Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Following a recent $65 million settlement between the U.S. government and Balfour Beatty Communities (BBC) LLC, a privatized military housing provider that pled guilty to fraudulent business practices, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined 16 Democratic Senators in a new oversight effort to protect the nation’s servicemembers from unsanitary, unsafe living conditions at military base housing operated by BBC, as well as by other privatized housing companies. 

In a letter to the Department of Defense, the Senators requested information regarding the management and oversight of long-term military housing contracts following the guilty plea by Balfour Beatty Communities LLC, which continues to operate military housing communities at 55 military installations across the country, including in Virginia – at Fort Eustis and Fort Story. Many of these management contracts have several decades remaining.

“Given that BBC continues to manage housing communities at 55 installations across the nation and has several decades left on their long-term contracts, we ask the following questions about how this settlement will affect the management of these properties and how DoD plans to ensure quality housing for military families moving forward,” the Senators wrote.

The letter inquires as to whether DoD plans to renegotiate or alter any of the existing terms of long-term contracts with private housing contractors to provide for more immediate and comprehensive oversight for military housing.

Sen. Warner has fiercely advocated for and secured a number of reforms to the privatized military housing system over the years, in response to the well-documented health hazards in military homes across the country. As noted in the letter, he successfully secured large portions of his military housing legislation, the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, in the FY20 annual defense bill, and subsequently passed provisions in the FY21 defense bill to improve military housing metrics. Most recently, Sen. Warner supported the passage of the FY22 annual defense bill, which included increased accountability measures 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.

Joining Sen. Warner were 16 Senators including: U.S. Sens. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Austin,

We write regarding current Department of Defense (DoD) oversight of private housing contractors in the wake of the recent Department of Justice (DoJ) settlement with Balfour Beatty Communities LLC.

On December 22, 2021, the Department of Justice announced that the housing contractor Balfour Beatty Communities LLC (BBC) pleaded guilty to major fraud against the U.S. government and agreed to pay $65 million in fines and restitution. Following national publicity of pervasive concerns with privatized on-post military housing in 2018, the Department of Defense took steps to hold housing contractors to account for their failures to maintain adequate housing conditions for military families and to communicate with servicemembers and their families their rights. Congress also endeavored to improve military housing with the “Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act” as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Authorization Act. Despite these efforts, concerns persist, and bases and families continue to file lawsuits against the companies, including BBC, for many issues, including for repair delays, toxic mold, pests, unsealed windows and doors, and gas leaks.  We cannot expect our nation’s military families to suffer these conditions.    

In the DoJ release concerning the BBC plea and settlement, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said, “Instead of promptly repairing housing for U.S. servicemembers as required, BBC lied about the repairs to pocket millions of dollars in performance bonuses. This pervasive fraud was a consequence of BBC’s broken corporate culture, which valued profit over the welfare of servicemembers.” According to the release, for over six years, BBC employees falsified information to allow BBC to claim incentive fees for performance objectives primarily related to housing upkeep and resident satisfaction that had, in fact, not been met. These actions resulted in maintenance delays and an inability of the military services to accurately conduct oversight of the company and correct performance.

Given that BBC continues to manage housing communities at 55 installations across the nation and has several decades left on their long-term contracts, we ask the following questions about how this settlement will affect the management of these properties and how DoD plans to ensure quality housing for military families moving forward.

  • How will the December 2021 Department of Justice settlement with BBC affect the company’s current contracts with the Department of Defense?
  • According to the Department of Justice release, the settlement with BBC includes three years of probation and engagement with an independent compliance monitor. What does this mean for BBC’s current contracts at 55 installations? 
  • What mechanisms are in place to ensure similar fraudulent behavior will not happen again?
  • Does the Department of Defense plan to renegotiate or alter any of the existing terms of long-term contracts with private housing contractors to provide for more immediate and comprehensive oversight?
  • How does the Department of Defense plan to instill trust in military families that BBC and others will meet their housing needs?
  • What actions will the Department take to ensure BBC and other privatized housing companies are providing a sufficient quantity of quality housing for military families at bases where there is a serious need for additional housing? Has the Department considered increasing competition by allowing multiple companies to operate on bases, or by other means, to improve the availability and quality of housing for military families?

Thank you for your urgent attention to this critical issue. Our nation’s servicemembers and military families deserve to live in quality housing and trust that the U.S. government and private contractors will be responsive, respectful, and committed to meeting their needs.

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Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $19,962,161 in funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) to help further connect Virginia’s Appalachian region to national Interstates. The funding, awarded through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in coordination with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by Sen. Kaine.

“We are pleased to see these infrastructure dollars headed to Virginia, where they’ll help further connect Appalachian communities and maximize economic opportunity in the region,” said the Senators. “We’re proud that the bipartisan infrastructure law is dedicating the resources needed to advance this crucial development project.”

The ADHS is a 3,090-mile network of highways linking the Appalachian region to national Interstates, which provide access to regional and national markets, contributing to growth opportunities and improved access in Appalachia. The bipartisan infrastructure law represents the first sustained, robust, and dedicated support for the system in a decade, since funding for ADHS was not provided by Congress from 2012 to 2020.

As of September 30, 2021, Virginia’s ADHS corridors consist of 204.6 miles, with 192.2 miles currently eligible for funding. The estimated cost to complete Virginia’s ADHS corridors is $440.5 million – $172.9 for Corridor H, which runs from the West Virginia State line to I-81 at Strasburg, and $267.6 million for Corridor Q, which runs from Breaks Interstate Park at the Kentucky State line to I-81 at Christiansburg. Corridor B, which runs from Weber City at the Tennessee State line to the State line near Jenkins, Kentucky, is currently complete.

ARC is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments, focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. Since 1965, ARC has invested $4.5 billion in approximately 28,000 economic development projects across Appalachia, attracting over $10 billion in matching project funds. 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement today:

“Earlier today, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that manufacturers that rely on semiconductor chips have less than five days’ supply on hand, leaving vital supply chains extremely vulnerable to delays that are increasing prices for consumers on everything from automobiles to home appliances. Months ago, the Senate passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which would invest $52 billion in domestic semiconductor production, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote. The Senate bill also invests in R&D for 5G technologies and takes other critical steps to secure our supply chains, improve innovation, and ensure that the U.S. can compete with China and the rest of the world. Today’s introduction in the House of Representatives of the America COMPETES Act is an important step in setting up a conference with the Senate so that we can finally get a bill to President Biden’s desk to sign.”

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WASHINGTON – Today Rachel S. Cohen, communications director for U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), issued the following statement:

“Senator Warner has tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19. He is glad that he has been vaccinated and boosted, and at this time his symptoms are extremely mild. Senator Warner will be working from home in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Office of the Attending Physician for the duration of his isolation period.”

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WASHINGTON – On the first day of the 2021 tax filing season, Sen. Warner raised concerns with the IRS after hearing from Virginians who are still waiting on their refunds from the 2020 filing season. These delays come as millions of Americans continue to face economic hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Sen. Warner stressed the importance of getting Virginians their individual tax refunds as soon as possible in order to avoid further processing delays. As of December 31, 2021, there were approximately 6 million unprocessed tax returns from 2020.

“I appreciate the IRS’ efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns, and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as the stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments,” wrote Sen. Warner. “However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process – often those who need their refunds most –  and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season.” 

This letter follows up on a February 2021 letter addressing the same issue of persistent processing delays at the IRS.

“Since my last letter, I have continued to hear from constituents that have still not had their 2020 tax returns processed, which has also caused delays in receiving the Advance Child Tax Credit payments, stimulus payments, tax refunds, and other much needed financial aid from the IRS,” Warner noted. “Additionally, businesses that have pending tax returns face delayed processing of their SBA EIDL loan applications. Taxpayers have increasingly expressed to my staff that they are unable to garner any information related to the processing of their tax returns via IRS phone lines or the website.”

In order to further understand the ongoing situation, Sen. Warner asked for answers to the following questions:

  1. What formal plans have the IRS and Treasury developed to resolve the significant backlog of individual and business tax returns that remain unprocessed from the 2020 tax filing season?
  2. How specifically will that plan allow the IRS to continue to process the backlog in parallel with the processing of returns for the tax year 2021 filing season?
  3. Will taxpayers whose 2020 returns remain unprocessed or delayed face any difficulties in filing returns – electronically or in paper form – for the 2021 tax year?  If so, what might these delays or difficulties be, what are your specific plans for addressing them, and how will taxpayers be informed in a timely fashion?
  4. When do you anticipate that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will resume accepting inquiries related to the processing of amended tax returns?  If TAS is unable to accept this casework, will the IRS dedicate other resources to assist with inquiries that TAS is unable to accept?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for Virginians, working to ensure that they get the funds to which they are entitled. In April 2020, he pressed the Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes do not need to wait until the following year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised. He also successfully pushed the Treasury Department to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive CARES Act direct cash assistance without needing to file a tax return.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

I write today to express my concern with the alarming number of my constituents who have not received their long-awaited tax refund from their 2020 taxes.  As you are well aware, millions of Americans are still facing economic hardships and are desperately in need of these funds to help make ends meet.

In my letter to you on February 8, 2021, I noted that as of November 6, 2020 there were approximately 6.8 million unprocessed tax returns.  As of December 31, 2021, there are still 6 million unprocessed tax returns; additionally, as of January 8, 2022, there are still 2.3 million unprocessed 1040-X, and 1.1 million unprocessed business tax returns as of January 12, 2022.

Since my last letter, I have continued to hear from constituents that have still not had their 2020 tax returns processed, which has also caused delays in receiving the Advance Child Tax Credit payments, stimulus payments, tax refunds, and other much needed financial aid from the IRS. Additionally, businesses that have pending tax returns face delayed processing of their SBA EIDL loan applications. Taxpayers have increasingly expressed to my staff that they are unable to garner any information related to the processing of their tax returns via IRS phone lines or the website. 

On November 10, 2021, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins announced that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) would no longer accept congressional inquiries solely related to the processing of amended tax returns, due to the agency not being able to meaningfully expedite or improve case resolution for taxpayers.  Ms. Collins also issued a Taxpayer Advocate Directive directing the IRS to “complete processing of all backlogged amended tax returns by December 29, 2021 or provide a detailed plan for completing processing the backlog”.  The absence of assistance from TAS further aggravates the problems my constituents and other Americans face.  

I appreciate the IRS’ efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns, and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as the stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments. However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process – often those who need their refunds most –  and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season. 

Please reply to me as soon as possible, and no later than February 4, 2022, with specific answers to the following questions:

  1. What formal plans have the IRS and Treasury developed to resolve the significant backlog of individual and business tax returns that remain unprocessed from the TY 2020 tax filing season?
  2. How specifically will that plan allow the IRS to continue to process the backlog in parallel with the processing of returns for the tax year 2021 filing season?
  3. Will taxpayers whose 2020 returns remain unprocessed or delayed face any difficulties in filing returns – electronically or in paper form – for the 2021 tax year? If so, what might these delays or difficulties be, what are your specific plans for addressing them, and how will taxpayers be informed in a timely fashion?
  4. When do you anticipate that TAS will resume accepting inquiries related to the processing of amended tax returns?  If TAS is unable to accept this casework, will the IRS dedicate other resources to assist with inquiries that TAS is unable to accept?

Thank you for your attention to 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, issued the following statement regarding an interim assessment conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on anomalous health incidents (AHIs):

“Reports of anomalous health incidents among intelligence, diplomatic and military personnel emerged as early as 2016 but were not always taken seriously in the past. CIA Director Burns has appropriately made this issue a top priority for the agency, seeking answers as to the cause of these mysterious symptoms, and whether they can be attributed to work of a foreign government. There is no question that members of the intelligence workforce have suffered from conditions requiring a medical response. I am heartened that there are now procedures in place to ensure that those who are affected by these anomalous health incidents finally have access to the world-class care that they deserve. In a briefing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA leadership emphasized that there will be no changes to the seriousness with which they investigate AHIs, process for reporting AHIs, or eligibility for care as a result of these interim findings. We’re going to continue to take care of our folks and treat them with the empathy that they deserve.

“While Director Burns has earned the trust of the Senate Intelligence Committee that he is taking this challenge seriously, it’s important to note that today’s assessment, while rigorously conducted, reflects only the interim work of the CIA task force. The Senate Intelligence Committee will continue pressing for answers on a bipartisan basis, and we look forward to robust engagement with the intelligence community, as well as the conclusions of the outside experts panel that has been assembled to seek answers to these very urgent and difficult questions.”  

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) yesterday requested more information from major retailers regarding omicron-related supply chain problems and shortages that are contributing to inflation and rising costs. In a letter to the National Retail Federation – the world’s largest retail trade association, representing large retail companies like Target and Wal-Mart – Sen. Warner expressed concern with the ongoing supply chain disruptions and stressed that companies and the government must work together to tackle the problems that are leading to higher prices and directly hitting Americans’ pockets.  

“Despite the unprecedented challenges associated with reopening the nation and fighting the Delta and Omicron variants, our economy has recovered significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, increasing prices continue to threaten our progress. I understand that persistent supply/demand imbalances and supply chain disruptions are contributing to inflation and urge you to continue working with me, my colleagues, and the Biden Administration to identify ways to alleviate these supply chain issues as quickly as possible,” Sen. Warner wrote.  

He continued, “I am also continuing to advance legislation that addresses targeted supply chain issues that have shown to have sweeping impacts on our economy, including the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act which includes $52 billion for domestic semiconductor manufacturing. However, it is clear that these efforts will likely take time to bear fruit, and that more needs to be done now to help Americans facing raising prices.”

In the letter, Sen. Warner asked companies what they are doing to resolve the supply chain problems and what more the federal government can do to support those efforts. Specifically he posed the following series of questions to better understand the steps being taken by companies to alleviate supply chain pressures and to inquire about any additional measures that Congress can take to assist with this effort:

  1. Alleviating existing backlogs continues to be an immediate priority for the private sector as well as the government. Can you please explain what your companies are doing to alleviate backlogs and what challenges you are facing? Are there any constraints that lend themselves to policies that Congress should pursue?
  2. How long do you see supply chain pressures lasting? Do you believe the supply chain problems we are seeing will begin to soften in 2022?
  3. What more can Congress, or the federal government, do to support your efforts to clear these backlogs and strengthen our nation’s supply chains?

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear National Retail Federation Board Leadership and Board of Directors:

I write today concerned with the challenges posed by elevated levels of inflation in our economy.  Despite the unprecedented challenges associated with reopening the nation and fighting the Delta and Omicron variants, our economy has recovered significantly sine the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, increasing prices continue to threaten our progress. I understand that persistent supply/demand imbalances and supply chain disruptions are contributing to inflation and urge you to continue working with me, my colleagues, and the Biden Administration to identify ways to alleviate these supply chain issues as quickly as possible.

The latest release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that prices increased seven percent from a year earlier, the fastest pace in decades.[1] As you know, these price increases are particularly harmful for low-income Americans who have smaller economic cushions to absorb them. Many factors are contributing to the current bout of inflation, but widespread supply chain issues are of particular concern. That’s why I am grateful to President Biden for engaging with the private sector, making supply chains a key priority, forming the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and directing a whole-of-government approach to address the vulnerabilities and problems facing the country’s supply chains.[2]

Congress has also taken decisive action to reduce friction in the economy by passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to make historic investments in infrastructure. I am also continuing to advance legislation that addresses targeted supply chain issues that have shown to have sweeping impacts on our economy, including the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act which includes $52 billion for domestic semiconductor manufacturing. However, it is clear that these efforts will likely take time to bear fruit, and that more needs to be done now to help Americans facing raising prices.

To that end, I am writing to request answers to the following questions from the organizations you represent:

  1. 1.     Alleviating existing backlogs continues to be an immediate priority for the private sector as well as the government. Can you please explain what your companies are doing to alleviate backlogs and what challenges you are facing? Are there any constraints that lend themselves to policies that Congress should pursue?
  2. 2.     How long do you see supply chain pressures lasting? Do you believe the supply chain problems we are seeing will begin to soften in 2022?
  3. 3.     What more can Congress, or the federal government, do to support your efforts to clear these backlogs and strengthen our nation’s supply chains?

During these past two years, our nation has faced tremendous costs and dislocations from the pandemic, which required bipartisan and public-private cooperation. While the country has made substantial economic progress since the spring of 2020, this cooperation and focus will continue to be vital, particularly as we face rising prices and additional waves of the virus.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), and U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott and Elaine Luria (both D-VA), applauded $369,000,000 in federal funding for a number of key projects, including the City of Norfolk’s Coastal Storm Risk Management project and the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project. This funding, awarded through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law, which was negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by Sen. Kaine and Reps. Scott and Luria.

“We applaud the Biden administration and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for recognizing the invaluable role the Port of Virginia and Norfolk Harbor have in supporting our nation’s economy. Additionally, we applaud the administration’s significant investment in the City of Norfolk to protect this community from the increasing threat of rising seas and significant flood events. After years of advocating for this funding, we are thrilled that Virginia will receive the federal dollars it needs to carry out these projects, which will help further strengthen our supply chains, mitigate the growing risks of sea level rise, and secure our economic and national security interests in and around the region,” said the lawmakers. “These projects are just a few examples of how the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is starting to work for the American people by providing the resources needed to improve communities and create jobs.”

The City of Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project will receive $249,331,000 to initiate the first construction contract of the project, which will help reduce and manage flooding for major portions of the city through a system of surge barriers, tidal gates, floodwalls, levees, pump stations, and non-structural measures.

The Norfolk Harbor Deepening and Widening Project will receive $69,331,000 to improve navigation and expand capacity by deepening and widening the harbor’s shipping channels. This will enable safer access for larger commercial and naval vessels and provide significant new economic opportunities to the region.

Other funding awarded to Virginia through the USACE FY22 Work Plan includes:

  • $281,295 and $2.2 million for Eastern Shore and Southwest Virginia
  • $120,000 for Indian Run
  • $300,000 for Hampton Roads Beneficial Use 
  • $325,000 for Manchester Canal
  • $3.5 million for Gathright Dam and Lake Moomaw
  • $11.525 million for John H Kerr Lake 
  • $2.56 million for Lynnhaven Inlet
  • $5.675 million for Milford Haven
  • $24.4 million for Philpott Lake

Sens. Warner and Kaine and Reps. Scott and Luria have long worked to secure funding for these key projects. They have consistently urged the Biden administration and the USACE for funding to start construction on the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project, including in 2020 and 2021. They similarly pressed for funding for the Norfolk Harbor Project in 2020 and 2021. In 2018, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully got Norfolk Harbor authorized for construction as part of the Water Resources Development Act. They also successfully pushed for the authorization of the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project as part of the 2020 Water Resources Development Act.   

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, issued the following statement today after President Biden signed a National Security Memorandum (NSM) to improve the cybersecurity of National Security, Department of Defense, and Intelligence Community Systems, as required in Executive Order (E.O) 14028, Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity:

“I applaud President Biden for signing this order to improve our nation’s cybersecurity. Among other priorities, this National Security Memorandum (NSM) requires federal agencies to report efforts to breach their systems by cyber criminals and state-sponsored hackers. Now it’s time for Congress to act by passing our bipartisan legislation that would require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report such cyber intrusions within 72 hours.”

In July 2021, following the SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline hacks, Chairman Warner was joined by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL), senior Committee member Susan Collins (R-ME), and a number of colleagues in introducing legislation to require federal government agencies, federal contractors, and critical infrastructure operators to notify the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) when a breach is detected so that the U.S. government can mobilize to protect critical industries across the country. In November 2021, Warner announced that a bipartisan agreement had been reached with the leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on compromise legislation requiring critical infrastructure owners and operators to report to CISA within 72 hours if they are experiencing a substantial cyber-attack.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement on the departure of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) CEO and General Manager, Paul J. Wiedefeld:

“I want to thank Paul Wiedefeld for his service as General Manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. When Paul came on board in November 2015, WMATA faced a number of serious challenges and he was the right person for the job at the right time. Under Paul’s leadership, WMATA has not only secured dedicated capital funding from local, state, and federal governments, but has adeptly continued serving the DMV community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As the WMATA Board of Directors searches for the next General Manager and CEO, it must focus on finding candidates who are equally committed to maintaining transparency, cooperating with state, local, and federal partners, and most importantly, prioritizing safety.”

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WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $2,008,250 in federal funding awarded to the Chickahominy Eastern Division and Nansemond Indian Nation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) program, which was extended under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, legislation Sens. Warner and Kaine voted for in March 2021. The American Rescue Plan allocated more than $31 billion to Native American communities across the country, including funding which will benefit Virginia’s federally recognized tribes.

“As the Omicron variant continues to create challenges for people across the Commonwealth, we’re glad to see that these federal dollars will provide critical relief for communities hit hard by the pandemic,” said the Senators. “This funding will help provide these tribes with services necessary to protect their health and safety.”

The funding will be awarded as follows:

  • Chickahominy Eastern Division will receive $1,010,000 to rehabilitate homes to improve indoor air quality.
  • Nansemond Indian Nation will receive $998,250 to expand and enhance their community center, which is used to distribute COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and food. This funding will help increase capacity for social distancing, upgrade kitchen facilities to prepare more meals for those in need, and install solar panels and battery storage to improve energy efficiency and resiliency during emergencies.

In 2017, Senators Kaine and Warner led legislation to grant federal recognition to six Virginia tribes, including the Chickahominy and Nansemond tribes. After centuries of being denied federal recognition, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act was signed into law on January 30, 2018, making it possible for these tribes to receive federal funding.

In April 2021, Senator Kaine visited Nansemond Indian Nation to hold a roundtable with tribal members to discuss the challenges that the community has faced throughout the pandemic and encourage vaccinations.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission announced that they would be reviewing and updating guidelines on mergers:

“I welcome the decision by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to review and update their guidelines on both horizontal and vertical mergers. As a former technology entrepreneur, I know the incredible possibilities that can be achieved when companies bring together their resources and expertise in a merger. However, over the past few years, with the increasing concentration of power in the hands of a small group of companies, acquisition has become the only exit strategy for most startups, as the built-in advantages are too great to overcome. I look forward to working with the DOJ and FTC to ensure that these new merger guidelines strike the right balance between fostering innovation and preventing harmful consolidation.”

Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, is a cosponsor of the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act, sweeping legislation to reinvigorate America’s antitrust laws and restore competition to American markets.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

 

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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.”

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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.

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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,

 

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* 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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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,

 

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