have continuously warned the Trump Administration about how its haphazard approach on trade hurts Virginia’s families, businesses, and economy. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), China is the Commonwealth’s number-one agricultural export market for soybeans. In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after President Donald Trump signed legislation into law renaming a Virginia Beach post office after Ryan “Keith” Cox, a longtime public utilities employee who sacrificed his own life to save others during the shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center. The legislation was originally introduced by U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (VA-02) and backed by the entire Virginia delegation.

“There is no way to repay Mr. Cox or his loved ones for the tremendous sacrifice he made on the day of this horrific shooting, but it is our hope that this post office will help honor his memory and heroism in the community he gave his life to protect,” said the Senators. “The Commonwealth will never forget Mr. Cox’s selfless actions.”

The United States Postal Service (USPS) facility is located at 2509 George Mason Drive in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine helped secure Senate passage of the legislation by urging leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee that oversees USPS, to support the bill in honor of Cox’s bravery. In June, the senators secured unanimous passage of a Senate resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $779,300 in federal grants to improve the conditions of public housing units in Portsmouth and Chesapeake. The funding was awarded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“Virginians deserve to feel safe in their homes,” the Senators said. “We applaud this federal funding that will strengthen the well-being and security of these communities.”

Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority will receive $249,300 for security cameras and fencing at the Swanson Homes and Seaboard Square I and II developments to strengthen security and monitoring.

The Chesapeake Redevelopment and Housing Authority will receive $530,000 to conduct lead-based paint risk assessments, inspections, abatement, interim controls, and clearance examinations. HUD is awarding grants to 38 public housing agencies across the country to identify and eliminate lead-based paint hazards in public housing units.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $17,417,978 in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“The Head Start program plays an important role in helping schools and organizations across the Commonwealth get the resources they need to support young children,” the Senators said. “We’re excited to announce this funding that promotes early childhood development.” 

The following organizations will receive funding:

  • Stafford County School District will receive $2,604,803.
  • Rooftop of Virginia Community Action Program in Galax will receive $2,400,889.
  • Southside Training Employment and Placement Services Inc. in Farmville will receive $3,245,314.
  • Richmond City Public Schools will receive $7,838,807.
  • Williamsburg James City County Community Action Agency Inc. will receive $1,328,165.

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, family support, and social services.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) urged the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) to bring up for approval the leasing prospectuses for two VA outpatient clinics in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg when Congress returns in September. Both prospectuses received the approval of the Office of Management and Budget earlier this month and must now get a green light from both the Senate EPW Committee and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

“These clinics are essential for veterans in the Commonwealth who face long wait-times due to insufficient capacity at existing VA medical facilities and a fast-growing veteran population,” wrote Sen. Warner. “The facilities in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg will enable the VA to expand primary care, mental health and specialty care services, among other services to our veterans.”                                                                             

In 2017, Congress approved leases for 28 Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities around the country, including two in Virginia, thanks to Sen. Warner’s successful bipartisan efforts. 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 General Services Administration (GSA) while the new outpatient in Fredericksburg remained under the purview of the VA.

Following Sen. Warner’s multiple calls and letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney pushing the agency to swiftly review and approve the leasing prospectus in their possession, OMB signed off on the Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg clinics on July 30th and August 6th, respectively. Now, the prospectuses must be approved by the EPW and the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee in markup, signaling the last congressional approval step required to get the clinics open and operational.

Sen. Warner has long pushed the VA and GSA to get these clinics up and running quickly. Most recently, Sen. Warner wrote the VA and GSA to express outrage at “the glacial pace” of the two lease procurement projects, and to demand real plans from both for quickly completing the delayed projects.

“For many years I have worked hard to get these additional VA facilities built, with great frustration at the exceedingly slow pace of these projects. I have pressured the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. General Services Administration to find ways to expedite their timelines for the building of these facilities. As of now, their timelines have the two facilities being finished in the fall of 2023, approximately six years after the leases were approved by Congress,” continued Sen. Warner. “I ask that under your leadership, your committee do everything possible to keep the process moving by reviewing and approving these prospectuses as soon as possible.”

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

 

Dear Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper:

I write to request that two prospectus documents and accompanying housing plans recently submitted to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) be included in the next markup your Committee holds in September. The two lease prospectus documents are for the procurement of two Community Based Outpatient Clinics for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg, both in Virginia. 

In 2017 Congress authorized leases for 28 VA facilities around the country, two of which – Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg – are in the Commonwealth of Virginia. These clinics are essential for veterans in the Commonwealth who face long wait-times due to insufficient capacity at existing VA medical facilities and a fast-growing veteran population. The facilities in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg will enable the VA to expand primary care, mental health and specialty care services, among other services to our veterans.

At VA’s request, U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is running the lease procurement to deliver a Community Based Outpatient Clinic in South Hampton Roads in Virginia. Pursuant to Title 40, on August 1, 2019, GSA submitted a lease prospectus and housing plan for this project to the Senate EPW for its review and consideration. Additionally, on August 9, GSA submitted a lease prospectus and housing plan for a Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Fredericksburg, VA. GSA is seeking authorization to delegate its leasing authority to the VA so that they can run this lease procurement for Fredericksburg. I would request that the Committee pass resolutions authorizing GSA to move forward with both procurements.   

For many years I have worked hard to get these additional VA facilities built, with great frustration at the exceedingly slow pace of these projects. I have pressured the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. General Services Administration to find ways to expedite their timelines for the building of these facilities. As of now, their timelines have the two facilities being finished in the fall of 2023, approximately six years after the leases were approved by Congress.

I ask that under your leadership, your committee do everything possible to keep the process moving by reviewing and approving these prospectuses as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention to this critical matter. If you or your staff have any questions about these facilities please contact Caroline Wadhams at Caroline_Wadhams@warner.senate.gov, or at 4-2418.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement ahead of the two-year anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. that resulted in the deaths of Heather Heyer, Lt. Jay Cullen, and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates:

Nearly two years ago, white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville to spread a message of bigotry and intolerance. Their hate-fueled rally culminated in the deaths of three Americans – Heather Heyer, who was killed when a white nationalist drove his car into the crowd of counter-protesters, and Lt. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates, who died in a helicopter crash as they tried to bring stability to the city.

“As we approach the two-year mark of this tragedy, I stand with the families of those we lost as well as the entire Charlottesville community in denouncing bigotry and radicalism in every form. With hate crimes and white nationalism on the rise, we must work to honor these individuals today and every day by stamping out the voices of hate and prejudice – from those on the streets, to those in positions of power – that undermine the nation we love and the values we believe in. Let us also take a moment to remember and celebrate the lives of Heather Heyer, Lt. Jay Cullen, and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates by fostering a culture of acceptance and open-mindedness.”

Sen. Warner has introduced legislation in honor of counter-protester Heather Heyer. This legislation would help combat the recent surge in hate crimes by improving the reporting and recording of hate crimes and supporting law enforcement prevention, training, and education as it relates to hate crimes.

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WASHINGTON – This week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed modernizing the reporting and disclosure of human capital management practices. 

The SEC’s announcement follows efforts by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to require companies to disclose more information about their human capital management policies and practices. These additional disclosures will provide greater insight into workforce development and help drive value in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

Last July, Sen. Warner, a former business executive and current member of the Senate Banking Committee, pressed the SEC to use its rulemaking authority to require companies to tell shareholders whether and how they are investing in their workforces through human capital management disclosures. The SEC’s proposed rule contains many of the suggestions Sen. Warner called for in his July letter.   

“I’m excited to see the SEC take this important step to recognize the significance of human capital management and the role it plays in the 21st century economy. Many of the ideas outlined in the proposed rule would go a long way in providing investors with the information they need to evaluate whether a company is making the appropriate investments in its workforce. As this rulemaking moves forward, I look forward to working with the SEC to develop a robust human capital disclosure regime for companies to help promote workforce training and investment, and sustain long-term economic growth,” said Sen. Warner. 

Human capital management disclosures provide a snapshot of how U.S. companies compensate, train, retain, and incentivize their employees. Several studies have found that human capital management disclosures are an important predictor of a company’s long-term success in a changing economy. For example, a 2015 McKinsey study found that firms that prioritize learning programs for their employees perform better overall than those that do not. As the Investor Advisory Committee also noted, a recent Harvard report found a positive correlation between disclosed training programs and financial performance. Requiring companies to disclose human capital management indicators would provide investors with a better understanding of a firm’s performance and potential for long-term growth. 

The SEC’s current human capital disclosure requirements are extremely limited, requiring disclosures only of the number of employees, their median compensation, and CEO compensation. In a July letter, Sen. Warner urged the SEC to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Specifically, Sen. Warner encouraged the SEC to revise and modernize Regulation S-K to require public reporting companies to disclose more qualitative and quantitative information regarding human capital. While the SEC would be responsible for developing and finalizing the requirements, human capital disclosures could potentially require firms to make public information about employee education and training programs; workforce demographics; employee turnover; employee compensation; and workforce compensation and incentives.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after President Trump announced Ret. Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will serve as the Acting Director of National Intelligence, effective August 15:

“When I supported Admiral Maguire’s previous nomination, I made it clear I expected him to empower the intelligence professionals he led to do their important work free from political interference. Given the circumstances of his appointment as Acting DNI, it is more important than ever that Admiral Maguire stands by that commitment to speak truth to power. His success or failure in this position will be judged by the quality of work produced by the intelligence community, not by how those intelligence products make the President feel.

“After leading the men and women in the Navy and serving our country faithfully, the burden shouldered by this capable public servant is now much higher with a White House that continuously breaks longstanding norms that have governed the intelligence community. Shading intelligence to fit political views ultimately threatens the safety and effectiveness of America’s dedicated intelligence professionals and makes our country less safe. While Admiral Maguire demonstrates a continued willingness to serve our nation, it does not replace the President’s responsibility to nominate a permanent Director during this critical time for our country.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and 39 colleagues in urging Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin against unilaterally cutting capital gains taxes for the wealthiest Americans by an additional $100 billion over 10 years, an action that would defy longstanding Justice Department policy.

The request follows a letter signed by 21 Republican senators urging Secretary Mnuchin to circumvent Congress and index capital gains rates to inflation.

“Indexing capital gains would double down on the 2017 $1.5 trillion tax giveaway with at least another $100 billion tax cut. According to the Penn-Wharton Budget Model, more than 86 percent of the benefit of indexing capital gains would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, while just 2.5 percent of the benefit would go to the bottom 90 percent of Americans,” the Senators wrote.

Along with Warner, Kaine, and Wyden, the letter is signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tina Smith (D-MN), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The full letter can be read below and HERE.

 

August 7, 2019

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20220

Secretary Mnuchin:

We strongly urge against executive action to index capital gains for inflation, and disagree with our 21 Republican colleagues who have urged you to circumvent Congress in a signed letter. This unilateral move would almost exclusively benefit the wealthiest Americans, add to the ballooning federal deficit, further complicate the tax code, and ignore longstanding Justice Department policy.

Indexing capital gains would double down on the 2017 $1.5 trillion tax giveaway with at least another $100 billion tax cut. According to the Penn-Wharton Budget Model, more than 86 percent of the benefit of indexing capital gains would go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, while just 2.5 percent of the benefit would go to the bottom 90 percent of Americans.

As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected, the 2017 tax cuts are not paying for themselves through increased revenue. The FY 2019 deficit is projected to be $896 billion, up from $666 billion in FY 2017.  Cutting capital gains taxes for the wealthy by indexing gains would only exacerbate this problem.

While indexing capital gains would unquestionably add to the deficit, the $100 billion price tag is a conservative estimate because it does not consider the resulting tax sheltering opportunities. If Treasury indexes capital gains for inflation but does not also index capital expenses, like interest and depreciation, taxpayers would only pay taxes on the real portion of their gains while still deducting their full, nominal expenses. Taxpayers could therefore use their losses on paper to offset tax owed. Indexing both gains and expenses for inflation, meanwhile, would increase the tax code’s complexity and the compliance burden on taxpayers.

The proposal would do little to nothing to boost the economy as it would provide a windfall for existing capital assets rather than incentivize new investment. The Congressional Research Service notes that “it is unlikely… that a significant, or any, effect on economic growth would occur from a stand-alone indexing proposal.” This is yet another policy that would fail American workers. 

Apart from these serious policy concerns, we do not believe Treasury has the authority to index capital gains through regulation. Such action would defy longstanding Congressional intent and Justice Department policy. The tax code has always assessed capital gains on the difference between the cost a person pays to acquire a security or property, reduced for cost-recovery deductions, (“basis” in tax parlance) and the price for which it was sold.

We agree with legal opinions written by the Treasury and Justice Departments in 1992 under President George H.W. Bush, which concluded that Congress intended the word “cost” to mean the price paid in nominal dollars without adjustment for inflation.  That plain language definition of cost first appeared in the Revenue Act of 1918 and now appears in Section 1012 of the tax code.

Incomplete legislative action on a policy also does not signal congressional intent. Although Congress has previously considered proposals to index capital gains for inflation, it has never enacted them. The policy preferences of individual members of Congress, even if they happen to comprise majorities of both Houses, have no legal weight until legislation is passed by both Houses and signed into law by the president. 

For example, during consideration of the Revenue Act of 1978, the House adopted a provision expressly indexing the basis of capital assets for inflation only to have the Senate reject this approach, choosing instead to increase the percentage of (nominal) capital gains that could be excluded. The Senate’s approach was ultimately enacted.

We again urge you to reject unilateral action on this issue. To do otherwise would illegally circumvent Congress to benefit the most fortunate Americans. A major policy change like this one should be considered by Congress through regular order, where it can be weighed against competing priorities, like upgrading our failing national infrastructure, investing in health care or shoring up Social Security.

Sincerely,

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