Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today requested additional funding for vital improvements to Interstate 81 (I-81) that would enhance safety and reduce traffic congestion.

In a pair of letters to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Senators emphasized I-81’s crucial role in commerce along the East Coast and stressed the need for federal dollars to tackle necessary repairs to the highway. The Senators also encouraged DOT to approve an application from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for federal grant funding to improve I-81, reduce congestion, and address safety problems along the route.

“While improvements have been made in past years to keep up with the growth, I-81 continues to experience heavy congestion and dangerous conditions, which have degraded the corridor,” the Senators wrote in the letter of support to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “The proposal put forth by VDOT will undoubtedly transform and improve the lives of many Virginians who travel the interstate every day. Furthermore, upgrades and repairs will improve the safety of those traveling through the Commonwealth.”

The Senators also encouraged the leaders of the EPW Committee to include robust funding for high-priority interstate improvement projects such as I-81 in the next surface transportation bill.

“As you continue to draft the surface transportation reauthorization bill, we urge you to include as much funding as possible for major, high priority interstate improvements projects such as I-81 in Virginia,” the Senators wrote to the Environment and Public Works Committee. “Robust funding through formula programs, as well as additional competitive grant programs like BUILD and INFRA, will be necessary to achieve funding goals for this, and other major projects that involve improvements to hundreds of miles of major interstate arteries.”

More than one-third of all trucks that drive through Virginia and approximately half of the Commonwealth’s value of goods are transported along I-81. In the last decade, I-81 has experienced significant traffic growth, with travel expected to continue increasing along the interstate. Increased I-81 traffic causes severe travel delays and puts travelers at risk, including the drivers involved in the more than 2,000 crashes that happen annually along the route.

A recent study by VDOT that found an unmet need of about $4 billion in improvements along the interstate – only half of which is expected to be covered by the increased truck registration fees and gas tax increases approved by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime advocates of robust financing for the Commonwealth’s infrastructure. In May, the Senators introduced legislation to provide critical safety reforms and strengthen oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and generate economic stimulus.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) will introduce the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that will require data harvesting companies such as social media platforms to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers, and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit.

“For years, social media companies have told consumers that their products are free to the user. But that’s not true – you are paying with your data instead of your wallet,” said Sen. Warner. “But the overall lack of transparency and disclosure in this market have made it impossible for users to know what they’re giving up, who else their data is being shared with, or what it’s worth to the platform. Our bipartisan bill will allow consumers to understand the true value of the data they are providing to the platforms, which will encourage competition and allow antitrust enforcers to identify potentially anticompetitive practices.”

“When a big tech company says its product is free, consumers are the ones being sold. These 'free' products track everything we do so tech companies can sell our information to the highest bidder and use it to target us with creepy ads,” said Sen. Hawley. “Even worse, tech companies do their best to hide how much consumer data is worth and to whom it is sold. This bipartisan legislation gives consumers control of their data and will show them how much these 'free' services actually cost.”

As user data increasingly represents one of the most valuable, albeit intangible, assets held by technology firms, shining light on how this data is collected, retained, monetized, and protected, is critical. The DASHBOARD Act will:

  • Require commercial data operators (defined as services with over 100 million monthly active users) to disclose types of data collected as well as regularly provide their users with an assessment of the value of that data.
  • Require commercial data operators to file an annual report on the aggregate value of user data they’ve collected, as well as contracts with third parties involving data collection.
  • Require commercial data operators to allow users to delete all, or individual fields, of data collected – and disclose to users all the ways in which their data is being used. including any uses not directly related to the online service for which the data was originally collected.
  • Empower the SEC to develop methodologies for calculating data value, while encouraging the agency to facilitate flexibility to enable businesses to adopt methodologies that reflect the different uses, sectors, and business models.

The DASHBOARD Act is the second tech-focused bill Hawley and Warner have partnered on. The first was Hawley’s Do Not Track Act, which would be modeled after the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) “Do Not Call” list and allow users to opt out of non-essential data collection.

A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here. Bill text is available here.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Committee on the Budget and a leading Democratic voice when it comes to matters of debt and deficit reduction, on Friday urged the Trump Administration to back off a proposal that would change how the government calculates the federal poverty line and result in cuts to safety-net programs like Head Start, Medicaid, food stamps, and more.

Last month, the Trump Administration signaled it was considering changing the inflation rate used to calculate the federal poverty line, which is used to determine eligibility for a wide array of health and nutrition programs, including Medicaid, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the National School Lunch Program. In a “solicitation of comments,” the Office of Management and Budget contemplates shifting from the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), to the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCEPI), to calculate inflation and cost-of-living adjustments –  a switch that will, over time, shrink the number of Americans eligible for these congressionally-mandated programs.

“OMB’s notice came as a surprise to many given evidence that the current inflation index may not do enough to account for the expenses that dominate lower-income households’ spending or accurately reflect changes in the costs of meeting basic needs,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to OMB’s chief statistician. “That official estimates of minimum living costs regularly exceed the poverty line by a significant margin only casts more doubt on the prudence and rationale of OMB’s notice.”

Sen. Warner cautioned that using chained CPI to calculate the official poverty measure would force the most vulnerable families to exclusively shoulder the financial burden of any savings that may be realized.

“Prior efforts to seriously address the deficit—including the bipartisan Senate Gang of Six, of which I was a member—recommended using chained CPI when indexing various federal benefit programs. However, it did so only as part of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan that included additional tax revenue, provided important benefit improvements for programs that serve our most vulnerable, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and included measures to mitigate the impact on beneficiaries of means-tested programs,” concluded Sen. Warner. “This is the opposite of the OMB proposal, which would put the burden of deficit reduction on large numbers of low-income people who would lose eligibility for, or receive less help from, life-saving programs—and comes on the heels of the $1.65 trillion in decreased revenues implemented by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Accordingly, I strongly urge you to abandon consideration of this or any substantially similar proposal.”

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

 

Dr. Nancy Potok, Chief Statistician

Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street NW

Washington, DC 20006

 

Dear Dr. Potok:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) notice regarding differences among various consumer price indexes and their influence on the estimation of the official poverty measure.

As you know, the OMB notice contemplates lowering the poverty line by applying a smaller cost-of-living adjustment each year, using either the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCEPI) in place of the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). OMB’s notice came as a surprise to many given evidence that the current inflation index may not do enough to account for the expenses that dominate lower-income households’ spending or accurately reflect changes in the costs of meeting basic needs. That official estimates of minimum living costs regularly exceed the poverty line by a significant margin only casts more doubt on the prudence and rationale of OMB’s notice.

Further, it would be wholly unacceptable to implement such a change without Congress’ approval. Congress has passed many pieces of legislation over the last several decades related to Medicaid, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the National School Lunch Program under the assumption that the poverty line would continue to be calculated under the current methodology. For example, Congress has based its decisions on Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyses of how legislation would affect federal costs, the number of people with health insurance coverage, and other outcomes. CBO’s analyses assumed that the current poverty line methodology would remain in place. If the Administration were to move ahead, it would be setting federal program eligibility limits in these programs below the levels that Congress intended to set. 

Moreover, the OMB proposal asks those who can least afford it to exclusively shoulder the financial burden of any savings that may be realized. Prior efforts to seriously address the deficit—including the bipartisan Senate Gang of Six, of which I was a member—recommended using chained CPI when indexing various federal benefit programs. However, it did so only as part of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan that included additional tax revenue, provided important benefit improvements for programs that serve our most vulnerable, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and included measures to mitigate the impact on beneficiaries of means-tested programs. This is the opposite of the OMB proposal, which would put the burden of deficit reduction on large numbers of low-income people who would lose eligibility for, or receive less help from, life-saving programs—and comes on the heels of the $1.65 trillion in decreased revenues implemented by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Accordingly, I strongly urge you to abandon consideration of this or any substantially similar proposal.

Thank you for your willingness to consider my comments. If you would like any additional information, please contact Lauren Marshall on my staff at Lauren_Marshall@warner.senate.gov or (202) 224-2023.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released a statement after attending a White House briefing on Iran:

“Iran’s provocation must be taken very seriously. No nation can be permitted to strike U.S. assets in international airspace without consequences. However, we also need to ensure that any response to Iran’s destabilizing behavior is part of a coherent strategy, and that we take care not to escalate an already-volatile situation in the Middle East.

“America’s position is strengthened when we have allies standing with us. As the U.S. weighs an appropriate response, the President must work with our allies and continue to consult broadly with Congress.”

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s decision to scrap plans to transfer Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Department of Labor (DOL) and close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers – including the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn, a top performing center: 

“Job training facilities like Flatwoods are critical to prepare Virginians for success in our economy. It’s welcome news that following our bipartisan calls for the Trump Administration to reverse course on their misguided proposal, they listened and will keep the Flatwoods facility open. We are thrilled that Flatwoods will be able to keep expanding economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia.”

Following the initial USDA and DOL announcement that the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn and eight other Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers were scheduled to close as part of the program’s transfer from USDA to DOL, Senators Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to prevent the Trump Administration from closing these facilities. The bipartisan Job Corps Protection Act would block the Administration from using federal government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States. The Senators also joined Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) in writing a letter urging DOL and USDA to reconsider the closure of these facilities. Separately, Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 Senators and 33 Representatives in pushing USDA and DOL to reverse their decision to end the Civilian Conservation Center program in its current form and shutter nine facilities across the nation.

###

 


WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) met in Sen. Kaine’s office in Washington, D.C. with a delegation representing Lee County Hospital. The meeting included representatives from the Lee County Hospital Authority, the Virginia Department of Health, and Ballad Health, who spoke with the members of Congress about next steps in the process of reopening the Lee County Hospital.

“Folks in Lee County and in rural communities across Virginia deserve to have access to the health care services they need,” said the members of Congress. “Rural hospitals face unique challenges, but in our meeting, the delegation from Lee County laid out a plan for how we can get this done. We are cautiously optimistic that this six-year effort is reaching the finish line and we plan to do everything in our power at the federal level to get the Lee County Hospital reopened next year.”

In 2013, the Lee County hospital – then known as the Lee County Regional Medical Center – closed abruptly, leaving the county without access to a nearby hospital. This closure hurt economic development in the area and affected public safety, as patients were forced to wait longer for medical care, and community sheriffs and fire squads spent valuable time escorting individuals across county and state lines to other hospitals.

In February of 2019, Lee County Hospital Authority chose Ballad Health as a partner and announced its intent to reopen the hospital, which will focus on treating chronic problems as well as providing much-needed emergency medical care and other typical hospital services. It will also provide a line of ancillary services to meet various community needs.

Last July, Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Griffith, met with the Lee County Hospital Authority and key stakeholders to facilitate the reopening of the hospital. Additionally, earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced legislation that would benefit hospitals in medically underserved areas like Lee County, where patients are more likely to be uninsured and hospitals have struggled to stay afloat financially. The States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act of 2019 would allow states that expanded Medicaid after 2014 to receive the same level of federal matching funds as states that expanded earlier, and according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, it would save Virginia’s hospitals an estimated $300 million per year in the first three years of implementation.

###

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced legislation to improve coordination of veteran mental health and suicide prevention services and to better measure the effectiveness of these programs in order to reduce the alarming number of veteran suicides.

 The IMPROVE (Incorporating Measurements and Providing Resources for Outreach to Veterans Everywhere) Wellbeing for Veterans Act creates a new grant program to enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct additional outreach through veteran-serving non-profits in addition to state and local organizations.

“Congress has provided significant resources to the VA to decrease veteran suicides, yet the number of veterans who take their own lives everyday remains unchanged,” Boozman said. “We all share the goal of saving the lives of veterans. We must have better coordination of existing programs; a common tool to measure the effectiveness of our programs; and better information sharing, data collection and continual feedback in order to identify what services are having the most impact. Creating a framework for these necessary pieces is essential to empowering organizations to work together in the fight against veteran suicide.”  

“Of the 20 veterans who commit suicide every day in this country, roughly 14 of them don’t receive treatment from the VA,” said Warner. “This legislation will target that group by providing grant funding to private organizations with a proven track record of strong mental health and suicide prevention efforts among veterans. It’s my hope that broad coordination between the VA, state veterans affairs departments, first responders, and local leaders, will allow us to support more at-risk veterans and make a meaningful impact on reducing veteran suicide rates in this country.”

In Fiscal Year 2010, the VA requested $62 million for suicide prevention outreach. In Fiscal Year 2020, that number nearly quadrupled to $222 million. Despite the sharp increase in funding, the rate of veterans suicides has remained roughly unchanged at 20 per day. Only six of those 20 veterans are receiving healthcare services at the VA. This points to a significant need to empower the VA to work through community partners to expand outreach. At the same time, national data indicates there are more than 50,000 organizations that provide suicide prevention services for veterans, yet they are hard for veterans to find, access, apply for and use. 

To date, policymakers have assessed capacity and access to services as a measurement for effectiveness. Despite significant capacity increases, the rate of veterans suicides remains the same. There are no shared tools to measure the effectiveness of programming at improving mental resiliency and outlook, which would be indicators of reduced suicide risk.

To address these programmatic gaps, the IMPROVE Wellbeing for Veterans Act will accomplish three broad objectives:

  • Enable the VA to directly or indirectly reach more veterans than it currently does.
  • Increase coordination among currently disparate community resources that serve a wide variety of veteran needs – all of which play a part in reducing the purposelessness that ends in suicide.
  • Create and inspire broad adoption of a measurement tool that will indicate effectiveness of services provided for veterans suicide prevention.

Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) are original cosponsors of the legislation.

###

WASHINGTON – Today the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced bipartisan legislation written by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), co-founders of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, to improve the cybersecurity of Internet-connected devices. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 would require that devices purchased by the U.S. government meet certain minimum security requirements. The bill now awaits consideration in the full Senate.

“While I’m excited about their life-changing potential, many IoT devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place, with the device market prioritizing convenience and price over security,” said Sen. Warner, a former technology entrepreneur and executive and Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Today the Committee took an important step forward to proactively address the risks posed by improperly secured IoT devices, by using the purchasing power of the federal government to establish some minimum security standards for IoT devices.”

“I was pleased to see further action in the Senate on this important bill and I look forward to it being swiftly signed into law. The Internet of Things (IoT) landscape continues to expand, with most experts expecting tens of billions of devices to be operating on our networks within the next several years,” said Sen. Gardner. “As these devices continue to transform our society and add countless new entry points into our networks, we need to make sure they are secure, particularly when they are integrated into the federal government’s networks. Agencies like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has a major campus in Boulder, are key players in helping establish guidelines for improved IoT security and our bill builds on those efforts.”

Last week, the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform advanced companion legislation sponsored by Reps. Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Will Hurd (R-TX).

“This is an essential and bipartisan step toward improving our cybersecurity. We simply cannot allow IoT devices to become a backdoor for hackers and cybercriminals,” said Rep. Kelly. With the House and Senate taking action, Congress is signaling that it’s past time to address the issue of unsecure devices on federal networks.”  

“Every single minute of every single day, hackers are trying to steal Americans’ information. From credit card numbers, to social security numbers, our personal information is targeted by bad actors around the globe. Internet of Things devices will improve and enhance nearly every aspect of our society, economy and everyday lives – and are growing rapidly. We must act now to ensure these devices are built with security in mind, not as an afterthought,” said Rep. Hurd. “I applaud Sens. Warner and Gardner for their hard work on moving this important, bipartisan cybersecurity bill forward in the Senate, and I’ll continue to work with Rep. Kelly and my colleagues in the House to bring this bill to the House floor.”

Specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 as passed out of Committee today would:

  • Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue recommendations addressing, at a minimum, secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management for IoT devices.
  • Direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency that are consistent with the NIST recommendations, and charge OMB with reviewing these policies at least every five years.
  • Require any Internet-connected devices purchased by the federal government to comply with those recommendations.
  • Direct NIST to work with cybersecurity researchers, industry experts, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to publish guidance on coordinated vulnerability disclosure to ensure that vulnerabilities related to agency devices are addressed.
  • Require contractors and vendors providing information systems to the U.S. government to adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that can be effectively shared with a vendor for remediation.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has introduced an amendment to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require presidential campaigns to report foreign interference in U.S. elections. The amendment introduction follows Sen. Warner’s attempt last week to pass the legislation by unanimous consent, which was blocked by Senate Republicans.

“Protecting our democracy is a national security issue,” said Sen. Warner. “President Trump’s own FBI Director and Director of National Intelligence have warned that the Russians – and others – will be back in 2020. Then last week, President Trump, sitting in the Oval Office, rolled out the welcome mat for Russia, China or any of our other adversaries to interfere in the 2020 election. So let’s be extra-clear: if a foreign country contacts you to interfere in a U.S. election, you don’t say ‘thank you’ – you call the FBI.”

Sen. Warner originally introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act last month. The proposed NDAA amendment, based on the FIRE Act, would require presidential campaigns to disclose attempts at foreign elections interference to the appropriate federal authorities at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  

This amendment requires presidential campaigns to report only contacts with foreign nationals offering explicit assistance that is already forbidden under existing law, or offers to collaborate or coordinate with a foreign government or agent thereof. Routine contacts with foreign nationals, including meetings on official government business, personal conversations, contact with journalists, or contact with non-citizens expressing political views, including conversations with DREAMers, would continue to be exempt from any reporting requirements.  

The amendment has been co-sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

###

 

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Go To High School, Go To College Act, which will make college more affordable for low-income students by letting them earn college credits while still in high school, funded through the Pell Grant program. The legislation will create the College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program, which will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment. Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) are leading the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Cost alone shouldn’t deter motivated young people who are willing to work hard and get an early start on their postsecondary education," said Warner. “This legislation will provide an essential resource for low-income students for whom college or a competitive start in the workforce might otherwise seem out of reach.”

“The average cost of college tuition and fees at national universities continues to skyrocket,” Portman said. “For high school students from low-income households, that can make college feel out of reach. Our legislation will let these students get a head start on college, make it more affordable for them and their families, and help them live out their God-given potential.”

“What’s always been important is now imperative: the rising cost of college and our nation’s need for a skilled workforce mandate that all students can engage in early and affordable pathways to high-quality credential and degree programs,” said Joel Vargas, JFF vice president. “JFF applauds the Go to High School, Go to College Act for its innovative approach to expanding equitable access to high-quality dual enrollment programs that have continually proven to enable more low-income students to earn college credit while in high school. We are also pleased that a robust evaluation is included, which will ensure policymakers and practitioners can learn from the program’s results. This effort will expand access to dual enrollment programs, reduce the time and cost of earning a college credential, and improve educational outcomes while strengthening our economies and communities.”

“College in High School programs, such as dual and concurrent enrollment, engage a wide variety of students in an equivalent variety of courses. Dual enrollment programs are not just for the academically élite, although they certainly thrive here, but inclusive of aspiring welders, pilots, carpenters, nurses, engineers, database architects, and entrepreneurs: all students and all courses,” said Amy Williams, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. “Students in these programs find early access to and success in college, helping them advance to college with focus and direction. The data show that students participating in these programs are more likely to go to college, to persist in their studies, and complete a degree or credential in a timely manner. This is a high-value program that benefits educators, students, families, employers, and the American education system as a whole, yet access and affordability are still fundamental barriers to participation. The Go to High School, Go to College Act creates an innovative space to support students early exposure to a successful future through affordable access to postsecondary education and training. NACEP, the nation's leading organization working to advance quality college courses for high school students by supporting programs, practitioners, and policy. We enthusiastically support this legislation as an important step to address higher education access and affordability for all Americans.”

“At KnowledgeWorks, we’ve seen the power of early college firsthand as students who are the first in their family to go to college get a jump start on their dreams with a high school diploma and an associate degree. While a university president, I saw how dual enrollment could reduce the cost of college, reduce the time to a degree and significantly reduce student loan debt. The Go to High School, Go to College Act can provide a multiplying effect to students and their families on the basis of costs and an opportunity for institutions to provide innovative opportunities to accelerate degrees. This bill has the potential to make the opportunity of college real for many more students and the dream of a degree a reality,” said KnowledgeWorks President and CEO, Chuck Ambrose, EdD.

“Students in middle/early college programs are guided through post-secondary degree earning pathways while in high school,” said Dr. Cece Cunningham, Executive Director of the Middle College National Consortium. “Our average student completes over 20 credits prior to high school graduation, and many graduate with an associates degree. The support from the Go to High School Go to College Act is a tremendous opportunity for our first-generation low-income students.”

“Research and experience demonstrate that students who have the opportunity to earn college credits and degrees while still in high school are significantly more likely to enroll in and complete postsecondary education,” said Clara Botstein, Associate Vice President at Bard Early Colleges. “Early college high school is an effective, powerful free college approach, but access is currently far too limited. The Go to High School, Go to College Act will allow many more low-income students to access high-quality early college opportunities, increasing postsecondary completion nationwide.”

“In today’s economy, postsecondary education is not a luxury, it’s a requirement. Too often, however, students’ pathways through college are thwarted by mounting debt. Thus, a significant challenge is how to increase access to college while decreasing student debt? While it doesn’t require a silver bullet, it will take a smart policy. The Go to High School, Go to College Act is exactly that. It offers an opportunity for underserved students to earn college credit while in high school, at no cost to them,” said Deb Delisle, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Given that students with early college experiences are five to seven times more likely to earn a postsecondary credential, the evidence shows that this type of solution works.  There is no question that it must be included in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

NOTE: The Go to High School, Go to College Act will authorize a pilot program for 250 institutions of higher education to allow high school students participating in dual enrollment programs offered by that institution the opportunity to apply for Pell grant funding to earn transferable college credits, including core general education requirements. The proposed College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment in two important ways:

  • Students will have the opportunity to earn up to two semesters worth of college credit before drawing down from their 12 semester Pell Grant limit, ensuring that students participating in dual enrollment programs are not penalized financially.
  • The pilot program includes a robust evaluation mechanism, which the current experimental site lacks.

In addition, the pilot program retains and builds upon other student protections and quality assurance mechanisms in the existing experimental site, including ensuring that students have credit transfer options available to them for college credit earned in a dual enrollment program beyond just the issuing institution of higher education.

###

WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) today called on federal investigators to improve transparency surrounding their review of the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police in 2017. In letters to the FBI and National Park Service, the senators are requesting an update of the investigation as well as the U.S. Park Police’s policies regarding the use of force.

In the letter to the FBI, the senators expressed frustration that previous inquiries have been ignored. The lack of transparency and cooperation have forced Ghaisar’s family to seek information via Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain basic details about a shooting that occurred 19 months ago.

“The FBI has failed to provide information on this investigation, which has been ongoing since November 2017, to us, our colleagues, or the public.  The FBI’s slow pace and lack of transparency are weakening the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” the senators wrote to the FBI.

Grassley first sought information on the FBI’s investigation in December of 2018. The FBI responded without providing much information in March. Grassley again sought an update in March, but the FBI has failed to respond.

In the letter to the National Park Service, the senators pushed for additional transparency and cooperation to promote and improve the trust and accountability necessary for law enforcement to effectively serve their communities.

“As you know, our communities are safer when law enforcement and the people they protect can trust and hold each other accountable. Officer-involved shootings and the use of excessive force, which have led to criminal investigations and prosecutions, demonstrate that there is still work to do in order to strengthen police-community relations,’ the senators wrote to the National Park Service.

In January 2018, Warner, along with Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Representative Don Beyer (D-Va.), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of the FBI’s investigation into the Ghaisar shooting. That April, the FBI responded that it would not discuss an active investigation. Warner has also pressed the National Park Service regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar, and has met with leaders from both the National Park Service and the FBI to encourage full transparency regarding this incident.

Grassley and Warner’s letter to the FBI is available HERE. Their letter to the National Park Service is available HERE.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has introduced several amendments to the annual defense authorization bill, including one that would build on his legislation, Ensuring Safe Housing for Our Military Act, most of which was included in the base text, by adding additional measures to improve privatized military housing.

Following reports of health hazards in privatized military housing in bases across the Commonwealth and the country, Sen. Warner has advocated on behalf of servicemembers and their families, and recently introduced an amendment to establish an advisory group to help the Department of Defense strengthen accountability and oversight in military housing. The amendment was offered in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the legislative vehicle that provides support for our servicemembers and sets the national security priorities for the United States.

“Servicemembers and their families sacrifice so much for this country. That’s why we’ve got to make things right for military families who, too often, have been subjected to subpar and sometimes dangerous living conditions. This includes making sure that the health and well-being of our nation’s servicemembers and their families are part of our national security priorities,” said Sen. Warner.

The amendment would also require the Secretaries of the Navy, Air Force, and Army to issue standard mold assessments, remediation’s and procedures in their agreements with privatized housing companies. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined Sen. Warner in introducing the amendment, which comes on the heels of Sen. Warner’s letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish an advisory group to address the prevalent health and environmental hazards in privatized military housing.

To protect U.S. innovation and combat technology threats, Sen. Warner filed a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to establish an Office of Critical Technologies within the Executive Office of the President. The office would be responsible for coordinating a whole-of-government approach to protect the U.S. from state-sponsored technology theft and risks to critical supply chains. The amendment is based on the bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Warner and Rubio that would combat technology threats from China. Sen. Warner also introduced a bipartisan amendment with Sen. Crapo to strengthen the intelligence support to protect our supply chain from growing adversary threats.

“In the 20th century, the U.S. pioneered many groundbreaking technological advancements, and today, countries like China are using every tool in their arsenal to try to diminish U.S. leadership, set the standards for technologies like 5G, and dominate key technologies. In order to confront this challenge, the United States must push forward a coherent strategy to protect our technological edge and preserve American leadership,” continued Sen. Warner.

In a move to further defend national security and respond to emerging cyber-threats, Sen. Warner also introduced a series of amendments that would revamp the security clearance process, assess cyber threat detection and encourage the DoD to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to identify new spectrum for reallocation for 5G services.

“To ensure the U.S. can hire trusted professionals to tackle the emerging threats in cyber and technology, we must modernize our outdated security clearance system. While we’ve already seen an encouraging drop in individuals waiting on a background check, there is still more work to be done,” concluded Sen. Warner. 

The security clearance reform language is based on legislation introduced by Vice Chair Warner, and unanimously approved in the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Years 2018-2020. Text for the cyber threat assessment amendment can be found here.

Sen. Warner also introduced amendments to improve the quality in information submitted in background investigation requests, ensure DoD has the funding flexibility to perform the personnel vetting mission, and ensure the new Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency adequately protects the millions of pieces of personally identifiable information it will hold as the government’s primary investigative service provider.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Marco Rubio (R-FL), member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed deep concern that the Trump Administration may concede on important national security matters related to the development of fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technology (5G) in order to achieve a favorable outcome on trade negotiations. In a letter to the U.S. Department of State and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Senators underscored the threats posed by Chinese telecommunications equipment to network security, data privacy, and economic security across the globe, and emphasized the need to keep trade negotiations separate from any changes in policy concerning national security threats posed by Huawei.

“Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security,” the Senators wrote. “In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings.”

Sens. Warner and Rubio reiterated their support for existing U.S. efforts to convey the long-term security risks posed by Chinese telecommunications firms to allies and partners abroad. However, the Senators expressed concern that this message is being undermined by President Trump, whose Administration reversed a seven-year ban on ZTE last year in defiance of a Commerce Department recommendation, and who in late May indicated that Huawei could be included in a future trade deal. In the letter, the Senators also emphasized that any modifications of Huawei’s Temporary General License must be pursued in a risk-based way, separate from trade negotiations, and without undermining national security.  

As a former telecommunications executive who introduced bipartisan legislation on 5G, Sen. Warner continues to be a leading voice on the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. In December, Sens. Warner and Rubio urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in Canada’s fifth-generation network. In January, Sens. Warner and Rubio teamed up to introduce legislation to combat tech-specific, national security threats posed by foreign actors like China, and establish a whole-of-government strategy to protect the U.S. from technology theft. Additionally, Sen. Warner led legislation with Sen. Wicker to provide $700 million for rural telecommunications providers in order to offset the costs of removing equipment from vendors that pose a security threat, such as Huawei.

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

June 13, 2019
 
Secretary Michael Pompeo
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
 
Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
 

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer:

We are writing to express our deep concern that the Administration may concede on important national security matters related to Huawei Technologies, Inc. and the adoption of fifth-generation wireless telecommunications technology (5G) in order to achieve a favorable outcome in the Administration’s trade negotiations.

As Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), we have strongly supported efforts by our diplomats, military, and intelligence personnel to persuade allies and partners around the world that Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications firms present a long-term legitimate security threat to their network security, data privacy, and economic security.  As you know, Chinese telecommunications equipment poses a threat that intelligence and military officials assess will only become more acute as energy infrastructure, transportation networks and other critical functions move to 5G networks and as millions more Internet of things (IoT) devices are connected.

Despite the best efforts of our government to convince other countries to keep Huawei components out of their 5G infrastructure, our message is being undermined by concerns that we are not sincere.  For example, Europeans have publicly expressed fears that the Administration will soften its position on Huawei in the United States to gain leverage in trade talks, as the Administration did in June 2018 when the seven-year ban on ZTE was reversed and a new settlement agreement reached at the urging of President Xi over the recommendation of Commerce Department leadership.  The President himself reinforced these fears in late May, stating:

“Huawei is something that’s very dangerous.  You look at what they’ve done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint.  It’s very dangerous.  So it’s possible that Huawei even would be included in some kind of a trade deal.  If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form of or some part of a trade deal.”

Allowing the use of Huawei equipment in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is harmful to our national security.  In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings. Any modifications to Huawei’s Temporary General License must be pursued in a risk-based way, separate from any trade negotiations, and consistent with national security considerations. Successfully identifying and mitigating these security risks requires sustained coordination and alignment with our international partners, particularly the Europeans who represent key parts of the 5G supply chain, and India, which is poised to be the single-largest telecommunications market. Conflating national security concerns with levers in trade negotiations undermines this effort, and endangers American security.

We appreciate your attention to this important matter of national security and request that you keep us apprised of your efforts.

Sincerely,

 ###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, took to the Senate floor today to request immediate passage of a modified version of his Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act that would require campaigns to report to the appropriate federal authorities any contacts from foreign nationals seeking to interfere in a presidential election. Immediately after Sen. Warner requested unanimous consent, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) objected and thereby blocked the immediate passage of this essential legislation.

Sen. Warner’s request comes on the heels of alarming comments by President Trump, who said on Wednesday that he would not alert the FBI if a foreign government tried to offer damaging information on his 2020 election opponents.

“President Trump's own FBI director and his Director of National Intelligence have said that Russia, or others, will likely be back in 2020 because their tactics in 2016 were both cheap and effective. We're now 17 months before the 2020 elections and personally, we are not prepared,” Sen. Warner said on the floor. “One of my colleagues on the other side said they don't want to re-litigate 2016. There will be other times and places to further litigate whatever happened in 2016. In terms of today, I don't want to either. I just want to make sure that we are safe from foreign intervention in 2020.”

He continued, “The mantra at our airports that the TSA and Homeland Security always try to promote is, ‘if you see something, say something.’ This is not an undue burden on our traveling public, and because of that involvement, I think airports are safer. Shouldn't we have the same de minimis standard to protect the integrity of our election system? If you see something, say something. All my legislation is requiring is if there is indications that agents of foreign governments are trying to intervene in our elections, tell law enforcement, tell the FBI.”

Sen. Warner also stressed that his legislation would not interfere with any official government activities, and urged his colleagues to work together to pass bipartisan election security legislation and to put guardrails on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google to prevent them from being used by bad actors for the widespread dissemination of misinformation.

 

Below are Sen. Warner’s floor remarks as originally prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, in a moment I will ask unanimous consent for the Senate to take up and pass by bill, the FIRE Act, S.1562, as amended. But before I do that, I want to address the President’s recent comments regarding foreign election interference.

We all take an oath when we get sworn into these jobs to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign or domestic. Our own political ambitions, our partisan affiliations — that all should take a back seat to defending our democracy.

Unfortunately, this President doesn’t see it that way. His recent comments that he would once again welcome dirt on an opponent from a foreign government fly in the face of that oath.

Let me be clear. If a foreign adversary attempts to offer assistance to your campaign, you have a moral obligation to call the FBI.

And if the President, or his son-in-law, or other members of his campaign can't be trusted to do the right thing and report their foreign contacts, then we need to make it a legal requirement. That’s what this amendment is all about.

Mr. President, I am not here to re-litigate the 2016 election or second-guess the Special Counsel’s findings. This is a question of how we defend our democracy on a going-forward basis.

But I do want to recall the facts of what we learned through the Mueller investigation, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan investigation.

After two years of investigating, we now know that the Trump Campaign had a series of inappropriate and unreported contacts with the Russian government and its proxies, who were part of the Kremlin’s election interference efforts.

This should have come to light far sooner, but the Trump Campaign intentionally hid these contacts from the American people and law enforcement.

Another thing we learned through the investigation is that when then-candidate Trump made his infamous “Russia, if you’re listening” plea — on that very same day, Russian operatives began sending illegal phishing emails to members of his opponent’s campaign.

Mr. Trump’s comments this week are not trivial. These are the words of the President of the United States, spoken in the Oval Office. That still means something to the world.

And frankly, what it means here is that this President is once again giving Russia and other bad actors the greenlight to interfere in the 2020 elections.

This sends a message to the American people and foreign governments that this conduct is acceptable. Not only is this morally wrong, it also undermines the crucial counterintelligence work of our federal law enforcement agencies.

Recently, FBI Director Chris Wray testified that such attempts to offer assistance or “dirt” would be “something that the FBI would want to know about.”

He’s right. Because, the truth is, when a foreign adversary like Russia is peddling dirt on an American candidate, they are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re trying to undermine our democracy, and the FBI is our first line of defense against that threat.

Mr. President, that is what this amendment is about — safeguarding our democracy from those who wish us harm. I ask my colleagues to take a step back, take off our Republican and Democratic hats for a minute, and support this amendment.

My bill, the FIRE Act — creates a first-of-its-kind requirement to make sure that foreign contacts during a presidential election are promptly reported to the FBI and FEC.

It would serve a vital intelligence need and make sure that all individuals involved in a presidential campaign understand both the existing law on foreign contributions and their affirmative obligation to report suspicious foreign contacts.  

The FIRE Act is not about prohibiting innocent contacts or the exercise of First Amendment rights. It is about restoring Americans’ trust in the democratic process. 

If a candidate is receiving or welcoming help from the Kremlin, I think the American people should have a right to know that before they head to the polls.

And in a world where campaigns are a target for foreign espionage, I think our law enforcement and counter-intelligence professionals should have the tools they need to protect the integrity of our presidential elections.

The Senate must take a stand against foreign attacks on the democratic process.  This is not a Republican or Democratic issue; it is an issue of America’s national security.

And I hope the Senate can come together at this moment to send a clear message that we will defend our Democracy, even if this President won’t.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to relocate two research agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City.

“USDA’s proposed relocation of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture will unnecessarily uproot hundreds of dedicated federal employees and could negatively impact the missions of both agencies,” the Senators said. “These agencies play a critical role in setting agricultural, nutritional, and environmental policy in the U.S. Disconnecting them from other vital research agencies in the National Capital Region will undoubtedly disrupt the work they carry out and impact their ability to attract and retain highly-qualified personnel. We have introduced legislation to block this ill-conceived move and will continue to work with our colleagues to keep these agencies in the National Capital Region.”

 In May, Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with other members of Congress representing the National Capital Region, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging him not to relocate ERS and NIFA. The Senators have also introduced legislation barring the research agencies from leaving the National Capital Region. In addition, Sen. Warner has placed a hold on nominee Scott Hutchins for Undersecretary for research, education, and economics at the Department of Agriculture in opposition to the proposed relocation.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate unanimously passed legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine to honor the victims of the Virginia Beach shooting, as well as the first responders and city officials who have supported the Virginia Beach community in the wake of this tragedy.

“We’re grateful the Senate has passed this resolution to honor the lives of the 12 victims of the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach. We will continue to mourn this immense loss but we must turn our pain into action and enact commonsense reforms to reduce gun violence in our communities,” the Senators said.

U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (VA-02) led the entire bipartisan Virginia delegation in introducing a companion resolution in the House.

 ###

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine introduced a resolution honoring the 12 victims of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, as well as the brave first responders, city officials, and the entire Virginia Beach community.

“Compassion and strength are the qualities the community of Virginia Beach has demonstrated since the tragic event that took 12 innocent lives,” said Warner. “When Virginia Beach mourns, so does the rest of the Commonwealth. It’s for this reason that we recognize the public servants, first responders, and community members that will forever be marked by this tragic event.”

“As we mourn the twelve beautiful lives lost in the horrific shooting in Virginia Beach, we want the country to know who these dedicated public servants, friends, and family members were,” Kaine said. “This resolution honors them and recognizes the heroic actions of those who risked their lives to save others. No community should go through this pain.”

U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (VA-02) introduced a companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives with support from the entire bipartisan Virginia delegation.

 

The text of the resolution is here and below:

Whereas, on Friday, May 31, 2019, 12 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia;

Whereas 11 of the 12 victims were employees of the city of Virginia Beach with more than 150 years of combined service to the city, and the remaining victim was a contractor who had come to the Municipal Center for business;

Whereas Laquita C. Brown, a 4-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who was known for her love of travel with friends and her ability to light up a room with her presence, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Ryan Keith Cox, a 12-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was known for his kindness and beautiful singing voice, and who ran into danger looking for more people to save after ensuring his coworkers were sheltered in a barricaded room, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Tara Welch Gallagher, a 6-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who worked as an engineer to provide clean drinking water for her community, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Mary Louise Gayle, a 24-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who was known as a cheerful coworker and devoted mother and grandmother, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Alexander Mikhail Gusev, a 9-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who emigrated from Belarus to Virginia Beach to find a better life and who was known as a generous and devoted coworker, friend, brother, and uncle, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Joshua O. Hardy, a 4-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was known for his kindhearted nature and love for his family and faith, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Michelle “Missy” Langer, a 12-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was known for her beaming smile and passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and who had plans to retire soon, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Richard H. Nettleton, a 28-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was a selfless leader in regional utility system planning and a veteran of the 130th Engineer Brigade of the Army, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Katherine A. Nixon, a 10-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities who was known for her intellect and who was a loving wife and mother of 3 children, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Christopher Kelly Rapp, an 11-month employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Works who was known for his kindness, his passion for playing the bagpipes, and his devotion to his wife, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Herbert “Bert” Snelling, a contractor who had come to the Municipal Center to get a permit and who was celebrating his 38th wedding anniversary, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas Robert “Bobby” Williams, a 41-year employee of the city of Virginia Beach Department of Public Utilities, who was awarded with 8 service awards in recognition of his lifetime of devoted work and who was planning on retiring later in the year to spend more time with his family, was murdered in the shooting;

Whereas the actions of those city employees who alerted their coworkers to danger and pulled them into shelter saved an unknowable number of lives;

Whereas police officers responded within minutes of the first reports of shooting, heroically risking their lives by running into the line of fire;

Whereas 1 police officer was shot while confronting the gunman and survived because he was wearing a bulletproof vest;

Whereas those who were present at, or responded to, the scene of the shooting encountered a “war zone” of horrific violence that will be forever seared into their memories;

Whereas mental health providers, counselors, and faith leaders have tended to the invisible wounds of the shooting, and will continue to do so for decades to come;

Whereas Virginia Beach Chief of Police James Cervera, Mayor Bobby Dyer, and City Manager David Hansen have led their community through its darkest hour with courage, dignity, professionalism, and compassion; and

Whereas, within hours of the shooting, the residents of Virginia Beach had come together in an outpouring of support for those affected, showing the resiliency of love in the face of evil: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) joins the Commonwealth of Virginia in mourning the deaths and celebrating the lives of the 12 victims killed in the shooting at the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach on May 31, 2019;

(2) applauds the heroism, dedication, and compassion of the police officers, first responders, and emergency medical personnel who responded to the shooting and tended to the wounded, in some cases risking their own lives while saving others;

(3) recognizes the strength of the Virginia Beach community in coming together to show that this tragedy will not define them; and

(4) reaffirms its responsibility to find ways to prevent more individuals in the United States from dying in acts of violence.

###

WASHINGTON – Senate Banking Committee members U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) today unveiled draft bipartisan legislation to improve corporate transparency, strengthen national security, and help law enforcement combat illicit financial activity being carried out by terrorists, drug and human traffickers, and other criminals. 

The Improving Laundering Laws and Increasing Comprehensive Information Tracking of Criminal Activity in Shell Holdings (ILLICIT CASH) Act would, for the first time, require shell companies – often used as fronts for criminal activity – to disclose their true owners to the U.S. Department of Treasury. It would also update decades-old anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) policies, by giving Treasury and law enforcement the tools they need to fight criminal networks. This includes improving overall communication between law enforcement, financial institutions, and regulators, and facilitating the adoption of critical 21st century technologies. 

“We must be vigilant and ensure that our financial system is not being misused to fund individuals and groups who intend harm to the United States and our allies,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will empower the Treasury Department and other appropriate agencies to better protect our financial system from such abuse, and will ensure that we are using all the tools at our disposal to protect our national security.”

“The United States ought to make it as difficult as possible for criminals and terrorists to finance their evil deeds. Our draft bill makes it easier for law enforcement to track ill-gotten gains without burdening legitimate businesses,” Sen. Cotton said.

“As a former U.S. Attorney, I am all too familiar with criminals hiding behind shell corporations to enable their illegal behavior. At the same time, our anti-money laundering laws have not kept pace with the increasingly sophisticated means by which criminals and terrorist organizations use our financial system to move their money around the world. This bipartisan legislation addresses both challenges and gives law enforcement the tools they need to protect Americans and prosecute criminals,” said Sen. Jones.

"Fighting crime and depriving terrorists of the tools they use to engage in illicit activity within our financial system is vital to protecting Americans,” said Sen. Rounds. “Our legislation seeks to protect our financial system from bad actors by streamlining our government's anti-money laundering system and simultaneously protecting small businesses from undue compliance burdens. I'm proud to partner with my colleagues on this important legislation and look forward to advancing it in the Senate.”

According to research from the University of Texas and Brigham Young University, the U.S. remains one of the easiest places in the world to set up an anonymous shell company. A recent report by Global Financial Integrity demonstrates that, in all 50 U.S. states, more information is currently required to obtain a library card than to register a company. Human traffickers, terrorist groups, arms dealers, transnational criminal organizations, kleptocrats, drug cartels, and rogue regimes have all used U.S.-registered shell companies to hide their identities and facilitate illicit activities. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies find it increasingly difficult to investigate these illicit financial networks without access to information about the beneficial ownership of corporate entities involved.

At the same time, U.S. AML-CFT laws have not kept pace with the growing exploitation of the global financial system to facilitate criminal activity.  According to a United Nations Report, money laundering activity and illicit cross-border financial flows have generated upwards of $300 billion annually in criminal proceeds. While tracking these growing sums is increasingly difficult, U.S. laws have also failed to adequately address the small dollar financing of global terrorist groups. 

Given the critical importance of cracking down on criminal shell companies and the need to combat money laundering and terrorism, the ILLICIT CASH Act envisions a more transparent corporate ownership system and an updated, effective and efficient AML-CFT regime designed for the 21st century. Specifically, this legislation would:

  • Establish federal reporting requirements mandating that all beneficial ownership information be maintained in a comprehensive federal database, accessible by federal and local law enforcement.
  • Help recruit and retain top talent at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by putting employees on a pay scale comparable to that of federal financial regulators.
  • Create a hub of financial expert investigators at FinCEN to investigate potential AML-CFT activity in collaboration with federal government agencies.
  • Create a team of FinCEN technology experts to further the development of new and essential technologies that can assist financial institutions and the federal government in their efforts to combat money laundering.
  • Facilitate communications between the Treasury and financial institutions by establishing a Treasury financial institution liaison to seek and receive comments regarding AML-CFT rules, regulations, and examinations.
  • Require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide the Treasury Department with metrics on the usefulness of AML-CFT data from financial institutions for law enforcement purposes, as well as data on the past and current trends identified by DOJ in the AML-CFT landscape.
  • Require law enforcement to coordinate with financial regulators to provide periodic feedback to financial institutions on their suspicious activity reports.
  • Prioritize the protection of personally identifying information while establishing a clear path for financial institutions to share AML-CFT information for the purposes of identifying suspicious activity.
  • Prevent foreign banks from obstructing money laundering or terrorist financing investigations by requiring these banks to produce records in a manner that establishes their authenticity and reliability for evidentiary purposes, and compelling them to comply with subpoenas. This legislation would also authorize contempt sanctions for banks that fail to comply.
  • Ensure the inclusion of current and future payment systems in the AML-CFT regime by updating the definition of “coins and currency” to include digital currency.

Sens. Warner, Cotton, Jones, and Rounds are now seeking input from stakeholders regarding their draft legislation. Submissions can be made to Sen. Warner’s office at AML-BSAReform@warner.senate.gov by July 19, 2019.

For an in-depth look at this bill, click here. The full text of the bill is available here.  

###

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Rossie David Alston, Jr. to serve on the Eastern District Court of Virginia. He will be the only African American judge serving in the Alexandria Division:

“We’re pleased that the Senate supported Judge Alston’s nomination for the Eastern District Court of Virginia,” the Senators said. “Based on his qualifications, we are confident he will serve with great distinction at the federal level.”

In December 2017, Warner and Kaine sent a letter to President Trump, recommending Judge Alston for the vacancy after an independent panel of attorneys from across the Commonwealth—selected by Warner and Kaine—interviewed applicants, including Judge Alston, for the position. Key members of the Virginia Bar spoke highly of Alston, who first joined the Commonwealth bench in 1998 and received an appointment to the Virginia Court of Appeals in 2009. The White House first nominated Alston in June 2018, and the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced his nomination in February 2019. The Eastern District of Virginia has offices in Alexandria, Richmond, Newport News, and Norfolk.

###

Washington, D.C. – As Congressional Republicans and Democrats continue to call on Leader McConnell to bring election security legislation up for a vote on the Senate floor, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, delivers this week’s Weekly Democratic Address. In the address, Warner highlights the importance of securing our elections and explains why it is critical that the Senate vote on bipartisan election security legislation. In closing, he emphasizes that the Senate must act on this issue in order to secure the 2020 elections, and cannot allow critical, bipartisan bills to protect our democracy to die in Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard.

The Weekly Democratic Address is available in both AUDIO AND VIDEO FORMAT. You may download the audio of the address HERE and the video of the address HERE.

Senator Warner’s remarks as delivered follow:

“Hi, I’m Senator Mark Warner. I’m proud to represent Virginia in the United States Senate. I also serve as Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting the only bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election.

“Our intelligence community, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller have all concluded that Russia mounted an unprecedented attack on our democratic process. Russian intelligence conducted hacking operations against Democratic targets and then released the stolen documents to influence the election. Using an army of Internet trolls, Russia flooded social media with fake news and propaganda designed to sow discord and divide Americans through our news feeds.

“We also know that, as part of its interference campaign, the Kremlin also targeted election infrastructure in all 50 states. The Intelligence Community’s Assessment in January 2017 concluded that Russia secured and maintained access to multiple elements of U.S. state and local electoral boards. For example, in Illinois, Russian hackers were able to penetrate a voter registration database and access 90,000 voter registration records. Using spearphishing emails, Russia was able to access the network of at least one county in Florida. Now, there is no evidence that Russians were successful in changing vote totals in 2016 or in 2018 – but we can certainly expect them to try again in 2020.

“While the Department of Homeland Security has improved information-sharing with states and Congress has allocated some additional funding for election security, there is still more work to do to secure local election equipment ahead of the presidential election.

“In 2016, Russia exploited platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to manipulate and divide Americans, to smear Hillary Clinton, and to aid Donald Trump. As we enter another presidential election cycle susceptible to foreign interference, Congress needs to put in place some commonsense guardrails on social media. We should start with the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, which I introduced, which would prevent foreign actors from purchasing online political ads, and bring much-needed transparency to the online ad ecosystem.

“There is already a bill to protect our elections systems that has strong bipartisan support. The Secure Elections Act from the last session of Congress would establish some common-sense measures to ensure the sanctity of the ballot-box.

“It would provide states with money to replace old, insecure voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail, and make sure that elections can be audited, so that Americans can have confidence in the results. It would also take several steps to improve sharing about threat information between the Department of Homeland Security, and states that administer the vote. And it would require election agencies to promptly report suspected cybersecurity incidents to proper state and federal authorities.

“The truth is the Secure Elections Act that was introduced last session were brought to the floor today for a vote, it would pass overwhelmingly. But the White House and Senate Republican leaders have been blocking a vote.

“Unfortunately, that’s just part of a pattern with a White House and a President that has shown no interest in tackling this problem. According to reports, the former Secretary of Homeland Security was instructed not to even raise the issue of election security with the President, and when she tried to convene a Cabinet-level meeting ahead of the 2018 midterms, the White House chief of staff nixed the idea.

“What happened in 2016 will happen again in 2020 if we are not prepared. In the face of White House inaction to secure the vote, Congress must work together to protect our democracy and reassure Americans that their votes will be counted in 2020. We cannot let election security become another tombstone in the Republican Senate’s legislative graveyard.”

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen and 43 of their Senate colleagues to introduce the International Climate Accountability Act to direct the Trump Administration to meet the standards established by the historic Paris Climate Agreement and to mitigate the long-term damage caused by the Trump Administration’s anti-environment actions. The International Climate Accountability Act would prevent the President from using funds to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and direct the Trump Administration to develop a strategic plan for the country to meet its commitment under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

“Now more than ever, climate change poses a direct risk to the future of our Commonwealth, and nowhere is this risk more apparent than in Virginia’s flood-prone coastal communities,” said Warner. “Despite the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on settled science, the facts behind climate change are undeniable. The U.S. must maintain its place as a leader in the fight against climate change.”

“Climate change continues to be a threat not only to Virginia’s environment, but to our economy and security as well,” Kaine said. “The Administration’s disregard for science is dangerous, and Congress must step up to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in the global effort to combat climate change.”   

The bill makes clear that the Paris Climate Agreement is critical to strengthening international cooperation to reduce global greenhouse emissions and hold high-emission nations accountable, and recognizes the important role the Agreement plays in protecting and advancing U.S. economic interests and foreign policy priorities around the globe.

The International Climate Accountability Act is also cosponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

The legislation has been endorsed by the Center for American Progress, BlueGreen Alliance, Earthjustice, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Sciences and additional organizations listed here in a letter of support.

Text of the legislation can be found here.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation that would prevent the Trump Administration from closing the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn, Va. The bipartisan Job Corps Protection Act would block the Administration from using federal government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States.

The legislation is in response to a Department of Labor (DOL) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement that the Flatwoods facility and eight other Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers are scheduled to close as part of the program’s transfer from USDA to DOL. Civilian Conservation Centers provide valuable job training for young adults ages 16 to 24 in rural communities across the country, including in Southwest Virginia, while assisting in the conservation of the nation’s limited public natural resources. This legislation also comes on the heels of a letter that Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), sent to the Trump Administration last week, urging DOL and USDA to reconsider the closure of these facilities.    

“For decades, the Flatwoods Job Corps facility in Coeburn, Virginia has helped equip young Virginians with the skills needed to succeed in today’s changing economy,” said Sen. Warner. “Closing the door on this vital program would not only make it harder to expand economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia, it will also make it harder for Virginia’s employers to find the kind of high-skilled talent that the jobs of tomorrow will require.”

“Job training is at the core of preparing our next generation for good-paying jobs in Virginia and across the country. I’m worried about the Trump Administration’s decision to close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers – including Flatwoods Job Corps in Coeburn, Va., a top performing Center that has a tremendous economic impact in Southwest Virginia. There’s agreement on both sides of the aisle that President Trump shouldn’t take funding away from these critical job training programs, and Congress can prevent him from doing so by passing our bill,” Sen. Kaine said.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the Job Corps Protection Act is sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), John Boozman (R-AR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  

Separately, Sens. Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 Senators and 33 Representatives in pushing USDA and DOL to reverse their decision to end the Civilian Conservation Center program in its current form and shutter nine facilities across the nation.

We write to express strong opposition to your Departments’ recent decision to permanently close over a third of Civilian Conservation Center program facilities and end the program in its current form. We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision,” the Senators and Representatives wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. A copy of the letter is available here.

###

 

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee and co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, wrote today to the CEO of Quest Diagnostics, asking for information on the company’s supply chain management and cybersecurity practices after the company reported on Monday that approximately 11.9 million Quest patients may have been compromised as a result of a breach to a system used by one of Quest’s contractors.

“While I am heartened to learn that no evidence currently suggests Quest Diagnostic’s systems were breached, I am concerned about your supply chain management, and your third party selection and monitoring process. According to a recent report, 20 percent of data breaches in the health care sector last year were traced to third-party vendors, and an estimated 56 percent of provider organizations have experienced a third-party breach,” Sen. Warner wrote in his letter to Stephen Rusckowski, Chairman, President and CEO of Quest Diagnostics.

Earlier this year, Sen. Warner sent letters to multiple health care associations and government agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and National Institute of Standards and Technology, seeking more information about steps being taken to reduce cyber vulnerabilities in the health care industry, which has become a growing target for cyberattackers. In the letters, Sen. Warner pointed to apparent gaps in oversight, expressed concern about the impact of cyber-attacks on the health care sector, and conveyed his desire to work alongside stakeholders to develop strategies that strengthen information security.

In today’s letter to Quest, Sen. Warner asked the company to provide additional information regarding the breach and the company’s processes for selecting and monitoring sub-contractors and vendors.

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

 

Mr. Stephen H. Rusckowski

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Quest Diagnostics                  

500 Plaza Drive          

Secaucus, NJ 0709

Dear Mr. Rusckowski,

On Monday June 3rd it was publicly reported that the data of an estimated 11.9 million of your customers were exposed by one of your bill collection vendors, American Medical Collection Agency (ACMA). According to your SEC filing, between August 1st 2018 and March 30th 2019, an unauthorized user had access to American Medical Collection Agency’s systems and data that included credit card numbers and bank account information, medical information, and other sensitive personal information like social security numbers. A statement by ACMA noted that the company was made aware of the breach by a security compliance firm that works with credit card companies. An internal review was then conducted by ACMA, which took down the web payments page, and notified law enforcement.

While I am heartened to learn that no evidence currently suggests Quest Diagnostic’s systems were breached, I am concerned about your supply chain management, and your third party selection and monitoring process. According to a recent report, 20 percent of data breaches in the health care sector last year were traced to third-party vendors, and an estimated 56 percent of provider organizations have experienced a third-party breach.  One set of major vendor breaches in the last year were caused by a third-party administrator for health insurance companies, and impacted Highmark BCBS, Aetna, Emblem Health, Humana, and United Health. 

In February of this year I queried a number of health care stakeholders seeking input on how we might improve cybersecurity in the health care industry. As I work with stakeholders to develop a short and long term strategy for reducing cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the health care sector, I would like more information on your vendor selection and due diligence process, sub-supplier monitoring, continuous vendor evaluation policies, and what you plan to do about your other vendors, given the vulnerability and information security failures of this one.

Having long been an advocate for transparency and reporting of data breach information, I commend your reporting and handling of the breach notification, but I am still concerned with the third party evaluation and monitoring process.

To gain a better understanding of this situation, I would appreciate answers to the following questions:

1.      Please describe your third-party vendor information security vetting process.

2.      If you secure a contract with a third-party to collect information from your customers, do you have a process for evaluating the standards used by that entity, the sub-supplier, to secure their information systems?

3.      What are your third-party vendor security and risk assessment requirements?

4.      What are your third-party requirements for how customer information is processed and stored?

5.      What are your third-party vendor requirements for data encryption?

6.      How are you ensuring that your other third-party vendors like ACMA are not similarly vulnerable to point of sale malware or other information security vulnerabilities?

Thank you for your attention to this important issue. I look forward to your response in the next two weeks.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner

United State Senator

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $1,021,000 in federal funding from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to support a runway expansion project at Virginia Tech/Montgomery Executive Airport (VTMEA) in Blacksburg, Va.

“We’re excited to announce this funding to expand runway 12/30 so that the airport can better serve the needs of local residents, businesses, and the Virginia Tech community,” said the Senators.

The funding was awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program, which supports infrastructure improvement projects at airports across the country, including the construction and rehabilitation of runways, taxiways, and aprons. Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought for increased investments to infrastructure, including for Virginia’s airports, and have pushed back against the Trump Administration’s suggested budget cuts to DOT to ensure that critical upgrades like these can happen. Additionally, Sen. Warner introduced legislation earlier this year to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and generate economic stimulus.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement regarding the deadly shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center:

"I am horrified by what has happened today in Virginia Beach. I am thankful to law enforcement for their swift and courageous response. My heart goes out to all the victims of today's senseless violence, their families, and the entire community that has been affected by these awful events. I will be praying for the swift recovery of those injured."

###?