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Mark Warner

WARNER, KAINE INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO PROVIDE FINANCIAL RELIEF TO VIRGINIA BEACH TRAGEDY FUND

~ Bill would permit the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund to receive tax deductible donations ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), member of the Senate Finance Committee, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) have introduced legislation to provide financial relief to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund to help Virginia Beach shooting victims get the financial assistance they need. The Virginia Beach Strong Act would ensure that any donations made to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund on behalf of the families of the dead or wounded victims of the mass shooting in Virginia Beach are tax-deductible.

“There is nothing we can do to undo this tragedy or bring back the individuals we lost in this senseless act of violence, but we can try to make it as easy as possible for families and those injured to get the relief they need,” said the Senators. “This legislation will further incentivize donations to the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund by making sure that contributions to victims and families are permitted to be treated as charitable contributions.”

U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives that is supported by Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Denver Riggleman (R-VA), Don Beyer (D-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).

“On May 31st, our Virginia Beach community experienced an unspeakable tragedy that led to the loss of 12 wonderful people,” Rep. Luria said. “In the wake of our community’s darkest day, we saw countless selfless people donate to provide relief for grieving families. I am introducing the Virginia Beach Strong Act to make it easier to help bring more urgently-needed support to grieving families.”

On May 31, 2019, a gunman opened fire at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, killing 12 people and injuring four. Soon after, the Virginia Beach Tragedy Fund was created to support the wounded victims and the families of those killed. However, because the fund was set up exclusively for the benefit of those affected by the tragedy, it violates a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable tax rule that prohibits charitable funds from being earmarked for specific individuals. As a result, donations to the fund are not currently tax-deductible for those making the contributions.

The Virginia Beach Strong Act would clarify that any contribution made for the relief of the families of the dead or wounded victims is treated as a tax-deductible contribution. This legislation would also apply retroactively, classifying any such contribution made on or after May 31, 2019 as tax-deductible.

Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Luria have been fierce advocates for the victims and families affected by this mass shooting. In August, they successfully passed bicameral legislation to rename a Virginia Beach post office after Ryan “Keith” Cox, a longtime public utilities employee who, alongside other victims, sacrificed his own life to save others during the shooting. In June, Sens. Warner and Kaine wrote to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify that victims and families were not being taxed on the contributions they were receiving. Additionally, the Senators secured unanimous passage earlier this year of a Senate resolution honoring the 12 victims of the Virginia Beach shooting.

The full text of the bill is available here.

WARNER, KAINE ANNOUNCE MORE THAN $23 MILLION FOR VIRGINIA AIRPORTS

~ Grants will help fund projects at 11 airports across the Commonwealth ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today announced $23,185,283 in federal funding from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to support improvement projects at 11 airports.

“We’re excited to announce that these federal dollars will benefit 11 Virginia airports,” said the Senators. “We look forward to seeing how these grants will help improve safety and increase efficiency at airports all across the Commonwealth.”

  • Washington Dulles International Airport will receive $854,786 to support Voluntary Airport Low emissions (VALE) infrastructure.
  • Manassas Regional Airport/Harry P. Davis Field will receive $3,513,300 to construct a taxiway, improve a runway safety area, and rehabilitate a runway.
  • Warrenton-Fauquier Airport will receive $150,000 to rehabilitate a taxiway and rehabilitate a runway.
  • Leesburg Executive Airport will receive $205,000 to construct an apron.
  • Richmond International Airport will receive $8,733,800 to construct a taxiway.
  • Lynchburg Regional Airport/Preston Glenn Field will receive $305,148 to rehabilitate and construct aprons, and rehabilitate a taxiway.
  • Norfolk International Airport will receive $3,591,524 to acquire land for approaches, install airfield guidance signs, rehabilitate taxiway lighting, rehabilitate a taxiway and acquire friction-measuring equipment.
  • Franklin Municipal-John Beverly Rose Airport will receive $90,000 to conduct a study.
  • Virginia Highlands Airport will receive $4,150,000 to extend a runway.
  • Luray Caverns Airport will receive $1,291,725 to construct an apron.
  • Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport will receive $300,000 to construct a taxiway and acquire safety and/or security equipment.

 The funding was awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which supports infrastructure improvement projects at airports across the nation. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for greater infrastructure investments, including for Virginia’s airports. They have pushed back against the Trump Administration’s suggested budget cuts to DOT to help ensure that critical upgrades like these can happen. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced a bill to strengthen our nation’s infrastructure, create jobs, and generate economic stimulus.

WARNER RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT CYBERSECURITY PRACTICES AMID BREACHES INVOLVING SENSITIVE BIOMETRIC DATA

~ Requests answers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Suprema HQ Inc. ~

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and former tech entrepreneur, wrote to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and South Korean company Suprema HQ, following separate but alarming incidents that impacted both entities and exposed Americans’ personal, permanently identifiable data. In a letter to CBP, Sen. Warner inquired about the information security practices of CBP contractors, in light of a June cyberattack that resulted in the theft of tens of thousands of facial images belonging to U.S. travelers. In a separate letter, Sen. Warner requested more information from Suprema HQ, the company that owns web-based biometric lock system, Biostar 2, which experienced a cyber incident in August, resulting in the exposure of permanently identifiable biometric data belonging to at least one million people worldwide.
 
“While all of the stolen information was sensitive and required protection, facial image data is especially sensitive, since such permanent personal information cannot be replaced like a password or a license plate number,” wrote Sen. Warner to Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan.  “It is absolutely critical that federal agencies and industry improve their track records, especially when handling and processing biometric data. Americans deserve to have their sensitive information secured, regardless of whether it is being handled by a first or a third-party.”
 
In June, CBP announced the theft of at least 100,000 traveler ID photos from a CBP subcontractor that had improperly transferred copies of these photos from CBP servers to its own company database. In addition to facial images, the cyberattack resulted in the theft of several gigabytes of data, including license plate photos, confidential agreements, hardware blueprints for security systems, and budget spreadsheets.
 
In the letter to CBP, Sen. Warner expressed alarm regarding the failure of federal agencies to ensure that Americans’ sensitive information is safe in the hands of contractors. He also asked CBP to provide timely answers to a series of questions regarding the information security practices of CBP contractors and subcontractors. Among these questions, Sen. Warner requested details on CBP’s third-party contractual requirements concerning database encryption, biometric data management, vulnerability management, logging data retention, and identity and access management, among other security measures.
 
Similarly, in his letter to Suprema HQ, Sen. Warner raised concerns about the Biostar 2 incident, which exposed permanently identifiable biometric data, including user photos.
 
“Unlike passwords, email addresses and phone numbers, biometric information in voices, fingerprints, and eyes are unique data that are impossible to reset. Biometric data can be used effectively for unauthorized surveillance and access to secure facilities, to steal identities, and is even valuable in developing deepfake technologies,” wrote Sen. Warner to Suprema HQ CEO James Lee. “It is my understanding that your customers use your biometric security system to provide access to secure facilities, and that the product has also been integrated into Nedap’s AEOS access control systems, which are used by at least 5,700 organizations in 83 countries, including banks and foreign law enforcement entities.  Given the sensitivity of this information, it is absolutely critical that companies like yours exercise exceptional due care when collecting and securing biometric information, and when contracting with customers that collect permanent personal information.”
 
The Biostar 2 breach resulted in the online exposure of more than one million fingerprint records, in addition to user images, personal details, usernames and passwords, and employee security clearances. The breach also revealed that large portions of the Biostar 2 database were unprotected and unencrypted. In the letter, Sen. Warner asked Suprema HQ to list which U.S. businesses are served by the company. He also requested more information on the company’s practices regarding server security, biometric data storage security, and database encryption.
 
Sen. Warner has been a champion for cybersecurity throughout his career, and has been an outspoken critic of poor cybersecurity practices that compromise Americans’ personal information. In May, Sen. Warner introduced bold legislation to hold credit reporting agencies accountable for data breaches. He also introduced legislation earlier this year to empower state and local government to counter cyberattacks, and to increase cybersecurity among public companies.

Toomey, Warner Introduce Measure Recognizing September 11th National Memorial Trail

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are working together to further honor the heroes of September 11th, 2001.

In a bipartisan resolution, Senators Toomey and Warner highlight the significance of the September 11th National Memorial Trail (NMT) – a 1,300 mile network of roads and paths that connect the Pentagon Memorial (Arlington, Va.), the Flight 93 National Memorial (Shanksville, Pa.), the National September 11th Memorial and Museum (New York City, N.Y.), and the 9/11 Memorial Garden of Reflection (Yardley, Pa.). The NMT also passes through parts of Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.

“September 11th, 2001 was one of the darkest days in American history, claiming the lives of thousands of American heroes. Pennsylvania remembers that had it not been for the sacrifice of those who overtook the terrorists on Flight 93, it could have been much worse,” said Senator Toomey. “In the wake of these attacks, the very best of our country shined through. First responders performed extraordinary acts of valor, communities from across the country donated food, blood, and money, and we honored those we lost. The September 11th National Memorial Trail connects key landmarks in a way that helps our country move forward positively and offers solemn remembrance to hallowed grounds.”

“The September 11th National Memorial Trail provides an opportunity for Virginians to reflect on those we lost and those who sacrificed their lives saving others,” said Senator Warner. “I am proud to know that our resolution will recognize this important trail and continue to honor the brave individuals who fought for our freedom. I encourage folks across the Commonwealth to take some time to appreciate the trail’s natural beauty and remember America’s heroes and their loved ones.”

RESOLUTION

Recognizing the September 11th National Memorial Trail as an important trail and greenway all individuals should enjoy in honor of the heroes of September 11th.

Whereas September 11th, 2001, is the date of one of the worst terrorist attacks on United States soil, claiming nearly 3,000 lives at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Virginia, and the Flight 93 crash site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania;

Whereas the United States came together to honor the loved ones who were victims of the attack and the heroes of September 11th, including the first responders, in the days, weeks, and months after the attack by erecting the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the Pentagon Memorial, and the Flight 93 National Memorial;

Whereas, as a further tribute to first responders and the individuals who lost their lives, the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, in partnership with State and local governments and other nonprofit organizations, was formed to develop a 1,300-mile trail and greenway to connect the 3 memorials;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail is a biking, hiking, and driving trail that provides a physical link between the 3 memorials;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail passes through Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and the District of Columbia;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail forms an unbroken triangle that links the cities, towns, and communities along the trail that are home to State and local memorials and other significant sites that reflect the spirit of United States patriotism and resilience;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail—

(1) starts at the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia;

(2) follows the Mt. Vernon Trail and then extends north along the 184-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

National Historical Park;

(3) connects at Cumberland, Maryland, with the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage, which the Trail then follows to Garrett in Somerset County, Pennsylvania;

(4) turns northeast and continues for approximately 21 miles to the Flight 93 National Memorial;

(5) continues east through the communities and historic sights of Pennsylvania until arriving at the 130-mile Liberty Water Gap Trail in New Jersey, which the Trail then follows to New York City;

(6) continues to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City;

(7) returns south, following important sections of the East Coast Greenway and connecting the 9/11 Memorial Garden of Reflection to the trail;

(8) continues along the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; and

(9) ends at the Pentagon Memorial;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail serves as an important recreational and transportation venue for promoting tourism, economic development, healthy bodies and minds, and cultural and educational opportunities;

Whereas the September 11th National Memorial Trail has the support of States, local communities, and the private sector;

Whereas recognition by the Senate of the September 11th National Memorial Trail does not confer any affiliation of the Trail with the National Park Service or the National Trails System;

Whereas recognition by the Senate of the September 11th National Memorial Trail does not authorize Federal funds to be expended for any purpose related to the Trail; and

Whereas States, local communities, and the private sector are encouraged to join together to complete the September 11th National Memorial Trail: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate recognizes the September 11th National Memorial Trail as an important trail and greenway all individuals should enjoy in honor of the heroes of September 11th.

WARNER INTRODUCES AMENDMENT TO ANNUAL DEFENSE BILL TO MANDATE REPORTING OF FOREIGN ELECTIONS INTERFERENCE

~ Follows last week’s unanimous consent request, which was blocked by Senate Republicans ~
 

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

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

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

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

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

Boozman-Warner Legislation Aims to Expand Outreach, Create Measurement Tool to Improve Effectiveness in Fight Against Veteran Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Officials Seek to Attract Grocery Stories to ‘Food Deserts’

WARNER, KAINE BILL THAT AWARDS CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL TO FOUR AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN FOR THEIR WORK AT NASA LANGLEY PASSES SENATE

~ Bipartisan legislation will award Congressional Gold Medals to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden for their groundbreaking contributions ~

WASHINGTON – Today, bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) to award four African American women scientists the Congressional Gold Medal for their work at NASA Langley passed the U.S. Senate with unanimous support. The bill would give this distinction to Katherine Johnson and Dr. Christine Darden and posthumously award the medals to Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. It serves to commend these women for their contributions to NASA’s success during the Space Race and highlight their broader impact on society – paving the way for women, especially women of color, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives, where a companion bill has been introduced.

“These four remarkable women and their contributions to the success of the Space Race remained unacknowledged for far too long,” said the Senators. “We are thrilled that their achievements while at NASA Langley—particularly during a tough period of racial inequality—continue to be brought to light. This recognition will help carve their rightful place in history and inspire a new generation of diverse women to lead the way in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award in the U.S. It is awarded to those who have performed an achievement that has had an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized in the recipient’s field for years to come.

The Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act will honor:

  • Katherine Johnson, who calculated trajectories for multiple NASA space missions including the first human spaceflight by an American, Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission. She also calculated trajectories for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission to orbit the earth. During her time at NASA, she became the first woman recognized as an author of a report from the Flight Research Division.
  • Dorothy Vaughan, who led the West Area Computing unit for nine years, as the first African American supervisor at National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became NASA. She later became an expert programmer in FORTRAN as a part of NASA’s Analysis and Computation Division.
  • Mary Jackson, who petitioned the City of Hampton to allow her to take graduate-level courses in math and physics at night at the all-white Hampton High School in order to become an engineer at NASA. She was the first female African-American engineer at the agency. Later in her career, she worked to improve the prospects of NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers, and scientists as Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager.
  • Dr. Christine Darden, who became an engineer at NASA 16 years after Mary Jackson. She worked to revolutionize aeronautic design, wrote over 50 articles on aeronautics design, and became the first African-American person of any gender to be promoted into the Senior Executive Service at Langley.

The lives and careers of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden were featured in the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly. That book was adapted into the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which the Senators showed at a Capitol Hill screening for hundreds of Virginia students last year. In addition, Sens. Warner & Kaine honored Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson by acknowledging their achievements in an official statement that was enshrined in the Congressional Record.

TRUMP SIGNS WARNER & KAINE PROVISIONS TO ADDRESS OPIOID CRISIS INTO LAW

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine celebrated key provisions from their bills to address the opioid crisis becoming law. The comprehensive substance abuse treatment bill, known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, was just signed into law by President Trump after it passed the Senate 98-2 and the House 393-8. The legislation includes four proposals from Warner that initially passed out of the Senate Finance Committee as part of the Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act of 2018 and three proposals from Kaine that passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as part of the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018.

“This comprehensive legislation takes significant steps to stem the opioid epidemic that has devastated communities across the Commonwealth. By making necessary improvements to substance abuse treatment and recovery services, we can help save lives. That’s why I’m proud to report that this historic package includes several proposals that I championed to expand telehealth services to ensure more families get the addiction treatment they need,” said Warner.

“This bill is the product of a strong bipartisan effort to tackle the addiction crisis that is taking lives in Virginia and across the country. I’m proud the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act includes my proposals to help ensure job training is incorporated into recovery programs and that the kids who are hurt by this crisis get the resources they need. This comprehensive effort aiming to address prevention, treatment, and recovery is an important step toward solving the addiction crisis,” Kaine said.

Warner and Kaine have worked over the years to move legislation forward to combat the substance abuse epidemic, which in 2017 accounted for more than 72,000 deaths nationwide.The final bill included provisions from four Warner bills to:

  • Expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment.
  • Make clear how Medicaid funds can be used for substance use disorder treatment through telehealth.
  • Help ensure children suffering from substance use disorders receive the assistance they need through telehealth services.
  • Improve data collection on substance use disorders among Medicaid recipients.

The final bill included proposals from three Kaine addiction treatment bills to:

  • Give states the resources and guidelines to ensure recovery homes are effectively helping residents sustain recovery from opioid and substance use disorders.
  • Incorporate job training into drug addiction recovery programs.
  • Afford schools the opportunity to apply for grants to directly offer trauma support services to students impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Last month, Warner and Kaine voted for a FY19 funding bill that increased funding to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support programs related to the opioid crisis, including an additional $3.8 billion for treatment, prevention and research.

Virginia Delegation Calls on President Trump to Issue Federal Emergency Declaration Ahead of Hurricane Florence

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman (VA-01), Scott Taylor (VA-02), Bobby Scott (VA-03), A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Tom Garrett (VA-05), Bob Goodlatte (VA-06), Dave Brat (VA-07), Don Beyer (VA-08), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Barbara Comstock (VA-10), and Gerry Connolly (VA-11), called on President Donald Trump to issue a federal emergency declaration ahead of Hurricane Florence, a tropical storm which was recently upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make landfall somewhere on the southeast or Mid-Atlantic coast Thursday night. Virginia’s congressional delegation wrote to the President in support of a request from Gov. Ralph Northam in advance of the storm’s potentially devastating effects on the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“The health and well-being of my constituents is my top concern, which is why I joined the entire congressional delegation of Virginia to call on President Trump to give full consideration to Governor Northam’s request to issue a federal emergency,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “If this storm continues as predicted, making federal resources available will help us achieve a speedy recovery.”

“A federal emergency declaration would ensure the full availability of federal resources to support the Commonwealth’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery from the direct and indirect effects of Hurricane Florence. Thank you for your consideration of Governor Northam’s request. We look forward to working with you, FEMA, and other relevant federal agencies to ensure that the Commonwealth of Virginia has the resources available to ensure the safety of our constituents,” wrote the Virginia Congressional Delegation.

On September 8, 2018, Gov. Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia in preparation for Hurricane Florence, which is projected to have a significant impact on the Commonwealth in the coming days. It is increasingly likely that Virginia will face damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and potentially life-threating storm surge flooding. Many localities have already ordered mandatory evacuations to prevent potential physical harm or loss of life.

The full text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Mr. President:

We write today to express our support for Governor Ralph S. Northam’s request for a federal emergency declaration in advance of Hurricane Florence’s potentially devastating effects on the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As you may know, on September 8, 2018 Governor Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia in preparation for Hurricane Florence, which is projected to have a significant impact on the Commonwealth in the coming days. It is increasingly likely that Virginia will face damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and potentially life-threating storm surge flooding due to Hurricane Florence. Many localities have already ordered mandatory evacuations to prevent potential physical harm or loss of life.

Governor Northam’s emergency declaration ensures a fully coordinated state response to support local recovery efforts. The Commonwealth has activated the Virginia Evacuation Coordination Team for Operational Response to assess the storm’s potential effects and the Virginia Emergency Operations Center is already coordinating the state’s response with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

A federal emergency declaration would ensure the full availability of federal resources to support the Commonwealth’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery from the direct and indirect effects of Hurricane Florence.

Thank you for your consideration of Governor Northam’s request. We look forward to working with you, FEMA, and other relevant federal agencies to ensure that the Commonwealth of Virginia has the resources available to ensure the safety of our constituents.

 

 

During U.S. Open, McEachin, Kaine, Capito, Warner, Scott Commemorate Arthur Ashe on 50th Anniversary of Historic Win

WASHINGTON – Congressmen A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Bobby Scott (VA-03) and U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, Shelley Moore Capito, and Mark Warner announced their plans introduce bicameral resolutions to commemorate Arthur Ashe, a Richmond, VA native, on the 50th anniversary of his historic win at the 1968 U.S. Open Tennis Championship. The resolution honors Ashe’s humanitarian contributions to civil rights, education, the movement against apartheid in South Africa, and HIV/AIDS awareness. The 2018 U.S. Open Tennis Championship is currently underway.

“I am so proud to introduce a House Resolution honoring the life, legacy, and leadership of the great Arthur Ashe,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Ashe’s contributions to American history continue to make his fellow Richmonders proud – just as we were on the historic day 50 years ago.”

“Virginians will always be proud of what Arthur Ashe accomplished on and off the court,” Kaine said. “He set an example of how to be a leader, and 50 years after his historic win, he deserves this recognition.”

“As an avid tennis player, I’ve always been a fan of Arthur Ashe. Not only was he an incredible athlete, but he was also a great humanitarian and an advocate for many important causes. He built his legacy both on the court and through the many other efforts he championed around the world, and I’m excited to sponsor this resolution honoring that legacy,” Capito said.

“Although most remember Arthur Ashe as a fierce competitor on the tennis court, he was also an activist and an incredible force for racial and social justice,” said Warner. “This much deserved tribute honors him for using his platform to be a champion for all.”

“This bicameral resolution will further solidify the legacy of Arthur Ashe by honoring his legacy both on and off the court. As Virginians and Americans, we are inspired by his achievements,” said Scott.

Arthur Ashe was the first African-American man to win the singles title at the U.S. Open and to be ranked number one in the world. Click here for full text of the resolution.

WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE NEARLY $900,000 TO HELP HOMELESS VIRGINIA VETS RE-ENTER THE WORKFORCE

~ Federal funds will go to community programs in Henrico, Hampton Roads, and Roanoke ~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that three Virginia organizations will receive $891,303 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Labor to help homeless veterans re-enter the workforce.

The funds – in the form of three competitive Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) grants – include $227,263 for Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, Inc.; $355,050 for STOP Inc., in Hampton Roads; and $308,990 for River City Comprehensive Counseling Services in Glen Allen, Va.

“Virginia’s veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to fight for our nation. Now, we need to fight for them and help ensure that they have the resources they need to succeed and thrive after completing their service,” said the Senators. “These grants will provide homeless veterans with counseling and a variety of career services in order to help them re-integrate into the workforce.”

HVRP funds are awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards; local public agencies and nonprofit organizations; tribal governments; and faith-based and community organizations. Homeless veterans may receive occupational skills training, apprenticeship opportunities, and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance. Grantees under the HVRP program will coordinate their efforts with other federal programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care program.

Sens. Warner and Kaine both have long records of advocating for the nation’s veterans through the appropriations process and legislation they have championed to reduce veteran homelessness, improve job training opportunities for veterans, and expand access to veterans’ health care.

WARNER & KAINE INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN RESOLUTION DEDICATING THE WEEK OF MAY 6 AS PUBLIC SERVICE RECOGNITION WEEK

~ Virginia is home to one of the highest concentrations of federal employees in the country ~ 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of Senators in honoring the critical work of federal, state, county, and local government employees and members of the uniformed services by passing a bipartisan resolution designating May 6-12, 2018 as Public Service Recognition Week. Virginia is home to one of the highest concentrations of federal employees in the country, with more than 170,000 individuals that are part of the federal workforce, along with more than 115,000 additional active duty and reserve military personnel.

“The Commonwealth’s servicemembers and civilian personnel alike are dedicated public servants who so often go above and beyond to ensure our country is operating safely and efficiently,” the Senators said. “We hope this small gesture will help highlight the important work that these exemplary federal employees do every day, often with little recognition, to improve the lives of Americans.”  

“Every day, our nation’s public servants devote themselves to serving their fellow citizens. They include local first responders, uniformed military serving in harm’s way, and federal employees protecting our borders, curing disease and maintaining the integrity of our financial markets,” said Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “However, the public seldom hears about their successes or the innovative ways in which they are improving service to the American people. This bipartisan resolution is a terrific expression of our thanks and appreciation.”

For over 30 years, Public Service Recognition Week has been hosted by the Public Employees Roundtable to help honor federal, state, county and local government employees who are critical to the day to day success of our communities and nation. This year marks the 34th anniversary of Public Service Recognition Week. Clickhere for more information about events and ways to celebrate Public Service Recognition Week.

Sens. Warner and Kaine were joined in cosponsoring the bipartisan Public Service Recognition Week Resolution by a group of 20 cosponsors, including U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), James Lankford (R-OK), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

VA, WV SENATORS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO RENAME DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AS ‘DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT’

~ Bipartisan legislation would recognize Department’s focus on increasing economic opportunities in rural communities ~

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced bipartisan legislation that would rename the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The change would accurately reflect theDepartment’s increasing focus on improving the quality of life of more than 45 million Americans living in rural areas. The Department already provides significant financial resources and technical assistance to rural communities in the form of loans, loan guarantees, and grants that help support economic development in these areas. Renaming the agency would help highlight its mission of providing rural communities with access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, healthcare, and other essential resources.

“President Lincoln called USDA ‘The People’s Department’ because, dating back to its founding in 1862, it has always been the primary government entity charged with boosting economic development in rural communities. But at the time of USDA’s creation, nearly half of all Americans lived on farms, compared to just 2 percent today,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan bill would highlight the USDA’s ongoing efforts to help rural communities thrive and underscore that part of its mission is increasing economic opportunity in rural America.”

“USDA plays an instrumental role in improving the lives of millions of Americans living in rural areas—especially in states like West Virginia,” said Sen. Capito. “The department has provided West Virginians access to increased broadband connectivity, improved health services, and critical infrastructure, and remains an important partner in these and other efforts. Renaming USDA will make it possible to recognize the agency’s role in creating more economic opportunity in rural communities, as well as its increasing role in rural development.”

“Today, the Department of Agriculture does more than provide assistance to farmers, it provides residents in rural areas in West Virginia with financial and technical assistance to confront the challenges many areas currently face,” said Sen. Manchin. “That’s why I believe the Department should be renamed and known for the services it should be focusing on, such as improving access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, healthcare, and other essential resources. Last year, I co-chaired the Appalachia Initiative where I discussed ways to address the challenges the rural communities in West Virginia face. This legislation will help shine a light on the Department of Agriculture’s vital work to ensure rural America does not get left behind.”

“USDA plays a critical role in promoting infrastructure and economic development in rural America. Too many rural communities lack clean drinking water, reliable broadband internet, and adequate health and transportation resources,” said Sen. Kaine. “The rural development mission of USDA is just as important as its agriculture, food safety, and nutrition missions and should be reflected in its title.”

President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress in 1862 that established the United States Department of Agriculture. Currently, USDA is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad. The Department is the federal agency in charge of meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers, promoting agricultural trade and production, working to assure food safety, protecting natural resources, fostering rural communities and ending hunger in the United States and internationally. In 2012, USDA commemorated its 150th anniversary.

“Rural communities are a key pillar of America, however, they are often challenged by geographic isolation and persistent poverty. For the residents of rural America that continue to feel left behind in today’s economy, The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Act of 2017 offers a renewed focus on the economic matters specific to their community. BPC Action hopes this step by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) will better focus federal efforts around conditions in rural America and produce pragmatic solutions such as those recommended by BPC’s Appalachia Initiative,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of BPC Action.

“The National Cotton Council greatly appreciates the work and support of Sen. Warner to help address economic challenges facing the cotton industry and broader concerns in agriculture and across rural America.  We support the Senator’s efforts to highlight the critically important role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in providing rural development support and economic opportunities in our rural communities,” said Reece Langley, VP of Washington Operations of the National Cotton Council.

"America's turkey farmers appreciate Sen. Warner's support for the rural communities that supply our farm inputs and where many of the facilities that process the turkeys we raise are located. This effort to rename the Department of Agriculture "the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development" reinforces the importance of rural development in the mission of the Department and to rural communities. The National Turkey Federation thanks Sen. Warner for working to ensure the communities where our families, friends and neighbors work and go to school have access to the infrastructure and resources needed to thrive and grow" said Joel Brandenberger, President of the National Turkey Federation.  

“Historically, Rural Development programs have not been a priority within the Agriculture Department, regardless of political party in charge. We believe renaming the Department would elevate the Rural Development mission area and better reflect the importance of these programs for rural communities across the country,” said Robert A. Rapoza, Executive Secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition.

Sens. Warner and Manchin, along with Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), are co-chairs of the bipartisan Appalachia Initiative, a task force convened with the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to find pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to Appalachia’s challenges. Last year, they released a report with a set of bipartisan recommendations to boost economic growth in Appalachia. Sens. Warner, Capito, and Manchin, along with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), have also introduced bipartisan legislation to expand economic opportunity in Appalachia.

The text of the bill can be found here.

WARNER, KAINE CALL FOR FEDERAL INVESTMENT IN LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY AND COMMUNITY POLICING

~ Senators ask appropriators to fund federal program that helps local law enforcement bolster community policing ~

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of Senators in a letter to congressional appropriators requesting a minimum of $225.5 million in federal funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program to help local law enforcement bolster community policing efforts. While February’s bipartisan budget agreement established how much money should be provided for local law enforcement efforts, leaders of congressional appropriation committees are ultimately in charge of deciding how that funding is allocated. The Senators requested at least the same level of federal funding as was appropriated for COPS in the last fiscal year.

“The COPS Hiring program represents a fiscally responsible solution to ensure that our communities remain safe….When officers establish a presence on their patrols using community policing principles, they can develop positive relationships with the communities they serve.  In turn, these relationships increase law enforcement’s ability to solve local crimes and resolve public safety problems,” the Senators wrote.  “This program plays an essential role in our federal government’s support for local law enforcement and should therefore receive the highest possible level of funding.”

The COPS program was designed to advance public safety by addressing the full-time officer needs of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.  COPS provides funds directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new and/or rehire career law officers, and to increase crime prevention efforts.

Since its inception, the COPS program has been responsible for putting 129,000 additional police officers on the job in 13,000 local communities across the country, including 48 police officers in Virginia in the last five years alone.  

The program has deep support among major law enforcement organizations, including the National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  

Other Senators joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in signing the letter include Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Senator Moran and Senator Shaheen:

As you consider funding levels for Fiscal Year 2019, we urge you to fund the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program at a minimum of $225.5 million, the amount appropriated for the program in FY 2018.  This program plays an essential role in our federal government’s support for local law enforcement and should therefore receive the highest possible level of funding.

The COPS Hiring program represents a fiscally responsible solution to ensure that our communities remain safe; the Brookings Institution found it to be “one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime.” When officers establish a presence on their patrols using community policing principles, they can develop positive relationships with the communities they serve.  In turn, these relationships increase law enforcement’s ability to solve local crimes and resolve public safety problems.  This proactive approach to policing prevents crime from occurring, saving taxpayers the high societal costs associated with crime, incarceration, and services for victims.

Since its creation, the COPS Office has assisted over 13,000 of the nation’s 16,000 jurisdictions with over $14 billion in funding to hire approximately 129,000 additional officers. In FY 2017, the COPS Hiring Program granted over $98 million to 179 law enforcement agencies to hire, preserve, or rehire 802 full-time law enforcement officers.  There were heightened restrictions for funding requests in FY 2017, leading many communities to forego applications, but still over 3,000 officers were requested, representing close to $410 million in funding. The $225.5 million requested is a small fraction of the $1 billion appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and less than the $298 million previously appropriated in FY 2010.

We are supported in this request by law enforcement organizations including the National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  We appreciate the hard work and leadership that you have shown on these issues. Ongoing crime and violence in our cities continue to demonstrate the vital need for increased police protection in our communities.  Therefore, as you determine the funding levels for this program, we ask that you support funding for the COPS Hiring Program at the highest possible level.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE FEDERAL FUNDING TO HELP REDUCE VETERAN HOMELESSNESS IN VIRGINIA

~ More than a half million dollars awarded to help reduce veteran homelessness ~

WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) announced today that the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are awarding $693,962 in federal funding to Virginia housing authorities to help homeless veterans and their families find affordable and stable housing.

“Those who have worn our nation’s uniform deserve to know that their country will take care of them when they return home,” said the Senators. “These federal dollars will help ensure that these heroes have the support they need to find safe and affordable housing.”

The selected Virginia housing authorities and funding amounts are listed below:

  • Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority—$35,369
  • Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$34,821
  • City of Virginia Beach—$39,161
  • James City Council Office of Housing & Community Development—$29,164
  • Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$35,663
  • Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$39,661
  • Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$6,858
  • Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority—$24,043
  • Virginia Housing Development Authority—$53,293
  • Arlington County Department of Human Services—$161,556
  • Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$121,507
  • Loudoun County Department of Family Services—$56,249
  • Office of Housing Development of Prince William County—$56,617

This funding was granted through the HUD-VASH voucher program, which is a collaborative effort between HUD and the VA that uses targeted vouchers to offer permanent supportive housing opportunities to veterans experiencing homelessness. On March 23, 2018, the Senators voted in favor of the omnibus bill that fully funds homeless prevention programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including HUD-VASH

WARNER, KAINE ANNOUNCE $1 MILLION IN SCHOLARSHIPS FOR CYBERSECURITY STUDENTS AT ODU

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,000,000 in federal funding from the National Science Foundation to support high-achieving students with demonstrated financial need as they pursue the cybersecurity program at Old Dominion University (ODU).
 
“Ensuring students have the support they need to pursue careers in cybersecurity is critical to building our federal workforce and defending the nation’s economic and national security,” the Senators said. “We are thrilled that ODU and the National Science Foundation are partnering to help make that a reality for more students.”  
 
The funding will provide up to 18 scholarships for students in the cybersecurity program as well as additional mentoring and program activities.
 
As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has been a strong voice for protecting the integrity of our election systems, introducing bipartisan legislation to bring accountability to online political adsand secure our elections. He is also the author of bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would provide states and local government funding to counter cyberattacks. As cofounder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, Warner has been a leader in calling for the protection of consumers’ personal information and timely disclosure of data breaches, authoring legislation to hold credit reporting agencies accountable for such breaches.
 
Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also co-chairs the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus and has become a leader in the Senate on policies to prepare students for careers in cybersecurity.  Last year, key provisions of Kaine’s DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act of 2017, which would improve and expand an existing DoD scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity fields, were included in the committee-passed Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The DoD Cyber Scholarship Act creates a jobs pipeline from Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) to the Department of Defense.

Expanding Medicaid Will Aid Schools, Governor Says

WARNER SPONSORS RESOLUTION TO HONOR BUFFALO SOLDIERS

 ~ Bipartisan resolution honors contributions of African-American soldiers who served in the United States Army following the Civil War ~

WASHINGTON –  In celebration of the achievements and contributions that African-Americans have made as part of Black History Month, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner cosponsored a bipartisan resolution to honor the “Buffalo Soldiers,” African-American soldiers who served in the United States Army following the Civil War and made invaluable contributions to the fabric of our nation’s history.

Following the conclusion of the Civil War, the United States Army allowed African-Americans to serve in segregated units. Two of these units, the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry, produced the “Buffalo Soldiers.” The soldiers received their nickname from Native Americans as a testament to their fearlessness in battle. In spite of being allocated inadequate resources and facing prejudice, the Buffalo Soldiers earned more Congressional Medals of Honor and had the lowest desertion rate of any unit in the Army. Five of those Medal of Honor recipients hailed from Virginia – Isaiah Mays (Carters Bridge, Va), Fitz Lee (Dinwiddie County, Va), Henry Johnson (Boydton, Va), Clinton Greaves (Madison County, Va), and Benjamin Brown (Spotsylvania County, Va).

"These brave Americans were among the first to answer the call to service at a time when African-Americans frankly weren’t treated as full members of our society,” said Warner. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the Buffalo Soldiers, and this resolution is an important way to honor their service to the United States.”

The resolution was introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The text of the Senate resolution follows and can also be viewed here

CONGRESS PASSES WARNER MEASURES TO IMPROVE CARE FOR MEDICARE PATIENTS

~ Bills heading to the President’s desk include bipartisan efforts to improve health outcomes for those living with chronic conditions ~

WASHINGTON — Today, a package of bipartisan healthcare provisions introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, were included in a funding bill passed by Congress and signed by the President. Among the five bipartisan legislative proposals is the CHRONIC Care Act, legislation aimed at improving health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions.

“It is no surprise that this package of cost-effective, evidence based proposals received broad bipartisan support,” said Sen. Warner. “These commonsense fixes will streamline the way Medicare patients living with chronic conditions receive care, helping those with diabetes or renal disease access high quality and affordable healthcare services.”

Bipartisan legislation passed by Congress today includes:

  • Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act– This bill will permanently reauthorize and strengthen Medicare Advantage Special Needs plans to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions or other significant health needs have continued access to quality care that is tailored to their personal needs. It also expands telehealth services offered through different providers of care that will benefit seniors in rural areas and increase access to primary care services and telestroke care. In addition, it extends the proven “independence at home” model that allows seniors to receive care from primary care teams, thereby decreasing hospital readmissions and allowing seniors with multiple chronic conditions to receive care in their own home.
  • Medicare Home Infusion Therapy Access Act– This bill will create a transitional reimbursement for Medicare home infusion services. While legislation sponsored by Sen. Warner to restructure the way Medicare beneficiaries who need intravenous medication receive their infusion treatments from the comfort of their home has already passed Congress, this bill properly aligns the change in payments with the new benefit, avoiding a four-year gap during which patients would have challenges securing these life-saving treatments. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
  • Dialysis Access Improvement Act– This bill will allow dialysis providers to seek outside accreditation from organizations approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to participate in the Medicare program, streamlining the accreditation process for dialysis facilities and improving access for Medicare patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
  • Protecting Access to Diabetes Supplies Act– The bill will strengthen patient protections included in the Medicare National Mail Order program for Diabetic Testing Supplies (DTS), ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries are able to continue accessing familiar diabetes supplies and test systems through DTS. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
  • Medicare Orthotics and Prosthetics Improvement Act– This bill will apply accreditation and other standards for orthotics and prosthetics, such as prosthetic limbs, under Medicare, helping to guarantee access to quality products for beneficiaries. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.

State Legislators Ask Congress to Improve Interstate 81

KAINE, WARNER, MCEACHIN, CONNOLLY, BEYER, SCOTT ASK TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO LISTEN TO LOCAL VOICES AGAINST OFFSHORE DRILLING

Legislators: You said “’Local voice matters.’ We couldn’t agree more.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Donald McEachin, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, and Bobby Scott sent a letter to the Trump Administration requesting that Virginia be exempted from its offshore drilling proposal, citing local concerns over the risks to tourism, the watermen’s industry, and the country’s Naval operations.

The Virginia legislators cited Secretary Zinke’s announcement that drilling off the Florida coast was taken “off the table” after listening to “local and state” voices, and asked that the Trump Administration take similar concerns from Virginians just as seriously. Virginia’s coastal leaders -from the Democratic mayor of Norfolk to the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach and the current Governor and Governor-elect of Virginia - have all voiced opposition to drilling off of the Virginia coast.

“As Members of Congress from Virginia, we request you remove the Virginia offshore area from your proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We note your willingness to listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there. We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia’s coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point,” the group said.

The full text of the letter appears below.

Dear Secretary Zinke:

As Members of Congress from Virginia, we request you remove the Virginia offshore area from your proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We note your willingness to listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there. We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia’s coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point.

The statement from your office announcing the removal of the Florida offshore stated, “Local voice matters.” We couldn’t agree more.

While many states have long histories of energy production, states like Florida and Virginia have robust economies based on other sectors like tourism, aquaculture, outdoor recreation, deepwater port commerce, and especially Department of Defense infrastructure. Florida is home to some 20 DOD installations, while Virginia’s coastal area alone has more than a dozen across every service branch, including Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval installation. While it is within DOD’s mandate to work with Interior, any look at a map displays vast offshore areas in which drilling could conflict with military activities. In a time of relatively stable prices and booming oil and gas production elsewhere, the risks outweigh the benefits.

Opposition to offshore drilling is an opinion broadly shared by communities on the Virginia coast, including by the Democratic mayor of Norfolk and the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach. In fact, the city council of Virginia Beach (Virginia’s most populous city) actively voted to shift its prior support for offshore drilling from supportive to neutral, then from neutral to opposed.

We hope you will take opposition from Virginia coastal communities as seriously as you took the concerns from Florida residents and elected officials.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

WARNER & KAINE SECURE FINAL PASSAGE OF BILL GRANTING RECOGNITION OF VIRGINIA INDIAN TRIBES

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner secured final passage of the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017. Once signed by the President, the legislation will grant federal recognition of six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond. Many of these include descendants of Pocahontas’ Virginia Powhatan tribe. Kaine and Warner worked with Democratic and Republican colleagues to ensure that the bill made it through to final passage. These tribes had received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but had not received federal recognition, which will grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government.

U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives from Virginia have pushed for federal recognition since the 1990s, with Senators George Allen and John Warner first introducing this legislation in the Senate in 2002. Kaine and Warner introduced this legislation in the Senate in the 113th and 114th Congresses, and Warner had introduced it in prior Congresses.

“This is about Virginia tribes that were here and encountered the English when they arrived in [Jamestown] in 1607, the tribes of Pocahontas and other wonderful Virginians. They are living tribes, never recognized by the federal government for a series of reasons. . . . It's a fundamental issue of respect, and fairly acknowledging a historical record, and a wonderful story of tribes that are living, thriving and surviving and are a rich part of our heritage. This is a happy day to stand up on their behalf,” Senator Kaine said on the Senate floor ahead of passage.

“We and some of the folks who are in the gallery today were not sure this day would ever come, but even here in the United States Congress and the United States Senate, occasionally we get things right. And boy, oh, boy, this is a day where we get things right on a civil rights basis, on a moral basis, on a fairness basis, and to our friends who are representatives of some of the six tribes who are finally going to be granted federal recognition, we want to say thank you for their patience, their perseverance, their willingness to work with us and others,” Senator Warner said on the Senate floor ahead of passage.

This version, which originated in the House of Representatives and was introduced by Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman, passed in the House unanimously in May.

Congressman Wittman said, “Today we have taken a critical step forward in correcting the Federal Government’s failure to recognize the ‘first contact' tribes of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Decades in the making, federal recognition will acknowledge and protect historical and cultural identities of these tribes for the benefit of all Americans. It will also affirm the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Virginia tribes, and help create opportunities to enhance and protect the well-being of tribal members. I want to thank Senators Kaine and Warner for their support to give these tribes the recognition they have long deserved.”

Once signed by the President, federal recognition will allow Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it would allow tribes to:

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.

These tribal leaders were in attendance in the Senate Gallery for the vote:

  • W. Frank Adams, Chief, Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe
  • Stephen R. Adkins, Chief, Chickahominy Indian Tribe
  • Wayne B. Adkins, Chair of VITAL
  • Dean Branham, Chief, Monacan Nation
  • Lee Lockamy, Chief Nansemond Indian Tribe
  • Frank Richardson, representing Chief Anne Richardson, Rappahannock Tribe
  • Gerald A. Stewart, Assistant Chief, Eastern Chickahominy Indian Tribe

WARNER, WARREN INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO HOLD CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES LIKE EQUIFAX ACCOUNTABLE FOR DATA BREACHES

~ Bill would establish cybersecurity inspections, impose mandatory penalties, and compensate consumers for stolen data ~

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced today the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act to hold large credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—including Equifax—accountable for data breaches involving consumer data. The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) more direct supervisory authority over data security at CRAs, impose mandatory penalties on CRAs to incentivize adequate protection of consumer data, and provide robust compensation to consumers for stolen data.

In September 2017, Equifax announced that hackers had stolen sensitive personal information – including Social Security Numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and passport numbers – of over 145 million Americans. The attack highlighted that CRAs hold vast amounts of data on millions of Americans but lack adequate safeguards against hackers. Since 2013, Equifax has disclosed at least four separate hacks in which sensitive personal data was compromised.

“In today’s information economy, data is an enormous asset. But if companies like Equifax can’t properly safeguard the enormous amounts of highly sensitive data they are collecting and centralizing, then they shouldn’t be collecting it in the first place,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill will ensure that companies like Equifax – which gather vast amounts of information on American consumers, often without their knowledge – are taking appropriate steps to secure data that’s central to Americans’ identity management and access to credit.”

“The financial incentives here are all out of whack – Equifax allowed personal data on more than half the adults in the country to get stolen, and its legal liability is so limited that it may end up making money off the breach,” said Sen. Warren. “Our bill imposes massive and mandatory penalties for data breaches at companies like Equifax – and provides robust compensation for affected consumers – which will put money back into peoples’ pockets and help stop these kinds of breaches from happening again.”

The Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act would establish an Office of Cybersecurity at the FTC tasked with annual inspections and supervision of cybersecurity at CRAs. It would impose mandatory, strict liability penalties for breaches of consumer data beginning with a base penalty of $100 for each consumer who had one piece of personal identifying information (PII) compromised and another $50 for each additional PII compromised per consumer. To ensure robust recovery for affected consumers, the bill would also require the FTC to use 50% of its penalty to compensate consumers and would increase penalties in cases of woefully inadequate cybersecurity or if a CRA fails to timely notify the FTC of a breach.

The Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act is supported by cybersecurity experts and consumer groups:

“U.S. PIRG commends Senators Warren and Warner for the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act. It will ensure that credit bureaus protect your information as if you actually mattered to them and it will both punish them and compensate you when they fail to do so,” said U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director, Ed Mierzwinski.

"This bill establishes much-needed protections for data security for the credit bureaus. It also imposes real and meaningful penalties when credit bureaus, entrusted with our most sensitive financial information, break that trust," said National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, Chi Chi Wu.

"Senator Warner and Senator Warren have proposed a concrete response to a serious problem facing American consumers,” said Electronic Privacy Information Center President, Marc Rotenberg.

"This bill creates greater incentive for these companies to handle our data with care and gives the Federal Trade Commission the tools that it needs to hold them accountable,” said Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America, Susan Grant.

Sen. Warner has been a leader in calling for better consumer protections from data theft. Following the Equifax data breach, Sen. Warner asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine whether credit reporting agencies such as Equifax have adequate cybersecurity safeguards in place for “the enormous amounts of sensitive data they gather and commercialize.” He slammed the credit bureau for its cybersecurity failures and weak response at a Banking Committee hearing with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton last year. Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2013 Target breach that exposed the debit and credit card information of 40 million customers, Sen. Warner chaired the first congressional hearing on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers’ online systems. Sen. Warner has also partnered with the National Retail Federation to establish an information sharing platform that allows the industry to better protect consumer financial information from data breaches.

To view a fact sheet about the legislation, click here. The bill text can be found here

WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE MORE THAN $1.3MILLION TO SUPPORT FIRE DEPARTMENTS IN VIRGINIA

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,357,959 in federal funding for nine Virginia fire departments through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The funding for nine fire departments in Concord, Chilhowie, Fairfax, Gasburg, Glade Spring, Kenbridge, Lovingston, Newport News, and Norton will be awarded through FEMA’s Assistant to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program.

“This federal funding will provide fire departments with critical support to enhance training operations and purchase life-saving equipment that will help keep Virginians safe,” the Senators said.

The following Virginia fire departments will receive funding under the AFG program:

  • The Concord Volunteer Fire Department will receive $64,762 to purchase vehicle extrication equipment;
  • The Town of Chilhowie Fire & EMS Department will receive $60, 313 to purchase portable and mobile radios;
  • The City of Fairfax Fire Department will receive $136, 182 to support training operations for firefighters;
  • The Gasburg Volunteer Fire Department will receive $46,116 to purchase an air compressor and fill station equipment;
  • The Glade Spring Volunteer Fire Department will receive $38,096 to purchase an air compressor and fill station equipment.
  • The Kenbridge Fire Department will receive $54,739 to update its source capture exhaust system technology;
  • The Lovingston Volunteer Fire Department will receive $142,381 to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus equipment;
  • The City of Newport News Fire Department will receive $404,600 to purchase power lift cots and stretchers and;
  • The City of Norton Fire Department will receive $320,358 to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus equipment and face pieces.

The primary goal of FEMA’s AFG program is to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters by providing direct financial assistance to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations and State Fire Training Academies for critically-needed resources. 

SEN. WARNER ASKS FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION TO PROBE EQUIFAX DATA, SECURITY PRACTICES & CUSTOMER SERVICE RESPONSE AFTER RECENT HACK

~ Asks FTC to exercise existing authority to probe data breach ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Banking, Budget and Finance committees and cofounder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, today asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine the recent cyber hack of credit reporting agency Equifax. Last week, Equifax publically disclosed a breach which exposed sensitive personal information of 143 million Americans.

Sen. Warner requested an FTC investigation into the lapse in Equifax cybersecurity practices, and questioned the company’s widely-panned response to consumers potentially impacted by the breach. His letter asks the FTC to examine whether credit reporting agencies such as Equifax have adequate cybersecurity safeguards in place for “the enormous amounts of sensitive data they collect and commercialize.” 

Sen. Warner has been a leader in calling for better consumer protections from data theft. In the aftermath of the Target breach that exposed the debit and credit card information of 40 million customers, Sen. Warner in 2014 chaired the first congressional hearing on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers’ online systems. Sen. Warner also partnered with the National Retail Federation to establish an information sharing platform that allows the industry to better protect consumer financial information from data breaches.

Sen. Warner has been working to develop bipartisan legislation to create a comprehensive, nationwide and uniform data breach standard requiring timely consumer notification for breaches of financial data and other sensitive information.

The text of the letter may be found here

WARNER, ISAKSON INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO PRESERVE PATIENT ACCESS TO HOME INFUSION SERVICES

~ Bill would create a temporary transitional payment for home infusion services ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), members of the Senate Finance Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation to create a temporary transitional reimbursement structure for Medicare home infusion services.

A version of legislation introduced by Sens. Warner and Isakson last Congress to restructure the way Medicare beneficiaries who need intravenous medication receive their infusion treatments from the comfort of their home was included in the landmark 21st Century Cures Act last year. However, the Cures bill did not properly align the change in payments with the new benefit, leading to a four-year gap during which patients would have challenges securing these life-saving treatments. This legislation ensures that patients receiving home infusion treatments maintain their access to these services until policies from the 21st Century Cures Act are implemented in 2021.

“Home infusion is a safe and effective alternative to inpatient care for many patients,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill expands on the progress made on 21st Century Cures by creating a transitional payment system that will allow Medicare to continue paying accurately for the drugs, while also protecting patients’ access to important services. This commonsense fix will help the Medicare program provide high-quality, lower-cost care, benefiting both patients and taxpayers.”

“Infusion therapy delivered in the home setting is the most desirable, convenient and by far the most cost-effective. We made important progress for modern medicine in the 21st Century Cures Act, and the home infusion therapy legislation that Senator Warner and I included in that bill makes a real difference for patients who need safe and effective treatments,”said Sen. Isakson. “Home infusion technology is a tremendous contribution to quality health care, and this legislation builds on the Cures Act to help ensure home infusion remains accessible.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), David Perdue (R-GA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

“This bill builds upon previous legislation so Medicare beneficiaries can receive infusion treatments at home,”Sen. Grassley said.  “This is an option that Medicare beneficiaries sought, and it’s a common sense, cost-effective way to provide care.  The private sector recognized this long ago.  Medicare should continue to reflect the modern practice of medicine and offer the best way of meeting a medical need at the lowest cost.”

TheMedicare Home Infusion Therapy Access Act of 2017 would create a transitional reimbursement for Medicare home infusion services. Starting in January 2017, the 21st Century Cures Act changed the payment for home infusion drugs, aligning them with payments for other drugs paid under Medicare’s Part B benefit. The 21st Century Cures Act also created a new reimbursement structure for the professional services associated with home infusion, which is set to take effect in 2021. The four-year gap between the January 2017 drug payment change and the implementation of the infusion services payment in 2021 may threaten the accessibility of home-infusion therapy. This bill would help smooth the transition to more accurate payments for home infusions drugs while also protecting patients’ access to these medications until the new home infusion benefit is implemented in 2021.

Sens. Warner, Isakson, Roberts, Grassley, Cardin, Brown, Portman, and Bennet are all members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare.

The legislation is supported by:Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC),  American Association of Heart Failure Nurses,  American Association for Homecare,  American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN),  Amerita, Inc., American Association for Homecare, Appalachian Home Infusion, ARJ Infusion Services, Best Option Healthcare PR, Inc., Big Sky IV Care, BioScrip, BJC Home Care Services Pharmacy, Brooks Home I.V., Inc., CarePro Health Services, CGH Medical Center, Chartwell Midwest Wisconsin, LLC, Chartwell Pennsylvania, LP, Choice CriticalCare Inc., Consortium of Clinical Immunologists (CIIC), Coram, CVS Specialty Infusion, Services, Druid City Vital Care, EMED Technologies, EMZA USA LLC & DeliverIt Pharmacy Inc., Fairview Health Services, Gates Healthcare Associates, Inc., Grifols, Hobbs Pharmacy, Home Health United Xtra Care Pharmacy, Home Parenteral Services, Horizon Healthcare Services, ICU Medical Inc., Infusion Solutions, Inc., Innovatix, INS, Intra Pump Infusion Systems, Intramed Plus, IV Solutions, LLC, John Hopkins Care Group, Kaup Pharmacy, Inc., Lakeland Home, Infusion, Liberty Medical Specialties, Inc., Medical Accounts Receivable Solutions, Inc. (MARs), Medical Alternatives, MK Infusion Pharmacy, LLC., MSD, Nation's Home Infusion, NuCara IV Services, One Source Homecare Services, OptiMed Infusion Services, Option Care, OptionOne Pharmacy, Paragon Healthcare Inc., Pediatric Home Service, Pharmacare Health Specialists, PharmaScript Inc., Preferred Homecare, Premier Infusion Care, Premier Nursing Group, LLC, Premier Point Home Health, Inc., PromptCare Home Infusion, LLC, Redline Specialty Pharmacy, SBH Medical, Ltd., Sentara Home Infusion Pharmacy, Sentara HealthCare, Simfarose Pharmaceutical Specialty, Smiths Medical, Soleo Health, Spectrum Infusion, Inc., TANYR Healthcare, The Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF), The National Home Infusion Association (NHIA), Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, UnityPoint at Home, University of Iowa Community HomeCare, VGM Group Inc., Vital Care, Inc., and the VNA Home Infusion Therapy Pharmacy.

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means  (H.R. 3163). The full text of the legislation is available here.

SENS. WARNER, HATCH, WARREN & RUBIO, REPS. PRICE & BYRNE INTRODUCE LEGISLATION PROVIDING RELIEF FOR BORROWERS OF JOINT CONSOLIDATION STUDENT LOANS

~ Bipartisan bill provides remedy for joint consolidation loan quagmire faced by borrowers, including those experiencing domestic or economic abuse ~

 WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), along with U.S. Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Bradley Byrne (R-AL), introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would provide much needed relief to borrowers who previously consolidated their student loan debt with their spouse’s. From 1993 until 2006, the U.S. Department of Education issued joint consolidation loans to married couples. Congress eliminated the program in 2006, but did not provide a means of severing existing loans, even in the event of domestic violence, financial abuse, or an unresponsive partner. As a result, there are borrowers nationwide who remain liable for their abusive or uncommunicative spouse’s consolidated debt with no legal options for relief.

 The Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act would allow two borrowers to submit a joint application to sever their joint consolidation loan, or allow one borrower to submit a separate application in the event that they are experiencing domestic or economic abuse, or are unable to reasonably reach or access the loan information of the other borrower.

 “I first learned about this issue when one of my constituents in McLean contacted my office for help with a joint consolidation loan following a divorce. Her case showed us a reality faced by many Americans who continue to be responsible for these loans despite difficult, and sometimes dangerous, situations with their partners,” said Sen. Warner. “Congress should not turn a blind eye to this oversight. This legislation is a commonsense fix that provides victims of economic and physical abuse or those dealing with an unresponsive partner with a mechanism to relieve themselves from unjust financial obligations.”

 “I am honored to join my colleagues in working toward fixing a policy oversight that leaves people unduly burdened by an old consolidation program,” said Sen. Hatch. “Over the years, I have met many constituents who were unfairly encumbered with a joint consolidation loan with no path for relief. I gladly support this bill that will give affected individuals a way to relieve themselves from unfair debt.”

 “A federal student loan shouldn't shackle someone to a former spouse—particularly in cases of domestic and economic abuse. Congress made the right call when it ended the joint consolidation loan program in 2006, and I hope Congress will pass this bipartisan bill to help more struggling student loan borrowers move forward with their lives and obtain their financial independence,” said. Sen. Warren.

 “This bill is a direct response to my constituent’s experience with a damaging joint consolidation loan. This carefully crafted bill will provide relief to borrowers who are victims of abusive or uncommunicative spouses and allow them to sever their joint financial responsibility. Congressional action to fix this problem is long overdue,” said Rep. Price.

 “This is an example of an unintended consequence that Congress must address. I'm pleased we are able to come together in a bipartisan manner with my House and Senate colleagues to put forward a solution. This commonsense legislation offers a simple fix that provides relief to some Americans caught in a difficult situation,” said Rep. Byrne.

 

“When survivors escape abuse, they should be able to start over without the debts of their abusers. We applaud this bill for creating a solution for those survivors who consolidated loans either in good faith or under duress and are now rebuilding their lives,” said Monica McLaughlin, Director of Public Policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

 “The Action Alliance is pleased to support these efforts to provide victims of domestic and economic abuse with student loan relief. This bill will make a difference for the people who need it, and we hope Congress will move swiftly to enact it,” said Kristine Hall, Policy Director at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.

 “Many survivors of intimate partner violence in North Carolina find themselves burdened with their abuser’s debt after escaping their abusive partner. The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence applauds that our state representative, David Price, is sponsoring this bill so that survivors may be truly free to rebuild their lives,” said Dana Mangum, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

 “For far too long, many student loan borrowers have been stuck in joint consolidation loans, and this bill ensures that struggling borrowers, including survivors of domestic and economic abuse who previously consolidated their student loan debts, have the opportunity to regain their financial footing. We applaud the sponsors of this bill for their efforts. This bill would benefit many vulnerable student loan borrowers, and we are proud to support it,” said National Consumer Law Center Attorney Joanna Darcus.

 A summary of the bill is available here. The full text of the bill is available here

SENS. WARNER, BLUNT LEAD BIPARTISAN COALITION TO REINTRODUCE INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION

~Bill would help states and localities leverage private funds to build and repair outdated transportation, water, and energy infrastructure~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) led a bipartisan coalition of Senators in introducing legislation to establish a new infrastructure financing authority to help states and localities better leverage private funds to build and maintain the nation’s outdated infrastructure. The Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act helps to address the nation’s alarming investment shortfall in maintaining and improving our transportation network, water and wastewater systems and energy infrastructure. The legislation would provide additional financing tools for states and localities to create new jobs here at home while also increasing our nation’s economic competitiveness.

“As we mark the 5th annual Infrastructure Week, we must think boldly and make real investments in our nation’s infrastructure rather than kick the can down the road with short-term fixes,” said Sen. Warner. “The BRIDGE Act offers a bold, bipartisan solution to help address our infrastructure needs by incentivizing private investment and pairing it with public resources. This legislation will set a clear framework that will help create jobs, expand U.S. commerce and trade, and keep American businesses competitive.”

“Missouri is a transportation hub, and improving our roads, bridges, and waterways is critical for economic growth in our state and across the nation,” said Sen. Blunt. “This bipartisan bill will provide much-needed resources to strengthen infrastructure and help ensure Missouri’s farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses are able to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.”

The BRIDGE Act is cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

America currently spends roughly two percent of its GDP on infrastructure– about half what it did 50 years ago. By comparison, Europe spends around 5 percent, and China spends 9 percent of GDP on infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the United States currently ranks 12th among 144 developed countries in overall infrastructure compared to our global competitors. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers latest estimate shows that in order to close the $2.0 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future need, and restore our global competitive advantage, we must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025. As of 2012, of the more than 600,000 bridges in the U.S., 24.9 percent were either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. Nationally, our bridges are, on average, 42 years old, and need an estimated $76 billion to repair and replace. Similarly, the average age of the 84,000 dams in the country is 52 years old, and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that aging and high-hazard dams require an investment of $21 billion to repair.

To help address this funding shortfall for our nation’s transportation, water and energy infrastructure, the BRIDGE Act will establish an independent, nonpartisan financing authority to complement existing U.S. infrastructure funding. The authority would provide loans and loan guarantees to help states and localities fund the most economically viable road, bridge, rail, port, water, sewer, and other significant infrastructure projects.  The authority would receive initial seed funding of up to $10 billion, which could incentivize private sector investment and make possible $300 billion or more in total project investment. The authority is structured in a way to make it self-sustaining over time without requiring additional federal appropriations.

“If we are to improve our nation’s infrastructure, graded a D+ in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, we can no longer afford to defer needed investment in modernization and maintenance. Under Sen. Warner’s leadership, the BRIDGE Act would make a significant step toward this increased, sustained investment, establishing a new, innovative funding authority designed to attract billions of dollars in private sector investment in our nation’s water, transportation, and energy sectors. Sen. Blunt’s co-sponsorship demonstrates once again that infrastructure is a bipartisan issue that impacts the lives of all Americans. Through the BRIDGE Act, our nation’s infrastructure will receive much-needed additional funding to help narrow the $2 trillion infrastructure investment gap that currently costs every American family $3,400 a year out of their discretionary income,”said Norma Jean Mattei, PH.D., P.E., President, American Society of Civil Engineers

“The 31 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) applaud your bipartisan efforts in crafting the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act. We support your proposal as a means to supplement the core federal transportation investment programs by utilizing an array of financing tools to encourage private sector investment in needed transportation infrastructure improvements. As Congress and the Administration move forward on a rewrite of the nation’s tax code and an encompassing infrastructure package promised by President Trump, the TCC believes a permanent solution to the Highway Trust Fund revenue shortfall should finally be addressed and included in either of these legislative packages. Additionally, all options, including alternative project delivery and finance methods like the BRIDGE Act, to address the nation's infrastructure deficit need to be considered as well. The BRIDGE Act represents an innovative approach that would provide the ability to support nationally and regionally significant infrastructure projects that require innovative financing outside the existing core federal programs,” said the Transportation Construction Coalition, representing 31 national associations and construction trade unions

“Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia, should be commended for their ongoing effort to strengthen our nation’s investment in critical infrastructure. Their legislation, The Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment Act (The BRIDGE Act), establishes a set of creative tools and incentives to draw private capital off the sidelines and promote effective public private partnerships.  There is at least a $1.4 trillion shortfall in funding needed to adequately support infrastructure needs between now and 2025.  The BRIDGE Act is key to unlocking private investment necessary to support long-term economic growth and a more competitive nation,” said Jason Grumet, President of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

According to ASCE, 42 percent of our major urban highways are congested, which costs the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. Currently, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance. Virginia received a C- on ASCE’s 2015 Infrastructure Report Card, with key regional infrastructure deemed structurally deficient such as Arlington Memorial Bridge in Northern Virginia.  The same report concluded that Virginians spend a cumulative two full work weeks per year just sitting in traffic.

Other individuals and organizations endorsing this legislation include Sean McGarvey, President of the North America's Building Trades Unions; Ed Rendell, Co-Chair of Building America’s Future and former Governor of Pennsylvania; Chris Spear, President and CEO of the American Trucking Association; Kurt J. Nagle, President and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities; Elaine Nessle, Executive Director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors; Jane F. Garvey, North America Chairman of Meridiam Infrastructure and former Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration; Adrea Turner, Director of Transportation for America; and Jennifer Aument, Transurban Group General Manager for North America.

For more information on key provisions of the BRIDGE Act, click here

Joint Statement from Senate Intel Committee Leaders on Special Counsel Appointment

WASHINGTON –Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today made the following statement on the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel:

“The appointment of former FBI Director and respected lawyer Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a positive development and will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence.

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue its own investigation and to the extent any deconfliction is required, we will engage with Director Mueller and our expectation is that he will engage with the Committee as well.”

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