Happy Friday from the Warner press office, and an early happy Mother’s Day to all the moms reading this. Sen. Warner is once again on the road this weekend. He’s holding events in Manassas, Culpeper, and Charlottesville, before heading back tomorrow evening to speak at the opening night of the International Spy Museum’s new building.
Here’s a shot from his visit to Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas this morning, where he highlighted his efforts to support Virginia’s unmanned systems industry.
And here’s your Warner Weekly Wrap-up:
DOING RIGHT BY GOLD STAR FAMILIES
If you open today’s Wall Street Journal, you can read about the tragic story of Rebecca Headings, a Navy widow from Virginia Beach whose six-year-old son now owes nearly $7,000 in unexpected taxes on the survivor benefits paid out following her husband Gary’s death in 2017. That same year, the Republican Congress jammed through legislation that made big changes to our tax system — including changes to the way the government taxes military and VA survivor benefits. Unfortunately, because of an error in the tax legislation, the federal government is now taxing some Gold Star families’ survivor benefits at outrageously high rates.
This week, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation with Congresswoman Elaine Luria that fixes this error. The Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act would pay back those families who have already been unfairly taxed and make sure no Gold Star family is ever again penalized by the federal government in their time of grief. While Senator Warner did oppose the GOP tax bill — as well as the rushed, partisan process that led to the error — his priority now is fixing the problem.
This week, Sen. Warner reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act will safeguard the integrity of our democracy by requiring large online platforms to maintain public records of advertisers who purchase political ads. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and 24 other bipartisan cosponsors.
Political advertising on the internet is almost entirely unregulated, despite strict rules that date back decades requiring broadcasters to disclose who is paying for political ads that air on TV and radio. It is clear that Russian bots, fake accounts, and other Russian-linked agents took advantage of automated online advertising platforms to try to influence American voters on popular social media platforms. The Warner-Klobuchar-Graham legislation would put online political ads under the same rules as television, radio and satellite, so that who paid for them and other information would need to be publicly disclosed.
A CRISIS IN COAL COUNTRY
This week, Sen. Warner continued his push to solve the pension and benefit crisis facing a number of Southwest Virginia coal miners. Meeting with members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) at his office in Washington, D.C. t, Sen. Warner stressed the need to pass the American Miners Act — legislation he sponsored that would permanently protect the healthcare and pension benefits for thousands of Virginia’s retired coal miners and their families. The bill also would also shore up the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which pays for medical treatment and basic expenses for miners suffering from black lung.
The bill will also protect healthcare coverage for 500 Virginia miners who are at risk of losing their benefits due to the 2018 bankruptcy of Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co., which previously operated in Wise County, VA. During the meeting, miners and union representatives told Sen. Warner that Westmoreland miner benefits are currently expected to run out no later than October. Make no mistake: the situation is dire for many of these miners. Here’s how Gary Kennedy, a retired miner who worked at Westmoreland’s Bullitt Mine in Wise County until its closure in the 1990s, put it:
“For some of the miners in my local, people are going to start falling beneath the poverty line if Congress doesn’t do something. For some people, it’s going to mean the difference between ‘Do you eat three times a day?’ or ‘do you eat twice?’ ‘Do you pay the power bill?’ ‘or ‘do you buy prescriptions?’ That’s what it’s going to mean.”
For more on the Westmoreland miners and the American Miners Act, read Sen. Warner recently published op-ed in the Bristol Herald Courier.
GREAT FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
In honor of Public Service Recognition Week, Sen. Warner took to the Senate floor to give his annual floor speech honoring federal workers. This year, he highlighted the following workers:
- Amb. Michael Kozak of Arlington, VA — Senior Bureau Official at the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
- Kara De Castro of Haymarket, VA — Management Analyst at the National Nuclear Security Administration
- John Wagner of Ashburn, VA — Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
In his remarks, Sen. Warner thanked all of Virginia’s great federal employees and called on the Trump administration to end its policies that have antagonized the federal workforce over the past two years. You can watch his entire speech.
Some highlights from Sen. Warner’s busy week:
- PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: Sen. Warner applauded the House of Representatives’ passage of legislation he sponsored to preserve protections for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions and called on the Senate to follow suit.
- FOOD DESERTS: Sens. Warner and Kaine applauded the announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the City of Charlottesville and the Town of Pulaski will receive federal assistance to help develop each community’s local food economy.
- BREAKFAST CLUB: Sen. Warner spoke at the Christian Science Monitor’s breakfast, where he highlighted the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ongoing bipartisan counterintelligence investigation into Russian election interference.
- EQUIFOLLOW-UP: This week, Sen. Warner joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in reintroducing their legislation that would hold large credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – including Equifax – accountable for data breaches involving sensitive consumer data.
- SAVING FEDERAL $: Sen. Warner introduced the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, bipartisan legislation that would help save millions of federal dollars by curbing erroneous payments to deceased individuals.
- 5G: Sen. Warner joined several Democratic Ranking Members in sending a letter this week to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of the G7 tech meeting, urging him to use the opportunity to strengthen partnerships with allied countries in developing fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology.
The Senate will continue its consideration of judicial nominees next week. On Tuesday, Sen. Warner will participate in a Senate Finance Committee hearing dealing with challenges in the retirement system. On Wednesday at 11:30 AM, Sen. Warner will hold a press conference with fellow sponsors of the Restore Our Parks Act, highlighting the need to pass this legislation that will address the National Park Service’s nearly $12 Billion deferred maintenance backlog. That evening he’ll speak at the Boy Scouts National Capital Area Council dinner. On Thursday, he’ll speak at the Virginia Business Council’s Washington, D.C meeting. And on Friday, he’ll head out for another road trip, making stops in McLean, Sterling, Purcellville, Winchester, Strasburg, Front Royal, and Vienna.