Statement of Senate Intel Chairman Mark. R. Warner on Senate Vote to Ratify Additions of Finland and Sweden to NATO
Aug 03 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 95-1 to approve adding Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO):
“The NATO alliance has formed the foundation of the peace in Europe since the end of the second World War. With Vladimir Putin’s brazen and illegal invasion of Ukraine, strengthening NATO is more important than ever and today’s vote in the Senate sends a strong message that democracies across the globe will continue to stand up to Russian aggression.
“Three-quarters of NATO allies have now ratified Finland and Sweden’s applications, and it is essential that all remaining countries do so expeditiously to ensure that Finland and Sweden become full NATO members as soon as possible.”
In June, Chairman Warner led a bipartisan congressional delegation from the Senate Intelligence Committee on official visits to Finland and Turkey, where the senators met with intelligence and security officials in both countries and discussed Finland’s bid to join NATO. Following those meetings, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped his country’s public opposition to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.
Warner, Toomey, Lummis, Sinema, Portman Drop Legislation to Address Digital Asset Reporting Requirements in Infrastructure Bill
Aug 03 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced legislation to clarify the digital asset reporting requirements signed into law as part of last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Last August, the senators announced an agreement with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) on an amendment to the infrastructure package that would have clarified the definition of “broker” with respect to who must report to the government information about a digital asset transaction. The amendment specifically excluded from reporting requirements services like mining and wallet providers who do not take custody of other individuals’ cryptocurrency, nor are able to comply with the reporting requirements of a broker. While the amendment had strong bipartisan support, including from the Biden administration, the Senate was never afforded the opportunity to vote on and pass this amendment last August due to a procedural hurdle. The legislation introduced today is the exact same text introduced as a bipartisan amendment nearly one year ago.
“There’s been a lot of confusion about the reporting requirements included in the bipartisan infrastructure law,” said Sen. Warner. “As a former venture capitalist and someone who’s enthusiastic about innovation, I want to maintain America’s lead in financial innovation, including distributed ledger technologies. This bipartisan bill will underscore that the reporting requirements in the IIJA do not apply to crypto validators and other actors not providing broker-like functions while maintaining sensible guidelines to ensure that financial networks aren’t enabling illicit activity.”
“While there’s no question that digital asset exchanges behaving as brokers should be required to comply with existing reporting requirements, the bill signed into law last year would impose these requirements on many people who don’t even have the information needed to comply with them,” said Sen. Toomey. “By clarifying the definition of a broker, our legislation will protect innovation by exempting miners, network validators, and other service providers from onerous and unworkable requirements. This amendment had strong bipartisan support last August, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be signed into law.”
“The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act placed unnecessary burdens on digital asset mining and wallet providers, and we must fix these reporting requirements,” said Sen. Lummis. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation which will ensure our tax system reflects the realities of the digital asset industry.”
“As more Arizonans utilize digital assets, our commonsense, bipartisan legislation ensures that everyday users of crypto – miners, stakers, and software developers – won't be subjected to reporting requirements that are intended for brokers of digital assets,” said Sen. Sinema.
“This legislation is designed to ensure that the digital asset reporting requirements signed into law as part of last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are implemented as intended,” said Sen. Portman. “I am pleased to see the Senate come together in bipartisan fashion to ensure that we provide clarity in the law and guidance around cryptocurrencies to maintain our edge in financial innovation.”
In addition to maintaining strong bipartisan support in the Senate, this legislation is widely supported by the digital asset industry.
“Coin Center supports any effort to improve the status quo created by the ill-advised crypto tax provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” said Jerry Brito, Executive Director of Coin Center. “We applaud Sen. Toomey for leading a bipartisan effort to address some of these issues and appreciate the support of Senators Warner, Sinema, Lummis and Portman.”
"We thank Senators Toomey, Sinema, Portman, Lummis, and Warner for their bipartisan leadership in this nuanced space,” said Sheila Warren, Chief Executive Officer of the Crypto Council for Innovation. “Clarifying how people can use and report on digital assets is important for the industry. We look forward to supporting the continued growth of innovation in the U.S. and working with policymakers on this issue."
“The Chamber of Digital Commerce commends Senator Toomey and co-sponsors for listening to the concerns of the digital asset community and continuing to advocate for regulatory clarity,” said Cody Carbone, Director of Policy, Chamber of Digital Commerce. “The infrastructure bill included burdensome reporting requirements for nearly every participant within the ecosystem and this bipartisan bill will ensure digital asset reporting requirements match the technology’s operation. We urge that this legislation is swiftly passed into law and look forward to working with all interested parties on policy that provides additional certainty for the digital asset space.”
"ADAM applauds Senators Toomey, Sinema, Portman, Lummis, and Warner for their continued bipartisan leadership to provide clarification on the definition of a broker as it relates to the 2021 Infrastructure Bill,” said Robert Baldwin, Head of Policy, Association for Digital Asset Markets. “Definitions matter and an overly broad interpretation of the broker definition as passed has the potential to dampen innovation and lead to the offshoring of various digital assets projects in the rapidly growing sector. This bill fixes the tax definitional issue. ADAM looks forward to continued bipartisan cooperation on this bill and other policy topics so that the U.S. can ensure a long-term position of leadership in digital assets.”
“Global DCA applauds the tireless efforts to clarify the definition of a broker with respect to the digital asset markets,” said Gabriella Kusz, CEO, Global Digital Asset and Cryptocurrency Association. “This common-sense solution will protect innovation while ensuring that those who are buying and selling cryptocurrency pay legitimate taxes that are owed. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Toomey, Senator Sinema, Senator Portman, Senator Lummis, and Senator Warner to ensure there is responsible regulation without excessive federal overreach.”
“The proposed revisions to Internal Revenue Code regarding Information Reporting for Brokers and Digital Assets marks a key legislative opportunity that we believe will begin to unlock the best benefits of digital assets and blockchain,” said Ron Quaranta, Chairman of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance. “By clarifying what it means to be a broker in light of this important innovation, the bi-partisan legislation paves the way for further innovations that can evolve markets and ultimately improve the overall financial lives of Americans. We are thankful for the continued effort and thought leadership of Senators Lummis, Portman, Sinema, and Warner, and on behalf of our members look forward to continued dialogue and collaboration with policymakers in the future.”
“Americans need common sense and fair guidance for engaging with blockchain protocols,” said Alison Mangiero, the Executive Director of The Proof of Stake Alliance (POSA). “POSA appreciates Sen. Toomey, Sen. Sinema, Sen. Warner, Sen. Lummis, and Sen. Portman’s, leadership and efforts to make clear that validators, those who do important work to secure blockchain protocols, are recognized appropriately for tax reporting purposes. We urge the Senate to take up and pass this simple but important bill to provide much-needed clarity and help America grow its web3 economy.”
To read the full text of the bill click here.
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine on Senate Passage of Bill to Expand Benefits for Toxic-Exposed Veterans
Aug 02 2022
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine celebrated Senate passage of the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022 following obstruction efforts by Senate Republicans last week. This legislation will expand health care and benefits for toxic-exposed veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and authorize a new community-based outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads:
“Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed so much while serving in the Armed Forces, and we must honor that sacrifice by ensuring they have access to the benefits they’ve earned and deserve. We’re glad the Senate has finally done the right thing by passing this bipartisan legislation to expand much-needed health care benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxins and burn pits while serving our country,” the senators said.
Sens. Warner and Kaine voted to pass the Honoring Our PACT Act on June 16 and again on July 27.
The bill is named in honor of Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, who died in 2020 from toxic exposure as a result of his military service in Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard.
Specifically, the Honoring Our PACT Act will:
- Expand VA health care to more than 3.5 million toxic-exposed post-9/11 combat veterans;
- Authorize 31 major medical facility leases and allocate $5.5 billion to fund those facilities—including a new outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads;
- Improve VA’s resources and training for toxic-exposed veterans;
- Create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure;
- Add 23 burn pit and toxic exposure-related conditions to VA’s list of service presumptions, including hypertension;
- Expand presumptions related to Agent Orange exposure and include Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Guam, American Samoa, and Johnston Atoll as locations for Agent Orange exposure;
- Strengthen federal research on toxic exposure; and
- Set VA and veterans up for success by investing in VA claims processing, the VA’s workforce, and VA health care facilities.
The bill will now head to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
Virginia is home to more than 700,000 veterans. Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported expanding health care and benefits for veterans exposed to toxins and burn pits during their service. The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), which Sens. Warner and Kaine voted to pass, included provisions to expand the VA’s list of medical conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure. Warner and Kaine also cosponsored legislation that was signed into law in 2019 to extend VA coverage to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange while stationed off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The bill also extended these benefits to servicemembers exposed to herbicides while serving in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and to children of servicemembers stationed in Thailand who were born with spina bifida.
In 2015, confronted with wait times in Hampton Roads that were three times the national average, Sen. Warner successfully urged the VA to send down a team of experts to address the problem. He also succeeded in getting the Northern Virginia Technology Council to issue a free report detailing how to reduce wait times. Most recently, in October 2020, Warner successfully saw through the signing of his legislation to expand veterans’ access to mental health services and reduce the alarming rate of veteran suicide. He’s also previously met with senior leadership at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center and Hampton VA Medical Center to discuss wait time reduction at their facilities and suicide prevention efforts.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Kaine has introduced the bipartisan Vet Support Act to provide better identification, intervention, and care to veterans coping with mental health issues in underserved areas. He also cosponsored legislation to allow doctors at the VA to prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in states like Virginia that have established medical marijuana programs.
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine Applaud Senate Confirmation of Elizabeth Haines for Eastern District of Virginia
Aug 02 2022
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after the Senate voted to confirm U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Hanes to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA):
“After recommending Judge Hanes for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, we are pleased that the Senate voted to confirm her today. With her previous experience and commitment to public service, we know she will serve our Commonwealth and country with great distinction.”
Last year, Sens. Warner and Kaine sent a letter to President Biden recommending Judge Hanes for the position following Judge John A. Gibney, Jr.’s decision to take senior status. President Biden announced her nomination on April 27, 2022. Judge Hanes has served as a Federal Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District since 2020.
Aug 01 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement after the death of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri:
“Al-Qaeda has been responsible for brutal attacks in not only the U.S., but Asia, Africa, and Europe. I commend the efforts of our intelligence officers and servicemembers for finally – 21 years after the horrific 9/11 attacks – bringing one of its last remaining leaders to justice.
“I applaud the tireless work of the intelligence community and the bravery of our military personnel in continuing to counter terrorism abroad. In my capacity as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I will keep working to support the IC’s counterterrorism efforts and keep Americans safe.”
Aug 01 2022
The 14-member caucus is bipartisan and evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans including Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Tina Smith (D-MN), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Mike Rounds (R-SD).
CDFIs play a critical role in providing responsible and affordable credit to underserved communities. During the pandemic, CDFIs demonstrated their ability to deliver billions of dollars to underserved businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), totaling approximately $34 billion.
On a bipartisan basis, Sen. Warner worked with Sen. Crapo, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and other colleagues to introduce the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, which passed as part of the December 2020 COVID relief package. The bill made a historic $12 billion investment in CDFIs and MDIs, which included $3 billion for grant funding and $9 billion for tier-one capital investments in CDFIs and MDIs, which could be leveraged 10 to 1.
“CDFIs and MDIs play an essential role in providing access to capital in underserved communities. 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 and compete in an era of rapid financial innovation. I am happy to announce the creation of this caucus with Sen. Crapo to improve communication between industry and policymakers and continue working in a bipartisan fashion towards robust investments in CDFIs and MDIs,” said Sen. Warner.
“I have consistently heard positive news and success stories about CDFIs in Idaho and across the country, and their responsiveness to the small business community, particularly during these last few challenging years of the pandemic,” said Sen. Crapo. “Sen. Warner and I are proud to launch this caucus to educate members and staff about the important role CDFIs play in their communities, and to create a forum to share ideas and policy proposals that foster strong economic growth in local communities.
The Community Development Finance Caucus has the support of a number of organizations and financial institutions.
“The National Bankers Association is proud to endorse the bipartisan U.S. Senate Community Development Finance Caucus, which will develop legislative efforts to support MDIs and CDFIs while providing direct lending opportunities. We commend Sen. Mark Warner for his leadership and commitment to ensuring MDIs have the resources to serve our nation's low- and moderate-income communities,” said Nicole Elam, President and CEO, National Bankers Association.
“The Community Development Bankers Association is excited about the formation of the Community Development Finance Caucus. The CDFI sector has emerged as a critical component of the financial services sector because it works to ensure access by underserved markets. Addressing growing income disparity, promoting racial equity, and building financial wellness are important national priorities and the need for the Caucus is great,” said Jeannine Jacokes, CEO of CDBA.
“Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) applauds the leadership of Sens. Mark Warner and Mike Crapo in launching the Community Development Finance Caucus. Providing affordable, mission-drive financing to underinvested communities is the special expertise that community development financial institutions (CDFIs) offer. The CDFI industry looks forward to working with the Community Development Finance Caucus on strengthening public sector understanding and support of CDFIs and the positive community development impact they have in low-wealth communities,” said Jennifer A. Vasiloff, Chief External Affairs Officer, Opportunity Finance Network.
“Inclusiv, the largest CDFI network representing near 500 community development credit unions providing responsible and sustainable financial products to over 18 million predominantly low income and minority consumers, expresses its strong support for the formalization of a congressional caucus that will be focusing on community development, financial inclusion and the economic revitalization of minority communities through CDFIs. This body will provide a platform to engage the CDFI industry and inform the development of public policy that’s both impactful and sustainable. We are grateful to Sens. Warner, Crapo, and all caucus members for spearheading this important initiative and call on other senators to lend their support,” said Cathie Mahon, President and CEO of Inclusiv.
“The African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC), is proud to partner and collaborate with INCLUSIV on ensuring that there is equitable financial futures for all people – especially the marginalized and underserved – usually the Colored Majority. A Community Development Finance Caucus would provide the appropriate forum for ideas and strategies to be discussed and executed,” said Renée Sattiewhite, President and CEO of the African American Credit Union Coalition.
“On behalf of the National Association of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals, we applaud Sens. Warner, Crapo, and all caucus members for leading the organizing of a CDFI Caucus that will give lawmakers a platform to support the critical work of CDFIs play in low income and communities of color as financial first responders and engines of economic revitalization. Our organization is in full support of this initiative and asks members of the Senate to support it as well,” said Maria Martinez, Board Chair, National Association of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals.
“The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) thanks Sens. Warner and Crapo for forming a Community Development Finance Caucus. Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are the backbone of this sector, providing capital, credit, and financial services in distressed communities and to underserved individuals throughout the country. CDFIs serve borrowers and geographic areas that are not readily served by mainstream financial institutions, providing loans to first-time homebuyers, financing for affordable housing and community facilities, and small business financing. The CDFI sector has grown significantly over the last 20 years, and this growth would not have been possible without bipartisan congressional support. LISC applauds Sens. Warner and Crapo for forming a Community Development Finance Caucus, which will focus on how Congress can continue to meet the needs of CDFIs and their work to serve underserved people and places,” said Matt Josephs, Senior Vice President for Policy, LISC.
“We applaud Sens. Warner and Crapo for their strategic and coordinated approach to strengthening CDFIs and MDIs and helping them reach their full potential. We stand ready to work with the Community Development Finance Caucus to leverage public-private partnerships to promote access to capital in areas served by these critically important institutions,” said Rob Nichols, President and CEO, American Bankers Association.
“CDFIs with proven records of serving underbanked people and communities of color are vital to an inclusive economy. The creation of the Caucus represents an important step in ensuring that America’s financial system works for everyone,” said Bill Bynum, Hope Credit Union CEO.
“The access to responsible, flexible capital that Community Development Financial Institutions provide has had a transformative impact in the Northern Rockies and across the country, helping those outside the financial mainstream gain self-sufficiency and improve the livelihoods of their families and communities. At MoFi, we’re greatly appreciative of efforts by Sens. Mark Warner, Mike Crapo, Steve Daines, Cynthia Lummis, and others to form the Community Development Finance Caucus. It will be an important bipartisan venue for sharing information, discussing legislation, and tracking programs as lawmakers work to remove barriers and promote access to capital for all underserved Americans,” said Dave Glaser, President of MoFi.
“The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) applauds Sens. Warner and Crapo for organizing the Community Development Finance Caucus. There are currently 144 Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) serving roughly 600 minority-majority communities nationwide. There are roughly 300 Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) banks, primarily serving low-to-moderate income markets and maintaining accountability to those target markets. Their impact in the communities they serve is significant and must be leveraged for greater reach. ICBA looks forward to working with the Community Development Finance Caucus to further support our long-standing commitment to MDIs and CDFIs,” said Rebeca Romero Rainey, President and CEO of ICBA.
"I would like to applaud the hard work from Sens. Crapo and Warner toward the development of the Community Development Finance Caucus. We are excited at the opportunity to have a caucus dedicated to the work and efforts of the many CDFI practitioners working on the ground every day,” said Ted Piccolo, Executive Director Northwest Native Development Fund, former Chair Native CDFI Network.
“On behalf of the Native CDFI Network (NCN), NCN applauds the bipartisan effort of Sens. Crapo and Warner to establish a Community Development Finance Caucus within the United States Senate. Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) have proven to be an irreplaceable mechanism for channeling critically needed capital into low- and moderate-income communities. This is especially true in Indian Country, where Native communities have long experienced substantially higher rates of poverty and unemployment than mainstream America. They also face a unique set of challenges to economic growth, such as: poor/lacking physical, legal, and telecommunications infrastructure; limited access to affordable financial products and services for consumers, aspiring homeowners, and would-be entrepreneurs; and limited workforce development strategies to support Native people’s full participation in their local economies. NCN looks forward to the opportunity to have a Caucus that supports the work of CDFI’s,” said Pete Upton, Interim Executive Director, Native CDFI Network.
“The CDFI Coalition supports the establishment of a CDFI Caucus and applauds the leadership of Sens. Warner and Crapo in establishing this bipartisan Caucus and thanks Sens. Smith, Klobuchar, Lummis, Van Hollen, Daines, Ossoff, Braun, Reed, Hyde-Smith, Warnock, Moran, and Rounds for joining. The establishment of a CDFI Caucus will bring attention to the important role that CDFIs play in revitalization in disadvantaged rural and urban communities across the country and build support for bipartisan future bipartisan initiatives,” said Ceyl Prinster, President and CEO, Colorado Enterprise Fund, Chair, CDFI Coalition.
Warner Joins Durbin, Warnock, Colleagues in Calling on Biden Administration to Increase the Rate of Refugee Admissions
Aug 01 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner today joined Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and 27 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in calling on the Biden Administration to work urgently to increase the rate of refugee admissions for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. In a letter to President Joe Biden, the Senators further urge the President to maintain or increase the target of 125,000 refugee admissions in FY 2023 and take meaningful steps to meet this target.
“According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a record high of more than 89.3 million people, 42 percent of whom are children, were displaced at the end of 2021. The displaced population includes 27.1 million refugees,” the senators wrote. “UNHCR estimates that in 2023 over two million refugees will need to be resettled. In our own region, Central America faces a growing refugee crisis, with more than 800,000 people who have sought refuge in neighboring nations or have been internally displaced… We urge your Administration to ensure that the United States scales up capacity to process refugees in these regions and across all nationalities with protection needs, particularly those who have been languishing in precarious situations awaiting resettlement, such as family reunification cases.”
Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States resettled an average of more than 80,000 refugees per year, until the Trump Administration slashed the refugee admissions ceiling each year it was in office, ending at an historic low of just 15,000 for FY 2021. These drastic cuts have hobbled the resettlement infrastructure in this nation and made it difficult to quickly rebuild the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The U.S. resettled 11,411 refugees last fiscal year, the lowest figure since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.
The senators continued, “We commend you for recommitting the United States to its historic role as a global leader in refugee resettlement by setting a ceiling of 125,000 for FY 2022. However, we are deeply concerned that as of June 30, 2022, the United States has only resettled 15,100 refugees this fiscal year. Despite the challenges of rebuilding the USRAP that your Administration inherited, we can and must do better. The dismantling of programs by the Trump Administration has hindered our efforts to resettle more refugees, and as such, your Administration must take the necessary steps to promptly ensure the United States has a robust, functioning, durable refugee resettlement system.”
The senators concluded, “The success of [Operation Allies Welcome] and Uniting for Ukraine have proven that, under your leadership, our country is fully capable of bringing vulnerable displaced people to safety in the United States when you commit the government to doing so. We urge you to expeditiously and safely admit all qualified refugees who are waiting to be resettled. Additionally, we urge you to set a robust target for USRAP in FY2023 as soon as possible and devote sufficient resources to meet this target.”
In addition to Warner, Durbin and Warnock, the letter was signed by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Angus King (I-ME), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tina Smith (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Coons (D-DE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
The full text of the letter to President Biden is available here and below.
Dear President Biden:
We respectfully ask that you work urgently to increase the rate of refugee admissions for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. Furthermore, we urge you to maintain or increase the target of 125,000 refugee admissions in FY 2023 and take meaningful steps to meet this target.
We applaud your Administration’s work to expeditiously bring to the United States 85,000 Afghan nationals, U.S. citizens, and lawful permanent residents through Operation Allies Welcome (OAW). Similarly, we commend your support for those displaced by Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine through the Uniting for Ukraine parole program, which has allowed Americans to welcome and support more than 20,000 people in just the first three months of its operation. The success of these initiatives demonstrates our government’s capacity to swiftly offer protection to vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a record high of more than 89.3 million people, 42 percent of whom are children, were displaced at the end of 2021. The displaced population includes 27.1 million refugees. UNHCR estimates that in 2023 over two million refugees will need to be resettled. In our own region, Central America faces a growing refugee crisis, with more than 800,000 people who have sought refuge in neighboring nations or have been internally displaced. Haiti is also facing a rapid decline in internal security and a compounding political, environmental, and humanitarian emergency. In West Africa, amidst an ongoing civil war, Cameroon is facing high levels of internal displacement, as well as receiving thousands of foreign refugees. These are just a few examples of the current refugee challenges around the world. We urge your Administration to ensure that the United States scales up capacity to process refugees in these regions and across all nationalities with protection needs, particularly those who have been languishing in precarious situations awaiting resettlement, such as family reunification cases.
Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, the United States resettled an average of more than 80,000 refugees per year, until the Trump Administration slashed the refugee admissions ceiling each year it was in office, ending at an historic low of just 15,000 for FY 2021. We understand that the Trump Administration’s drastic cuts to refugee admissions also hobbled the resettlement infrastructure in United States, with many refugee resettlement organizations closing offices and laying off employees.
Combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing vacancies resulting from a yearlong hiring freeze at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services imposed by the previous Administration, these cuts have made it difficult to quickly rebuild the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). Although you raised the refugee ceiling to 65,000 for FY 2021, the United States only resettled 11,411 refugees last fiscal year, the lowest figure since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980.
We commend you for recommitting the United States to its historic role as a global leader in refugee resettlement by setting a ceiling of 125,000 for FY 2022. However, we are deeply concerned that as of June 30, 2022, the United States has only resettled 15,100 refugees this fiscal year. Despite the challenges of rebuilding the USRAP that your Administration inherited, we can and must do better. The dismantling of programs by the Trump Administration has hindered our efforts to resettle more refugees, and as such, your Administration must take the necessary steps to promptly ensure the United States has a robust, functioning, durable refugee resettlement system.
It is imperative that your Administration continue to invest in the sustainability of the refugee resettlement program. We appreciate the steps that your Administration has taken this fiscal year to rebuild the overseas and domestic infrastructure to ready the USRAP for higher arrival numbers. However, more work needs to be done so that we can restore and expand our nation’s capacity to welcome the most vulnerable refugees from around the world.
The success of OAW and Uniting for Ukraine have proven that, under your leadership, our country is fully capable of bringing vulnerable displaced people to safety in the United States when you commit the government to doing so. We urge you to expeditiously and safely admit all qualified refugees who are waiting to be resettled. Additionally, we urge you to set a robust target for USRAP in FY2023 as soon as possible and devote sufficient resources to meet this target.
Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your response.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued a statement after the House of Representatives voted 243-187-1 to approve the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, a historic bill to incentivize domestic manufacturing of semiconductors and improve U.S. technological competitiveness:
“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. more than two years ago. 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 on a variety of goods both large and small.
“This bipartisan bill will lower costs for families, strengthen our national security, and create good-paying manufacturing jobs here in the United States. I am glad that after years of unnecessary delay, it is finally being sent to the President’s desk.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Warner spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate, urging his colleagues to pass the chips bill. Video of that speech is available for download here.
WASHINGTON – With Virginians increasingly concerned about violence and crime in their communities, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04) today announced $996,000 in federal funding allocated to Virginia Commonwealth University for gun violence prevention efforts in Richmond. The funding comes through the Department of Justice as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 Byrne Discretionary Grants Program and was secured through the appropriations process by the lawmakers in the FY2022 government spending bill.
Specifically, the funding will go towards hospital-based crisis intervention for families, friends, and survivors of violence; establishing a data-sharing network for information among law enforcement, health systems, social service providers, and other community partners; as well as evaluation and quality assurance to evaluate the effectiveness of these efforts.
“We need to do everything we can to combat the scourge of gun violence in our communities,” the lawmakers said. “We are proud to have secured funding for this program that will help save lives by implementing strong, evidence-based intervention methods to prevent crime.”
“We thank Senators Warner and Kaine and Representative McEachin for their continued support and commitment as we work with public agencies and community partners to tackle gun violence and other social determinants of health that continue to impact our communities,” said Art Kellermann, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences at VCU and CEO of VCU Health System. “Funding for the Richmond Gun Violence Prevention Framework will be instrumental in reducing the number of injuries related to violence treated in our hospital."
As part of FY2022 appropriations, Congress revived a process that allows members to make Congressionally Directed Spending requests, otherwise known as earmarks, in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. This process allows Congress to dedicate federal funding for specific projects. Through this process, Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. McEachin, were able to secure this dedicated funding for the VCU Health System to lead a collaborative gun violence prevention effort with the City of Richmond and other community stakeholders.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been active supporters of increased gun violence prevention measures. Last month, the senators voted in favor of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – landmark legislation to curb gun violence.
Warner & Kaine Successfully Include Virginia Priorities in Senate-Passed Bipartisan Water Infrastructure Bill
Jul 28 2022
WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner released the following statement applauding the Senate passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022, which includes key provisions to deepen and widen channels in and around Norfolk Harbor, improve Virginia’s coastal resiliency, and strengthen Virginia’s wastewater treatment infrastructure:
“High-quality water infrastructure—from easy access to clean drinking water to protection from rising sea levels—plays a vital role in the health, well-being, and future of Virginia communities. That’s why we always fight to include funding and support for the Commonwealth in the annual bipartisan water infrastructure bill, and this year was no exception. Today’s legislation will help us plan for much-needed dredging in the Norfolk Harbor, protect drinking water, and safeguard communities from rising sea levels. We’re going to keep working to get it signed into law as quickly as possible.”
The legislation will help repair aging drinking water, wastewater, and irrigation systems across America, and Warner and Kaine successfully fought to include the following priorities for Virginia:
- An increase in the authorization of the Western Lee County Sewer Project from $20 million to $52 million. This project—which will create new opportunities for economic growth—is needed to serve residents of Western Lee County who currently do not have access to a public wastewater collection or treatment system, which poses a threat to public health and the area’s surface water and groundwater quality. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $281,295 to complete design of the Western Lee County Sewer Project and $2.2 million to initiate construction of this project. Increasing this authorization will allow the Army Corps to fully budget and carry out this project—pending Congressional appropriations.
- A study to support needed modifications to Anchorage F of the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Deepening and Widening project for improved safety and navigation; and
- A change in policy to give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flexibility to incorporate federal installations of other federal agencies as part of a flood or Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) project sponsored by the Army Corps. This addresses longstanding challenges encountered during the Norfolk CSRM study phase, where Naval Station Norfolk and the NOAA Maritime Operations Center were excluded from the plan. Hampton Roads is home to at least 7 federal agencies and 17 installations that could benefit from this provision. The change comes after the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which resulted in $399.3 million in construction funding for Norfolk’s CSRM, and $1.5 million for Virginia Beach’s CSRM to cover the costs of a planning study. Senators Warner and Kaine have requested funding for a similar study for the City of Hampton and the surrounding area as a Congressional Directed Spending request to the Senate Committee on Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2023 spending bill.
The next step for the legislation is a conference committee between the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, before returning to each body for final votes.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced a total of $5,511,125 in federal funding from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration for regional airports in Virginia.
“This funding will support a series of important projects in different stages at regional airports throughout the Commonwealth,” the senators said. “These airports serve the transportation needs of thousands of Virginians every year and we are happy to see this funding go towards critical improvements.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $4,555,463 for Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise, VA for the final phase of rehabilitating runway lighting.
- $450,090 for Chesapeake Regional Airport in Chesapeake, VA for the removal of non-hazard obstructions in order to comply with FAA standards.
- $216,688 for Blue Ridge Airport in Martinsville, VA for the final phase of expanding the existing terminal apron to accommodate increased use.
- $178,200 for Freeman Field in Louisa County, VA for the construction of new taxiways.
- $110,684 for William M Tuck Airport in Halifax County, VA for replacing path indicators, end identifier lights, and runway lighting systems.
Last week, Sens. Warner and Kaine announced nearly $6 million for airports across the Commonwealth in addition to $50 million to Virginia airports apportioned earlier this month. The senators also announced nearly $400 million for Virginia airports secured through the bipartisan infrastructure law in November of last year.
WASHINGTON —Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement regarding the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, legislation that is expected to pass through the Senate’s budget reconciliation process next week:
“Lowering costs, expanding access to high-quality health care, and addressing climate change are priorities we’ve heard about from Virginians in every region of the Commonwealth. We look forward to voting on the Inflation Reduction Act so we can take meaningful steps toward those goals. We will continue to look for other opportunities to lower costs, like child care expenses, for Virginia families.”
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will fight inflation, reduce the deficit, invest in domestic energy production and manufacturing, and reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030. The bill will lower health care costs by finally allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and extend the expanded Affordable Care Act program for three years, through 2025. The legislation will require the largest corporations and wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes. There are no new taxes in this bill on families making $400,000 or less and no new taxes on small businesses.
A summary of the legislation is available here.
Warner & Kaine Announce Nearly $800,000 in Federal Funding to Help Virginians with Disabilities Access Housing in Albemarle, Chesapeake, and Fairfax County
Jul 27 2022
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $789,913 in federal funding to help Virginians with disabilities access housing. The funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Mainstream Voucher program, which is similar to other Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) but specifically assists non-elderly persons with disabilities between ages 18 to 62.
“Rents and home prices have skyrocketed, making it harder and harder for Virginians to find affordable housing,” said the senators. “We need to make sure all Virginians, especially those from vulnerable populations, have a safe place to live, and this funding is critical to doing that.”
A breakdown of the funding is below:
- $441,684 for the Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority
- $266,670 for the Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority
- $81,559 for the County of Albemarle/Office of Housing
Sen. Kaine began his career as a lawyer specializing in the representation of people who had been denied housing due to their race, disability, or family status, and has long worked alongside Sen. Warner to increase affordable housing in Virginia. Earlier this year, the senators announced nearly $115 million for affordable housing in Virginia. They’ve also introduced legislation that would address rising home prices, assist first-generation homebuyers, and close widening wealth and homeownership gaps.
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.