Happy Friday from the Warner press office! It’s been a busy week, to say the least. You may have seen Sen. Warner traveling around the Commonwealth, making waves with his virtual State of the Union guest, or speaking to the press about critical updates in Ukraine. From meeting with intelligence leaders to Federal Reserve Chair Powell to Patty the Pothole, Sen. Warner has been firing on all cylinders this week to make sure Virginians are safe, informed, and flat-tire-free.
There’s a lot to recap, so without further ado:
As chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Warner has been extremely focused on the situation in Ukraine. He receives daily briefings on the issue and is working alongside both bipartisan U.S. leaders and the international community to craft solutions. It’s a complex issue, but Sen. Warner is addressing it on all fronts:
Cyber Security and Safety
Even before the invasion began, Sen. Warner was raising the alarm about the potential for Russian aggression and specifically what it might mean for American cyber security. That continued advocacy paid off when a cyber security and reporting bill he helped craft passed the Senate unanimously this week. Essentially, the bill (which has been endorsed by a variety of parties, including The White House) would open up the channels of communication between the private sector and the federal government in the event of a cyber attack, allowing for a more coordinated and expedient response.
Upon its passage, Sen. Warner said, “At a time when we are facing significant threats of Russian cyberattacks against our institutions and our allies, it’s more important than ever that the government have an idea of what those threats are. I am glad the Senate has passed our bipartisan cyber incident reporting bill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to get a final version of this legislation to the president’s desk as soon as possible.”
Beyond this bill, Sen. Warner also wrote letters to Big Tech CEOs, asking them to proactively address Russian disinformation and propaganda proliferating online. These letters had a tremendous impact, with many companies quickly rolling out precautions and safeguards against biased state media.
Sen. Warner has also publicly endorsed bipartisan calls to provide arms and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, and he remains a leader in bringing attention to the potential cyber disruptions that are possible if Russia chooses further escalation.
Sanctions and the Economy
In reaction to the crisis, Sen. Warner has been calling for strong sanctions on Russia and on Putin himself, and he’s commended President Biden for bringing together NATO and the international community during this time. This week, he went further and joined a letter to make sure Russia is not using cryptocurrency to evade the impact of sanctions. He also brought the issue to the attention of Fed Chair Powell in a Banking Committee hearing.
Beyond making sanctions airtight, Sen. Warner believes Russian escalation must be met with unified, escalating global consequences, so later this week he also called for the U.S. to stop purchasing Russian oil. He appeared on Andrea Mitchell with Sen. Shaheen (D-NH) to discuss why this is an important action, and said in a statement,
“Since Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has pulled together an impressive international coalition to impose swift and severe sanctions on Russia. While these measures have already put intense pressure on Russia’s economy, it’s clear more must be done to punish Putin for the tragedies occurring in Ukraine. As Putin continues his vicious assault on the citizens of Ukraine, we should not continue to support Russia’s energy economy by importing these commodities. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation that would strike at the heart of the Russian economy by banning the importation of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal into the United States.”
Refugee & Immigration Issues
In addition to the national security and economic responses, Sen. Warner is simultaneously prioritizing the human rights and immigration issues inherent in the crisis. Recognizing that it would be inhumane to deport Ukrainians back to a nation under attack, he started out the week by advocating on a bipartisan basis for the Biden administration to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians living in the U.S.
His efforts were successful, and the Department of Homeland Security announced last night that they would grant TPS to the 75,100 Ukrainians living in the U.S. for at least 18 months. Sen. Warner applauded the decision, saying in a tweet,
“Glad to see the Biden administration grant TPS to Ukrainians living in the United States after our bipartisan advocacy – it would be unconscionable to deport Ukrainians during this time, and it’s one step we can take to meaningfully stand with Ukraine.”
Beyond Ukrainians in the U.S., Sen. Warner was disturbed to hear reports of African and Asian people within Ukraine facing discrimination while trying to flee. He took swift action and wrote to several ambassadors in the region, asking for better accountability and action to address the issue and ensure that all refugees are being treated with dignity.
The full letters are available within the release. He’s also spoken out against the unconscionable attacks on Babyn Yar, a memorial site for Holocaust victims that were targeted by Russian attacks.
Ultimately, Sen. Warner remains extremely concerned with the ongoing human rights issues, the threat of cyber attacks, the impact on Virginians and their businesses, and the isolation of Putin, but has been encouraged by the accuracy of the intelligence community, the incredibly unified global response, and perseverance of the Ukrainian people. He’ll continue working on every front of this issue and communicating with the press at every opportunity so all Virginians are informed.
Across the Commonwealth, Sen. Warner announced two major investments into Virginia’s transit systems. These funds, made available through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), will help to make up for lost revenues from COVID.
First up, a whopping $120,145,016 in new funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Here’s what Sen. Warner, joined by Sens. Kaine (D-VA) and Sens. Cardin and Van Hollen (both D-MD), said about the announcement:
“One year ago, we voted to pass a historic piece of legislation to help strengthen our nation amid a global health and economic crisis. As we work to overcome the most recent challenges presented by the Omicron spike, we’re proud to see the American Rescue Plan continue to deliver needed support to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. This funding will help ensure that WMATA is able to meet the needs of its riders, including public servants, residents, and commuters in the DMV region.”
Hampton Roads also cashed in this week, with $52,738,308 in federal funding awarded to the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads. President and CEO of Hampton Roads Transit William Harrell said of the announcement:
“This funding will enable Hampton Roads Transit to execute the Board’s multi-year strategy of providing critical transit services to support the recovery and resilience of the regional economy. This federal allotment will help mitigate ongoing risks and ensure long-term sustainability and operational performance of transit that supports citizens going to work, school, medical appointments, and other lifeline destinations. We applaud our Federal Delegation and Administration for their commitment to our great nation!”
These funds were distributed through ARP Additional Assistance Funding and are awarded to transit systems demonstrating a need for additional assistance to cover operating expenses related to maintaining day-to-day operations, cleaning and sanitization, combating the spread of pathogens on transit systems, and maintaining critical staffing levels. These awards are supplemental to Federal Transit Authority (FTA) Urbanized Area Formula funds distributed through ARP. The original investments included $1,406,707,926 for WMATA and $56,164,715 for Hampton Roads.
So maybe you heard that Sen. Warner was a lead negotiator on the landmark bipartisan infrastructure law, but did you know he’s still working hard to make sure it’s implemented well and that Virginia is able to claim every dollar available through the law? Last week, he launched a website where stakeholders can access a clear calendar and plenty of information about all the competitive grants available.
This website has the potential to be a major asset for localities looking to get even more funding opportunities on top of the billions already starting to be distributed through formula funding.
In case you missed Justice Breyer’s swooning at the SOTU, here’s a heads up that we might have a new justice in town soon! After Pres. Biden announced his selection of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson last Friday, Sen. Warner offered the following statement,
“With his historic selection of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden has nominated a qualified jurist with extraordinary credentials and a brilliant legal mind who has been repeatedly confirmed by the Senate on a bipartisan basis. I look forward to a timely confirmation hearing in the Senate, fulfilling our constitutional responsibility in a swift manner.”
Also in the vein of justice being served? Sen. Warner and Sen. Kaine recommended two judges to Pres. Biden this week as he fills a vacancy for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. You can read more about their full qualifications here.
BOMB THREATS: Sen. Warner has continued to speak out against the bomb threats at HBCUs in the strongest terms possible, and this week joined a bipartisan resolution to condemn them.
STATE OF THE UNION: Sen. Warner attended the State of the Union this week, offered a reaction statement, and expressed support for Midlothian native and special guest Joshua!
TAKE ME HOME, (HAMPTON) ROADS: Sen. Warner ended last week with a swing around Hampton Roads, where he toured NASA Langley, met “Hidden Figure” Christine Darden, visited a critical access hospital in Rappahannock, discussed broadband expansion in Gloucester County, and met with community leaders in Tappahannock.
OLD NAVY: Sens. Warner and Kaine celebrated the centennial of Navy aircraft carriers with a Senate resolution this week.
FAIR HOUSING: Sens. Warner and Kaine also announced $350,000 in federal funding for Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME) in Richmond to support fair housing.
With this busy week behind him, Sen. Warner is looking forward to… an even busier week ahead! The Senate will be in session and will likely pass a bill that would reform and support USPS, a longtime key issue for Sen. Warner. He’ll also be holding SSCI’s annual open hearing on worldwide threats on Thursday, March 10, 2022 at 10:00 AM, which will include testimony from the heads of U.S. intelligence agencies. He’ll wrap up the week with some open press events in NoVa, so stay tuned for more information on that!