Press Releases

WASHINGTON — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice-Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) filed legislation (S. 640) to extend Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act from its current expiration of March 31, 2021 to September 30, 2021. The provision allows a critical lifeline for federal agencies to maintain contractors, who would otherwise be at risk for layoff or furlough due to the pandemic. Warner and Rubio also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) requesting that Section 3610 be extended “as freestanding legislation, as we have introduced, or as a provision on the next appropriate legislative vehicle.”

A coalition of organizations wrote in support of Warner and Rubio's efforts to extend Section 3610, highlighting that “numerous organizations representing the breadth of the government industrial base, including manufacturers and service providers, from large companies to small businesses, have emphasized the importance of the 3610 authority and the need for an extension.” 

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell,

We write to ask that Section 3610 Federal Contractor Authority of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act be extended to September 30, 2021, as freestanding legislation, as we have introduced, or as a provision on the next appropriate legislative vehicle.

This authority was last extended in the omnibus appropriations act for fiscal year 2021 and is due to expire on March 31, 2021. We believe extending this authority given the prolongation of the global pandemic is critically important to the resilience of our national security industrial base. Section 3610 has proven to be an important means of providing necessary relief during the pandemic to critical Intelligence Community industry partners—and particularly to small businesses that provide highly specialized capabilities—to retain key national security capabilities.

We look forward to working with you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a declassified report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi:

“For too long, the United States failed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the brutal murder of journalist, dissident, and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi. I’m encouraged to see the new administration taking steps to rectify that by releasing this long-overdue congressionally mandated report into his killing.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today applauded an announcement by the new Chief of the U.S. Park Police (USPP) Pamela A. Smith that she will, as one of her first actions as chief, implement a nationwide body-worn camera program for USPP  by the end of the year. 

“It’s been more than three years since Bijan Ghaisar was shot and killed by U.S. Park Police and his family is still searching for answers to understand what happened to their son and brother that day,” said Sen. Warner. “While nothing will bring Bijan back, I am glad to see the new leadership of the Park Police taking steps that could help avert more needless tragedies. I have long supported federal funding for law enforcement body cameras because I think they help instill trust between officers and the public they serve. I congratulate Chief Smith on her historic appointment and look forward to working with her to increase safety and accountability on our federal lands.” 

Today Smith was named as the new Chief of United States Park Police. Smith is the first African American woman to lead the USPP, the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today welcomed a move by the U.S. Department of Labor expanding the number of workers who are eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that was created as part of the federal CARES Act. Last week, Sen. Warner and four of his colleagues raised concern with the Department that policy guidance issued to state unemployment offices on Jan. 8 was limiting the ability of workers whose hours have been reduced to access PUA benefits.

“There are workers all over the country who have had their hours reduced or been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19, and they should be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance under the CARES Act,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m glad to see the Department of Labor listened to our concerns and is adjusting their guidance to states to make clear that these workers are eligible for PUA benefits.”

On Feb. 17, Sen. Warner joined Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to issue revised guidance making clear that workers who have had their hours reduced, or who have been temporarily laid off even though their employer remains open, are eligible for PUA.

In the Feb. 17 letter to the Department of Labor, the Senators wrote, “Partial closures are very common for businesses like restaurants that are operating with limited indoor dining capacity, or only offering take-out services, and have resulted in many service workers working reduced hours or being temporarily laid off even though their employer remains open. The recent guidance directs states to deny PUA eligibility to workers who have been impacted by partial closures. This is of particular concern for workers who do not have sufficient qualifying earnings to be considered eligible for state unemployment, including workers who are newly hired. It is clear from the language of the CARES Act that PUA is intended to cover workers who are ‘unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work’, which would include workers affected by partial closures… We ask that the Department clarify that workers impacted by partial closures or their employer scaling back business operations are eligible for PUA, or use its authority under 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I)(kk) of the CARES Act to ensure these workers are eligible. This clarification is vital so that these workers can make ends meet during the pandemic.

When emergency pandemic unemployment programs were set to expire at the end of last year, Sen. Warner successfully led the fight to include an extension in the $900 billion emergency COVID-19 relief legislation that Congress approved in December. From the start of this crisis, Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur and longtime leader on labor issues affecting contractors and the contingent workforce, has pushed to expand benefits for Americans who have found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own during the pandemic. In March, Sen. Warner voted in favor of $2 trillion bipartisan legislation that, among other things, expanded access to unemployment benefits for gig workers, contractors and the self-employed. In the months following the signing of the legislation, Sen. Warner urged states to quickly implement federal provisions easing restrictions on emergency unemployment benefits, and called on the Department of Labor (DOL) to issue and clarify state guidance in order to ensure that workers were able to receive benefits. He also introduced legislation to help guarantee that Americans who earn a living through a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income (1099) were able to fully access the financial relief made available under the PUA program.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former technology entrepreneur, released a statement after the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law held hearing entitled “Reviving Competition, Part 1: Proposals to Address Gatekeeper Power and Lower Barriers to Entry Online”:

“Social media has undeniably reshaped our entire culture and the ways we communicate, and has enormous benefits. However, we have seen that as platforms’ collective influence has grown, so have barriers to entry for smaller platforms. We must level the playing field for startups and make it easier for them to compete on equal terms with the biggest platforms. That is why I introduced bipartisan legislation, the Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching (ACCESS) Act, to 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. I am pleased to see the subcommittee and its witnesses address this important issue and am looking forward to continuing the conversation on how to enhance competition online.”

In addition to the ACCESS Act, Sen. Warner has written and introduced a number of bills designed to protect consumers and reduce the power of giant social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Among these are the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act – legislation to reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination on their platforms; theDesigning Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act – bipartisan legislation to 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 Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act – bipartisan legislation to prohibit large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces to trick consumers into handing over their personal data.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today announced that minority-owned and community-based lending institutions can now apply for grants through the U.S. Treasury Department to support, prepare for, and respond to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is available as part of a record $12 billion investment to open up new credit opportunities for Black, Latino and low-income communities that Sen. Warner successfully fought to include in the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed in December.  

Even before the pandemic, low-income communities and communities of color faced significant barriers in accessing credit and economic opportunity,” said Sen. Warner. “The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated those inequalities. Today’s announcement by the Treasury Department is one step in helping low-income and minority communities recover and emerge from this unprecedented economic downturn with more opportunities than before.”

Surveys show that Black- and Latino-owned small businesses have been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic. Thousands of minority-owned small businesses have closed for good, in part due to difficulty securing bank loans and accessing assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that while overall small business ownership in the U.S. dropped 22 percent between February and April 2020, Black and Latino ownership dropped by 41 percent and 32 percent, respectively. Another recent survey revealed that almost 1 in 5 Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs expect to permanently close their doors within three months, compared to 14 percent of white small business owners.

In order to combat the hemorrhaging of jobs and economic opportunities during the pandemic, Sen. Warner in July teamed up with then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act in order to strengthen the financial institutions that serve communities of color and increase lending to minority-owned businesses and lower-income borrowers. The effort secured endorsements from the Black Economic Alliance, the NAACP, the National Bankers Association, the National Urban League, the Center for Responsible Lending and a host of other advocacy organizations and civil rights groups. Sen. Warner was later able to secure provisions from the bill in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, providing an unprecedented $12 billion in funding for lenders that predominantly operate in underserved communities.

Today’s announcement by the Treasury Department releases an initial tranche of $1.25 billion in grant funding for eligible community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in order to expand the flow of credit into underserved, minority, and historically disadvantaged communities, helping small businesses stay afloat and expand operations while providing affordable access to credit for lower income borrowers. Additional funding will be made available in the coming months, as part of the largest single investment into minority-owned and community-based lending institutions in the nation’s history.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging the Commission to administer the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP) in a way that helps address the longstanding digital divides that block too many Americans from securing a reliable, affordable broadband connection. In their letter, the Senators encourage the FCC to design the program in a way that helps to establish a “durable, scalable model for future digital equity efforts,” and lays out specific steps to ensure that all Americans can access this essential 21st century tool.

“As communities across the country continue to grapple with connectivity challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen unprecedented reliance on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services,” wrote the Senators. “Unfortunately, the already-existing digital divide has been further exacerbated by these disruptions, which have highlighted and furthered the broadband gap that too many American households still face. While Congress continues to work with the FCC and other Federal agencies on expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved areas through a number of programs, affordability remains a significant barrier to connectivity for far too many Americans. According to Pew Research, approximately half of non-broadband users’ given reason for lack of connectivity is prohibitive cost, and 44 percent of households earning $30,000 or less do not have broadband. With the establishment of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and with proper, forward-looking implementation, we believe we can make a substantial difference in supporting broadband affordability for the most vulnerable Americans.

“First, while the EBBP will sunset after the end of the coronavirus pandemic, it presents a unique opportunity for the FCC to look at how to address the broadband affordability issue long-term and starting to think now about the longevity of cost support well beyond this program,” the Senators continued. “As we know, the ultimate end to the pandemic will not signify the end to the digital divide, and the efforts that we put forth now toward encouraging digital equity must represent a durable, scalable model for future digital equity efforts.

The letter from Senators Warner, King, and Hassan goes on to lay out additional steps that the FCC should take in order to maximize the reach and impact of the EBBP both during this crisis and in the long-term. Specifically, the Senators highlight the value of collaborating, with state and community partners, urge the commission to set the eligibility criteria as broadly as reasonably possible, and emphasize the importance of supporting newer or smaller broadband services, many of which operate in historically underserved areas.

“Finally, it is important to make access to the EBBP benefits streamlined and accessible - both for providers and households, including subscribers of newer broadband service. The program will be most successful when eligible households are readily able to participate without overly cumbersome or restrictive requirements,” added the Senators.

“Closing the digital divide is of critical importance to our economic future and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure every American has access to affordable high-speed broadband, regardless of one’s household income or the zip code of where one lives,” the Senators concluded. “We appreciate your history of leadership on connectivity issues and working to close the digital divide. We believe that the EBBP presents an exciting opportunity to address the digital divide and affordability barriers to broadband access. With proper implementation and collaboration with state and local partners, it can allow all members of our communities to better participate in a 21st century society and economy, both during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.”

The full letter can be downloaded HERE or read below

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The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel

Acting Chairwoman

Federal Communications Commission

45 L Street, NE

Washington, DC 20554

 

Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel,

We write to you today regarding the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) invitation for public comment on how to administer the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP). As you know, the EBBP was created by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (P.L. 116-260) and offers eligible households discounts on broadband service during an emergency period related to the coronavirus pandemic. We appreciate the opportunity to share our input and perspective on this vital issue to ensure that the program is utilized to its fullest potential.

As communities across the country continue to grapple with connectivity challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen unprecedented reliance on telepresence services, including telework, online education, telehealth, and remote support services. Unfortunately, the already-existing digital divide has been further exacerbated by these disruptions, which have highlighted and furthered the broadband gap that too many American households still face. While Congress continues to work with the FCC and other Federal agencies on expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved areas through a number of programs, affordability remains a significant barrier to connectivity for far too many Americans. According to Pew Research, approximately half of non-broadband users’ given reason for lack of connectivity is prohibitive cost, and 44 percent of households earning $30,000 or less do not have broadband.[1] With the establishment of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, and with proper, forward-looking implementation, we believe we can make a substantial difference in supporting broadband affordability for the most vulnerable Americans.

First, while the EBBP will sunset after the end of the coronavirus pandemic, it presents a unique opportunity for the FCC to look at how to address the broadband affordability issue long-term and starting to think now about the longevity of cost support well beyond this program. As we know, the ultimate end to the pandemic will not signify the end to the digital divide, and the efforts that we put forth now toward encouraging digital equity must represent a durable, scalable model for future digital equity efforts.

Second, it is important to collaborate closely with state/local partners and anchor institutions—first to provide education and outreach about the programs’ availability and incentivize participation within underserved communities, but also to ensure that the FCC can work in tandem with existing digital inclusion efforts on the state level. Community awareness of the program’s benefits and encouraging community partnerships are key to successful implementation, and will pair well with existing state-based programs promoting digital inclusion through adult education, equipment lending, and telehealth initiatives. 

Third, the intention of Congress in providing the EBBP benefits was to reduce consumer broadband costs to address the affordability barriers to wider broadband access. We all share the goal of ensuring that families facing difficult financial circumstances during the pandemic are not forced to choose between housing, food, and other necessities and internet service. In order to accomplish that objective, the FCC should set eligibility criteria as broadly as reasonably possible, including looking at how to incorporate newer providers and newer customers, while taking every appropriate measure to ensure that the full value of the program reaches the families that it is intended to benefit. It is incumbent on the Commission to ensure that participating providers are honestly and in good faith passing the full value of the benefit on to their customers.

Finally, it is important to make access to the EBBP benefits streamlined and accessible - both for providers and households, including subscribers of newer broadband service. The program will be most successful when eligible households are readily able to participate without overly cumbersome or restrictive requirements. Similarly, it is vital to include small, local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in cost-sharing efforts. Many states across the country rely heavily on the efforts of regional ISPs for broadband expansion, especially to rural, historically unserved areas, and ensuring that program entry and reporting is accessible to all providers will contribute greatly to the success of the EBBP in areas with the most need.

Closing the digital divide is of critical importance to our economic future and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure every American has access to affordable high-speed broadband, regardless of one’s household income or the zip code of where one lives. We appreciate your history of leadership on connectivity issues and working to close the digital divide. We believe that the EBBP presents an exciting opportunity to address the digital divide and affordability barriers to broadband access. With proper implementation and collaboration with state and local partners, it can allow all members of our communities to better participate in a 21st century society and economy, both during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Thank you for your attention to these matters.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement following a meeting at the White House with President Biden and bipartisan members of the House and Senate to discuss securing U.S. supply chains for critical and essential goods:

“I applaud the Biden Administration for engaging lawmakers on a bipartisan basis on supply chain security, particularly as it relates to semiconductors. To counter China’s efforts to expand its influence and economic power, we have to make investments here at home, which is why I introduced bipartisan legislation, the CHIPS for America Act, to boost U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and research and create jobs.

“Maintaining U.S. competitiveness in semiconductor manufacturing is a national security issue as well as an economic one, because semiconductors are the critical driver of innovation and defense computing capabilities. Today, these chips power an unimaginable range of products big and small, expensive and cheap, high-tech and low-tech. Today’s Executive Order is a good first start but much more work remains to be done – and quickly – including fully funding a number of enacted bills related to promoting supply chain security, resiliency and greater American competitiveness in key foundation technologies like semiconductors and wireless infrastructure. I was encouraged that in today’s meeting, there was a bipartisan consensus that supply chain security must remain a priority, and I look forward to working with President Biden and my colleagues in the Senate on this issue.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) reintroduced the Air America Act of 2021, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would provide Air America employees federal retirement credit they earned. The legislation, first introduced by Warner and Rubio in July 2020, is identical to an amendment that Sen. Rubio filed to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, and continues the Senator’s support for these Americans.

“I am proud to cosponsor this bill with Senator Rubio that will provide long-overdue recognition and retirement benefits to the brave men and women who flew for Air America,” Warner said. “Air Americans were instrumental to the U.S. war effort in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, courageously supporting troops, rescuing downed American pilots and sustaining casualties in the service of their country. Air America was on call until the very end of the war, including flying the last helicopters out of Saigon where they evacuated Vietnamese civilians and the U.S. Embassy. It is time they be honored with the recognition they deserve, and the grateful thanks of a nation.”

“The brave men and women employed by Air America who conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War were critical to U.S. efforts,” Rubio said. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Warner, and our colleagues, to ensure that these Americans receive the long-overdue honor and recognition they deserve.”

Joining Warner and Rubio as cosponsors of the legislation are Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI), and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

Background: Air America was a wholly government-owned and operated corporation that conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War. Their employees worked under the direct policy guidance of the White House, Department of Defense, and the Department of State while under the management of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Air America employed several hundred U.S. citizens, mainly flight crew members, and approximately 286 were killed in the line of duty while conducting covert operations in designated war zones. The last helicopter mission that rescued personnel from the rooftops in Saigon in 1975 was planned and executed by Air America and the United States Marine Corps.

Since 2009, the declassification of CIA Agency documents confirmed that Air Americans were employees of the U.S. Government at the time of their service and entitled to federal retirement credit based on the circumstances of their employment. Congress has maintained its interest in resolving the retirement situation of Air American employees for more than 15 years. During this process, the Office of Personnel Management, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence have all concluded that congressional action is required.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, released a statement regarding the nomination of Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Sen. Warner was unable to attend the nomination hearing for Becerra earlier today in the Finance Committee, as he was attending a meeting at the White House with President Biden on supply chain security. 

“Our next HHS Secretary will need to prioritize combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and building a health care system that’s better and more affordable for every American – something I stressed to Attorney General Becerra when we met privately earlier this year,” said Sen. Warner. “During that meeting we discussed his plans to implement a national strategy to combat COVID-19, reduce health care costs, increase access to affordable health care coverage, and address racial health disparities.”

“I am confident that if confirmed, Secretary Becerra would bring an important perspective to the Department – one that is reflective of Virginia’s diversity. I look forward to supporting his nomination on the Senate floor.”

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) today joined U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), to reintroduce the Network Security Trade Act, legislation to ensure U.S. communications infrastructure security is a clear negotiating objective of our country’s trade policy.

“Promoting the security and integrity of global digital infrastructure should be among the most paramount digital trade objectives the U.S. pursues,” said Warner. “It is long past time to make this a key negotiating objective in order to promote a more long-term, multilateral strategy to safeguard the global telecommunications market from providers like Huawei that could pose a serious risk to digital infrastructure across the globe.”

“There is a lot of promise with new and advanced technologies like 5G, but the United States can only deliver on those promises if we maintain the security of communications networks, both at home and abroad,” said Thune. “This legislation would ensure that the security of the equipment and technology that create the global communications infrastructure is front and center in our trade negotiations, because you can’t have optimal free trade if the global digital infrastructure is compromised.”

“When it comes to national security, one of our nation’s top priorities must be protecting our communication systems that we all depend on every day,” said Stabenow. “This bill helps leverage our trade negotiating powers to make sure our telecommunication networks like 5G are safe and secure.”

“The transition to 5G represents a major opportunity for American businesses, but it also poses serious challenges for America’s national security,” said Fischer. “Many other countries have plans to deploy equipment made by China’s untrustworthy Huawei. This bipartisan legislation makes clear that our concerns about Beijing are serious, and that future trade negotiations must account for our national security.”

The Network Security Trade Act would amend the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority, which is in effect until July 1, 2021, to include a negotiating objective related to the security of communications networks. Today, one of the largest manufacturers of 5G equipment and telecommunications infrastructure is Huawei Technologies, which is supported by the Chinese Communist Party. While the bill does not name specific state-owned companies, it would direct the executive branch to ensure that the equipment and technology that are used to create the global communications infrastructure are not compromised. It would achieve that goal by addressing barriers to the security of communications networks and supply chains and unfair trade practices of state-owned or state-controlled communications equipment suppliers in new trade agreements. Confronting these issues, which this legislation requires, is critical as the United States considers formal trade talks with the United Kingdom and other allies.

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WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Rules Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee convened the first congressional hearing examining the security failures that enabled a mob supporting former President Donald Trump to overrun the U.S. Capitol on January 6. At the hearing, senators heard testimony from four officials, three of whom resigned following the attack: former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, former U.S. Capitol Police Chief (USCP) Steven Sund and Robert Contee, acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). 

In the hearing, Sen. Warner – a senior member of the Rules Committee – questioned the witnesses about whether the response to the security breach was delayed due to D.C.’s status as a non-state. While the National Guard in other states and territories can be called up by the governor, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lacked authority on January 6 to mobilize the D.C. National Guard in defense of the Capitol. Instead, the D.C. National Guard is placed under the authority of the President of the United States. The commander of the D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, has told the press that the Pentagon restricted his authority ahead of the mob invasion, and MPD acting Chief Robert Contee testified today that he was shocked by the administration’s “reluctance” on January 6 to approve the deployment of D.C. National Guard troops to quell the violence – resulting in a delay of several hours before troops arrived at the Capitol to restore order. 

“I feel like the long-term discrimination against the District – and we’ve seen it in some of the COVID legislation where they did not receive the same kind of level of support that other states did – we saw it play out in real time on January 6, the hurdles from the previous administration. I have concerns that deployment of the Guard was affirmatively slowed down,” Sen. Warner said at today’s hearing. “As a supporter of D.C. statehood, I would like to see that move forward. But even short of that, trying to ensure that the mayor has appropriate powers going forward.”

Sen. Warner is an original co-sponsor of the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, legislation to make the District of Columbia the 51st state. He is also an original co-sponsor of the District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act, legislation to grant the District of Columbia full control over the D.C. National Guard and the Metropolitan Police Department.

At today’s hearing, the senators also heard a terrifying and moving firsthand account of the January 6 attack from USCP Captain Carneysha Mendoza.

At the hearing, Sen. Warner, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also questioned whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was adequately sharing threat information with D.C. and Capitol police ahead of January 6. According to press reports, the FBI field office in Norfolk issued a field bulletin on January 5 warning of the potential for violence on January 6, but former USCP chief Sund testified today that he learned of the report only after the attack.

“I had a number of conversations [with the FBI ahead of January 6.] I called Director Wray on Monday the 4th, trying to express concerns that there might be this kind of activity. I never expected this level of violence. I had a number of conversations with senior FBI leadership on the 5th through the 6th. Candidly, I don’t think even the full FBI could have been fully informed of what was going to come to pass – but I felt like the FBI felt that they were in better shape in terms of intel and preparation than what came to be the case,” Sen. Warner said today.

Sen. Warner concluded, “Let me just say that my concern is that, in Virginia, we’ve seen these kind of anti-government extremists take to the streets in Charlottesville in 2017, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer. We’ve seen the same kind of groups come to the forefront on January 6. I think this is an ongoing threat to national security. I feel at times that, while the FBI and others have pointed this out, that it didn’t get the level of serious review that it should have with the prior administration. I know I felt at times that they did not want to take the information that was coming out of the FBI. I hope on a going-forward basis we’re going to be able to be more coordinated in terms of taking on anti-government extremism, whether it comes from the left or the right. This is a real, ongoing threat. I can tell you from our Intelligence Committee, that we’ve seen that many of these groups have connections and ties to anti-government extremist groups in Europe.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today participated in a virtual Senate Banking Committee hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, where he stressed the importance of including robust funding for broadband in any future COVID-19 relief package. According to current estimates, there are approximately 700,000 Virginians who still lack access to high-speed internet, which has become increasingly essential for telecommuting, distance learning,  telemedicine, and more amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I would argue, over the last eleven months, we've seen broadband is a necessity. I think it is absolutely COVID-19 related,” said Sen. Warner in questioning with Chairman Powell. “I hope that the current package can be changed to actually include a sizeable investment in broadband as good as our four bipartisan packages have been to date.”

He continued, “Experts like Tom Wheeler and Blair Levin have said somewhere in the $40 to $50 billion range, we can get about 97 percent coverage along with better affordability.”

In response, Chairman Powell said, “I would agree that it is a classic piece of infrastructure for the modern economy, for the service economy, for the technologically advanced economy and having it...as broadly available as possible could be a significant benefit economically.”

As a former governor and now in the Senate, Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth. In December, Sen. Warner negotiated and passed COVID-19 relief legislation that included $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on bipartisan provisions Sen. Warner drafted with his colleagues. Sen. Warner has also introduced  comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet, and has also introduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott (R-SC) to establish a $10 billion Broadband Development Fund to prioritize funding for areas that currently lack service, support the deployment of advanced technologies in areas where there is the greatest need, and encourage projects that can quickly provide internet service.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), about 21 million Americans do not have access to 25/3 mbps internet, which is the FCC’s standard for high speed broadband. Of that 21 million, 16 million live in rural areas, while 5 million live in urban areas. 

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WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $46,328,480 in federal funding to support affordable housing development across Virginia. The funding, which will go to 26 municipalities across the Commonwealth, has been awarded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Public Housing Capital Fund. 

“Access to safe and affordable housing is crucial to a family’s health and stability,” said the Senators. “We’re pleased that these federal dollars will help support housing authorities as they continue to provide necessary assistance to Virginians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Capital Fund provides federal dollars to Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) for the development, financing, and modernization of public housing developments and management improvements.

The Virginia housing authorities that received funding are listed below:

Recipient

Amount

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,729,133.00

Bristol Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$912,801.00

Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$3,672,566.00

Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,938,851.00

Hopewell Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$944,954.00

Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$8,426,268.00

Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$12,050,634.00

Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,265,928.00

Roanoke Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$3,836,496.00

Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,327,337.00

Lynchburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$973,030.00

Norton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$547,006.00

Charlottesville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,025,764.00

Hampton Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$1,675,827.00

Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority

$179,216.00

Petersburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$989,647.00

Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$583,518.00

Waynesboro Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$483,003.00

Wise County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$486,727.00

Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority

$1,229,244.00

Williamsburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$299,180.00

Cumberland Plateau Regional Housing Authority

$651,261.00

Marion Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$637,685.00

Scott County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$232,420.00

Abingdon Redevelopment and Housing Authority

$75,075.00

Lee County Redevelopment & Housing Authority

$154,909.00

Total:

$46,328,480.00

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $179,010,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Virginia.

“As our nation mourns 500,000 lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to distribute the vaccine is more urgent than ever,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce that this funding will provide increased support to distribute vaccines equitably throughout the Commonwealth, and we remain committed to ensuring that every Virginian has access to the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

This funding, awarded through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, will be overseen and distributed by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM). It can be used to support efforts to store, transport, secure, handle, announce, and administer the COVID-19 vaccine throughout the Commonwealth.   

The most recent COVID-19 package negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by both senators included $19 billion for vaccines and therapeutics and $8.75 billion for states for vaccine distribution.   

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) announced a bill to renew the federal funding commitment to Metro for the next ten years – legislation that comes at a critical time for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which continues to provide critical service to essential frontline and federal workers despite the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Last year, I was proud to help negotiate the December COVID-19 relief bill that provided critical emergency relief funding to help WMATA stay afloat and avoid drastic service and staffing cuts,” said Sen. Warner, a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, which has oversight over our nation’s urban transit systems. “With this legislation, we have the opportunity to ensure that WMATA can continue to support our federal workforce in the long term, as well as provide reliable and timely service for individuals – including many essential workers – commuting in and out of Virginia, DC, and Maryland.” 

“It’s critical Congress provide this necessary funding to help people, especially frontline workers, get around the DMV amid the pandemic,” Sen. Kaine said. “I urge our colleagues to support this vital legislation that will help prevent significant cuts, and allow individuals to rely on safe and efficient travel.”

“Maintaining a safe and reliable public transit system for the seat of the federal government is a clear national priority. We recognized 10 years ago - as we do now - that providing dedicated funding for WMATA will help keep Metro on track for everyday use and during national and regional emergencies. Metro and its workers have been on the front lines as essential workers providing vital service to others who also are keeping our communities, our health system and our economy running during this challenging time,” said Sen. Cardin, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “Our bill helps put Metro on solid footing into the future as our region emerges from the COVID-10 pandemic.”

“WMATA provides a vital network that keeps our region connected and moving — getting federal employees to their jobs, essential workers to the front lines of the fight against the pandemic, and getting area residents and visitors where they need to go,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “As we continue to weather the COVID-19 storm, this bill helps WMATA not only meet the current needs in this crisis, but also makes the long-term improvements necessary to enhance safety, efficiency, and reliability for riders for years to come.” 

Recognizing that the Metro system is integral to the functioning of the federal government, for the past decade, Congress has provided Metro with $150 million annually for capital expenses, with Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia each providing $50 million in matching funds. The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2021 will ensure that WMATA can continue to count on this full federal funding for an additional ten years by reauthorizing funding levels from the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 through fiscal year 2030, at an annual level of $150 million, matched by funding from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Additionally, this legislation would help bring about a series of key safety, oversight, and governance reforms at WMATA by including an additional $50 million per year in federal funding that is not subject to local match, bringing the annual federal commitment to Metro to $200 million. In order to access the additional $50 million, WMATA will be required to: further empower Metro’s Inspector General; establish task forces on track safety and bus safety; implement policy and procedures to improve WMATA’s capital planning process; improve the transit asset management planning process; continue to reinforce restrictions on the activities of alternate WMATA Board members to provide more effective Board management and oversight; and prioritize the implementation of new cyber security protections and the integration of wireless services and emergency communications networks.

The bill also restricts WMATA from using federal funds on a contract for rolling stock from any country that meets certain criteria related to illegal subsidies for state-owned enterprises. Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin and Van Hollen have previously raised concerns regarding the possibility of Metro awarding a contract to build its newest 8000-series rail cars to a Chinese manufacturing company.  

This legislation has the support of a number of groups and organizations, including 2030 Group, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Connected DMV, DC Sustainable Transportation, Federal City Council, Georgetown Business Improvement District, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Greater Washington Partnership, Loudoun Chamber, MetroNow Coalition, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Prince George's Chamber of Commerce, Tysons Partnership, and Virginia Transit Association. 

“This bill once again demonstrates our Congressional delegation’s leadership supporting critically needed funding to maintain a safe and reliable transportation system, and it will be critical to the region’s recovery for years to come,” said Paul J. Wiedefeld, Metro General Manager and CEO. “We welcome provisions that will increase transparency and ensure taxpayer funds are well-spent to continue to earn the public’s confidence.  We thank the authors of this bill for understanding the importance of Metro to the entire region.”

“The Metro system is one of the nation’s great public assets that millions of people rely on every year – from federal workers to visitors from around the world,” said Paul C. Smedberg, WMATA Board of Directors Chair. “We’re deeply thankful for the work of our region’s Congressional delegation to establish a long-term source of funding so we can continue to serve the public and bolster the independent oversight that is critical to maintaining trust with our customers.” 

“Sustainable, federal PRIIA funding for WMATA is an investment in one of our country's most important mass transit systems -- connecting Virginia, Maryland and DC and serving our nation's capital,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine.  “With the safety and accountability this legislation requires, our federal delegation is providing a lifeline for essential workers and a commitment to the region's economic future.”

“As we recover from the pandemic and move our economy forward, it is crucial that Metro delivers safe, reliable, efficient and equitable services to millions of riders including federal employees,” said Jack McDougle, President & CEO of the Board of Trade and a founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “The reauthorization is needed to ensure access to opportunities for all our residents and keep the region competitive. The second largest public transit system in the country, Metro requires sufficient resources to make the right investments as well as keep up with the latest technology.”

“A safe, reliable and affordable Metrorail and Metrobus is critical to our region’s economic recovery,” said Julie Coons, President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “The WMATA Authorization’s Federal investment now will keep Congress’ commitment to our transit system – the same system the Federal government and its employees rely upon – and help get the region fully running again.” 

“Metro is the backbone of our region, critical for our government, private-sector, and essential workforce, and a lynchpin in our efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change," said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth and a founding member of the MetroNow Coalition.

Bill text is available here. A one page summary is available here. The legislation is expected to be formally introduced when the Senate returns to session next week following the President’s Day work period. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) are now accepting applications for the position of U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Virginia to succeed U.S. District Judge James P. Jones, who will assume senior status effective August 30, 2021. An independent panel of lawyers assembled by the Senators will review applications and interview qualified individuals. The Senators will then use those recommendations, as well as input from bar associations and experts, as they consider potential nominees to recommend to the President. The White House will then nominate an individual to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the full Senate.

Interested applicants should visit Senator Warner’s website for application instructions. The application period will close on March 8, 2021.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today requested information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following a cyber incident in which hackers remotely breached a Florida water treatment plant and sought to dramatically alter water chemical levels in a move that could have poisoned thousands of residents.  

“The security and integrity of our critical infrastructure is of utmost importance. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) states that 80% of the United States receives potable water from approximately 153,000 public drinking water systems, and any type of attack, including a cyber attack, could result in ‘illnesses or casualties and/or a denial of service that would also impact public health and economic vitality,’” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to the Assistant Director of the FBI and the Acting Assistant Administrator at the EPA. “This incident has implications beyond the 15,000-person town of Oldsmar. While the Oldsmar water treatment facility incident was detected with sufficient time to mitigate serious risks to the citizens of Oldsmar, and appears to have been identified as the result of a diligent employee monitoring this facility’s operations, future compromises of this nature may not be detected in time.”

He continued, “The Federal Government must ensure we are taking all precautions to keep drinking water safe for Americans. Designated as one of the 16 infrastructure sectors critical to national security under the Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21), we must protect water facilities from cyber and other compromises.” 

On February 5, a water treatment facility in Oldsmar, Florida was accessed remotely by hackers, who increased sodium hydroxide levels from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million, a dangerous amount that could have sickened town residents, had the attack gone unnoticed by a plant employee.

In his letter, Sen. Warner requested a progress update on the FBI’s investigation into this incident. He also asked for an EPA review into whether the Oldsmar water treatment facility was compliant with the most recent Water and Wastewater Sector-Specific Plan, and whether that plan needs to be updated to confront similar risks. Additionally, Sen. Warner inquired about any plans to share timely threat information related to this incident with water and wastewater facilities, and other critical infrastructure providers.

Sen. Warner, a former technology executive, is the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, he has fought for increased cybersecurity measures commensurate with Americans’ increased reliance on remote work. Among other measures, Sen. Warner has advocated for increased funding to modernize federal information technology, urged internet networking device vendors to ensure the security of their products, and pressed cybersecurity officials to bolster defenses against cybersecurity attacks. 

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

 

Dear Mr. Gorham and Ms. Fox,

I am writing to request information about reports of a serious security compromise of a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida on February 5, 2021.  The security and integrity of our critical infrastructure is of utmost importance.  The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) states that 80% of the United States receives potable water from approximately 153,000 public drinking water systems, and any type of attack, including a cyber attack, could result in “illnesses or casualties and/or a denial of service that would also impact public health and economic vitality.”[i]  Additionally, other critical infrastructure sectors such as healthcare, emergency services, energy, food and agriculture, and transportation systems depend on the cyber resilience of water facilities.[ii]

According to information released by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Oldsmar water treatment facility was accessed remotely by an unauthorized entity, who increased the amount of sodium hydroxide in the potable water supply to a dangerous level.[iii]  Given the consequences of a successful compromise of this kind, and the broader security weaknesses this unsuccessful attempt may illustrate within critical infrastructure sectors reliant on similar industrial control systems, I would request first, to be informed of the progress of the FBI’s investigation of the incident; second, a review by the Environmental Protection Agency into whether the Oldsmar water treatment facility was compliant with the most recent Water and Wastewater Sector-Specific Plan, and whether that plan, most recently updated in 2015, needs to be updated to confront similar risks; and third, to confirm the Federal Government is sharing timely threat information related to this incident with water and wastewater facilities, and other critical infrastructure providers across the United States.

This incident has implications beyond the 15,000-person town of Oldsmar.  While the Oldsmar water treatment facility incident was detected with sufficient time to mitigate serious risks to the citizens of Oldsmar, and appears to have been identified as the result of a diligent employee monitoring this facility’s operations, future compromises of this nature may not be detected in time.  The Federal Government must ensure we are taking all precautions to keep drinking water safe for Americans.  Designated as one of the 16 infrastructure sectors critical to national security under the Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21), we must protect water facilities from cyber and other compromises.  

Please coordinate with my office to provide updates on the investigation of the incident, as well as efforts underway to avoid future compromises on water facilities in the United States.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and 32 of their colleagues in pressing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on persistent mail delays and what action he is taking to restore on-time mail delivery. Peters previously released a report that confirmed operational changes at the Postal Service ordered by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy last summer resulted in compromised service for communities in Michigan and across the country. While Congressional oversight efforts and public pressure helped address these damaging delays and improve on-time mail delivery, many Americans continue to face unacceptable problems in postal delivery performance.

“Our constituents have experienced missed paychecks and court notices, delayed critical prescriptions, an inability to reach small business customers and suppliers, lost rent payments and delayed credit card payments resulting in late fees, breakdowns in service to their communities, late personal mail such as holiday packages, and more. Reportedly, mail delivery has not yet recovered after the peak season, with constituents continuing to experience delays despite the tireless efforts of postal workers,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators continued: “It is your duty, first and foremost, to protect service and ensure timely mail delivery for every person in this nation. We demand that you not make additional changes that will harm service for the American people. In addition, we urge you to be fully transparent with the public about Postal Service operations and the reasons they are still facing delays.”

Recent reports have also suggested DeJoy intends to implement a strategic plan that would further slow down the mail and unacceptably decrease service for millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service. As Chairman, Peters will continue to demand transparency from Postal Service leadership, and work to protect high delivery standards.

In addition to Warner and Peters, the letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Angus King (I-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). 

The text of the letter is copied below and available here

February 17, 2021 

Dear Mr. DeJoy:

We write to seek answers about continued mail delays under your leadership that are adversely affecting our constituents across the country. 

In 2020, you made changes to operations at the U.S. Postal Service that slowed down mail and compromised service for veterans, seniors, and others who depend on the mail for prescription medications, package deliveries for small businesses, and other critical needs. An October 2020 report from the nonpartisan USPS Office of Inspector General confirmed that the July 2020 changes you initiated, along with cost reduction strategies by operations executives, resulted in widespread delays. The Postal Service did not analyze the service impacts of these changes prior to making them. We appreciate that the Postal Service fulfilled its duties during the 2020 general election and executed extraordinary measures to prioritize timely delivery of election mail. However, we remain concerned about timely delivery of all mail, from packages to newspapers to letter mail and more. 

In recent weeks our constituents have again faced unacceptable delays. On-time delivery plummeted during the holiday “peak season.” For example, the week of December 26, 2020, nationwide on-time delivery was 64% for First-Class Mail and 45% for periodicals. Delays were even worse in many areas of the country. Our constituents have experienced missed paychecks and court notices, delayed critical prescriptions, an inability to reach small business customers and suppliers, lost rent payments and delayed credit card payments resulting in late fees, breakdowns in service to their communities, late personal mail such as holiday packages, and more. Reportedly, mail delivery has not yet recovered after the peak season, with constituents continuing to experience delays despite the tireless efforts of postal workers.

USPS has attributed recent delays to the historically high volume of packages during peak season, a shortage of airlift and trucking capacity, and employee shortages with postal workers on necessary leave due to COVID-19. While these are credible explanations, the fact remains that USPS leadership had a responsibility to prepare for these expected challenges. We question whether management made adequate preparations including sufficient temporary hiring and logistical planning.

We also question whether your decisions and directives continue to hinder mail delivery. Our constituents, including postal workers and Postal Service business partners, have reported concerning practices in at least some areas of the country, including management rejecting most overtime requests, limiting transportation, and renewing orders to reduce office time and leave mail behind. In addition, your hiring freeze on managers, implemented as part of a reorganization plan, has reportedly left many local postal manager positions vacant. Finally, you have announced that additional changes to the Postal Service will be forthcoming under a strategic plan that you and the Board of Governors will release in the coming weeks. This plan will reportedly include changes to service standards, slowing down the mail even further.

It is your duty, first and foremost, to protect service and ensure timely mail delivery for every person in this nation. We demand that you not make additional changes that will harm service for the American people. In addition, we urge you to be fully transparent with the public about Postal Service operations and the reasons they are still facing delays. To that end, we ask that you answer the following by February 26, 2021: 

  1. Please describe the specific steps you have taken to identify each cause of mail delays, including measuring the impacts of management actions.
  2. Please describe in detail the steps you took to prepare for expected high package volumes and employee shortages during the peak season. Please explain why you were unable to complete necessary steps to prevent delays, such as hiring sufficient temporary workers.
  3. Please list steps you have taken to respond to customers who have been harmed by these mail delays.
  4. Have any nationwide or regional operational changes, other than those listed in previous USPS statements, exacerbated mail delays during and since the peak season? Please describe. 
  5. Please explain any nationwide and regional operational directives you or other Postal Service executives have made since November 2020.
  6. Will you commit to not reducing service standards, and to not enacting other changes that will reduce the level of service to our constituents, as part of your strategic plan? 

Thank you for your attention. We look forward to working with the Postal Service during the 117th Congress to ensure it remains a vibrant, sustainable institution for generations to come.  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, today released a statement after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an extension of foreclosure and forbearance relief programs to help people stay in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic:

“More than 10 million homeowners are currently behind on their mortgage payments, and one in five renters is behind on their rent. Communities of color in particular are being disproportionately hurt by the ongoing health, economic and housing crises. I’ve been fighting in Congress to help Americans in danger of losing their homes, and I applaud the Biden administration for taking this step to help those who are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sen. Warner has fought to protect homeowners and renters facing eviction as a result of the economic crisis. In May, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to create a $75 billion Housing Assistance Fund to help protect renters, homeowners, and communities by preventing avoidable foreclosures, evictions, and utility shut offs.

During bipartisan negotiations over the COVID-19 relief legislation that Congress passed in December, Sen. Warner secured an extension of a federal eviction moratorium until January 30, 2021 – giving the new Biden administration time to put in additional policies, such as those announced today, to help keep Americans in their homes during the pandemic. Sen. Warner also successfully fought to ensure that the relief bill, which was signed into law by President Trump on December 27, 2020, included $25 billion in federal assistance for renters facing financial insecurity as a result of COVID-19. 

The actions announced today by the Biden administration will help homeowners with HUD, VA and USDA loans by:

  • Extending the foreclosure moratorium for homeowners through June 30, 2021;
  • Extending the mortgage payment forbearance enrollment window until June 30, 2021 for borrowers who wish to request forbearance;
  • Providing up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance, in three-month increments, for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30, 2020.

Last week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would extend their foreclosure moratorium through March 31, 2021. Together, the actions taken by the Biden administration will cover 70 percent of existing single-family home mortgages.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after voting to convict in the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump:

“The evidence presented by the managers in this case was overwhelming: Donald Trump used the platform of the presidency to incite a violent insurrection against the seat of our democracy that led to multiple deaths. These are the most serious charges ever levied against a U.S. president, and with good reason. 

“While the Senate failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump and bar him from future office, a bipartisan majority of Senators voted today to send a clear message to future presidents that conduct of this nature is impeachable, intolerable and disqualifying. When the history books on this moment are written, I believe that judgment will be clear.” 

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter to the Biden administration in support of Virginia’s request to reverse the previous administration’s decision to deny Virginia’s emergency declaration under the Stafford Act. Without the emergency declaration, Virginia will have to cover millions in unanticipated costs related to deploying the Virginia National Guard to support securing the United States Capitol during the deadly January 6 riots and through the presidential inauguration. 

“We write today in strong support of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s request for an emergency declaration under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act). This request was made by the Commonwealth due to potential civil unrest associated with the 59th Presidential Inauguration, anticipated demonstration activities in Richmond, Virginia, and other related events from January 6, 2021 to February 4, 2021,” wrote the Senators to President Joe Biden. 

On January 6, Virginia declared a state of emergency in order to send nearly 3,000 members of the National Guard for critically needed support to D.C. during the deadly riots at the United States Capitol by President Trump’s supporters. Additionally, with warnings of planned protests at state Capitols across the country leading up to the inauguration and in anticipation of Virginia’s annual “Lobby Day” in Richmond, Virginia National Guard presence was maintained to ensure safety and security. However, on January 17, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied Governor Northam’s request to declare a state of emergency under the Stafford Act and denied federal reimbursement for actions taken by Virginia to support securing the Capitol through inauguration.

“In light of Virginia’s critical role in providing support during this period of increased civil unrest, we urge you to approve the Commonwealth’s appeal for an emergency declaration and direct federal assistance with a 100 percent reimbursement. It is evident the Commonwealth’s response to these unprecedented events was instrumental in saving lives, protecting property, and ensuring public safety. These actions came at substantial cost to the Commonwealth and supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to complete this effort,” they concluded.

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

 

Dear President Biden:       

We write today in strong support of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s request for an emergency declaration under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act). This request was made by the Commonwealth due to potential civil unrest associated with the 59th Presidential Inauguration, anticipated demonstration activities in Richmond, Virginia, and other related events from January 6, 2021 to February 4, 2021.

On January 14, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam requested emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program at 100 percent Federal funding for the Commonwealth in light of the unprecedented security environment surrounding the 59th Presidential Inauguration and the potential for further civil unrest in the District of Columbia and Commonwealth of Virginia. Shockingly, on January 17, 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rejected this request – along with a similar request from the State of Maryland.

We firmly believe that a declaration of emergency is merited and necessary. In response to the attack on the United States Capitol, Virginia law enforcement personnel responded quickly to help secure the Capitol from violent insurrectionists. Nearly 3000 Virginia National Guard personnel were deployed to the District of Columbia to provide security for the 59th Presidential Inauguration and related events. In addition to Virginia’s role in increasing the security posture of the Nation’s Capital, protest activities with an elevated of risk of violence required the Commonwealth to prepare and respond to emergencies beyond the National Capital Region, particularly in Richmond, Virginia.

In light of Virginia’s critical role in providing support during this period of increased civil unrest, we urge you to approve the Commonwealth’s appeal for an emergency declaration and direct federal assistance with a 100 percent reimbursement. It is evident the Commonwealth’s response to these unprecedented events was instrumental in saving lives, protecting property, and ensuring public safety. These actions came at substantial cost to the Commonwealth and supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to complete this effort.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.                                                                  

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will award $10 million to the Commonwealth of Virginia to fund the construction of a water storage reservoir in Loudoun County. 

“All Virginians deserve reliable access to healthy drinking water,” said the Senators. “We are glad to announce this $10 million grant to support a safe and dependable water supply in Loudoun County.”

The $10 million grant will help fund the conversion of a retired Luck Stone quarry to a water storage reservoir with a capacity over 1 billion gallons. The project includes a new pumping station with four submersible vertical turbine pumps, and water transmission mains will be installed to fill and discharge water from the reservoir. When completed, the new reservoir will provide additional water storage for the Washington, D.C. metro area so that water supply can be supplemented in the event of a drought. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today participated in a virtual Senate Budget Committee hearing with Neera Tanden, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). During the hearing, Sen. Warner questioned Tanden about her willingness to conduct a fulsome review of recent Army Corps of Engineers Work Plans, given the previous administration’s seemingly politically-motivated decision-making in prioritizing certain Army Corps projects over others that appear to be more competitive, including the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Deepening and Widening project.

“[Traditionally,] the Army Corp of Engineers civil works program…has been extraordinarily bipartisan. There is a thorough review where projects come forward, get evaluated, and then on a basis of points usually get added into that precious New Start category,” said Sen. Warner. “Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, we’ve seen that process politicized.” 

He continued, “We’ve seen a project…the Norfolk Harbor…clearly been qualified as the top project to get funded under any kind of objective analysis. But at the eleventh and a half hour, that objective analysis was thrown out the door by the previous administration’s OMB, and a political process took over. So I hope that you will be willing to conduct a full review of the Army Corp work plans to make sure that we can get back to a fair evaluation.” 

Given the critical work the Army Corps does in states across the country, Congress regularly provides substantial funding to the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works program to help address the backlog of civil works projects. In providing additional funding, Congress has traditionally entrusted Army Corps professionals to determine which projects provide the greatest return on taxpayers’ investment. However, over the course of the past four years, these recommendations have seemingly been ignored or overruled by the Trump administration, in favor of other projects that appear to serve political means. 

A New Start designation would allow the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Widening and Deepening project to advance to its next stage of construction and receive Army Corps funding. Currently, the project is progressing using a combination of state and local funds.

Sen. Warner, a former Virginia governor, has been a champion in Congress for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project, which will expand Norfolk Harbor’s shipping channels, improve navigation, and energize the national, state and local economy. In 2018, Sen. Warner successfullypushed for the inclusion of the Norfolk Harbor project, in addition to other coastal resiliency programs, in the bipartisan water infrastructure bill. Earlier this year, he led the entire Virginia congressional delegation in sending a letter to OMB requesting a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor project – a request they made in 2020 as well.

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WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) released a joint statement after the Biden administration confirmed Anne Neuberger, the National Security Agency's cybersecurity director, will lead the administration’s response to the SolarWinds breach. Yesterday, Chairman Warner and Vice Chairman Rubio sent a letter to the Intelligence Community urging the Unified Coordination Group to name a leader in the United States’ response to the SolarWinds cyber breach that has affected numerous federal agencies and thousands of private sector entities.

“The federal government’s response to date to the SolarWinds breach has lacked the leadership and coordination warranted by a significant cyber event, so it is welcome news that the Biden administration has selected Anne Neuberger to lead the response. The Committee looks forward to getting regular briefings from Ms. Neuberger and working with her to ensure we fully confront and mitigate this incident as quickly as possible.”

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