With the Biden administration set to unveil details on a series of executive orders to reverse his predecessor’s relentless efforts to sabotage the success of the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) will introduce the Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 to help counter the devastating effects the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has had on the record-high number of people lacking insurance across the country. Specifically, the Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 aims to protect health care coverage for Americans living with preexisting conditions while also expanding access to quality and affordable health care coverage for working families.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have lost their employer-provided insurance. Amid one of the most unprecedented health and economic health crises our country has faced where an alarming number of Americans already lack health insurance, now is the time to deploy tools to meet the demands on our health care system. As the Biden administration readies its executive orders to expand health care coverage – including reopening the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act – I’m also introducing legislation that would support the administration’s effort to get more families affordable health care coverage,” said Sen. Warner.
The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 would lower costs for working families by:
- Capping health care costs on the ACA exchanges: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will ensure no individual or family pays more than 8.5 percent of their total household income for their health insurance. Currently, no family making more than 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($51,040 for an individual in 2020) is eligible for premium assistance on the ACA exchanges. This provision – which is supported in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan – expands premium assistance to individuals making more than 400 percent of the federal poverty line and places a cap on insurance costs for all individuals and families on the ACA exchanges.
- Establishing a low-cost public health care option: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a low-cost, public health care option for individuals who are eligible to enroll for health care coverage via the ACA exchanges. Establishing a public health care option will increase competition and ensure an added lower-cost health care option for more American families.
- Authorizing the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices: Under existing federal law, the government is explicitly banned from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices. The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will allow the federal government to leverage its purchasing power to negotiate prices and reduce drug costs for more than 37 million seniors on Medicare.
- Allowing insurers to offer health care coverage across state boundaries: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will allow insurers to offer health care coverage across state boundaries, increasing choice and competition among plans and driving down costs while maintaining quality, value, and strong consumer protections.
- Supporting state-run reinsurance programs: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will create a new “State Health Insurance Affordability and Innovation Fund” to support state-run reinsurance programs and additional state efforts to reduce premium costs and expand health care coverage. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated such programs could reduce health care premiums by 8 percent within one year.
The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will increase access to affordable health care coverage by:
- Incentivizing states to expand Medicaid: If all states were to expand their Medicaid programs, the number of uninsured Americans would decrease by more than 2 million. The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will provide additional incentives to states to expand their Medicaid program by temporarily increasing federal matching funds to states that expand their programs and reducing existing administrative payments to states that do not expand their programs. It would also provide retroactive payments to states like Virginia that were late to expand Medicaid and have not received their fair share of federal matching payments.
- Expanding Medicaid eligibility for new moms: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will allow states to provide new mothers up to 12 months of postpartum Medicaid eligibility. This provision would significantly improve maternal health outcomes by ensuring mothers have access to vital health care services during the immediate months after giving birth.
- Simplifying enrollment: There are over 7 million Americans currently eligible for cost-free Medicaid coverage, but who are not enrolled due a variety of factors including unnecessary paperwork and a confusing enrollment process. The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will simplify Medicaid and CHIP enrollment by permanently authorizing the successful Medicaid Express Lane Eligibility program and expanding it to include adults. The Department of Health and Human Services will also be required to conduct a study and develop recommendations to allow states to further implement Medicaid and CHIP auto-enrollment for individuals eligible for cost-free coverage.
- Increasing Medicaid funding for states with high levels of unemployment: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will implement a counter-cyclical Medicaid matching payment from the federal government to ensure that states with high levels of unemployment receive a higher federal matching payment to appropriately account for an increase in Medicaid enrollment. This will ensure states can maintain affordable health care coverage during economic downturns and temporary periods of high unemployment.
- Funding rural health care providers: Under current law, rural providers are unfairly compensated at a much lower rate than urban providers, making it more difficult for Virginia providers to keep their doors open in underserved communities. The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will create a rural floor for the Area Wage Index formula the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid use to reimburse rural providers. Fixing the Area Wage Index will boost access to affordable health care coverage in Virginia’s rural and medically underserved communities.
- Reducing burdens on small businesses: The Health Care Improvement Act of 2021 will modernize ACA employer reporting requirements to ensure that businesses can provide comprehensive health care benefits to their employees without additional administrative costs or unnecessary paperwork.
“As Americans continue to face a once in a century public health crisis, Senator Warner is working to make health care more accessible and affordable for the American people. Senator Warner’s bill would take bold steps to reduce costs, expand coverage, and strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions at a time when access to affordable health care has never been more critical. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans should work with Senate leadership to prioritize the health and well-being of Americans by building on the success of the Affordable Care and abandoning their health care sabotage agenda,” said Brad Woodhouse, Executive Director of Protect Our Care.
“The pandemic has exacerbated the deep, structural problems in our health care system: namely, the cost is far too big of a burden and not enough people have adequate protection. We must make real reforms to health care, and Third Way applauds Senator Mark Warner for the leadership he has shown in the Health Care Improvement Act of 2020,” said Gabe Horwitz, Senior Vice President for the Economic Program at Third Way. “Among its very important provisions, this legislation would expand coverage by making enrollment in Medicaid automatic whenever a low-income uninsured patient accesses health care. As Third Way has long called for, automatic enrollment makes health care easier for people to navigate and is an important step to achieve universal coverage. The Warner legislation also builds on the Affordable Care Act and makes coverage affordable for millions of middle-class families who currently fall through gaps in the program. And it provides financial relief to states during economic downturns like the one we’re experiencing now by increasing the federal share of Medicaid payments to the states. Americans need far more security and stability in their health care, and we are excited about the vision shown in Senator Warner’s bill.”
“The Virginia Community Healthcare Association represents more than 150 health center sites, serving over 350,000 individuals across the Commonwealth with the goal of ensuring access to primary care for all Virginians. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for quality health care coverage more critical than ever. Senator Warner’s Health Care Improvement Act will advance our shared goal of reducing health care costs and expanding quality health care coverage to more Virginians. We thank him for introducing this legislation and look forward to working with him on this important effort,” said Rick Shinn, Director of Government Affairs for the Virginia Community Healthcare Association.
“Rising health care costs have increasingly become a burden for too many Virginians – making it more difficult to access quality and affordable health care coverage. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of ensuring every American has access to quality health care coverage, and also highlighted significant gaps in access to health care coverage for communities of color and people with low-incomes. Senator Warner’s legislation will improve access to quality health care by closing existing coverage gaps and reducing premiums costs for people who already have health care coverage. We look forward to working with Senator Warner to advance these important priorities,” said Freddy Mejia, Health Policy Analyst, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.
“The Virginia Poverty Law Center applauds Senator Warner’s introduction of comprehensive legislation on health care. The improvements in this bill address a wide range of critical issues that will reduce costs and expand access to care for consumers in Virginia and across the country. Specifically, we strongly support the Senator’s proposals that improve ACA health plan affordability, enhance premium assistance, provide additional incentives for states to expand their Medicaid programs, ensure continuity of health care for new mothers and reduce Medicare drug prices. We encourage Congress to move quickly on this vital legislation that will help so many consumers during and after the COVID pandemic,” said Jill Hanken, Health Attorney, the Virginia Poverty Law Center.
“We at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) believe that access to quality health care is a right, not a privilege and that access to comprehensive health services must be recognized and protected as a basic human right. Especially in light of this ongoing pandemic, we continue our commitment to ensuring health care for all. To that end, we support this effort to expand health care coverage in the U.S. AMSA especially supports Medicaid eligibility expansion, the simplification of enrollment procedures for Medicaid and SCHIP programs, and the expansion of federal financing. Moreover, we are excited to see efforts that work to reduce prescription drug prices and fight against surprise medical billing. AMSA applauds Senator Warner and the Health Care Improvement Act,” said Dr. Ali Bokhari, President of the American Medical Student Association
“The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) is aware of how access challenges and high costs in our health care system disproportionally affect people with disabilities. We appreciate Senator Warner’s commitment to work closely with the disability community as he leads efforts to ensure Americans have access to the care and coverage they need. AUCD supports the Health Care Improvement Act and its commitment to address the pressing needs of reducing health care costs and protecting the rights of people with disabilities,” said Rylin Rodgers, Policy Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.
This legislation also boasts the support of The Arc of Northern Virginia, The Autism Society of Northern Virginia, Healthcare for All Virginians Coalition, First Focus Campaign for Children, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
With President Biden’s expected executive order announcement later today and the introduction of his American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration is set to act on additional priorities Sen. Warner has long called for to improve our nation’s health care system such as re-opening the Affordable Care Act exchanges so that more uninsured individuals can enroll in health care coverage. During the COVID-19 health crisis, Sen. Warner called on the Trump Administration and Congress to make this important change to address the health care coverage crisis we now face.
In line with the forthcoming announcement by the Biden administration, Sen. Warner’s Health Care Improvement Act provides $100,000,000 in funding to support the administration’s effort to fully fund programs to help more Americans enroll in affordable health care coverage. Additionally, President Biden plans to roll back the Trump administration’s actions to sabotage the Affordable Care Act which has undermined our preparedness for and ability to respond to COVID-19 and protect health care coverage for millions of Americans. In 2019, Sen. Warner led the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in a legislative maneuver to protect health coverage for Americans with preexisting conditions from the Trump Administration’s attempts to undermine those safeguards.
Kaine, Murkowski, Sinema, and Collins introduce legislation to codify Roe v. Wade
On August 1, 2022, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Reproductive Freedom For All Act. This legislation would enact the essential holdings of Roe v. Wade and related cases in federal law, protecting abortion rights and contraception access.
“After the Supreme Court gutted a woman’s right to make personal health care decisions, Congress must restore that right,” said Senator Kaine. “That’s why I’ve worked with my colleagues to find common ground on this bipartisan compromise that would do just that. The Reproductive Freedom For All Act would restore the right to abortion and protect access to contraception by enshrining those freedoms into federal legislation.”
“Every American should have autonomy over their own health care decisions, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs has made it imperative for Congress to restore women’s reproductive rights. I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation with my colleagues to write into law the protections provided through Roe and Casey as well as affirming access to contraception provided in Griswold and other cases,” said Senator Murkowski. “For five decades, reproductive health care decisions were centered with the individual – we cannot go back in time in limiting personal freedoms for women.”
“A woman’s health care decisions should be between her, her family, and her doctor. Our bipartisan, commonsense legislation protects the health and wellbeing of women in Arizona and across the country by ensuring all women – no matter where they live – can access the health care they need and have the ability to make their own decisions about their futures,” said Senator Sinema.
“The Supreme Court’s recent abandonment of longstanding precedent erodes the reproductive rights on which women have relied for half a century. These basic rights need to be the same for American women regardless of the state in which they reside. Our bill would restore the right to obtain an abortion by enacting in federal law Roe v. Wade and other seminal Supreme Court decisions pertaining to reproductive freedom. In addition, our bill would protect access to contraception,” said Senator Collins. “By reinstating—neither expanding nor restricting—the longstanding legal framework for reproductive rights in this country, our bill would preserve abortion access along with basic conscience protections that are relied upon by health care providers who have religious objections.”
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, more than 60 percent of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Overturning Roe has resulted in immediate bans on all abortions in several states. In the future could potentially call into question other important rights, including the right to access birth control, outlined in Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, and Carey v. Population Services International. That is why the Reproductive Freedom For All Act would enact not only the core holdings of Roe v. Wade but also key subsequent cases: Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, as well as the holdings of Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, Carey v. Population Services International.
The Reproductive Freedom For All Act protects the ability of women to make health care choices for themselves. It would:
- Prohibit state regulations that impose an undue burden on a woman’s access to pre-viability abortions while allowing states to enact reasonable restrictions on post-viability abortions – provided that states cannot ban abortions that are necessary to protect the life or health of the mother;
- Protect access to contraceptives; and
- Preserve conscience protections.
The full text of the legislation is available here.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 29, 2022
House Democrats spent last week moving legislation that accomplished little other than increasing our Federal debt and trying to shore up their base in the polls. Desperate to distort, distract, and deceive the American people from the failed agenda of Nancy Pelosi and President Biden, Congress considered a massive spending bill and other legislation that fails to help address the impact of rising prices of food, fuel, and housing.
Among other bills, Congress considered legislation regarding contraception and gay marriage, despite there being no indication that the Supreme Court is moving to overturn the right to contraception created in Griswold (1965) or the right to gay marriage created in Obergefell (2015). Additionally, Congress considered a non-binding resolution calling for the expansion of NATO, which would force American taxpayers to pay more for the security of Europeans and put U.S. troops at greater risk of involvement in a destabilizing war in Europe. I also had the chance to welcome constituents to Washington and to recognize an outstanding local softball team on the House Floor. As always, I will continue to vigorously represent your interests as your Representative in Congress.
This last week Congress passed a massive spending bill which funded six areas of government for the next fiscal year. This $402 billion package was an overall 13% increase above funding for last year and contained several provisions that backed away from long-standing pro-life policies.
Much of our current economic slide can be traced to the runaway spending of the current Democrat Congress, which has led to a 40-year high inflation rate, rising prices of goods and services, and paychecks being stretched to the breaking point. Even so, the House pushed through Appropriations bills that included a 17% increase for Financial Services and General Government, an 18% increase for Interior and Environment, and a 12.2% increase for Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.
Inflation is a hidden tax on all Americans, and at a time when Americans are struggling to pay for gas and groceries, the Federal government should be reducing spending. We should prioritize core responsibilities such as our national security, and we must cut wasteful and inefficient social programs. I will continue to be a leader in championing fiscal responsibility.
Desperate to hold on to power, Democrats put forth several political messaging bills last week instead of working to address inflation, secure our border, stop crime, and strengthen education. While the power to ratify treaties resides in the Senate, House Democrats pushed a non-binding resolution to support the expansion of NATO membership to include Finland and Sweden. As the U.S. supports the Ukraine resistance against the invasion of Russia, expanding NATO to the Russian-Finnish border during the fighting increases the risk of drawing American troops into a broader European conflict, something to which I have been consistently opposed. Further, NATO needs significant reform, and I have long called for NATO members to pay their pledged fair share — 2 percent of GDP — and while Finland has done this, Sweden has not.
Assault Weapons Ban
Realizing there is only a limited number of legislative days before November’s election, Speaker Pelosi and Congressional Democrats are playing politics with the Constitution and are attempting to move on an assault weapons ban through the House of Representatives.
Under this plan, Democrats want to make it a felony for any American to sell, manufacture, or possess an AR-15, or any one of over 200 similar firearms, and criminalize the gifting of legally owned firearms to a family member, friend, or neighbor. This assault on the Second Amendment is an attempt to disarm law-abiding Americans, and I am continuing to fight their efforts and defend our Constitution.
All Star Darlings One Minute
On the House Floor last week I had the honor of recognizing an incredible achievement in youth sports. The Amherst All Star Darlings, a girls youth softball team of 7- and 8-year-olds, just finished their season undefeated. After winning both the district and state championships, they have their eyes set on Cochran-Beckley, Georgia, where the girls’ softball world series will be played later this month. These young ladies worked hard and were hungry for competition, and their determination to win throughout the length of their season is nearly unmatched. Now they are planning and working towards making their trip to Georgia possible to get the chance to make this Cinderella story a reality. Their efforts are a story of comradery, hard work, and laying the foundation for a bright future not only in sports but in all of their future endeavors. The Sixth District will be cheering them on when they compete on July 31st in the Dixie youth softball league world series. Congratulations to the Amherst All Star Darlings for representing Virginia and the Sixth District so well.
Last week in Virginia there was an average 35 daily cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, down from 36 daily cases last week. This week’s COVID-19 test positivity rate dropped to 22%. 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.
Kaine statement on Senate passage of bill to boost domestic chip manufacturing
On July 27, 2022, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine released the following statement after helping the Senate pass legislation to incentivize private investment in domestic chips manufacturing and provide a combined $157 billion of support for chips production and science research in America:
“Increasing chips manufacturing in Virginia and throughout America is a win-win-win for job creation, our national security, and lowering costs—all while helping us outcompete China,” said Kaine. “America has a lot to gain with this bill not only because it’ll strengthen our manufacturing economy but also because it’ll boost our many great research institutions. I’m glad we took this step forward today and won’t give up in the fight to build on this momentum to make our economy even more competitive.”
America currently only produces 12 percent of the global supply of chips, which are required by everything from cars, computers, and phones to televisions, LED lightbulbs, and washing machines. Meanwhile, East Asia—where other governments incentivize their own domestic chip manufacturing that makes it significantly cheaper to produce chips than in America—has become the production point for 75 percent of the world’s chips.
COVID-related chip supply strains have hindered American manufacturing output, resulting in decreased supply and higher prices for cars and other goods. Today’s shortages indicate how catastrophic future chip shortages could be for America’s economy, technological competitiveness, and military capabilities.
This legislation aims to create a resurgence in American chip manufacturing to protect America from the threat of future chip shortages by offering private companies a tax credit for investments in domestic chip manufacturing facilities and making $52 billion in funding available for chips researchers and manufacturers so they can make more chips in America.
Kaine has been a consistent advocate for the need to onshore chip production and has emphasized the important role Virginia can play in strengthening chip supply and creating chip manufacturing jobs. Virginia is already home to some of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers, which will be able to apply for funding from today’s legislation once it is signed into law by President Biden.
In addition to investments in and incentives for chips manufacturing, the legislation would help support the scientific research America’s economy needs to be competitive in the 21st century by including:
· Over $81 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the next five years, including $20 billion for the first-of-its-kind NSF program to accelerate domestic development of national and economic-security critical technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, advanced manufacturing, 6G communications, energy, and material science;
· $13 billion to invest in America’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce by supporting STEM education through scholarships, fellowships, and traineeships to train workers in critical fields, including through an artificial intelligence scholarship-for-service program, a national network for microelectronics education, and cybersecurity workforce development programs; and
· $11 billion for the Regional Innovation Engines to advance multidisciplinary and collaborative research and development in key technology focus areas at institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, civil society organizations, and industrial firms in relevant sectors. These hubs will focus on technology development, job creation, and expanding U.S. innovation capacity.
Warner, Kaine, Wexton, Beyer, Connolly press Biden to raise the detention of Virginian Asim Ghafoor with Emirati government
Only July 22, 2022, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, alongside Representatives Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Don Beyer (VA-08), and Gerry Connolly (VA-11), pressed President Biden to raise Asim Ghafoor’s detention with the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair and humane treatment. Asim Ghafoor—a U.S. citizen and Virginia resident—was reportedly tried in absentia, detained without notice of his conviction, and sentenced to prison on to-date unsubstantiated charges by United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities.
Ghafoor was a close personal friend of and reportedly served as legal counsel to Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally murdered by Saudi officials in 2018, in an operation that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) assessed was approved by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
“…[W]e strongly urge you and your Administration to raise Mr. Ghafoor’s case immediately at the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair treatment, including assurances regarding his health and safety while in Emirati custody. It is critical the Administration makes clear that the hasty detention of U.S. citizens like Mr. Ghafoor cannot become normalized as an appropriate tactic of U.S. partners,” the lawmakers wrote.
“We welcomed the Department of State’s July 18, 2022, statement that the United States had ‘not sought’ Ghafoor’s arrest. However, absent concrete evidence of Ghafoor’s alleged criminal behavior, the UAE’s repeated claim that this arrest was conducted in coordination with the United States government in order to ‘combat transnational crimes’ raises concerns about oversight of U.S. involvement in that partnership,” they continued.
Additionally, the lawmakers requested that the Biden Administration:
- Call on Emirati authorities to allow Mr. Ghafoor regular access to his family and to his attorneys;
- Ensure that the U.S. embassy continues to receive consular visits with Mr. Ghafoor and that U.S. embassy staff are permitted to attend all trial proceedings;
- Confirm with UAE officials that Mr. Ghafoor will receive humane and fair treatment while in Emirati custody, including immediate access to required medical care; and
- Solicit additional information from the Emirati government regarding the legal proceedings against Mr. Ghafoor, in order to determine if his arrest should be considered wrongful detention or an act of transnational repression.
Here’s the full text of the letter :
Dear Mr. President,
We request your Administration’s urgent attention to the recent detention of U.S. citizen and Virginia resident Mr. Asim Ghafoor by United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities. Mr. Ghafoor was convicted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on currently unsubstantiated charges of money laundering and tax evasion, in absentia and, reportedly, without his knowledge. Mr. Ghafoor was detained by UAE authorities on July 14, 2022, while transiting Dubai International Airport, and was sentenced to three years in prison on July 16, 2022. The UAE’s decision to detain Mr. Ghafoor – without notice or opportunity to seek legal counsel – represents a gross violation of his due process rights.
Mr. Ghafoor is a board member for the nonprofit organization Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN), which advocates for democratic reforms in the Middle East and has at times criticized the Emirati government. In his capacity as an attorney, Mr. Ghafoor is reported to have represented his friend Mr. Jamal Khashoggi, who was also a Virginian and who was brutally murdered by Saudi officials in 2018. Noting your July 16, 2022, meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan and your invitation for him to visit the United States by the end of this year, as well as the close relationship between the Saudi and Emirati governments, we strongly urge you and your Administration to raise Mr. Ghafoor’s case immediately at the highest levels of the Emirati government and advocate for his fair treatment, including assurances regarding his health and safety while in Emirati custody. It is critical the Administration makes clear that the hasty detention of U.S. citizens like Mr. Ghafoor cannot become normalized as an appropriate tactic of U.S. partners.
The UAE has claimed the United States played a role in Mr. Ghafoor’s detention, and as such we further urge your Administration to clarify the nature of the United States’ potential involvement. We welcomed the Department of State’s July 18, 2022, statement that the United States had “not sought” Ghafoor’s arrest. However, absent concrete evidence of Ghafoor’s alleged criminal behavior, the UAE’s repeated claim that this arrest was conducted in coordination with the United States government in order to “combat transnational crimes,” raises concerns about oversight of U.S. involvement in that partnership.
As your Administration works to ensure that Mr. Ghafoor is treated humanely and fairly, we respectfully request that you take the following interim measures:
1. Call on Emirati authorities to allow Mr. Ghafoor regular access to his family and to his attorneys.
2. Ensure that the U.S. embassy continues to receive consular visits with Mr. Ghafoor and that U.S. embassy staff are permitted to attend all trial proceedings.
3. Confirm with UAE officials that Mr. Ghafoor will receive humane and fair treatment while in Emirati custody, including immediate access to required medical care.
4. Solicit additional information from the Emirati government regarding the legal proceedings against Mr. Ghafoor, in order to determine if his arrest should be considered a wrongful detention or act of transnational repression.
Senators introduce reforms to the Electoral Count Act of 1887
On July 20, 2022, after months of bipartisan negotiations, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing two proposals which include legislation to reform and modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887 to ensure that the electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote for President.
In addition to Sens. Warner, Collins, and Manchin, the senators involved in the bipartisan negotiations include Rob Portman (R-OH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“From the beginning, our bipartisan group has shared a vision of drafting legislation to fix the flaws of the archaic and ambiguous Electoral Count Act of 1887,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Through numerous meetings and debates among our colleagues as well as conversations with a wide variety of election experts and legal scholars, we have developed legislation that establishes clear guidelines for our system of certifying and counting electoral votes for President and Vice President. We urge our colleagues in both parties to support these simple, commonsense reforms.”
In developing the bills, the senators received input from state election officials, as well as from an ideologically diverse group of election experts and legal scholars, including the American Law Institute. Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) also provided helpful insight.
“Debates over the political ‘rules of the game’ can be fraught with suspicion and jockeying for advantage. When these rules change, there must be buy-in from both parties to maintain trust in the system,” said Matthew Weil, Executive Director of the Democracy Program at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “This bipartisan Senate framework is a critical step for shoring up ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act. These senators, especially Sens. Manchin and Collins, should be commended for finding common ground on a matter that is so foundational to our democracy: faith in the system that selects our leaders.”
“We are impressed with the draft Electoral Count Act reform legislation developed by a bipartisan Senate working group, including Senators Collins, Manchin, Romney, and Murphy,” said Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith co-chairs of the Presidential Reform Project. “Our work on these reform issues, which has included co-chairing a group of experts convened by the American Law Institute (ALI), has convinced us that major improvements in the current law are both urgent and achievable. We believe the legislation as proposed will help curtail threats to future presidential elections that would erode the foundational democratic principles of our country. It merits broad support.”
The first bill, the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act, is co-sponsored by Senators Collins, Manchin, Portman, Sinema, Romney, Shaheen, Murkowski, Warner, Tillis, Murphy, Capito, Cardin, Young, Coons, Sasse, and Graham. The bill includes the following provisions:
1) Electoral Count Reform Act. This section would reform and modernize the outdated Electoral Count Act of 1887 to ensure that electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote for President. It would replace ambiguous provisions of the 19th-century law with clear procedures that maintain appropriate state and federal roles in selecting the President and Vice President of the United States as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Click here for a one-pager on the Electoral Count Act reform section.
2) Presidential Transition Improvement Act. This section would help to promote the orderly transfer of power by providing clear guidelines for when eligible candidates for President or Vice President may receive federal resources to support their transition into office. Click here for a one-pager on the presidential transition section.
The second bill, the Enhanced Election Security and Protection Act, is co-sponsored by Senators Collins, Manchin, Portman, Shaheen, Romney, Sinema, Murkowski, Warner, Tillis, Murphy, Coons, and Cardin. The bill includes the following provisions:
1) Enhanced Penalties to Protect Our Elections Act. This section would double the penalty under federal law for individuals who threaten or intimidate election officials, poll watchers, voters, or candidates. Under current law, threats of violence or intimidation against these individuals are punishable by no more than one year in prison. This penalty would be raised to no more than two years in prison.
2) Postal Service Election Improvement Act. This section aims to improve the handling of election mail by the U.S. Postal Service and provide guidance to states to improve their mail-in ballot processes where permitted under state law.
3) Election Assistance Commission Reauthorization. This section would reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) for five years and require the EAC to conduct cyber security testing as part of its testing and certification process for voting systems. Established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the EAC is an independent agency that helps states improve the administration and security of federal elections. The EAC administers grants to states and develops non-binding guidance and best practices for election officials in various areas, including cybersecurity, election audits, and voting accessibility. The authorization for the EAC, which is led by two Republican and two Democratic commissioners, expired in the fiscal year 2005, although the agency has continued to receive annual appropriations for operations.
4) Election Records Protection Act. This section would clarify that current law requires electronic election records to be preserved. It would also increase the existing maximum penalties for individuals who willfully steal, destroy, conceal, mutilate, or alter election records from $1,000 to $10,000 and from up to one year in prison to up to two years in prison. In addition, it would make it illegal to tamper with voting systems.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 7, 2022
While the House of Representatives did not have any votes on the Floor last week, Speaker Pelosi continued to pursue her liberal agenda by jamming partisan spending bills for the next fiscal year through the House Appropriations Committee. While Members reached a few areas of bipartisan agreement, overall, the bills undermine the fiscal integrity of our Nation by continuing annual deficits and worsening our current fiscal crisis. While I opposed and voted against each of these partisan bills, I offered several amendments that reflected the values and priorities of the people of Virginia’s Sixth District. Also, Members reacted to the Supreme Court’s recent decisions as it finished one of its most consequential terms in history. The Court ruled in favor of the Free Exercise of religion, against Biden’s efforts to impose a radical climate agenda through executive fiat, and, sadly, to allow the Administration to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy. Additionally, my colleagues and I demanded the Department of Justice act immediately to protect Pro-Life centers from acts of vandalism. Finally, as the Nation celebrated our Independence, I urged all of us to remember the ideals of our Founding Fathers and work to ensure the greatest country in the history of the world has her best days ahead.
Liberal Spending Bills in Appropriations
The House Appropriations Committee continued its work of marking up the 12 bills that will fund the Federal government for the Fiscal Year 2023. Republicans tried and failed to get provisions included in the bills to support conservative initiatives. In addition, the final price tag on each piece of legislation this week was fiscally irresponsible, and most included “poison pills” that made it impossible to vote in favor of the bills. My colleagues and I introduced a number of amendments to stop the agenda of Speaker Pelosi and President Biden, ensure tax dollars are not being used to fund liberal pet projects and Green New Deal priorities, and we fought to include provisions to secure our border, stop Constitutionally invalid gun control attempts, and to protect life against taxpayer-funded abortion. For the bill funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS), I fought to ensure that we are not abusing emergency health powers and not using taxpayer money to fund abortion. And for the bill funding the Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS), I fought to ensure that the federal government enforces the rule of law without abridging the civil and Constitutional liberties of the American people.
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS)
In one of the most egregious moves by the Democrats, the historically bipartisan Hyde Amendment was again removed from the bill. As you may know, the Hyde Amendment ensures that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund or perform abortions – a notion that a majority of Americans support. Further, this bill also excluded the Weldon Amendment, which ensures that health care providers cannot be forced to provide abortion services, a protection that until recently was in place since 2005. We should never force our health care workers to participate in an 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. Additionally, I also introduced an amendment to the LHHS bill to prohibit the use of a public health emergency to implement gun control. As I argued in debate on my amendment, using emergency powers to disarm the citizenry is the action of a third-world county, not the United States. Remarkably, my amendment was rejected as House Democrats turn a blind eye to the unconstitutional power grabs by President Biden.
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) & Homeland Security
While this bill contained provisions I could support related to the security of our Nation and the enforcement of our laws, the Democrats’ bill failed to include important language and was far too costly at a time of fiscal crisis for the Federal government and a 40-year high in inflation. The bill provides double-digit percentage increases in funding for agencies and continues course toward implementing many of the Administration’s failed policies. Additionally, the bill increased state and local grant programs by 22 percent, including in many states and cities that have wildly mismanaged their budgets and inappropriately used COVID relief funds. Instead, the bill should have done more to fund border security and stop the rampant human and drug smuggling that is being exacerbated by this border crisis. To that end, I introduced an amendment that would reduce $46.5 million from proposed funding to support TSA collective bargaining and use that funding to increase border technology procurement for Customs and Border Protection. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, my amendment was rejected by Committee Democrats.
While Democrats rejected a number of provisions and amendments to rein in spending and correct course from Biden and Pelosi’s failed agenda, we forced them to accept Republican amendments on thwarting Iran, supporting Israel, keeping track of funding for Ukraine, and preventing the Biden Administration’s ludicrous proposal of distributing crack pipes to drug users. Rest assured that I will continue to fight against wasteful spending and fight to correct course away from the Left’s radical agenda, as well as fight to ensure that the Constitution is followed wherein Congress makes the laws and the Executive Branch we fund executes and enforces the law.
SCOTUS Term Wrap-Up
This year’s Supreme Court session will go down in history as one of the most important terms for restoring the integrity of the text of the Constitution. In its last week, the Court announced its remaining decisions and upheld Freedom of Speech and the Free Exercise of religion, as well as struck a blow to the Green New Deal agenda of the Biden Administration, yet there were negative repercussions for the border crisis. First, in ruling that a football coach is Constitutionally permitted to pray after high school football games, the Court upheld the freedom to exercise religion. Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch held, “The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.” Second, the Court ruled that the Biden Administration cannot use regulatory agencies like the EPA to bypass Congress and implement their Green New Deal agenda. “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. But only Congress, or an agency with express authority from Congress, can adopt a “decision of such magnitude and consequence,” the Court held.
Lastly, however, I was disappointed with the Court’s decision in the case regarding the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which the Biden Administration tried to halt shortly after taking office. We must end incentives for illegal immigration to avoid situations like those that recently claimed the lives of 53 migrants who were smuggled into the country and abandoned. I am afraid that with the Court ruling against the “Remain in Mexico” policy, the cartels will be emboldened to smuggle even more illegals across our border, overwhelming an already out-of-control situation. Now that the Court has ruled, it is imperative that Congress act on this issue. In the end though, the Court in this session returned the Nation much closer to the Constitution that must guide this great democratic experiment in self-governance.
Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers Protection
In the days following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case, many Pro-Life pregnancy centers, including the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center in Lynchburg, were the victims of vandalism and attacks. These actions are unacceptable and exhibit a pattern of intimidation against Pro-Life organizations, which should be condemned by all public officials. Centers such as the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center provide important services to expecting mothers that are vital to them and their baby’s health. That is why last week my colleagues and I wrote the DOJ to demand that they fully investigate and prosecute those responsible for these actions. It is the duty of Attorney General Garland to enforce the law and ensure those responsible for these attacks face justice. Failing to do so would only further embolden future acts of vandalism and harm those who rely on the services provided by crisis pregnancy centers. Rest assured I will continue to stand for the rule of law. You may read our full letter here. Additionally, find an article highlighting our letter here.
The Celebration of American Independence
On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia and voted to officially sever ties with Great Britain. Pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, 56 brave men proclaimed to the world the sovereignty of the Thirteen Colonies. This statement, made public two days later, has since become known as the Declaration of Independence, and its words are at the very core of the American Ideal.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Last week in Virginia there was an average 33 daily cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, up from 29 daily cases last week. This week’s COVID-19 test positivity rate rose to 20%. 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.