WASHINGTON – President Donald J. Trump signed the LEGION Act into law Tuesday, July 30. Congressman Ben Cline, who co-authored the bipartisan House bill with Congressman Lou Correa (CA-46), attended the bill signing at the White House. The legislation, which would expand American Legion membership criteria to include all honorably discharged veterans who served during unrecognized times of war, was also co-sponsored by Congressman Gil Cisneros (CA-39).
“This is a momentous occasion for all veterans who have honorably served in the United States Armed Forces,” Cline said. “I thank President Trump for signing the LEGION Act into law and expanding the reach of the American Legion to even more of our nation’s heroes. This is the type of bipartisan work I am proud to do in Congress. I will continue to join with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to best serve the people of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District as we tackle the challenges facing our nation.”
Cline and Correa’s House version of the bill had 108 co-sponsors from both parties.
Fischer, Warner introduce bipartisan legislation to help Americans protect their savings from inflation
U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Mark Warner (D-VA.) introduced the Savings Security Act on September 27, 2022. The legislation would help the American people protect their savings from changes in inflation by increasing the public’s ability to utilize I Bonds, a type of savings bond created by the U.S. Treasury Department. Series I Savings Bonds were created so consumers could invest their hard-earned savings in something that isn’t hurt by inflation, earns a reasonable rate of return and is backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government.
“The American people are scrambling for ways to protect their earnings from rampant inflation. I Bonds are one option consumers should be able to leverage. Arbitrary purchasing caps on I Bonds, however, are shortchanging the public from better utilizing the program. Our bill would raise the annual purchasing cap to ensure working families can insulate a greater portion of their savings from the pain of sky-high inflation,” said Senator Fischer.
“We need to take an all-encompassing approach to help families facing high costs. In tandem with our inflation-fighting efforts, and intervention from the Federal Reserve, this legislation would allow Americans to better shield their finances from the unpredictability of inflation and offer peace of mind during difficult economic times,” said Senator Warner.
Currently, the Treasury Department caps annual purchases of I Bonds at $15,000 per person per year. The Savings Security Act would require the Treasury Secretary to raise the annual cap to $30,000 per person when the average six-month annual Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) is above 3.5%. The new purchase limit only applies to families and individuals. Businesses and trusts would not be eligible for the increased cap.
Series I Bonds are a type of savings bond created by the U.S. Treasury. I Bonds earn monthly interest for 30 years, or until the saver cashes out of the bond.
I Bonds were created in 1998 during the Clinton Administration as a financial tool that families can utilize to protect their savings from the negative impacts of high inflation.
The Treasury Department currently caps annual I Bonds purchases at $15,000 per person. That includes $10,000 per person per year in electric I Bonds and an additional $5,000 per year in paper-issued I Bonds purchased through a federal income tax return. The Savings Security Act would require the Treasury Secretary to raise the annual cap to $30,000 per person when the CPI-U exceeds 3.5%. The Savings Security Act does not change the $5,000 per person paper I bond cap.
I-Bonds can only be purchased via Treasurydirect.gov or your federal income tax return.
The annual inflation rate in the United States is 8.3%
Warner & Kaine announce $2 million in federal funding to expand access to substance use prevention & treatment in Luray and Tappahannock
On September 26, 2022, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2 million in federal funding for the Virginia Rural Health Association in Luray and the Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance in Tappahannock to expand access to substance use disorder treatment and prevention services. The funding for Luray was awarded through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, and the funding for Tappahannock was awarded through HRSA’s Medication Assisted Treatment Access Program.
In a joint statement, Senator Warner and Kaine said, “The opioid and substance use crisis continues to have a devastating impact on Virginians across the Commonwealth, particularly in communities with limited access to treatment and preventive services. Every Virginian struggling with a substance use disorder deserves critical care and support, and we’re glad this funding will provide greater resources for them.”
The funding will be distributed as follows:
- $1,000,000 for the Virginia Rural Health Association to expand treatment and prevention services for substance use disorders
- $1,000,000 for the Bay Rivers Telehealth Alliance to establish a new medication-assisted treatment access point that will provide medications and support services for individuals with opioid and substance use disorders
Warner and Kaine have long worked to address the opioid and substance use crisis that has impacted communities across Virginia. Last month, Warner and Kaine pressed the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) for additional assistance to combat drug trafficking in the Appalachian region. In March 2021, Warner and Kaine voted to pass the American Rescue Plan, which provided Virginia with nearly $70 million in funding to bolster mental health and substance abuse programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, Kaine was critical in passing a comprehensive bill to address opioid and substance use disorder treatment and prevention. Kaine recently held a roundtable with community leaders in Harrisonburg about the need to provide more support and treatment for Virginians with substance use disorders.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – September 21, 2022
As Congress returned to Washington last week, Americans faced the impacts of one-party rule. The White House resumed its attempts to deceive the American people that inflation is no big deal, that the border is “secure,” and that Green New Deal anti-energy policies are not responsible for rising energy costs. Additionally, my colleagues and I continue to hold the Biden Administration accountable for undermining our military’s readiness because of their failed, unconstitutional policies, such as COVID vaccine mandates and canceling student loan debt. And I was proud to receive an award for my support of small businesses and met with VFW legislative representatives to hear about their priorities in helping Veterans. Lastly, this past week we paid tribute to the more than 81,500 American troops who remain missing from WWII to the Global War on Terror and every American war for freedom in between. We humbly honored those whose debt we can never repay. As the flag outside my Washington office indicates, “You Are Not Forgotten”.
Inflation Rages On, White House Parties
All across the Sixth District, inflation has pummeled the budgets of hardworking Virginians, largely caused by President Biden and House Democrats’ multi-trillion-dollar spending spree. When President Biden took office in January ’21, inflation was 1.6%. Today, it is a shocking 8.3%. The result? Americans’ paychecks are shrinking as prices are rising: groceries +13.5%; electricity +15.8%; fuel oil +68.8%; gas +25.6.%; and rent +6.7%. Worse, a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showed that under the “Inflation Acceleration Act,” the debt will increase through 2026.
To help address this crisis, I have worked to push numerous pieces of legislation through the House to address inflation and rising energy prices. One example of this legislation is the American Energy Independence from Russia Act. This important bill includes strategies to encourage increased domestic production of crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas to offset Russian and foreign oil dependency, which would help bring down prices across the board and restore energy independence. In addition, my colleagues and I support a balanced budget that offers reasonable economic and fiscal policies, like keeping tax rates low, consolidating duplicate agencies, devolving responsibility over state programs, and implementing spending cuts to rescue this economy get our fiscal house in order.
“The Border is Secure,” Says VP Harris After 3.2 Million Illegal Crossings
The American people deserve the truth about President Biden’s historic border crisis. From day one, the Biden Administration’s disastrous open border and amnesty policies have made this crisis worse every single day, yet Biden is blind in seeing the chaos at our border. Americans should be outraged by his failed leadership. I’ve been to the southern border and one thing is clear – we need a border wall now. “Border Czar” Kamala Harris said, “the border is secure”. The only thing that’s secure is the cartels’ cash flow from Biden’s Border Crisis.
Fighting for Our Troops and Veterans
Our military is facing the lowest recruitment rates in history, and the Biden Administration is harming our military on multiple levels, from COVID vaccine mandates to student loan forgiveness.
Under Biden’s leadership, his military COVID vaccine mandate is set to kick out over 100,000 servicemembers, jeopardizing our military’s readiness. To address this threat to national security, my colleagues and I signed a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin demanding he ends this disastrous mandate and prioritize the readiness of America’s Armed Forces. Read more here.
Further, the promise of the GI Bill for military service is one of the top reasons individuals join the military. Ending this incentive, at a time when the Armed Services are failing to meet their recruiting goals, will potentially have a detrimental impact on military readiness, and on our Nation’s ability to fight wars and protect the homeland. That’s why I signed a letter with Congressman Pat Fallon (R-PA) and our colleagues to President Biden seeking answers on how cancelling student loan debt will impact military recruitment. Read more here.
Additionally, this week, I was proud to join my colleagues in supporting, in a bipartisan manner, legislation to care for our Veterans. The related bills that passed the House include:
-H.R. 7939 – Student Veteran Emergency Relief Act of 2022, enhances the portability of professional licenses of servicemembers and their spouses, which helps ease the unemployment rate of military spouses that is currently triple the national rate.
-H.R. 7846 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act of 2022, would increase the amounts paid for certain Veterans disability benefits by the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) used to determine changes to Social Security benefits.
-H.R. 7735 – Improving Access to the VA Home Loan Benefit Act of 2022, directs the VA to update regulations regarding appraisals for VA home loans with the goal of decreasing the time it takes for a VA home loan to be finalized.
-H.R. 5916 – Wounded Warrior Access Act, directs the VA to establish and maintain a website to enable a claimant or their representative to make records requests related to VA claims and benefits.
-H.R. 8260 – Faster Payments to Veterans’ Survivors Act of 2022, shortens the timeframe in which the VA must pay insurance benefits to an alternative beneficiary.
Source: Department of Defense
Pictures from Washington
Last week in Virginia there was an average of 21 daily cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, up from 20 last week. This week’s COVID-19 test positivity rate was 17%, down from 22% last week. For more information, click here.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Rep. Price and Senator Warner applaud passage of the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act
WASHINGTON, DC (September 21, 2022) —Today, Congressman David Price (D-NC), and Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) commend the passage of their bipartisan, bicameral legislation, the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act, which will now head to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“I introduced this bill in direct response to a constituent’s experience with a joint consolidation loan for which he remained wholly responsible for after a divorce. I am delighted by the passage of this common-sense bill that will bring immense relief to borrowers who are victims of abusive or uncommunicative spouses,” said Congressman David Price. “For decades, these borrowers have been trapped, with no legal options available, and this bill will give them the ability to regain their financial freedom. I look forward to this bill arriving on the President’s desk and delivering for America’s federal student debt borrowers.”
“For too long, individuals have been tied to abusive or unresponsive ex-partners through joint student loans,” said Senator Warner. “This legislation offers financial freedom to those who have spent decades unfairly held liable for their former partner’s debt. I am thrilled to see the House of Representatives pass this legislation and look forward to getting it in front of President Biden as quickly as possible to start offering relief to borrowers.”
From January 1, 1993, until June 30, 2006, married couples could combine their student loan debt into joint consolidation loans. Both borrowers agreed at the time to be jointly liable for repayment, which proved problematic if they wanted to separate the loans. Congress eliminated the joint consolidation program effective July 1, 2006, but did not provide a means of severing existing loans, even in cases of domestic violence, economic abuse, or an unresponsive partner. As a result, some borrowers nationwide remain liable for this consolidated debt without legal options for relief.
The Joint Consolidation Loan Separation (JCLS) Act would allow both borrowers to submit a joint application to the Department of Education (ED) to split their joint consolidated loan into two separate federal direct loans. It would also allow one borrower to submit a separate application if they are experiencing domestic or economic abuse or cannot reasonably reach the other borrower. The remainder of the joint consolidated loan will be split proportionally.
While the universe of borrowers still making payments on a joint consolidation loan is relatively small, this legislation would greatly benefit the individual borrowers who are most in need of relief (including victims of abuse and those who are unable to get in touch with their ex-spouse).
This bill has the support of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Consumer Law Center, American Federation of Teachers, North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. This bill was included in the Education and Labor Committee’s Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization during the last two Congresses.
Warner & Kaine secure nearly $135 million for Virginia in Senate FY2023 budget bills
WASHINGTON, D.C. —On September 13, 2022, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced that they successfully secured nearly $135 million in federal funding for Virginia in pending government funding bills for the Fiscal Year 2023, as the latest text of the bills was recently unveiled by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The next step for the legislation is markup and advancement by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is expected later this year, followed by Senate floor consideration.
“I’m proud to have worked to secure these investments for communities all throughout Virginia,” said Warner. “By propelling impactful local projects, these dedicated federal dollars will further build on the progress we’ve made through the bipartisan infrastructure law and the many rounds of COVID-19 relief funding authorized by Congress. I look forward to seeing these diverse projects generate jobs, support Virginia’s tourism economy, make neighborhoods safer, and bring communities together.”
“The annual budget is always an important opportunity to fight for Virginia priorities and America’s leadership worldwide—and I’m pleased with how that effort is shaping up for the upcoming Fiscal Year,” said Kaine. “I will keep fighting to keep the many critical components of these bills intact as we get this budget across the finish line—from keeping Virginia communities safe from gun violence, COVID, and future health crises; to addressing food insecurity and the root causes of migration.”
As part of last year’s budget process, the Senate revived a process allowing Congress members to make Congressionally Directed Spending requests, otherwise known as earmarks, in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. This process allows Congress to dedicate federal funding for specific projects.
Through strong advocacy, the senators secured—and will fight to keep—Congressionally Directed Spending dollars in the funding bills for the following projects in Virginia:
- For projects in Northern Virginia, click here.
- For projects in Central Virginia, click here.
- For projects in Southwest Virginia and Southside, click here.
- For projects in the Shenandoah Valley, click here.
- For projects in Hampton Roads, click here.
- For projects that impact communities in multiple regions across the Commonwealth, click here.
In addition, should they be passed as-is, the budget bills include funding for the following Warner and Kaine priorities:
Boosting Local Economies: Includes $200 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission and $7 million for the Southwest Crescent Regional Commission to support their work to build economic partnerships, create opportunity, and foster economic development.
Strengthening Transportation and Recreation Infrastructure: Provides $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and $25 million for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, which supports multi-purpose trails.
Making Our Communities Safer: Provides $50 million for Community Violence Prevention grants to support communities in developing comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs, including efforts to address gang and gun violence, based on partnerships between community residents, law enforcement, local government agencies, and other community stakeholders.
Support for Missing Persons Program: Includes $1 million to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. In 2018, Warner secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that created a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. The bill was signed into law on December 31, 2018.
Addressing Gun Violence: Provides $100 million for new violence intervention programs to prevent mass casualty or gang-related gun violence. Additionally, provides $60 million—a $30 million increase compared to Fiscal Year 2022—to support research into effective ways to prevent firearm-related injuries.
Fighting Hunger: Includes over $2 billion to combat global hunger and malnutrition, following Kaine’s emphasis on the threat Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses to food security worldwide and Warner’s successful efforts to support non-governmental organizations responding to the food crisis.
Fighting COVID: Includes $16 billion in funding for the procurement of additional COVID vaccines and therapeutics and to support the development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics that could better protect Virginians against new COVID variants.
Addressing Americans’ Long COVID Needs: Includes $15 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to provide the research needed to ensure those experiencing long COVID have access to the patient-centered, coordinated care they need; address disparities in diagnosis and treatment of long COVID; and identify treatments for the condition. Also provides the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with $25 million to continue studying long COVID. Both of these efforts were first outlined in Senator Kaine’s CARE for Long COVID Act.
Supporting Health Care Providers: Includes $30 million further to implement the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Act, legislation Kaine wrote and named in honor of Dr. Lorna Breen, a physician from Charlottesville who was working on the front lines of the pandemic in New York and died by suicide in the spring of 2020. The resources will go toward comprehensive and evidence-based support to prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care providers. Kaine led a bipartisan push to include this funding in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget.
Addressing the Maternal Mortality Crisis: Includes $496 million—an increase of $304 million above Fiscal Year 2022 funding—for the Maternal Mortality Initiative, following a bipartisan push led by Kaine for funding to prevent maternal deaths, eliminate inequities in maternal health outcomes, and improve maternal health.
Pandemic Preparedness: Includes $10.5 billion in non-emergency funding for global health—a $680 million increase compared to the Fiscal Year 2022—and $5 billion to support national COVID vaccination campaigns in countries with low vaccination rates. This funding is critical to protecting Americans from the impacts of disease outbreaks worldwide.
Modernizing America’s Health Data Infrastructure: Includes $200 million—an increase of $100 million compared to the Fiscal Year 2022—to modernize the public health data systems that help support healthy communities throughout America. Kaine, who pushed for this funding, also crafted the Improving Data Accessibility Through Advancements (DATA) in Public Health Act, legislation to increase timely and accurate information sharing between local, state, and federal public health departments to improve our preparedness and response to emerging public health threats.
Increasing Funding for Pediatric Research: Provides $12.6 million to fund further the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act—legislation championed by Warner and Kaine and named after a child from Loudoun County who died from a brain tumor in 2013.
Reducing Tobacco Use: Includes $20 million in funding to support the CDC, states, and territories’ continued efforts to reduce tobacco use among disparate populations and regions with high tobacco prevalence and mortality and to expand the highly successful and cost-effective Tips from Former Smokers media campaign. The investment follows a successful bipartisan push by Kaine to raise the tobacco age from 18 to 21 and a push to ensure that the Food and Drug Administration could regulate synthetic nicotine.
Addressing the Root Causes of Migration: Provides resources for diverse programs to help improve the conditions that drive migration from Central America, including programs focused on counter-narcotics efforts and economic development.
Expanding High-Speed Internet Access: Includes $400 million for the USDA’s ReConnect Program to expand access to high-speed broadband to remote, underserved areas. Warner and Kaine have been vocal advocates for expanding broadband. As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have long supported expanding broadband access in Virginia. During the pandemic, they secured significant funding for broadband through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Warner and Kaine also joined a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership requesting this funding earlier this year. Warner also secured billions of dollars for broadband expansion in the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Increasing Military Pay and Compensation: Includes $1.5 billion to fund a 4.6 percent pay raise for servicemembers fully. Also includes roughly $1.5 billion in additional funding for compensation to help with rising costs and $373 million for several military family support programs. Warner, who pushed for this funding, has long stressed the need for increased support for servicemembers through legislation such as the Military Hunger Prevention Act, which helps low-income military families put food on the table.
Economic Support for Underserved Communities: Provides $324 million for the U.S. Department of the Treasury Community Development Financial Institution Fund. Warner, who requested this funding, has led efforts in Congress to support CDFIs through legislation, including the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act and the creation of the bipartisan Senate Community Development Finance Caucus.
Addressing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Delays and Customer Service Issues: Includes $310 Million for the IRS, which will enable IRS to continue to update ancient computer systems, improve customer service, and reduce wait times for refunds and other services. Warner and Kaine have consistently pushed the IRS to address poor customer service and severe delays within the department.
Support for Miners: Includes $11.845 million for Black Lung Clinics. Warner and Kaine have actively worked to secure benefits for miners and their families suffering from black lung disease. In August, the Inflation Reduction Act, supported by both Warner and Kaine, permanently extended the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax at a higher rate, providing more certainty for miners, miner retirees, and their families who rely on the fund to access benefits.
In addition to battling for these priorities, the Senators will work to ensure that funds obtained by Virginia House members also remain in the ultimate budget package.
Warner & Kaine celebrate Inflation Reduction Act becoming law
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law:
“We’re proud that this law will lower the price of prescription drugs, reduce the deficit, bring down energy bills and fight climate change. We’re also glad that it will help ensure that miners suffering from black lung and their families get the care and benefits they deserve. We will continue to look for ways to support the health and well-being of our communities, decrease inflation, and lower costs for Virginians.”
Below are some of the ways the Inflation Reduction Act will benefit Virginians:
Lower Prescription Drug Costs
- The law allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors and people with disabilities—a provision Warner and Kaine have long fought to pass to lower prescription drug costs.
- The law establishes a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for seniors covered under Medicare Part D. In 2020, more than 36,000 Virginians with Medicare Part D spent more than $2,000 out-of-pocket on their prescription drugs.
- The law expands the Low-Income Subsidy program, a program that currently helps cover prescription drug costs for over 11,000 low-income Virginians with Medicare.
- The law provides free coverage for vaccines under Medicare Part D and improves access to vaccines under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In 2020, nearly 85,000 Virginians received a vaccine covered under Medicare Part D.
Affordable Health Care
- During the pandemic, Congress enhanced subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help lower health care premiums for millions of Americans. The Inflation Reduction Act will extend these enhanced subsidies for three years through 2025 to help make Virginians’ health insurance more affordable. Over 300,000 Virginians have ACA coverage in 2022.
- The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) estimated that Virginians with ACA insurance would have seen a $71 increase in their monthly premiums for the next coverage year if these subsidies weren’t extended.
Black Lung Benefits
- The law permanently extends the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax at a higher rate, providing more certainty for miners, miner retirees, and their families who rely on the fund to access benefits. In Virginia, thousands of miners and their families have received benefits through the trust fund since it was established, including approximately 2,600 Virginians last year alone.
Clean Energy and Climate Provisions
- The law will reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40 percent by 2030.
- The law incentivizes investment in and production of renewable energy technologies like solar power and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. The Inflation Reduction Act expands the 48C investment tax credit for clean energy manufacturers, with $4 billion reserved for use exclusively in coal communities. All clean energy tax credits include a bonus for meeting domestic manufacturing requirements related to steel, iron, or other manufactured components. The law also expands tax credits for residential clean energy and home efficiency improvements.
- According to a recent analysis, the clean energy provisions are expected to create nearly 1 million jobs per year.
- The law includes tax credits for clean medium and heavy duty trucks, such as those produced at the Volvo Trucks New River Valley Plant.
- The law includes a $7,500 consumer credit for the purchase of new electric vehicles and incentivizes that vehicles are produced in North America.
- The law includes $9.7 billion for financial assistance to rural electric cooperatives to improve resilience and affordability.
- The law includes $2 billion for the USDA Rural Energy for America Program to provide competitive grants and loan guarantees to farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements.
- The law includes $20 billion to help farmers and ranchers adopt agriculture conservation practices that improve landscape resilience.
- The law takes steps to make sure that the largest corporations and wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes, without increasing taxes on small businesses or families making less than $400,000 a year.
- The law also provides funding to modernize Internal Revenue Service (IRS) systems and improve customer service when paying taxes. This will help ensure the IRS has the resources it needs to process tax returns quickly, get rebates to taxpayers faster, and address challenges Americans have when filing taxes.