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Video: Sen. Mark Warner on What President Biden Should Do in State of the Union Address; the Need to Stand by Ukraine; Hopes for a Ceasefire in Gaza; Economic “Good News”; etc.

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See below for video and a few highlights from Sen. Mark Warner’s weekly press availability, held earlier this afternoon. The highlights include:

  • This week has been dominated by expectations about the State of the Union and the need to make sure that we don’t have a government shutdown…In terms of the government shutdown question, first of all the good news is we’re not going to shut down the government; the bad news is we’ve literally blown through four separate deadlines. And we are almost halfway through the fiscal year before we will actually pass the budget…There was agreement on the topline numbers almost a year ago, when Speaker McCarthy was still the Speaker,  but unfortunately the new Speaker who’s been kowtowing to a group of far-right extremists, many of whom want to shut down the government, has has ended up dragging this process out. The good news is we will take up six of the Appropriations bills, the house will tomorrow and I think we should take it up immediately afterwards…The subsequent [number] of bills, particularly in areas like the border and defense, will be taken up before March 22nd. Again, no government shutdown, but every time we do a continuing resolution, every time we get close to one of these dates, we waste taxpayer money at huge levels – agencies have to go through all of the prep work…So this is a crazy process and there ought to be consequences…”
  • State of the Union – I think it’s critically important for President Biden to show energy, to counter some of the  concerns about the economy, because there’s a lot of good news to talk about. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that inflation is still too high, but if we go back a year ago when inflation was approaching 8-9 percent, and look now, and if you take out for example housing, where there still is I think too much inflation, we’re actually at an inflation rate that’s below 2%, that is the target the Fed shoots for. There’s not a nation in the world that wouldn’t like to have our circumstances around inflation, because the Federal Reserve has managed to bring about this soft landing that most economists didn’t predict was going to take place. Combine that with the fact that we’ve got record highs in the stock market, record lows in unemployment…enormous job growth…the fastest growing group of of new businesses is being started by women of color, that is something we ought to celebrate…So good news…the president…needs to put this in a narrative that people can understand and believe.”
  • We are facing one of the most critical decisions that our country has faced at least since I’ve been in the Congress, and that is whether we’re going to stand by our commitment to the people of Ukraine. If we don’t, Putin will win in Ukraine, NATO will be threatened, because he will not stop at the borders of of Ukraine; he will threaten NATO nations in the Baltics or Poland, we could have American troops in harm’s way. And as I’ve said many times…the Ukrainians without the loss of a single American life, with our help and Europe’s help, have literally destroyed 87% of Russia’s pre-existing military ground Forces, 63% of their tanks, 32% of their armored personnel carriers. So giving this additional funding will let Ukrainians finish the job…they are not only fighting for themselves, but they are fighting for democracies around the world. And the idea that we would turn away from that commitment is just flabbergasting to me. And the good news is there’s not a group I’ve spoken to that in an overwhelming majority don’t support this position. So I think the president needs to make clear in the State of the Union tomorrow not only Ukraine, but the fact that we need to support democracies around the world are looking to see whether we’re going to maintain our traditional leadership role. And if we don’t, the winners will not only be Putin and Russia, but it’ll be the leaders in Iran, it’ll be Kim Jong-un in North Korea, it’ll be president Xi in China – and they offer a very different vision for the world and not one that
    I think folks in the United States or frankly in democracies  around the world would support…I got to in my heart believe that Speaker Johnson understands this; it will be a historic mistake if we don’t vote on the aid for Ukraine. It will be a mistake similar to the mistakes made by Neville Chamberlain when he was the Prime Minister of the UK and and turned a blind eye to Hitler’s aggression and we ended up with the Second World War. I…hate to use too much hyperbole, but I think we are in that kind of circumstance if we give a green light to Putin. And the remarkable thing is I think the support for Ukraine would get 300 votes in the House, and if the House is unable to vote on this bill supporting our Ukrainian friends, supporting democracy, supporting NATO, it will be again historic in terms of the mistake. And again, why is this not being voted on? Because former President Trump is basically using his power over the…far right wing of the Republican Party…”
  • If you are scratching your head, you’ve got a right to scratch your head on the Speaker continues to kowtow to a small group of extremists in the House of Representatives. And the incredible thing is this group, the Freedom Caucus and some of their supporters, they’re never going to vote for the budget anyway; they didn’t vote for the budget when Donald Trump was President, they’re sure act not going to vote for the budget now. So normally in a negotiation, you might say if I do this, will you do that? Well this is the burn down the house  crowd. And the fact that he still trying to curry favor with them is just, it’s beyond belief. The Speaker’s got the effect of a two-vote majority in the House, he can’t get anything done without Democratic votes and the vast majority of the House of Republicans support the budget doesn’t want to do a government shutdown it’s the equivalent of you know because the American people would know who is causing this shutdown”
  • I was hopeful we’d have a ceasefire at this point. And the ball is clearly in Hamas’ court – they release or start the process of releasing hostages. I think we will get at least that starting six-week ceasefire. We have to do more on  humanitarian aid and I’m glad the administration is is doing air drops, but I think there’s even more we can do. We have forces on Cyprus; we could use Cyprus as a staging port to bring humanitarian supplies particularly to north Gaza where a lot of folks have returned. We could even have a floating  medical facility right off the beach in Gaza, and I know that’s being looked at. We have to do more. But we also have to realize that the horrific activities of Hamas and the fact that they are still holding these hostages…There has to be a path to get those hostages released. And the thing I’m worried about is starting on Monday is the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. And historically, during Ramadan, where faithful Muslims fast during the day and then come together in groups at the end of the each day to break the fast, that has been a time when there’s been flareups of violence in Jerusalem, in the West Bank in years past. I still hope and pray that we can get this ceasefire in place before Ramadan starts. My fear is that Hamas is kind of playing a bit of a waiting game right now. And I again have been disappointed that the Israeli government has not been more forward leaning on delivering of humanitarian aid. And I think that’s important that even if we’re not working with with our partners in Israel, we as the United States as the greatest nation in the world – and frankly, the nation that has put more total dollars into humanitarian assistance into Gaza for literally years and years – we have to continue to do our part.”

 

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