Statement from U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner Senate Passage of Legislation to Restore Leadership in Semiconductor Production
Jul 27 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after the Senate voted 64-33 to approve legislation to increase domestic semiconductor manufacturing and boost U.S. innovation and scientific investment:
“It’s been more than two years since I first began sounding the alarm about the need to reduce our reliance on other nations and safeguard our national security by bringing semiconductor production back to the U.S. Since then, we’ve seen the consequences of semiconductor shortages all the way up the supply chain and down to consumers, who have faced rising costs across goods – from vehicles to electronics. While we still have a lot of work to do to boost U.S. competitiveness with China, the Senate passage of this legislation represents an important step in bringing back American manufacturing, shoring up U.S. innovation, and reducing costs for families. I urge my House colleagues to act like our economy and national security depends on it, and send this bill to the President’s desk without delay.”
On Senate Floor, Chairman Warner Urges Quick Action on Bill to Boost American Manufacturing & Innovation
Jul 26 2022
“A few name changes later, and unfortunately more than a year later, I rise before this body again to express my strong support for this revised CHIPS+ legislation – which we just cleared an important hurdle for, over the last hour – and urge my colleagues to pass this bill as quickly as possible so we can get it out of the Senate, get it over to the House, and get it to the President’s desk. We cannot afford to waste any more time,” said Sen. Warner on the floor of the U.S. Senate. “This funding sends a message that the United States is putting a strong down-payment on maintaining our edge in the global technology race – and preventing global supply chains from being weaponized against the United States or for that matter, against our allies.”
“Semiconductors – often called ‘chips’ – are the backbone of our modern lives. They can be found in literally anything with an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch, from cars and trucks… to washers and dryers... to smartphones and laptops… chips are an essential component in so many of the devices we use today, and the growth in chips is going to be exponential,” he continued.
“As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I see examples every day of how China is doubling down on its pursuit of advanced technologies that I think will define the 21st century. And, in many ways, the United States has started to fall behind,” he said. “Fortunately, it’s not too late to change that narrative or to change that result. With the right investments – like the ones that have been provided in this legislation – we can unleash the ingenuity of the American people, we can reinvigorate American innovation and improve our national security while setting the country up to lead the way on the technologies that will define our future.”
Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery are available below:
Last June, I rose before this body to speak about the critical need to pass the United States Innovation and Competition Act, as it was known back then, in order to shore up U.S. investment in research, development, and manufacturing of critical technologies.
A few name changes and more than a year later, I rise before this body again to express my strong support for this revised CHIPS+ legislation and urge my colleagues to pass this bill as quickly as possible. We can’t afford to waste any more time.
This funding sends a message that the U.S. is putting a strong down-payment on maintaining our edge in the global technology race – and preventing global supply chains from being weaponized against us or our allies.
Over the past few years, China has continued to increase investments in its domestic industries – and particularly in areas that confer long-term strategic influence. This includes the semiconductor industry, which I have been particularly focused on over the past few years.
Semiconductors – often called “chips” – are the backbone of our modern lives. They can be found in anything with an “on” switch from cars and trucks… to washers and dryers... to smartphones and laptops… chips are an essential component in so many of the devices we use every single day.
For years, American semiconductor companies led the world in both design and manufacturing of this critical technology.
But our leadership has languished in recent years, and we continue to lose ground, particularly to East Asian markets. As a country we’ve gone from a 37% share of semiconductors and microelectronics production in 1990… to just 12% today.
On the other hand, China has ramped up its investment in chips… providing an estimated $200 billion in financial support between 2015 and 2025. Chinese orders for semiconductor manufacturing equipment rose 58% in 2021, and China has a goal to produce at least 70% of the semiconductors it consumes by 2030.
And this is a global competition.
Japan has passed a $6.8 billion investment package that will fund innovative chip manufacturing as well as research and development.
India has passed legislation investing $30 billion in their domestic electronics manufacturing industry, with $10 billion dedicated to chips and display manufacturing.
And our friends over in Europe – not known for moving with particular alacrity – have surged passed us. They started considering their investments after we passed the CHIPS Act, and Germany, for example, has already selected 32 semiconductor projects that will receive a combined $12 billion in investment.
The lack of investment by the U.S. has had a clear impact. From 2010 to 2020, only 17 major semiconductor fabs were built in the U.S. – while we’ve seen over 122 built elsewhere.
And the handful of major projects announced in the last year as a direct result of our initial efforts to authorize this funding – major facilities in Ohio, Arizona and elsewhere – are at risk due to sustained inaction by this body.
Right now, the cost of new fabs is 25-50% higher in the U.S. – and that’s partly due to the significantly lower financial incentives government provides for new construction compared to competing locales.
Many ask why it’s so vital for the U.S. to invest in new semiconductor production when the PRC is, by all accounts, still several generations behind.
US semiconductor firms – and firms in the adjacent areas of lithography, packaging, and metrology – still lead the world.
As Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I can tell you unequivocally that the PRC is acutely aware of that gap – and aggressively working not just to close it, but to eventually leapfrog the U.S. and other major countries to lead in chip production and design.
Last year, President Xi Jinping announced a $1.4 trillion commitment through 2025 to develop advanced technologies like next-generation wireless networks and artificial intelligence. Technologies that will undergird entire ecosystems of innovation, commerce, and communications.
And the focus on semiconductors – which enable advances in AI, high-performance computing, hypersonics, and more – is arguably the centerpiece of this effort to ultimately control innovation ecosystems.
Meanwhile, many of the key ingredients to the U.S.’s historical success… including federal support for R&D, investment in basic research, and support for advanced manufacturing… have declined over the last 20 years.
Simply put, we are just not keeping up.
That’s why the $52 billion in funding for the CHIPS for America Act – a bipartisan effort that Senator Cornyn, Senator Schumer, Senator Cotton, and I led a couple of years ago – is so important. And why a parallel effort in this bill – to catalyze U.S. and allied innovation in a more diverse and resilient telecommunications ecosystem – is similarly vital.
I also would note that this isn’t simply an economic competitiveness issue.
The ability to project influence and control over global supply chains has been dramatically illustrated – on both sides – by the present conflict in Ukraine.
Simply put, ensuring that the United States has an assured supply of critical semiconductors that cannot be held hostage by a hostile power is critically important to our national security.
In addition to the funding provided in this legislation for semiconductors, the bill also makes important investments in future of our wireless telecommunications.
It includes funding for the bipartisan Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act, which fosters U.S. innovation in the race for 5G by providing $1.5 billion to invest in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers like Huawei and ZTE.
This is a bill I was proud to work on with my colleagues, Senator Burr and Senator Rubio.
It would also stand up a new Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund – to spur movement towards open-architecture, software-based wireless technologies, funding innovative, “leap-ahead” technologies in the domestic mobile broadband market.
That approach plays to U.S. strengths like software and network virtualization. And it means we have a wider set of firms – including American firms with healthier balance sheets – competing against state-sponsored Chinese vendors.
Because one thing that’s been clear over the past two Administrations: Our anti-Huawei message won’t work unless the U.S. proposes lower-cost Western alternatives.
As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I see examples every day of how China is doubling down on its pursuit of advanced technologies that will define the 21st century. I also see that the United States is falling behind.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to change that narrative. With the right investments – like the ones this bill provides – we can unleash the ingenuity of the American people… we can reinvigorate American innovation and improve our national security while setting the country up to lead the way on the technologies that will define our future.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, the House to pass it, and President Biden to sign it into law as soon as possible.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,200,000 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for Henry County. This funding will go towards improving 3,550 linear feet of Reservoir Road and updating gravel roadways to meet Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) standards. The project will support the creation of 400 new jobs, help leverage approximately $188 million in private investments, and improve access to the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre, a development for advanced manufacturing.
“We’re pleased that more infrastructure dollars are headed to Henry County,” the senators said. “This project is another key investment in creating jobs, connecting people to local industry, and making our roads safer and stronger for decades to come.”
In addition to the ARC funds for this project, Henry County will provide $445,000, bringing the total to $1,645,000.
ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments that innovates and invests to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in 423 counties across the Appalachian region. Since 1965, ARC has invested $4.5 billion in approximately 28,000 economic development projects across Appalachia, attracting over $10 billion in matching project funds.
Warner, Kaine, Wexton, Beyer, Connolly Press Biden to Raise Detention of Virginian Asim Ghafoor with Emirati Government
Jul 22 2022
WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, alongside Reps. Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Don Beyer (VA-08), and Gerry Connolly (VA-11), pressed President Biden to raise Asim Ghafoor’s detention with the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair and humane treatment. Asim Ghafoor—a U.S. citizen and Virginia resident—was reportedly tried in absentia, detained without notice of his conviction, and sentenced to prison on to-date unsubstantiated charges by United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities.
Ghafoor was a close personal friend of and reportedly served as legal counsel to Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered by Saudi officials in 2018, in an operation that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) assessed was approved by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
“…[W]e strongly urge you and your Administration to raise Mr. Ghafoor’s case immediately at the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair treatment, including assurances regarding his health and safety while in Emirati custody. It is critical the Administration makes clear that the hasty detention of U.S. citizens like Mr. Ghafoor cannot become normalized as an appropriate tactic of U.S. partners,” the lawmakers wrote.
“We welcomed the Department of State’s July 18, 2022, statement that the United States had ‘not sought’ Ghafoor’s arrest. However, absent concrete evidence of Ghafoor’s alleged criminal behavior, the UAE’s repeated claim that this arrest was conducted in coordination with the United States government in order to ‘combat transnational crimes’ raises concerns about oversight of U.S. involvement in that partnership,” they continued.
Additionally, the lawmakers requested that the Biden Administration:
- Call on Emirati authorities to allow Mr. Ghafoor regular access to his family and to his attorneys;
- Ensure that the U.S. embassy continues to receive consular visits with Mr. Ghafoor and that U.S. embassy staff are permitted to attend all trial proceedings;
- Confirm with UAE officials that Mr. Ghafoor will receive humane and fair treatment while in Emirati custody, including immediate access to required medical care; and
- Solicit additional information from the Emirati government regarding the legal proceedings against Mr. Ghafoor, in order to determine if his arrest should be considered a wrongful detention or act of transnational repression.
Full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Mr. President,
We request your Administration’s urgent attention to the recent detention of U.S. citizen and Virginia resident Mr. Asim Ghafoor by United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities. Mr. Ghafoor was convicted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on currently unsubstantiated charges of money laundering and tax evasion, in absentia and, reportedly, without his knowledge. Mr. Ghafoor was detained by UAE authorities on July 14, 2022, while transiting Dubai International Airport, and was sentenced to three years in prison on July 16, 2022. The UAE’s decision to detain Mr. Ghafoor – without notice or opportunity to seek legal counsel – represents a gross violation of his due process rights.
Mr. Ghafoor is a board member for the nonprofit organization Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN), which advocates for democratic reforms in the Middle East and has at times criticized the Emirati government. In his capacity as an attorney, Mr. Ghafoor is reported to have represented his friend Mr. Jamal Khashoggi, who was also a Virginian and who was brutally murdered by Saudi officials in 2018. Noting your July 16, 2022, meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan and your invitation for him to visit the United States by the end of this year, as well as the close relationship between the Saudi and Emirati governments, we strongly urge you and your Administration to raise Mr. Ghafoor’s case immediately at the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair treatment, including assurances regarding his health and safety while in Emirati custody. It is critical the Administration makes clear that the hasty detention of U.S. citizens like Mr. Ghafoor cannot become normalized as an appropriate tactic of U.S. partners.
The UAE has claimed the United States played a role in Mr. Ghafoor’s detention, and as such we further urge your Administration to clarify the nature of the United States’ potential involvement. We welcomed the Department of State’s July 18, 2022, statement that the United States had “not sought” Ghafoor’s arrest. However, absent concrete evidence of Ghafoor’s alleged criminal behavior, the UAE’s repeated claim that this arrest was conducted in coordination with the United States government in order to “combat transnational crimes,” raises concerns about oversight of U.S. involvement in that partnership.
As your Administration works to ensure that Mr. Ghafoor is treated humanely and fairly, we respectfully request that you take the following interim measures:
- Call on Emirati authorities to allow Mr. Ghafoor regular access to his family and to his attorneys.
- Ensure that the U.S. embassy continues to receive consular visits with Mr. Ghafoor and that U.S. embassy staff are permitted to attend all trial proceedings.
- Confirm with UAE officials that Mr. Ghafoor will receive humane and fair treatment while in Emirati custody, including immediate access to required medical care.
- Solicit additional information from the Emirati government regarding the legal proceedings against Mr. Ghafoor, in order to determine if his arrest should be considered a wrongful detention or act of transnational repression.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $5,958,173 in federal funding for two Virginia airports. The funding was awarded through the Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Airport Improvement Program.
“We are continuing to see investments in the Commonwealth’s airports that will make travel through Virginia safer, more convenient, and more accessible,” the senators said. “This funding will allow both facilities to start important maintenance projects on runways that will help meet their communities’ needs for years to come.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $4,208,173 for Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise, VA for the rehabilitation of a runway.
- $1,750,000 for Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport in Arlington, VA for the reconstruction of a runway.
This funding comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this month apportioning $50 million to Virginia airports. In addition, the senators announced nearly $400 million for Virginia airports secured through the bipartisan infrastructure law in November of last year.
Senators Warner, Burr Introduce Bill to Support Renewable Natural Gas Vehicles, Promote Economic Growth
Jul 20 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced the Renewable Natural Gas Incentive Act, bipartisan legislation to provide a tax credit for heavy-duty vehicles that use renewable natural gas, further supporting clean and efficient and transportation across the country.
“Renewable natural gas is a clean, affordable, and reliable fuel source that can help lower emissions from heavy-duty vehicles,” said Senator Warner. “I am proud to introduce legislation to incentivize investment in clean vehicles that will have a positive impact on our environment while significantly aiding in the transition to a clean energy economy.”
“Renewable natural gas offers an affordable, reliable, and sustainable transportation fuel for industries across America,” said Senator Burr. “This bill provides a tax credit to keep our country’s trucks and buses moving, lowering the cost of doing business while improving air quality, decreasing our reliance on foreign energy, and creating high-paying jobs. I am proud to work with Senator Warner on this commonsense bill that will support American energy independence for years to come.”
Previously, renewable natural gas received a lower tax credit than similar transportation fuels, despite its ultra-low emissions and ability to deliver economic growth as a scalable alternative energy source. The Renewable Natural Gas Incentive Act would create a $1.00 per gallon tax credit for sellers of renewable natural gas used for transportation.
Full text of the bill can be found here.
WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in introducing the Right to Contraception Act, legislation that would codify Americans’ right to contraception, which the Supreme Court first recognized more than half a century ago in its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut.
The introduction follows Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—which overturned Roe v. Wade—in which he urged the Court to reconsider its 1965 Griswold decision. Several states have already restricted access to contraception by cutting off public funding for it, erroneously defining abortion in such a way to include contraception.
“Americans should have access to comprehensive health care regardless of where they live,” said the senators. “Following efforts in several states to restrict access to contraception, this legislation is necessary to ensuring women have the freedom to access reproductive health care services.”
The Right to Contraception Act would uphold access to contraception by:
- Creating a statutory right for individuals to obtain contraceptives and to engage in contraception;
- Establishing a corresponding right for health care providers to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception;
- Allowing the Department of Justice, as well as providers and individuals harmed by restrictions on contraception access made unlawful under the legislation, to go to court to enforce these rights; and
- Protecting a range of contraceptive methods, devices, and medications used to prevent pregnancy, including but not limited to oral contraceptives, long-acting reversible contraceptives, emergency contraceptives, internal and external condoms, injectables, vaginal barrier methods, transdermal patches, vaginal rings, fertility-awareness based methods, and sterilization procedures.
Following the Dobbs decision overturning the right to choose, Warner and Kaine have strongly advocated for legislation to protect Americans’ access to reproductive health care. They are cosponsors of legislation to protect the right of women to travel across state lines for abortion services and help protect medical providers from being punished for providing patients with this care. They also cosponsored legislation to protect access to critical reproductive health care services like wellness exams, birth control, cancer screenings and more. Additionally, Kaine is a cosponsor of legislation to expand access to affordable over-the-counter birth control and legislation to protect access to medication abortions.
The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Kathy Manning (NC-06), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), and Angie Craig (MN-02).
The Right to Contraception Act is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Women’s Law Center, National Organization for Women, Power to Decide, National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Reproductive Health Access Project, Catholics for Choice, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Upstream USA, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Partnership for Women & Families, Jewish Women International, Positive Women’s Network-USA, and the National Council of Jewish Women.
Full text of the bill is available here.
WASHINGTON — Today, after months of bipartisan negotiations, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing two proposals which include legislation to reform and modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887 to ensure that the electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote for President.
In addition to Sens. Warner, Collins, and Manchin the senators involved in the bipartisan negotiations include: Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“From the beginning, our bipartisan group has shared a vision of drafting legislation to fix the flaws of the archaic and ambiguous Electoral Count Act of 1887,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Through numerous meetings and debates among our colleagues as well as conversations with a wide variety of election experts and legal scholars, we have developed legislation that establishes clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for President and Vice President. We urge our colleagues in both parties to support these simple, commonsense reforms.”
In developing the bills, the senators received input from state election officials, as well as from an ideologically diverse group of election experts and legal scholars, including the American Law Institute. Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) also provided helpful insight.
“Debates over the political ‘rules of the game’ can be fraught with suspicion and jockeying for advantage. When these rules change, there must be buy-in from both parties to maintain trust in the system,” said Matthew Weil, Executive Director of the Democracy Program at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “This bipartisan Senate framework is a critical step for shoring up ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act. These senators, especially Sens. Manchin and Collins, should be commended for finding common ground on a matter that is so foundational to our democracy: faith in the system that selects our leaders.”
“We are impressed with the draft Electoral Count Act reform legislation developed by a bipartisan Senate working group, including Senators Collins, Manchin, Romney, and Murphy,” said Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith, co-chairs of the Presidential Reform Project. “Our work on these reform issues, which has included co-chairing a group of experts convened by the American Law Institute (ALI), has convinced us that major improvements in the current law are both urgent and achievable. We believe the legislation as proposed will help curtail threats to future presidential elections that would erode the foundational democratic principles of our country. It merits broad support.”
The first bill, the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, is co-sponsored by Senators Collins, Manchin, Portman, Sinema, Romney, Shaheen, Murkowski, Warner, Tillis, Murphy, Capito, Cardin, Young, Coons, Sasse, and Graham. The bill includes the following provisions:
1) Electoral Count Reform Act. This section would reform and modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887 to ensure that electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote for President. It would replace ambiguous provisions of the 19th-century law with clear procedures that maintain appropriate state and federal roles in selecting the President and Vice President of the United States as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Click here for a one-pager on the Electoral Count Act reform section.
2) Presidential Transition Improvement Act. This section would help to promote the orderly transfer of power by providing clear guidelines for when eligible candidates for President or Vice President may receive federal resources to support their transition into office. Click here for a one-pager on the presidential transition section.
The second bill, the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act, is co-sponsored by Senators Collins, Manchin, Portman, Shaheen, Romney, Sinema, Murkowski, Warner, Tillis, Murphy, Coons, and Cardin. The bill includes the following provisions:
1) Enhanced Penalties to Protect Our Elections Act. This section would double the penalty under federal law for individuals who threaten or intimidate election officials, poll watchers, voters, or candidates. Under current law, threats of violence or intimidation against these individuals are punishable by no more than one year in prison. This penalty would be raised to no more than two years in prison.
2) Postal Service Election Improvement Act. This section aims to improve the handling of election mail by the U.S. Postal Service and provide guidance to states to improve their mail-in ballot processes where permitted under state law.
3) Election Assistance Commission Reauthorization. This section would reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) for 5 years, and require the EAC to conduct cyber security testing as part of its testing and certification process for voting systems. Established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the EAC is an independent agency that helps states improve the administration and security of federal elections. The EAC administers grants to states and develops non-binding guidance and best practices for election officials in various areas, including cybersecurity, election audits, and voting accessibility. The authorization for the EAC, which is led by two Republican and two Democratic commissioners, expired in fiscal year 2005, although the agency has continued to receive annual appropriations for operations.
4) Election Records Protection Act. This section would clarify that current law requires electronic election records be preserved. It would also increase the existing maximum penalties for individuals who willfully steal, destroy, conceal, mutilate, or alter election records from $1,000 to $10,000 and from up to one year in prison to up to two years in prison. In addition, it would make it illegal to tamper with voting systems.
Warner & Kaine Join Colleagues in Introducing Legislation to Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care Funding
Jul 20 2022
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in introducing the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act. The bill would protect access to critical reproductive health care services—like birth control, cancer screenings, and more—by providing a consistent and strong source of funding for the Title X Family Planning Program.
“For over 50 years, Title X has provided Americans with critical family planning and preventive health services, empowering them to make decisions that are best for their health and financial well-being,” said the senators. “This legislation will help ensure that women can continue to access the reproductive health care services they need.”
The Title X Family Planning Program is the only federal program dedicated to providing comprehensive family planning and preventive health services. It provides a range of services, including wellness exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, education on contraception and birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and basic infertility services. In 2020, over 1.5 million patients received family planning services through Title X.
The Expanding Access to Family Planning Act would:
- Provide $500 million in mandatory funding for Title X services for each of the next 10 fiscal years. Title X is currently funded through the annual appropriations process, which subjects the program to an unpredictable funding stream that is insufficient to meet the national need;
- Deliver $50 million in mandatory funding for clinic construction, renovation, and related infrastructure enhancements for each of the next 10 fiscal years;
- Reinstate regulations prohibiting discrimination of providers who deliver Title X services; and
- Require that pregnancy counseling include information about prenatal care and delivery, infant care, foster care, adoption, and pregnancy termination, unless a patient does not have any interest in receiving such information.
Following the Dobbs decision overturning the right to choose, Warner and Kaine have strongly advocated for legislation to protect Americans’ access to reproductive health care. They are cosponsors of legislation to protect the right of women to travel across state lines for abortion services and help protect medical providers from being punished for providing patients with this care. Kaine is a cosponsor of legislation to expand access to affordable over-the-counter birth control and legislation to protect access to medication abortions.
In addition to Warner, Kaine, Smith, Murray, and Warren, the legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Angus King (I-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
The bill is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, Physicians for Reproductive Health, Catholics for Choice, the National Partnership for Women & Families, Power to Decide, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, ACLU, Advocates for Youth, National Women’s Law Center, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Warner Joins Young, Colleagues in Reintroducing Bill to Strengthen Innovative Higher Ed Financing Tool for Students
Jul 19 2022
WASHINGTON –– Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Chris Coons (D-DE) reintroduced the ISA Student Protection Act to support an innovative financing tool for students pursuing postsecondary education. The bipartisan bill would protect students by applying strong consumer protections to Income Share Agreements (ISAs).
ISAs provide opportunities for students to design financial aid best suited to their needs based on their future income and job success. Under an ISA, a student agrees to pay a percentage of their income over a given time period in exchange for tuition payments from nongovernmental sources. When the agreed timeframe ends, the student stops payments regardless of whether the initial amount was paid back to the ISA funder.
“Income-Share Agreements are a promising way to finance postsecondary education and an attractive alternative to private student loans and PLUS loans. ISAs are also proving to be uniquely responsive to the needs of students who are ineligible for existing federal student aid programs,” said Sen. Warner. “There are students across the country who are already benefitting from ISAs and deserve the safeguards and certainty the ISA Student Protection Act of 2022 would provide.”
“One thing we can all agree on is the importance of a quality and affordable education. As we face record-high inflation, many students and their families continue to face financial hardship and rising student loan debt,” said Sen. Young. “With the appropriate safeguards, ISAs can be an innovative, debt-free financing option for students of all backgrounds. Our bipartisan bill works to strengthen the framework for ISAs to help colleges and career and technical schools prepare students for success in the workforce at no cost to the taxpayer.”
“Everything is more expensive these days, especially the cost of a college degree. This common sense bill creates a debt-free financing option for students,” said Sen. Rubio.
“With trillions of dollars in U.S. student loan debt burdening the country’s workforce, Income Share Agreements are a useful alternative for some students who need financing for postsecondary education and training, especially where federal student aid is not available. The ISA Student Protection Act of 2022 will create legal certainty for providers who develop these innovative financial offerings while creating guardrails to protect students and workers as they prepare for the jobs that employers are looking to fill today and in the future,” said Sen. Coons.
This legislation is supported by Jobs for the Future, the Invest in Student Advancement Alliance, Student Freedom Initiative, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, FreeWorld, Better Future Forward, Purdue University, and more.
A full list of endorsement quotes is available here.
The ISA Student Protection Act of 2022 would build on a previously introduced version of this legislation by updating existing consumer protection laws to ensure they are applied properly to ISAs and add new protections to ensure ISAs are affordable and share risk. Specifically, the bill:
- Prohibits ISA providers from entering into agreements with students that require payments higher than 20 percent of income.
- Exempts individuals from making payments towards their ISA when their income falls below an affordability threshold.
- Sets a maximum number of payments and limits payment obligation to the end of a fixed window.
- Sets a minimum number of voluntary payment relief pauses, during which payment obligations may be suspended.
- Requires detailed disclosures to students who are considering entering into an ISA, including the amount financed, the payment calculation method, the number of payments expected, the length of the agreement, and how their payments under the ISA would compare to payments under a comparable loan.
- Provides strong bankruptcy protection for ISA recipients by omitting the higher “undue hardship” standard for discharge required under private loans.
- Prevents funders from accelerating an ISA in default.
- Ensures that ISA obligations cease in the event of death or total and permanent disability.
- Applies federal consumer protection laws (e.g., Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Military Lending Act, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act) to ISAs.
- Gives the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulatory authority over ISAs.
- Clarifies the tax treatment of ISA contributions for both funders and recipients.
Full text of the bill is available here.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA-02) and Bobby Scott (D-VA-03) today sent a letter to Dr. Taquisa K. Simmons, executive director of the Hampton Veterans Affairs health care system, expressing serious concern over a recent Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) report detailing failures at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Hampton, VA that led to a delayed cancer diagnosis during a period from 2019 to 2021.
“We are appalled and disheartened to learn that a series of avoidable failures at the Hampton VA Medical Center (VAMC) led to a veteran’s cancer diagnosis being delayed,” the members wrote. “The report delineates several stages during this veteran’s care where providers at the VAMC should have responded more diligently and promptly to provide a thorough and appropriate level of treatment. The findings also indicate a breakdown in a number of processes that should have prevented the gaps and missed hand-offs in care for the patient. Ultimately, the OIG findings suggest a series of careless, dangerous and unacceptable care coordination and communication failings, both at the individual and systemic levels.”
The members asked Dr. Simmons, who was appointed executive director in January 2021, for a briefing on the center’s plan to implement several recommendations outlined in the OIG report to ensure that such breakdowns do not reoccur.
“This plan should also detail actions taken to date, proposed processes and safeguards to prevent similar future cases, oversight to ensure safeguards will be enforced, and any steps – planned or already taken – towards accountability,” wrote the members in the letter. “Given the importance of the Hampton VAMC to thousands of veterans, we will continue to engage with your team in the coming weeks and months as you work to remedy these issues. Please know that we also expect regular updates to flow from your team to our staffs in the interim.”
The full text of the letter is available here and below:
We write to reiterate our serious concern over the recent report by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG), titled Multiple Failures in Test Results Follow-up for a Patient Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer at the Hampton VA Medical Center in Virginia.
We are appalled and disheartened to learn that a series of avoidable failures at the Hampton VA Medical Center (VAMC) led to a veteran’s cancer diagnosis being delayed. According to the report, “[t]he OIG identified multiple providers’ failures to communicate, act on, and document abnormal test results from July 2019 to April 2021.” The report delineates several stages during this veteran’s care where providers at the VAMC should have responded more diligently and promptly to provide a thorough and appropriate level of treatment. The findings also indicate a breakdown in a number of processes that should have prevented the gaps and missed hand-offs in care for the patient. Ultimately, the OIG findings suggest a series of careless, dangerous, and unacceptable care coordination and communication failings, both at the individual and systemic levels.
As you know, veterans and their families must be able to trust that they are receiving high-quality, comprehensive, and timely health care whenever they turn to the VA. They should also be confident that every health care professional they encounter in a VAMC will make every effort to provide such care. The OIG has outlined a series of recommendations for the Hampton VAMC to address issues revealed by the report. The identified failings cannot be allowed to persist, and it is crucial that these recommendations are quickly and fully implemented.
As such, we ask that you submit a detailed plan and briefing to our offices with timelines on how the Hampton VAMC intends to meet each of the OIG’s recommendations. This plan should also detail actions taken to date, proposed processes and safeguards to prevent similar future cases, oversight to ensure safeguards will be enforced, and any steps – planned or already taken – towards accountability.
Given the importance of the Hampton VAMC to thousands of veterans, we will continue to engage with your team in the coming weeks and months as you work to remedy these issues. Please know that we also expect regular updates to flow from your team to our staffs in the interim.
Warner, Hagerty Introduce Legislation to Promote Community Development Financial Institution Innovation, Lending, and Investment
Jul 15 2022
WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) introduced the Scaling Community Lenders Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation to unlock more sources of liquidity and support for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to scale their activities and fuel more lending in low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities.
CDFIs play a critical role in providing responsible and affordable credit to underserved communities. During the pandemic, CDFIs demonstrated their ability to deliver billions in dollars to underserved businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), at a large scale, to the tune of $34 billion. While Congress took significant steps to support community-based lenders over the last two years on a bipartisan basis, CDFIs continue to need more long-term patient capital, operating capital, and resources to modernize their systems to compete in an era of rapid financial innovation. The Scaling Community Lenders Act of 2022 authorizes new resources to activate and fund the long-dormant Section 113 of the Riegle Act of 1994 – the CDFI liquidity enhancement program – which would allow the CDFI Fund to fund demonstration projects within the industry, selected on a competitive basis, to provide liquidity to CDFIs.
“CDFIs and Minority Depository Institutions play an essential role in providing access to capital to underserved communities, which is why I’m so committed to supporting these institutions. I’m proud of the work I’ve been able to do with my colleagues across the aisle to secure historic investments in these community-based lenders, and to work with Sen. Hagerty on this innovative approach that supports new and innovative approaches in the industry and lays the groundwork for new ways to scale the industry’s ability to meet the needs in LMI communities,” said Sen. Warner. “There’s no silver bullet, and I’m for an all-the-above approach to support these vital community-based lenders. In my view, in addition to increasing the CDFI Fund’s resources we should make sure that CDFIs have every tool possible to do what they do best, which is supporting their communities and working to give everyone, regardless of zip code or background, a fair shot.”
“CDFIs can play a constructive role in driving economic growth in America,” said Sen. Hagerty. “I’m pleased to cosponsor this legislation with Senator Warner to establish a pilot program that will help provide a roadmap to leverage CDFI funding with private capital rather than Federal funds.”
CDFIs lend across a variety of categories or asset classes, including business loans, consumer loans, commercial real estate, residential real estate, home improvement, and home purchases. However, for many of these products there is no secondary market that can unlock capacity and take loans of CDFI balance sheets. The development of a secondary market or facility that could buy loans from CDFIs would allow the industry to build scale and prove the performance of their assets in the long-term. The Scaling Community Lenders Act of 2022 will encourage innovation and help determine the best routes for unlocking secondary markets for CDFIs.
Bill text is available here. A one-pager describing the bill is available here.
“CRF strongly endorses the Scaling Community Lenders Act of 2022 introduced by Senators Warner and Hagerty. We applaud their leadership and foresight to develop liquidity resources for CDFIs. As a pioneer of community development secondary markets and securitization, we understand the power of providing liquidity to CDFIs. We were early supporters of section 113 of the Riegle Act and are gratified to see this section of the bill come to life,” said Frank Altman, Founder & CEO, Community Reinvestment Fund.
“CDFIs play a critical role in reaching business owners, families and communities that our capital markets have left behind. Our decades of work with CDFIs have clearly identified the challenges they face in accessing the capital they need to scale their lending. Building secondary markets for CDFI loans is an essential complement to the CDFI Fund’s direct support for these critical institutions. We’re pleased to see this movement toward activating an important part of the original CDFI Fund statute,” said Joyce Klein, Director, Aspen Institute Business Ownership Initiative.
"New innovations to channel reliable liquidity to CDFIs are sorely needed. Supporting those efforts through activating and funding the CDFI Fund's liquidity enhancement program will pave the way for new scale in all parts of the CDFI industry, putting more capital where it does the most good." – said Brett Simmons, Managing Director of the EBA Fund.
“CDBA strongly supports efforts to build critical industry infrastructure that enable CDFIs and the communities they serve to thrive. Access to liquidity is important to the functioning of financial institutions and this bill will help ensure that a diverse range of CDFIs have access.” – said Jeannine Jacokes, CEO of the Community Development Bankers Association.
“CDFIs consistently demonstrate an ability to support and reach historically marginalized and under-resourced communities. These community-centered organizations, built to promote economic inclusion and capital access, need their own capital tools to scale and break through barriers to their growth. Facilitating the development of a reliable secondary market for CDFIs will provide these lenders opportunities to leverage their existing portfolio as a financing tool, freeing up assets for additional community investment. Activating and capitalizing the dormant Section 113 of the Riegle Act is critical to building a secondary market for CDFI lending, ultimately giving them the liquidity to originate more high-impact loans and capital tools. The VA CDFI Coalition is excited by the possibilities these investments could create across Virginia and hope to see this pass,” said Leah Fremouw, Board President, VA CDFI Coalition.
“The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) thanks Senators Warner and Hagerty for introducing the Scaling Community Lenders Act. Research has shown that Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) loans are high performing, although in most cases they are nontraditional and do not meet the underwriting and collateralization standards required by conventional banks. As a result, there is not a vibrant secondary market where CDFIs can sell these loans to investors. This legislation will kickstart a CDFI secondary market so CDFIs have access to loan purchasers to obtain the capital needed to finance additional community and economic development activities for underserved people and communities,” said Matt Josephs, Senior Vice President for Policy, LISC.
“Each year, the 47 certified Tennessee Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) create thousands of jobs, expand access to affordable housing, finance over 2 million sq. ft. in new or renovated real estate, improve energy efficiency, and make hundreds of millions in loans and investments into Tennessee businesses, nonprofits, and community facilities. The Scaling Community Lenders Act pilot program would provide CDFIs with new and innovative liquidity resources to explore secondary markets, unlocking more capital and expanding our ability to serve Tennessee communities. We commend Senators Hagerty and Warner for thinking outside of the box on this promising initiative,” said Hank Helton of Pathway Lending and Chris Miller of Three Roots Capital.
“The CDFI Coalition is pleased to add its voice in strong support for the legislation sponsored by Sens. Warner and Hagerty to establish a pilot program aimed at establishing a secondary market for loans made by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). The Scaling Community Lenders Act of 2022 amends the Community Development Banking and Financial Institutions Act of 1994 to authorize $100 million for funding up to 6 pilot programs, selected on a competitive basis, which would purchase CDFI loans and loan participations, provide guarantees, loan loss reserves and lines of credit and other measure necessary to enhance CDFI liquidity. CDFIs emerged to provide financial services in urban neighborhoods and rural areas underserved by traditional financial institutions, particularly those with high rates of poverty and unemployment,” said Ceyl Prinster, President and CEO, Colorado Enterprise Fund and Chair of the CDFI Coalition. “By leveraging over $12 in private capital to every $1 in federal support, CDFIs are filling the widening credit gap encountered in many communities, creating jobs improving housing and community facilities and creating economic opportunity. Throughout the last economic downturn, CDFIs provided flexible and patient capital, rigorous risk management, and commitment to the projects in their communities and the sustainability of their borrowers. While traditional borrowers fled economically distressed communities, CDFIs stepped in and filled the void. Since the advent of the economic crisis prompted by the pandemic, CDFIs have been on the frontlines of providing technical and financial assistance to small and minority-owned businesses. CDFIs fill a vital niche in the nation's financial services delivery system by serving communities and market sectors that conventional lenders cannot - with the ultimate goal of bringing CDFI customers into the mainstream economy as bank customers, home owners and/or entrepreneurs. We believe that the Scaling Community Lenders Act will enhance the ability of CDFIs to support economic revitalization in economic distressed rural, urban, minority and tribal communities. Establishing a secondary market for CDFI loans will be increase the availability of capital to CDFIs that will put it to good use in financing affordable housing, small businesses, and community facilities.”
To combat the hemorrhaging of jobs and economic opportunities during the pandemic, Sen. Warner has been a leader in Congress for CDFIs and MDIs. In July of 2020, he teamed up with then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act.
Sen. Warner was later able to secure provisions from the bill in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, providing an unprecedented $12 billion in funding for CDFIs. Last month, Sen. Warner led a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing legislation to support lenders that focus on underserved communities by creating a CDFI Tax Credit for private sector investors that make equity, equity-equivalent investments, or long-term patient capital available to CDFIs.
Warner, Kaine Join Colleagues in Pressing VA Secretary to End Discrimination Against Same-Sex Spouses
Jul 14 2022
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with 39 of their Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough seeking answers to reports of the VA refusing to provide certain benefits to same-sex veteran couples. The letter calls for speedy action to ensure these couples have access to the full spousal benefits they are owed.
“Each of our veterans and their spouses deserve the same quality care and services once they leave the military – no matter who they love. Our veterans and their families, who selflessly served our nation and have sacrificed so much, must be afforded the benefits they have so rightly earned. This is not only a matter of fairness and equity, it is the morally right thing to do,” wrote the senators. “Yet, we have recently heard from numerous survivors about issues they are facing when they attempt to access the full Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits that they are entitled to under the law.”
In the letter, the senators underscored examples of the VA refusing to recognize same-sex marriages as meeting duration requirements for benefits. The senators highlighted how duration requirements had left same-sex couples ineligible for benefits due to living in states where marriage laws barred them from marrying earlier—even though they had been in loving, committed relationships. Whereas other federal agencies like the Social Security Administration took action to accept and reconsider claims for survivor benefits by same-sex spouses who were previously unable to meet marriage duration requirements, the VA has until now failed to do so. The senators called for the VA to make sure benefits are available to same-sex couples who have been denied benefits solely because they could not meet a strict marriage durational requirement.
The senators conclude, “We promise to take care of all our veterans after they serve our country, and that includes ensuring that their partners have access to full and complete spousal benefits. Correcting this error will help end the discriminatory treatment of potentially thousands of same-sex veteran couples and allow them to access the benefits they are owed.
In addition to Warner and Kaine, the letter was also signed by Senators Murray (D-WA), Warnock (D-GA), Duckworth (D-IL), Blumenthal (D-CT), Baldwin (D-WI), Markey (D-MA), Hirono (D-HI), Luján (D-NM), Smith (D-MN), Hassan (D-NH), Whitehouse (D-RI), Murphy (D-CT), Sanders (D-VT), Gillibrand (D-NY), Heinrich (D-NM), Durbin (D-IL), Warren (D-MA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Menendez (D-NJ), Casey (D-PA), Schumer (D-NY), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Bennet (D-CO), Padilla (D-CA), Wyden (D-OR), Reed (D-RI), Shaheen (D-NH), Booker (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Rosen (D-NV), Feinstein (D-CA), Peters (D-MI), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Coons (D-DE), Cardin (D-MD), Schatz (D-HI), Leahy (D-VT), and Kelly (D-AZ).
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Secretary McDonough:
We write to inquire about the discriminatory treatment of certain same-sex veteran couples who are being denied full and complete spousal benefits. We must ensure that the unconstitutional laws of the past do not further harm the surviving loved ones of our country’s LGBTQ+ veterans.
Each of our veterans and their spouses deserve the same quality care and services once they leave the military – no matter who they love. Our veterans and their families, who selflessly served our nation and have sacrificed so much, must be afforded the benefits they have so rightly earned. This is not only a matter of fairness and equity, it is the morally right thing to do.
Yet, we have recently heard from numerous survivors about issues they are facing when they attempt to access the full Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits that they are entitled to under the law.
It has come to our attention that VA is refusing to deem same-sex marriages as having met the statutory marriage duration or deadline requirements when the couples were legally barred from marrying within that timeframe immediately before the veteran’s death. For example, dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) benefits may only be awarded if the surviving spouse was married to the veteran for at least one year or within 15 years of the veteran’s discharge,1 and for eight years in the case of enhanced DIC benefits.2 Survivor’s pension benefits also have a one-year marriage duration requirement.
By denying benefits in cases where same-sex couples failed to meet marriage duration requirements, VA ignores the reality that discriminatory marriage laws where these couples lived barred them from marrying—even though they were in loving, committed relationships and would have married earlier if they could. It was not until the Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges a constitutional right to marry that same-sex relationships were properly recognized, including the “constellation” of rights associated with marriage, such as the “rights and benefits of survivors.”
After courts found unconstitutional the nine-month marriage duration requirement under the Social Security Act when applied to same-sex couples who were barred from meeting the requirement due to discriminatory marriage laws, the Social Security Administration began accepting and reconsidering claims for survivor benefits by same-sex spouses and partners who were unable to be married for the requisite nine months because of these bans on same-sex marriage.5 VA should do the same for veterans survivor benefits. Just like the unconstitutional laws banning same-sex couples from marrying, denials for veterans benefits that are tied to those marriage bans are unconstitutional too.
Specifically, VA must make eligible for benefits bona fide same-sex relationships where either the same-sex couple had married but were prevented from being married for the time required under the statute, or where they were prevented from marrying each other at all. While marriage duration requirements may be defensible as a proxy for detecting or deterring sham relationships between opposite-sex couples—who have always enjoyed the right to marry—they cannot serve that function for same-sex couples who were barred from marrying one another. Surviving same-sex partners and spouses of veterans who were unable to marry because of now unconstitutional marriage laws should not be denied benefits solely because they did not meet a strict marriage durational requirement. We urge VA to be mindful of other past, discriminatory practices that upended the lives our veterans and their families – like the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy – and look primarily to the surviving partner’s own statements about whether and when they would have married but for unconstitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
It also has come to our attention that VA’s setting of effective dates for benefits furthers these unconstitutional same-sex marriage bans. After the Supreme Court held that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages under state law in June 2013, the Department of Justice subsequently announced on September 4, 2013, that it would no longer enforce laws banning benefits to same-sex spouses of veterans.6 The VA General Counsel interpreted the announcement to apply retroactively but only “as to claims for benefits based on same-sex marriages that were pending on direct review as of” the date of the Attorney General’s announcement.7 For claims received or re-applied for after the Attorney General’s announcement, “such claims could receive an effective date up to one year prior to receipt of the claim, but in no event earlier than September 4, 2013.”
By setting an effective date no earlier than September 4, 2013, VA is giving credence to the unconstitutional laws that prevented same-sex spouses from obtaining veterans benefits in the first place. A spouse married to an opposite-sex veteran would have had no issues receiving benefits immediately. However, VA is cutting short benefits of those in same-sex marriages who initially applied for such benefits and were denied due to bans on same-sex marriage. Moreover, any delay by a widow of a same-sex veteran in filing a claim for spousal benefits can be directly linked to VA’s enforcement of unconstitutional laws that would have led to the ultimate denial of such benefits. VA must stop its discriminatory treatment of veterans’ spouses based on their sex or sexual orientation, and apply retroactive effective dates as if the unconstitutional laws struck down by the Supreme Court were never enacted. Prior claims not previously appealed should be permitted to be reopened, as well as new claims to be filed.
We promise to take care of all our veterans after they serve our country, and that includes ensuring that their partners have access to full and complete spousal benefits. Correcting this error will help end the discriminatory treatment of potentially thousands of same-sex veteran couples and allow them to access the benefits they are owed. Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and we look forward to hearing back from you soon.
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statements regarding the devastating flooding in Buchanan County:
“I’m heartbroken for the families in Buchanan County who have lost their homes, as well as for members of the community who are once again grappling with the destruction left behind by devastating flooding. My office will continue to stay in contact with state authorities and officials on the ground to help provide any federal support that may be needed in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, I urge any Virginian in need of immediate assistance to contact the Virginia Department of Emergency Management,” said Sen. Warner.
“My heart goes out to every Virginian affected by this catastrophic flooding in Buchanan County. This spring, I met with families who were still grappling with the aftermath of last year’s flooding in Hurley, and saw up close the need to support the road to recovery. I’m going to do everything I can to be a strong partner to local officials and impacted Virginians to make that road as smooth as possible. I offer my sincere gratitude to the first responders on the scene helping victims,” said Sen. Kaine.
The Senators urge Virginians with loved ones who are missing as a result of the flooding to report those missing persons to the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office by calling 833-748-1424, and to go to the reunification center at Twin Valley Elementary/Middle School at 9017 Riverside Drive in Oakwood. The school is also serving as an emergency shelter.
The Senators urge Virginians whose property was damaged in the flood to contact Buchanan County Emergency Management by calling 276-935-5872 to arrange for a property damage assessment. Assessments will be shared with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, which can recommend that the Governor request a federal disaster declaration. Sens. Warner and Kaine would then support that disaster declaration on the federal level, which would enable more federal resources to assist the recovery efforts.
Statement of U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner & Tim Kaine on Nominations of Robert Ballou for the Western District of Virginia and Jamar Walker for the Eastern District of Virginia
Jul 13 2022
WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement on President Biden’s nominations of U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou for the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Abingdon Division and Mr. Jamar Walker for the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division.
“We are pleased that the President has nominated Judge Ballou and Mr. Walker to fill these vacancies,” said the senators. “We believe both will serve Virginia and our country with great distinction. We hope our colleagues will join us to support these highly qualified nominees.”
In August 2021, Sens. Warner and Kaine sent a letter to President Biden, recommending Judge Ballou for the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia following Judge James P. Jones’ decision to take senior status in August 2021.
In March 2022, Sens. Warner and Kaine sent a letter to President Biden, recommending Mr. Jamar Walker for the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia following Judge Raymond A. Jackson’s decision to take senior status in November 2021.
These nominations are subject to confirmation by the full Senate.
Jul 13 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) in introducing the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act. The legislation helps miners who have suffered from ‘black lung’ disease and their survivors access the workers compensation they are entitled to receive under the Black Lung Benefits Program. The legislation helps miners and their survivors access legal representation, ensures benefits are not eroded due to inflation, reduces the time for processing claims and protects taxpayers from taking a hit when a self-insured coal company goes bankrupt and cannot pay black lung claims.
“Every day, Virginia’s coal miners put their health at risk to power our country. We owe it to those battling black lung disease as a result of their years of work to ensure that they receive the medical care they deserve,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will allow more miners and their families to access care and benefits as they face this diagnosis.”
“Virginia miners have helped power this nation for generations, risking their health and often developing deadly black lung disease while on the job,” said Sen. Kaine. “Following their sacrifice, they’ve earned benefits to help them combat this debilitating disease. This legislation will make it easier for miners and their family members to receive these benefits in a fair and timely manner.” “For decades, our country has relied on coal miners to power our factories and heat our homes. Many coal workers risked their lives and their long-term health to do the job of powering years of prosperity, and Congress has an obligation to support them, just as they’ve supported us. This legislation would ensure that every coal miner who suffers from black lung disease receives the benefits they are entitled to,” said Sen. Casey. “Coal miners have pushed our country forward, and I’ll keep fighting to make sure they aren’t left behind.” “Ohio miners put their health at risk to power our country,” said Sen. Brown. “They’ve suffered enough. They shouldn’t have to navigate an interminable claims process riddled with red tape, all to get the benefits they have earned.” “For generations, our brave coal miners have risked their lives and health to power our nation to greatness and as a result, many of our miners suffer from Black Lung Disease. After their enormous sacrifices, they have earned the vital treatment and medical care they need. I am proud to reintroduce the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act with my colleagues to help our miners access the benefits they are entitled to and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help us pass this crucial legislation that supports our coal miners who have given so much to our great nation,” said Sen. Manchin. Decades ago, Congress established the Black Lung Benefits Act in conjunction with the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 to provide monthly compensation and medical coverage for coal miners who develop black lung disease and are totally disabled. A GAO report found that miners often lack the necessary medical and legal resources to develop evidence to prove their claims. The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act makes needed updates to the Black Lung Benefits Act to ensure Congress is fulfilling its commitment to the Nation’s coal miners. Senators Casey, Manchin, Brown, Kaine and Warner also introduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Act in 2021 to extend the current black lung excise tax for another ten year period. The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act is endorsed by United Mineworkers (UMWA), Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center (UCLC), BlueGreen Alliance and Appalachian Voices. ###
“Virginia miners have helped power this nation for generations, risking their health and often developing deadly black lung disease while on the job,” said Sen. Kaine. “Following their sacrifice, they’ve earned benefits to help them combat this debilitating disease. This legislation will make it easier for miners and their family members to receive these benefits in a fair and timely manner.”
“For decades, our country has relied on coal miners to power our factories and heat our homes. Many coal workers risked their lives and their long-term health to do the job of powering years of prosperity, and Congress has an obligation to support them, just as they’ve supported us. This legislation would ensure that every coal miner who suffers from black lung disease receives the benefits they are entitled to,” said Sen. Casey. “Coal miners have pushed our country forward, and I’ll keep fighting to make sure they aren’t left behind.”
“Ohio miners put their health at risk to power our country,” said Sen. Brown. “They’ve suffered enough. They shouldn’t have to navigate an interminable claims process riddled with red tape, all to get the benefits they have earned.”
“For generations, our brave coal miners have risked their lives and health to power our nation to greatness and as a result, many of our miners suffer from Black Lung Disease. After their enormous sacrifices, they have earned the vital treatment and medical care they need. I am proud to reintroduce the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act with my colleagues to help our miners access the benefits they are entitled to and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help us pass this crucial legislation that supports our coal miners who have given so much to our great nation,” said Sen. Manchin.
Decades ago, Congress established the Black Lung Benefits Act in conjunction with the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 to provide monthly compensation and medical coverage for coal miners who develop black lung disease and are totally disabled. A GAO report found that miners often lack the necessary medical and legal resources to develop evidence to prove their claims. The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act makes needed updates to the Black Lung Benefits Act to ensure Congress is fulfilling its commitment to the Nation’s coal miners. Senators Casey, Manchin, Brown, Kaine and Warner also introduced the Black Lung Benefits Disability Trust Fund Act in 2021 to extend the current black lung excise tax for another ten year period.
The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act is endorsed by United Mineworkers (UMWA), Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center (UCLC), BlueGreen Alliance and Appalachian Voices.
Warner, Kaine, Cortez Masto, Whitehouse, Murray, Gillibrand Introduce Legislation to Protect the Right of Women to Cross State Lines to Seek Abortion Care
Jul 12 2022
“In light of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization restricting access to abortion services, this legislation is critical to helping women, regardless of where they live, access the reproductive health care they need,” said the senators. “It will also help ensure medical providers in Virginia are not punished for providing patients with this care.”
Legislation introduced in Missouri and draft legislation proposed by anti-choice extremists make clear that interstate travel for reproductive health care is under attack. The Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022 underscores the Constitutional protections for interstate travel and provides redress for women whose rights are violated. The legislation would also protect health care providers in pro-choice states from prosecution and lawsuits for serving individuals traveling from other states.
In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cortez Masto, Whitehouse, Murray, and Gillibrand, the legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ed Markey (D-MA), Revered Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Sens. Warner and Kaine are cosponsors of the Women’s Health Protection Act, legislation that would protect Americans’ right to choose and prohibit state governors or legislatures from imposing unreasonable restrictions on accessing abortion services, and voted to pass the bill in May 2022. Kaine also introduced legislation with his Senate colleagues to expand access to affordable over-the-counter birth control.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $50,265,000 in federal funding for two Virginia airports awarded through the Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Terminals Program, which was created through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act negotiated by Sen. Warner and strongly supported by Sen. Kaine.
“These funds will go toward modernizing and updating both Dulles and Richmond International Airports,” the senators said. “We are glad to see continued, meaningful investment in the Commonwealth’s infrastructure thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law that will make travel through our airports easier and more accessible.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $49,600,000 for Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, VA for the construction of a 14-gate Concourse to replace the existing temporary concourse.
- $665,000 for Richmond International Airport (RIC) in Richmond, VA for the renovation of the Federal Inspection Station to meet Customs and Border Protection Service Facility standards for international travel processing.
The funds awarded to Richmond International Airport come in addition to $3.969 million in Congressionally Directed Spending secured by Sens. Warner and Kaine in the 2022 government spending bill for the project and will enable consistent, international passenger flights through Richmond. Last year, the senators announced nearly $400 million in funding for Virginia airports secured through the bipartisan infrastructure law.
Warner, Rubio Call for Investigation into TikTok in Light of Revelations About Chinese Communist Party's Potential Access to U.S. Data
Jul 05 2022
WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to formally investigate TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance. The call comes in response to recent reports that the social media platform has permitted TikTok engineers and executives in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to repeatedly access private data of US users despite repeated claims to lawmakers and users that this data was protected. This includes instances where staff based in the United States had to consult with their China-based colleagues for information about U.S. user data as they did not have access to the data on their own. These revelations undermine longstanding claims by TikTok’s management that the company’s operations were firewalled from demands of the Chinese Communist Party.
“We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021,” the senators wrote in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan. “In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The report also highlights TikTok’s misrepresentation of the company’s relationship to ByteDance and its subsidiaries, including Beijing-based ByteDance Technology, which is partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
As Chairman and Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sens. Warner and Rubio have been vocal about the cyber and national security threats posed by the CCP. In 2019, the senators introduced legislation to combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors like China.
A copy of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Chairwoman Khan:
We write in response to public reports that individuals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been accessing data on U.S. users, in contravention of several public representations, including sworn testimony in October 2021. In an interview with the online publication Cyberscoop, the Global Chief Security Officer for TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, made a number of public representations on the data security practices of TikTok, including unequivocal claims that the data of American users is not accessible to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the government of the PRC. As you know, TikTok’s privacy practices are already subject to a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission, based on its improper collection and processing of personal information from children. In light of this new report, we ask that your agency immediately initiate a Section 5 investigation on the basis of apparent deception by TikTok, and coordinate this work with any national security or counter-intelligence investigation that may be initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Additionally, these recent reports suggest that TikTok has also misrepresented its corporate governance practices, including to Congressional committees such as ours. In October 2021, TikTok’s head of public policy, Michael Beckerman, testified that TikTok has “no affiliation” with another ByteDance subsidiary, Beijing-based ByteDance Technology, of which the CCP owns a partial stake. Meanwhile, as recently as March of this year, TikTok officials reiterated to our Committee representations they have previously made that all corporate governance decisions are wholly firewalled from their PRC-based parent, ByteDance. Yet according to a recent report from Buzzfeed News, TikTok’s engineering teams ultimately report to ByteDance leadership in the PRC.
A series of national security laws imposed by the CCP, including the 2017 National Intelligence Law and the 2014 Counter-Espionage Law provide extensive and extra-judicial access opportunities for CCP-controlled security services. Under these authorities, the CCP may compel access, regardless of where data is ultimately stored. While TikTok has suggested that migrating to U.S.-based storage from a U.S. cloud service provider alleviates any risk of unauthorized access, these latest revelations raise concerns about the reliability of TikTok representations: since TikTok will ultimately control all access to the cloud-hosted systems, the risk of access to that data by PRC-based engineers (or CCP security services) remains significant in light of the corporate governance irregularities revealed by BuzzFeed News. Moreover, as the recent report makes clear, the majority of TikTok data – including content posted by users as well as their unique IDs– will remain freely accessible to PRC-based ByteDance employees.
In light of repeated misrepresentations by TikTok concerning its data security, data processing, and corporate governance practices, we urge you to act promptly on this matter.
Warner & Kaine Applaud Plans to Allow Adoption of Nearly Four Thousand Dogs From Envigo Breeding Facility in Cumberland
Jul 02 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the statement below, celebrating a joint plan between the Department of Justice and Envigo RMS LLC. to facilitate the surrender of nearly four thousand dogs from an Envigo breeding facility in Cumberland, Va., which has been repeatedly cited for egregious animal welfare violations. Under the agreement, ownership and physical custody of the dogs will be transferred to the Humane Society of the Unites States (HSUS), which will work to place these dogs into homes. This transfer is the result of a warrant and subsequent lawsuit filed by federal authorities after Sens. Warner and Kaine shed light on the issue and demanded federal action. After a preliminary injunction against the facility was issued in the Western District of Virginia, Envigo and its parent company agreed to close the facility permanently, meaning that soon no more dogs will be made to suffer in the horrific conditions at the Cumberland, Virginia site.
“After months of advocacy, we’re heartened to know that nearly 4,000 Envigo dogs will be spared a lifetime of suffering and will instead head to loving homes. We’re also pleased to know that Inotiv – Envigo’s parent company – will shutter its Cumberland facility and that no more dogs will be subject to the appalling conditions and inexcusable distress endured by so many dogs and puppies at the facility. We will continue working in the Senate to prevent the mistreatment of innocent animals across Virginia and the nation,” said the senators.
In March, Sens. Warner and Kaine expressed horror and demanded immediate and aggressive action by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) following more than 70 animal welfare violations at the Envigo breeding and research facility in Cumberland. After these calls for action, the federal government stepped in, seizing 446 beagles in acute distress and placing a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the breeding, sale, or otherwise dealing of beagles at the Cumberland facility.
Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country, earning a 100% on the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Scorecard for 2021. In March, Sen. Warner secured the passage of new language requiring the Department of State to report on the status of dogs in the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP). This program came under scrutiny in 2019 after an Inspector General (IG) report found that the Department failed to conduct proper follow-up after sending highly-trained dogs to foreign partner nations, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been consistent cosponsors of the Puppy Protection Act, which would amend the Animal Welfare Act to include additional care and safety standards for dog breeders like Envigo. Under the bill, breeders would be required to house dogs in appropriately sized enclosures with solid ground and keep them on a regular diet and exercise routine. As Governor of Virginia, Kaine signed a law that imposed stricter legal penalties for dogfighting offenses.
Warner & Kaine Announce More Than $2 Million in Federal Funding For Martinsville-Based Manufacturing Partnership
Jun 30 2022
WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,140,321 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the A.L. Philpott Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP), also known as GENEDGE Alliance, in Martinsville. This funding will help GENEDGE better support small and medium-sized manufacturing companies across Virginia with expanding their reach, growing our manufacturing industry, using high-tech solutions, optimizing their facilities, boosting efficiency, and training and mentoring workers.
“The pandemic and war in Ukraine have underscored the importance of supporting domestic manufacturing. We’re excited to announce this funding, which will grow Virginia’s manufacturing industry,” the senators said. “This investment will help ensure small and medium-sized manufacturers have the resources they need.”
GENEDGE is a part of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network. In Fiscal Year 2021, the MEP National Network generated $26.20 in new sales growth for manufacturers for every one dollar received in federal funding.
Warner & Kaine Announce Nearly $7 Million in Funding for Reentry Training & Employment Programs in Newport News and Roanoke
Jun 29 2022
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $6,999,632 in federal funding for the Hampton Roads Community Action Program and Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley to provide training and career counseling services to incarcerated individuals so that they are prepared for employment opportunities and able to successfully transition into the workforce following their release.
“By expanding employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated Virginians, we can help them successfully transition back into the community, reduce recidivism, and strengthen our neighborhoods,” said the senators. “This federal funding will help individuals find employment and stay on the right track.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $3,999,633 for the Hampton Roads Community Action Program, Inc. in Newport News
- $2,999,999 for Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, Inc. in Roanoke
The grants were awarded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA)’s Pathway Homes program, which works to improve employability outcomes for adults during the reentry process from incarceration.
In 2018, Warner and Kaine voted to pass the First Step Act, which reauthorized grant funding for state and local reentry programs that reduce recidivism. In 2015, Warner and Kaine successfully urged President Obama to “ban the box” on federal job applications to help expand job opportunities and reduce recidivism among ex-offenders. “Ban the Box” refers to the section on job application forms that inquired whether the applicant has ever been convicted.
Statement of Warner, Kaine, Luria & Scott on Inspector General Report Detailing Failures at Hampton VAMC
Jun 28 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined by Reps. Elaine Luria (D-VA-02) and Bobby Scott (D-VA-03) issued the following statement in response to the release of a Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General report detailing failures at the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Hampton, VA that led to a delayed cancer diagnosis during the period of 2019 to 2021:
“We are appalled and disheartened to learn that a series of failures at the Hampton VA Medical Center led to a veteran’s delayed cancer diagnosis. Veterans and their families must be able to trust that they are receiving high-quality, comprehensive, and timely health care whenever they turn to the VA — and it is the VA’s responsibility to provide that level of care to its patients. The findings outlined in the Inspector General report suggest a dangerous series of care coordination and communication failings, both at the individual and systemic level. We commit to engaging directly with the senior leadership at Hampton and pursuing appropriate accountability. We are also committed to conducting close oversight as the Hampton VAMC works to implement the Inspector General’s recommendations, and put in place processes to guard against future failings as happened here.”
Warner, Baldwin Lead Colleagues in Urging Biden Administration to Support Made in USA Masks, Prevent Future Shortages
Jun 27 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) led a group of their colleagues in sending a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure expressing their strong support for a CMS proposal that encourages hospitals to buy American products and bolsters American mask manufacturers to help prevent future shortages of lifesaving personal protective equipment. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the shortage of American made, medical use-approved masks that are essential for the protection of healthcare workers, and the proposed effort by CMS will help prevent future shortages and support American manufacturers.
“It is critically important now and moving forward for our country to possess a ready-supply of NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators and raw material inputs that are wholly domestically made,” said the senators. “U.S. companies and their workers are ready to support this effort, and we applaud your work to ensure that hospitals and health systems have the resources needed to buy American-made masks.”
The letter was also signed by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Casey (D-PA).
The full letter can be found here or below:
The Honorable Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244
Dear Administrator Brooks La-Sure:
We write to express our strong support for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposal to bolster American mask manufacturers and encourage hospitals to buy American. Specifically, we appreciate CMS’ recognition of the need for a robust domestic supply of surgical N95 respirators in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Medicare Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) proposed rule. It is critically important that the agency move forward with a final rule that would provide payment adjustments to support hospitals’ purchase of domestically produced NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, American hospitals faced severe shortages of NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators. These surgical respirators are essential for the protection of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and those who provide care to patients, and we must do everything we can to prevent future shortages. Thankfully, for the past two years, American companies and American workers have retooled manufacturing lines to meet the need for this essential product. The entrepreneurship and patriotism of these companies has saved lives, and we now have dozens more manufacturers of N95 respirators, their components and raw materials, based here in the United States than we did before the pandemic, when less than 10 percent of N95 respirators were manufactured domestically.
Unfortunately, too many U.S.-based manufacturers are struggling to exist as hospitals and health systems continue to grapple with the choice between purchasing more expensive domestically-made N95s or cheaper masks made in China. We agree that implementation of a payment adjustment for purchases of wholly domestically made NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators would help sustain “a level of supply resilience for surgical N95 respirators that is critical to protect the health and safety of personnel and patients in a public health emergency.” Both approaches outlined by the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) proposed rule would improve our nationwide preparedness for future threats, promote the safety of providers and patients, and bolster our domestic manufacturing supply chains by supporting our Made in America economy. Further, we encourage CMS to examine ways to incentivize purchases of other domestically manufactured PPE, including surgical and isolation gowns, face masks, face shields, and eyewear, during future rulemaking.
It is critically important now and moving forward for our country to possess a ready-supply of NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators and raw material inputs that are wholly domestically made. U.S. companies and their workers are ready to support this effort, and we applaud your work to ensure that hospitals and health systems have the resources needed to buy American-made masks.
WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, important legislation to reduce gun violence, into law:
“Gun violence has scarred too many communities in Virginia and across the country. But today, for the first time in decades, meaningful legislation to curb gun violence has been signed into law. However, our fight to make our communities safer is not over. Success begets success, and today’s victory lays the foundation for more progress.”
The bipartisan proposal includes similar provisions to those proposed by Sens. Warner and Kaine in their Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence—a bill they introduced last year based on a series of commonsense measures adopted by Virginia. These provisions include improving background checks, strengthening safeguards for victims of domestic violence, and incentivizing states to implement their own Extreme Risk Protection Orders to remove firearms from individuals who pose a high risk of harming themselves or others.