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Legislative Update

Warner YEARLY Wrap-Up: Goodbye 2021

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Happy Holidays from the Warner Press Office. This year, Sen. Warner worked to deliver big for the people of Virginia by securing a wealth of measures to bolster COVID-19 recovery efforts, strengthen the economy, support Virginia families, and upgrade our nation’s decaying infrastructure.

Read all about it in your Warner YEARLY Wrap-up:

FOR MAIN STREET

Restaurant Relief: In order to help small local restaurants, bars, and craft breweries stay in business and keep their workers employed during the public health emergency, Sen. Warner fought to secure $28.6 billion for direct grants to restaurants and other qualifying businesses affected by COVID-19 as part of the American Rescue Plan. As a result, more than 2,700 restaurants in Virginia received relief totaling $649 million. The measure was based on the RESTAURANT’s Act, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Warner, and he will keep fighting in the new year to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund so that more struggling local businesses can get access to the government help they need to survive the pandemic.


Save our Stages: To support live entertainment venues hard-hit by the pandemic, Sen. Warner secured $1.25 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan. This provision was based on the Save our Stages Act cosponsored by Sen. Warner. After the government rollout of the program was snarled by delays and technical problems, Sen. Warner successfully pushed the Small Business Administration to get its act together, distributing $200 million in grants to more than 200 venues across Virginia.

Hotel Recovery: To support the hotel industry’s recovery, Sen. Warner succeeded in getting the General Services Administration to once again freeze “per diem” rates to pre-COVID-19 levels and ensure that government travel can continue to play an important role in the sector’s recovery.
Paycheck Protection: Throughout the pandemic, Sen. Warner has fought to help struggling small businesses. Thanks in part to his strong advocacy, the American Rescue Plan included $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and an expansion of eligibility to include more nonprofits and digital media companies. Over the course of the pandemic, 113,491 PPP loans provided close to $5.57 billion in relief to Virginia businesses.

Helping Minority Businesses and Entrepreneurs: As part of the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, Sen. Warner secured $12 billion for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) to help minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs weather and emerge stronger from the pandemic. In June, the U.S. Treasury Department awarded more than $21 million in funding for 18 CDFIs across Virginia, with more funding expected to follow this year.

FOR VIRGINIA FAMILIES AND WORKERS

Child Tax Credit: In 2021, 939,000 families across Virginia received over $2 billion from the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) that was included in the American Rescue Plan. In Virginia, 1.6 million children across the Commonwealth benefited from the expanded tax credit, including 249,000 children living in poverty or deep poverty, and the CTC is credited with a 40 percent reduction in child poverty nationwide – a monumental accomplishment. Sen. Warner is currently fighting to renew the credit, which expired earlier this month.

Earned Income Tax Credit: The American Rescue Plan also expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit for one year, helping 400,000 Virginia workers. Sen. Warner is fighting to make the ARP’s changes to the EITC permanent in the new year.

Stimulus Checks: More than 7 million people in Virginia received more than $9 billion in economic impact payments (EIPs) from the American Rescue Plan, helping them cover essential expenses like food, rent, and medical bills.

Reopening Schools: The American Rescue Plan delivered $2.11 billion for Virginia K-12 schools and more than $955 million for Virginia’s colleges and universities to allow them to safely reopen and address learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making Child Care More Affordable: To help Virginians afford child care and to help ensure child care providers can continue operating safely, the American Rescue Plan included $306 million for Virginia Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) programs; $490 million for Virginia Child Care Stabilization Grants; $16.557 million for Virginia Head Start programs; and an increase in the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to significantly ease the burden of child care costs for many Virginia families, who pay on average $14,063 annually for infant care and $10,867 for the care of 4-year olds.

Helping Families Stay in their Homes: The COVID-19 pandemic placed an unprecedented financial strain on many families across Virginia. Through the American Rescue Plan, Virginia received $451 million in emergency rental assistance to help people behind on their rent. It also included more than $258 million in aid to Virginia homeowners for help with mortgage payments, utility bills, and other housing costs.

FOR VIRGINIA’S URBAN COMMUNITIES

Addressing a Costly Technicality: Sen. Warner successfully worked to ensure fair treatment of Virginia’s independent cities in the local fiscal recovery funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan after a misclassification technicality threatened to cost Virginia as much as $800 million in federal funding.

Protecting Urban Funding: To protect crucial funding for a number of metropolitan localities, Sen. Warner successfully urged the Office of Management and Budget to reconsider a proposal that would have increased the minimum population needed to qualify as a metropolitan statistical area from 50,000 to 100,000. This proposed change would have eliminated the designation for 144 communities, including five in Virginia (Blacksburg-Christiansburg, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Winchester-Frederick County). These classifications are tied to several housing and transportation programs and have important impacts on their respective cities and towns.

FOR OUR NATIONAL SECURITY

American Competitiveness: Sen. Warner helped ensure Senate passage of the United States Innovation and Competition Act – legislation to make generational investments in advanced manufacturing, and research and development. As part of this bill, Sen. Warner successfully secured:
$1.5 billion for the Utilizing Strategic Allied Telecommunications Act, which will help encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G by investing in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE.

$52 billion for the Senator’s Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, to help fund the construction or modernization of new semiconductor fabs, promote research and development in advanced packaging, and promote greater supply chain security.

Military Base Resilience: To strengthen military base resilience, Sen. Warner secured an amendment to the nation’s annual defense bill that makes stormwater management eligible under military construction projects, military installation resilience projects, unspecified minor military construction projects, and defense access roads projects. As the second-largest Federal landholder in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the Department of Defense – which has 137 Defense installations, sites, and facilities in the area – plays a vital role in reducing stormwater loads, while at the same time enhancing climate resiliency. This provision was based on legislation introduced by Sen. Warner.

FOR VETERANS & MILITARY FAMILIES

Servicemember Care: Sen. Warner secured an amendment in the nation’s annual defense bill to pause a proposal that would transition some servicemembers from receiving care at Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) to receiving care from community providers. The amendment pauses the restructuring for one year and requires a U.S. Government Accountability Office assessment of the proposed cuts in order to provide a better picture of the proposal’s impact on servicemembers.

Pay Raise and Benefits: Sen. Warner strongly supported the move in this year’s defense bill to grant servicemembers a much-needed 2.7 percent pay increase for next year. The legislation also authorized up to 12 weeks of parental leave for all primary and secondary caregivers following the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.

National Guard Readiness: To support the Virginia National Guard, which was particularly affected by the Afghan resettlement mission, Sen. Warner secured an amendment in the nation’s annual defense bill to help bring assistance and resources to help cover the costs and resources associated with the mission. The amendment directs the Department of Defense to submit a report outlining all the ways in which the mission has affected the Guard so that Congress can ensure the Guard has the support it needs going forward.

Mental Health Support: To combat military suicide, Sen. Warner secured an amendment in the nation’s annual defense bill that will require the Department of Defense to allow servicemembers to self-refer for an immediate and confidential mental health evaluation. In practice, this amendment will allow servicemembers to use a verbal phrase with a figure of authority to self-report and seek help for any mental health issues, without having to divulge full details of their situation, or formally go through command or law enforcement entities – all of which can be barriers to reporting for individuals who are afraid of the stigma or repercussions of their seeking help.

Care for Blue Water Vets: To ensure appropriate access to medical care for veterans exposed to Agent Orange, Sen. Warner pressed the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand Agent Orange coverage to veterans who served on ships off the shore of Vietnam. In May, the VA announced that it would re-adjudicate previously-denied claims for veterans who served in the offshore waters of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Traumatic Brain Injury Support: To support American public servants who have incurred brain injuries from probable microwave attacks, Sen. Warner – the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee – secured the passage of the HAVANA Act. This legislation gives the CIA Director and the Secretary of State additional authority to provide financial support to those suffering from brain injuries as a result of the anomalous health incidents.

FOR DRIVERS AND RIDERS

Infrastructure Deal Dollars: Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Sen. Warner negotiated and secured:
o $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, including $16 billion for the Amtrak National Network to distribute to non-Northeast Corridor states – $944 million of which has already been promised to Virginia for the construction of a new Long Bridge across the Potomac River to double the capacity of rail crossing between Virginia and DC

More than $1.2 billion over five years for Virginia’s public transit systems

More than $7.7 billion for Virginia roads and bridges

Renewed Federal Funding Commitment for Metro: Sen. Warner secured $150 million annually in federal funding for WMATA through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As part of this legislation, he also successfully advocated to include a series of WMATA Inspector General reforms in an effort to provide more robust oversight of WMATA. These provisions were based on the Senator’s Metro Safety, Accountability & Investment Act of 2021.

American Rescue Plan Dollars: Sen. Warner secured $1,348,000,000 in rural transit funding and $1,517,221,000 in urban transit funding for the Commonwealth to help transit providers stay afloat and avoid drastic service and staffing cuts during the pandemic. This funding came as part of the American Rescue Plan, which was negotiated by Sen. Warner, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over public transit.

FOR AIR TRAVELERS

COVID-19 Dollars: Thanks to the work of Sen. Warner – who last year negotiated and crafted the framework for the December COVID-19 relief bill – Virginia received more than $19 million to help 11 regional airports throughout the Commonwealth continue combatting COVID-19 and serving travelers.

American Rescue Plan Dollars: As airports continued to struggle with pandemic-related declines in air traffic, Sen. Warner secured $218,722,000 for airports in the Commonwealth to help them stay afloat and avoid drastic service and staffing cuts during the pandemic. This funding came as part of the American Rescue Plan, which was negotiated by Sen. Warner.

Infrastructure Deal Dollars: The United States built modern aviation, but America’s airports have long lagged far behind our competitors. According to some rankings, no U.S. airports rank in the top 25 of airports worldwide. That should all change soon thanks to funding included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Sen. Warner helped write and negotiate. The bill includes $400 million for Virginia airports that can be invested in runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability projects, as well as terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway projects. The first round of $77 million has already gone out the door to Virginia’s 46 airports, and the full list of how this funding from the bipartisan law will be distributed to airports across Virginia over the coming years is available here.

FOR OUR PORTS AND WATERWAYS

Port of Virginia: As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Sen. Warner secured $1.5 billion in funding within the Army Corps of Engineers for construction activities in and around harbors and navigation channels in the U.S. This funding can potentially be used for construction activities important for the Port of Virginia, including the Norfolk Harbor Deepening and Widening project. The infrastructure law included a total of $17 billion overall for port infrastructure to fund waterway and coastal infrastructure, inland waterway improvements, and land ports of entry, and much of this money is expected to make its way to Virginia in the months and years ahead.

Port of Virginia, Part II: Just this week, Sen. Warner announced that the Virginia Port Authority will receive $20 million in funding from the Department of Transportation for improvements to Portsmouth Marine Terminal that will allow it to serve as a staging area for the 2.6 gigawatt Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind commercial project and for other commercial offshore wind projects up-and-down the East Coast. In letters and phone calls, Sen. Warner personally lobbied Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg for the money for the Port project.

FOR OUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS

WOOF: To ease a unique burden on Virginia’s military and diplomatic families, Sen. Warner urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop plans to lift a blanket suspension of the importation of dogs from 113 countries with increased risk of rabies. While Sen. Warner understood the importance of limiting the threat of reintroducing canine rabies virus into the U.S., he also recognized the ban’s effect on Virginia’s military and diplomatic families that could not bring home their family pet from an assigned duty station. Thanks to Sen. Warner’s advocacy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented a refined ban on December 1 that exempted dogs who were previously vaccinated against rabies and entered through ports of entry with CDC quarantine stations, which includes Dulles.

NEIGH: To protect horses from abusive show practices, Sen. Warner pushed the Department of Agriculture to help enforce the Horse Protection Act (HPA). Sen. Warner, a longtime champion of the [Prevent%20All%20Soring%20Tactics%20(PAST)%20Act]Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, has been a leader in calling for increased HPA enforcement to prevent horse soring – the cruel and inhumane practice of deliberately inflicting pain on the legs and hooves of horses to produce an artificially high-stepping gait, known as the “Big Lick.” On December 9, 2021, the Department of Agriculture announced that it would promulgate a new, stronger proposed enforcement rule.

YAY: In light of his leadership on horse soring and other critical animal welfare priorities, Sen. Warner once again received a perfect 100 on the Humane Society 2021 scorecard.

WINS FOR NOVA…

COLONIAL PARKWAY: Sen. Warner secured $128.7 million to rehabilitate a section of Colonial Parkway at Colonial National Historical Park. This funding was made available through the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation authored and championed by Sen. Warner.

MEMORIAL TRAIL: To provide a tribute to the family members and loved ones who were victims of the 9/11 attacks, Sen. Warner secured Senate passage of the 9/11 National Memorial Trail Act, which links the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania. In 2019, Sen. Warner worked to pass a Senate Resolution recognizing the September 11th National Memorial Trail.

… CENTRAL VIRGINIA

24/7 Operations: Sen. Warner succeeded in keeping the Richmond Air Traffic Control Tower open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expressed interest in closing the tower between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m., Sen. Warner pressed to maintain 24/7 operational hours for the sake of travelers, businesses, and other stakeholders.

“Dude, Where’s My Mail?”: After a series of personal visits from Sen. Warner, service and delivery at the Charlottesville Post Office is finally improving, Virginians report. Under pressure from Sen. Warner, the USPS has hired dozens of much-needed new employees to alleviate mail backlogs that resulted in many residents waiting days or even weeks to receive their mail, packages, and other necessities.

… COASTAL VIRGINIA

New Clinic: To alleviate high demand and wait times for care at VA medical facilities in Hampton Roads, Sen. Warner pushed the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to finally select a location for a new Southside outpatient clinic for veterans. The 196,000-square-foot outpatient facility will be constructed on a 25-acre parcel of land on the Chesapeake Regional Hospital campus and was ultimately the result of Sen. Warner’s efforts beginning in 2016 to approve 28 overdue VA medical facilities leases.

F-22s: After years of advocacy, Sen. Warner successfully advocated for the permanent relocation of the F-22 Raptor formal training unit (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) in Hampton. The rebasing of the F-22 FTU will include the relocation of more than 31 F-22 and 16 other training aircraft, along with an estimated 700 skilled military and civilian personnel and contractors and approximately 1,600 dependents. The personnel will settle in communities near JBLE to support the unit’s training mission and operations.

Norfolk Harbor Project: As part of the President’s FY22 Budget Request, Sen. Warner secured $83.7 million and a New Start designation for the Norfolk Harbor Deepening and Widening project – a key step to getting the cost-share agreement between the Port of Virginia and the Army Corps of Engineers initiated. The Norfolk Harbor project was one of only a small number of U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) projects selected for a New Start in the President’s budget request.

Offshore Wind Project: Sen. Warner helped facilitate an agreement between the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that will allow USACE to provide additional staff and resources to expedite the permitting process for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. This partnership is critical to the success of the offshore wind industry in the United States, allowing USACE to immediately provide technical support to BOEM to facilitate federal reviews and assist in decision-making on the growing number of offshore wind projects. This additional capacity will allow BOEM to focus on a broader range of challenges, including the development of additional offshore wind leases that will offer additional market opportunities and help secure the supply chain needed to reach renewable energy targets.

Seafood Processors: To support Virginia’s seafood processors, Sen. Warner successfully advocated for additional H-2B visas, by urging the Department of Homeland Security to quickly make available the maximum number of Congressionally-authorized H-2B visas in order to ensure Virginia seafood producers had an adequate seasonal workforce. After a series of personal follow-ups by Sen. Warner, the Department of Homeland Security issued an additional 22,000 visas.

Milford Haven Station Hours: Sen. Warner successfully advocated against the Coast Guard’s proposed downgrading of the Milford Haven station in Mathews County to summer-only operations. After hearing from numerous constituents who opposed the decision and its potential impacts, Sen. Warner maintained constant communication with the Coast Guard until it decided to reverse course and maintain year-round service.

… & RURAL VIRGINIA

Internet Access: In 2021, broadband isn’t a “nice to have” – it’s a necessity – but for too many Virginians, especially in the Valley and Southwest and Southside Virginia, access to high-speed internet remains out of reach. In order to increase access to broadband internet for Virginia families, Sen. Warner secured $10 billion for the Critical Capital Projects Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan, which he helped negotiate. Virginia used funding from this effort and other funds secured as part of the American Rescue Plan to commit to a bold, first-in-the-nation $700 million commitment to expand broadband to every household in the Commonwealth.

Internet Access, Part II: Building on the down payment made through the American Rescue Plan, Sen. Warner personally secured $65 billion for broadband through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which he helped negotiate.

Internet Access, Part III: Are you sensing a theme here? Since his days as Governor of Virginia, Sen. Warner’s been fighting to expand access to high-speed internet across the Commonwealth – a need that became all the more acute during the pandemic, as working, learning and healthcare shifted online. In response, Sen. Warner used his connections to bring a SpaceX trial program to Wise County that used satellite technology to expand internet access to 50 homes with school children and no broadband access. Over the last year, the Starlink program has continued to expand across SWVA, with an additional 200 children gaining access to broadband.

Lee County Hospital: In 2013, the Lee County Regional Medical Center closed abruptly, leaving the residents of Lee County without access to a nearby hospital and hindering opportunities for economic development in the area. Sen. Warner spent years working with the Lee County Hospital Authority, Ballad Health and local officials to reopen the hospital, which began operations this summer.

CASEWORK – BY THE #’S

One of Sen. Warner’s most integral duties is assisting constituents with federal services like Social Security, Medicare, veterans or military affairs, taxes, passports, and immigration issues. Each year, Sen. Warner’s office assists thousands of Virginians in navigating the federal bureaucracy. This year, that was particularly important for folks struggling to bounce back from the pandemic. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Number of Casework Letters Sent – 34,461
Cases Opened – 6,451
Cases Closed – 6,316

Agency Funds Recouped to Virginians: $10,647,903.09 from the IRS, VA, Social Security Administration, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, Department of Defense, and other federal agencies

Just a couple of highlights from a busy year in casework:

Passports: Increased demand, mail delays, and processing backlogs due to COVID-19 meant that it took more time than many Virginians expected to obtain or renew a passport this year, with passports taking 12 weeks or longer to renew through the U.S. State Department – resulting in stress, added expenses, and canceled trips. As a result, Sen. Warner’s office saw a record number of requests for assistance expediting passports this year, opening 1,346 cases (representing anywhere from one to ten passports for a whole family) and successfully closing out 1,338 of these by year’s end, allowing constituents to travel on to their international destinations.

Resettled: Earlier this year, in the immediate chaos of the Kabul airport bombing, two young children were pulled through the gates while their mother was killed and their father and teenage brother were pushed back in the crowd. After hearing about this case, Sen. Warner worked to get the two children boarded on a medical flight from Germany to the U.S., and eventually released into the care of their aunt in Alexandria, Va.
Vaccinations: When a long-term care facility in Arlington spent weeks trying to get their residents vaccinated against COVID-19, only to be told that they would have to individually register each of their 350 residents with the Virginia Department of Health to get them vaccinated, Sen. Warner’s office stepped in to cut through the red tape and help set up a mass vaccination clinic on-site at the facility to protect the staff and residents against COVID-19.

YEAR AHEAD

From all of us in the Warner Press Office, Happy New Year! Here’s to a better 2022.

 

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Legislative Update

Warner & Kaine announce $19,962,161 in funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System

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WASHINGTON (January 26, 2022)  U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $19,962,161 in funding for the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) to help further connect Virginia’s Appalachian region to national Interstates. The funding, awarded through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in coordination with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by Sen. Kaine.

“We are pleased to see these infrastructure dollars headed to Virginia, where they’ll help further connect Appalachian communities and maximize economic opportunity in the region,” said the Senators. “We’re proud that the bipartisan infrastructure law is dedicating the resources needed to advance this crucial development project.”

The ADHS is a 3,090-mile network of highways linking the Appalachian region to national Interstates, which provide access to regional and national markets, contributing to growth opportunities and improved access in Appalachia. The bipartisan infrastructure law represents the first sustained, robust, and dedicated support for the system in a decade, since funding for ADHS was not provided by Congress from 2012 to 2020.

As of September 30, 2021, Virginia’s ADHS corridors consist of 204.6 miles, with 192.2 miles currently eligible for funding. The estimated cost to complete Virginia’s ADHS corridors is $440.5 million – $172.9 for Corridor H, which runs from the West Virginia State line to I-81 at Strasburg, and $267.6 million for Corridor Q, which runs from Breaks Interstate Park at the Kentucky State line to I-81 at Christiansburg. Corridor B, which runs from Weber City at the Tennessee State line to the State line near Jenkins, Kentucky, is currently complete.


ARC is an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments, focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation. Since 1965, ARC has invested $4.5 billion in approximately 28,000 economic development projects across Appalachia, attracting over $10 billion in matching project funds.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – January 24, 2022

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Special Report: Biden’s First Year

As we reach the one-year anniversary of one-party Democrat rule in Washington, D.C., we can see all-too clearly the disastrous results that it has brought for our Nation, for our economy, and for our families. During his inauguration speech, last January, President Biden said, “Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.” However, that is exactly what has happened over the course of the last twelve months. The policies that have been pushed by this Administration, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Democrats across the country have culminated in crises on many fronts, the likes of which our Nation has not seen in decades.

On an economic front, rising costs are crushing blue-collar Americans. With inflation having risen every month since Joe Biden was sworn in, real wages have not only decreased, but folks are paying more for goods as they shop for the essentials. In fact, the Consumer Price Index increased by 7% from twelve months ago, marking the highest rate of inflation in 40-years. On top of this, the national average for a gallon of gas reached $3.28 last month, which means folks are paying 49.6% more than they did last year simply to commute to work. This surge in inflation has cost the average American family more than $3,500 this year, or nearly two paychecks – according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model.

Aside from the economic crisis, fueled by Democrats’ out-of-control spending, the Left’s policies over the past year have made our Nation inherently less safe. Since President Biden took office, more than 1.7 million illegal aliens have been encountered unlawfully crossing the border – the highest number in history. To make matters worse, Democrats reimplemented Catch and Release, and recent data shows that more than 47,000 illegal immigrants have failed to report to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, meaning the Department of Homeland Security is entirely unaware of where in the country these individuals are. This flood of illegal immigration has also brought record levels of drugs across our border, most worrisome of which is fentanyl. Under President Biden’s and the Democrats’ watch, more pounds of fentanyl entered the United States through our southern border in FY2021 than in the previous two years combined. This powerful drug is incredibly dangerous and is fueling the opioid epidemic, which is tearing families apart. Fentanyl overdoses have even become the leading cause of death this year for Americans ages 18 to 45. Coupled with the immigration crisis that threatens our citizens’ well-being and safety is the crime crisis. Stemming from the Democrats’ “Defund the Police” agenda, at least 16 major U.S. cities set new homicide records in 2021. Further, this anti-police attitude led to 346 members of law enforcement being shot in the line of duty last year, 63 of whom were killed. This is a tragedy, yet Democrats refuse to support law-and-order policies that would keep Americans safe.


However, illegal border crossings and the rising rates of violent crime are not the only threats to the physical health of this country’s citizens. Despite adamant pledges, Democrats took their eyes off of COVID. Rather than focus on defeating the virus and healing the economy, President Biden immediately launched into a radical “transformation” of America, beginning by ramming a partisan $1.9 trillion “COVID Stimulus” through Congress that ignored the need for crucial COVID tests and treatments (less than 10 percent of the bill was COVID related), paid people more to stay home than to work, and fueled inflation. Then, as vaccinations stalled and case numbers soared, he demanded a $5 trillion Build Back Better socialist spending bill that included trillions in new tax hikes on Main Street businesses and massive giveaways to the wealthy, big corporations, and special interests. If we truly want to bring this pandemic to an end, we must address the nationwide testing shortage to ensure that those who are positive know to stay home.

And while there are many more crises to mention, one glaring failure that must be noted is the Administration’s feckless foreign policy. President Biden surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban, sat idly by as Israel was pummeled with rockets, failed to offer real support to our friends in Taiwan and Ukraine as they face threats from authoritarian regimes, and is currently negotiating a nuclear agreement with one of the most prominent state sponsors of terror – Iran. These actions have weakened the United States in the eyes of our allies and emboldened our enemies who wish to do us harm.

In one year of a unified Democrat government, our economy has failed, our border has been overrun, violent crime has surged, COVID has spread like wildfire, and our reputation of rooting out terror has been tarnished. Our Nation cannot afford continued Democrat “leadership.” Republicans are ready to govern and are eager to get this country back on track.

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.

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Legislative Update

As 2021 tax filing season begins, Warner raises concerns with IRS delays

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On the first day of the 2021 tax filing season, Sen. Warner raised concerns with the IRS after hearing from Virginians who are still waiting on their refunds from the 2020 filing season. These delays come as millions of Americans continue to face economic hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Sen. Warner stressed the importance of getting Virginians their individual tax refunds as soon as possible in order to avoid further processing delays. As of December 31, 2021, there were approximately 6 million unprocessed tax returns from 2020.

“I appreciate the IRS’ efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns, and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as the stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments,” wrote Sen. Warner. “However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process – often those who need their refunds most – and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season.”

This letter follows up on a February 2021 letter addressing the same issue of persistent processing delays at the IRS.


“Since my last letter, I have continued to hear from constituents that have still not had their 2020 tax returns processed, which has also caused delays in receiving the Advance Child Tax Credit payments, stimulus payments, tax refunds, and other much needed financial aid from the IRS,” Warner noted. “Additionally, businesses that have pending tax returns face delayed processing of their SBA EIDL loan applications. Taxpayers have increasingly expressed to my staff that they are unable to garner any information related to the processing of their tax returns via IRS phone lines or the website.”

In order to further understand the ongoing situation, Sen. Warner asked for answers to the following questions:

1. What formal plans have the IRS and Treasury developed to resolve the significant backlog of individual and business tax returns that remain unprocessed from the 2020 tax filing season?

2. How specifically will that plan allow the IRS to continue to process the backlog in parallel with the processing of returns for the tax year 2021 filing season?

3. Will taxpayers whose 2020 returns remain unprocessed or delayed face any difficulties in filing returns – electronically or in paper form – for the 2021 tax year? If so, what might these delays or difficulties be, what are your specific plans for addressing them, and how will taxpayers be informed in a timely fashion?

4. When do you anticipate that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will resume accepting inquiries related to the processing of amended tax returns? If TAS is unable to accept this casework, will the IRS dedicate other resources to assist with inquiries that TAS is unable to accept?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for Virginians, working to ensure that they get the funds to which they are entitled. In April 2020, he pressed the Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes do not need to wait until the following year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised. He also successfully pushed the Treasury Department to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive CARES Act direct cash assistance without needing to file a tax return.

A copy of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,

I write today to express my concern with the alarming number of my constituents who have not received their long-awaited tax refund from their 2020 taxes. As you are well aware, millions of Americans are still facing economic hardships and are desperately in need of these funds to help make ends meet.

In my letter to you on February 8, 2021, I noted that as of November 6, 2020, there were approximately 6.8 million unprocessed tax returns. As of December 31, 2021, there are still 6 million unprocessed tax returns; additionally, as of January 8, 2022, there are still 2.3 million unprocessed 1040-X, and 1.1 million unprocessed business tax returns as of January 12, 2022.

Since my last letter, I have continued to hear from constituents that have still not had their 2020 tax returns processed, which has also caused delays in receiving the Advance Child Tax Credit payments, stimulus payments, tax refunds, and other much-needed financial aid from the IRS. Additionally, businesses that have pending tax returns face delayed processing of their SBA EIDL loan applications. Taxpayers have increasingly expressed to my staff that they are unable to garner any information related to the processing of their tax returns via IRS phone lines or the website.

On November 10, 2021, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins announced that the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) would no longer accept congressional inquiries solely related to the processing of amended tax returns, due to the agency not being able to meaningfully expedite or improve case resolution for taxpayers. Ms. Collins also issued a Taxpayer Advocate Directive directing the IRS to “complete processing of all backlogged amended tax returns by December 29, 2021, or provide a detailed plan for completing processing the backlog”. The absence of assistance from TAS further aggravates the problems my constituents and other Americans face.

I appreciate the IRS’ efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments. However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process – often those who need their refunds most – and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season.

Please reply to me as soon as possible, and no later than February 4, 2022, with specific answers to the following questions:

1. What formal plans have the IRS and Treasury developed to resolve the significant backlog of individual and business tax returns that remain unprocessed from the TY 2020 tax filing season?
2. How specifically will that plan allow the IRS to continue to process the backlog in parallel with the processing of returns for the tax year 2021 filing season?
3. Will taxpayers whose 2020 returns remain unprocessed or delayed face any difficulties in filing returns – electronically or in paper form – for the 2021 tax year? If so, what might these delays or difficulties be, what are your specific plans for addressing them, and how will taxpayers be informed in a timely fashion?
4. When do you anticipate that TAS will resume accepting inquiries related to the processing of amended tax returns? If TAS is unable to accept this casework, will the IRS dedicate other resources to assist with inquiries that TAS is unable to accept?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

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Legislative Update

Warner Weekly Wrap-Up: Firing on all cylinders

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From volunteering to voting rights to inflation letters, Sen. Warner had another busy week. He kicked it off by traveling around NoVa for a day of action on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, before returning to DC to advocate and vote for the reauthorization of a law King championed – the Voting Rights Act. Sen. Warner also continued his push to fight inflation, announced a new round of funding from the infrastructure law, and issued statements on major Intelligence Committee issues, including Havana syndrome. He’s ending the week traveling around the Commonwealth again, making stops in Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Let’s go through it:

LIVE LIKE KING JR.

For Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Sen. Warner embodied Coretta Scott King’s vision of a “day on, not a day off,” and traveled to meet with and serve alongside constituents. He started off delivering Meals on Wheels with members of Alexandria’s City Council – a bit of a family tradition, as the Senator’s late dad Robert Warner volunteered with Meals on Wheels well into his nineties. Then he met with recently resettled Afghan refugees and commended the work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, where he and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield rolled up their sleeves and got to work sorting donated goods. Finally, he wrapped up the day by speaking about the legacy of voting rights activism at the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.


 

Sen. Warner brought this energy back to the Capitol, where he continued the week by fighting for voting rights legislation. While the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act ultimately didn’t proceed, Sen. Warner continues to advocate for commonsense laws that protect democracy and prevent election subversion.

 

 

CURBING INFLATION

For months, Sen. Warner has continued to monitor and address inflation on a variety of fronts. From negotiating and passing his bipartisan legislation to ease the supply chain and restore American competitiveness in the semiconductor field, to support the nomination of Fed officials devoted to tackling inflation, he remains committed to addressing the issue.

While he trusts economic forecasts that suggest the effects will likely be temporary, Sen. Warner is still trying to do everything he can to get more solutions now. This week, he wrote a letter to National Retail Federation (the world’s largest retail trade association, representing companies like Target and Wal-Mart) inquiring about efforts to ease the supply chain and offering federal assistance to help these initiatives. He said:

“I write today concerned with the challenges posed by elevated levels of inflation in our economy. Despite the unprecedented challenges associated with reopening the nation and fighting the Delta and Omicron variants, our economy has recovered significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, increasing prices continue to threaten our progress. I understand that persistent supply/demand imbalances and supply chain disruptions are contributing to inflation and urge you to continue working with me, my colleagues, and the Biden Administration to identify ways to alleviate these supply chain issues as quickly as possible.”

You can read the full letter here.

 

MONEY FLOWS INTO VA PORTS

So you’ve probably heard this one before: Virginia is getting another round of major funding thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law that Sen. Warner negotiated.

This week, Sen. Warner applauded $359 million in federal funding for various key infrastructure projects around the Commonwealth, including $249 million for the City of Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project and $69 million for the Norfolk Harbor Deepening and Widening Project. These investments are part of a key effort to support resiliency across Virginia, and ensure that its ports are ready to face the evolving threat of climate change. These wins follow years of advocacy from Sen. Warner to get these projects more funding.

 

In a joint statement with Sen. Tim Kaine, Rep. Elaine Luria and Rep. Bobby Scott (all D-VA), Warner said,

“We applaud the Biden administration and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for recognizing the invaluable role the Port of Virginia and Norfolk Harbor have in supporting our nation’s economy. Additionally, we applaud the administration’s significant investment in the City of Norfolk to protect this community from the increasing threat of rising seas and significant flood events. After years of advocating for this funding, we are thrilled that Virginia will receive the federal dollars it needs to carry out these projects, which will help further strengthen our supply chains, mitigate the growing risks of sea-level rise, and secure our economic and national security interests in and around the region.”

INTELLIGENCE ADVANCEMENTS

As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner carefully monitors the activities of the U.S. intelligence community. This week, he issued two key statements surrounding developments in these communities, first applauding steps by President Biden’s administration to improve the cybersecurity of federal government computer systems and networks. He said,

“I applaud President Biden for signing this order to improve our nation’s cybersecurity. Among other priorities, this National Security Memorandum (NSM) requires federal agencies to report efforts to breach their systems by cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers. Now it’s time for Congress to act by passing our bipartisan legislation that would require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report such cyber intrusions within 72 hours.”

Cybersecurity remains one of Sen. Warner’s top priorities – at the end of last week, he attended a briefing in Richmond about the cyber-attack against the General Assembly last December.

 

In other news in the Intelligence community, Sen. Warner offered a statement after the CIA released a report by their interim task force on anomalous health incidents (also known as AHIs or so-called “Havana syndrome,” after the location where these incidents first emerged). Since 2016, more than 1000 intelligence, diplomatic and military personnel have reported a constellation of troubling and mysterious health ailments, including brain injuries. As the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner has been working to get to the bottom of these cases, many of which have required significant medical treatment. In October 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act into law. The new law, which Warner introduced with Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and others, authorizes financial support and ensures medical care for American public servants who have suffered brain injuries.

In response to work by the CIA to identify the cause of these mysterious symptoms, which some have speculated is the result of a directed energy weapon developed by one of our nation’s adversaries, Sen. Warner said:

“While Director Burns has earned the trust of the Senate Intelligence Committee that he is taking this challenge seriously, it’s important to note that today’s assessment, while rigorously conducted, reflects only the interim work of the CIA task force. The Senate Intelligence Committee will continue pressing for answers on a bipartisan basis, and we look forward to robust engagement with the intelligence community, as well as the conclusions of the outside experts’ panel that has been assembled to seek answers to these very urgent and difficult questions.”

The full statement can be found here.

GRAB BAG

BROADBAND BRIEFING: Today, Sen. Warner met with the Governor’s Broadband Advisory Council to discuss the path to achieving universal broadband coverage.

WMATA GOODBYES: Sen. Warner issued a statement thanking the WMATA CEO and General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld as he announced his retirement.

SUPPORTING TRIBAL COVID RESPONSES: Sens. Warner and Kaine applauded $2 million in federal funding awarded to the Chickahominy Eastern Division and Nansemond Indian Nation to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, made possible by their votes on the American Rescue Plan. This follows a visit from Sen. Warner to the Nansemond Indian Nation in April 2021.

MERGING REGULATIONS: Sen. Warner welcomed the announcement by the FTC and DOJ to update their guidelines on horizontal and vertical mergers. He also celebrated the advancement of the first major tech antitrust bill to arrive on the Senate floor, of which he is a cosponsor.

WEEK AHEAD

This weekend, Sen. Warner is traveling to Richmond and Hampton Roads. The Senate will be in recess next week, and Sen. Warner plans to use the time to get ahead on legislative planning for the rest of the year.

 

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Legislative Update

Warner seeks more information from major retailers on supply shortages & rising costs

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WASHINGTON – On January 20, 2022, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) requested more information from major retailers regarding omicron-related supply chain problems and shortages that are contributing to inflation and rising costs. In a letter to the National Retail Federation – the world’s largest retail trade association, representing large retail companies like Target and Wal-Mart – Sen. Warner expressed concern with the ongoing supply chain disruptions and stressed that companies and the government must work together to tackle the problems that are leading to higher prices and directly hitting Americans’ pockets.

“Despite the unprecedented challenges associated with reopening the nation and fighting the Delta and Omicron variants, our economy has recovered significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, increasing prices continue to threaten our progress. I understand that persistent supply/demand imbalances and supply chain disruptions are contributing to inflation and urge you to continue working with me, my colleagues, and the Biden Administration to identify ways to alleviate these supply chain issues as quickly as possible,” Sen. Warner wrote.

He continued, “I am also continuing to advance legislation that addresses targeted supply chain issues that have shown to have sweeping impacts on our economy, including the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act which includes $52 billion for domestic semiconductor manufacturing. However, it is clear that these efforts will likely take time to bear fruit, and that more needs to be done now to help Americans facing rising prices.”

In the letter, Sen. Warner asked companies what they are doing to resolve the supply chain problems and what more the federal government can do to support those efforts. Specifically, he posed the following series of questions to better understand the steps being taken by companies to alleviate supply chain pressures and to inquire about any additional measures that Congress can take to assist with this effort:


1. Alleviating existing backlogs continues to be an immediate priority for the private sector as well as the government. Can you please explain what your companies are doing to alleviate backlogs and what challenges you are facing? Are there any constraints that lend themselves to policies that Congress should pursue?

2. How long do you see supply chain pressures lasting? Do you believe the supply chain problems we are seeing will begin to soften in 2022?

3. What more can Congress, or the federal government, do to support your efforts to clear these backlogs and strengthen our nation’s supply chains?

 

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Legislative Update

Obenshain: Time for Virginia to embrace public charter schools

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We are one week into Session and it has been an eventful week here in Richmond. On Saturday, I was joined by my colleagues and hundreds of supporters and friends at the State Capitol to participate in the inauguration of our 74th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin. We also witnessed the swearing-in of our new Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares.

I tell you what – watching these three conservative leaders and public servants take office was one of the most satisfying occurrences in recent memory. We all worked so hard this past election season to elect these three fine individuals and I am excited to get to work in partnering with them to legislate effectively.

I am proud to bring a host of bills this year to protect our liberties and advocate for efficient, limited government.

First, I am working with Governor Youngkin on a bill to help expand Virginias’ access to charter schools. It’s time for Virginia to open its arms and embrace public charter schools. Who could oppose giving more flexibility to schools and teachers and more choice for families? It’s an honor to partner with this new administration in this important effort. To read more about my Senate bill 125, click here.


I am also carrying two bills to increase voter confidence in the integrity of our elections. My first bill, Senate bill 390 (click here to read it), would require the local electoral boards and general registrars to annually conduct a post-election audit of at least one-fifth of all ballot scanner machines. These measures will undoubtedly help restore confidence in our elections – a confidence that has been eroded by Democrat policies over the past few years.

The second bill had to do with voter identification. Democrats here in Virginia repealed the mandate requiring photo identification to vote. There’s no doubt this repeal undermined voter confidence in the fairness of our elections. My Senate bill 127 (click here to read it) would have reinstated the mandate to require a photo ID to vote. Unfortunately, that bill met a quick death by “PBI” (an acronym that stands for “passed by indefinitely”) in the Democrat-controlled Senate Privileges and Elections committee.

I am deeply concerned with the increase in the financial exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults. Preventing this exploitation has been a priority of mine for years and this year I have introduced two bills to address it. First is, Senate Bill 124 (click here to read it), which creates a new class 1 misdemeanor for someone who knowingly or intentionally abuses the power of attorney to financially exploit an incapacitated adult. Second is Senate Bill 126 (click here to read it), to expand the definition of “incapacitated adult” in the law to provide more financial protection for the elderly. I’m proud to say that both these bills are supported by our Attorney General Jason Miyares.

If you wish to see the full list of the bills I am introducing this year, click here.

In addition to sponsoring legislation, I am also responsible for voting on my colleagues’ proposed bills in the committees on which I sit. These include Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, Commerce and Labor, Judiciary, and Transportation. From time to time in this weekly update, I will highlight bills of note on which I voted in committee. This morning, the Judiciary Committee met for the first time.

One bill in particular worth noting from Judiciary this morning was SB 105 which effectively eliminates ALL mandatory minimum sentences from the Code of Virginia. Mandatory minimums have long since provided closure and security to victims of crimes and their families as well as Virginians as a whole. This blanket repeal will make our streets and communities less safe.

The elimination of these mandatory minimums hits close to home for those of us who have lived in the Shenandoah Valley for a few decades. It arose from the case of Daniel Lee Zirkle, who was executed in 2002 for the killing of his 4-year-old daughter and her 14-year-old half-sister (read about the murders here). Zirkle committed these heinous acts in a fit of rage, after being released from jail days after violating the terms of a protective order for the 4th time. That minimum sentence would have kept Zirkle in jail longer allowing him to cool off and may have prevented these awful deaths.

While I would consider the elimination of some mandatory minimums, this blanket repeal goes way too far. Take, for example, it repeals the sixty-day mandatory minimum sentence for the repeat violation of domestic violence protective orders. This mandatory minimum was adopted in 2009 by unanimous vote in the House and Senate and it was signed into law by then-governor Tim Kaine.

The passage of this bill out of committee this morning was lauded by liberal groups like the Progressive Prosecutors of Virginia who proclaimed it as an “excellent moment in Virginia history.” This liberal-driven approach represents a missed opportunity to review some mandatory minimums that should be reconsidered.

The one silver lining about the passage of this bill is that Republicans in the Virginia Senate are no longer the last line of defense for liberal bills like these (like we have been for two years). I’ve said for years that elections have consequences and a positive one of the 2021 elections was that we now have a Republican majority in the House of Delegates and a Republican governor in Glenn Youngkin who will have an opportunity to veto liberal bills like these.

This week, we were honored to welcome a number of individuals to our office – both in person and virtually. Some of our visitors included advocates from the Virginia Citizens Defense League and members of the Virginia Federation of the Blind. If you would like to meet with me or my office, please email me at mark@markobenshain.com or come by our office in the Pocahontas Building, office 502E.

I’ll continue to provide regular updates throughout the session so stay tuned!

Best,

Mark Obenshain

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