WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement after voting to raise the debt ceiling:
“Today, we fulfilled a basic responsibility by raising the debt ceiling and avoiding an economic meltdown with catastrophic consequences for individuals and the global economy alike. However, this deal is not perfect. I am disappointed by the inclusion of language pertaining to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and I believe Congress missed an important opportunity to lower the national debt when they refused to look at revenues and make our tax system a little bit fairer. At the end of the day, I voted in favor of this bill because raising the debt ceiling is the right thing to do for our country and for the millions of Americans who are trying to get out of debt, purchase a home, save for retirement, and so much more.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Failed Bank Executives Clawback Act – bipartisan legislation that would require federal regulators to claw back up to three years of compensation received by big bank executives, board members, controlling shareholders, and other key decision-makers in the event of a failure or resolution.
“Executives of failed banks shouldn’t profit from their mismanagement,” said Sen. Mark Warner. “This bipartisan legislation would allow regulators to hold managers financially accountable for running a bank into the ground.”
In the wake of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapse it was reported that CEO Greg Becker sold a reported $3.6 million in SVB stock, potentially profiting off the impending demise of the very bank he managed, while other SVB employees received bonuses just hours before the government stepped in to close the bank.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) currently has limited ability to claw back executive compensation in the event of a bank failure. The Failed Bank Executives Clawback Act would give federal bank regulators the tools they need to hold the executives of big failed banks responsible for the costs that those failures exact on the rest of the banking system and the economy.
The Failed Bank Executives Clawback Act would:
- Require the FDIC to claw back from large bank executives all or part of the compensation they received over the three-year period preceding their bank’s failure or FDIC resolution;
- Apply to directors, officers, controlling shareholders, and other high-level persons involved in decision-making of banks with $10 billion or more in assets who caused more than a minimal financial loss to, or had a significant adverse effect on, the bank;
- Direct funds clawed back from executives into the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund;
- Extend claw back authorities established by Section 204(a)(3) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to apply to any bank entered into FDIC receivership, not solely those resolved under the FDIC’s Orderly Liquidation Authority.
In March of this year, immediately following the collapse of SVB, Sen. Warner cosponsored the DEPOSIT Act and the Bank Management Accountability Act, similar efforts to ensure that bank executives do not profit in the wake of bank failures.
A copy of the bill text is available here. A one-pager is available here.
Warner & Scott Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Hiring of Caregivers for Seniors
May 22 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to protect seniors by empowering nursing homes to better screen and vet potential employees. The Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act would allow nursing home operators to access the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) – a national criminal background check system – to verify the records of potential caregivers and ensure they do not run the risk of endangering the seniors they are employed to look after. Currently, senior living facilities are not authorized to use the NPDB and instead must rely on state-level criminal background checks that can often omit key details about an employee’s background.
“Seniors are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. As they get older and come to rely on assistance, they deserve quality and compassionate care from professionals who have the adequate experience and temperament,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will provide senior living facilities with the tools they need to hire staff without sacrificing quality care.”
“Skilled nursing facilities across the country care for thousands of Americans as they live out their golden years. Ensuring these facilities can hire and train the best caregivers and provide exceptional service to for seniors - at no cost to the taxpayer - is a common sense, life-changing solution for our loved ones,” said Sen. Scott.
This legislation also amends overly restrictive regulations that bar certain senior living facilities from conducting training programs for in-house Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) – individuals who assist patients with their daily activities. Under existing regulations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), senior living facilities found to have deficiencies, such as poor conditions or patient safety violations, are automatically prohibited from conducting CNA staff training programs for a period of two years, even if they have fixed the problem.
This lockout period can make it more difficult for senior care facilities to properly train new employees and retrain existing staff – a particularly concerning challenge given projections by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, which estimates that the need for nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to rise 5 percent from 2021 to 2031. With this growing need for caregivers, in-house CNA education at senior living facilities often helps meet the need for CNAs.
Specifically, this legislation would allow a senior living facility to reinstate its CNA training program if:
- The facility has corrected the deficiency for which the CMP was assessed;
- The deficiency for which the CMP was assessed did not result in an immediate risk to patient safety and is not the result of patient harm resulting from abuse or neglect;
- And the facility has not received a repeat deficiency related to direct patient harm in the preceding two year period;
This legislation has the support of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, LeadingAge, LeadingAge Virginia, and LeadingAge South Carolina.
“I started my career as a CNA in a facility training program. I know how important it is to keep this pathway for hands-on training open to ensure we have caregivers for seniors,” said Derrick Kendall, Chairman of Virginia Health Care Association – Virginia Center for Assisted Living (VHCA-VCAL), and President & CEO of Lucy Corr of Chesterfield. “The demand for CNAs has never been greater, so it’s time to end this barrier to training more, especially when a facility has addressed the reason for the lockout.”
“Having access to the National Practitioner Data Bank would be extremely beneficial for us. It would help prevent bad actors from hopping from state to state,” said Melissa Green, Chief Clinical Officer of Trio Health Care, LLC, Hot Springs, VA, and a nursing home operator who has facilities close to neighboring states. She cites an incident when it was revealed that an employee had stolen an identity to work as a nurse—without access to the NPDB there was no way to know the actual nurse’s identity was stolen even though the nursing home completed the required background checks.
“We commend Senators Warner and Scott for reintroducing this important legislation at this critical moment for the long term care workforce. In the midst of a historic labor crisis, we need solutions like the Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act to help nursing homes vet and train crucially needed caregivers. By allowing facilities the ability to offer CNA training programs and access to the National Practitioner Data Bank, we can ensure our nation’s seniors receive high quality care delivered by highly-trained and dedicated caregivers,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.
“Certified nurse aides (CNAs) are integral to the quality care that nursing homes provide; more are desperately needed. LeadingAge and our nonprofit mission-driven members support every opportunity to recruit and train new CNAs. This legislation will do just that by helping to alleviate a longstanding barrier to training and by ensuring the availability of onsite programs to build potential employees’ knowledge and skills,”said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge. “In addition to providing a solid educational foundation, these training programs also serve as an introduction to aging services, exposing students to nursing homes’ daily work routines and community cultures. They’re critical. Particularly now, when nursing homes are in dire need of more staff, we must leverage every possible opportunity to bring qualified workers into the sector and build workforce pipelines to help deliver quality care for our country’s aging population. This Senate bill is a much-appreciated recognition of these issues and will help to resolve longstanding workforce shortages. We appreciate the support of Senators Warner and Scott, and we are eager to work with them and their House colleagues in moving these bills forward.”
“The dedication and compassion of CNAs are crucial in ensuring that older Americans receive the best possible care and quality of life. Part of our role is to provide training and essential services so they can continue to provide daily care, comfort, and compassion. We appreciate both Senators Warner and Scott’s work on alleviating this strain on our mission-driven providers,” said Dana Parsons, Vice President and Legislative Counsel of LeadingAge Virginia.
“CNAs are the backbone of caring for older Americans, providing essential services that allow seniors to live with dignity and independence. It is necessary for them to continue to have the hands-on training they need as they are the heart of long-term care,” said Josh Bagley, Executive Director of The View Alexandria by Goodwin Living, Alexandria, VA.
“It is through Senator Tim Scott’s determination and vision of a better future for our citizens that we can begin to correct the antiquated barriers to quality care that this bill seeks to address. Innovation and creation is cultivated through sound policies that give the freedom to our nation’s providers to enrich our field of service in ways uniquely appropriate for our diverse nation. This bill would be a meaningful and powerful catalyst to ensure proper training for those who care for our nation’s older adults, particularly as we continue to face workforce shortages in the long-term care sector. I remain proud of Senator Scott’s support and focus on a better path forward for all,” said David Buckshorn, Chairperson for LeadingAge South Carolina, and CEO of Wesley Commons.
Full text of the bill is available here.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) joined by U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01) today introduced legislation to test innovative portable benefits designs for the growing independent workforce. The Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act seeks to provide workers with access to insurance protections typically provided through traditional full-time employment. This legislation would establish a $20 million grant fund within the U.S. Department of Labor to incentivize states, localities and nonprofit organizations to experiment with portable benefits models.
“Each year more and more Americans engage in part-time, contract or other alternative work arrangements to support themselves and their families. But despite these shifts, our retirement and savings programs aren’t keeping up to help these workers,” said Sen. Warner. “This program will encourage experimentation at the state and local levels to support the realities of a 21st century workforce.”
“Job opportunities in the gig economy provide workers with utmost flexibility,” said Sen. Young. “Supporting portable benefit options helps uncover creative solutions to addressing the needs of our rapidly changing workforce. I am pleased to reintroduce this bill to make it easier for Hoosiers find the job opportunity that best suits their family situation.”
“The way we work is rapidly evolving, and it is time our laws caught up. Today, millions of workers lack access to benefits like workers’ compensation and paid time off. We must act to ensure our economy works for everyone,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene. “This legislation is an important step toward ensuring benefits are accessible to all workers, regardless of their work arrangement. Whether you are a rideshare driver or an online artisan, you should have the same benefits opportunities as other workers.”
The legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Angus King (I-ME), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and John Hoeven (R-ND).
“Independent workers make up a growing percentage of our workforce, yet they are often not eligible for many benefits typically offered by employers. North Dakotans in non-traditional work arrangements deserve access to the same benefits as the rest of the working public,” said Sen. Cramer. “These pilot programs encourage state and local governments to provide portable benefits and give independent contractors additional financial stability.”
“Information technology, analytics and the ‘gig’ economy are changing the complexion of the 21st century economy, so it’s vital that our federal policies evolve to stay in step with the reality faced by everyday workers,” said Sen. King. “Today, more and more Americans work as independent contractors, or are more regularly switching jobs to address new opportunities in the workforce – and they should have flexible benefit options for them and their families. This bipartisan bill would lay the groundwork for more portable benefits so we can effectively support independent workers as they help change and expand the modern economy.”
“As we experience a workforce shortage across the nation, offering more flexible benefits and support will help make it easier for workers across the country and in North Dakota to find the right job opportunity for them and their families,” said Sen. Hoeven.
In the past decade, the composition of the U.S. workforce has changed significantly, and those who earn all or some of their income as independent contractors, part-time workers, temporary workers or contingent workers have found it difficult and expensive to access benefits and protections that are commonly provided to full-time employees. These benefits include paid leave, workers’ compensation, skills training, unemployment insurance, tax withholding and tax-advantaged retirement savings. As the workforce changes, employers and policymakers need to consider a system that allows workers to carry these benefits with them from job to job across a lifetime in the workforce.
The Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act would establish a portable benefits pilot program at the U.S. Department of Labor. It authorizes a total of $20 million for competitive grants to states, local governments and nonprofits for pilot projects to design, implement and evaluate new models ($15 million) or assess and improve existing models ($5 million) for portable benefits for independent workers such as contractors, temporary workers and self-employed workers.
Eligible models will provide a number of work-related benefits and protections – such as retirement savings, workers compensation, life or disability insurance, sick leave, training and educational benefits, health care, and more. In order to encourage innovative thinking on these challenging issues, programs focused solely on retirement-related benefits will not be eligible. In awarding grants, the Secretary of Labor is directed to prioritize models that can be replicated on a large scale or at the national level.
Sen. Warner and Rep. DelBene originally introduced this legislation in 2017, and have continued to lead the push for policy solutions to address shifts across our economy that have changed the workforce. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner doubled down on efforts to include expanded benefits eligibility in relief packages.
“Grantmakers in the Arts sees firsthand the negative impact on independent workers that their lack of access to workplace benefits has on their health, their stability, their families,” said Eddie Torres, President and CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts. “We see these negative impacts because so many artists are independent workers. Health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits provide essential protections for traditional workers that independent workers simply do without. With the number of independent workers growing, the introduction of the Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act comes at a crucial time. The bill will begin to lay the policy foundation to make workplace benefits available to independent workers, including artists. Grantmakers in the Arts strongly supports this legislation, and stands ready to work with Senators Warner and Young and Representative DelBene to have it signed into law this Congress.”
“The Association of Language Companies applauds Senator Warner and his colleagues for introducing the Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act,” said Susan Amarino, President, Association of Language Companies. “The language industry works in every industry in the US. We support national security, economic growth, and the provision of vital language access to health care, education, and social services. The translators, interpreters, captioners, and other skilled language professionals deserve the ability to choose independent contractor status and receive the benefits necessary to take care of their families and plan for their futures. The pilot program for portable benefits would go a long way toward supporting the 21st-century knowledge-based workforce.”
A copy of the bill text is available here.
Senate Intelligence Committee Leaders Host Public-Private Roundtable on Small Modular Reactors
May 17 2023
WASHINGTON – Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) released the below statement after convening an unclassified roundtable discussion on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) with senators, civil nuclear industry and national security officials:
“As global electricity demand continues to grow at exponential rates, the world needs safe, resilient, secure, and affordable sources of power. Nuclear energy, including Small Modular Reactors, will be a critical component of meeting this demand. A recent Department of Energy report found that the U.S. alone will need 200 GW of new nuclear power by 2050 – creating a global market that could be worth $250 to 400 billion by 2040, while spurring U.S. jobs.
“China and Russia have recognized the potential of nuclear power and are investing heavily in their advanced reactors, while attempting to secure nuclear contracts all over the world. The United States must not let our adversaries monopolize the growing civil nuclear industry, set the safety standards around nuclear power, dominate the supply chains for such a critical source of energy, and/or attempt to use advanced reactor contracts to exert undue geopolitical and economic leverage.
“We were pleased to co-host this bipartisan roundtable alongside Senators Manchin, Barasso, and Capito, amongst others, bringing together CEOs across the civil nuclear industry and national security officials from the U.S. government to discuss how the United States, alongside our allies, can outcompete our adversaries in deploying the next generation of civil nuclear power at home and abroad, and ensure that our own critical domestic facilities and capabilities are supported by secure, continuous, and clean power. We look forward to continuing this work with all relevant stakeholders.”
Sen. Warner has a long history of supporting clean energy technologies critical to our national security. He is a co-sponsor of the Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act of 2023, which would enhance United States civil nuclear leadership, support the licensing of advanced nuclear technologies, strengthen the domestic nuclear energy fuel cycle and supply chain, and improve the regulation of nuclear energy, and the Nuclear Fuel Security Act of 2023, which takes substantial steps toward onshoring nuclear fuel production.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $6,710,000 in federal funding for three Virginia airports. The funding was awarded through the Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Airport Improvement Program (AIP).
“Virginia’s airports serve thousands of flyers every day and we are thrilled to deliver funding that will make travel through Virginia safer, more convenient, and more accessible for all,” the Senators said. “This funding will allow our Commonwealth’s airports to start important maintenance and planning projects that will help meet their communities’ needs for years to come.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $5,000,000 for Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport in Arlington, VA for the construction of a taxiway.
- $1,350,000 for Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Newport News, VA for to fund an update to the Airport Master Plan.
- $360,000 for Winchester Regional Airport in Winchester, VA for the construction of a taxiway.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have championed continued investment in Virginia’s airports in order to make travel easier across the Commonwealth. Last month, the Senators announced over $1 million in funding for Luray Caverns Airport in Luray, Virginia courtesy of the AIP. Earlier this year, Sens. Warner and Kaine announced over $29 million in federal funding for improvements to three Virginia airports, Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Norfolk International Airport (ORF), and Richmond International Airport (RIC). Additionally, the Senators have announced nearly $400 million in funding for various Virginia airports secured through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.
Warner, Kaine, Moran Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Childhood Cancer Research
May 16 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, during Brain Cancer Awareness Month, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner, Tim Kaine (both D-VA), and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act 2.0. This legislation would provide a new source of funding for the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program (Kids First)—which Kaine helped create—by redirecting penalties collected from pharmaceutical, cosmetic, supplement, and medical device companies that break the law to pediatric and childhood cancer research. Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) introduced a version of the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The bill is named in honor of Gabriella Miller, a Leesburg, Virginia resident who died from a rare form of brain cancer at the age of 10. Miller was an activist and worked to raise support for research into childhood diseases like cancer until her death in October of 2013. In 2014, Kaine honored her by championing the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which established a Ten-Year Pediatric Research Initiative at the NIH and authorized $12.6 million per fiscal year through FY23 for pediatric disease research. Since President Barack Obama signed the original bill in 2014, $126 million has been directed to pediatric cancer research at the NIH through the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research program.
“I can think of no better way to honor the memory of Gabriella and other children who have lost their lives to rare pediatric cancers than by passing this legislation, which would provide crucial, sustainable funding for research to advance lifesaving treatments,” said Sen. Warner.
“Gabriella Miller was a Virginian and a passionate activist, and it’s my mission to honor her by working to make sure pediatric disease research is a priority in Congress,” said Sen. Kaine, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “I’m proud to join together with colleagues from both sides of the aisle in introducing this legislation, which would provide a crucial source of funding for the pediatric cancer and disease research that can support treatments and save lives in the years to come.”
“Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children, and we must better understand this horrific disease,” said Sen. Moran. “By directing new resources to NIH to research cures and treatments for cancer in children, we can help save lives and honor the memory of Gabriella Miller.”
“It is unacceptable that less than 8% of the federal cancer research funding goes towards childhood cancer while tens of thousands of children are diagnosed each year in the U.S. – and cancer is taking more children’s lives than any other disease right now,” said Rep. Wexton. “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to build on the remarkable work of the Kids First research programs and boost funding for treatments and cures that can save kids’ lives. It’s been an honor to work with Ellyn Miller, a constituent and Gabriella’s mother, as well as my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to deliver real change so no family has to go through what the Millers have faced.”
While cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children past infancy, childhood cancer and other rare pediatric diseases remain poorly understood. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 9,910 children under the age of 14 will be diagnosed with cancer, and about 1,040 will die of the disease in the United States in 2023.
The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Program has supported critical research into pediatric cancer and structural birth defects and has focused on building a pediatric data resource combining genetic sequencing data with clinical data from multiple pediatric cohorts. The Gabriella Miller Kids First Data Resource Center is helping to advance scientific understanding and discoveries around pediatric cancer and structural birth defects and has sequenced nearly 20,000 samples thus far.
The legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ted Budd (R-NC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
You can view the full bill text here.
Statement of U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner on the End of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
May 11 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the statement below on the official end of the nation’s Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19:
“When COVID-19 hit, Congress acted with force and urgency to save lives and livelihoods, taking actions that were made possible by the Public Health Emergency declaration, which opened the door to a wealth of additional tools and flexibilities. More than three years later, I’m proud to know that our nation has reached a point where we can move beyond the emergency stage of COVID-19 and the corresponding PHE declaration. Now, it’s up to Congress to adopt more permanent policies that reflect the valuable lessons we learned during this crisis, and that allow us to move forward rather than backwards. We must continue to strengthen our public health response capabilities, ensure that health care is affordable and easy to access through robust telehealth options, and improve the security of our southwest border while creating a better functioning asylum process and a reasonable path towards legal status for those who are undocumented. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on these issues.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced legislation to strengthen the security of U.S. election infrastructure by requiring that voting systems undergo simulated attacks as part of their standard certification process. Specifically, the Strengthening Election Cybersecurity to Uphold Respect for Elections through Independent Testing (SECURE IT) Act would direct the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to require that systems seeking certification undergo penetration testing, a practice that allows researchers to search for vulnerabilities by attempting to attack a system with the same tools and techniques used by cybercriminals.
“If we’re going to defeat our adversaries, we have to be able to think like they do. The SECURE IT Act would allow researchers to step into the shoes of cybercriminals and uncover vulnerabilities and weaknesses that might not be found otherwise,” said Sen. Warner. “As foreign and domestic adversaries continue to target U.S. democracy, I’m proud to introduce legislation to harness a critical cybersecurity practice that will help safeguard our elections infrastructure.”
“This bipartisan legislation will strengthen the integrity of our election process by ensuring that voting systems are safe and secure,” said Sen. Collins. “It will help protect and bolster public confidence in our elections.”
Current regulations under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) require the EAC to provide for the testing and certification, decertification, and recertification of voting system hardware and software by accredited laboratories. However, HAVA does not explicitly require penetration testing of voting systems.
This legislation would direct the EAC to require that a voting system undergo cybersecurity penetration testing in order to be certified. It would also direct the EAC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to accredit entities that can perform penetration testing to fulfill the aforementioned requirement. Additionally, the legislation would direct the EAC to create a voluntary Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure Program for election systems. Under this program, vetted researchers would be given access to voting systems voluntarily provided by manufacturers in order to discover vulnerabilities and disclose them to the manufacturer and EAC.
“This bill will allow independent election system researchers like myself to contribute more fully to the maintaining public confidence in our elections. The SECURE IT Act will create a space where researchers and election systems manufacturers can work together to find—and fix—any cybersecurity vulnerability that may exist in our election infrastructure,” said Dr. Juan E. Gilbert, Chair of the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida.
“ES&S has long supported and taken part in independent testing of its elections equipment,” said Tom Burt, CEO and president of Election Systems & Software, the largest manufacturer of voting systems in the United States. “Programmatic testing performed by independent security experts helps ensure equipment stays ahead of threats, and it helps increase voter confidence in the overall security of elections. I appreciate Senator Warner’s and Senator Collins’ work to further secure our nation’s elections.”
A copy of the bill is available here and a one-page summary is available here.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) today announced bipartisan legislation to reform the security classification system in order to reduce overclassification, prevent mishandling of classified information, promote better use of intelligence, and enhance public trust.
“The government systematically overclassifies too much information, at a dangerous cost to both the nation’s security and the public trust. At the same time, we too often fail to protect the nation’s most important secrets. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I think it is clear that our security classification system is badly in need of change,” said Sen. Warner. “Given the explosion in digital records, the status quo is no longer tenable. We’ve got too many people with access to a system that is devoid of accountability and has grown increasingly byzantine, bureaucratic, and outmoded. We need to protect our national security secrets, and then declassify those secrets when protections are no longer necessary. It’s time for Congress to take action and establish accountability.”
“Controlling access to sensitive information enables the U.S. to remain at least one step ahead of its adversaries, but declassification gives us the opportunity to work with our allies around the world and show the American people what their government is doing,” said Sen. Cornyn. “These bills would modernize the process for classification, ensure the safety and security of what should be classified, and make the declassification process more efficient as we seek to strike the delicate balance between transparency and secrecy.”
“Public access to government information is vital to a democratic society. Yet, as has been the case for many years, far too many records are classified. And, because of obsolete technology, far too few of those records ever see the light of day, even after they no longer meet the requirements for classification. One necessary step in addressing this crisis is to put someone in charge of modernizing the system so that records are tracked and then declassified and released when appropriate,” Sen. Wyden said. “This legislation accomplishes that goal by designating the DNI as the Executive Agent for Classification and Declassification, a reform that Senator Moran and I have been pushing for years. It is also critical that the rules that govern declassification of records be updated and strengthened and that the entities responsible for oversight of the system be empowered.”
“In the digital age, our classification system is absorbing a flood of new, critical information,” said Sen. Moran. “When it comes to declassifying documents, our current analog declassification process is about as effective as using an eye dropper to drain a flood. These deficiencies undermine our national security, and a backlog of unnecessary classified material is harming our ability to protect what should be secret from our enemies. We are long overdue for an overhaul that begins with an up-to-date declassification system in order to better secure our national secrets, and it begins with the legislation introduced today.”
The Classification Reform Act of 2023 will undertake significant reforms to the classification process. Among other steps, it will establish a new system of governance and accountability for the security classification system. It also provides that information may only be or remain classified where the harm to national security reasonably expected from disclosure outweighs the public interest. The legislation sets the maximum period for classification at 25 years, allowing only agency heads or the president to extend classification protections beyond that duration. In addition, the legislation also takes several other substantive steps to improve security while expanding transparency, including by establishing minimum standards for executive branch insider threat programs and mandating a security review of presidential and vice presidential records to ensure that records bearing classification markings are not improperly categorized as personal records and removed from secure facilities. In addition to Sens. Warner, Cornyn, Wyden and Moran, the legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Angus King (I-ME), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Bob Casey (D-PA).
In addition, the Sensible Classification Act of 2023 will codify classification authority, streamline the processes for declassification, dedicate additional resources to the issue of declassification, invest in new technology to assist with classification reviews, and undertake an evaluation of existing security clearances and their justifications to identify potential areas for additional reforms. In addition to Sens. Warner, Cornyn, Wyden and Moran, the legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Bob Casey (D-PA).
A one-pager is available here.
Warner & Waters Push to Empower Community Financial Institutions & Bring Clean Energy Investments to Communities of Color
May 09 2023
WASHINGTON?– Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging them to ensure that investments through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), a key Inflation Reduction Act program, serve to strengthen diverse-owned financial institutions dedicated to climate financing in low-income communities and communities of color. Today’s letter comes as the EPA prepares to release the Notices of Funding Opportunity for the GGRF, a competitive grant program to boost clean energy and climate projects in low-income and disadvantaged communities.
“We write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in its review of applications for funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), to give priority to applicants whose proposals fully utilize the diversity of financial institutions engaged in climate finance, including green banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs), as well as center their investment approach on low income and disadvantaged (LID) communities,” wrote the lawmakers in a letter to the EPA. “Specifically, CDFIs and MDIs leverage capital and have a proven track record of providing products and service to the most underserved communities. We urge EPA to heed the lessons learned from the Paycheck Protection Program regarding the importance of being intentional with program design when driving investments in low income and disadvantaged communities.”
In the letter, the lawmakers stressed the need to award this federal funding so that it goes towards projects and communities that lack access to affordable capital. They also highlighted the importance of ensuring that grant recipients have the structure, diversity, and track record needed to meet the goals of the GGRF.
“[T]he entities receiving direct federal investment must also demonstrate experience navigating green financing projects and have shown the ability to manage these projects across a variety of communities in order to achieve [Greenhouse Gas] GHG emissions reductions and develop successful projects. It is critical that the EPA balance out these needs for both financial viability and project-level expertise in order to maximize the fund’s performance across all metrics,” they continued. “Additionally, since the Justice40 prioritization should be a floor, not a ceiling, the EPA should require applicants to provide a strategy for how they will drive awareness, demand, and adoption of clean technologies in LID communities. We urge you to learn about community-level solutions that the Fund can support, especially solutions from low-income and disadvantaged communities.”
Further, the lawmakers urged the EPA to make important adjustments and issue guidance in order to maximize the impact of the funding in vulnerable communities.
“The success of the program in LID communities depends heavily on the ability to develop an ecosystem that supports other actors, including clean energy and workforce developers. Although the EPA guidance makes available $625,000 for technical assistance for indirect recipients, in order to drive demand and create an ecosystem we recommend that the EPA require some of these funds be aggregated and administered at the national level by the eligible recipient,” they wrote. “The Implementation Framework released by EPA caps the amount per indirect recipient at $5,000,000, which may not be the most impactful way to reach LID communities. For example, some communities have a limited number of mission driven lenders (e.g. CDFI deserts), making the cap on indirect investments have an impact on the amount of climate financing in those communities. We urge you to adjust this limitation on indirect investments to account for more factors, including demand, size of the institution and impact.”
Among other measures, the lawmakers also suggested that the EPA review the deep impact standards created by the Department of the Treasury for the Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP) – a key initiative created as part of a Warner-championed $12 billion investment?to open up new credit opportunities for low-income communities and communities of color.
Joining Sen. Warner and Rep. Waters in sending the letter are Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Alex Padilla (D-CA), as well as Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), and Judy Chu (D-CA).
Text of the letter is available here and below. ?
Dear Administrator Regan:
We applaud the EPA in taking an important step forward by providing guidance through the Implementation Framework for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and express our continued support for the swift implementation of this critical program. We agree with the EPA’s principles that this program can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, deliver benefits of projects to American communities, particularly those in LID communities, and mobilize financing and private capital to stimulate additional deployment of GHG reducing projects.
We write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in its review of applications for funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), to give priority to applicants whose proposals fully utilize the diversity of financial institutions engaged in climate finance, including green banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs), as well as center their investment approach on low income and disadvantaged (LID) communities. It is important that EPA adhere to the meaning and intent of Congress in the text of the Inflation Reduction Act (Pub. L. 117-169) (IRA) which highlights a dual mission of reducing greenhouse gases, while impacting LID communities.
In order to meet the objectives and principles outlined in the Implementation Framework, we believe eligible recipients must include meaningful involvement of a variety of financial institutions and business models, including clean financing institutions, community based-financing institutions, and other institutions designed to support clean technology deployment. Specifically, CDFIs and MDIs leverage capital and have a proven track record of providing products and service to the most underserved communities. We urge EPA to heed the lessons learned from the Paycheck Protection Program regarding the importance of being intentional with program design when driving investments in low income and disadvantaged communities. As a result, we believe that an ideal applicant for GGRF funds should have a shared governance structure that is diverse and accountable to local communities, have a plan for continued operability that includes experience investing in or with a variety of mission driven financial institutions, a market transformation approach that effectively crowds-in private capital without displacing otherwise commercially viable investment activities, a strategy for driving demand in LID communities, and an approach that incentivizes a significant amount of investment in the most underserved of the LID communities.
A shared governance structure where decision-making authority is granted to a variety of financial institutions and implementation partners is critical to meeting the goals of the GGRF, particularly in the competition for the National Clean Investment Fund. Mission driven lenders have different business models and products, making it essential that the governing body of the eligible recipient reflect that diversity of expertise and approach. To maximize the program’s success, the governing body must include green banks, CDFIs, MDIs, and other mission driven lenders with experience in climate finance and investment in LID communities. The governing body must be appropriately empowered and go beyond advisory to ensure capital allocation decisions reflect the diversity of business models among indirect recipients and private capital providers. Additionally, the governing body should reflect the demographic diversity of our nation and demonstrate accountability to local communities.
The IRA includes a “continued operability” requirement that ensures that direct investments be structured to ensure all communities continue to be served beyond the initial award of funds to an eligible recipient. However, in the Implementation Framework released on April 19, 2023 the EPA decided to separate direct investment and indirect investments into two separate competitions. This policy decision likely eliminates the possibility of cross-subsidies that would ensure continued operability for indirect investments in LID communities, which typically need a deeper subsidy. If the EPA opts to continue with separate competitions, we believe the agency should give priority to applicants that are applying for or collaborating across both competitions, have a strong track record of leveraging private capital, and a demonstrated ability to diversify a portfolio that includes debt, equity and grants in a way that meets the needs of a variety of financial institutions. Without a strong track record, direct recipients will not be able to instill confidence in the capital markets and optimize leverage across the portfolio at the indirect recipient level as well as at the qualified project level. We urge you to continue working closely with the staff from the U.S. Department of the Treasury that have experience internally, and through their consultants, making these types of investments in mission driven lenders. This includes a $12 billion suite of capital and grant programs to support CDFIs, MDIs, and the communities they serve, as well as the renewed State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) that is supporting up to $100 billion in small business loans, investments, and technical assistance through various state, tribal, and territory government programs. We urge you to collaborate with them to maximize the impact of GGRF for communities that need the support the most.
Similarly, the entities receiving direct federal investment must also demonstrate experience navigating green financing projects and have shown the ability to manage these projects across a variety of communities in order to achieve GHG emissions reductions and develop successful projects. It is critical that the EPA balance out these needs for both financial viability and project-level expertise in order to maximize the fund’s performance across all metrics. The EPA should seek to work with entities that are composed of both impact-oriented institutions as well as green financing entities, to ensure that the goals of impact, performance, GHG emissions reductions and long-term sustainability are achieved.
Furthermore, the impact of the GGRF should not be to crowd out private capital but instead to focus on those eligible projects and communities that lack access to affordable capital. Although the IRA states that eligible recipients should prioritize projects that lack access to financing, the EPA should be focused on market transformation. Displacing affordable private capital focused on the broad use and adoption of clean technologies would run counter to the country’s climate goals.
Additionally, since the Justice40 prioritization should be a floor, not a ceiling, the EPA should require applicants to provide a strategy for how they will drive awareness, demand, and adoption of clean technologies in LID communities. We urge you to learn about community-level solutions that the Fund can support, especially solutions from low-income and disadvantaged communities. In addition, CDFIs and MDIs have a long track record of serving communities long ignored by the traditional banking sector, including the development of financing and financial tools that meet the needs of low-income and disadvantaged communities. Simply put, reducing emissions and lowering energy costs among those communities will be best accomplished through the use of financing tools, grant support, and effective outreach to generate demand, change behavior, and build local capacity. It’s important that applicants prioritize technologies that will transform LID communities – saving households money on energy costs, creating quality jobs, and improving air quality - and work within the existing debt burden of families in LID communities. However, these communities cannot be served with financing tools alone and will need significant grant support across the value chain to generate demand, change behavior, and build local capacity. The success of the program in LID communities depends heavily on the ability to develop an ecosystem that supports other actors, including clean energy and workforce developers. Although the EPA guidance makes available $625,000 for technical assistance for indirect recipients, in order to drive demand and create an ecosystem we recommend that the EPA require some of these funds be aggregated and administered at the national level by the eligible recipient.
Driving demand will also need to be accompanied by a meaningful level of investment in mission driven lenders in order to change behavior. The Implementation Framework released by EPA caps the amount per indirect recipient at $5,000,000, which may not be the most impactful way to reach LID communities. For example, some communities have a limited number of mission driven lenders (e.g. CDFI deserts), making the cap on indirect investments have an impact on the amount of climate financing in those communities. We urge you to adjust this limitation on indirect investments to account for more factors, including demand, size of the institution and impact.
Finally, we urge you, after defining low income and disadvantaged community, to encourage applicants to the GGRF to structure a significant number of their investments in a way that incentivizes investments in the most underserved low income and disadvantaged communities, including those affected by high rates of adverse health and environmental outcomes. Investments in some underserved communities, like areas of persistent poverty and majority-minority communities, often are more time consuming and costly than in some other communities that are also considered underserved. Also, the definition of LID should include people focused categories, like the CDFI definitions for Low Income Targeted Populations (LITP) and Other Targeted Populations (OTP), to make sure that the low income and minority people who live in the LID communities are also directly benefiting from the GGRF. We urge you to look at the deep impact standards created by Treasury for the Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP) and encourage eligible recipients to make investments in mission driven lenders that include similar financial incentives for investments in the most underserved communities.
We share a dedication to decarbonization and justice and hope that we can work together with you and our nation’s mission driven lenders to meet the goals of the GGRF.
Warner & Kaine Announce Nearly $670,000 in Federal Funding for Community Facilities & Equipment in Rural Communities Across Virginia
May 05 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $669,200 in federal funding to improve community facilities and purchase equipment in rural communities across Virginia. The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development division’s Community Facilities Direct Loans & Grant Program and Water and Waste Disposal Predevelopment Planning Grant Program.
“We’re glad these funds will help improve essential services and strengthen public safety in rural communities across the Commonwealth,” said the senators. “We look forward to seeing Virginians benefit from these resources and will continue to do all that we can to ensure that the needs of our rural communities are being met.”
The Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program provides funding to purchase, construct, or improve essential community facilities and purchase equipment in rural areas. A breakdown of the funding is available below:
- Amelia County will receive $375,000 to rehabilitate the clerk’s office, which is approximately 100 years old, and improve safety in the historic Amelia County courts building, which serves over 12,000 Virginians.
- The Lee County Public Service Authority will receive $50,000 to purchase a sewer jetter to clear drain pipe obstructions in the waste system serving more than 25,000 residents and $50,000 to purchase a skid steer to complete earth-moving projects such as excavating, digging, and trenching in small spaces.
- Dayton will receive $50,000 to purchase a law enforcement vehicle and a public works service truck.
- Onancock will receive $40,600 and a loan of $75,600 to purchase a law enforcement vehicle and a public works truck. The current law enforcement vehicle has high mileage and requires costly repairs. The public works truck will replace a 12-year-old vehicle that no longer meets the needs of the town.
The Water and Waste Disposal Predevelopment Planning Grant Program helps low-income communities plan and develop applications for proposed USDA Rural Development water or waste disposal projects. The Greensville County Water and Sewer Authority will receive $28,000 to prepare preliminary engineering and environmental reports to address needed improvements to the Three Creek and Falling Run wastewater treatment plants.
Warner and Kaine have long supported rural communities across Virginia. Last year, the senators announced over $700,000 in federal funding to boost economic development in Southwest Virginia. They’ve also announced $5 million in federal funding to expand broadband access in rural and underserved areas.
As Violence Persists, Warner, Kaine, Colleagues Call for Increased Humanitarian Access and Assistance for Sudan
May 05 2023
WASHINGTON – As violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) continues for a third week, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), joined by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), have formally requested that the Biden administration offer all available support for humanitarian efforts in the region. The worsening conditions in Sudan have resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and have forced hundreds of thousands to flee in search of safety.
In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power, the senators highlighted the continued and indiscriminate violence, which has significantly worsened the humanitarian situation, and disrupted aid operations on the ground. According to the United Nations, even prior to the recent outbreak in violence nearly 16 million people in Sudan were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance.
“As the violence has escalated, its impact has been far reaching across all sectors of society. Damage to critical civilian infrastructure, including transportation and communication infrastructure, has limited the ability of people and basic goods to move throughout the country; damage to hospitals, depleted resources, and broken medical supply chains have largely degraded the nation’s health care capacity; and continued conflict has left significant portions of the population sheltering in their homes, with dwindling or exhausted supplies of food, water, and medicine,” the senators wrote. “As the UN’s top humanitarian affairs official said this week, ‘the humanitarian situation is reaching [a] breaking point.’ Unfortunately, this conflict has also deteriorated the flow and delivery of humanitarian assistance into Sudan, and aid groups’ ability to operate on the ground.”
Noting the indiscriminate violence and reported gross violations of international humanitarian law, the senators echoed calls for the parties to the conflict to ensure safe access and movement for humanitarian workers and medical personnel. They requested that the U.S. designate a senior diplomat or envoy to ensure that securing these humanitarian assurances remains a priority in direct negotiations, and that we engage with neighboring countries to help address the cross-border challenges seen from mass movement out of Sudan. Additionally, they voiced support for USAID and State Department efforts to support aid organizations in returning to Sudan quickly and safely, leverage local humanitarian organizations as part of the ongoing response to the violence, and engage with international partners as part of the U.S. response strategy.
The senators continued, “[A]s aid organizations work to reestablish operations, it is vital that the U.S. State Department and USAID provide all available support to facilitate ongoing aid operations on the ground, and support a resumption of efforts – whether in Sudan or in neighboring countries – that have been suspended due to the violence. In response to the significant need, and in part to fill in as international organizations have been forced to suspend their operations, a range of local and national Sudanese organizations have stepped forward to provide capacity. We encourage you to use flexibility in supporting these local efforts, in order to best leverage them alongside international efforts.”
Sens. Warner and Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), have been vocal about their support for aid efforts in Sudan and for the Sudanese diaspora in the United States, which in 2021 totaled more than 54,000 immigrants from Sudan, with the highest concentration located in Fairfax County, VA. Earlier this week, the senators called on the Biden administration to issue a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan, which would provide relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from the country currently in the United States.
A copy of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear Secretary Blinken and Administrator Power,
We write with deep concern regarding the horrific violence in Sudan, and its impact on the rapidly declining humanitarian situation on the ground. Now in its third week, the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has left hundreds dead, thousands more injured, and has forced hundreds of thousands of individuals to flee to neighboring regions and countries.
As the violence has severely disrupted humanitarian assistance on the ground – including by forcing some organizations to withdraw or suspend their efforts – we urge that you offer all available support to resume aid operations, take steps to reposition aid resources to reflect the current security environment, leverage local organizations as part of an ongoing response strategy, and continue efforts to marshal an international response.
Direct negotiations facilitated by the United States are critical to the reestablishment of a robust international aid response, and we urge that assurances for immediate and safe aid operations be made a primary focus of those negotiations.
We are deeply grateful for the U.S. Government’s efforts in evacuating U.S. Embassy personnel, and American citizens from Sudan. However, the recent conflict has hit areas like Khartoum and Darfur particularly hard, and it tragically exacerbates the existing crisis and humanitarian need across the country. According to the United Nations (UN), even prior to the recent outbreak in violence nearly 16 million people were estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance – a figure that represents close to a third of the total population in Sudan. Even prior to the start of the conflict, the crisis was already acute – more than 4 million children and pregnant and lactating women are counted as being “severely malnourished.”
As the violence has escalated, its impact has been far reaching across all sectors of society. Damage to critical civilian infrastructure, including transportation and communication infrastructure, has limited the ability of people and basic goods to move throughout the country; damage to hospitals, depleted resources, and broken medical supply chains have largely degraded the nation’s health care capacity; and continued conflict has left significant portions of the population sheltering in their homes, with dwindling or exhausted supplies of food, water, and medicine. As the UN’s top humanitarian affairs official said this week, “the humanitarian situation is reaching [a] breaking point.”
Unfortunately, this conflict has also deteriorated the flow and delivery of humanitarian assistance into Sudan, and aid groups’ ability to operate on the ground. The men and women who work for the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as those employed by international relief organizations, have committed themselves to careers seeking to alleviate suffering around the world, oftentimes carrying out this mission in harm’s way. Tragically, in the first two weeks of fighting at least five international aid workers had been killed, and there have been broader threats targeting aid personnel and supplies.
To be clear, the blame for the disruptions to aid and casualties lie with the warring parties. Reported gross violations of international humanitarian law have greatly impacted the safety of aid personnel, and directly contribute to the suffering of the Sudanese people. We echo international calls for the parties to the conflict to ensure safe access and movement for humanitarian workers and medical personnel, and to allow for steady streams of aid into and throughout the country.
In response to the dire humanitarian need, the reestablishment of these aid flows is critical. We understand that organizations are looking at how to best reposition and recalibrate support in light of the serious security risks. We appreciate the direct efforts that the U.S. Government has initiated to support humanitarian assistance, including USAID’s activation of a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) on April 23, and we urge you to take steps to safely reposition and pre-position resources so that they can best be utilized on the ground as soon as possible.
Additionally, as aid organizations work to reestablish operations, it is vital that the U.S. State Department and USAID provide all available support to facilitate ongoing aid operations on the ground, and support a resumption of efforts – whether in Sudan or in neighboring countries – that have been suspended due to the violence. In response to the significant need, and in part to fill in as international organizations have been forced to suspend their operations, a range of local and national Sudanese organizations have stepped forward to provide capacity. We encourage you to use flexibility in supporting these local efforts, in order to best leverage them alongside international efforts.
In an alarming estimate earlier this week, the UN projected that the ongoing conflict may drive more than 860,000 individuals to flee from Sudan into neighboring countries. We have already seen significant levels of migration out of Sudan over the past three weeks, which at many points has overwhelmed border capacity, thereby creating additional humanitarian concerns at these crossings. We welcome U.S. efforts to engage these neighboring countries and the UN to increase border capacity, ensure UN and international non-governmental organizations (INGO) access to these border crossings, provide additional aid along these routes, and scale up planning efforts to account for significant anticipated volume.
It is critical that negotiations involving a ceasefire between the warring parties prioritize the immediate creation of safe and durable humanitarian access to those in need. Additionally, we urge the deployment of an appointed special envoy or other senior diplomat to the region to engage directly with neighboring countries to ensure the free movement of individuals seeking safety out of Sudan, and that UN and INGOs are able to provide needed assistance in these border efforts.
It is vital that the U.S. continue its diplomatic engagement to push for a durable cessation of violence, in partnership with the African Union, and other regional and international partners. This cessation ultimately is the only path towards ensuring that urgent humanitarian needs on the ground are met. It must, however, also be accompanied by a concerted international effort, which fully resources the work done by aid organizations.
We have listened to concerns about what this ongoing violence means for individuals’ loved ones in Sudan, and for the country’s future. We support and encourage all efforts by the U.S. Government to be a forward-leaning and strong partner in the international aid response to this crisis in Sudan. Finally, we request regular updates and briefings from the State Department and USAID on the delivery of humanitarian aid for civilians in Sudan, and from the State Department on the evacuation of American citizens.
Warner Announces $1.8 Million for Virginia Universities to Train AI to Fight Cyberattacks
May 04 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today announced $1,820,000 for Virginia universities to research and develop AI capabilities to mitigate cyberattacks. Federal funding will allow the University of Virginia and Norfolk State University to study innovative AI-based approaches to cybersecurity. Researchers from these institutions will collaborate with teams at 10 additional educational institutions and 20 private industry partners to develop revolutionary methods to counter cyberattacks in which AI-enabled intelligent security agents will cooperate with humans to build more resilient networks.
“Addressing the cybersecurity threats that our nation faces requires constant adaptation and innovation, and utilizing AI to counter these threats is an incredibly exciting use-case for this emerging technology,” said Sen. Warner. “This funding will allow teams at the University of Virginia and Norfolk State to do groundbreaking research on ways AI can help safeguard against cyberattacks. I congratulate UVA and NSU on receiving this funding, and I can’t wait to see what they discover and develop.
The funding is distributed as follows:
· Norfolk State University will receive $975,000.
· University of Virginia will receive $845,000.
Funding for these awards is provided jointly by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, and IBM. Investments are designed to build a diverse AI workforce across the United States.
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a vocal advocate for improving cybersecurity and security-oriented design by AI companies. In April, he sent a series of letters to CEOs of several AI companies urging them to prioritize security, combat bias, and responsibly roll out new technologies. In November 2022, he published “Cybersecurity is Patient Safety,” a policy options paper that outlined current cybersecurity threats facing health care providers and offering a series of policy solutions to improve cybersecurity. As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner co-authored legislation that requires companies responsible for U.S. critical infrastructure report cybersecurity incidents to the government. He has also introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at building a more secure internet, including the RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries and the SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms.
Warner, Crapo Reintroduce Legislation to Support Community Development Financial Institutions
May 04 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), Co-Chairs of the Senate Community Development Finance Caucus, reintroduced the Scaling Community Lenders Act, bipartisan legislation to unlock more sources of liquidity and support for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). The legislation would allow CDFIs to scale their activities and fuel more lending in low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities.
CDFIs play a critical role in providing responsible and affordable credit to underserved communities. While Congress has taken significant steps to support community-based lenders since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CDFIs continue to require more long-term patient capital, operating capital, and resources to modernize their systems and compete in an era of rapid financial innovation. The Scaling Community Lenders Act would authorize new resources to activate and fund the long-dormant Section 113 of the Riegle Act of 1994 – the CDFI liquidity enhancement program –allowing the CDFI Fund to finance projects within the industry, selected on a competitive basis, to provide liquidity to CDFIs.
“CDFIs can play a crucial role in driving economic growth and providing access to capital to underserved communities,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m pleased to reintroduce this legislation to that supports new and innovative approaches in the industry and lays the groundwork for new ways to meet the needs in LMI communities.”
“I am proud to support the Scaling Community Lenders Act, which will help provide access to capital in low-income, rural and underserved communities,” said Sen. Crapo. “CDFIs play an important role in our state and nationwide, and this bill will help them expand their lending activities.”
CDFIs lend across a variety of categories, including business loans, consumer loans, commercial real estate, residential real estate, home improvement, and home purchases. However, for many of these products there is no secondary market that can unlock capacity and take loans of CDFI balance sheets. The development of a secondary market or facility that would buy loans from CDFIs would allow the industry to prove the performance of their assets in the long-term. The Scaling Community Lenders Act would encourage innovation and help determine the best routes for unlocking secondary markets for CDFIs.
Sens. Warner and Crapo have long been supporters of CDFIs and MDIs. Last year, the senators launched the bipartisan Senate Community Development Finance Caucus to serve as a platform where policymakers can coordinate and expand on public and private-sector efforts in support of the missions of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs).
Bill text is available here.
“During the Paycheck Protection Program, CDFI loan funds – for the first time – gained access to a Federal Reserve liquidity facility which allowed CDFIs to expand their lending to the small businesses in low-wealth communities hit hard by the Covid crisis. Opportunity Finance Network welcomes the piloting of other models for enhancing liquidity as outlined in the Scaling Community Lenders Act. Senator Warner, once again, is leading on initiatives to support and scale the CDFI industry,” said Jennifer A. Vasiloff, Chief External Affairs Officer, Opportunity Finance Network.
“The CDFI industry has proven its ability to expand access to financial services responsibly for unbanked communities, rural communities, and communities of color over the last few decades. It is time to bring new liquidity tools to the market to enable community lenders to scale to meet the enormous need for affordable credit. Without these tools, millions of Americans will not have access to income and wealth generating activities like small business and home ownership that expand opportunity and reduce the racial and gender wealth gaps,” said Beth Bafford, Vice President for Strategy, Calvert Impact.
“CRF strongly endorses the Scaling Community Lenders Act of 2023 introduced by Senators Warner and Crapo. We applaud their leadership and foresight to develop liquidity resources for CDFIs. As a pioneer of community development secondary markets and securitization, we understand the importance and power of providing liquidity to CDFIs. We were early supporters of section 113 of the Riegle Act and are delighted to see this section of the bill come to life. We are confident that these critical resources will enable CDFIs to deliver more impact in underestimated communities,” said Matthew Roth, CEO, Community Reinvestment Fund, USA.
“CDBA strongly supports the Scaling Community Lenders Act. Access to liquidity is an important tool for community development lenders to manage their portfolios and balance sheets, which in, turn gives them more capacity to serve their communities. The SCL Act will help build CDFI industry infrastructure that will expand access to capital in low income and minority communities,” said Jeannine Jacokes, CDBA.
“CDFIs consistently demonstrate an ability to support and reach historically marginalized and under-resourced communities. These community-centered organizations, built to promote economic inclusion and capital access, need their own capital tools to scale and break through barriers to their growth,” said Leah Fremouw, Board President, VA CDFI Coalition. “Facilitating the development of a reliable secondary market for CDFIs will provide these lenders opportunities to leverage their existing portfolio as a financing tool, freeing up assets for additional community investment. Activating and capitalizing the dormant Section 113 of the Riegle Act is critical to building a secondary market for CDFI lending, ultimately giving them the liquidity to originate more high-impact loans and capital tools. The VA CDFI Coalition is excited by the possibilities these investments could create across Virginia and hope to see this pass.”
“CDFIs play a critical role in reaching business owners, families and communities that our capital markets have left behind. Our decades of work with CDFIs have clearly identified the challenges they face in accessing the capital they need to scale their lending. Building secondary markets for CDFI loans is an essential complement to the CDFI Fund’s direct support for these critical institutions. We’re pleased to see this movement toward activating an important part of the original CDFI Fund statute,” said Joyce Klein, Director, Aspen Institute Business Ownership Initiative.
“The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) thanks Senators Warner and Crapo for introducing the Scaling Community Lenders Act,” said Matt Josephs, Senior Vice President for Policy, LISC. “Research has shown that Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) loans are high performing, although in most cases they are nontraditional and do not meet the underwriting and collateralization standards required by conventional banks. As a result, there is not a vibrant secondary market where CDFIs can sell these loans to investors. This legislation will kickstart a CDFI secondary market so CDFIs have access to loan purchasers to obtain the capital needed to finance additional community and economic development activities for underserved people and communities.”
“CDFIs are always in need of new approaches to help deliver on the promise of increased scale. In the current interest rate environment, finding new ways to add liquidity is more important than ever. Supporting the Scaling Community Lenders Act is a critical step to leverage the CDFI Fund and drive innovation,” said Brett Simmons, Managing Director of the EBA Fund.
“The CDFI Coalition is pleased to add its voice in strong support for the legislation sponsored by Sens. Warner and Crapo to establish a pilot program aimed at establishing a secondary market for loans made by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). The Scaling Community Lenders Act of 2022 amends the Community Development Banking and Financial Institutions Act of 1994 to authorize $100 million for funding up to 6 pilot programs, selected on a competitive basis, which would purchase CDFI loans and loan participations, provide guarantees, loan loss reserves and lines of credit and other measure necessary to enhance CDFI liquidity. CDFIs emerged to provide financial services in urban neighborhoods and rural areas underserved by traditional financial institutions, particularly those with high rates of poverty and unemployment,” said Ceyl Prinster, President and CEO, Colorado Enterprise Fund and Chair of the CDFI Coalition. “By leveraging over $12 in private capital to every $1 in federal support, CDFIs are filling the widening credit gap encountered in many communities, creating jobs improving housing and community facilities and creating economic opportunity. Throughout the last economic downturn, CDFIs provided flexible and patient capital, rigorous risk management, and commitment to the projects in their communities and the sustainability of their borrowers. While traditional borrowers fled economically distressed communities, CDFIs stepped in and filled the void. Since the advent of the economic crisis prompted by the pandemic, CDFIs have been on the frontlines of providing technical and financial assistance to small and minority-owned businesses. CDFIs fill a vital niche in the nation's financial services delivery system by serving communities and market sectors that conventional lenders cannot - with the ultimate goal of bringing CDFI customers into the mainstream economy as bank customers, home owners and/or entrepreneurs. We believe that the Scaling Community Lenders Act will enhance the ability of CDFIs to support economic revitalization in economic distressed rural, urban, minority and tribal communities. Establishing a secondary market for CDFI loans will be increase the availability of capital to CDFIs that will put it to good use in financing affordable housing, small businesses, and community facilities.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined 27 colleagues in introducing the Kids Online Safety Act, comprehensive bipartisan legislation to protect children online.
The Kids Online Safety Act provides young people and parents with the tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against online harms. The bill requires social media platforms to by default enable a range of protections against addictive design and algorithmic recommendations. It also requires privacy protections, dedicated channels to report harm, and independent audits by experts and academic researchers to ensure that social media platforms are taking meaningful steps to address risks to kids.
“Experts are clear: kids and teens are growing up in a toxic and unregulated social media landscape that promotes bullying, eating disorders, and mental health struggles,” said Sen. Warner. “The Kids Online Safety Act would give kids and parents the long-overdue ability to control some of the least transparent and most damaging aspects of social media, creating a safer and more humane online environment.”
Reporting has shown that social media companies have proof that their platforms contribute to mental health issues in children and teens, and that young people have demonstrated a precipitous rise in mental health crises over the last decade.
Specifically, the Kids Online Safety Act would:
· Require that social media platforms provide minors with options to protect their information, disable addictive product features, and opt out of algorithmic recommendations. Platforms would be required to enable the strongest settings by default.
· Give parents new controls to help support their children and identify harmful behaviors, and provides parents and children with a dedicated channel to report harms to kids to the platform.
· Create a responsibility for social media platforms to prevent and mitigate harms to minors, such as promotion of suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual exploitation, and unlawful products for minors (e.g. gambling and alcohol).
· Require social media platforms to perform an annual independent audit that assesses the risks to minors, their compliance with this legislation, and whether the platform is taking meaningful steps to prevent those harms.
· Provide academic and public interest organizations with access to critical datasets from social media platforms to foster research regarding harms to the safety and well-being of minors.
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a vocal advocate for Big Tech accountability and building a safer online environment. He has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at addressing these issues, including the RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology and social media platforms from foreign adversaries; the SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms; and the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclaimer requirements as TV, radio, and print ads.
The one-page summary of the bill can be found here, the section-by-section summary can be found here, and the full text of the Senate bill can be found here.
Statement of U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner on DEA Extension of Current Flexibilities Around Telehealth Prescriptions of Certain Medications
May 03 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the statement below after the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that it would extend current flexibilities around telehealth prescriptions of controlled substances, including those that treat opioid use disorder and anxiety, while it reviews a record number of comments received in response to its new proposed telemedicine rules. This move follows strong advocacy by Sen. Warner, who spoke out in March about the need to ensure that patients can continue getting their medications and sent a letter to DEA in August 2022 asking them to explain their plan for continuity of care after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.
“I’m pleased to see that the DEA is taking additional time to consider the comments to their proposed rule, which I believe overlooked the key benefits and lessons learned during the pandemic. This proposed rule could counterproductively exacerbate the opioid crisis and push patients to seek dangerous alternatives to proper health care, such as self-medicating, by removing a telehealth option in many cases. I’m working with my colleagues in Congress on a response to DEA’s proposed rule, and I look forward to further robust discussion on this critical issue.”
During COVID-19, patients widely adopted telehealth as a convenient and accessible way to get care remotely. This was made possible by the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which allowed for a number of flexibilities, including utilizing an exception to the in-person medical evaluation requirement under the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, legislation regulating the online prescription of controlled substances. With the Public Health Emergency set to expire, patients will soon lose the ability to reap the benefits of a mature telehealth system in which responsible providers know how to take care of their patients remotely when appropriate.
Since 2008, Congress has directed the DEA to set up a special registration process, another exception process under the Ryan Haight Act, that would open up the door for quality health care providers to evaluate a patient and prescribe controlled substances over telehealth safely, as they’ve done during the pandemic. This special registration process has yet to be established, and DEA wrote they believe this proposed rule fulfills those Congressional mandates, despite not proposing such a registration.
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a longtime advocate for increased access to telehealth. He is a co-author of the CONNECT for Health Act, which would expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors. He previously wrote to both the Biden and Trump administrations, urging the DEA to finalize regulations long-delayed by prior administrations allowing doctors to prescribe controlled substances through telehealth. Sen. Warner also sent a letter to Senate leadership during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, calling for the permanent expansion of access to telehealth services.
In 2018, Sen. Warner included a provision to expand financial coverage for virtual substance use treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, the telehealth expansion allowed individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available at home.
WASHINGTON – With violence erupting across the country, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee in search of safety, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today formally requested that the Biden administration issue a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan.
In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the senators expressed their concern with the worsening humanitarian conditions in Sudan as intense fighting continues across the country despite multiple attempted ceasefires.
“In recent weeks, violence in Sudan has claimed hundreds of lives, injured thousands, forcibly displaced tens of thousands, and terrorized many more,” the senators wrote. “Despite multiple attempted ceasefires between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), intense and indiscriminate fighting continues across the country, including within the densely populated capital of Khartoum, and in the continuously conflict-stricken region of Darfur. Ongoing hostilities have led to the near collapse of the healthcare system, significantly disrupted the flow of humanitarian aid into the country, and in many cases made access to basic resources like food, water, and medication impossible.”
Established by the U.S. Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990, TPS is a temporary, renewable program that provides relief from deportation and access to a work permit for foreign nationals from certain countries who are unable to return safely to their home country due to natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other extraordinary conditions. There are more than 54,000 immigrants from Sudan in the United States as of 2021, according to data, with the highest concentration located in Fairfax County, VA.
The senators continued, “Given the extremely violent clashes, deteriorating conditions, and the posture of the Department of State, it is clear that Sudan meets the standards for TPS. To that end, it is critical that a new designation be issued for Sudan that reflects the ongoing armed conflict and the continued extraordinary and temporary conditions on the ground.”
Last week Sen. Warner expressed his support for the steps the Biden administration has taken to deliver humanitarian assistance to the region and push for an end to the violence through diplomatic efforts. Sen. Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), has been pushing for the administration to ensure the safety and security of U.S. citizens in Sudan and urging both sides to commit to a permanent ceasefire. Last week, he held an event in Richmond with members of Virginia’s Sudanese American community to hear their perspectives on the conflict and discuss ways he can be helpful. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been longtime supporters of the TPS program for regions facing instability, most recently joining 116 of their colleagues in a letter, led by Sen. Kaine and Rep. Castro, to the Biden administration requesting the redesignation of TPS for El Salvador and Honduras and celebrating the Biden administration’s decision to issue a Temporary Protected Status designation for Cameroon during a period of unrelenting violence.
A copy of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken:
We urge you to issue a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Sudan, as the current armed conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has led to a mass exodus of individuals fleeing violence, scarcity of essential goods, and rapidly deteriorating health services. A new designation would protect current Sudanese TPS holders from returning to Sudan in the midst of this violence and would offer protected status to Sudanese nationals who arrived after March 1, 2022.
In recent weeks, violence in Sudan has claimed hundreds of lives, injured thousands, forcibly displaced tens of thousands, and terrorized many more. Despite multiple attempted ceasefires between the SAF and the RSF, intense and indiscriminate fighting continues across the country, including within the densely populated capital of Khartoum, and in the continuously conflict-stricken region of Darfur. Ongoing hostilities have led to the near collapse of the healthcare system, significantly disrupted the flow of humanitarian aid into the country, and in many cases made access to basic resources like food, water, and medication impossible.
Due to the continued threat of armed conflict, on April 22, 2023, the U.S Department of State issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory and ordered the departure of Embassy employees. This is part of a broader effort by the U.S., in coordination with regional and international partners, to evacuate U.S. nationals from Khartoum and allow for a safe path into neighboring countries. Given the extremely violent clashes, deteriorating conditions, and the posture of the Department of State, it is clear that Sudan meets the standards for TPS. To that end, it is critical that a new designation be issued for Sudan that reflects the ongoing armed conflict and the continued extraordinary and temporary conditions on the ground.
It is important to note that, while the situation is rapidly changing, the threat will not subside immediately once the conflict stops. Lasting damage has been done to Sudan’s telecommunications networks, electrical infrastructure, and transportation systems, including to Khartoum International Airport, making international travel extremely difficult.
Redesignating Sudan’s TPS status would also provide much needed clarity for current Sudanese TPS holders and would offer protection for Sudanese individuals who entered the U.S. more recently. As you know, Sudanese nationals living in the United States can currently apply for TPS under the April 2022 designation, which expires on October 19, 2023. TPS holders under the 2013 designation are facing an uncertain future due to ongoing litigation. The expiration date of TPS documentation under the 2013 designation is contingent on the outcome of the Ramos v. Nielsen case – a lawsuit determining the legality of the Trump Administration’s termination of Sudan’s 2013 designation – which could potentially remove status for TPS holders who have not applied under the 2022 designation.
Additionally, while TPS holders registered under the 2022 designation are exempt from the ongoing litigation, their protection expires in October. Further, there is currently no recourse for Sudanese nationals who have arrived in the U.S. after March 2022. This uncertainty and the continued dangerous circumstances in Sudan have created considerable hardship for TPS recipients and their families, including American-born children.
A new TPS designation for Sudan would protect eligible beneficiaries from the dangers they face if they were removed and would provide protection for newer arrivals. In light of these considerations, we strongly urge you to redesignate TPS for Sudan to ensure that Sudanese nationals already living in the U.S. are not forced to return to a nation facing violence and instability.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner issued the following statement in regard to the ongoing violence in Sudan:
"It has been tragic to see the violence that has gripped Sudan – violence that has so far left hundreds dead, thousands injured, tens of thousands forcibly displaced from their homes, and so many more terrorized by indiscriminate conflict. My team has heard from many who have shared concerns for family and loved ones back in Sudan, some desperately looking for the opportunity to leave safely.
"We continue to stay in close and regular communication with the Biden administration regarding the situation in Sudan. I fully support steps the administration has taken to deliver humanitarian assistance, as the recent events exacerbate already dire conditions on the ground, and I strongly back continued diplomatic efforts by the U.S., the African Union, and other international partners pressing for a durable cessation of the violence."
Warner, Kaine Join Colleagues in Introducing Legislation to Improve Community Safety and Banking Access for Legal Cannabis Businesses
Apr 28 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of colleagues in introducing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2023. The legislation would ensure that legal cannabis businesses have access to critical banking and financial services.
Most state legal medicinal or recreational cannabis businesses across the country are denied access to traditional and secure banking systems and financial services because banks fear they may be prosecuted under federal law given the current federal restrictions on cannabis. Due to the lack of access to financial services, legal state cannabis businesses are forced to operate solely using cash, which leaves to door open to potential tax evasion and increases the potential for criminal activity.
“No business operating legally and safely should feel the need to conduct their business in all-cash out of fear of unfair penalization from the federal government,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine. “It is about time we pass the SAFE Banking Act and ensure that all legal cannabis businesses have access to the financial services they deserve to support their businesses and keep their communities safe.”
Specifically, the?SAFE Banking Act?of 2023 would prevent federal banking regulators from:
- Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis business, or an associated business (such as a lawyer or landlord providing services to a legal cannabis business);
- Terminating or limiting a bank’s federal deposit insurance primarily because the bank is providing services to a state-sanctioned cannabis business or associated business;
- Recommending or incentivizing a bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
- Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a cannabis-related business.
This legislation would also create a safe harbor from criminal prosecution and liability and asset forfeiture for banks and their officers and employees who provide financial services to legitimate, state-sanctioned cannabis businesses, while maintaining banks’ right to choose not to offer those services. The bill also provides protections for hemp and hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) related businesses.
This legislation also explicitly extends the safe harbor to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) ensuring they can also serve cannabis businesses. Sens. Warner and Kaine have long been supporters of CDFIs and MDIs. Last year, Sen. Warner launched the bipartisan Senate Community Development Finance Caucus to serve as a platform where policymakers can coordinate and expand on public and private-sector efforts in support of the missions of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs). Extending the safe harbor to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDI) ensures that underserved communities are not once again excluded from opportunities to access capital and financial support for their businesses.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the following statement today:
“With the expansion of Metro access to Dulles, long-distance flights from the Washington region have never been more accessible or competitive. The slot and perimeter rules help to balance consistent world-class aviation services at the region’s three major airports, which has in turn allowed for billions of dollars in private-sector capital investment in the metropolitan Washington area. As Congress prepares to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we will strongly oppose any efforts to disrupt or undermine the balance between Dulles and National, an airport one-fourteenth the size of Dulles.”
Acknowledging the physical limitations at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA), Congress has since 1986 restricted the number of nonstop flights that can originate out of DCA to airports outside of a 1,250-mile perimeter, while Washington Dulles International (IAD) was planned as the growth airport for the region’s aviation needs. However, in past FAA reauthorization bills, Congress has made changes to these rules that have disrupted the balance in this two-airport system by adding additional flights from Reagan to destinations outside the 1,250-mile perimeter. These changes in flight activity have produced significant stress on DCA’s facilities, from strained roadways and limited parking availability to overburdened baggage systems, and created frustrations for travelers, businesses, and local residents. Those changes have also prevented Dulles, whose size allows for larger planes to land and take off, from realizing its full potential as the primary long-haul flight destination for the Washington metropolitan area. In March, Sens. Warner and Kaine were joined by the two senators from Maryland in sending a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee, which has responsibility for drafting legislation to reauthorize the FAA, strongly opposing any further changes at airports that serve residents of the National Capital Area.
Statement of U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine Ahead of Vote on Equal Rights Amendment
Apr 27 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement ahead of the Senate’s historic vote on a resolution that would facilitate the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which was first introduced 100 years ago to guarantee equal protection for women in the U.S. Constitution:
“In 2020, Virginia made history by becoming the 38th and final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Today, the Senate has the opportunity to make history by voting to remove the time limit for ratification of the ERA. We urge our colleagues to join us in voting to remove this arbitrary and unnecessary time limit and enshrine equality for women into the U.S. Constitution.”
Warner and Kaine are cosponsors of the bipartisan resolution to remove the time limit for ratification of the ERA. In December 2022, Kaine led members of the Virginia delegation, including Warner, in urging a Senate vote on this important resolution.
The ERA was first introduced in 1923 and passed the House and Senate in 1972. At the time of passage, Congress required three-fourths of the states to ratify the amendment within seven years, although the Constitution does not impose a deadline for ratification of amendments. The 27th Amendment was ratified two centuries after it passed Congress. By 1977, 35 states had ratified the ERA, and in 1978, falling short of the required 38 states for adoption, Congress extended the time limit an additional three years. In 2020, Virginia became the 38th and final state needed for ratification.
If the ERA became the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it would serve as a new mechanism – for Congress, for federal agencies, and in the courts – to advance equality in the fields of workforce and pay, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and violence, and reproductive freedom. It would also signal to the courts that they should apply a more rigorous level of review to laws and government policies that discriminate on the basis of sex, making it more likely for them to be struck down.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today urged CEOs of several artificial intelligence (AI) companies to prioritize security, combat bias, and responsibly roll out new technologies. In a series of letters, Sen. Warner expressed concerns about the potential risks posed by AI technology, and called on companies to ensure that their products and systems are secure.
In the past several years, AI technology has rapidly advanced while chatbots and other generative AI products have simultaneously widened the accessibility of AI products and services. As these technologies are rolled out broadly, open source researchers have repeatedly demonstrated a number of concerning, exploitable weaknesses in the prominent products, including abilities to generate credible-seeming misinformation, develop malware, and craft sophisticated phishing techniques.
“[W]ith the increasing use of AI across large swaths of our economy, and the possibility for large language models to be steadily integrated into a range of existing systems, from healthcare to finance sectors, I see an urgent need to underscore the importance of putting security at the forefront of your work,” Sen. Warner wrote. “Beyond industry commitments, however, it is also clear that some level of regulation is necessary in this field.”
Sen. Warner highlighted several specific security risks associated with AI, including data supply chain security and data poisoning attacks. He also expressed concerns about algorithmic bias, trustworthiness, and potential misuse or malicious use of AI systems.
The letters include a series of questions for companies developing large-scale AI models to answer, aimed at ensuring that they are taking appropriate measures to address these security risks. Among the questions are inquiries about companies' security strategies, limits on third-party access to their models that undermine the ability to evaluate model fitness, and steps taken to ensure secure and accurate data inputs and outputs. Recipients of the letter include the CEOs of OpenAI, Scale AI, Meta, Google, Apple, Stability AI, Midjourney, Anthropic, Percipient.ai, and Microsoft.
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a vocal advocate for Big Tech accountability and a stronger national posture against cyberattacks and misinformation online. He has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at addressing these issues, including the RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries; the SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms; and the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclaimer requirements as TV, radio, and print ads.
A copy of the letters can be found here and below.
I write today regarding the need to prioritize security in the design and development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. As companies like yours make rapid advancements in AI, we must acknowledge the security risks inherent in this technology and ensure AI development and adoption proceeds in a responsible and secure way. While public concern about the safety and security of AI has been on the rise, I know that work on AI security is not new. However, with the increasing use of AI across large swaths of our economy, and the possibility for large language models to be steadily integrated into a range of existing systems, from healthcare to finance sectors, I see an urgent need to underscore the importance of putting security at the forefront of your work. Beyond industry commitments, however, it is also clear that some level of regulation is necessary in this field.
I recognize the important work you and your colleagues are doing to advance AI. As a leading company in this emerging technology, I believe you have a responsibility to ensure that your technology products and systems are secure. I have long advocated for incorporating security-by-design, as we have found time and again that failing to consider security early in the product development lifecycle leads to more costly and less effective security. Instead, incorporating security upfront can reduce costs and risks. Moreover, the last five years have demonstrated that the ways in which the speed, scale, and excitement associated with new technologies have frequently obscured the shortcomings of their creators in anticipating the harmful effects of their use. AI capabilities hold enormous potential; however, we must ensure that they do not advance without appropriate safeguards and regulation.
While it is important to apply many of the same security principles we associate with traditional computing services and devices, AI presents a new set of security concerns that are distinct from traditional software vulnerabilities. Some of the AI-specific security risks that I am concerned about include the origin, quality, and accuracy of input data (data supply chain), tampering with training data (data poisoning attacks), and inputs to models that intentionally cause them to make mistakes (adversarial examples). Each of these risks further highlighting the need for secure, quality data inputs. Broadly speaking, these techniques can effectively defeat or degrade the integrity, security, or performance of an AI system (including the potential confidentiality of its training data). As leading models are increasingly integrated into larger systems, often without fully mapping dependencies and downstream implications, the effects of adversarial attacks on AI systems are only magnified.
In addition to those risks, I also have concerns regarding bias, trustworthiness, and potential misuse or malicious use of AI systems. In the last six months, we have seen open source researchers repeatedly exploit a number of prominent, publicly-accessible generative models – crafting a range of clever (and often foreseeable) prompts to easily circumvent a system’s rules. Examples include using widely-adopted models to generate malware, craft increasingly sophisticated phishing techniques, contribute to disinformation, and provide harmful information. It is imperative that we address threats to not only digital security, but also threats to physical security and political security.
In light of this, I am interested in learning about the measures that your company is taking to ensure the security of its AI systems. I request that you provide answers to the following questions no later than May 26, 2023.
1. Can you provide an overview of your company’s security approach or strategy?
2. What limits do you enforce on third-party access to your model and how do you actively monitor for non-compliant uses?
3. Are you participating in third party (internal or external) test & evaluation, verification & validation of your systems?
4. What steps have you taken to ensure that you have secure and accurate data inputs and outputs? Have you provided comprehensive and accurate documentation of your training data to downstream users to allow them to evaluate whether your model is appropriate for their use?
5. Do you provide complete and accurate documentation of your model to commercial users? Which documentation standards or procedures do you rely on?
6. What kind of input sanitization techniques do you implement to ensure that your systems are not susceptible to prompt injection techniques that pose underlying system risks?
7. How are you monitoring and auditing your systems to detect and mitigate security breaches?
8. Can you explain the security measures that you take to prevent unauthorized access to your systems and models?
9. How do you protect your systems against potential breaches or cyberattacks? Do you have a plan in place to respond to a potential security incident? What is your process for alerting users that have integrated your model into downstream systems?
10. What is your process for ensuring the privacy of sensitive or personal information you that your system uses?
11. Can you describe how your company has handled past security incidents?
12. What security standards, if any, are you adhering to? Are you using NIST’s AI Risk Management Framework?
13. Is your company participating in the development of technical standards related to AI and AI security?
14. How are you ensuring that your company continues to be knowledgeable about evolving security best practices and risks?
15. How is your company addressing concerns about AI trustworthiness, including potential algorithmic bias and misuse or malicious use of AI?
16. Have you identified any security challenges unique to AI that you believe policymakers should address?
Thank you for your attention to these important matters and I look forward to your response.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced the allocation of $1,226,527 to Virginia for the Commonwealth’s airport system through two grants distributed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration. Specifically, the Department of Transportation has awarded $476,527 to Luray Caverns Airport in Luray, Virginia for the construction of a 4,600 square foot terminal building to meet the operational needs of the airport as well as the construction of an airport parking lot. In addition, $750,000 has been awarded to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the commission of a study to reevaluate its air transportation needs for the first time since 2010.
“Luray Caverns Airport serves thousands of Virginians every year and we are happy to see this funding go towards critical improvements,” said the Senators. “We are glad to see continued, meaningful investment in the Commonwealth’s infrastructure that will help to assess aviation needs across Virginia and make travel through our airports easier and more accessible.”
Sens. Warner and Kaine have championed continued investment in Virginia’s airports in order to make travel easier across the Commonwealth. Earlier this year, the Senators announced over $29 million in federal funding for improvements to three Virginia airports, Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Norfolk International Airport (ORF), and Richmond International Airport (RIC). Additionally, the Senators have announced nearly $400 million in funding for various Virginia airports secured through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today voted to pass the Fire Grants and Safety Act, legislation to ensure years of continued funding for grant programs that support fire departments and firefighters all across the Commonwealth. Today’s vote in the Senate comes as two critical funding programs near their 2024 expiration deadline.
“Virginia firefighters routinely put themselves at risk to save lives and stop catastrophe in its tracks. We are proud to have voted to continue delivering the federal dollars fire departments need to keep serving their communities. We urge our colleagues in the House to pass this bill expeditiously and send it to the President’s desk so that firefighters can count on the resources they need to stay safe and retain a solid frontline workforce,” said the Senators.
Specifically, this legislation would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, which provides funding to help firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards. It would also reauthorize the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, which provides funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained, "front line" firefighters available in their communities.
Since 2015, more than 253 AFG grants and 72 SAFER grants have been awarded to communities throughout the Commonwealth, with Virginia fire departments receiving more than 8 million dollars from these programs in this year alone.
So far, in 2023, the following localities have received funding through the Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grant program:
- Isle of Wight County received $959,020
- The City of Alexandria received $600,000
- The City of Lynchburg received $830,636
- Franklin County received $438,238
- The Bland County Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. received $163,476
- The Scruggs Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, Inc. in Franklin County received $66,666
So far, in 2023, the following localities have received funding through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program:
- The City of Manassas Park received $3,582,866
- Rappahannock County received $561,617
- Goochland County received $556,972
- The Town of Chatham received $204,804
- Hanover County received $41,800
- Stephens City Fire And Rescue Company, Inc. in Frederick County received $21,068
This legislation, passed by the Senate, will now head to the House of Representatives.