WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) applauded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) selection of Virginia to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program (IPP).
“I have been happy to work closely with Virginia Tech and the MAAP for several years now in promoting the safe use and development of drones in Virginia, which has included the first package delivery by drone in the country. Today’s award is recognition that this team has assembled some of the strongest expertise in the nation, and has put forward a proposal that will prove critical to shared efforts to safely integrate drones into our communities and airspace,” said Sen. Warner. “To reap the full benefits of all this technology has to offer, we need to be leaders – not laggards – in safely integrating it into our daily lives. Today’s announcement is an important step in again putting the U.S. in the lead, and our work in getting Virginia selected means that Virginia will be at the forefront of this revolution.”
DOT’s UAS Integration Pilot Program is an opportunity for state, local, and tribal governments to partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to accelerate safe UAS integration. Virginia’s application was a coordinated effort spearheaded by Virginia’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority (IEIA) with cooperation from the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP).
Sen. Warner has been a strong supporter of research and investment in unmanned systems, including driverless cars, drones, and unmanned submersibles. He has introduced bipartisan legislation designed to advance the development of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and build on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) efforts to safely integrate them into the National Airspace System. Virginia is home to one of six FAA-approved sites across the country where researchers are testing the safest and most effective ways to incorporate UAS into the existing airspace. In 2016, the UAS test site’s partnership with Google’s parent company Alphabet X’s Project Wing tested its first burrito drone delivery.
Shaheen unveils new bipartisan bill to help Americans affected by directed energy attacks & direct unified government response
On August 3, 2021, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, unveiled new bipartisan legislation with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to reform the U.S. government’s investigation and response to suspected directed energy attacks also referred to as “Havana Syndrome,” and improve access to care for impacted individuals. The legislation would require the President to designate a senior national security official to organize a whole-of-government response and direct the heads of agencies involved in the interagency response to designate a senior official to be responsible for their agency’s response. It also would create workforce guidance to increase awareness of these attacks and strengthen avenues for reporting symptoms. The bill would authorize $45 million to support these response efforts through the Department of Defense – $30 million of which would be used to improve access to care for impacted individuals.
Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are original cosponsors of the bill.
“U.S. public servants injured by directed energy attacks should be treated with the same urgency as any other American injured in the line of duty. They shouldn’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to access the care they need, which compounds the suffering they’ve already endured,” said Shaheen. “I’m proud to help right that wrong today by introducing new bipartisan legislation, which would strengthen interagency coordination and create a whole-of-government response that prioritizes victims. U.S personnel and their families who have been affected by these attacks should be able to seek the care they need as swiftly as possible – access to urgent medical services should not be adversely impacted by government holdups. This legislation builds on my work to get to the bottom of these attacks and help those who are suffering. I urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to join me in this effort to put U.S. public servants first to ensure their best recovery outcomes.”
“The injuries that many victims of probable directed energy attacks have endured are significant and life-altering. I have talked with many of these victims about the debilitating symptoms they have experienced. While they are focusing on their health, they should not have to battle the bureaucracy in order to receive the support they deserve,” said Collins. “This bipartisan bill would build on the HAVANA Act I authored by improving care for victims and coordinating a whole-of-government approach to identify the adversary who is targeting our American personnel.”
“As anomalous health incidents continue to wreak havoc in the lives of affected diplomats and intelligence officials, it is our responsibility to ensure that any response is commensurate with the arduous work and sacrifices that these individuals have made for our nation,” said Warner. “This legislation will ensure a coordinated, whole-of-government response to what unfortunately remains an ongoing threat to the people of our intelligence community, and to our national security.”
“We must act urgently and swiftly to investigate the cause of these brazen attacks and better protect our personnel at home and abroad,” said Chairman Menendez. “This bill will help ensure we are connecting the dots and taking critical steps to improve the care and treatment for those who have been injured.”
“Building off of the Senate’s passage of the HAVANA Act, which I was proud to introduce with Senator Collins, it’s essential we have a whole-of-government effort to address the attacks on our diplomats, personnel, and their families,” said Rubio. “The bipartisan Directed Energy Threat Emergency Response Act is an important step, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues to protect Americans in the line of consular service to our country.”
Specifically, the Directed Energy Threat Emergency Response Act would:
• Direct the President to designate a senior official on the National Security Council as the Anomalous Health Incidents Interagency Coordinator to organize the whole-of-government response;
• Require the designation of a senior official at relevant agencies involved in the U.S. government response to serve as their agency lead for the coordination of the interagency response, reporting directly to the head of their agency;
• Mandate the development and issuance of workforce guidance to increase awareness of the threat, share known defensive measures and promote processes for individuals to self-report suspected exposure;
• Establish a secure, interagency mechanism for personnel across all agencies to self-report suspected exposure and improve access to care;
• Authorize $45 million in funding to support government response efforts – $30 million of which is required to be used strictly on the provision of care for impacted personnel and medical capacity enhancements.
Senator Shaheen has stood by government employees and their families who have suffered from these mysterious injuries and leads efforts in Congress to provide critical health benefits. In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that became law, Shaheen included language to expand a provision in the law that she previously wrote to provide long-term, emergency care benefits to all U.S. Government employees and their dependents who were mysteriously injured while working in China and Cuba. Shaheen’s measure to amend the law followed her letter with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) calling on the administration to interpret the law as intended by Congress.
In the Senate Armed Service Committee-approved FY2022 NDAA, Shaheen included language that would mandate greater congressional oversight on directed energy attack-related items by requiring quarterly reports to Congress on the ongoing investigation into causation, mitigation efforts, and treatment of personnel. Shaheen’s provision also extensively speaks about the threat posed by these incidents, the importance of providing equitable and accessible care to victims, the need to develop and promulgate workforce guidance to protect Department of Defense personnel and their families, and urges the President to designate a senior official to lead the interagency response. Additionally, Shaheen supported Senator Cotton (R-AK) and Senator Gillibrand’s (D-NY) successful effort to include bipartisan legislation, which Shaheen cosponsors, to ensure wounded officers and their families have immediate access to specialized medical facilities at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
On the TODAY Show last year, Shaheen responded to the findings of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on these injuries and underscored the urgent need to take action to address these attacks that have targeted American public servants and their families. Despite Shaheen’s calls for former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to address what the Trump administration was doing to uncover the source of these attacks and protect American public servants, Pompeo never appeared. Pompeo also never responded to bipartisan calls in the Senate led by Shaheen to detail how the Trump administration would respond to the findings of the NAS report. During Secretary of State Blinken’s confirmation hearing, Shaheen reiterated that uncovering the causation of these attacks and assisting those who’ve been injured must be top priorities for the Biden administration. In February, Shaheen spoke with CNN in an exclusive interview on developments to uncover the source of targeted directed energy attacks against U.S. personnel and their families.
Rep. Cline introduces bill to eliminate wasteful and expansive government agency
Last week, Congressmen Ben Cline (VA-06) introduced H.R. 4866 – the Federal Insurance Office Elimination Act.
Created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, the Federal Insurance Office is a glaring example of redundancy and overreach within the Treasury Department. Continuing its expansion, President Biden recently issued an Executive Order which further delegates the responsibilities of the state-level insurance regulators to the Federal government. This legislation would eliminate the unnecessary Federal Insurance Office.
“As a member of the Virginia General Assembly, I stood against Federal overreach into areas traditionally reserved for states and localities. When the Federal government began to apply duplicative and onerous regulations on insurance, costs went up for millions of Americans. Repealing authorization for this expansive bureaucracy, known as the Federal Insurance Office, is a positive step toward draining the swamp and in returning power to the states and people where it rightfully belongs.”
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 3, 2021
The Democrats in the House showed their true colors this week. After passing only some of the required spending bills, bills that would lead to record deficits, and liberal policies like taxpayer-funded abortions, the Democrat majority left town after they realized just how unpopular their policies are with the American people. Americans are facing a COVID recovery crisis, an inflation crisis, a border crisis, and a rising crime crisis, but Democrats decided they needed to hit the road for their summer recess where they can try to explain their lack of solutions to voters while struggling to protect their dwindling three-seat majority. Prior to Speaker Pelosi adjourning the House until after Labor Day, however, House Republicans held a press conference on the Capitol steps to urge Pelosi to stay in Washington and address the numerous crises facing the American people.
Meanwhile, I introduced two bills this week that would reduce the deficit, eliminate wasteful and unnecessary federal bureaucracies, and improve government efficiency. I also supported several bills that would benefit Veterans, Back the Blue, and support funding for the National Guard. Finally, I recognized a local police chief for his three decades of service to our community and connected with thousands of constituents during a telephone town hall. While Congress should not have started its August Recess until finishing work on several important measures, I am looking forward to meeting with folks as I travel across the Sixth District this month.
Instead of working to craft bipartisan legislation to fund the Federal government, Democrats put forward appropriations bills that were based on unrealistic and irresponsible funding levels and include partisan policy provisions that will only delay action by the Senate. Further, rather than holding a vote on each individual appropriations bill, the Speaker lumped together seven separate spending bills that include nearly $600 billion in discretionary spending, which is a 21% increase from last year. This is not how the legislative process should work, and with inflation rates at a 13-year high, we simply cannot afford it. And while the multi-bill legislation, also known as a mini-bus, provides unprecedented increases for Democrats’ domestic spending priorities, the left decided to underfund two appropriations bills that are required by the Constitution — Homeland Security and Defense. This is truly unacceptable. Worse yet, it reversed decades of historically bipartisan pro-life policies like the Hyde and Weldon Amendments, which ensure taxpayer funds are not used for abortions and that health care providers are not mandated to partake in a procedure in which they are morally opposed. Additionally, it furthers our dependence on China by attempting to dramatically increase the deployment of technologies that use critical minerals, such as electric vehicles, without having domestic sources or alternatives already in place. The bill also fails to keep us safe by prohibiting the use of certain information Customs and Border Protection can use to make arrests. And finally, it abandons all of the above energy strategies in favor of Green New Deal priorities. This bus should have gone back to the garage for a bipartisan tune-up, and as it was written, I could not vote in favor of the final passage.
Standing for Life:
Since my first day in Congress, I have stood to protect life and have been a voice for the defenseless. Sadly, despite Republicans’ best efforts, Democrats stripped several pro-life policies from Federal law through the appropriations bills on the floor this week. Chief among them was the Hyde Amendment, which ensures that no taxpayer funds can be used to perform abortions. The inclusion of the Hyde Amendment has been a bipartisan effort since 1976, and it has saved nearly 2.5 million lives in the past 45 years. The Weldon Amendment was also excluded from the appropriations bills. This amendment protects health care providers and facilities from being required to perform abortions. No doctor should ever be at risk of losing their medical license for refusing to participate in a procedure in which they are morally opposed. Further, the Helms Amendment was left out of these bills, which disallows U.S. foreign aid from funding abortion overseas. Additionally, the Mexico City Policy, which makes certain Federal funding is not allocated to Non-Governmental Organizations that provided abortion counseling or referrals, advocated to decriminalize abortion, or expanded abortion services were also stripped from these bills. Finally, the legislation passed weakens the “Kemp-Kasten” provision on coercive abortion. It was a disappointing week for the pro-life movement in Washington.
The Federal Insurance Office was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and is a glaring example of a redundant and unaccountable entity within the Treasury Department. As a member of the Virginia General Assembly, I stood against federal overreach into areas traditionally reserved for states and localities. When the Federal government began to apply duplicative and onerous regulations on insurance, costs went up for millions of Americans. That is why I introduced the Federal Insurance Office Elimination Act. This bill repeals authorization for the Federal Insurance Office and is a positive step in returning power to the states where it rightfully belongs.
It appears that the Senate has reached an agreement on an infrastructure package this week. With that said, Speaker Pelosi is still saying she will not bring this bill for a vote on the House Floor unless the Senate also passes a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” package, which includes unrelated items such as Green New Deal initiatives, universal pre-K, extensions to the child tax credit, and free community college. The Speaker should not hinder progress by playing political games.
Secure the Border:
This week, several of my colleagues and I wrote to President Biden in response to his Presidential Proclamation 10142, which halted the construction of the southern border wall. Shockingly, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management found that a massive amount of taxpayer dollars are still being paid to border wall construction contractors even though their work is halted. This subcommittee found that for a period of time immediately following the proclamation, contractors were paid $6 million per day and are still currently being paid $3 million per day. These costs, in part, are being used to drive out abandoned project sites and to guard unused steel meant for the wall. It is estimated that by FY22, the Federal government will spend another billion dollars in efforts to halt the border wall. Now, during the worst border crisis in 20 years with more than one million illegal immigrants have crossed the border this year alone, it is not the time to waste enormous amounts of money to halt a project that could be a solution to this problem. We implored the President to continue construction of the border wall before more taxpayer money is wasted and the crisis grows even worse. Read the full letter here.
Supporting our Men and Women in Uniform:
As a strong supporter of our Nation’s Veterans, I will always seek out legislation that will benefit those who served our Nation in uniform. This week, I was proud to vote in favor of the Free Veterans from Fees Act introduced by Congressman Greg Steube (R-FL). This legislation will waive the application fee for any special use permit for Veteran events at a war memorial on land administered by the National Park Service (NPS) in Washington, D.C. In addition, I supported and voted for HR 3237, a bill to provide supplemental funding for the U.S. Capitol Police, reimbursement funding for the National Guard, and funding for repairs and security improvements following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
I was pleased to recognize the 30-year career of one of Virginia’s finest, Bridgewater Police Chief Joe Simmons. Interestingly, this law enforcement veteran originally had aspirations of being a firefighter. But after being a dispatcher, jailer, and then a road deputy in the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, the SWAT team recruited him in 1996. By ’97 he joined the elite RUSH Drug Task Force, a mix of local and state officers, as well as federal drug agents. Simmons brought all this experience to the town of Bridgewater in the late 1990s, eventually rising to chief in 2011. Mayor Ted Flory said of Simmons, “He’s done an amazing job… The model of community policing…serves the citizens very well.” Chief Simmons says most police officers are good people who care about the citizens in their community. “You have to have empathy. It’s not us against them,” Simmons said. “You have to police with an open mind. It’s customer service.” In the end, while Simmons never became the firefighter he once wanted to be, he had a successful career in public service — risking his life to protect and serve his fellow citizens. Our community thanks, Chief Simmons.
Telephone Town Hall:
Since being elected, I have hosted 25 in-person town halls — with at least one being held in each locality throughout our region. I hope to continue those sorts of in-person forums in the near future, but for now, virtual town halls remain one of the best and safest options to connect with large groups of constituents to ensure their voices are heard in Washington. While my first seven telephone town halls were District-wide, I’ve hosted more targeted, regional forums, which allow me to focus on the unique issues facing individual communities. This week, I was pleased to host my eleventh telephone town hall for residents of Botetourt, Rockbridge, Lexington, and Buena Vista. As with every town hall, residents are alerted with a recorded phone message at least 24 hours in advance. I look forward to connecting with another group of Sixth District residents for our next telephone town hall soon.
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.
Senators’ Statement on the finalized bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement Legislative text
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Jon Tester (D-MT) issued the following statement:
“Over the last four days, we have worked day and night to finalize historic legislation that will invest in our nation’s hard infrastructure and create good-paying jobs for working Americans in communities across the country without raising taxes. This bipartisan bill and our shared commitment to see it across the finish line is further proof that the Senate can work. We look forward to moving this bill through the Senate and delivering for the American people.”
Senator Warner discusses bipartisan infrastructure framework on ‘Fox News Sunday’
On July 25, 2021, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) appeared on Fox News Sunday with Martha MacCallum to discuss the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and America’s critical infrastructure needs.
On having a bipartisan infrastructure bill come Monday:
“Martha, I believe we will because the one thing I hear all across Virginia the last couple of days, people want us to invest in our infrastructure. If you step back, you know, we have in — we are investing at about half the rate that we invested in our infrastructure as we did in the 1990s. As a matter of fact, infrastructure became, as you know, a joke line during the last of administration.
They kept promising they were going to do infrastructure. It never came to pass. A group of us, ten of us, five Democrats, five Republicans, have been working on this for the last couple of months.
This is the same group who actually put together the last COVID-19 deal under President Trump, so we know each other, we trust each other. I think you’re going to see whether it’s $100 billion-plus for roads and bridges, whether it’s close to $50 billion for resiliency those coasts for having sea level rise, whether it’s making the kind of investments in cleaner buses. For example, our country is going to buy 20,000 new school buses over the next couple of years. Should those buses be made in China are made in America? I think they ought to be made in America, and there’s a host of new things around making our grades smarter.
Broadband, I think we’ve got a menu of options, and candidly, we’ve had those menus of spending items agreed to for weeks. We have had to work through because my Republican colleagues did not want to use enhanced or actually make sure we follow our IRS tax laws, so we had to replace some of those pay fors. We’re down to the last couple of items, and I think you’re going to see a bill Monday afternoon.”
On voting on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and budget reconciliation before August recess:
“I sure want to, and by the way, I mean, there’s a little bit of workmanship going on here. There were a half-dozen times when Mitch McConnell was the leader of the senate where he would put up what’s called a shell bill because you’re not finished with the details. Then you substitute the actual text once you get into the negotiations because there will be amendments on this infrastructure bill. But, still, we will have that text; it will be out there tomorrow.
After we’re done with the bipartisan bill, I would love to have some of my Republican friends join on the reconciliation left for it, the larger effort that looks at things like universal preschool, that looks at things like free community college, that looks at things like a broad-based tax cut for every family that has a child in terms of the child tax credit. I would hope some Republicans would join us on that, but if not, I think the group of 50 Democrats have to work through that resolution as well.”
Video of Sen. Warner’s interview on Fox News Sunday can be found here. A transcript follows.
Fox News Sunday
MARTHA MACCALLUM: So you said you thought there would be an infrastructure bill that could be looked at on Monday and that you all were working through the weekend. Will you have that bill in place for everybody to look at come tomorrow?
SEN MARK WARNER: Martha, I believe we will because the one thing I hear all across Virginia the last couple of days, people want us to invest in our infrastructure. If you step back, you know, we have in — we are investing at about half the rate that we invested in our infrastructure as we did in the 1990s. As a matter of fact, infrastructure became, as you know, a joke line during the last of administration. They kept promising they were going to do infrastructure. It never came to pass. A group of us, ten of us, five Democrats, five Republicans, have been working on this for the last couple of months. This is the same group who actually put together the last COVID-19 deal under President Trump, so we know each other, we trust each other. I think you’re going to see whether it’s $100 billion-plus for roads and bridges, whether it’s close to $50 billion for resiliency those coasts for having sea level rise, whether it’s making the kind of investments in cleaner buses. For example, our country is going to buy 20,000 new school buses over the next couple of years. Should those buses be made in china are made in America? I think they ought to be made in America, and there’s a host of new things around making our grades smarter. Broadband, I think we’ve got a menu of options, and candidly, we’ve had those menus of spending items agreed to for weeks. We have had to work through because my Republican colleagues did not want to use enhanced or actually make sure we follow our IRS tax laws, so we had to replace some of those pay fors. We’re down to the last couple of items, and I think you’re going to see a bill Monday afternoon.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: I know there was that dispute over whether the IRS part of that deal would go through. Would you want to see $800 billion in unspent COVID-19 funds? Is that going to happen?
SEN MARK WARNER: Well, the interesting thing, Martha, is everybody was for some of these unspent COVID-19 funds that came from the 2020 legislation. Again, most of that legislation passed under President Trump, everybody is for scraping most dollars until you go back and look at the actual programs. For example, hospital relief. For example, some of the programs for small businesses. We have agreed jointly on roughly $70 billion of funds that were not already spent that will be redeployed to help pay for this infrastructure package.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: What do you say to the criticism?
SEN MARK WARNER: The challenge, Martha, is that you’ve got folks who want to make big, bold statements but sometimes don’t want to roll up their sleeves; get into the details and make the very hard choices about where we find these pay fors.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: You heard Senator Scott and others say they didn’t have a bill to vote on last week, and this is what Senator Schumer said about his intention and his timeline.
“I have every intention of passing both major infrastructure packages, the bipartisan infrastructure framework, and budget resolution with reconciliation instructions before we leave for the August recess. That’s the schedule we laid out at the end of June, and that’s the schedule I intend to stick to.”
I mean, that’s very ambitious. Democrats hold the House, the Senate, and the White House. Can you get those two things done by this August recess, senator?
SEN MARK WARNER: I sure want to, and by the way, I mean, there’s a little bit of workmanship going on here. There was a half-dozen times when Mitch McConnell was the leader of the senate where he would put up what’s called a shell bill because you’re not finished with the details. Then you substitute the actual text once you get into the negotiations because there will be amendments on this infrastructure bill. But, still, we will have that text; it will be out there tomorrow. After we’re done with the bipartisan bill, I would love to have some of my Republican friends join on the reconciliation left for it, the larger effort that looks at things like universal preschool, that looks at things like free community college, that looks at things like a broad-based tax cut for every family that has a child in terms of the child tax credit. I would hope some Republicans would join us on that, but if not, I think the group of 50 Democrats have to work through that resolution as well.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: Well, Senator, there’s a lot of concern about the inflation that we see rising in the country, and Senator Graham spoke to this just the other day. Let’s watch that.
“There’s a mandate in this bill to require every employer to offer paid family leave. That sounds good, I guess, on its face, until the employer has to come up with the cash to meet the mandate in this bill. Guess what the employer is going to do? They are going to increase their prices because the government has increased their cost. And over time, as we increase taxes in this bill, which they will have to do, there’s less money to do things that businesses need to do, like modernizing and hiring people. So this is a nightmare for American business. It’s going to be a nightmare for American consumers if this reconciliation bill passes.”
So he’s talking about driving up the costs for American businesses across this country and what the impact might be on consumers. Do you share those concerns about this in the three-and-a-half trillion dollar bill?
SEN MARK WARNER: Like many of the folks I work with within the senate, I spent 30 years in business. I was involved in the telecommunications industry, started a very large company. I can actually read a balance sheet, which is something that some of my colleagues can’t. The amazing thing that Lindsay just mentioned is there is every industrial country in the world, with the exception of the United States, providing some level of paid leave if somebody is having a baby or has got a death in the family. Other countries have managed to do that, and their economies are still moving forward. As a matter of fact, if there are inflationary pressures, it is because we put $5 trillion into the economy, three and a half trillion of that under President Trump, to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. I think history will actually treat that — those investments — as appropriate because we are seeing our economy rebounds. We’ve added three million jobs in the last five months, and, Martha, I just got to tell you, as somebody who spent longer in business than I have in politics, if we don’t invest in road, rail, water, and sewer systems, broadband, those infrastructure investments will actually help us grow the economy, virtually every economist from left to right agreed on that.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: As somebody who spent 30 years in business, as you say, what about the bottom line? What about these trillions and trillions of dollars that have been spent since COVID-19? The fear is that all of this money that you talk about that’s being thrown at this problem is going to ignite inflation that will not just be transitory, that will be long-lasting, and I don’t think Americans have a long memory for what that actually feels like companies and individuals. Are you concerned about that as you seek to push through this $3.5 trillion deal?
SEN MARK WARNER: Well, again, am I concerned about inflation? I’m always concerned about inflation, but I also believe the federal reserve has pointed out that they think this is short-term in nature. We’ve already seen things like the cost of lumber, which went sky high, start to come down. We’ve already seen a little bit of relaxing in the used car market. One of the problems around our car market is that it would not have available semiconductor chips. We need to make investments there to keep up with China, and when you talk about some of these numbers, 3.5 trillion, big, big number, but that is spent out over ten years, so that’s not —
MARTHA MACCALLUM: It is still a big, big number.
SEN MARK WARNER: Right, but —
MARTHA MACCALLUM: It’s unprecedented.
SEN MARK WARNER: Nothing near to the 5 trillion we spent in the last year under both Trump and Biden.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: All right. Just in general, as a Democrat, when you look at this period of time with control over the White House, the House, and the Senate, are you disappointed with what you’ve been able to get done so far?
SEN MARK WARNER: Well, I actually think the American Rescue Plan ended up providing, for example, a middle-class tax cut for every family that makes less than $150,000 that got children with the child tax credit, I think, makes sense. I think state and local government sure those up who lost revenues during COVID-19 make sense and I was a telegram guy. We are going to make sure every household in Virginia has high-speed broadband 2024. that would only happen because of the American Rescue Plan. I frankly think, and I would hope, every state would do that same kind of plan because if you don’t have broadband going forward, your chances for any kind of economic future is not going to be bright buried.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: Before I let you go, do you think the President should move to get behind the idea of eliminating the filibuster in order to get some of these things through while this window is still open?
SEN MARK WARNER: I don’t want the Senate to become like the House. Still, I do believe when it comes to voting rights when it comes to that basic right to exercise and participate in democracy, I get very worried about what’s happening in some of these states where they are actually penalizing, saying if you give somebody water waiting in line to vote, or in states like Texas where they are seeing a local government can overcome the results of a local election, that is not democracy. If we have to do a small carve-out on filibuster for voting rights, that is the only area where I would allow that kind of reform.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: Do you don’t think that’s a slippery slope?
SEN MARK WARNER: Listen, I would wish we wouldn’t even have started this a decade ago. When the democratic leaders actually changed the rules, I don’t think we have the Supreme Court we did if we still had a 60 vote margin on the filibuster, but we are where we are in the idea that somehow to protect the rights of the minority in the senate were going to cut out rights of minorities and young people all across the country, that’s just not right to me.
MARTHA MACCALLUM: Senator Warner thank you, good to have you here today.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 19, 2021
Although the House did not have any votes on the Floor this week, Speaker Pelosi and her liberal leadership in Washington was busy behind the scenes, working to undermine the fiscal integrity of our Nation by forcing massive spending bills through the House Appropriations Committee. As one of the newest members of the Committee, I was appalled by how quickly the Democrats on the Committee voted for 20 percent, 30 percent, or even bigger increases in spending on Washington bureaucracies over the current fiscal year. Worse, the bills were stuffed full of liberal legislative riders that changed decades of policy with little or no debate. By the end of the week, all twelve appropriations bills were approved by Democrats in party-line votes. Seated in the back corner of the Committee room with the other newly-appointed Republicans, my colleagues and I became known by the Democrats as “the Paper Caucus,” because we offered most of the amendments to the bills as they were considered. We offered amendments to reduce spending, defend the Constitution, protect life, and stand against the Green New Deal, among others. While we were unsuccessful in our efforts, the Democrats on the Committee were given notice that the days of doing things “the same old way” are over. Republicans will continue to stand up in Committee for the people we represent against the defenders of the status quo and the Washington bureaucracy.
Further, on Friday, I introduced bipartisan legislation to expand opportunities for veterans and make it easier for them to open their own small businesses. I also joined Fox Business to discuss my recent appointment to the Big Tech Censorship and Data Task Force, where we’ll examine ways to rein in the Tech Industry. Finally, I was pleased that we won a fight against a bureaucratic change at the Office of Management and Budget that would have hurt services and the people who depend on them across the Sixth District.
This week, the House Appropriations continued its work of marking up the 12 bills that will fund the Federal government for the next fiscal year. While Republicans worked hard to get provisions included in the bills that support conservative initiatives, the final price tag on each piece of legislation this week was fiscally irresponsible, and most included “poising pills” that made it impossible to vote in favor of the bills. A few examples of the issues can be found below:
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
In one of the most egregious moves by the Democrats, the historically bipartisan Hyde Amendment was removed from the bill for the first time in 45 years. As you may know, the Hyde Amendment ensures that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund or perform abortions – a notion that more than 60 percent of Americans support. Further, this bill also excluded the Weldon Amendment, which ensures that health care providers cannot be forced to provide abortion services – protection that has been in place since 2005. We should never force our health care workers to participate in abortion when they have taken an oath to heal and to do no harm. To put a health care provider’s license in jeopardy by mandating they perform a procedure they are morally opposed to is simply wrong. For this and many other reasons, I could not vote in favor of this bill.
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Instead of prioritizing security challenges, this bill focused on funding new, overlapping, and potentially duplicative programs. The bill also contained onerous and controversial provisions that would have effectively defunded police who bravely protect and serve our local communities. Additionally, language included for many years to protect the Second Amendment was stripped from the bill. Moreover, the legislation creates a National Gun Buyback Program. The Federal government should not be operating programs that purchase firearms it never owned in the first place from the civilian population. I offered an amendment to remove this provision from the bill and redirect resources at the Justice Department to fight human trafficking. Unfortunately, the Democrats voted it down along party lines. As written, this bill was a bad deal for the taxpayer, and thus, I voted against the final passage.
Everyone agrees that we must ensure that those who keep us safe have the resources necessary to do their job, and that includes those who keep us safe on the US border. While there were provisions in the bill that I support, the final legislation did nothing to secure our southern border. Instead, it incentivizes more mass illegal migration that will worsen the crisis at the border created by the Biden Administration. One provision in the bill would even put the locations and types of surveillance technology used by Border Patrol on a website available to the general public (and the Mexican drug cartels). This is dangerous and hinders the work and safety of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. I offered an amendment to strike this reckless provision from this spending bill, but the Democrats voted it down. The legislation did not do nearly enough to secure the homeland, and thus, I could not support the bill.
Veterans Entrepreneurship Act
Supporting Veterans in the Sixth District and across the country is one of my top priorities as your Congressman, and I will continue to work to advance legislation that will aid those who served our Nation. That is why this week I introduced H.R. 4433, the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2021. This bipartisan legislation will expand the options under which Veterans can access their benefits in the GI Bill. Currently, GI Bill benefits can only be used to help Veterans further their education. However, not all Veterans wish to continue their education after returning to civilian life. Many wish to pursue professional development, enter the workforce, or start their own small business. This legislation will allow funds under the GI Bill to be applied to special business training programs or resource grants to help Veterans achieve their goals. The bill establishes a 3-year pilot program where 250 Veterans will participate in a training program and receive assistance in putting together a business plan that, if approved, will win them a grant which they can use to realize their plan. The Veterans Entrepreneurship Act is grounded in the idea of allowing Veterans to choose how to best use their earned benefits to help accomplish their goals. Learn more here.
Reining in Big Tech:
Recently, I was pleased to be named to the Big Tech Censorship and Data Task Force. Together we will explore data privacy and security matters, examine competition issues, and most importantly, search for avenues to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Section 230 is what gives social media companies their liability shield from lawsuits stemming from the content on their platforms. However, if Big Tech is going to censor speech, remove posts, and filter content, then they should be deemed publishers and no longer entitled to that shield. Further, Big Tech has destroyed the ability of small businesses to compete on a level playing field either by simply buying their competition out, underpricing their own products on their platforms, and giving their own products priority which does not allow private sellers to have a fighting chance. We must help foster a truly free and fair market. Finally, Big Tech too often is reckless and careless in protecting private data, and Congress must work to hold negligent companies liable for these breaches of trust. I am hopeful that this Task Force will be able to work toward solutions to solve these issues. Click the image to hear more.
Metropolitan Statistical Areas:
Earlier this year, the Office of Management and Budget proposed raising the population criteria for Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) from 50,000 residents to 100,000 residents. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, a Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Area is that of a core area containing a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core. These designations are used in part to determine Federal funding levels and economic development opportunities. If this change were to have occurred, cities like Harrisonburg and Staunton would have lost their MSA designation, and thus would not qualify for higher levels of Federal funding. Fortunately, in response to a letter my colleagues and I wrote to the Office of Management and Budget, the agency announced this week that it is rescinding the proposed change to the population criteria. Therefore, for at least the next ten years, Harrisonburg and Staunton will be afforded the proper level of Federal funding that they deserve. I am proud to have played a part in ensuring this arbitrary proposal did not come to fruition.
Recently, authorities have been made aware of cyberattacks being perpetrated in the Sixth District. Several residents of Botetourt County have received Facebook messages supposedly from the Economic Development Agency about a grant opportunity, asking for money or personal information in return. Be advised that these messages are scams and can cause serious harm. If you receive a suspicious message, do not click on the link even if it seems to be from someone you know. Please note that the EDA never requires the disclosure of personal information or any processing fees. EDA grants can only be received by following the steps listed on the EDA’s website. If you are a victim of one of these scams, contact the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General or the Federal Trade Commission.
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.