See below for video and key takeaways from Sen. Mark Warner’s press availability earlier this afternoon:
- “We finally have the organizing resolution in place…I’m proud to say that I’ll be the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee…the first Virginian to have that position…since my predecessor, John Warner; I’m very proud to follow in his footsteps.” Talks about the many accomplishments of the committee and wants to make sure it maintains its “bipartisan reputation” and “back up our intelligence professionals.
- Sen. Warner wants the Intelligence Committee to “look at the rise of anti-government extremism in this country,” which is “often times amplified by Russia.” Also wants to look at “misinformation and disinformation…oftentimes promoted on many of these social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.” Also wants to look at the Solar Winds hack and the broader issue of cyber-espionage.
- Sen. Warner said he’s introduced legislation on addressing “food deserts” (e.g., tax credits for building new grocery stores, taking advantage of food trucks); on allowing insurance companies to sell plans across state lines, a public option, etc; the SAME Act on Medicaid expansion and federal funding.
- Sen. Warner said he’s “extraordinarily optimistic about this Congress.”
- On the Postal Service and slow mail delivery, Sen. Warner said he’s hearing from “thousands and thousands of Virginians” about this, that “this is outrageous,” that “we’ve got a completely incompetent Postmaster General in Mr. DeJoy, who is nothing but a political hack appointee of the previous president; we caught him trying to disrupt the Postal Service around the election system, thank god we were able to rein him in and ballots were delivered on time.” “If you are dependent on the Postal Service…this is outrageous.” “We have not received a satisfactory answer” from DeJoy. President Biden would have to fire the entire US Postal Service board to get rid of DeJoy, and if there’s no improvement Biden should seriously consider doing that. “Mr. DeJoy needs to go…it is a travesty what’s happened to the Postal Service.“
- Sen. Warner said he supports raising the minimum wage, has signed on to legislation that would raise it to $15/hour over four years. At $7.25/hour, you can’t put a roof over your head and food on the table…
- On the COVID relief package, Sen. Warner said two key components are 1) how to get more vaccines out as quickly as possible and increase testing, PPE capability; 2) the stimulus – “I do believe the economy needs additional stimulus dollars…we have such a strange recovery right now.” Sen. Warner said there are a few places in the proposal where “funds could be better spent,” such as tailoring relief checks to those who are lower income; some states and localities are doing better than others. Warner suggested taking close to $50 billion and using it for a national broadband deployment plan, as broadband is a necessity at this point, not a “nice to have.”
- On using reconcilation for the COVID-19 relief package, Sen. Warner said he absolutely believes “if we can get a bipartisan package, that’s better,” because then “both parties have to buy in to the results.” But the “flip side” is that “what my Republican friends put forward does not nearly meet the needs that are out there,” so he’s “disappointed with a lot of my Republican friends” in how they started this discussion by being critical of President Biden. “Their package doesn’t meet the mark,” it is “way too small.” “I have no problems with having a dual path…continue to talk with Republican[s]…but we need to keep the pressure on and reconciliation has been used 17 times over the last couple decades…” “At the end of the day, I think we need to make the kind of economic investment to get this economy going…about 70% of Americans agree with the President’s proposal.”
- On addressing extremism in the military’s ranks. Sen. Warner said he believes Secretary Austin’s stand-down order is the “right thing.” Sen. Warner said over the last few years we’ve seen “the growth of anti-government extremism…the vast majority, based on evidence, has been on the right wing.” Sen. Warner said anti-government extremist groups were supported by Russia, had ties to extremists in Europe. And the threat from these groups, particularly under Trump, was the anti-government extremism not being “called out”/”highlighted” and in many ways “underplayed.” According to Sen. Warner, that is “outrageous” and “in many ways unAmerican of that former White House.” In Sen. Warner’s opinion, this right-wing extremism is a “threat to our democracy” and needs to be called out “for what it is.” According to Sen. Warner, we may need to use some of the same techniques for “deradicalization” here in America that have been used abroad.
- Looking ahead, Sen. Warner said he’s optimistic, that “the vast majority of my colleagues don’t want to return to that kind of [Trump] era…non-fact-based agenda…There’s clearly a minority of Americans who still espouse these wacky theories like QAnon, but I think they are a distinct minority.”