Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced the largest-ever federal investment in Virginia’s bridges, made possible by the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by Sen. Kaine. Virginia will receive $536.8 million over five years to address highway bridge needs, which include 577 bridges across the Commonwealth that are currently rated as being in “poor” condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“We’re thrilled to announce this record amount of funding to fix aging bridges across Virginia,” said the senators. “Modernizing bridges will improve safety and support economic growth in every corner of the Commonwealth. Today’s announcement is one more reason we were proud to support the once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment that is improving lives and livelihoods across the country.”

In July 2021, Sen. Warner joined Richmond officials for a tour of the Mayo Bridge, which was constructed in 1913 to cross the James River and is one of the hundreds of bridges across Virginia that are currently considered structurally deficient and expected to benefit from the investment announced today. Photos from that visit are available here.

In December 2021, Sen. Kaine joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in Richmond and Henrico County to discuss how the $7.7 billion in federal funds Virginia expects to receive from the infrastructure bill will be used to repair and replace roads and bridges and improve public transportation. 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement ahead of an expected vote this afternoon on S. 3436, a bill to require the imposition of sanctions with respect to entities responsible for the planning, construction, or operation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline:

“The bellicose actions and rhetoric that we have seen from Vladimir Putin in recent months represent the latest in a long string of offensive actions by the Russian President. Russia’s armed buildup around Ukraine – on top of the continued occupation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea – represents a serious threat not just to Ukraine, but to the broader peace and stability of Europe, and of the world. The Biden administration is actively engaged in conversations with Russia and with our European partners and allies to de-escalate the situation.

“What the Senate should be doing is reinforcing those ongoing conversations. We could do that by passing legislation that makes clear that accelerated aggression towards Ukraine will only strengthen U.S. assistance for our Ukrainian partners, reinvigorate NATO’s collective defense posture, and bring about devastating consequences for the Russian economy.

“The bill that we’re considering today is neither well-targeted nor well-timed; in the midst of serious diplomatic conversations it takes a shot at our European allies and risks undercutting negotiations. I look forward to working with my bipartisan colleagues to continue advancing the strong support that exists for Ukraine, and backing a clear and resolute stance in opposition to Russian aggression.”

Yesterday, Chairman Warner joined Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 24 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in introducing the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022, a bill to impose steep costs in the event of a renewed Kremlin invasion of Ukraine. 

###

 

 

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 24 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in introducing a bill to impose steep costs in the event of a renewed Kremlin invasion of Ukraine. This legislation to help deter a military escalation comes as the Kremlin continues to engage in an unjustified military build-up along Ukraine’s border. The proposal sends a clear message that the United States is prepared to impose devastating consequences for Putin and the Russian economy if he goes down the path of re-invading Ukraine.

“The bellicose actions and rhetoric that we have seen from Vladimir Putin in recent months represent the latest in a long string of offensive actions by the Russian President. Russia’s armed buildup around Ukraine – on top of their continued occupation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea – represents a serious threat not just to Ukraine, but to the broader peace and stability of Europe, and of the world,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill reinforces the message that the Biden administration must be conveying to Russia in face-to-face meetings this week – that accelerated aggression towards Ukraine will only strengthen U.S. assistance for our Ukrainian partners, reinvigorate NATO’s collective defense posture, and bring about devastating consequences for the Russian economy.”

Specifically, the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022 would impose crippling sanctions on the Russian banking sector and senior military and government officials in the case that President Putin chooses to escalate hostile action in or against Ukraine. The bill would also prohibit transactions on Russia’s primary and secondary sovereign debt and authorize sanctions on Russia’s extractive industries as well as on providers of specialized financial messaging services (e.g., SWIFT). To help meet urgent defense needs, the legislation calls upon the Departments of Defense and State to expedite transfer of defense articles to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities and authorizes $500 million in supplemental emergency security assistance to Ukraine in the event of a re-invasion by Russia. Lastly, the bill also expands U.S. efforts to counter Kremlin disinformation and strengthen ties with key regional partners facing Kremlin aggression.

As the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner co-led the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. As a result of this investigation, the committee issued a comprehensive, five-volume report that concluded the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multi-faceted effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and that the willingness of top officials on the Trump campaign to accept and even welcome Russian assistance represented a grave counterintelligence threat to our nation.

Text of the bill is available here.

 

The Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act

Mandatory and Additional Sanctions in the Event of Renewed Invasion: If an affirmative determination made by the president that Russia has engaged in a renewed invasion or escalation of hostilities, the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act triggers a cascade of mandatory sanctions on Russia’s political and military leadership, financial institutions, extractive industries, and Nord Stream 2, outlined below.

  • Presidential Determination on Renewed Invasion or Escalation in Hostilities. Requires a Presidential determination as to whether the Russian government is engaged in or knowingly supporting a significant escalation in hostilities against Ukraine and whether the aim or effect of the escalation is to overthrow or dismantle the government of Ukraine, occupy Ukraine’s territory, or interfere with its territorial integrity.
  • Mandatory Sanctions on Officials: Requires sanctions on list of officials including President Putin, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, and commanders of various branches of the armed forces, including the airborne and naval forces.
  • Mandatory Sanctions on Financial Institutions: Requires the President to impose sanctions on three or more financial institutions from the following: Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, VEB.RF, The Russian Direct Investment Fund, Credit Bank of Moscow, Alfa Bank, Rosselkhozbank, FC Bank Otkritie, Promsvyazbank, Sovcombank, and Transkapitalbank.
  • SWIFT: Authorizes sanctions on providers of specialized financial messaging services (e.g., SWIFT), and requires reporting on efforts to terminate services for sanctioned Russian financial institutions.
  • Sovereign Debt: Prohibits transactions on primary and secondary Russian sovereign debt.
  • Additional Sanctions: Requires the President to identify and sanction sectors and industries the President determines should be sanctioned in the interest of United States national security, including oil and gas extraction and production; coal extraction, mining, and production; and minerals extraction and processing.
  • Nord Stream 2: Expresses the sense of Congress that Nord Stream 2 is a tool of malign influence of the Russian Federation, and that the United States should consider should consider all available and appropriate measures to prevent the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from becoming operational, and directs the administration to review its prior waiver of Nord Stream 2 in light of the Kremlin’s military buildup and aggression towards Ukraine.
  • Waivers and Exceptions: Provides the President with a national security waiver and provides the standard exceptions for authorized intelligence activities, compliance with international obligations, and law enforcement activities.

Expediting Security Assistance to Ukraine

  • Bolstering Ukraine’s Defenses: Directs State and DOD to develop a strategy to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities and enhance the delivery of security assistance to Ukraine, including meeting Ukraine’s most critical needs and coordinating with allies in providing immediate assistance to Ukraine.
  • Expediting Delivery of Defense Articles: Authorizes DOD and State to expedite procurement and delivery of defense articles and services for Ukraine, including through utilizing lease authority and the Special Defense Acquisition Fund.
  • Supplemental Security Assistance: Authorizes $500 million in supplemental emergency security assistance to Ukraine in the event Russia re-invades for fiscal year 2022 and authorizes $3 million international military and education training for Ukraine. Also makes clear that the U.S. should continue to provide robust security assistance to Ukraine in the meantime. 
  • Report on Increased Security Assistance to Ukraine: Requires a report on the security assistance and provision of defense articles provided to Ukraine by the United States and allies since Russia’s military buildup.

 

Countering Kremlin Aggression against Ukraine and Eastern European Allies

  • Combating Kremlin Disinformation: Directs State to use the Countering Russian Influence Fund to prioritize assisting Ukraine in combatting Russian disinformation.
  • Expanded Support for RFE/RL: Directs Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to improve its reach to audiences on the periphery of Russia, authorizes the exploration of opening new bureaus to reach new audiences in the Eurasia region and encourages RFE/RL to evaluate where Russian information is most deeply pervasive in the Eurasia region.
  • Baltic Security and Economic Enhancement Initiative: Creates a new initiative to deepen security and economic ties with the Baltic states, including promoting the Baltic states’ resiliency against hybrid warfare, increasing interoperability with NATO forces, bolstering support for the Baltic region’s physical and energy security needs, and mitigating Russian and Chinese economic coercion against Baltic states.
  • European Security: Expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should work closely with NATO allies and the OSCE in any discussions on European security, and requires the Secretary of State to submit a strategy to Congress on future formats to discuss European security, including an assessment of whether Russia has sufficiently de-escalated tensions to merit such discussions.
  • Report on Russian Intelligence Services Destabilizing Ukraine: Requires a report on the role of Russian intelligence and security services in undermining Ukrainian independence and engaging in destabilizing activity.
  • Public Disclosure of Putin’s Assets and Financial Practices: Requires an accounting and disclosure on the net worth, assets, and financial practices of Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, and their family members, including a public disclosure of the unclassified details.

 

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere (both D-VA), joined 30 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in formally requesting that the Biden administration grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) re-designations for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in addition to a new TPS designation for Guatemala.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the sens. expressed their concern with the worsening humanitarian conditions across Central America being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple devastating natural disasters, all of which have contributed to an uptick in outmigration from the region.

“The crisis in Central America is urgent. ... TPS designations and redesignations would provide critical protections for eligible beneficiaries and enable them to support basic needs of loved ones back home and invest in safer alternatives to irregular migration,” the senators wrote. “It is our assessment that the severe damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes just over one year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions, and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, warrant such an action by the Administration.”

Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to return safely to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions.

“Over one million Central Americans have been displaced by violence and insecurity. Gender-based violence continues to be a major driver of displacement, with rates increasing dramatically throughout 2020. … Additionally, countries in the region have suffered severe democratic backsliding and political persecution is on the rise, including through the consolidation of a dictatorship in Nicaragua, the dismantling of independent judiciaries, and efforts to intimidate and silence civil society and independent media,” the senators continued. “The Biden administration must act and provide certainty for eligible individuals from Central America during this challenging moment. These temporary designations would give the U.S. government more time to partner with governments and civil society to ensure that the return of a large number of individuals to Central America does not create further instability and volatility in the region.”

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for the TPS program and in 2020 wrote a letter urging the incoming Biden Administration to protect TPS recipients in Virginia and throughout the country.

Joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in signing the letter were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken,

We write to express our concerns about ongoing humanitarian needs in Central America and to appeal for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) redesignations for El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and a new TPS designation for Guatemala. It is our assessment that the severe damage caused by back-to-back hurricanes just over one year ago, combined with extreme drought conditions, and the social and economic crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, warrant such an action by the Administration. The Guatemalan government has requested a TPS designation, and U.S. Embassies have issued disaster declarations for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in recognition of the urgent needs. TPS designations and redesignations would provide critical protections for eligible beneficiaries and enable them to support basic needs of loved ones back home and invest in safer alternatives to irregular migration. Lastly, such designations would be consistent with the Administration’s commitments to address climate migration.

The crisis in Central America is urgent. In the past year, the region has experienced extreme weather events, including two hurricanes followed by a months-long drought. According to the World Food Program (WFP), farmers in the region face the worst dry farming season in 35 years. Hunger in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has increased almost fourfold over the past two years, according to WFP, from 2.2 million people in 2018 to close to 8 million people in 2021. Eight in ten households are resorting to crisis coping measures, selling their lands, tools, and livestock, and missing meals or eating less nutritious meals. It will take years to repair damage to roads, schools, bridges, wells, and other physical infrastructure caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota, which continue to impede citizens’ livelihoods. The pressures have led to an uptick in outmigration from the region. In January, 15 percent of people surveyed by WFP said they were making concrete plans to migrate — double the number two years ago. Media report that the region’s citizens are having to choose between migrating or facing hunger. Despite U.S. Embassies’ disaster declarations, which activated the delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance, 8.3 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in July 2021, including 5.5 million who were in desperate need of food as of September 2021, according to the Famine Early Warning System Network.

The International Monetary Fund says that remittances initially supported the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but tropical storms Eta and Iota interrupted progress, damaging crops and halting manufacturing. In 2020, Honduras’ GDP dropped nine percent, El Salvador’s GDP dropped nearly eight percent, Nicaragua’s dropped two percent, and Guatemala’s by 1.8 percent. The IMF supported the region with emergency financing to cope with these shocks. However, the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lagging vaccination campaigns, especially in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, will prolong the region’s economic recovery.

Combined, the effects of the natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have profoundly exacerbated food insecurity, violence, and led to rising social tensions. Forced displacement continues to plague the region. Over one million Central Americans have been displaced by violence and insecurity. Gender-based violence continues to be a major driver of displacement, with rates increasing dramatically throughout 2020. On November 3, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights named El Salvador the most dangerous Latin American country for women. Additionally, countries in the region have suffered severe democratic backsliding and political persecution is on the rise, including through the consolidation of a dictatorship in Nicaragua, the dismantling of independent judiciaries, and efforts to intimidate and silence civil society and independent media.

TPS is a humanitarian tool used by both Democratic and Republican administrations to provide relief for individuals who are unable to return to countries facing extraordinary conditions. The Biden administration must act and provide certainty for eligible individuals from Central America during this challenging moment. These temporary designations would give the U.S. government more time to partner with governments and civil society to ensure that the return of a large number of individuals to Central America does not create further instability and volatility in the region. They would also provide immediate and tangible humanitarian benefits to new status holders and help mitigate the factors driving dangerous outmigration by securing life-saving remittances.

It is our view that El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua meet the standards for TPS. We look forward to working closely with and supporting the Biden administration as it take this important step to uphold humanitarian protections, safeguard U.S. national security interests, and defend American families. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – Ahead of the President’s address in Georgia, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement on the urgent need to protect voting rights:

“As a member of the greatest deliberative body in the world, I continue to believe that we must preserve the Senate’s ability to debate contrasting viewpoints on matters of public policy. However, voting is the bedrock of our democracy and it is a right that should never be up for contention. As President Biden doubles down on his efforts to safeguard democracy from the barrage of attacks by state legislatures, Virginians can be sure that I’ll be working in the Senate to do whatever it takes to protect Americans’ access to the ballot.”

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $500,000 in federal funds for the Town of Dungannon to go towards improvements to its water distribution system.

The improvements include the installation of 13,840 linear feet of waterline at scattered locations to improve water service for 42 households and 25 businesses. The new waterline will also increase water accountability and create hydraulic efficiencies in the distribution system.

“This project is vital for the Town of Dungannon and will provide businesses and households access to reliable and safe water,” the senators said. “These funds will help to finally replace a system that has dangerously allowed for leaks and line breaks to contaminate public water.”

The funds come from the Appalachian Regional Commission and will be combined with $883,563 in state funding allocated to the project.

Replacement of the waterlines will reduce system-wide water loss, replace inoperable valves, lower maintenance costs, and increase pressure. Additionally, households and businesses in the project service area will have access to a more reliable water infrastructure capable of supporting new opportunities for economic development.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today pressed Amtrak for answers, just days after passengers found themselves stranded on a train for more than 24 hours in Lynchburg, Va. during a winter storm. 

“According to news reports, passengers on board described the lack of communication from Amtrak as a nightmare situation. One passenger has said that Amtrak did not tell passengers that they would be spending the night in the train after it returned to Kemper Street Station.  While Amtrak released a statement saying that food and water was available for its stranded customers, passengers have reported that the train ran out of food,” wrote the Senators.

They continued, “It is unacceptable that Amtrak did not better communicate with passengers during an emergency situation such as this.  Inclement weather is uncontrollable.  However, Amtrak must have appropriate systems and practices in place to ensure that passengers and crew caught in such weather are not only safe, but also understand the situation and their options.  We have long been supporters of Amtrak; but, simply put, Amtrak must do better.

According to reports, during the incident, approximately 220 passengers and six crew members were onboard the Amtrak train, which was headed to New York from New Orleans. On Monday morning, the train made it 20 miles outside of Lynchburg before turning around and returning to Lynchburg’s Kemper Street Station due to downed power lines and trees caused by a winter storm. 

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

 

Mr. Bill Flynn, Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Stephen J. Gardner, President

Amtrak

1 Massachusetts Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20001

 

Dear Mr. Flynn and Mr. Gardner:

We write today concerning this week’s reported incident where approximately 220 passengers and six crew members suffered being stranded more than 24 hours on an Amtrak train in Lynchburg, VA.  Amtrak Crescent Train 20 left New Orleans, LA on Sunday January 2, en route to New York.  On Monday morning, the train made it 20 miles outside of Lynchburg before it had to turn around and return to Lynchburg’s Kemper Street Station due to downed powerlines and trees caused by a winter storm.   

According to news reports, passengers on board described the lack of communication from Amtrak as a nightmare situation.   One passenger has said that Amtrak did not tell passengers that they would be spending the night in the train after it returned to Kemper Street Station.   While Amtrak released a statement saying that food and water was available for its stranded customers, passengers have reported that the train ran out of food. 

It is unacceptable that Amtrak did not better communicate with passengers during an emergency situation such as this.  Inclement weather is uncontrollable.  However, Amtrak must have appropriate systems and practices in place to ensure that passengers and crew caught in such weather are not only safe, but also understand the situation and their options.  We have long been supporters of Amtrak; but, simply put, Amtrak must do better.

Our staff will follow up to discuss Amtrak’s current procedures as well as steps Amtrak is taking so that communication failures like what we saw this week in Lynchburg do not happen again.  

Thank you,

 

###

 

* High-quality photographs of Sen. Mark R. Warner are available for download here *

Photos may be used online and in print, and can be attributed to ‘The Office of Sen. Mark R. Warner’

 

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol:

“One year ago today, the world watched as a violent mob stormed and desecrated the U.S. Capitol in an effort to rob the American people of the sacred right to elect their President. Despite these insidious efforts, democracy prevailed due to the brave actions of the Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police, Virginia State Police, Maryland State Police, and members of the National Guard who put themselves in peril, saving many lives and in some cases, losing their own. It is my hope that we will continue to honor those who lost their lives by remembering that democracy must be upheld each and every day. We must realize that what happened on January 6 did not end on January 6. Efforts to sow doubts about the integrity of our elections are chipping away at the values upon which our nation was founded. As state legislatures across the country continue to exploit Donald Trump’s Big Lie to restrict access to the ballot, we must act to protect the right to vote and safeguard our democracy once more.”

Sen. Warner is a member of the Senate Rules Committee, which continues to examine the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Yesterday, Sen. Warner participated in the committee’s latest hearing on the Capitol Police response to the attack.


  BROADCAST-QUALITY AUDIO AND VIDEO CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced that the Virginia Port Authority will receive $20 million in funding from the Department of Transportation for improvements to Portsmouth Marine Terminal that will allow it to serve as a staging area to support the manufacturing and movement of offshore wind goods to support the 2.6 gigawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project and other commercial offshore wind projects up-and-down the East Coast.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia has firmly established itself as a leader in the burgeoning offshore wind industry in the U.S.,” said the Sens. “This funding is a recognition of the Commonwealth’s leadership in this space and will go a long way towards establishing Virginia as a hub for offshore wind development along the East Coast.”

This funding was awarded through the Department of Transportation’s Port Infrastructure Development Program, a competitive discretionary grant program administered by the Maritime Administration. In September 2021, Warner, Kaine, and Rep. Scott led a Virginia Congressional Delegation letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in support of the Port’s grant application.

###

 

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement in response to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) announcement making available an additional 20,000 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for fiscal year (FY) 2022. These visas will be set aside for U.S. employers seeking to employ additional workers on or before March 31, 2022:

“I’m grateful that the Biden administration is making these additional visas available. Every year, my office hears from seafood businesses about how difficult it is to fulfill labor needs in an industry with incredibly demanding and temporary jobs like processing crabs and shucking oysters. These businesses – often small and family-owned – live in a constant state of worry, unsure whether they’ll have to cancel contacts because they can’t get the workers that they need. While this announcement is welcome, additional visas will be needed in the spring, when our seafood processors face their busiest season of the year. Moving forward, I will continue to push for reforms to the H-2B visa program to ensure our processors have the labor certainty they need for their businesses to grow and thrive.” 

The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Visa Program allows U.S. employers to hire seasonal, non-immigrant workers during peak seasons to supplement the existing American workforce. In order to be eligible for the program, employers are required to declare that there are not enough U.S. workers available to do the temporary work, as is the case with the seafood industry, which relies on H-2B workers for tough jobs such as shucking oysters and processing crabs. 

Sen. Warner has long advocated for the expansion of H-2B visas in order to ensure that seafood processors in Virginia have the seasonal workforce they need. Earlier this year Sen. Warner, joined by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin, and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) urged the Biden administration to make available the maximum number of Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas to support local seafood businesses.

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded the Senate passage of the nation’s annual defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  

“I’m proud to have voted today to pass legislation that will further strengthen our nation’s military and technological capabilities, as well as reaffirm our commitment to servicemembers – all while making crucial investments that will boost local economies and the industrial base throughout Virginia. I look forward to seeing this bill get signed into law,” said Sen. Warner.

The $768.2 billion bill passed by the Senate today includes a number of provisions authored or cosponsored by Sen. Warner that would:

  • Make historic reforms to the military’s handling of sexual assault cases. Provisions modeled after the Warner-sponsored Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would empower independent prosecutors with the exclusive authority to refer certain offenses to trial, removing this authority from the military chain of command; improve tracking of sexual assault retaliation claims; include sexual harassment as a “standalone offense,” and make claims subject to investigation by an independent investigator; expand use of a Department of Defense (DoD) safe helpline for sexual assault reporting; and make important reforms to help support survivors.
  • Create a basic needs allowance for servicemembers, to ensure that all men and women in uniform can support their families with necessities like adequate food. The provision, modeled after the Warner-sponsored Military Hunger Prevention Act is aimed at combating disturbing rates of food insecurity in the military.
  • Commission a report on the impacts of the Afghan resettlement mission on the National Guard. Support from the military has been vital in the historic and incredibly important Operation Allies Welcome mission, helping bring vulnerable Afghans to safety, and ultimately resettling them in the U.S. This provision would require the Secretary of Defense to produce a report on the impacts of that resettlement mission on the National Guard, including any effects on mission readiness, training, maintenance, and equipment, so that we can ensure the Guard has the support it needs going forward.
  • Require a fuller analysis on planned restructuring of military medical positions. The final bill includes a provision that mirrors an amendment introduced by Sen. Warner to hold the military’s plans for reductions and realignment to military end strength authorizations, pending an independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the analysis backing the move, and its potential impacts.
  • Promote defense research at HBCUs and MSIs. Based off Senator Warner’s amendment and bill the BEACON Act of 2021, the NDAA requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to promote defense research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, including by providing contracting assistance and establishing goals and incentives for further partnership.
  • Support military mental health resources by creating a process through which a servicemember can self-initiate a referral for mental health evaluation. Senator Warner cosponsored a bipartisan amendment to include this provision – that provision is modeled after the Brandon Act, which is named in honor of United States Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta.

The bill also includes a number of other crucial measures supported by Sen. Warner.

For the Commonwealth, this bill authorizes:

  • Nearly $500 million for 19 military construction projects in Virginia that will create jobs, strengthen local economies, and provide needed improvements to our military installations. These projects are authorized at installations across the Commonwealth, including Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Ft. Belvoir, the Humphreys Engineer Center, NGA, the Virginia National Guard Readiness Center, and the Pentagon.
  • $3.1 billion for the Columbia-class submarine program – $130 million more than the President’s budget. This funding will go towards industrial base development and expansion, which supports the Virginia- and Columbia-class programs. This would increase capacity, qualify new suppliers, add resiliency and create competition for critical components, and identify points in the supply chain where shortfalls exist.
  • Boosted funding for shipbuilding programs that would allow the military to procure 13 battle force ships, including two Virginia-class submarines, two additional destroyers, and an extra expeditionary fast transport.
  • A $25 million increase to strengthen the industrial base workforce training pipeline to support the development of advanced manufacturing capabilities, and the ability to train a world-class manufacturing workforce.

For a stronger military, this bill authorizes:

  • A pay increase of 2.7 percent for our nation’s servicemembers.
  • Expanded parental leave, which will authorize up to 12 weeks of leave for all primary and secondary caregivers following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.
  • Increased accountability around military housing by requiring the Secretaries of the military departments to ensure that personnel performance evaluations assess the extent to which certain military officers have exercised effective oversight and leadership of military privatized housing.
  • An additional $30 million for the Defense Health Program to increase capacity to provide treatment for servicemembers, civilians, and family members affected by Havana Syndrome. It would also require the President to designate a senior official as the interagency coordinator for responding to this threat.

To strengthen our nation’s technological capabilities and supply chains, this bill includes:

  • Full authorization of U.S. Cyber Command, and requirements for various assessments of our cyber capabilities and defenses.
  • An increase of $3 billion in funding for science and technology programs that fund cutting-edge research across universities, small businesses, defense labs, and industry. This will help develop U.S. capacity in critical areas such as AI, microelectronics, advanced materials, 5G, and biotechnology.
  • A supply chain directive requiring the Comptroller General to assess DoD’s efforts to address information and communications technology supply chain risks.
  • Authorization for $250 million to establish a national network for microelectronics research and development to support a world-leading domestic microelectronics manufacturing capability. This provision strengthens measures made possible by Sen. Warner’s CHIPS for America Act.

To bolster our ability to address strategic global challenges, this bill would authorize:

  • $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative to support U.S. strategic aims in the Indo-Pacific region, and respond to actions by China and the CCP.
  • $4 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative to counter Russian aggression and support our NATO allies.
  • $300 million in security assistance and intelligence support to Ukraine to deter continued malign actions by Russia.

###

 

 

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the Senate-passed FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report includes a version of their bipartisan Building Equitable Access to Contribute to Our National Security (BEACON) Act, legislation to expand Department of Defense (DoD) research funding opportunities for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Institutions (MIs). This includes Central State University and Wilberforce University in Ohio, and Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Virginia University of Lynchburg in Virginia. The Department funds basic research at institutions of higher education and this legislation would ensure HBCU students get the resources and research opportunities to succeed in STEM and other related careers. Brown and Warner filed a modified version of the BEACON Act as an amendment during Senate consideration of the NDAA. The House included a version of the BEACON Act in the NDAA and the FY22 NDAA Conference Report retained a similar provision. The House-Senate NDAA conference report now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“This legislation will help tap into the enormous potential of Virginia’s five Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which for too long received a disproportionally small portion of our nation’s defense research funding,” said Warner. “I’m proud to have fought for this provision, which will strengthen the STEM pipeline at our HBCUs and help ensure that these institutions can access the resources they need to bolster critical defense research.”

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Wilberforce and Central State in Ohio, are a critical part of our nation’s higher education system and provide important research opportunities for students traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers,” said Brown. “This funding will widen the talent pool and help elevate partnerships between the Department of Defense and these institutions for years to come.” 

Defense research is a vital source of innovation and a financial resource for our nation’s universities, which received over $4.6 billion from the Department of Defense in science and engineering funding in 2018. Yet, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) received only $21 million – less than a half percent, of that funding. These disparities continue while Black individuals are underrepresented in the STEM labor force by 53% and despite the fact HBCUs are a proven pipeline for diverse STEM talent, graduating 20 percent of all African American college students and nearly 30 percent of all African American STEM professionals.

An interim report from NASEM found that “limited set aside dollars and no requirements or incentives to increase their participation in non-targeted programs, [congressional] encouragement has not translated into significant capacity-building or sustained support.” The report further found that “new funding streams may be necessary to expand opportunities to HBCU/MIs” and “mutually beneficial partnerships may serve as a strategy for HBCU/MIs to build and better utilize their current capacity to conduct DoD-funded research.”

Specifically, the amendment would:

  • Require the Department of Defense to establish a plan to elevate a consortium of HBCUs/MIs, assess their ability to participate and compete in engineering, research, and development activities, and report this plan to Congress.
  • Give DoD the authority to establish a grant program to build out HBCU defense research capacity, including developing the workforce and research infrastructure and improving the capability to retain research faculty and staff. 
  • Increase partnerships between federally funded research development centers, University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), and HBCUs/MIs. 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) were joined by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA-03) and Elaine Luria (D-VA-02) in sending a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting the inclusion of at least $60 million in funding to start construction on the City of Norfolk’s Coastal Storm Risk Management Project. This funding is being requested as part of the amount made available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

In their letter, the lawmakers highlighted the importance of this project, which will serve as a much needed solution to help protect the area as the region suffers increased damage and weather-related harm due to climate change. 

“The rate of sea level rise within the city and surrounding area is one of the highest along the East Coast, exacerbating the city’s vulnerability to flood events. Recent storms that resulted in significant flood events for Norfolk include Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the November 2009 nor’easter, Hurricane Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For these reasons, USACE identified Norfolk as one of the nine areas of high risk by the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS),” the lawmakers wrote. 

The Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project establishes a system of surge barriers, tidal gates, floodwalls, levees, pump stations, and non-structural measures to reduce and manage flooding including:

  • The Ghent, Hague / Downtown Structural System  – This system includes a 600 linear foot (lf) storm surge barrier with a pump and power station. The surge barrier would tie into approximately 27,236 (lf) of constructed floodwall and 2,582 (lf) of earthen levee. Four pump stations and tide gates would also be constructed and operated for interior drainage. In addition, Natural and Nature Based Features (NNBF) include approximately 7,200 (lf) of living shoreline and 5,250 (lf) of oyster reef.  Mitigation includes an additional 3,800 (lf) of living shoreline.
  • Pretty Lake Structural System – This system would include a storm surge barrier approximately 114 (lf) long with a pump and power station. This feature would tie into 5,642 (lf) of floodwall. In addition, NNBF include approximately 560 (lf) of oyster reef.  Mitigation includes approximately 2,375 (lf) of living shoreline.
  • Lafayette River Structural System – This system includes a storm surge barrier of approximately 6,634 (lf) with a power station. The feature would tie into 1,535 (lf) of constructed earthen levee. Three tide gates would be constructed and operated. NNBF includes approximately 6,200 (lf) of living shoreline and 3,290 lf of oyster reef.  Mitigation includes 5,150 (lf) of living shoreline and 1,100 lf of wetland.
  • Broad Creek Structural System – This system would include a storm surge of approximately 1,291 (lf) with a power station. The storm surge barrier would tie into approximately 8,787 (lf) of floodwall. One pump station and four tide gates would also be constructed and operated for interior drainage.

The lawmakers previously requested funds for the projects as part of Army Corps FY 2020 Work Plan. 

Full text of the letter is available here and below.

The Honorable Shalanda Young

Acting Director

Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20503

 

The Honorable Michael L. Connor

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

441 G Street, NW

Washington, DC 20314 

 

Dear Acting Director Young and Assistant Secretary Connor:

We write today concerning the City of Norfolk’s Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) project and funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) made available in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). We respectfully request the inclusion of at least $60 million in the IIJA USACE spend plan to initiate the first construction contract of this essential $1.6 billion project for the City of Norfolk.

The City of Norfolk, with a population of approximately 240,000, is highly vulnerable to flooding from coastal storms and rising sea levels. The rate of sea level rise within the city and surrounding area is one of the highest along the East Coast, exacerbating the city’s vulnerability to flood events. Recent storms that resulted in significant flood events for Norfolk include Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the November 2009 nor’easter, Hurricane Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For these reasons, USACE identified Norfolk as one of the nine areas of high risk by the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS).

The recommended project is the result of the Final Integrated City of Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study and Environmental Impact Statement, Norfolk, Virginia, that concluded in February 2019 with a Report of the Chief of Engineers. The City of Norfolk CSRM project consists of a system of surge barriers, tidal gates, floodwalls, levees, pump stations, and non-structural measures to reduce and manage flooding for major portions of the city.

The estimated total cost of construction for the Norfolk CSRM project is approximately $1.6 billion, with an estimated Federal cost of $1.043 billion and an estimated non-Federal cost of $562 million. The Norfolk District USACE Office has indicated it is able to begin construction on this project and accept at least $60 million in Federal funding to initiate the Federal share of the Downtown to Harbor Park floodwall element. Utilizing funding from the IIJA to initiate construction of the Norfolk CSRM project would help move the project forward toward reducing risk for our constituents from the threats of ever-increasing storms and sea level rise, while also helping to secure nationally significant economic and military interests located in and around Norfolk.

The City of Norfolk’s CSRM project is a critical priority for the Hampton Roads region and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Rising sea levels and extreme weather events will always be a concern for Norfolk. Each additional year it takes to construct this CSRM project provides another opportunity for the next extreme weather event to wreak havoc on our constituents in Norfolk. By investing in this project, we can help mitigate future risk and save money on future disaster relief, while providing the people of Norfolk with increased assurance of safety in the event of future extreme weather events.

Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions regarding this request.

Sincerely,

 

###

 

 U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement on the status of voting rights legislation in Congress:

“When it comes to voting rights, when it comes to that basic right to exercise and participate in democracy, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would ensure we uphold what makes our democracy strong.  Across the country, in states like Georgia and Texas, the rights of all Americans, but especially minority and young Americans are being attacked, and the basic tenets of our democracy are under siege. These changes to voting laws are un-American, like saying you can’t give water to someone who is waiting in line to vote, or in states like Texas where they're saying a local government can overturn the results of a local election — that is not democracy.  The Senate has shown it cannot do its basic duty, and find 60 Senators to support basic voting rights, so I support changing the rules around the filibuster for voting rights legislation. We must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure that our democracy remains strong and in line with our values as Americans.” 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), along with their bipartisan colleagues Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking the Treasury Department to work with Congress in order to ensure that the cryptocurrency provision included in the recently-enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is implemented effectively and in accordance with congressional intent. During consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Senators Portman and Warner conducted a colloquy on August 9 to clarify the scope and intent of a provision implementing information reporting requirements for cryptocurrency brokers.

This is the federal government’s first attempt at incorporating digital assets into our nation’s tax code, which has led to concern over how it will interpret the provision’s definition of “broker.” The senators have asked the Treasury Department to issue information or informal guidance regarding the definition of “broker” as discussed during the legislative process and if needed, the senators are prepared to offer legislation to further clarify that intent.

“We thank you and your team for working with us in implementing this IIJA provision. We ask that you carefully consider the characteristics of the technologies which drive this space, which may include differences in the consensus mechanisms of various distributed ledgers and second layer protocols. We have conveyed to our constituents that we will continue working with you to ensure that the provision is implemented as Congress intended, and we look forward to doing so,” wrote the sens.

“Digital assets could be impactful technological developments in certain sectors, and clear guidelines on tax reporting requirements will be important to those in this ecosystem. It will be important that we continue to work to provide further clarity, and to help ensure that the United States remains a global leader in financial innovation and development, while ensuring that this technology does not become a vector for illicit finance, tax evasion, or other criminal activity,” continued the sens.

The full text of the letter can be found here or below:

Dear Secretary Yellen, 

President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law on November 15, 2021. Now that this bill has become law, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that it is implemented effectively and in accordance with congressional intent.

Section 80603 of the IIJA standardizes information reporting by brokers of digital assets to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax purposes by modifying Section 6045 of the Internal Revenue Code. The aim of this provision is to provide more certainty for Americans looking to invest in these digital assets, ensuring that crypto investors receive the same tax documents, generally a Form 1099-B, from their brokers that stock traders receive, which in turn will enable them to file their taxes more easily and promote higher compliance. This provision is one of the first efforts by the Federal government to better incorporate digital assets, like virtual currency, into our nation’s tax code.

Some market participants have expressed concern that an overly-broad interpretation of this provision’s definition of “broker” could capture certain individuals who are solely involved with validating distributed ledger transactions through mining, staking, or other methods, and entities solely providing software or hardware solutions enabling users to maintain custody of their own digital asset wallets.

As Senator Portman and Senator Warner articulated in a colloquy on the floor of the Senate on August 9, 2021, “[t]he purpose of this provision is not to impose new reporting requirements on people who do not meet the definition of brokers.” Further, our understanding from both the Administration and the Joint Committee on Taxation is that they shared the same interpretation of the provision as its authors: that the reporting requirements only cover brokers who enable the transfer of digital assets for consideration —and not other parties which are ancillary to the process unless they are serving in an additional capacity as brokers.

We urge you to engage in rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in an expeditious manner. However, because of the need for certainty and the time required for rulemaking under the APA, we urge the Department of the Treasury to provide information or informal guidance as soon as possible – no later than the end of the current calendar year – regarding the definition of “broker” as discussed during the legislative process. We are also prepared to offer legislation to further clarify that intent.

We thank you and your team for working with us in implementing this IIJA provision. We ask that you carefully consider the characteristics of the technologies which drive this space, which may include differences in the consensus mechanisms of various distributed ledgers and second layer protocols. We have conveyed to our constituents that we will continue working with you to ensure that the provision is implemented as Congress intended, and we look forward to doing so.

Digital assets could be impactful technological developments in certain sectors, and clear guidelines on tax reporting requirements will be important to those in this ecosystem. It will be important that we continue to work to provide further clarity, and to help ensure that the United States remains a global leader in financial innovation and development, while ensuring that this technology does not become a vector for illicit finance, tax evasion, or other criminal activity.

Sincerely,

###

 WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded an announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it will drop a plan to close the Air Traffic Control Tower at Richmond International Airport between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. The decision follows a November 23 letter from the two Senators that urged the FAA to maintain the Control Tower’s current 24/7 operations.

“We are glad that the FAA listened to feedback from passenger airlines, cargo carriers, fixed base operators, air traffic controllers, and other stakeholders who all opposed the plan to close the air traffic control tower at night,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “A busy commercial service airport like Richmond International needs to have a control tower that is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

###

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner & Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined a bicameral letter led by Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi urging the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to address student voter registration and participation as it formulates higher education rulemaking. The letter comes as states across the country pass legislation designed to curb the voting rights of Black, Brown, and young people.

“Across the country, voting rights are under attack, and new laws restricting access to voting have been transparently intended to discourage students and people of color from participating in our elections. The Department can and should play a significant role in supporting democracy by creating additional nonpartisan opportunities for students to register to vote, keep their voter registration up to date, and participate in state and federal elections,” wrote the lawmakers.

“Participating in our democracy is consistent with the goals of federal financial aid, and the Department should take swift action to support access to voter registration and voting for students in this rulemaking process. Thank you for your attention to our request,” concluded the lawmakers.

Kaine, a former civil rights attorney, has long fought to protect voting rights and expand access to the ballot box. In September, Kaine introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation cosponsored by Warner to improve access to the ballot for Americans, advance commonsense election integrity reforms, and protect our democracy from attacks. The Freedom to Vote Act elevates the voices of American voters by ending partisan gerrymandering and helping to eliminate the undue influence of secret money in our elections.

In October, Warner and Kaine helped introduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act legislation to restore the landmark Voting Rights Act and stop the spread of voter suppression.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Secretary Cardona:

We write to urge the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) to address student voter registration and participation in upcoming rulemaking for higher education accountability and to provide additional guidance to institutions of higher education to facilitate civic engagement.

Across the country, voting rights are under attack, and new laws restricting access to voting have been transparently intended to discourage students and people of color from participating in our elections. The Department can and should play a significant role in supporting democracy by creating additional nonpartisan opportunities for students to register to vote, keep their voter registration up to date, and participate in state and federal elections.

Section 487(a)(23) of the Higher Education Act requires each institution of higher education that receives federal financial aid funds to make a “good faith effort” to distribute voter registration materials and to make such materials “widely available” to students. A college’s good faith effort to distribute voter registration information widely should reflect the most common methods by which individuals register to vote— including, increasingly, online registration—and the deadlines they must meet.

The Department has full authority to prescribe regulations to enforce the program participation agreement in Section 487(a)(23). In early 2022, as part of the upcoming institutional accountability rulemaking, the Department should propose regulations that specify the time, manner, and frequency by which voter registration materials are distributed to students.

Importantly, at least once per year, as part of the course registration or other institutional enrollment process, the rules should require institutions to distribute to student’s voter registration information, including, where possible, a direct and accessible web link to register to vote or to update their voter registration (such as providing a new address). The rules should also recommend institutions distribute voter registration materials to students during other interactions many students will have with institutions, such as student identification application processes. While the regulations should prioritize online voter registration options to ensure an easy and accessible process for students, they should also accommodate institutions in states that do not conduct online voter registration.

The Department should also swiftly issue sub-regulatory guidance that clarifies institutions’ responsibilities under current regulations. This guidance should remind colleges of their existing requirement to distribute voter registration information to students well in advance of state deadlines to register to vote. And, such guidance should strongly encourage institutions to adopt best practices for providing links to voter registration online and through direct notifications to students, including links during course registration and campus-wide email reminders. These reminders should also encourage students to check and update their voter registration information to ensure the most recent address is on file and explain current law on where students may register to vote based on their permanent residence. Finally, the guidance should make clear that Federal Work-Study funds can be used for nonpartisan voter registration, education, engagement, and poll watching activities—and can help institutions meet their community service requirements.

Participating in our democracy is consistent with the goals of federal financial aid, and the Department should take swift action to support access to voter registration and voting for students in this rulemaking process. Thank you for your attention to our request.

Sincerely,

###

 

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded two grants totaling $2,966,029 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded to Southwest Virginia to strengthen the region’s workforce development initiatives and outdoor recreation economy. The first is a $1,466,029 grant awarded to the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge for the development of workforce training opportunities to help individuals in the region gain key skills for good jobs. The second is a $1,500,000 grant awarded to Russell County for the "Building an Outdoor Recreation Economy in Southwest Virginia" project that will help support increased tourism in the region and create jobs.

“We’re glad to see these grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission go toward education, job training, and economic development opportunities in Southwest Virginia,” the Sens. said. “We will continue to champion policies that create jobs, grow our economy, and provide greater opportunities for families across the Commonwealth."

The grant awarded to Dabney S. Lancaster Community College will go toward the Appalachian Hardwood Training Initiative (AHTI) and will develop training opportunities for people working in sawmills and wood manufacturing facilities throughout the ARC region, as well as underemployed individuals in the region. Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc. members have identified key skills needed by the industry to address current gaps. The program aims to train workers to improve their skills and get jobs.

The grant awarded to Russell County, Virginia will go toward the "Building an Outdoor Recreation Economy in Southwest Virginia" project, which will involve the construction of the Three Rivers Destination Center (TRDC) in the middle of Virginia's coalfield region and serve as a hub to grow tourism in Southwest Virginia. The grant will create 16 new jobs and support $1.4 million in increased revenues for the area's businesses and government. The TRDC will highlight the area's recreational assets, help visitors plan trips, and connect tourists with regional amenities and businesses. The center will be located close to the Clinch River State Park, the Jefferson National Forest, Breaks Interstate Park, and other recreational amenities. The center will also serve as headquarters for area tourism organizations, which promote the 600+ regional tourism assets responsible for employing over 1,900 people with a payroll of $40 million throughout the 7-county region. The investment will help support increased tourism and spending, promote entrepreneurship, and help address the negative economic impacts from the downturn of the coal industry.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Rep Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), a member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, teamed up with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) to introduce bipartisan legislation that would make it unlawful for a foreign national to contribute money, either directly or indirectly, to a state or local ballot initiative or ballot referendum. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act would overturn a July decision from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which gave a green light to foreign nationals seeking to finance campaign efforts related to ballot initiatives after ruling that a federal law banning foreign money in campaigns applies only to federal, state and local candidate elections.

“The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act further safeguards our elections from foreign interference by making it illegal for foreign donors to contribute to any ballot initiative or referendum,” Sen. Warner said. “There is no circumstance under which foreign entities should be able to sway the American democratic process and this legislation works to ensure that.” 

“American elections should remain American elections. Local and state ballot initiatives here in the United States should be focused on the concerns of a community — not the interests of a foreign individual, company, or nation,” Rep. Spanberger said. “The current loophole that allows foreign entities to influence these initiatives should be closed immediately, and I am proud to work with a bipartisan group of legislators in both the Senate and the House to make that happen. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act would reassert the American people’s rightful control of their local ballot measures, and I am proud to work with Senator Warner, Senator Rubio, and Congressman Banks on this critical effort.”

“Foreign donors should not be able to influence America’s democratic process,” Sen. Rubio said. “It is already illegal for foreign nationals to donate to political candidates, parties, and committees. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act will extend that commonsense protection of our political process to ballot initiatives and other referendums. We must do everything we can to protect the votes of American citizens.”

“The FEC’s decision to let foreign actors directly influence U.S. policy fights undermines our democracy,” Rep. Banks said. “That’s why I’ve joined Sens. Rubio and Warner and Rep. Spanberger to overturn it and ensure Americans voices are heard.”

As the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner co-led the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into interference in the 2016 election, eventually issuing a comprehensive, five-volume report that concluded the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multi-faceted effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and that the willingness of top officials on the Trump campaign to accept and even welcome Russian assistance represented a grave counterintelligence threat to our nation. Sen. Warner also introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, legislation that would require political campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections influence to the appropriate federal authorities at the FEC and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A copy of the bill is available here.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Ahead of Wednesday’s Senate hearing with the head of Instagram, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and John Thune (R-SD) along with Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-AL) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16) have re-introduced the Deceptive Experiences to Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns,” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data. The DETOUR Act would also prohibit these platforms from using features that result in compulsive usage by children.

The term “dark patterns” is used to describe online interfaces in websites and apps designed to intentionally manipulate users into taking actions they would otherwise not. These design tactics, drawn from extensive behavioral psychology research, are frequently used by social media platforms to mislead consumers into agreeing to settings and practices advantageous to the company. 

“For years dark patterns have allowed social media companies to use deceptive tactics to convince users to hand over personal data without understanding what they are consenting to. The DETOUR Act will end this practice while working to instill some level of transparency and oversight that the tech world currently lacks,” said Sen. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former technology executive. “Consumers should be able to make their own informed choices on when to share personal information without having to navigate intentionally misleading interfaces and design features deployed by social media companies.” 

Manipulative user interfaces that confuse people and trick consumers into sharing access to their personal information have become all too common online. Our bipartisan legislation would rein in the use of these dishonest interfaces and boost consumer trust. It’s time we put an end to ‘dark patterns’ and other manipulative practices to protect children online and ensure the American people can better protect their personal data, said Sen. Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

“Dark patterns are manipulative tactics used to trick consumers into sharing their personal data. These tactics undermine consumers’ autonomy and privacy, yet they are becoming pervasive on many online platforms. This legislation would help prevent the major online platforms from using such manipulative tactics to mislead consumers, and it would prohibit behavioral experiments on users without their informed consent,” said Sen. Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees.

“We live in an environment where large online operators often deploy manipulative practices or ‘dark patterns’ to obtain consent to collect user data,” said Sen. Thune, ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband. “This bipartisan legislation would create a path forward to strengthen consumer transparency by holding large online operators accountable when they subject their users to behavioral or psychological research for the purpose of promoting engagement on their platforms.”

“My colleagues and I are introducing the DETOUR Act because Congress and the American public are tired of tech companies evading scrutiny and avoiding accountability for their actions. Despite congressional hearings and public outcries, many of these tech companies continue to trick and manipulate people into making choices against their own self-interest,” said Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. “Our bill would address some common tactics these companies use, like intentionally deceptive user interfaces that trick people into handing over their personal information. Our children, seniors, veterans, people of color, even our very way of life is at stake. We must act. And today, we are.”

“Social media has connected our communities, but also had detrimental effects on our society. Big tech companies that control these platforms currently have unregulated access to a wealth of information about their users and have used nontransparent methods, such as dark patterns, to gather additional information and manipulate users,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez. “The DETOUR Act would make these platforms more transparent through prohibiting the use of dark patterns. We live in a transformative period of technology, and it is important that the tech which permeates our day to day lives is transparent.”

Dark patterns can take various forms, often exploiting the power of defaults to push users into agreeing to terms stacked in favor of the service provider. Some examples of these actions include: a deliberate obscuring of alternative choices or settings through design or other means; the use of privacy settings that push users to ‘agree’ as the default option, while users looking for more privacy-friendly options often must click through a much longer process, detouring through multiple screens. Other times, users cannot find the alternative option, if it exists at all, and simply give up looking.

The result is that large online platforms have an unfair advantage over users and potential competitors in forcing consumers to give up personal data such as their contacts, messages, web activity, or location to the benefit of the company.

“Tech companies have clearly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to self-regulate.  So many companies choose to utilize manipulative design features that trick kids into giving up more personal information and compulsive usage of their platforms for the sake of increasing their profits and engagement without regard for the harm it inflicts on kids,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense. “Common Sense supports Senators Warner and Fischer and Representatives Blunt Rochester and Gonzalez on this bill, which would rightfully hold companies accountable for these practices so kids can have a healthier and safer online experience.”

“'Dark patterns' and manipulative design techniques on the internet deceive consumers. We need solutions that protect people online and empower consumers to shape their own experience. We appreciate Senator Warner and Senator Fischer's work to address these misleading practices,” said Jenn Taylor Hodges, Head of U.S. Public Policy at Mozilla.

“Manipulative design, efforts to undermine users’ independent decision making, and secret psychological experiments conducted by corporations are everywhere online. The exploitative commercial surveillance model thrives on taking advantage of unsuspecting users. The DETOUR Act would put a stop to this: prohibiting online companies from designing their services to impair autonomy and to cultivate compulsive usage by children under 13. It would also prohibit companies from conducting online user experiments without consent. If enacted, the DETOUR Act will make an important contribution to living in a fairer and more civilized digital world,” said Katharina Kopp, Director of Policy at Center for Digital Democracy.

The Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act aims to curb manipulative behavior by prohibiting the largest online platforms (those with over 100 million monthly active users) from relying on user interfaces that intentionally impair user autonomy, decision-making, or choice. The legislation:

  • Prohibits large online operators from designing, modifying, or manipulating user interface with the purpose or substantial effect of obscuring, subverting, or impairing user autonomy, decision-making, or choice to obtain consent or user data
  • Prohibits subdividing or segmenting consumers for the purposes of behavioral experiments without a consumer’s informed consent, which cannot be buried in a general contract or service agreement. This includes routine disclosures for large online operators, not less than once every 90 days, on any behavioral or psychological experiments to users and the public. Additionally, the bill would require large online operators to create an internal Independent Review Board to provide oversight on these practices to safeguard consumer welfare.
  • Prohibits user design intended to create compulsive usage among children under the age of 13 years old (as currently defined by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act).
  • Directs the FTC to create rules within one year of enactment to carry out the requirements related to informed consent, Independent Review Boards, and Professional Standards Bodies.

Sen. Warner first introduced the DETOUR ACT in 2019 and has been raising concerns about the implications of social media companies’ reliance on dark patterns for years. In 2014, Sen. Warner asked the FTC to investigate Facebook’s use of dark patterns in an experiment involving nearly 700,000 users designed to study the emotional impact of manipulating information on their News Feeds.

Sen. Warner is one of Congress’ leading voices in demanding accountability and user protections from social media companies. In addition to the DETOUR Act, Sen. Warner has introduced and written numerous bills aimed designed to improve transparency, privacy, and accountability on social media. These include the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Actlegislation that allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination across platforms; the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight and Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that would require data harvesting companies to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit; and the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act, legislation that would encourage market-based competition to dominant social media platforms by requiring the largest companies to make user data portable – and their services interoperable – with other platforms, and to allow users to designate a trusted third-party service to manage their privacy and account settings, if they so choose.

Full text of the bill is available here

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded $161 million in federal funding to rehabilitate the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP). This historic funding was made possible by the Great American Outdoors Act, a once-in-a-generation law authored and championed by Sen. Warner. The funding will come to Virginia by way of a contract issued by the National Park Service (NPS) in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

“When we passed the Great American Outdoors Act, we knew it would help enable historic investments in national parks throughout the nation. Today, I’m proud to see these dollars come to Virginia to help rehabilitate one of the most important parkways in the nation,” said Sen. Warner. “Along with the funding that’s coming through our bipartisan infrastructure law, I look forward to seeing how these investments strengthen our Commonwealth, create local jobs, and reinvigorate our local economies.”

The George Washington Memorial Parkway is a scenic roadway that honors the nation’s first president and preserves cultural and natural resources along the Potomac River from Great Falls to Mount Vernon.  The northern section of the parkway – from Spout Run to Interstate 495 – is the busiest section of parkway and serves about 26 million drivers annually or roughly 70,000 vehicles per day. This section, which opened in 1962, has never undergone a major rehabilitation. The first phase of the project will be project design, and park visitors and drivers will experience little or no change to their routines. Construction, which is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2023 and be completed in 2025, will impact drivers. Before construction begins, the NPS will provide detailed information to help drivers plan their trips.   

Championed by Sen. Warner, the Great American Outdoors Act is a landmark law that preserves and protects our country’s national parks and public lands. The bipartisan law provides permanent and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and helps address the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks and other land management agencies. It also tackles $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at Virginia’s national parks.

Sen. Warner’s effort to address the deferred maintenance backlog began in March 2017, when he worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the National Park Legacy Act. That same year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its own proposal, drawing heavily on the initial proposal from Sens. Warner and Portman. However, the Administration proposal would not have established a dedicated funding stream for NPS maintenance. In March 2018, after extensive negotiations, Sen. Warner and a bipartisan group introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a consensus proposal endorsed by the Trump Administration, to invest in overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites.

In March 2020, following the President’s announcement that he would back the bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act as well as full and permanent funding for LWCF, Sen. Warner and his colleagues introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law in August of 2020. According to the Park Service, approximately $249 million in funding from the Great American Outdoors Act has been allocated to national parks in Virginia thus far.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, China:

“I applaud President Biden’s decision to impose a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. A diplomatic boycott of the Games sends a powerful message to the Chinese Communist Party that the United States will not turn a blind eye to the CCP’s increasing aggression globally and its disturbing human rights abuses, a list that is long and growing and includes vast and systematic repression of Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang; cultural destruction in Tibet; the silencing of those deemed threatening to the CCP, such as tennis player Peng Shuai, and companies and individuals around the world who do not adhere to the CCP’s narrative; escalating threats against the people of Taiwan; and the destruction of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong.”

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA), and U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) asked President Joe Biden to approve an appeal that would grant federal assistance to individual residents in and around Hurley, Va. who were affected by the severe flooding, landslides, and mudslides that occurred on August 30, 2021, causing extensive damage in the area.

Following the extreme rainfall event, Hurley, Va. and surrounding areas suffered extensive damage, including loss of life and destruction to homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure. On October 26, following strong advocacy by the lawmakers, FEMA approved a Major Disaster Declaration for Buchanan County, opening up a range of federal assistance programs for the area. However, it later denied a request for Individual Assistance, which would have allowed individual Virginians in the area to receive financial assistance and direct services.

“We write today to express our strong support for Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam’s request for an appeal of the denial of Individual Assistance (IA) for Buchanan County as part of your Major Disaster Declaration that was issued for the county on October 26, 2021,” wrote the lawmakers. “While we appreciate your recent issuance of a Major Disaster Declaration for Buchanan County, we concur with the Commonwealth’s assessment that IA should be made available to our constituents to assist in their recovery from this tragic flood event.”

“As you know, IA is an incredibly important tool for communities that have been devastated by natural disasters. FEMA provides IA directly to individuals and households who have sustained significant losses as a direct result of a natural disaster that received a federal disaster declaration. This assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured property losses, and other critical needs,” they continued. “The unlocking of IA for the residents of Hurley would go a long way towards helping this community recover from this extreme weather event.”

In their letter today, the lawmakers stress the need for help at the individual level to ensure a fulsome recovery, and urge the President’s full and fair consideration of Virginia’s appeal for Individual Assistance for our constituents in and around Hurley.

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

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

President

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:

We write today to express our strong support for Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam’s request for an appeal of the denial of Individual Assistance (IA) for Buchanan County as part of your Major Disaster Declaration that was issued for the county on October 26, 2021.

While we appreciate your recent issuance of a Major Disaster Declaration for Buchanan County, we concur with the Commonwealth’s assessment that IA should be made available to our constituents to assist in their recovery from this tragic flood event.

On August 31, 2021, Governor Northam declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia following severe flooding, landslides, and mudslides that occurred on August 30, 2021. On this date, the unincorporated area of Hurley, Virginia, experienced an extreme rainfall event resulting in 8-10 inches of rain being released in a short amount of time. This rainfall event caused heavy floods, landslides, and mudslides that resulted in extensive damage in and around Hurley.

On October 26, 2021, we were pleased that you approved Virginia’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration, which provided Public Assistance for Buchanan County and Hazard Mitigation for the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, on October 29, 2021, we were disappointed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a formal denial of Governor Northam’s request for Individual Assistance for Buchanan County.

As you know, IA is an incredibly important tool for communities that have been devastated by natural disasters. FEMA provides IA directly to individuals and households who have sustained significant losses as a direct result of a natural disaster that received a federal disaster declaration. This assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs, uninsured and underinsured property losses, and other critical needs. The unlocking of IA for the residents of Hurley would go a long way towards helping this community recover from this extreme weather event.

Again, we thank you for your continued support for the residents of Buchanan County, Virginia, following the August 30, 2021 flood event. To ensure a fulsome recovery for this community, we urge your full and fair consideration of Virginia’s appeal for Individual Assistance for our constituents in and around Hurley.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and please let us know if we can be helpful to you in any way.

Sincerely,

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led members of the Virginia congressional delegation in requesting at least $159 million in federal funding for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project. In a letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Shalanda Young and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor, the lawmakers requested that this funding be approved in part through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan, and through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

“Deepening Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet from its current 50 feet depth and widening Thimble Shoal Channel to 1,400 feet will enable safe, two-way traffic in and out of the harbor and will help prevent delays to commercial and military vessels – a necessity in today’s global trading landscape,” the lawmakers wrote. “Expanding Norfolk Harbor to allow for two-way traffic will also help prevent backlogs of commercial vessels that could cause costly delays and supply chain disruptions that are currently affecting some port facilities across the U.S.”

In their letter, the Members of Congress stressed the importance of federal funds in enabling the project’s on-time completion, as well as the important role the Port of Virginia plays in both the state and national economy.

“The Port of Virginia is a commercial and economic engine for the United States and continues to play an integral role in American foreign and domestic commerce and trade. Federal investment into this project will allow the Port to remain a prominent economic hub for the nation and a key player in domestic and international trade by generating more than $3.9 billion in net national economic development benefits,” they continued. 

Specifically, the lawmakers requested that a minimum of $75.3 million in funding be made available through the bipartisan infrastructure law that was passed earlier this year. These federal dollars would go towards fully funding construction of the inner harbor and advancing construction of the Atlantic Ocean Channel – measures that would help address capacity constraints at the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area.

Additionally, the lawmakers requested that at least $83.7 million in funding be maintained in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan, which allocates funding for civil works projects across the nation each fiscal year. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner celebrated the inclusion of $83.7 million in funding for the Norfolk Harbor project in President Biden’s budget request. These proposed funds were subsequently included in the spending bills approved by the House and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittees. If included in the FY22 Work Plan, these federal dollars would fund construction for the Newport News Channel and a portion of the inner harbor.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have long been strong advocates for the Norfolk Harbor project. In February, Sen. Warner spoke about the importance of the project during a Senate Banking Committee hearing. Sen. Warner also led the Virginia congressional delegation in a letter to OMB requesting a New Start designation for the project in January of this year. This request was also made in 2020. In July, Sen. Kaine advocated for the project to Assistant Secretary Connor as part of his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In 2018, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully fought for the inclusion of the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project, in addition to other coastal resiliency programs, in the bipartisan water infrastructure bill.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letter was signed by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Donald McEachin (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), and Gerry Connolly (D-VA).

Full text of the letter is here and below.

The Honorable Shalanda Young

Acting Director

Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20503

 

The Honorable Michael L. Connor

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

441 G Street, NW

Washington, DC 20314 

 

Dear Acting Director Young and Assistant Secretary Connor:

As lawmakers representing the Commonwealth of Virginia, we write today concerning funding needs for the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Widening and Deepening project. In order to keep this essential project for Virginia on schedule, we request at least $159 million in federal funding in Fiscal Year 2022 through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan and funding made available through the recently enacted bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

The Port of Virginia is one of the largest and busiest ports on the East Coast and is one of the Commonwealth’s most powerful economic engines. Annually, the Port of Virginia is responsible for more than 400,000 jobs and $92 billion in spending across Virginia and generates more than seven and half percent of the Commonwealth’s Gross State Product. The Port’s reach also extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into the Ohio Valley and Midwest. U.S. exports account for more than half of its container movements and serve a robust rail market to and from American farmers and manufacturers throughout the Midwest and Ohio Valley.

The widening and deepening of Norfolk Harbor is essential to continue safe and timely passage of ever-increasing commercial and military vessels through the harbor. Deepening Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet from its current 50 feet depth and widening Thimble Shoal Channel to 1,400 feet will enable safe, two-way traffic in and out of the harbor and will help prevent delays to commercial and military vessels – a necessity in today’s global trading landscape. Expanding Norfolk Harbor to allow for two-way traffic will also help prevent backlogs of commercial vessels that could cause costly delays and supply chain disruptions that are currently affecting some port facilities across the U.S.

Construction on the first constructible element of the Norfolk Harbor project, deepening Thimble Shoal Channel – West, began in December 2019, 18 months ahead of schedule. In August 2021, the Port awarded a contract to deepen and widen Thimble Shoal Channel – East. Both segments are scheduled to be complete by August 2022. Both contracts are funded and administered by the Port and are in full compliance with federal standards under a Memorandum of Understanding with USACE in July 2017. Further, the construction work is eligible as Work-In-Kind once a Project Partnership Agreement is signed. The Commonwealth of Virginia has provided full funding of $20 million for Preconstruction Engineering and Design and $330 million for construction in its FY19-20 biennial budget.

We were pleased that the President’s FY22 Budget Request included $83.7 million and a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor project. We were also pleased to see this funding maintained in the House and Senate Fiscal Year 2022 Energy and Water Subcommittee Appropriations bills. As the Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations process continues, we respectfully request this amount be maintained in the USACE Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan. This amount will fund construction for the Newport News Channel and a portion of the inner harbor. In addition, we request at least $75.3 million in funding through the recently signed IIJA to fully fund inner harbor construction and advance Atlantic Ocean Channel construction to address capacity constraints at the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area. Allocating at least $159 million in federal funding to Norfolk Harbor in Fiscal Year 2022 will allow this nationally significant project to remain on track for completion by early 2025.

The Port of Virginia is a commercial and economic engine for the United States and continues to play an integral role in American foreign and domestic commerce and trade. Federal investment into this project will allow the Port to remain a prominent economic hub for the nation and a key player in domestic and international trade by generating more than $3.9 billion in net national economic development benefits. Completion of this project will also support the construction of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project – a 2.6-gigawatt commercial offshore wind project off Virginia’s coast that will power up to 660,000 Virginia homes and the Commonwealth’s push to become a hub for offshore wind development along the East Coast.

Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions regarding this request. We look forward to continue working with you to support this critical project for Virginia and our nation’s ports and harbors.

Sincerely,

###

 

 

WASHINGTON –U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced Virginia transit and highway systems are expected to receive more than $8 billion in federal funds over the next five years as a result of the bipartisan infrastructure deal signed into law last month.

“The bipartisan infrastructure law is delivering real, hard-fought wins to communities across the Commonwealth and the nation to maintain our roads, bridges, and rail,” the senators said. “Already we are seeing the impact this meaningful legislation will have throughout Virginia.”

Virginia’s transit systems are expected to receive over $1.2 billion over the next five years. The funds are expected to be distributed as follows:

  • Blacksburg, VA: $18,442,213
  • Bristol, VA – Bristol TN: $7,893,935
  • Charlottesville, VA: $19,185,122
  • Fredericksburg, VA: $20,992,768
  • Harrisonburg, VA:  $14,476,058
  • Kingsport, TN-VA: $11,780,158
  • Lynchburg, VA: $18,976,348
  • Richmond, VA: $104,922,587
  • Roanoke, VA: $22,258,920
  • Staunton-Waynesboro, VA: $6,770,544
  • Virginia Beach, VA: $176,559,982
  • Washington, DC-VA-MD: $2,742,614,626
  • Williamsburg, VA: $14,401,113
  • Winchester, VA: $8,736,841

Additionally, as a result of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Virginia transit systems will be able to compete for approximately $34.7 billion in nationwide discretionary grant programs for important priorities like improving bus and train station accessibility and expanding rural transit options.

The bill also renews the federal funding commitment for WMATA through fiscal year 2030, which means $1.2 billion for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority over the next eight years to ensure the Metro is safe and efficient for Virginians.

In addition, Virginia’s highways, bridges, and electric vehicle charging stations are expected to receive over $7.7 billion in funding over the next five years. The funding will be distributed by program as follows:

  • National Highway Performance Program: $3,821,862,528
  • Surface Transportation Block Grant: $1,859,284,475
  • Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program: $536,761,305
  • Highway Safety Improvement Program: $408,582,208
  • Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program: $311,405,743
  • PROTECT Formula Program: $188,510,787
  • National Highway Freight Program: 183,657,838
  • Carbon Reduction Program: $165,786,199
  • National Vehicle Electric Formula: $106,376,132
  • Appalachian Development Highway System: $102,835,469
  • Metropolitan Planning: $51,902,542
  • Railway-Highway Crossings Program: $24,798,925

The funding represents a portion of federal funds headed to Virginia as a result of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bipartisan, once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure that was negotiated by Sen. Warner and strongly supported by Sen. Kaine. Last week, the Senators announced that Virginia airports are slated to receive $400 million over the next five years as a result of the bipartisan infrastructure law.

###