Senate Republicans Block Warner Attempt to Immediately Pass Legislation Requiring Reporting of Foreign Elections Interference
Jun 13 2019
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.
Jun 13 2019
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 March 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.
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.
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.
Jun 12 2019
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.
Warner, Cotton, Jones, Rounds, Unveil Draft Legislation to Improve Corporate Transparency and Combat Financing of Terrorism, Money Laundering
Jun 10 2019
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.
Jun 10 2019
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.
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.”
Warner, Kaine Introduce Legislation Directing Trump Administration to Meet Standards Set by the Paris Climate Agreement
Jun 07 2019
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
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.
Mark R. Warner
United State Senator
Jun 04 2019
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."
May 31 2019
WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement following President Trump’s announcement that, beginning on June 10, the U.S. will impose a 5 percent tariff on Mexican imports. According to the Trump Administration, if Mexico does not stop immigrants from crossing the Southwest border, tariffs could incrementally increase to 25 percent by October 1 and remain at that level until the migration stops.
“President Trump’s escalating trade war will force families to pay more on everyday items and put 133,000 trade-supported Virginia jobs at risk. What this Administration fails to understand is that, just as Trump's family separation policy failed, hiking tariffs on Mexico won’t deter families escaping violence and instability in their native countries from crossing our border,” said the Senators. “Last year, Virginians saw the impact of retaliatory tariffs imposed by Mexico after this Administration imposed damaging steel and aluminum tariffs. Mexico continues to be an important trade partner for the Commonwealth, and strong-arming our allies will only hurt Virginians without solving our immigration challenges.”
Mexico is Virginia’s sixth-largest overall agricultural export market, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). In 2018, Mexico purchased more than $111 million in Virginia exports – a 3 percent decrease from 2017, a decline attributable in part to reckless trade and tariff Trump Administration policies. To ease the burden on Virginia businesses, manufacturers and consumers, Sen. Warner introduced and Sen. Kaine cosponsored bipartisan legislation that would restore Congress’ constitutional trade responsibilities. Sen. Kaine has also introduced legislation to limit the Trump Administration’s ability to levy tariffs without Congress.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal about the economic effect of the Trump Administration’s haphazard approach on tariffs. In April, the Senators slammed President Trump after threatening – and later walking back – his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border. To tackle the root causes of migration, the Senators introduced legislation to provide a coordinated response to the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle countries that have forced families to seek refuge in the U.S. They have also urged the Trump Administration to reverse its plan to cut national security funding to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the statement below, following the press conference held by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who announced his resignation and spoke about the findings of the Mueller Report:
“First, I want to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his patriotism and dedication to this two-year investigation. I am grateful the American people have heard from him directly regarding his findings. Still, this press conference leaves us with unanswered questions. The underlying evidence supporting the Special Counsel’s conclusions must be made available to Congress immediately.
“What is clear is that Russia deployed a sophisticated cyber campaign in order to interfere in our democratic process and tip the scales in favor of then-candidate Donald Trump. This is the same conclusion that the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee reached. As the Special Counsel made clear today, it’s up to Congress to uphold the rule of law, and ensure this never happens again. Going forward, we must take steps to protect our democracy by passing legislation that enhances election security, increases social media transparency, and requires campaign officials to report any contact with foreign nationals attempting to coordinate with a campaign.”
Statement of Senate Intel Vice Chair Mark R. Warner on President Trump’s Order Allowing His Hand-Picked Attorney General to Selectively Declassify Information
May 24 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:
Va. & Md. Senators Introduce New Legislation Reforming WMATA Safety & Renewing Federal Funding Commitment to Metro
May 23 2019
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) introduced new legislation to renew the federal funding commitment to Metro, provide critical safety reforms, and strengthen oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
Recognizing that the Metro system is integral to the functioning of the federal government, for the last decade Congress has allocated $150 million annually to Metro for capital expenses, with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia each providing $50 million in matching funds. However, the funding – a critical part of Metro’s budget – will expire this year unless Congress acts to renew it. The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019 will provide additional federal funding for Metro while also enacting key reforms to ensure that the safety and reliability of the Metro system continues to improve.
“The federal government runs on Metro. Thousands of federal workers, contractors, and military service members take Metro every day. This is an investment in the long-term safety and reliability of the Metro system,” said Sen. Warner, a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, which has oversight over our nation’s urban transit systems. “But recent safety problems have illustrated that Metro still has work to do, which is why this money comes with some strings attached to ensure robust oversight, accountability, and meaningful safety reforms at WMATA.”
“Maintaining a safe and reliable public transit system for the seat of the federal government is a clear national priority. We recognized 10 years ago - as we do now - that providing dedicated funding for WMATA will help keep Metro on track,” said Sen. Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “Maryland and Virginia's Senate delegations wholeheartedly agree on the need for critical safety reforms and strengthened oversight to ensure that WMATA becomes as safe and efficient as possible.”
“This bill provides critical funding to reduce WMATA’s backlog of work, along with strict measures to ensure riders are safe on Metro. Following the death of a Virginian on Metrorail in 2015, we made it clear that major changes were needed. Since then, we passed a tough new federal safety oversight body through Congress, encouraged business and labor to work toward mutual goals, and worked with experts to provide WMATA with a roadmap for reform. But this work will only succeed if WMATA has the resources to do the turnaround job right. With this bill, we ensure that the federal government contributes its share, while also making clear that with new money comes new requirements for safety and accountability. Metro’s challenges won’t be solved overnight, but this bill will go a long way toward unlocking progress to rebuild trust with riders,” said Sen. Kaine.
“Maryland commuters and our federal workforce rely on the Metro day in and day out. This legislation reauthorizes the Federal investment in WMATA and provides much-needed funds to modernize our system. In addition to increased funding, this bill includes crucial safety improvements and oversight reforms,” said Sen. Van Hollen, a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this measure as we work to ensure safe and dependable transportation throughout the region.”
The Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019 will renew the federal funding commitment for WMATA capital investments by reauthorizing the funding levels from the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 for an additional ten years, at an annual level of $150 million, matched by funding from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
In addition, in exchange for key safety, oversight, and governance reforms at WMATA, the new legislation will include an additional $50 million per year in federal funding that is not subject to local match, bringing the annual federal commitment to Metro to $200 million. In order to access the additional $50 million, WMATA will be required to: grant additional powers to Metro’s Inspector General; establish task forces on track safety and bus safety; implement policy and procedures for a new capital planning process; improve the transit asset management planning process; reinforce restrictions on the activities of alternate WMATA Board members to provide more effective Board management and oversight; and prioritize the implementation of new cyber security protections and the integration of wireless services and emergency communications networks.
The bill also prohibits WMATA from using federal funds on a contract for rolling stock from any country that meets certain criteria related to illegal subsidies for state-owned enterprises. Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin and Van Hollen raised concerns earlier this year regarding the possibility that Metro may award a contract to build its newest 8000-series rail cars to a Chinese manufacturing company.
“The Federal City Council applauds Sens. Warner, Cardin, Kaine, and Van Hollen for their continued commitment to WMATA and to ensuring that critically needed federal funding for the system is reauthorized this year. This funding, along with the new dedicated funding that was committed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia in 2018 is critically needed to ensure a safe, reliable, and sustainable future for Metro,” said Tony Williams, former Mayor of the District of Columbia, current CEO and Executive Director of the Federal City Council and founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “However, it has been the longstanding position of the Federal City Council and the MetroNow coalition that in addition to funding, Metro is also in need of a better framework to guide decision-making and increase accountability at WMATA—a critical part of the solution that has been missing, until now. With comprehensive enhancements to WMATA’s Office of the Inspector General and capital planning requirements, this legislation will help to safeguard the investment being made in this vital piece of our region’s transportation infrastructure and will inspire confidence in Metro going forward.”
“Metro is critical to those who live and work here and, equally important, it benefits those who travel here to do business, interact with the federal government, and enjoy all our region has to offer,” said Jack McDougle, President & CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and founding member of the MetroNow Coalition. “Every day, we welcome visitors from around the country and the world, requiring us to maintain the safest, most reliable and world-class transit system possible. That’s why we and our partners in the MetroNow coalition urge Congress to pass this legislation.”
“The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) fully supports the Metro Safety, Accountability and Investment Act of 2019, renewing the federal commitment for WMATA capital investments. This is long overdue and critical, as the agency’s infrastructure, which dates back to the 1970s, has been crumbling. Riders have paid the price, as service sputtered and fares skyrocketed. Workers have been unfairly blamed for service issues when the real issue has been the generations of state and local lawmakers that until recently have financially starved the system of a critical dedicated revenue source,” said ATU International President John A. Costa. “Tragically, there have been several deadly accidents that have taken the lives of passengers as well as workers. There is no safety culture at WMATA. We thank Senators Warner, Cardin, Kaine and Van Hollen for including in the bill the ATU’s proposed labor-management safety task forces – bus and rail – to develop best principles and practices through collaboration so that we can prevent future tragedies. We are also grateful that these task forces have appropriately been named after ATU members who were killed on the job – Jeanice McMillan, the operator who was killed along with 8 passengers in the 2009 Red Line train crash at Fort Totten and was called a hero by WMATA for saving countless lives, and Keith Dodson, who was struck and killed by a tractor trailer when he exited the bus he was driving after it became disabled along southbound I-395 in Arlington County in 2007.”
May 23 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former telecommunications executive and entrepreneur, along with Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), introduced legislation to establish U.S. policy for the commercial deployment and security of Fifth Generation (5G) networks. The United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019 will prioritize national security in the development of 5G by ensuring that American networks do not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates. This legislation will also create a Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help rural and regional U.S. communications providers remove from their networks Chinese equipment determined to threaten national security.
“For a number of years, the federal government failed to effectively communicate the economic and national security risks of Huawei and ZTE communications equipment – and even adopted broadband grant policies that incentivized rural carriers to use this equipment because it was the cheapest around. While we’ve made enormous progress in educating the private sector of the dangers these vendors pose, we haven’t put in place policies to help resource-strapped rural carriers address and eliminate those risks. This bill ensures that on a going-forward basis we don’t make the same mistakes in allowing companies subject to extra-judicial directions of a foreign adversary to infiltrate our nation’s communications networks. And it provides significant resources to ensure that rural and regional providers can prioritize investments that eliminate this equipment from their existing networks where it poses a security threat,” said Sen. Warner. “Lastly, it builds on efforts my colleagues and I have already undertaken to engage with and educate the private sector about security risks and vulnerabilities posed to communications networks from certain foreign suppliers. We also believe this type of effort will be an important signal to international partners that we are putting resources behind this issue, and encouraging them to do the same.”
“5G networks need to be robust and secure, and not rely on equipment or services that pose a national security risk,” said Sen. Wicker. “This legislation would ensure continued American leadership in advanced wireless technology deployment. It offers relief to those providers that need to replace foreign equipment within their networks while augmenting the availability of secure 5G networks for all Americans.”
“Future U.S. security and economic prosperity will depend on 5G technology. With so much at stake, our communications infrastructure must be protected from threats posed by foreign governments and companies like Huawei,” said Sen. Cotton. “Our bill will support 5G’s deployment in the United States while defending that technology from exploitation.”
“5G wireless will revolutionize global telecommunications and connect people, information, and technology like never before. While 5G could yield enormous benefits, it also could pose significant risks if not implemented properly,” said Sen. Markey. “We have a responsibility to ensure that this next generation of telecommunications infrastructure will safely and securely connect Americans to each other and to the rest of the world.”
“We urgently need a comprehensive strategy when it comes to the very real threat that foreign actors, particularly China, pose to our communications networks,” said Sen. Sullivan. “It is clear that this problem is only going to grow with the development of next generation communications technologies without aggressive intervention. I’m pleased to partner with Chairman Wicker on this critical issue at the intersection of national security and commerce.”
Among other measures, The United States 5G Leadership Act would:
- Establish U.S. policy to promote the deployment of secure commercial 5G networks and the development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the U.S.
- Establish U.S. policy to identify additional spectrum for 5G, with an emphasis on promoting harmonization with global allocations;
- Establish U.S. policy that American 5G networks should not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates.
- Require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to finalize rulemaking that would prohibit the use of Universal Service Fund subsidies to buy equipment or services from providers who pose a national security risk.
- Establish the Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help smaller U.S. communications providers remove Huawei equipment from their networks — and would make available up to $700 million from future spectrum auctions for this purpose.
- Require a report on current Federal government measures to ensure the secure deployment and availability of 5G networks.
- Establish an interagency program – led by the Department of Homeland Security – to share information regarding security, risks, and vulnerabilities with U.S. communications providers and trusted suppliers.
- Prioritize funding to enhance U.S. representation at international 5G standards-setting bodies, such as the International Telecommunications Union.
“I thank Senators Wicker, Cotton, Warner, Sullivan, and Markey for introducing the United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019. This bipartisan bill will help ensure that all carriers have the information and resources necessary to address security risks while advancing US leadership in 5G. I appreciate the Senators’ leadership on this important issue and look forward to continued work with Congress to ensure access to secure wireless networks, particularly in rural America,” said Steven K. Berry, President & CEO, Competitive Carriers Association.
Sen. Warner has been a leading voice in the Senate about the national security risks posed by Chinese-controlled telecom companies. Last week, Sen. Warner spoke out in favor of the executive order banning U.S. telecommunications firms from installing foreign-made equipment that could threaten national security. He is also the lead sponsor of the Secure 5G and Beyond Act – a bill to safeguard next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure. Additionally, earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific, national security threats posed by foreign actors like China. As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner has been leading a bipartisan effort to educate the private sector on the economic and security risks posed by Chinese companies like Huawei.
For the full text of this legislation, click here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine to crack down on illegal robocall scams. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those who are caught, requires service providers to adopt call authentication and blocking, and brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally break laws.
“Americans are sick and tired of receiving fraudulent robocalls,” said the Senators. “We are proud the Senate passed this bill to help protect consumers from scams and ensure those behind these illegal robocalls are held accountable.”
One report estimated the number of spam calls will grow from nearly 30 percent of all phone calls last year to 45 percent of all calls this year. The TRACED Act gives the FCC more flexibility to enforce rules in the short term, while setting in motion consultations to increase prosecutions of violations, which often require international cooperation.
The bill now heads to the House for consideration.
May 23 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the inclusion of provisions that would provide much-needed oversight of privatized military housing for servicemembers in this year’s Senate National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The annual defense legislation lays out the nation’s overall policy priorities that are critical to our national security, and was just approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, sending the bill to the full Senate for consideration.
“For far too long, military families have been subjected to sub-par living conditions, sometimes rivaling what you might see in a bad horror movie. That’s why I’m glad that my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee stepped up to add much-needed oversight on the private companies whose sole job is to provide safe housing for military families,” said Sen. Warner. “Additionally, I’m pleased to report that this defense bill includes additional steps to modernize our security clearance process to enhance our ability to hire and retain the national security talent we need to keep our country secure. Right now, we have 480,000 individuals waiting on a background check. While this drop is encouraging, there is still more work to be done to truly transform the clearance process.”
Sen. Warner has met with military families in Norfolk, Fort Lee, and Fort Belvoir who’ve shared their stories of hazardous living conditions in their homes and their frustrations with the lack of oversight and response from the military services and their respective housing companies. To keep the pressure on addressing the deplorable housing conditions, Sen. Warner wrote to four private military housing companies requesting a plan of action from each company, and has urged the Department of Defense to develop long-term solutions for fixing the privatized housing program overall through reopening and renegotiating the agreements with the private companies.
As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has continued to push for security clearance modernization and reform. In February, Sen. Warner reintroduced the Modernizing the Trusted Workforce for the 21st Century Act of 2019, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 and unanimously reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week. The Committee’s annual Intelligence Authorization Act also includes provisions championed by Sen. Warner that requires published guidelines so that the security clearance process cannot be abused for political purposes.
The defense bill also prioritizes innovation and technology development in the area of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), to compete with our adversaries like Russia and China. As a former technology and telecommunications executive, Sen. Warner has pushed the Administration to develop a strategy to maintain our advantages in technological innovation, as well as to lead on 5G and AI.
Warner, Van Hollen, Senators Introduce Bill to Bar USDA Research Agencies from Leaving National Capital Region
May 23 2019
WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Agriculture Research Integrity Act, which would bar the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from reorganizing and moving the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS) out of the National Capital Region. Experts agree that Secretary Perdue’s proposal would undermine their effectiveness and relevance, and the rank-and-file staff opposes the move – just yesterday, it was reported that federal employees at both agencies “have quit in unusually large numbers” since the Secretary announced he would relocate the offices.
“The proposed relocation of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture from the National Capital Region could severely impact the ability of these agencies to carry out their critical research missions,” said Senator Warner. “These agencies provide invaluable research that drives agricultural, nutritional, and environmental policy in the U.S. Removing these agencies from the National Capital Region would negatively impact their work by disconnecting them from other vital research agencies located in the region and could impact their ability to attract and retain highly-qualified personnel.”
“The experts at NIFA and ERS conduct the scientific research that helps grow the food our families eat. They need a seat at the table with decision makers,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This proposed move – coupled with other efforts to undermine their work – is part of a broader effort by the Trump Administration to banish facts and science from policy decisions. We are committed to fighting it tooth and nail.”
“Once again, the Trump Administration is seeking to marginalize scientists and independent research, choosing to scatter federal employees and potentially politicize what has historically been the work of nonpartisan civil servants,” said Senator Cardin. “With this bill, Congress has an opportunity to show it’s respect for our federal workforce and their work in advancing agriculture, food, the environment, and rural America on behalf of all Americans.”
“USDA is proposing to uproot more than 700 hardworking federal employees from the National Capital Region with no cost/benefit analysis and no obvious public benefit. These federal workers will be forced to sell their homes, take their kids out of school, and move across the country to a location to be determined. This suspicious process is currently under investigation by the USDA Inspector General. Until USDA gives Congress and its own employees some straight answers, this move should be stopped,” said Senator Kaine.
“The National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service carry out vital science and research missions that our nation’s farmers, consumers, and lawmakers rely on. Uprooting those agencies and their staffs would undermine those missions. That would be a ‘solution’ to a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Senator Leahy.
“The National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service play a critical role in ensuring that our agriculture industry remains a global leader and can meet the needs of American families for generations to come,” said Senator Merkley. “There is no reason why taxpayer money should be wasted on moving these research facilities hundreds of miles away, far from the officials who make sure their findings are honest and not influenced by politics or food manufacturers. I’m urging all of my colleagues in Congress to protect the future of American agriculture by saying no to any plan to move these essential agencies.”
“We rely on these workers to provide quality research about our food, our farming and our rural economy, and they deserve a say in this process. Uprooting families and workers is a bad idea that undermines productivity,” said Senator Brown.
“U.S. farmers face constant uncertainty – not least of which comes from the extreme weather variability brought on by a changing climate. Secretary Perdue has added fuel to the uncertainty by proposing to uproot, reorganize, and ultimately gut two research agencies essential to the stability of a productive and sustainable food system. Since the Trump administration has been unable to provide evidence of how this move will benefit farmers, eaters, and the public interest, Congress must stop the reorganization and relocation. We thank Senator Van Hollen for leading the way,” said Rebecca Boehm, an economist for Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment program
“Under the Trump administration, the USDA is suppressing the publication of scientific research that ERS employees conduct and has proposed upending employees’ lives by relocating the agency outside the nation’s capital,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. “Just like we have been standing up and fighting back against numerous other anti-worker proposals from the Trump Administration, we will join the employees at ERS and NIFA in fighting against efforts to relocate them and politicize their research. AFGE thanks Senator Van Hollen for introducing this important legislation that will aid in our fight for fairness for these federal workers.”
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the farmers we represent from all regions of the country applaud the sponsors for introducing this bill. We believe that nothing less than the future of public agricultural research and objective, policy-relevant economic analysis is at stake. We encourage the Senate to follow the House lead and prohibit the misguided, unauthorized, and unfunded effort to move and undermine NIFA and ERS,” said Nichelle Harriott, Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
The House companion bill has been introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and language prohibiting the ERS and NIFA move was included in the House Agriculture funding bill released yesterday.
Warner, Kaine Applaud More Than $116,000 in Federal Funding for Fire, Law Enforcement and Programs for Children, the Elderly
May 21 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded more than $116,000 in rural development assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help replace vital equipment at police and fire departments in Charlotte County, and the independent cities of Waynesboro and Franklin – and to support two nonprofit organizations for children and the elderly in the City of Franklin and Wise County, respectively.
“Every day, brave men and women in fire and law enforcement put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of families in our communities. The least they deserve is functional, up-to-date equipment that allows them to fulfill their duties,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing these rural development grants be put to good use by helping enhance public safety in the Commonwealth. We are also pleased to know that federal assistance will go directly towards supporting two important non-profit programs in Virginia. From our youngest Virginians, to our most elderly, we cannot afford to forget about folks in rural communities.”
$68,700 in funding comes from USDA’s Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grants program, which seeks to develop key community facilities that provide essential services to the public in rural areas:
- In Waynesboro, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of ten new air packs for the Dooms Volunteer Fire Department.
- In Charlotte County, $18,700 will go towards the purchase of new firehoses and turn-out gear at the Drakes Branch Volunteer Fire Department to replace outdated equipment that is at least 45 years old.
- In Wise County, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of 30 computers for the PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) Center. The new computers will be able to run current versions of medical records and prescription monitoring software, helping the PACE Center provide better physical and mental health care.
$48,000 in assistance comes from USDA’s Economic Impact Initiative Grants program, which seeks to help further the development of essential community facilities in rural areas with extreme unemployment or severe economic depression:
- In Franklin, $25,000 will go towards the purchase of at least one police vehicle and any equipment necessary to place the newly-purchased vehicle into service at the Franklin Police Department.
- In Franklin, $23,000 will also go towards the purchase of two vehicles to enable staff working in the Early Intervention Program at The Children’s Center to perform frequent home visits.
In Response to Mueller Report, Senate Intel Vice Chair Warner Introduces Legislation to Require Campaigns to Report Foreign Contacts
May 21 2019
WASHINGTON – After Special Counsel Robert Mueller identified at least 140 contacts between Trump associates and foreign nationals linked to Russia, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, legislation that would require political campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections influence to the appropriate federal authorities at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
May 21 2019
WASHINGTON – The Senate just unanimously passed bipartisan legislation sponsored by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) to provide tax relief to the children of military members killed in service to their country. This legislation corrects one of the many unintended consequences of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 – legislation forced through by the GOP that, among other things, treats military and VA survivor benefits as trusts or estates, subjecting the benefits of many military families to a much higher tax rate. The Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act effectively fixes this error by treating any military and VA survivor benefits as earned income, rather than at the trust or parent tax rate. Companion legislation has been introduced by Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) in the House of Representatives, which now must vote to send the bill to the President’s desk for signature.
“Gold Star families deserve our sympathy and gratitude, not an unfair tax increase thanks to a Congressional screw-up,” said the Senators. “We’re glad the Senate has decide to fix this mistake, and we hope the House will take action swiftly to ensure that Gold Star families aren’t hit with a tax hike.”
Under current law, spouses of deceased service members are eligible to receive two different survivor benefits – the Department of Veterans Affairs' Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, as well as the Department of Defense (DOD) Survivor Benefits Plan. However, surviving spouses are not currently able to receive both benefits simultaneously in full, and many of these spouses choose to sign the taxable DOD benefit over to their children. Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, children receiving this benefit were taxed at the parent’s rate, but due to changes in the law, survivor benefits going to children are now treated as a trust or estate, and can be taxed up to 37 percent. This change has affected Gold Star families, who previously paid an average of 12 to 15 percent in taxes on this survivor benefit and have now been forced to pay significantly more without adequate preparation.
As a retroactive bill, the Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act would refund Gold Star families who were taxed the higher rate, going back as far as December 31, 2017.
Senators Request Answers about WH Proposal to Place Presidential Appointee in Charge of Federal Workforce Policy
May 20 2019
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD), today wrote to Acting Director Russell T. Vought to express grave concern over a new Trump Administration proposal that would, among other things, effectively end Congress’ ability to provide advice and consent over the individual responsible for establishing federal workforce policy and regulations. As part of a White House proposal sent to congressional leaders on Thursday, workforce policy responsibilities currently executed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would be transferred to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), thereby taking these crucial duties from a Senate-confirmed director and assigning them to an administrator appointed directly by the President.
“We wish to express both our frustration about the lack of transparency that defined the Administration’s drafting of this proposal and our grave concern that these changes will negatively impact and further undermine our country’s federal workforce,” the Senators wrote. “The vast majority of the federal workforce is comprised of career civil servants who perform their duties apolitically and without regard to which party presently heads the Executive Branch. These dedicated employees are the lifeblood of our democracy and it is imperative that they continue to be insulated from the political impulses of this President and any future President. Federal workers have every right to be concerned with this proposal and the Administration owes them substantially more information and transparency than has been provided to date.”
Last Thursday, May 16, the Trump Administration requested congressional authorization to merge the vast majority of OPM functions and responsibilities into the General Services Administration (GSA), including Human Resources Solutions, Information Technology, Retirement, and Health and Insurance Services. A key component of this proposal involves transferring the role of establishing government-wide workforce policy to a new Office of Federal Workforce Policy within OMB, which rests under the authority of the Executive Office of the President. This move would remove the Senate’s ability to have pre-selection oversight over the individual responsible for setting policies and regulations that affect federal workers nationwide, therefore opening the doors for this, or a future Administration, to act with political motivation towards the federal workforce.
In their letter to OMB, the Senators conveyed great concern about the possibility of allowing politically-motivated individuals to set policies that affect loyal public servants in apolitical career roles. They also questioned Acting Director Vought about the nature of this unprecedented decision and its effect on federal workers – and requested that no further action be taken until all questions are thoroughly addressed. These questions include:
- What analysis has been conducted to evaluate the potential costs and risks associated with this proposal? What specific factors have been considered, and which perceived benefits were regarded as outweighing any disruption and risk to the federal workforce?
- How can federal workers nationwide and Congress feel confident that neither this President nor any future President would act to politicize civil service or take retaliatory or punitive action against federal workers?
- What other changes to federal workforce policy or the organization of OPM and/or GSA does the Administration plan to take before receiving—or absent altogether—additional Congressional authorization to implement aspects of this proposal? If any, under what statutory authority does the Administration perceive to be empowered to take such actions?
- What input was considered from Members of Congress, congressional committees, or federal workforce unions, management associations, professional associations, and affinity groups in drafting this proposal?
- What impact would this proposal have on the number of individuals employed by OPM? In what ways would the number of individuals dedicated to the current responsibilities and mandates of OPM change with the implementation of this proposal? Does this proposal assume increased or flat funding authorization levels for GSA after the merge?
- Does the Administration believe GSA currently has adequate cybersecurity resources and funding to appropriately protect their current mission, in addition to that of OPM?
Sens. Warner, Kaine, Cardin, and Van Hollen have been long-time, outspoken advocates for federal workers. In February, the Senators pressed OMB to implement the 1.9 percent pay increase for federal employees they worked to pass into law earlier in the year. Amid the partial federal government shutdown, the Senators took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back payfor contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees.
Full text of the letter is below and a copy can be found here.
May 20, 2019
The Honorable Russell T. Vought
Office of Management and Budget
Executive Office of the President
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Acting Director Vought:
We write today in response to your proposal to merge the functions and responsibilities of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) within the General Services Administration (GSA). Specifically, we wish to express both our frustration about the lack of transparency that defined the Administration’s drafting of this proposal and our grave concern that these changes will negatively impact and further undermine our country’s federal workforce.
In your letter to Congress dated May 16, 2019, you outline a proposal to transfer the “vast majority” of OPM’s current mission to GSA. As you note, this would include Human Resources Solutions, Information Technology, Retirement, and Health and Insurance Services. The proposal would also create an Office of Federal Workforce Policy within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which would assume the workforce policy responsibilities currently executed by OPM.
We have serious concerns with housing this new Office of Federal Workforce Policy within the Executive Office of the President, and having it run by an Administrator appointed directly by the President and without Senate confirmation. Your proposal details that this Office is to, among other functions, “provide overall strategic direction and coordination of workforce policy and regulations for all Executive agencies, other than the Government Accountability Office.” The vast majority of the federal workforce is comprised of career civil servants who perform their duties apolitically and without regard to which party presently heads the Executive Branch. These dedicated employees are the lifeblood of our democracy and it is imperative that they continue to be insulated from the political impulses of this President and any future President.
Federal workers have every right to be concerned with this proposal and the Administration owes them substantially more information and transparency than has been provided to date. To that end, we ask that you provide responses to the following questions:
- What analysis have you conducted to evaluate the potential costs and risks associated with this proposal? What specific factors did you consider, and which perceived benefits did you regard as outweighing any disruption and risk to the federal workforce?
- The civil service system is statutorily required to be apolitical and merit-based. However, this proposal would significantly impede Congress’ ability to conduct oversight over this matter by no longer allowing the Senate to provide advice and consent over the individual directly responsible for setting all federal workforce policy and regulations. How can federal workers and Congress feel confident that neither this President nor any future President would act to politicize civil service or take retaliatory or punitive action against federal workers?
- What other changes to federal workforce policy or the organization of OPM and/or GSA does the Administration plan to take before receiving—or absent altogether—additional Congressional authorization to implement aspects of this proposal? If any, under what statutory authority does the Administration perceive to be empowered to take such actions?
- What input did you consider from Members of Congress, congressional committees, or federal workforce unions, management associations, professional associations, and affinity groups in drafting this proposal?
- What impact would this proposal have on the number of individuals employed by OPM? In what ways would the number of individuals dedicated to the current responsibilities and mandates of OPM change with the implementation of this proposal? Does your proposal assume increased or flat funding authorization levels for GSA after the merge?
- Does the Administration believe GSA currently has adequate cybersecurity resources and funding to appropriately protect their current mission, in addition to that of OPM?
As a first step in conducting oversight of this dramatic proposal, our federal workforce is owed answers to these questions. Until the aforementioned questions have been thoroughly addressed and the authorities under which you are proposing such actions are clearly articulated, we respectfully request that you take no further action on this or any related matter.
We request your reply by the end of this month. We will continue to actively monitor the Administration’s explanation of this proposal to other Members of Congress and to the public, and look forward to your reply.