Press Releases

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and 13 of their colleagues in calling on Senate Leadership to address the needs of Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories in ongoing infrastructure efforts. The network of 17 National Laboratories across the United States advance critical missions for the Department and additional investments in restoring and modernizing National Lab infrastructure will support scientific and economic competitiveness while creating thousands of new, good-paying jobs.  

Joining Senator Luján in the letter are Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J).

“As we turn to infrastructure we respectfully request that you include investments in the nation’s scientific infrastructure, including the Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories. Funding for maintenance, repairs, and the modernization of National Lab infrastructure will ensure our nation's continued scientific and economic competitiveness; create thousands of high-quality, well-paying construction jobs; and attract the best and brightest scientists to national service.” the Senators wrote. 

“Modern, reliable infrastructure at the National Laboratories is critical to support world-class science that provides a strong foundation for the nation’s economic competitiveness, prosperity, and security,” the Senators continued. “Unfortunately, our National Lab network suffers from a maintenance backlog from decades of underfunding that puts the labs’ successful and efficient execution of this mission at risk.”  

Full text of the letter is available HERE and below: 

 

Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell,

We appreciate your efforts to advance our nation’s competitiveness, address pressing infrastructure needs, and jumpstart the economy and put people back to work in the aftermath of the current COVID-19 pandemic. As we turn to infrastructure we respectfully request that you include investments in the nation’s scientific infrastructure, including the Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories. Funding for maintenance, repairs, and the modernization of National Lab infrastructure will ensure our nation's continued scientific and economic competitiveness; create thousands of high-quality, well-paying construction jobs; and attract the best and brightest scientists to national service. As part of DOE National Laboratory modernization efforts, we also urge you to fund the construction and upgrades of DOE-approved, shovel-ready world-class scientific, advanced energy, and national security facilities at our National Labs.

The DOE maintains a network of 17 National Laboratories that advance the science, technology, energy, environmental, and national security missions of the Department. Although the labs are managed by the DOE, they help find solutions to a broad set of challenges of national importance, ranging from the use of artificial intelligence to improve health services and outcomes for our nation’s veterans to advancing quantum information science that will lead to next-generation communications networks and computers.

Located at National Laboratories and universities across the country are world-class research facilities, including particle accelerators, experimental reactors, isotope reactor, X-ray synchrotron and free-electron laser light sources, fusion and pulsed power facilities, multi-axis X-ray machines that create 3D images of high density explosions, leadership-class supercomputers, and other high precision instrumentation. Modern infrastructure is also needed to support advanced nuclear demonstration projects; the modernization of the electric grid, including energy storage; and nonproliferation, counter proliferation, and counter terrorism missions.

More than 40,000 researchers from academia, industry, and other federal agencies use these unique, world-leading facilities to support their scientific pursuits. During the COVID-19 crisis, our National Labs have provided their expertise and facilities to help overcome the COVID-19 challenge, including the use of DOE’s supercomputers to search for treatments and vaccine therapies, X-ray light sources to understand the virus and identify potential vulnerabilities, unique characterization methods to develop more effective N95 mask filter media, and advanced manufacturing expertise to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.

Modern, reliable infrastructure at the National Laboratories is critical to support world-class science that provides a strong foundation for the nation’s economic competitiveness, prosperity, and security. General-purpose infrastructure, such as office space, laboratory space, storage space, and utilities, forms the backbone of the National Laboratory enterprise and enables DOE’s mission. Unfortunately, our National Lab network suffers from a maintenance backlog from decades of underfunding that puts the labs’ successful and efficient execution of this mission at risk. The average age of DOE facilities is currently 37 years and the average age of the systems that support these facilities (e.g., water, sewage, electrical, roads) is 40 years. 

Across the DOE National Laboratory complex, there are shovel-ready infrastructure projects – from utility upgrades to new state-of-the-art research facilities – that could be dramatically accelerated through investment aimed at stimulating the economy and restoring critical infrastructure. As an example, utility systems across several laboratories are failing and require frequent, often costly, repairs. Many utilities and support buildings are rated substandard or inadequate. When necessary maintenance on a facility or utility system that is scheduled or should be performed is postponed, it is referred to as deferred maintenance. DOE’s deferred maintenance backlog has continued to grow. A dedicated, focused investment would go a long way toward recapitalizing and modernizing National Lab infrastructure and would immediately support thousands of high-quality, well-paying jobs. Maintaining, repairing, upgrading, and replacing general-purpose infrastructure would foster safe, efficient, reliable, and Environmentally responsible operations; boost morale of the scientific and engineering workforce at the National Laboratories; and demonstrate our nation’s continued commitment to maintaining the world’s best scientific infrastructure. 

Equally important, the U.S. faces increasing competition from our counterparts in Europe and Asia, as they race to build their own state-of-the-art facilities to attract the best minds and lead the world in science and technology. This does not just pose an economic threat to the United States, but also a national security threat. An infrastructure investment would accelerate the construction of world-class facilities and scientific instruments to stay ahead of this competition and make sure the U.S. remains the most secure and most attractive country in the world for scientific discovery and innovation. Thank you for considering these important investments. We look forward to working with you to invest in our nation’s competitiveness and put people back to work by addressing these critical infrastructure needs.

Sincerely,

 ###

WASHINGTON – As many Virginians adapt to life with a new pet in the wake of the pandemic, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) is requesting more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding a recent decision to temporarily suspend the importation of dogs from countries with heightened risk for rabies. In a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the senator commended the CDC for working to keep animals and people safe, while also encouraging the agency to develop eventual plans to lift the ban, which has placed a strain on military and U.S. diplomatic families who own dogs.

“I understand this decision was prompted by several factors relevant to the pandemic, including a recent lack of facilities for quarantining dogs safely and a disruption to vaccination programs for animals and people. I applaud the agency for acting quickly to ensure that the canine rabies virus variant—which has been eradicated in the U.S. since 2007—is not reintroduced,” wrote Sen. Warner. “While I believe the decision was necessary, as reported cases of COVID-19 continue to decline with vaccination efforts underway, I also encourage the agency to develop plans to eventually lift the importation ban while still ensuring the health and safety of dogs in the aftermath of the public health emergency.”

“The temporary ban has been a cause for concern for the many U.S. diplomatic and military families who live in Virginia. While I know these families can be considered for a waiver, your agency’s website says these approvals are advanced ‘on an extremely limited basis,’ and this onerous application process has left pet owners scrambling to find a solution,” he continued. “I respectfully ask that the CDC work with Congress to find long-term solutions to this problem, specifically focusing on the following areas: the pandemic’s disruption on vaccination programs for animals and people, the lack of safe animal quarantine facilities in the U.S., the surge in breeders cutting corners due to the increasing demand for pets brought on by the pandemic, and the unique impact the ban has had on diplomatic and military families.” 

On July 14, the CDC temporarily suspended the importation of dogs from 113 countries classified as high risk for dog rabies. This was due, in part, to a significant 2020 increase in the number of imported dogs that were denied entry into the United States from high-risk countries. Due to reduced flight schedules, dogs denied entry are facing longer wait times to be returned to their country of departure, leading to illness and even death in some cases.

In the letter, Sen. Warner also asked the CDC to proactively engage in conversations and listening sessions with stakeholders that will be impacted by this ban, including rescue groups, representatives of U.S. diplomatic and military families, and other interested parties.  

Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country. In 2019, he wrote to the Department of State, raising alarm about reports that the Department sent highly-trained bomb-sniffing dogs to foreign partner nations without proper follow-up, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

 

Dear Director Walensky: 

I write today regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recent decision to suspend the import of dogs from high-risk countries for canine rabies and inquire about the agency’s future plans related to this suspension.  

I greatly respect the CDC’s acute attention toward keeping both animals and people safe in its decision to limit the importation of dogs as the deadly COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout the United States. I also appreciate the temporary nature of the suspension, and I hope to work with the CDC to limit the threat of rabies spreading in the U.S. while still protecting the rights of responsible pet owners.

I have, however, heard from many of my constituents with questions and concerns about the CDC’s decision to suspend dogs from 113 countries with heightened risk for rabies, which went into effect on July 14, 2021. I understand this decision was prompted by several factors relevant to the pandemic, including a recent lack of facilities for quarantining dogs safely and a disruption to vaccination programs for animals and people. I applaud the agency for acting quickly to ensure that the canine rabies virus variant—which has been eradicated in the U.S. since 2007—is not reintroduced.

While I believe the decision was necessary, as reported cases of COVID-19 continue to decline with vaccination efforts underway, I also encourage the agency to develop plans to eventually lift the importation ban while still ensuring the health and safety of dogs in the aftermath of the public health emergency. The temporary ban has been a cause for concern for the many U.S. diplomatic and military families who live in Virginia. While I know these families can be considered for a waiver, your agency’s website says these approvals are advanced “on an extremely limited basis,” and this onerous application process has left pet owners scrambling to find a solution.

I respectfully ask that the CDC work with Congress to find long-term solutions to this problem, specifically focusing on the following areas: the pandemic’s disruption on vaccination programs for animals and people, the lack of safe animal quarantine facilities in the U.S., the surge in breeders cutting corners due to the increasing demand for pets brought on by the pandemic, and the unique impact the ban has had on diplomatic and military families. I would also encourage that, in finding long-term solutions to this problem, the CDC proactively engages in conversations with stakeholders that will be impacted by this ban, including rescue groups, representatives of U.S. diplomatic and military families, and other interested parties.  In this vein we would recommend that the agency holds listening sessions with stakeholders impacted by the ban to better understand the needs of these communities and to ensure that any long-term solutions best serve the needs of both the CDC and the impacted communities.  

For years, the U.S. had strict quarantine and rabies vaccination procedures in place that proved highly effective in keeping animals in the U.S. safe from rabies. As we continue to adapt our ways of life in the aftermath of the pandemic, I look forward to your partnership in tackling these issues.

I appreciate your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to working together to ensure the health and safety of Americans and their pets.

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Committee, today sent a letter to President Biden, asking the administration to ensure the safety of Afghans who have worked closely with U.S. intelligence in the country.  

“For two decades, thousands of Afghans have risked their lives to work with intelligence professionals from the United States and other NATO countries to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups. Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland,” the Senators wrote. “Given the increasingly precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s direct targeting of Afghan partners to the United States, we ask that you pursue a set of options to keep these Afghans safe, including approving Special Immigrant Visas, evacuations to a third country, and/or priority admission under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.”

“Currently the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program offers one avenue for our Afghan allies, but its timeline – a years-long process with thousands in the pipeline – does not align with the pace of withdrawal and the rapid deterioration in security. While we urge you to expedite this program and stand ready to provide additional resources for a faster processing timeline, we also ask that you consider the other evacuation options listed above,” the Senators added. “Further, we ask that you consider whether there is sufficient capacity at U.S. facilities to process applications from those Afghan personnel who have made our efforts possible over the last two decades, or whether there is – given the rapid pace of withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan – sufficient capacity to evacuate our Afghan partners quickly as needs arise.” 

Concluded the Senators, “Abandoning these individuals, who have provided essential support to our intelligence community in Afghanistan, would send a damaging message to our allies and potential partners about the United States’ reliability and trustworthiness. It would also be a stain on our national conscience.”

A copy of the letter is available here, and the full text appears below. 

                                                            

Dear President Biden:

As your administration conducts its withdrawal of military personnel from Afghanistan, we ask that you ensure the safety and security of Afghans who have worked closely with our intelligence agencies and partners.   

For two decades, thousands of Afghans have risked their lives to work with intelligence professionals from the United States and other NATO countries to fight Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, ISIS and other terrorist groups.  Their efforts contributed to the decimation of Al Qaeda and its ability to attack the U.S. homeland.    

Given the increasingly precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s direct targeting of Afghan partners to the United States, we ask that you pursue a set of options to keep these Afghans safe, including approving Special Immigrant Visas, evacuations to a third country, and/or priority admission under the U.S. Refugee Admissions program.  

Currently the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program offers one avenue for our Afghan allies, but its timeline – a years-long process with thousands in the pipeline – does not align with the pace of withdrawal and the rapid deterioration in security. While we urge you to expedite this program and stand ready to provide additional resources for a faster processing timeline, we also ask that you consider the other evacuation options listed above.  

Further, we ask that you consider whether there is sufficient capacity at U.S. facilities to process applications from those Afghan personnel who have made our efforts possible over the last two decades, or whether there is – given the rapid pace of withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan – sufficient capacity to evacuate our Afghan partners quickly as needs arise.

Abandoning these individuals, who have provided essential support to our intelligence community in Afghanistan, would send a damaging message to our allies and potential partners about the United States’ reliability and trustworthiness. It would also be a stain on our national conscience.

We stand ready to support your effort to ensure these Afghan partners are protected. 

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Ahead of the ninth anniversary of Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá’s suspicious death, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), along with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance its efforts on this case without further delay.  In 2013, Durbin sent a letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza originally urging the Commission investigate Payá’s suspicious death.  Subsequent letters urging continued attention were sent in 2014 and 2016.       

“We hope the Commission’s unique role in such matters will help advance such an accounting and continue to stand ready to assist with this important matter,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Tania Reneaum Panszi, newly appointed Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. 

In 2002, Payá started the Varela Project that sought greater political freedom in Cuba through a peaceful petition drive and referendum process as allowed for in the Cuban constitution.  Not only did the Cuban government reject the historic effort and brazenly change the constitutional provision allowing such public avenue for change, but also began a decade of shameful harassment of Payá and his movement.   

In July 2012, this persecution culminated in his car being rammed from behind by a tailing government vehicle, resulting in the death of Payá and fellow passenger and youth activist Harold Cepero.  The Cuban government has yet to provide a credible explanation, accounting, or justice for this tragic incident.  

Full text of the letter is available here and below: 

Dear Secretary Panszi:

Congratulations on your recent appointment to lead the Commission – a timely selection amid troubling democratic and human rights backsliding in Latin America.  In 2013, several of us sent the included letter to previous Commission Executive Secretary Emilio Icaza urging the Commission investigate the suspicious death of Cuban political reformer Oswaldo Payá.  With the ninth anniversary of this troubling event soon approaching and a refusal of the Cuban government to allow or provide for a credible investigation into the matter, we once again urge the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to advance its efforts on this case without further delay.

As you likely recall, in 2002 Payá started the Varela Project that sought greater political freedom in Cuba through a peaceful petition drive and referendum process as allowed for in the Cuban constitution.  Not only did the Cuban government reject the historic effort and brazenly change the constitutional provision allowing such public avenue for change, but also began a decade of shameful harassment of Payá and his movement.   

In July 2012, this persecution culminated in his car being rammed from behind by a tailing government vehicle, resulting in the death of Payá and fellow passenger and youth activist Harold Cepero.  The Cuban government has yet to provide a credible explanation, accounting, or justice for this tragic incident.  In fact, shortly after his death the United States Senate unanimously passed a resolution honoring Payá’s work which also called on the “Government of Cuba to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.”

We hope the Commission’s unique role in such matters will help advance such an accounting and continue to stand ready to assist with this important matter.   

Sincerely,

 ###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner, Tim Kaine (both D-Va.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to reopen Howard Bailey’s immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole. Bailey is a U.S. Navy veteran who lives in exile in Jamaica after being deported in 2012 for a conviction that has since been pardoned.

“The Biden administration has committed to honoring family unity and redressing racial injustices where possible. Returning Mr. Bailey to the U.S., in light of his overwhelming positive equities and the injustice of his deportation, honors these priorities and is a small step toward restoring humanity to the U.S. immigration system,” wrote the Senators. “We urge you to join his motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant his application for humanitarian parole.”

Last week, Bailey was invited to testify at an Immigration Subcommittee hearing to examine how we can better honor the promises made to our brave military members, veterans, and their families in our immigration policy. At the conclusion of the hearing Padilla stated, “Mr. Bailey fought for our country and I am happy to fight for him.” Padilla also raised this issue directly to Robert Silvers, the Nominee for DHS Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans during a Homeland Security Committee hearing. 

Howard Bailey moved to the U.S. when he was around 17-years-old after obtaining lawful permanent residence status through his U.S. citizen mother. He joined the U.S. Navy after high school and served for nearly four years, including two tours in Operation Desert Storm. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and honorably discharged. After Mr. Bailey’s service to the U.S. Navy, he devoted himself to his wife and two U.S. citizen children, purchased a home, and started two small businesses including a thriving trucking company employing seven people. 

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

 

Dear Secretary Mayorkas:

We write to request that the Department of Homeland Security join U.S. veteran Howard Bailey’s motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant him humanitarian parole so that he can return to the United States.

Mr. Bailey joined the U.S. Navy after high school. During his subsequent four years of service, he served on a critical supply ship often in danger zones as a part of Operation Desert Storm and Project Comfort. After he left the Navy, he started a trucking business, purchased his home with a V.A. loan, and built a stable life for his family. He was living the American Dream in every sense of the phrase. Mark Warner

Soon after his honorable discharge, Mr. Bailey was arrested after a package of marijuana was mailed to his home for a friend. Despite not knowing the contents of the package, he pled guilty to a marijuana charge based on counsel from his attorney, who also failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of his plea. Fifteen years later, when Mr. Bailey applied for citizenship, he disclosed that he had a marijuana conviction from 1995. ICE learned of his conviction only when Mr. Bailey himself brought it to the agency’s attention as he applied for U.S. citizenship. ICE then initiated deportation proceedings against him on the basis of this sole marijuana conviction—arresting him on his front lawn with his daughter, son, and wife as witnesses.

In the years after his deportation to Jamaica, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such convictions no longer render people like Mr. Bailey deportable or make them ineligible for discretionary relief from deportation. More recently, in 2017, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe issued a pardon for Mr. Bailey’s marijuana conviction in light of his service to the U.S. Navy and the increasing decriminalization of marijuana nationwide. Today, the conviction that led to his deportation is no longer a part of his record, and the law makes clear that he is eligible for relief from deportation.

On May 27, 2021, a memorandum was issued by DHS headquarters to ICE OPLA attorneys explicitly encouraging DHS to join motions to reopen cases like Mr. Bailey’s where “an individual is eligible for relief under the law and merits relief as a matter of discretion.” The memo lists factors that should be taken into account in joining a motion and that weigh in favor of his case. These include his prior military service, his prior lawful permanent residence status, decades of residency in the U.S. with significant family ties, the length of time since his conviction (26 years) and the compelling humanitarian circumstances in his case such as the severe mental health challenges suffered by his daughter.

As the Secretary of Homeland Security, you have the authority under current law to grant humanitarian parole for cases like Mr. Bailey’s where urgent humanitarian considerations and significant public benefit apply. In addition to the public benefit of bringing home a U.S. veteran who has proudly served his country, paroling Mr. Bailey into the United States is also an appropriate next step to address the profoundly devastating impact of his deportation on his two U.S. citizen children. His daughter, only 11-years-old at the time ICE officers took her father away, continues to face significant mental health challenges and has been unable to attend college, a dream both her and her father shared for her. His son—traumatized by the loss of his father and the subsequent economic challenges including suffering from hunger—has had trouble with the criminal legal system.

The Biden administration has committed to honoring family unity and redressing racial injustices where possible. Returning Mr. Bailey to the U.S., in light of his overwhelming positive equities and the injustice of his deportation, honors these priorities and is a small step toward restoring humanity to the U.S. immigration system. We urge you to join his motion to reopen his immigration proceedings and grant his application for humanitarian parole.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA) Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Marco Rubio (R-FL) Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai, highlighting the importance of reconvening trade agreement talks with Taiwan. 

“We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan,” the Senators wrote

“Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like,” the Senators continued.

“Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need,” the Senators concluded

Joining Warner and Rubio in sending the letter were Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chris Coons (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Todd Young (R-IN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Rick Scott (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), James Lankford (R-OK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Bill Hagerty (R-TN).

 

Dear Ambassador Tai:

As you move to establish your early priorities, we are pleased to see that the resumption of talks with Taiwan under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) is among your areas of focus. The last TIFA meeting was held in October 2016, which is far too long ago when one considers Taiwan’s importance as a trade partner to the United States. For this reason, we were gratified to see reports that you held a virtual meeting with Taiwan’s top trade official, John Deng, on June 9, 2021 and committed to reconvene TIFA talks in the coming weeks. We respectfully request that you prioritize these talks and take steps to begin laying the groundwork for negotiation of a free trade agreement (FTA), or other preliminary agreement, with Taiwan. 

In August 2020, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announced her intention to remove, and later removed, what had been a major obstacle to the pursuit of a FTA: import restrictions on certain U.S. beef and pork products. It is now time for the United States to reciprocate and begin negotiations. It is clear that the United States stands to gain much in doing so. 

Taiwan is the tenth largest trading partner of the United States—surpassing more populous nations such as India, France, and Italy—and the eighth largest market for American agricultural products. It embraces high standards of labor rights and environmental protection. We can all be confident that an agreement negotiated with Taiwan could serve as a model for what a high-standard FTA should look like. It will facilitate free trade under fair conditions that allow American workers, producers, and companies alike to flourish. Advanced economies such as Singapore and New Zealand have paved the way by signing their own FTAs with Taiwan. 

Beyond commerce and investment, Taiwan has proven itself to be a true friend to the United States and a model of a vibrant democracy. While Chinese authorities denied American companies operating in China the ability to send personal protective equipment (PPE) back home during the pandemic, Taiwan stood up production lines of PPE for the United States when we were most in need. Despite Beijing’s endless efforts to isolate and bully, Taiwan remains everything we want the Indo-Pacific region to be: a democratic, free market economy that is a reliable partner to the United States. Lastly, trade talks with Taiwan are also of great strategic importance. Maintaining U.S. economic influence in the region and reducing Taiwan’s dependence on China is essential to ensuring that the region remains free and open. 

Thank you again for committing to resume TIFA talks with Taiwan in the coming weeks. We appreciate your continued attention to this important matter. 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – With Congress preparing to take up this year’s government funding legislation, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have formally requested robust funding to ensure the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. This alert system was authorized through the Ashanti Alert Act, a law authored and championed by Sen. Warner to help save lives. 

“As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 appropriations, we write to respectfully request that you work to ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) implements the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401), and that this effort is fully funded in FY 2022,” wrote the senators in a letter to Congressional leaders in charge of distributing funding. “It is imperative that the Ashanti Alert Act receives full funding and the Department fully implement it in order to advance its goals of transforming the lives and safety of Americans. Full funding ensures that DOJ, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders have the necessary resources to implement the Ashanti Alert network effectively at the soonest possible date.”

The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old woman who was abducted on her way to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in September 2017, and whose body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Due to her age, Ashanti did not meet the criteria for an Amber or Silver Alert – tools utilized by law enforcement that allow the public to assist in locating missing children or senior citizens. The law requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, that would notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems. The law also requires the Attorney General to designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states and territories should use in creating their networks. 

In their letter, the senators also praised recent progress by the DOJ, including its efforts to encourage states, territories, and tribes to adopt Ashanti Alert plans, and to assist various states in ensuring that their existing alert programs for missing adults are consistent with national Ashanti Alert guidance. 

Sen. Warner, who secured unanimous passage of this national alert system in December of 2018, has long led the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide. In August 2019, he reiterated the need for the swift implementation of the alert during a meeting with Katherine Sullivan, the then-Ashanti Alert Coordinator and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ). In July 2020, Sen. Warner sent a letter to Governors across the country inviting their law enforcement officials to participate in a DOJ webinar to help states learn how they can begin to implement this critical program. Most recently, he helped secure $1 million in federal funding in the December 2020 emergency government funding legislation to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system.

A PDF of the letter is available here. Text is available below.

 

 Dear Chairman Shaheen and Ranking Member Moran:

As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 appropriations, we write to respectfully request that you work to ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) implements the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401), and that this effort is fully funded in FY 2022.  We appreciate that the Subcommittee included $1 million for Ashanti Alert Network funding in the FY21 spending bill, and we were pleased that President Biden, too, has recognized the importance of the Ashanti Alert in his proposed budget for FY22.

On December 31, 2018, the Ashanti Alert Act was signed into law, after it passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support. The law requires DOJ to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. In addition, the Ashanti Alert Act requires the Attorney General to designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks.

In the FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 116-93), Congress directed DOJ to report on both the status of its Ashanti Alert Act implementation efforts, as well as establish a deadline for final implementation no later than March 19, 2020.[1]  While DOJ has not yet fully implemented the program, we are glad to see recent progress.  The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), which administers the Ashanti Alert program, is assisting various states with their existing alert programs for missing adults in an effort to ensure the programs are consistent with national Ashanti Alert guidance.  Additionally, BJA is encouraging all other states, territories, and tribes to adopt Ashanti Alert plans and has identified states and tribes to serve as possible pilot sites for enhancing Ashanti alerting capabilities.  Two states, including Virginia, have adopted formal Ashanti Alert programs.

This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19 year old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion.

Thus, it is imperative that the Ashanti Alert Act receives full funding and the Department fully implement it in order to advance its goals of transforming the lives and safety of Americans. Full funding ensures that DOJ, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders have the necessary resources to implement the Ashanti Alert network effectively at the soonest possible date. 

We appreciate the Subcommittee’s past support for the Ashanti Alert Act, and efforts made by Subcommittee staff to ensure implementation.  We hope the Subcommittee will continue to demonstrate strong support for the Ashanti Alert Act for FY 2022. 

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after the Acting Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, John P. Roth, approved Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) in Hampton as the final location for the F-22 Formal Training Unit (FTU): 

“After years of advocating alongside the Virginia congressional delegation, we’re pleased that the U.S. Air Force has confirmed what we already knew: Hampton Roads is the ideal location to permanently house the F-22 training squadron. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard to make sure the relocation process is a smooth one for the servicemembers and their families that will now make the Commonwealth their new home.”

Senators Warner and Kaine have long championed making Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) the final location for the F-22 Formal Training Unit (FTU). In February 2019, Warner and Kaine were joined by every member of the Virginia congressional delegation in a letter urging then-U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to relocate the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Units (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis. Originally located at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael in October of 2018, the squadron was temporarily held at Eglin Air Force Base, awaiting a decision as to where it would be housed permanently.

Built to accommodate three squadrons, Joint Base Langley-Eustis was underutilized, housing only two F-22 squadrons and supporting maintenance units. Warner and Kaine urged the Air Force to move the F-22 FTU to JBLE to advance an important recommendation put forward by the Government Accountability Office, which has emphasized the need for improving aircraft availability by consolidating the fleet into larger squadrons or wings. 

In March 2019, Warner and Kaine released a statement applauding the U.S. Air Force announcement that it had recommended relocating the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

###

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) in sending a bipartisan letter calling on U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts for the nine million Americans living abroad. 

The senators urged the administration to donate supplemental doses to U.S. embassies and consulates in coordination with the Department of Defense, prioritizing the vaccination of Americans living in countries where they are considered ineligible or in those that are not distributing vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) also signed the letter to Secretary Blinken. 

“While the country is quickly approaching its target of vaccinating 70 percent of adults based in the U.S., vaccination rates around the world vary significantly. Around 85 percent of shots administered so far have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.3 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries. While Americans abroad are eligible to receive vaccines in some countries, in others, Americans are ineligible as non-citizens,” the senators wrote.

The senators continued, “Should Americans living abroad wish to travel to the U.S. to receive the vaccine, the financial burden of travel as well as lengthy quarantine requirements upon return to their host country may be prohibitive. As a result of these complicating factors, millions of Americans abroad worry they may not have access to a vaccine for months or even years.”

“The administration has made remarkable progress in vaccinating Americans at home and U.S. officials overseas. As the attention shifts to global vaccination efforts, we urge you to explore all viable options to support vaccination of the millions of Americans living abroad,” the senators concluded.

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

 

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We commend the administration’s ongoing efforts to tackle the COVID-19 global pandemic in coordination with our partners and allies. In particular, the United States is leading the world by announcing the donation of more than 500 million vaccines overseas. In addition to this important effort, we urge you to take concrete steps toward vaccinating the nine million Americans living abroad. 

While the country is quickly approaching its target of vaccinating 70 percent of adults based in the U.S., vaccination rates around the world vary significantly. Around 85 percent of shots administered so far have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.3 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries. While Americans abroad are eligible to receive vaccines in some countries, in others, Americans are ineligible as non-citizens. Should Americans living abroad wish to travel to the U.S. to receive the vaccine, the financial burden of travel as well as lengthy quarantine requirements upon return to their host country may be prohibitive. As a result of these complicating factors, millions of Americans abroad worry they may not have access to a vaccine for months or even years.

We welcome the administration’s sharing of 500 million vaccines with 92 low- and lower middle-income countries. In addition, we urge you to donate supplemental doses to U.S embassies and consulates to support vaccinating American citizens living in those countries as well. To optimize distribution of those additional doses, we urge you to prioritize countries where Americans are deemed ineligible or low priority in national vaccination deployment plans as well as countries that presently are not distributing a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccine or vaccine authorized by the World Health Organization.

The State Department’s success in vaccinating tens of thousands of Foreign Service personnel and their families was a heroic undertaking by medical units at posts around the world. The Defense Department has also succeeded in administering more than one million doses across more than 80 international facilities around the world. In recognition of the challenge of vaccinating up to nine million private citizens overseas, we urge you to explore coordination with the Defense Department to maximize U.S. government capacity.

The administration has made remarkable progress in vaccinating Americans at home and U.S. officials overseas. As the attention shifts to global vaccination efforts, we urge you to explore all viable options to support vaccination of the millions of Americans living abroad.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today sent a letter urging congressional appropriators to include $2 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mobile Testing Units, which offer free and confidential health screenings to coal miners at risk of developing black lung disease. Specifically, the funding would go towards the purchase of a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and towards needed maintenance for the two existing units that serve the Appalachian region – one of which is nonoperational and the other of which is set to be retired in the next few years. 

“Black lung disease is a debilitating, potentially fatal disease caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Recently, researchers have documented a rise in the advanced state of black lung disease, known as complicated black lung or progressive massive fibrosis. Complicated black lung encompasses the worst stages of the disease, which causes miners to gradually lose their ability to breathe. If black lung is caught early, steps can be taken to help prevent it from progressing to the most serious forms of the disease. The screenings offered through NIOSH Mobile Testing Units typically take 30 minutes and the results are confidential by law. The accessibility of the mobile units enable and potentially motivate action towards reducing miners’ exposure to coal dust if testing positive for black lung,” wrote the Senators to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, and Related Agencies. 

A 2019 report by the CDC – commissioned by Sens. Warner, Kaine, Manchin, Casey, Brown, and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) – identified that a lack of accessibility to health screenings and fear of discrimination or retribution prevents many miners from being screened for black lung disease. Currently, the national participation rate in the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP) is approximately 35 percent among active miners and even lower among retirees. In their letter, the Senators underscore that providing this critical funding to activate more screening units will make it easier for Americans to access this free health screening program in an effort to detect black lung disease early. 

“The NIOSH-operated Mobile Testing Units travel to convenient community locations, easing time and accessibility concerns. Additionally, screenings through mobile units are sometimes offered through third party locations, possibly reducing miners’ fear of discrimination. To improve public health and increase participation in CWHSP screenings, we are asking the committee to provide $2 million dollars for a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and needed maintenance on existing units,” they concluded.

A copy of the letter is found here and below.

 

Dear Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray:  

As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education & Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, we are writing to urge you to provide at least $2 million in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mobile Testing Units, which offer confidential health screenings to coal miners as part of the Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program (CWHSP). 

NIOSH mobile testing units offer confidential and accessible screenings that improve public health by providing early detection of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), commonly referred to as black lung disease. Unfortunately, there are only two NIOSH Mobile Testing Units in the Appalachian region. One of these units is not currently operating and one unit is expected to be defunct within a couple of years.  

Black lung disease is a debilitating, potentially fatal disease caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. Recently, researchers have documented a rise in the advanced state of black lung disease, known as complicated black lung or progressive massive fibrosis. Complicated black lung encompasses the worst stages of the disease, which causes miners to gradually lose their ability to breathe. If black lung is caught early, steps can be taken to help prevent it from progressing to the most serious forms of the disease. The screenings offered through NIOSH Mobile Testing Units typically take 30 minutes and the results are confidential by law. The accessibility of the mobile units enable and potentially motivate action towards reducing miners’ exposure to coal dust if testing positive for black lung. 

In June 2019, your committee was sent a report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detailing that only about 35% of active coal miners participate in the CWHSP program because of several concerns. These concerns included: 

1. Lack of confidentiality and fear of discrimination resulting from participation, and 

2. Costly travel expenses and using limited time off to access screenings at black lung clinics. 

The NIOSH-operated Mobile Testing Units travel to convenient community locations, easing time and accessibility concerns. Additionally, screenings through mobile units are sometimes offered through third party locations, possibly reducing miners’ fear of discrimination. 

To improve public health and increase participation in CWHSP screenings, we are asking the committee to provide $2 million dollars for a new NIOSH Mobile Testing Unit and needed maintenance on existing units. Thank you for your consideration of our request. Should you have any questions for need additional information please do not hesitate to reach out to us.  

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, urged the Biden administration to ensure that school systems across the country are equipped to fend off the growing number of cyberattacks targeting K-12 schools

In a letter to the Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the senators requested that the department issue guidance affirming that school districts across the country have the authority to use federal dollars from two COVID-19 relief funds on cybersecurity resources. The two funds – Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) – were authorized by the CARES Act supported by both senators. 

“Experts agree that the increased reliance on online learning programs is likely to far outlast the pandemic.  While online learning offers an abundance of positive opportunities for educators and students, without proper cybersecurity defenses, our nation’s education systems face formidable risks,” the Senators wrote. “School systems must have strong cybersecurity resources available to protect themselves against cyber and ransom attacks. With the increasingly persistent attacks on our schools, they simply cannot wait until they are a target to take action.”

In the letter, the Senators highlighted last year’s cybersecurity breach at Fairfax County Public Schools, the 11th largest school district in the nation, which had private informationstolen and published online. The senators also cited a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that since 2016, more than 17,000 public school districts and approximately 98,000 public schools have experienced breaches that resulted in the disclosure of personal information.

Noting that they have heard from school district leaders who are unsure as to whether they can use relief funds to adopt better cybersecurity measures, the senators specifically requested that the Department of Education publish and publicize guidance clearly stating that these funds may be used to improve cybersecurity. The senators also urged the department to provide recommended cybersecurity benchmarks as well as guidance on suggested spending priorities to best address the disproportionate number of cyber-threats facing school systems.

A PDF of the letter is available here. Text is available below.

 

Dear Secretary Cardona: 

We write today regarding the continued need to prioritize cybersecurity efforts in the context of our nation’s school systems. You know better than anyone the dramatic ways the COVID-19 public health crisis has affected how students learn. Experts agree that the increased reliance on online learning programs is likely to far outlast the pandemic.  While online learning offers an abundance of positive opportunities for educators and students, without proper cybersecurity defenses, our nation’s education systems face formidable risks.  School districts have a unique opportunity to use COVID-19 relief funds to revamp their cybersecurity systems. Therefore, we strongly urge the Biden Administration to publicize guidance stating allowable Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) monies can be spent on cybersecurity resources and engage with school districts to increase awareness of the critical need for prioritizing stronger cybersecurity measures. 

The pandemic has changed daily life for almost everyone in many ways; perhaps, there is no clearer example than the sudden shift to remote learning for students of all ages across the country. Census data shows that nearly 93% of people in households with school-age children reported their children were engaged in some form of “distance learning” over the past year.  While the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has significantly slowed the spread of the virus, some remote learning is likely to continue, with hundreds of the nation’s 13,000 school districts having already created virtual schools intended to operate well into the pandemic’s aftermath.  Even as our nation’s schools fully return to in-person learning, cybersecurity risks will still be plentiful in the technology-dependent modern learning environment. 

With the shift to online instruction, school districts are now incredibly vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Last fall, Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, the 11th largest school district in the nation, was the target of a cybersecurity breach and ransomware incident that included theft of protected information.  This incident is far from an outlier. A report from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released in September 2020 stated more than 17,000 public school districts and approximately 98,000 public schools throughout the U.S. had experienced breaches that resulted in the disclosure of personal information since 2016.  

School systems must have strong cybersecurity resources available to protect themselves against cyber and ransom attacks. With the increasingly persistent attacks on our schools, they simply cannot wait until they are a target to take action.  

The COVID-19 relief bills Congress passed over the past year allocated millions to ESSER and GEER funds, which can be used for this purpose. In total, these bills included almost $200 billion for ESSER and over $7 billion for GEER. These available funds provide schools with a unique opportunity to invest in cybersecurity resources. While we understand schools must divide these funds across various crucial concerns, the pandemic has catapulted our school systems to an inflection point where investment in cybersecurity is now more critical than ever.

We have heard from school districts unsure whether they can use relief funds for this purpose. We greatly appreciate the Department of Education recently issuing a “Frequently Asked Questions” document, which confirms they can be used to improve cybersecurity “to better meet educational and other needs of students related to preventing, preparing for, or responding to COVID-19.”  We respectfully ask that the Administration take steps to publicize this information and help school districts understand the importance of using funding for cybersecurity efforts, including by promulgating lists of recommended cybersecurity benchmarks that additional resources could help school districts attain. Specifically, we urge the Education Department to issue public guidance clearly stating that states and local education authorities (LEAs) can use ESSER or GEER funds to improve cybersecurity, with guidance on suggested spending priorities to address the endemic threat of ransomware disproportionately impacting school systems. We also ask that the Department develop a plan to make sure school districts are aware of this allowable use and engage with LEAs to ensure they understand the importance of these resources.

We implore the Administration to recognize the urgent national need to prioritize cybersecurity in our nation’s education systems. Because of the relief funding Congress has provided over the past year, we have a real opportunity to address accumulating cybersecurity risks in schools. We encourage the Administration to ensure school systems are aware of this use for these funds and engage with LEAs, so they are equipped to take on this challenge. 

Again, thank you for your attention to this matter. We greatly appreciate your efforts on behalf of our nation’s students, and we look forward to continuing work together as our systems grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and James Inhofe (R-OK) and a bipartisan group of 38 senators in urging the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to include robust funding for the EDA in fiscal year 2022 appropriations legislation.

The EDA is designed to create jobs and stimulate the economy in areas of the country that need the most help—both rural and urban—and has played an integral role so far in America’s recovery from the economic fallout of the pandemic. 

“With a modest budget, EDA programs have developed a record of making strategic investments and building community and regional partnerships to expand business in areas such as advanced manufacturing, science, health care, and technology. Between FY12 and FY19, EDA has invested over $2.283 billion in 5,471 projects to help build the capacity for locally-driven economic development projects. These projects are expected to create and/or retain 335,620 jobs and attract over $47.1 billion in private investment,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Many communities, especially those in rural areas, have benefited from EDA grants to support the job skills training, technical assistance, and infrastructure improvements needed to attract new businesses and ensure existing businesses have the opportunity to adapt to changing market circumstances. EDA has invested nearly 60 percent of its funds in rural areas since FY12, which has leveraged over $13.7 billion in private investment in these communities,” the senators continued.

In addition to Warner, Merkley, and Inhofe, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Robert Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tammy Duckworth (D-WI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), James Risch (R-ID), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is available here and follows below.

 

Dear Chair Shaheen and Ranking Member Moran,

As you begin work preparing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, we urge you to include robust funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and its vital grant programs.

Since 1965, EDA has helped local and regional stakeholders address the economic and infrastructure needs of communities across the country, focusing on private-sector job creation and economic growth in distressed areas.

With a modest budget, EDA programs have developed a record of making strategic investments and building community and regional partnerships to expand business in areas such as advanced manufacturing, science, health care, and technology. Between FY12 and FY19, EDA has invested over $2.283 billion in 5,471 projects to help build the capacity for locally-driven economic development projects. These projects are expected to create and/or retain 335,620 jobs and attract over $47.1 billion in private investment. 

Many communities, especially those in rural areas, have benefited from EDA grants to support the job skills training, technical assistance, and infrastructure improvements needed to attract new businesses and ensure existing businesses have the opportunity to adapt to changing market circumstances. EDA has invested nearly 60 percent of its funds in rural areas since FY12, which has leveraged over $13.7 billion in private investment in these communities.

EDA is useful in supporting job creation and innovation, particularly in distressed and disadvantaged communities. This aligns with the Administration’s goals of building back stronger, more resilient economies. The agency is also a great tool that helps small businesses recover and communities rebuild critical infrastructure and economic development assets following natural disasters or public health emergencies. 

As Congress has done in past fiscal years, we encourage you to include robust funding for the Economic Development Administration and its grant programs in the FY22 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. We look forward to working with you to ensure the success of the EDA, which has an exceptional record of supporting local communities across the nation to cost-effectively promote economic development.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – On the 9th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program being announced, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA.) joined Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in leading their colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to address the extreme backlog for DACA applicants and reduce wait times for DACA renewals. Current delays are a result of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies and the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to negatively impact the immigrant community. 

“As you know, access to DACA provides a vital lifeline to hundreds of thousands of young people. Many DACA recipients are essential workers in health care and other critical industries and are playing an important role in helping our economy recover from the ongoing pandemic. Delays in granting benefits to DACA applicants and recipients therefore affect not just their own employment and stability, but the social and economic welfare of us all,” the Senators wrote.

They continued, “DACA processing delays have significant consequences, not just for individuals depending on the status for their livelihoods and security, but for their families and for the businesses and workplaces that employ them. As we work to build back our economy from the effects of the pandemic, reducing backlogs and processing delays for DACA cases is of the utmost importance.”

The letter is signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).    

A copy of the Senators’ letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can be found here and below. 

 

June 15, 2021

 

Ms. Tracy Renaud

Acting Director

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

20 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20529

 

Dear Director Renaud:

We write to express our concerns regarding processing delays for immigration benefits at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These delays—a legacy of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies and the COVID-19 pandemic—continue to negatively impact immigrants, our communities, and our nation as a whole. As the Biden Administration and USCIS work to rebuild and strengthen our nation’s immigration system, we hope that reducing processing delays will continue to be a priority. 

While we are aware that processing times for many different forms of immigration benefits have been unusually high for several years, we are particularly concerned about delays impacting applications related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including initial, first-time DACA requests, DACA renewal requests, and related employment authorization applications. As you know, access to DACA provides a vital lifeline to hundreds of thousands of young people. Many DACA recipients are essential workers in health care and other critical industries and are playing an important role in helping our economy recover from the ongoing pandemic. Delays in granting benefits to DACA applicants and recipients therefore affect not just their own employment and stability, but the social and economic welfare of us all.

Despite the change in Administration and ongoing efforts at USCIS to expand processing capacity, current wait times for DACA requests continue to be high. The average processing time for new DACA requests is between four and nine months, depending on the USCIS service center.[1] Despite the fact that hundreds of initial DACA requests were submitted when the process reopened at the end of last year, nonprofit legal service providers report that only a handful of initial requests nationwide have been approved. Reportedly, some requestors who applied in December 2020 or January 2021 have not yet been contacted to schedule their biometrics appointment. Delays for new initial DACA requests are particularly concerning because these individuals need DACA to access employment that will allow them to sustain themselves and their families, and to pursue higher education opportunities. Additionally, many of these individuals need deferred action to stop accruing unlawful presence and gain protection from deportation, and have been waiting to apply for over three years since the Trump Administration stopped accepting new requests on September 5, 2017 and attempted to eliminate the DACA program entirely.

It also appears that some DACA renewal requests continue to be processed at an unacceptably slow rate, with certain applications taking an estimated full year to process, depending on the USCIS service center.[2] These processing times are occurring despite USCIS’s stated goal of processing DACA renewal requests within 120 days.[3] Constituents have resorted to contacting our offices for assistance because, in addition to experiencing delays, the USCIS case tracker provides insufficient information to requestors and their attorneys.[4] Furthermore, some service centers are telling congressional caseworkers that expedited processing requests for DACA renewals will not be granted and that no information on case status can be shared at this point in time. Applicants need to know where their requests are in the adjudication process to better estimate how much longer they have to wait and to assess whether there are any issues with the processing of their requests.

DACA processing delays have significant consequences, not just for individuals depending on the status for their livelihoods and security, but for their families and for the businesses and workplaces that employ them. As we work to build back our economy from the effects of the pandemic, reducing backlogs and processing delays for DACA cases is of the utmost importance.

In order for us to better serve our constituents, we respectfully request that the following information be provided to our offices by July 1, 2021:

1.     How many initial, first-time DACA requests were received from January 1, 2021 to May 31, 2021?

2.     How many biometrics appointments have been scheduled for initial, first-time DACA requests received from January 1, 2021 to May 31, 2021?

3.     How many initial, first-time DACA requests have been fully adjudicated between December 2020 and May 31, 2021?

4.     How many DACA renewal requests are currently awaiting adjudication beyond the 120 day processing goal?

5.     How many requests for advance parole from DACA recipients are currently pending adjudication?

6.     How does USCIS account for the highly varied processing times for DACA-related requests at its California, Nebraska, and Vermont service centers?

7.     What steps has USCIS taken to address processing delays at its California, Nebraska, and Vermont service centers?

8.     In light of changing pandemic-related guidelines, what steps has USCIS taken to adjust COVID-19 related policies and procedures that impact request processing times? 

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you to address these concerns as soon as possible.   

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in a letter to Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman urging her to disburse Shuttered Venue Operator Grant funding to struggling live entertainment venues as soon as possible. The legislation that created this program, the Save Our Stages Act, was signed into law more than six months ago, and event venues are going out of business while waiting for these grants.

They wrote, “The Save Our Stages Act, now the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, was created to prevent widespread closures of venues that have been devastated by the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As supporters of the SVOG program, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that the relief reaches eligible applicants without further delay.”

“It has been nearly six months since Congress passed the Save our Stages Act, nearly two months since the second launch of the program, and 51 days since the Small Business Administration (SBA) began receiving applications.” 

“Bureaucratic process cannot stand in the way of getting these desperately needed funds out the door.”

They were joined on the letter by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), James Risch (R-ID), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Bill Haggerty (R-TN), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), John Thune (R-SD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Steve Daines (R-MT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), John Boozman (R-AR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Chris Coons (D-DE).

Full text of the letter is here and below. 

 

June 15, 2021

 

The Honorable Isabella Casillas Guzman

Administrator, Small Business Administration

409 3rd Street, SW

Washington, DC 20416

 

Dear Administrator Guzman:

The Save Our Stages Act, now the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, was created to prevent widespread closures of venues that have been devastated by the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As supporters of the SVOG program, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that the relief reaches eligible applicants without further delay.

With each passing day, more independent businesses are forced to shutter permanently or file for bankruptcy. Landlords and banks are no longer permitting deferrals and are pressing for immediate payment of past due accounts; businesses are receiving eviction notices; mom-and-pop businesses are being forced to sell. 

It has been nearly six months since Congress passed the Save our Stages Act, nearly two months since the second launch of the program, and 51 days since the Small Business Administration (SBA) began receiving applications. We urge you to immediately take steps to ensure the funds are distributed to qualified applicants.

The SVOG program is unique, with necessary restrictions built in to ensure taxpayer funding goes only to eligible applicants in need. Under the terms of the law, the SVOG program requires the award of funding to eligible applicants who meet the simple requirements of the program. In this context, the insistence on strict compliance with competitive grant rules has created unnecessary delays in funding. Similarly, restrictions that SBA has placed on communication with grant applicants are unnecessary and have prevented the agency from providing administrative support to individual applicants that could have streamlined the application review process. Bureaucratic process cannot stand in the way of getting these desperately needed funds out the door. 

Further delays are unacceptable and would have irreversible consequences for these industries. In an effort to keep our constituents informed and ensure our small businesses receive the support they were promised, we respectfully request you provide us with the following information: 

1.       The number SVOG awards that have been approved;

2.       The number of SVOG grants that have been disbursed to recipients;

3.       The amount of SVOG funding that has been disbursed;

4.       The number of applications with holds;

5.       The number of first-priority applicants that have received an award notice;

6.       What SBA is doing to update small business owners on the status of their applications;

7.       What SBA is doing to ensure applicants are not incorrectly associated with similar-named individuals and entities on the List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE);

8.       What SBA is doing to correct false DNP designation notices sent to thousands of applicants;

9.       SBA’s justification for breaking grant awards, regardless of size, into multiple disbursements; and 

10.   SBA’s timeline for subsequent disbursements and what grantees need to do to receive them.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON -- Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and a bipartisan group of 37 senators in calling for $500 million to fully fund U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs in the Defense Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022. Israel’s missile defense system is made up of four operational layers: Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and now Arrow 3. In addition to contributing to ballistic missile defense, the funding will support crucial work on research, development and test activities to counter hostile unmanned aerial systems.  

The bipartisan group of senators wrote, “the U.S.-Israeli cooperation has resulted in a system that can, and has, countered numerous missile threats from state and non-state actors from adversaries in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere. This system provides Israel with the ability to protect lives at home and on the battlefield, keeping its citizens and soldiers out of harm’s way.”

In addition to Senators Warner, Gillibrand, and Rounds, the letter was signed by Senators Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Cramer (R-ND), Daines (R-MT), Duckworth (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Fischer (R-NE), Hassan (D-NH), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kaine (D-VA), Kelly (D-AZ), Klobuchar (D-MN), Lankford (R-OK), Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Padilla (D-CA), Peters (D-MI), Rosen (D-NV), Rubio (R-FL), Schatz (D-HI), Sinema (D-AZ), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Thune (R-SD), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warnock (D-GA), Wyden (D-OR) and Young (R-IN).

The text of the letter appears below:

 

Dear Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Shelby: 

Thank you for this committee’s strong support of U.S.-Israel collaborative defense programs, including Iron Dome, David's Sling, and Arrow as well as our continued cooperative work on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). As you begin work on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Defense Appropriations bill, we write seeking $500 million for continued support for these in order to meet the United States’ and Israel's national security needs.

Joint U.S.-Israel missile defense collaboration on Israel’s multilayer missile defense system has been foundational to the defense of Israel since the 1980s. Congress has consistently supported this project. Israel’s missile defense system is made up of four operational layers: Iron Dome (short-range), David’s Sling (medium-range), Arrow 2 (longer range), and now Arrow 3 (very long range). The U.S.-Israeli cooperation has resulted in a system that can, and has, countered numerous missile threats from state and non-state actors from adversaries in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and elsewhere. This system provides Israel with the ability to protect lives at home and on the battlefield, keeping its citizens and soldiers out of harm’s way.

This cooperative program has also created an important flow of data and invaluable insight to support vital U.S. missile defense technology while safeguarding our strategic ally Israel and our service members in the region. This program synergizes with our ongoing operations in the area increasing interoperability between U.S. and Israeli systems and forces. Moreover, the program supports critical elements of the industrial base and important jobs here in the United States through co-development and co-production agreements. 

Another area of critical importance to both the United States and Israel, is in the field of UAS, and perhaps just as importantly, counter-UAS. In February 2020, the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit announced it had selected Israeli firm D-Fend Solutions to field a counter-drone system for the FBI and U.S. military. This technology was co-developed with the U.S. Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office. CTTSO has played a crucial role in U.S.-Israel cooperation and innovation.  

For FY 2022, in addition to ballistic missile defense, $500 million will continue critical work on research, development and test activities to counter hostile unmanned aerial systems. This funding will further development of a range of systems designed to handle the imminent threats American and Israeli forces face. 

Together, these programs confront the compelling challenges facing both Israel and the United States and form a strong foundation of the enduring friendship of our nations. We look forward to working with you on these important programs. 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and a bipartisan group of their colleagues in urging U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, to fully fund the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for fiscal year (FY) 2022. PILT provides payments to counties with non-taxable federal land within their borders to offset the lost property tax revenue. 

“Without full funding for the PILT program, counties across the nation will be unable to provide essential services such as law enforcement, education, search and rescue, road maintenance and public health to their residents and millions of visitors to our public lands,” wrote Warner, Bennet, Crapo, and the senators. “Moving forward, we look forward to working with you to enact a fiscally responsible, long-term solution to fully fund PILT and eliminate the uncertainty that counties face each year. As cash strapped counties across the country work to address budget cuts exacerbated by the pandemic, full-funding and a long-term solution for PILT is essential to provide certainty that the federal government will continue to uphold its long-standing commitment to public lands counties.”

PILT funding is critical for communities in Colorado and across the country that use these funds for essential services like infrastructure maintenance and law enforcement. Across the country, PILT provides critical resources to nearly 1,900 counties across 49 states. Counties have used these payments for more than 40 years to fund law enforcement, firefighting, emergency response, and other essential county services. As communities continue to rebuild in the aftermath of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, this funding is needed now more than ever. Bennet and the senators will continue working toward a long-term solution for PILT that will provide counties and local governments sustained funding and more predictability.

In addition to Bennet and Crapo, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.

Dear Chairman Leahy and Vice Chairman Shelby:

As Members of Congress representing counties with federal public lands within their boundaries, we write to request that you work to ensure the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program is fully funded in fiscal year (FY) 2022.

PILT provides critical resources to nearly 1,900 counties across 49 states to offset lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt federal lands within their jurisdictions. It supports the many critical services that counties provide on federal public lands. Without full funding for the PILT program, counties across the nation will be unable to provide essential services such as law enforcement, education, search and rescue, road maintenance and public health to their residents and millions of visitors to our public lands.

Moving forward, we look forward to working with you to enact a fiscally responsible, long-term solution to fully fund PILT and eliminate the uncertainty that counties face each year. As cash strapped counties across the country work to address budget cuts exacerbated by the pandemic, full-funding and a long-term solution for PILT is essential to provide certainty that the federal government will continue to uphold its long-standing commitment to public lands counties.

We look forward to working with you and other Congressional leaders to resolve this pressing issue facing our communities by fully funding PILT in FY 2022 and ensuring long-term predictable funding for this important program.

Sincerely,

###

 

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) in urging the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to side with American workers and fully and fairly enforce U.S. trade remedy laws. In a bipartisan letter to the ITC, Warner, Brown, and Portman led their colleagues in pressing the ITC to give full and fair consideration to the United Steelworker’s petitions in these cases of unfairly traded imports. Warner, Brown, and Portman led this letter with Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Todd Young (R-IN), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Boozman (R-AR), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA).

“U.S. trade remedy laws are intended to provide relief to U.S. companies and their workers when they are undermined by unfairly traded imports.  We urge you to give full and fair consideration to the USW petitions in these cases and to ensure U.S. trade remedy laws are fully enforced,” the Senators wrote.

For years, United Steelworkers at tire companies including Cooper Tire in Findlay, Ohio, have found themselves at a severe competitive disadvantage due to unfairly traded foreign imports. The United Steelworkers’ trade petitions seeks to secure relief for their members in the tire industry to ensure the U.S. tire industry can compete on a level playing field.  

Full text of the letter is available here and below: 

The Honorable Jason Kearns

Chairman

United States International Trade Commission

500 E Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20436

Dear Chairman Kearns:

We write on behalf of U.S. passenger vehicle and lightweight tire (PVLT) manufacturers and their workers who face ongoing challenges from unfairly traded tire imports in the above referenced cases and to reiterate our support for strong enforcement of U.S. trade remedy laws.  

The U.S. tire industry has been marked by unfair trade from foreign competitors for years.  In 2009, President Obama imposed Section 421 tariffs on Chinese tire imports to address the systemic dumping of tires in the U.S. market.  After the tariffs expired, USW tire-producing members again faced unfair competition, and the union filed antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty petitions in 2014.  AD and CVD orders have been in place on certain Chinese PVLT imports since.  Unfortunately, other foreign competitors are employing unfair practices to gain market share in the U.S. while Chinese tire imports face additional duties.  As a result, the USW union recently filed the AD and CVD petitions against tire producers in Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

U.S. trade remedy laws are intended to provide relief to U.S. companies and their workers when they are undermined by unfairly traded imports.  We urge you to give full and fair consideration to the USW petitions in these cases and to ensure U.S. trade remedy laws are fully enforced.  

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to the White House recommending Judge Arenda Wright Allen, Judge Hannah Lauck, and Virginia Solicitor General Toby J. Heytens to fill the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which will be created when Judge Barbara M. Keenan assumes senior status in August 2021. 

Judge Allen has been a U.S. District Court Judge in the Norfolk division of the Eastern District of Virginia since 2011. Judge Allen served in the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia from 2005-2011 and served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in both the Eastern District of Virginia and the Western District of Virginia from 1990 to 2005. She also has a distinguished record of service in the Navy and has a lifelong commitment to diversity.  

Judge Lauck has been a U.S. District Court Judge in the Richmond division of the Eastern District of Virginia since 2014 and was previously a Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District—the first woman to be appointed to either position in Richmond. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Lauck served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1994 to 2005. Judge Lauck served as a clerk to U.S. Judge Randolph Spencer of the Eastern District of Virginia. 

Mr. Heytens has been the Solicitor General of Virginia since 2018, representing the Commonwealth in state and federal courts, including three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to this role, Mr. Heytens was a professor at his alma mater, the University of Virginia School of Law, from 2010 to 2018. Mr. Heytens also served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Chief Judge Edward R. Becker on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

“All three candidates possess the requisite fairness, temperament, and integrity to serve as a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge, and have our highest recommendation,” said the senators. “Ultimately, we believe each of these individuals would win confirmation from the Senate and serve capably on the bench.”

Warner and Kaine recommend these individuals based on their distinguished records and the assessments of an independent panel of attorneys from across the Commonwealth as well as feedback from bar associations in Virginia. 

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is based in Richmond and hears federal appeals from Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina. President Biden will nominate one individual for the position, which is subject to confirmation by the full Senate. 

The full text of today’s letter appears here and below: 

 

Dear Mr. President: 

We are pleased to recommend United States District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen, United States District Court Judge Hannah Lauck, and Virginia Solicitor General Toby J. Heytens for the vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit following Judge Barbara M. Keenan’s decision to take senior status, effective August, 2021. All three candidates possess the requisite fairness, temperament, and integrity to serve as a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge, and have our highest recommendation. 

The Honorable Arenda Wright Allen is a United States District Court Judge in the Norfolk Division of the Eastern District of Virginia.  Prior to joining the bench in 2011, Judge Allen served in the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia from 2005-2011. From 1990 to 2005, Judge Allen served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in both the Eastern District of Virginia and the Western District of Virginia.  Judge Allen also has an exemplary record of military service, serving as a Navy JAG Trial Attorney and Staff Judge Advocate from 1985-1990.  Judge Allen continued her service as a Commander in the United States Navy Reserves until she retired in 2005.

Judge Hannah Lauck has had an impressive legal career to date, and is currently serving as a United States District Court Judge in Richmond, Virginia.  Prior to becoming a United States District Court Judge, she served as a federal Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, from 2005 to 2014.  Additionally, she was the first woman District Court Judge and Magistrate Judge appointed in the Richmond Division for the Eastern District of Virginia.    

Toby Heytens is the Solicitor General of Virginia, a position he has held since 2018. As the Solicitor General, Mr. Heytens exclusively represents the Commonwealth, its officers, and its agencies. In the last three years he has represented the Commonwealth in federal and state courts, including three arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States, defense of the Commonwealth’s new firearms laws and the Governor’s COVID-19 related orders in trial courts and on appeal.  Prior to joining the Virginia Attorney General’s office, Heytens was a professor at his alma mater, the University of Virginia School of Law, from 2010 to 2018. 

Ultimately, we believe each of these individuals would win confirmation from the Senate and serve capably on the bench. We are honored to recommend them to you.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led a group of 12 colleagues in urging the Biden administration to work with states, tribes, and territories to prioritize young people in the foster care system, who have been particularly afflicted by the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. In a letter to the Administration for Children and Families at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the senators stressed the disparate outcomes faced by young people in foster care in the areas of educational attainment, employment rates, and earnings, and urged the administration to ensure that states take full advantage of existing flexibilities to mitigate these outcomes.

Joining Sen. Warner in the letter to the Associate Commissioner of the Administration for Children and Families were Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

“As efforts to curtail the pandemic prove successful, it is clear that the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be significant. As you continue to work through year-one priorities, we ask that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ensure that youth currently in and transitioning out of the foster care system receive the support and resources they need to thrive,” wrote the Senators in a letter to HHS Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg. “We also ask that you prioritize implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 to ensure that children, youth, and their families can access a range of services to keep them safely together and prevent unnecessary entry into foster care whenever possible. For circumstances when foster care placement is needed, we request that you work with states, tribes, and territories to ensure that children and youth in foster care have high-quality placements and trauma-informed care.”

“The past year has been a difficult time for many. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the overwhelming obstacles youth in the foster care system face, particularly the challenges associated with transitioning into adulthood after leaving the system,” they continued. “We believe that if changes are made to strengthen support and the resources for foster youth, they will be better able to realize their goals and become active members of our nation’s workforce.”

Throughout the past year, young people in the foster care system have felt the educational and economic toll of the pandemic at much higher rates than their peers. In fact, a University of Pennsylvania study found that foster youth have lost their jobs during COVID-19 at a rate three times that of the general population. The senators also cited the findings of a longitudinal study, which revealed that by age 23 and 24, one-quarter of youth with experience in foster care did not have a high school diploma or a GED. Additionally, although nearly one third had completed at least one year of college, only 6 percent had completed a 2- or 4-year post-secondary degree. 

In the letter, the senators requested that the administration take action to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on foster youth. Specifically, they asked the administration to:

·         Allow title IV-B funds to be used to provide internet and other technology to vulnerable foster youth and families in order to ensure that foster youth do not continue to fall behind in meeting their work and study obligations because they do not have necessary technological tools available to them. 

·         Work with states to address the impact of the digital divide on foster youth by considering long-term solutions to technology-access challenges that have been exacerbated during the public health emergency, and working with child welfare agencies on context-specific plans to ensure foster youth have resources necessary to participate in online instruction or work virtually.  

·         Implement a plan to ensure that agencies proactively reach out to foster youth to inform them about benefits related to stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and other COVID-19-related assistance. 

·         Help ensure that foster youth and other at-risk youth are aware of and have the resources to take advantage of the extension of the earned income tax credit (EITC) to working youth under age 26 and work toward making the child tax credit (CTC) as accessible as possible. They asked that the Administration make the EITC and the CTC as accessible as possible by working with youth and their families to ensure they are aware of these opportunities. They also asked that the Administration provide flexibility for caregivers of children in the welfare system to claim a dependent. 

·         Create and implement a plan to ensure that foster youth have access to and are aware of mental health supports. Given the high rates of trauma experienced by foster youth and the increase in reports of mental illness during the pandemic, the senators asked that the administration work to ensure foster youth are provided the necessary mental health resources to support their resilience during this difficult time. 

·         Commit to working with Congress and states, tribes, and territories to address inequalities in the child welfare system in the U.S. and outline steps to make child welfare programs more equitable by working ensuring better opportunities for foster youth and combat the racial disparities we have known to persist within the system for too long. 

A PDF of the letter is available here. Text is available below.

 

Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

The Administration for Children and Families

Children’s Bureau

330 C Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20201

 

Dear Associate Commissioner Aysha Schomburg, 

We write today in support of children and youth in the foster care system as they continue to face a number of unique challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the steady progress of nationwide vaccine distribution, like many Americans, we feel a sense of reassurance that our nation will soon transition into a more manageable period of the health and economic crises that the nation has endured for over a year now. As efforts to curtail the pandemic prove successful, it is clear that the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be significant. As you continue to work through year-one priorities, we ask that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ensure that youth currently in and transitioning out of the foster care system receive the support and resources they need to thrive. We also ask that you prioritize implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 to ensure that children, youth, and their families can access a range of services to keep them safely together and prevent unnecessary entry into foster care whenever possible. For circumstances when foster care placement is needed, we request that you work with states, tribes, and territories to ensure that children and youth in foster care have high quality placements and trauma-informed care. 

It is well-documented that current and former foster youth face disparate outcomes compared to their peers in various areas, including educational attainment and employment rates and earnings.[1] A longitudinal study in Iowa, better known as “The Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth,” found that by age 23 and 24, one-quarter of youth with experience in foster care did not have a high school diploma or a GED, and although nearly one third had completed at least one year of college, only 6% had completed a 2- or 4-year post-secondary degree.[2] Foster youth aging out of the system are also more likely to become homeless and struggle with job insecurity.[3]

The past year has been a difficult time for many. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the overwhelming obstacles youth in the foster care system face, particularly the challenges associated with transitioning into adulthood after leaving the system. 

In fact, former foster youth are some of the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.[4] According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, former foster youth have lost their jobs during the pandemic at a rate three times that of the general population. Additionally, two-thirds of study participants reported that COVID-19 had a major negative impact on their educational progress or attainment.[5] These outcomes can be partially explained by inconsistent access to the internet, with only 5% of rural foster youth and 21% of urban foster youth having consistent access to computers in their homes.[6]

These statistics are heartbreaking and unacceptable. We believe that if changes are made to strengthen support and the resources for foster youth, they will be better able to realize their goals and become active members of our nation’s workforce. 

We greatly appreciate the Biden Administration’s leadership in working with state, tribal and territorial child welfare agencies to slow the spread of the virus and “build back better.” We respectfully ask that you continue to encourage states to take full advantage of existing flexibilities and make additional changes to best support foster youth. Specifically, we request that you: 

·         Allow title IV-B funds to be used to provide internet and other technology to vulnerable foster youth and families. The virtual working and learning environments we have experienced during the pandemic are likely to last long after the spread of the virus is slowed.[7] Therefore, we must ensure that foster youth do not continue to fall behind in meeting their work and study obligations because they do not have necessary technological tools available to them. We ask that allowable expenses be expanded to include laptop computers, tablets, and internet access for children and families in the child welfare system.  

·         Work with states to address the impact of the digital divide on foster youth. We were proud to vote in support of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which increased support for John H. Chafee Foster Care Programs for Successful Transition to Adulthood, mandated that a state operating a program under Title IV-E cannot require that a child who is in foster care leave solely because of the child’s age until October 1, 2021, and suspended certain training and postsecondary educational requirements that could be barriers to youth accessing Chafee supports during the public health emergency. In addition to working with states, territories, tribes and tribal organizations to ensure this law is implemented effectively, we ask that you consider long-term solutions to technology-access challenges that have been exacerbated during the public health emergency. We ask that you work with child welfare agencies on context-specific plans to ensure foster youth have resources necessary to participate in online instruction or work virtually. 

·         Implement a plan to ensure that agencies proactively reach out to foster youth to inform them about benefits related to stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, and other COVID-19-related assistance. We ask that you work to ensure foster youth are aware of all resources available to them during this difficult time. 

·         Help ensure that foster youth and other at-risk youth are aware of and have the resources to take advantage of the extension of the earned income tax credit (EITC) to working youth under age 26 and work toward making the child tax credit (CTC) as accessible as possible. We were pleased to see that the American Rescue Plan included an extension of the EITC to working youth under age 26. We believe this change has significant potential to equip former foster youth to become productive members of the workforce. We ask that the Administration help make foster youth and other vulnerable youth aware of this expansion, as well as help ensure they have the resources to take advantage of this opportunity. In addition, we are proud that the American Rescue Plan temporarily expands the CTC and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) for 2021. We ask that the Administration make the CTC as accessible as possible by working with families to ensure they know how the monthly payments work and allow non-filers to establish eligibility. We also ask that the Administration provide flexibility for caregivers of children in the welfare system to claim a dependent. 

·         Create and implement a plan to ensure that foster youth have access to and are aware of mental health supports. Foster youth who have aged out of the system are like other populations experiencing isolation due to the pandemic, but many lack substantive social supports. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses. Given the high rates of trauma experienced by foster youth and the increase in reports of mental illness during the pandemic, we ask that you work to ensure foster youth are provided the necessary mental health resources to support their resilience during this difficult time. The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 allows Title IV-E funds to cover evidence-based mental health services and programs for children, youth, and their families. We encourage you to support states, tribes, and territories in development and implementation of robust Title IV-E Prevention Program plans that include a range of mental health services.

·         Commit to working with Congress and states, tribes, and territories to address inequalities in the child welfare system in the U.S. and outline steps to make child welfare programs more equitable. Youth of color frequently experience negative outcomes, such as homelessness, unemployment, economic hardship, and involvement with the criminal justice system, at higher rates than their white peers after transitioning out of the foster care system.[8] We ask that the Biden Administration work with youth, parents, kinship caregivers with lived expertise, as well as child welfare agencies and Congress to play a leading role in ensuring better opportunities for foster youth and combat the racial disparities we have known to persist within the system for too long. 

Thank you for your diligent, impactful work on behalf of our nation’s foster youth. We appreciate your time and attention to this urgent matter. We are grateful for your partnership as we continue to work on behalf of youth in need. 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and 41 Senate Democrats in urging Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra to quickly finalize the proposed rule for the Title X family planning program that would reverse the Trump Administration’s gag rule, commit to health equity, and ensure that patients who depend on Title X providers can get the care they need—including for birth control, STD screenings, cancer screenings, and more.

“For over 50 years, the Title X program has been an invaluable tool for providing high-quality family planning and preventive health care to millions of people, many of whom earn low incomes and have extremely limited access to health care,” wrote the Senators in a letter. “We urge you to swiftly finalize the proposed rule to ensure patients have widespread, affordable access to the comprehensive family planning services and cancer and sexually transmitted disease (STD) screenings they need from providers they trust.”

In the letter, the Senators expressed their support for Secretary Becerra to swiftly act to reverse the Trump Administration’s harmful gag rule prohibiting providers who receive Title X funds from informing patients about the full range of reproductive health care options available to them, including abortion. Despite the Title X program’s 50 years of bipartisan support, the Trump Administration’s gag rule slashed the Title X-funded health care network’s capacity, compromising the health care of millions patients nationwide—disproportionately women of color—who rely on Title X health centers. 

“The proposed rule would be a vital step in reversing the devastating loss of Title X services caused by the 2019 Title X regulations,” continued the Senators. “After the 2019 Title X regulations went into effect in July 2019, one-quarter of the clinics in the Title X network were forced to withdraw from the program, which meant at least 1.6 million people lost access to the Title X-supported services that were previously available to them.”

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

The full letter can be found HERE and below.

 

Dear Secretary Becerra

We write to provide formal comments on the Department of Health of Human Services’ (HHS) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), “Ensuring Access to Equitable, Affordable, Client-Centered, Quality Family Planning Services,” RIN 0937-AA11. For over 50 years, the Title X program has been an invaluable tool for providing high-quality family planning and preventive health care to millions of people, many of whom earn low incomes and have extremely limited access to health care. We support HHS’s prompt efforts to revoke the 2019 Title X regulations, which failed to carry out congressional intent for the Title X program. We urge you to swiftly finalize the proposed rule to ensure patients have widespread, affordable access to the comprehensive family planning services and cancer and sexually transmitted disease (STD) screenings they need from providers they trust.

The proposed rule would be a vital step in reversing the devastating loss of Title X services caused by the 2019 Title X regulations. After the 2019 Title X regulations went into effect in July 2019, one-quarter of the clinics in the Title X network were forced to withdraw from the program, which meant at least 1.6 million people lost access to the Title X-supported services that were previously available to them.[1] Federal data shows that compared to 2018, 844,083 fewer patients received family planning and sexual health services from Title X-supported providers in 2019 than in 2018.[2] This includes 280,000 fewer cancer screenings, 1.3 million fewer STD screenings, 278,000 fewer confidential HIV tests, and hundreds of thousands of people losing access to contraceptive care due to the rule.[3] While data from 2020 is not yet finalized, the initial data shows millions of people lost access to Title X-supported services in 2020.[4] This includes the loss of care for people in six states who no longer have Title X-supported providers, leaving nearly 19 million people without access to these vital services.[5] As STD rates continue to rise and the country grapples with providing care during a pandemic, this loss of care is particularly alarming.

If finalized, the proposed rule would build on the over 50 years of bipartisan support for the Title X program, which Congress intended to make “comprehensive voluntary family planning services readily available to all persons desiring such services.”[6] We support the proposed rule’s inclusion of health equity goals related to providing client-centered, culturally sensitive, linguistically appropriate, and equitable health care. Additionally, we believe the proposed rule restores the focus of the program to providing confidential, evidence-based care from trusted health care providers, which is vital to ensuring the program meets its core statutory mission of providing care. 

We urge you to swiftly finalize the proposed rule to restore the key focus of the Title X program and help move the program forward to ensure patients have access to the family planning services and cancer and STD screenings they need. 

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, requesting that the Committee favorably report the Air America Act of 2021 (S. 407) to the full Senate as soon as possible. Senators Warner and Rubio reintroduced the legislation on February 24, 2021.

Air America, a government-owned corporation, employed several hundred U.S. citizens, mainly flight crew members, until 1976. During its existence, approximately 286 Air Americans were killed in the line of duty while conducting covert operations in designated war zones. In 1975, the last helicopter mission that rescued personnel from the rooftops in Saigon was planned and executed by Air America and the United States Marine Corps. This legislation would ensure that these individuals receive the benefits they are owed under the Civil Service Retirement System.

“The fight to ensure Air America employees receive the benefits they have earned is not a partisan issue, nor is it a new issue,” wrote the Senators. “It is time for Congress to act.”

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairman Peters and Ranking Member Portman: 

We respectfully request that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs consider and report S. 407, the Air America Act of 2021, to the full Senate as soon as possible. 

The bill, which was first introduced last Congress, would ensure the brave employees of Air America receive the retirement benefits they have earned. As you may be aware, Air America was a government-owned corporation that conducted covert operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War and operated under the direct policy control of the White House, Department of Defense, and the Department of State while under the management of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The fight to ensure Air America employees receive the benefits they have earned is not a partisan issue, nor is it a new issue. Legislation to provide benefits to Air America employees was first introduced by then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2005. The bill currently has 29 bipartisan cosponsors, including five members of your committee from both sides of the aisle. Over the last 16 years, 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. It is time for Congress to act. 

For these reasons, we respectfully urge you to consider and report to the full Senate this important bill as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) praised new guidance by the Biden administration regarding the implementation of the $10 billion Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CCPF) that the senators successfully worked to include within the American Rescue Plan. This new guidance follows strong advocacy by the four senators, who previously urged the Treasury Department to ensure that CCPF funds can be used to support increased broadband adoption and access, in addition to supporting new broadband deployment. 

“As your guidance accurately reflects, this provision was drafted in recognition of and with the intent to address the urgent connectivity gaps and challenges that hamper too many Americans, undermining telework, online education, and telehealth efforts – and more recently, undermining vaccination efforts that depend upon access to the internet for public health announcements and registration activities,” wrote the Senators in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. “Your guidance emphasizes the critical fact that effective utilization of capital investments associated with providing and improving broadband connectivity requires financial support for devices, digital inclusion and skills training, broadband affordability and related ancillary initiatives.”

They continued, “In the weeks and months since the American Rescue Plan was enacted, we have each heard from state and local leaders who have expressed great enthusiasm about the prospect of the Capital Projects Fund to enable broadband access for their constituents. While a larger effort to close the broadband gap is necessary – as the Biden Infrastructure Plan makes clear – we are confident that the Capital Projects Fund can address critical connectivity gaps that continue to prevent Americans from fully participating in telework, telehealth, and online education during the pandemic.”

Created through the American Rescue Plan, the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CCPF) seeks to address many challenges laid bare by the pandemic, especially in rural America and low- and moderate-income communities, helping to ensure that all communities have access to the high-quality, modern infrastructure needed to thrive, including internet access.

The guidance by the Department of the Treasury specifies that eligible projects include those that seek to expand access to broadband through connectivity infrastructure, devices, and equipment. The guidance states:

“Capital projects include investments in depreciable assets and the ancillary costs needed to put the capital assets in use. Under the American Rescue Plan, these projects must be critical in nature, providing connectivity for those who lack it. The Capital Projects Fund thus allows for investment in high-quality broadband as well as other connectivity infrastructure, devices, and equipment. In addition to supporting broadband, it also provides flexibility for each state, territory, and Tribal government to make other investments in critical community hubs or other capital assets that provide access jointly to work, education, and health monitoring. All projects must demonstrate that they meet the critical connectivity needs highlighted and amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible applicants will be required to provide a plan describing how they intend to use allocated funds under the Capital Projects Fund consistent with the American Rescue Plan and guidance to be issued by Treasury.”

A copy of the letter is available here and below. 

Dear Secretary Yellen, 

We write you to applaud the recent guidance released by the Treasury Department, announcing next steps to implement the Capital Projects Fund that we successfully included in the American Rescue Plan. As your guidance accurately reflects, this provision was drafted in recognition of and with the intent to address the urgent connectivity gaps and challenges that hamper too many Americans, undermining telework, online education, and telehealth efforts – and more recently, undermining vaccination efforts that depend upon access to the internet for public health announcements and registration activities. Your guidance emphasizes the critical fact that effective utilization of capital investments associated with providing and improving broadband connectivity requires financial support for devices, digital inclusion and skills training, broadband affordability and related ancillary initiatives. 

In the weeks and months since the American Rescue Plan was enacted, we have each heard from state and local leaders who have expressed great enthusiasm about the prospect of the Capital Projects Fund to enable broadband access for their constituents. While a larger effort to close the broadband gap is necessary – as the Biden Infrastructure Plan makes clear – we are confident that the Capital Projects Fund can address critical connectivity gaps that continue to prevent Americans from fully participating in telework, telehealth, and online education during the pandemic.  We believe that the Capital Projects Fund can serve as a bridge towards this larger initiative, particularly in the wake of successful state-led broadband projects deployed in the last year using CARES Act funding and the flexibility to use the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for broadband. These efforts will need coordination to ensure the best use of funds, but we feel strongly that the Capital Projects Fund will enable states, territories, and Tribes to build on these early efforts. 

We look forward to the Treasury Department’s future guidance on how states, territories and Tribes may access these critical funds for connectivity investments and the implementation of the Capital Projects Fund. Thank you for your leadership and attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) in sending a letter to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. The letter calls the agencies to address the harmful retaliatory tariffs that inhibit trade of whiskey, other spirits, and wine between the United States and European Union (E.U.) and United Kingdom (U.K.). The letter comes as the European Union tariff on American whiskey is scheduled to double to 50 percent in June.

Twenty five percent retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey were imposed by the E.U. and the U.K. in 2018 in response to the Trump Administration’s Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

In their letter, the Senators stressed the negative impact that an increase in these tariffs would have on local businesses, as many are still struggling to stay afloat due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“These tariffs have negatively impacted the U.S. beverage alcohol sector and placed American producers at a severe competitive disadvantage in what had been a growing export market for them,” the Senators wrote

“Securing an agreement to permanently lift these tariffs on wine and spirits will help restaurants, bars, and craft distilleries across the country as they recover from the pandemic,” the Senators continued

Along with Senators Warner, Kaine, and Young, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Mike Braun (R-IN).

Full text of the letter can be found here and below: 

The Honorable Katherine Tai

United States Trade Representative

Executive Office of the President

600 17th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20508

 

The Honorable Gina M. Raimondo

Secretary

U.S. Department of Commerce

1401 Constitution Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20230

 

Dear Ambassador Tai and Secretary Raimondo,

We write today to emphasize the importance of working to remove harmful retaliatory tariffs on distilled spirits and wine to promote free and fair trade between the United States, European Union and United Kingdom. These tariffs have negatively impacted the U.S. beverage alcohol sector and placed American producers at a severe competitive disadvantage in what had been a growing export market for them.

American craft spirits production has grown substantially in recent decades, and in 2020 more than 2,000 distillers operated in the United States, employing tens of thousands of workers spread across all 50 states. With this growth came overseas opportunities. American Whiskey in particular saw a significant rise in exports, with exports to the EU growing by 40 percent from 2008 to 2018. The implementation of retaliatory tariffs, though, have inhibited this growth. Since June 2018, American Whiskey has faced a 25 percent tariff in the EU and UK. Whiskey exports to the EU have dropped by 37 percent since then and exports to the UK have been cut in half. This tariff is currently scheduled to increase to 50 percent in the EU on June 1, 2021.

Like other small businesses involved in the food and drink industry, American craft distillers have struggled during the pandemic, as on-site sales and sales to restaurants and bars declined substantially. Nearly a third of craft distillers’ employees have been furloughed since the start of the pandemic. These employers are just now starting the road to recovery and the continuation, and potential increase, of these tariffs will inhibit this recovery.

The recent suspension of tariffs related to the WTO large civil aircraft subsidy dispute, including on U.S. rum, brandy, and vodka, has provided critical relief for many in the hospitality and beverage alcohol sector at a critical time. Securing an agreement to permanently lift these tariffs on wine and spirits will help restaurants, bars, and craft distilleries across the country as they recover from the pandemic.

As the Biden administration works to address trade disputes with our allies in Europe, we urge the administration to work to secure the immediate suspension of tariffs on American Whiskey and, ultimately, the permanent removal of all retaliatory tariffs on American, EU, and UK spirits and wine.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue. 

Sincerely, 

###

WASHINGTON– Today, Virginia U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, urged President Joe Biden to fully consider how the Trump Administration’s decision to relocate U.S. Space Command may affect Intelligence Community (IC) dependencies and missions and the country’s ability to maintain superiority in space 

On January 13, 2021, the Administration announced that Huntsville, Alabama would be the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command. Following this announcement, reports surfaced that President Donald Trump politicized the process, choosing to relocate U.S. Space Command from its provisional headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

In a letter to President Biden, Bennet and Warner, members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, cite the collaboration and interoperability between the IC and Department of Defense, and urged the administration to review the process by which this decision was made and to ensure intelligence community missions and capabilities are fully considered.

“The Committee has encouraged collaboration in the space domain between the IC and the Department of Defense (DoD) in order to increase the unity of effort and effectiveness in space operations. In Colorado, important investments have been made in recent years to enhance this collaboration and interoperability, in particular at the National Space Defense Center (NSDC),” wrote the senators. “It is critical that any decision to move Space Command from its current location take into account the potential effects of such a move on the operational integration between the IC and DoD space communities at NSDC and at other joint sites in Colorado.”

The senators also noted the importance of spending resources in a manner that effectively meets the accelerating pace of threats to U.S. space capabilities. Colorado is already home to many specialized defense and intelligence civilian employees and contractors. The cost of relocating personnel, as well as the high costs for constructing a new Space Command headquarters, should be considerations for permanently keeping it in Colorado Springs. 

“Furthermore, we are keenly aware of the threats in space and the criticality of maintaining U.S. superiority in the face of an evolving threat landscape,” the Senators continued. “According to a 2019 estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, construction costs for the new command headquarters could be as high as $1.1 billion. Workforce disruption is another key consideration, given the many defense and intelligence civilian employees and contractors working on space programs in Colorado at the highest levels of classification. Space is a critical national security issue, and we cannot squander time, talent, or money on unnecessary expenditures or delays.” 

The text of the letter is available HERE and below.  

Dear President Biden:

We write concerning the Trump administration’s decision to move United States Space Command from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Huntsville, Alabama. As members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, we are concerned this decision did not take into account how such a move may affect Intelligence Community (IC) dependencies and missions. We therefore request you review the process by which this decision was made, and to ensure IC equities are fully considered.

The Committee has encouraged collaboration in the space domain between the IC and the Department of Defense (DoD) in order to increase the unity of effort and effectiveness in space operations. In Colorado, important investments have been made in recent years to enhance this collaboration and interoperability, in particular at the National Space Defense Center (NSDC). It is critical that any decision to move Space Command from its current location take into account the potential effects of such a move on the operational integration between the IC and DoD space communities at NSDC and at other joint sites in Colorado.

Furthermore, we are keenly aware of the threats in space and the criticality of maintaining U.S. superiority in the face of an evolving threat landscape. We have consistently made this a priority in recent years, with careful oversight of dollars spent and an eye toward the allocation of scarce resources among national security priorities. According to a 2019 estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, construction costs for the new command headquarters could be as high as $1.1 billion. Workforce disruption is another key consideration, given the many defense and intelligence civilian employees and contractors working on space programs in Colorado at the highest levels of classification. Space is a critical national security issue, and we cannot squander time, talent, or money on unnecessary expenditures or delays.

We therefore ask you to review the parameters and method by which this decision was evaluated, to ensure we are appropriately valuing existing collaboration and interdependencies between the IC and DoD space communities in Colorado, taking advantage of the current co-location of these communities and pools of expertise, and spending resources in a manner that effectively meets the accelerating pace of threats to our overhead space capabilities.

We appreciate your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), and John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing their concerns in regards to the ongoing coronavirus surge in India and asking the administration to take further steps to combat the crisis. The country is currently averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day and its health care system and infrastructure are struggling to keep up with the surge. 

In their letter the senators commended the administration for recent actions to help India address the crisis, including transferring to India lifesaving equipment and raw materials for the production of vaccinesThey also urged the Biden administration to take further steps to help India by continuing its robust contribution to the World Health Organization’s COVAX plan and preparing a detailed strategy on how the U.S. can distribute its surplus of vaccines. Finally, they also warned of disinformation campaigns surrounding the vaccines by countries such as China and Russia and urged the administration to do everything it can to combat these campaigns.

“As you know, India’s healthcare system and infrastructure are struggling to meet the challenges posed by the current and largely unchecked surge, with the country averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day,” said the senators. “We urge you to work with the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, as well as with our international partners and private sector partners to transfer more lifesaving equipment, vaccines and other support to India as quickly as possible. The United States must work with the Indian government on their response, as well as continue to lead the international efforts to stop the spread of variants and to deliver the assistance needed to the Indian people.”

For ways that others can get involved, visit https://www.usaid.gov/.

Text of the letter is below and can be found here.

Dear Secretary Blinken:

We are writing to express our deep concern with the ongoing coronavirus surge and human toll in India and to encourage the Administration to continue to take actions to address the crisis. We commend the recent transfer of lifesaving equipment, including N95 masks and other personal protective equipment, oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests, and raw materials for the production of vaccines. These deliveries will save lives and demonstrates our commitment to our ally India, the world’s largest democracy. However, we also believe there is more we can do, both to mitigate the tragedy unfolding in India and to ensure that the explosion of cases in India does not undercut global progress to combat this virus. 

As you know, India’s healthcare system and infrastructure are struggling to meet the challenges posed by the current and largely unchecked surge, with the country averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day. We urge you to work with the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, as well as with our international partners and private sector partners to transfer more lifesaving equipment, vaccines and other support to India as quickly as possible. The United States must work with the Indian government on their response, as well as continue to lead the international efforts to stop the spread of variants and to deliver the assistance needed to the Indian people

The United States should also continue its robust contribution to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX)’s plan for the global acquisition and distribution of vaccines to low and medium-income countries. In addition, in the coming months, the United States will have a surplus of vaccines that can be made available for distribution around the world. A detailed public strategy on how the Department of State plans to distribute these excess vaccines would clarify the ambiguity surrounding future US policy and provide needed certainty to India.

Lastly, we urge the Global Engagement Center to combat the numerous disinformation messages from Russia, China and others regarding the coronavirus pandemic, including the US global health response. Specifically in India, disinformation has undermined the public health response, heightened already-tense religious tensions, and muddied the waters surrounding our support as they face an unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections.  As entities continue to manipulate narratives at the expense of US national security, regional security, and global health security, we urge you to place a greater emphasis on combatting these disinformation and misinformation campaigns integrating that effort into America's global health response to this pandemic.  

We look forward to working with you and the Administration to continue our work to ensure that we stand with our ally and partner, India, as it battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

###