Senate Unanimously Passes Blunt, Hawley Resolution Designating May 1, 2022 as Silver Star Service Banner Day

Source: United States Senator for Missouri Roy Blunt

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Josh Hawley (Mo.) announced that the Senate has unanimously passed their resolution to designate May 1, 2022, as Silver Star Service Banner Day. The resolution honors our nation’s wounded and ill service members and veterans, and their families.

“We owe an incredible amount of gratitude to the generations of Americans who have fought to defend the freedoms we hold dear,” said Blunt. “The men and women who suffered injury or illness from their service may carry those wounds for the rest of their lives. Silver Star Service Banner Day is an opportunity for all of us to take a moment to honor these heroes, and their families who share in their sacrifice, for all they have done for our nation.”

“Silver Star Service Banner Day honors the brave men and women who risked their lives for our country and carry the wounds of sacrifice,” said Hawley. “We are forever in debt to these heroes and thank them and their families for their service.”

Silver Star Families of America (SSFOA) is a national non-profit program headquartered in Clever, Mo. The organization honors and assists members of the Armed Forces and their families from every branch of service and from all wars. SSFOA provides assistance to veterans who have suffered illness or injury in the course of their service, and distributes Silver Star Flags and care packages to wounded veterans and their families.

Sen. Coons, Senate NATO Observer Group issue joint statement of support for Finland and Sweden

Source: United States Senator for Delaware Christopher Coons

WASHINGTON —Senator Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate NATO Observer Group, joined his colleagues today in a joint statement of support for Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO in response to the respective nations announcing their intent to join the transatlantic alliance: 

“The Senate NATO Observer Group welcomes today’s announcement by Finland and Sweden that they will begin the formal application process to join the NATO Alliance in pursuit of peace and prosperity in Europe. NATO has helped preserve our world order for more than 70 years, but as Putin’s campaign of violence in Ukraine continues and as he looks elsewhere to spread his malign influence, Finland and Sweden’s entry into NATO at this moment is paramount to countering his threats to global security, and especially to nearby, vulnerable nations,” said the Senators. “Finland and Sweden are longstanding NATO partners who already share the collective values that guide our alliance. This demonstration of their intent proves that there are different paths to NATO membership, and we welcome the addition of two highly-capable and enduring partners to join the alliance officially.”

The Senate NATO Observer Group was first established over twenty years ago in 1997 by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) to serve as a connection between the administration, NATO and the U.S. Senate. After being disbanded in 1997 due to a lack of NATO enlargement rounds, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) re-established the Group in 2018 with an expanded mission to closely monitor and inform senators outside of national security committees about defense spending commitments of Alliance members, the process of upgrading military capabilities, the Alliance’s counter-terrorism capability, NATO enlargement and the ability of NATO member states to address non-conventional warfare. The Group has 7 Democrats and 7 Republicans, including U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) Angus King (I-Maine) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.)

###

ICYMI: Rubio Holds Press Conference Highlighting HELPER Act

Source: United States Senator for Florida Marco Rubio

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) held a press conference on Capitol Hill supporting law enforcement and highlighting his bipartisan Homes for Every Local Provider, Educator, and Responder (HELPER) Act. The HELPER Act would provide a one-time use home loan program to law enforcement officers, firefighters, medical first responders, and teachers. 
 

 
A video of the press conference can be found here and a transcript of his remarks is below: 
 
We’ve been celebrating National Police Week across America and, obviously, celebrating the heroism of our men and women in law enforcement. They are heroes, not just this one week a year, but every single day. 
 
At the same time…, [we recognize that] teachers are also extraordinary heroes that are impacting communities and lives every single day for our young people. They’re also heroes all the time. 
 
Unfortunately, although they provide a tremendous service to our communities, law enforcement, first responders, and teachers oftentimes…can’t afford to live in the communities that they serve. One of the reasons why is housing costs. 
 
There’s a lot of reasons why housing costs are high and unaffordable. We’re trying to address one of them through these changes in the law that provide a new opportunity for financing, specifically for men and women who are first responders, [who are] in law enforcement, firefighters, police officers, and teachers, who we think are so  essential. [They are essential] not just for our country, but essential enough to live affordably in the very communities that they serve. 
 
I’m very grateful for the overwhelming bipartisan support that this bill enjoys, and I am hopeful that we can convert it into law.… I’m grateful for all the groups that are here to support us today as well. We thank them for what they and their members do for us every single day. This is the least that we can do, and I’m hopeful that we can get this done.
 

News 05/17/2022 VIDEO RELEASE: Senator Blackburn Talks With Ambassador Grenell About Biden Disinformation Board

Source: United States Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn)

May 17, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) hosted Ambassador Richard Grenell, Former Acting Director of National Intelligence, on Unmuted with Marsha to discuss the Biden administration’s Disinformation Governance Board. “Joe Biden’s Disinformation Governance Board is a half-veiled attempt to silence dissenting opinions from conservatives. The Biden White House hid the truth about Hunter. They hid the truth about the Wuhan Lab. Now, they want to be the arbiter of truth for the American people. This ‘Ministry of Truth’ puts too much power in the hands of Big Brother and is a direct threat to our constitutionally protected freedom of expression,” said Senator Blackburn. 

Barrasso: Buy American Energy, Not Energy from Tyrants

Source: United States Senator for Wyoming John Barrasso

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), issued the following statement regarding the Biden administration’s decision to ease sanctions on Venezuela.

“Our experience buying Russian energy should have taught President Biden that buying energy from tyrants is a dangerous proposition,” said Barrasso. “Yet President Biden continues to reward our enemies by waiving sanctions while his administration does its best to kill American energy production. Funding despots isn’t in the national interest. Supporting American energy is.”

###

Lankford Defends Discharged American Sailors Against Biden’s Vaccine Mandate

Source: United States Senator for Oklahoma James Lankford

05.17.22

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro to urge them to allow sailors separated from the US Navy for deciding not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and who were not granted a religious accommodation to return to service. His letter comes after a court’s preliminary injunction blocked the Navy from continuing its misguided policy of separating sailors who were denied religious accommodation requests.

Lankford wrote in his letter, “As of today, the Navy has approved only 27 religious accommodation requests for the COVID-19 vaccine despite receiving over 4,300 requests. Bearing in mind this blatant disregard for faith-based objections to the vaccine, according to the Navy they have approved ‘798 total separations based on COVID-19 vaccination refusal,’ and ‘at least 84 personnel with previously disapproved religious accommodation requests have completed the discharge process.’ At the time of this letter other sailors had been notified that their accommodation request has been denied, but they have not yet been discharged. American taxpayers and the US military have devoted considerable time and resources to train each of these sailors for their service. As I have said repeatedly, it is difficult to see how removing hundreds of sailors from the Navy—when almost half of Americans have already been infected with COVID-19—improves our military readiness and serves the national interest.”

Lankford continues to defend service members against Biden’s vaccine mandate. He recently joined Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and 12 of their colleagues to introduce the Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots (AMERICANS) Act of 2022. The bill counters the Biden Administration’s efforts to coerce and punish service members who decline the COVID-19 vaccine and introduces accountability measures in response to DOD efforts to undermine transparency.

Lankford introduced the COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act to prohibit the Department of Defense from giving service members a dishonorable discharge for choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, which was ultimately solidified in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which Lankford supported and was signed into law. 

Regarding religious accommodations for service members, Lankford previously sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding to know why, despite 19,979 known requests for religious accommodations from the COVID-19 vaccine, the Department had granted nearly zero religious accommodations among the service branches. The letter requested a response by February 1. When he did not receive a timely response, Lankford requested that the Acting Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General Sean O’Donnell conduct an audit of DOD’s COVID-19 vaccine exemption process, and the IG responded 10 days later that an audit would be conducted.

Lankford was joined by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and their colleagues to send a letter to Secretary Austin asking him to provide information on the number and nature of military discharges for not receiving a COVID vaccine.

You can read the full letter HERE and below:

Dear Secretary Austin and Secretary Del Toro:

I am writing to urge you to welcome back into the service sailors separated from the US Navy for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds. In light of US District Judge Reed O’Connor’s order on March 28, 2022, the Department of Defense (DOD) and US Navy should apply its stated policy of protecting sailors from separation and discipline retroactively. Failing to take this step will penalize sailors already removed from the Navy simply because their claims were adjudicated prior to the court’s order.

In recent days, the US Navy paused efforts to separate and discipline sailors refusing the COVID-19 vaccine due to religious objections. Specifically, NAVADMIN 083/22 “suspends separation processing and adverse administrative consequences of COVID-19 vaccine refusal for Navy service members who submitted requests for religious accommodation from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.” This new guidance followed District Judge O’Connor’s decision to allow the lawsuit brought by 35 sailors refusing inoculation on religious grounds to move forward as a class action lawsuit.

Now that the preliminary injunction in the lawsuit is rightly preventing the Navy from applying its previous misguided policy of separating sailors who were denied religious accommodation requests, the Navy should extend its new policy to cover sailors who have already been unjustly separated. Sailors should not face a different set of rules based on circumstances beyond their control.

As of today, the Navy has approved only 27 religious accommodation requests for the COVID-19 vaccine despite receiving over 4,300 requests. Bearing in mind this blatant disregard for faith-based objections to the vaccine, according to the Navy they have approved “798 total separations based on COVID-19 vaccination refusal,” and “at least 84 personnel with previously disapproved religious accommodation requests have completed the discharge process.” At the time of this letter other sailors had been notified that their accommodation request has been denied, but they have not yet been discharged. American taxpayers and the US military have devoted considerable time and resources to train each of these sailors for their service. As I have said repeatedly, it is difficult to see how removing hundreds of sailors from the Navy—when almost half of Americans have already been infected with COVID-19—improves our military readiness and serves the national interest. Even sailors who have received the COVID-19 vaccine can and do test positive for COVID-19. So, sailors with or without the vaccine can catch COVID-19 and transmit it to others.

With these considerations in mind, I urge you to reinstate sailors who have been separated after being denied religious accommodations to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Additionally, please address the following questions:

  1. As of today, how many sailors who were separated for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, were denied religious accommodations prior to separation?
  2. Will DOD welcome back sailors separated from the military if the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is lifted?
  3. Will you commit to allowing sailors who have retired in response to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate to return to the service as COVID-19 wanes?

I hope you will agree that preventing sailors who have been separated due to non-compliance with the vaccine mandate after their religious accommodation request was denied from rejoining the Navy, while allowing current sailors with religious objections to the vaccine to remain would be unjust. I urge you to take immediate action to prevent this unequal impact on our sailors. 

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

In God We Trust, 

###

Sen. Johnson Joins Sen. Rubio, Colleagues in Resolution Condemning Detention of Russian Dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza

Source: United States Senator for Wisconsin Ron Johnson

WASHINGTON — On Monday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and eight of their colleagues in a bipartisan resolution condemning the Russian government’s unjust detention of Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza.  The bipartisan resolution pays tribute to Kara-Murza’s advocacy for democracy and human rights in Russia and his opposition to Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.  Additionally, it urges the U.S. and its allies to work to secure Kara-Murza’s immediate release and to support those advocating for democratic reform and independent media in Russia.

“The fabricated charges against Kara-Murza are ridiculous but sadly predictable. He is a man of courage targeted by a tyrant war criminal for telling the Russian people the truth about the Putin regime’s atrocities in Ukraine. His immediate release is necessary to protect human rights and democracy,” said Sen. Ron Johnson.

Sens. Johnson and Marco Rubio were joined on the release by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

The full text of the resolution can be found here.

###

Whitehouse, Grassley Lead Senators in Call to Fully Fund FinCEN’s Anti-Money Laundering Operations

Source: United States Senator for Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse

05.17.22

Funds would empower FinCEN to trace dirty money behind international criminals, drug traffickers, terrorists, and kleptocrats

Washington, DC – Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have sent Senate appropriators a bipartisan request for the maximum possible funding for the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to support implementation and enforcement of key anti-money laundering and anti-corruption reforms. 

“Senator Grassley and I fought for years for new authority to tackle money laundering by international criminals, drug traffickers, terrorists, and kleptocrats.  That work led to the 2021 defense bill, where we passed into law powerful new tools to trace dirty money through complicated financial schemes and hold those responsible to account,” said Whitehouse.  “Now, we can put our new authority to work with funding that empowers FinCEN to go after kleptocrats, drug traffickers, and other bad actors around the globe.  That will be a huge win for the rule of law.”

“FinCEN is at the tip of the spear in detecting financial schemes that fuel all kinds of illicit activity, from drug trafficking and human exploitation to terrorism.  Senator Whitehouse and I have worked for years to beef up our ability to follow the money and take down money laundering organizations.  It’s critical that FinCEN has the resources it needs to continue its important mission,” Grassley said.

FinCEN is the bureau within the Department charged with cracking down on money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes around the globe.  The senators call for funding to help FinCEN deploy new authority under the Corporate Transparency Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 to root out transnational criminals, drug cartels, terrorists, and authoritarian oligarchs — like Vladimir Putin and his corrupt cronies.  Whitehouse and Grassley were among those who led passage of those bills.

Congress passed the Corporate Transparency Act – a version of which Whitehouse and Grassley originally introduced as the TITLE Act – to combat kleptocracy by clamping down on criminals and foreign enemies hiding assets from law enforcement and tax authorities.  The legislation requires FinCEN to obtain information on the true owners of corporations and LLCs formed within the United States, and to set up a database to help law enforcement and national security officials access that information when necessary.  Its passage marked the culmination of a years-long effort to combat money laundering, international corruption, and kleptocracy. 

Today, the Tax Justice Network’s 2022 Financial Secrecy Index ranked the United States as the world’s top provider of financial secrecy, adding urgency to FinCEN’s implementation of the Corporate Transparency Act.

Joining Whitehouse and Grassley’s letter are Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Todd Young (R-IN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Full text of the Senators’ letter is below.  A PDF is available here.

Dear Chairman Van Hollen and Ranking Member Hyde-Smith:

We respectfully request as much funding as possible in our current budgetary situation for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill to support implementation and enforcement of the anti-money laundering and anti-corruption reforms enacted as part of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Money laundering tactics range from the simplicity of smuggling bundles of cash across the border to more complex methods involving shell companies, international trade, and high-end real estate.  FinCEN should have the tools it needs to combat more sophisticated methods of money laundering. 

Specifically, Congress included the bipartisan Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) and the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (AMLA) in the 2021 NDAA.  The CTA requires certain companies to provide beneficial ownership information to FinCEN so that authorized users, including law enforcement and national security officials, and financial institutions with customer consent, can better detect and prevent money laundering through U.S. shell companies.  The AMLA modernizes and streamlines a broad range of our statutory anti-money laundering rules and enhances consultation and coordination with industry, law enforcement, and other stakeholders.  Together, the CTA and AMLA will significantly enhance our efforts to combat money laundering, and will help bring the United States into compliance with international Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism standards.  Without full funding to enforce these laws, transnational criminals, drug cartels, terrorists, and authoritarian oligarchs stand better chances of maintaining their operations and avoiding justice.  We respectfully request that you provide appropriations to fund implementation of these critical programs.

###

Durbin Discusses Funding For Fermilab LBNF/DUNE With Secretary Of Energy

Source: United States Senator for Illinois Dick Durbin

05.17.22

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm about federal funding requests for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility/Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (LBNF/DUNE), a project run by Fermilab in Illinois. In March, Durbin secured $189 million for LBNF/DUNE in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) omnibus appropriations bill.

On the call, Durbin explained the importance of Fermilab’s research and urged the Secretary to join him in advocating for robust funding for LBNF/DUNE to be included in future Presidential Budget Requests.

“National labs, like Illinois’ own Fermilab, have pushed the boundaries of scientific discovery with unmatched dedication to their research missions. To keep these programs up and running, we need strong federal support for the Department of Energy,” said Durbin. “During my call with Secretary Granholm, I reiterated my support for LBNF/DUNE and encouraged her to prioritize the project’s funding.”

Earlier this month, Durbin met with Fermilab Director Lia Merminga to discuss LBNF/DUNE.

LBNF/DUNE is an international flagship experiment to unlock the mysteries of neutrinos.  LBNF/DUNE will pursue three science goals: find out whether neutrinos could be the reason the universe is made of matter; look for subatomic phenomena that could help realize Einstein’s dream of the unification of forces; and watch for neutrinos emerging from an exploding star.

-30-



$4.8 Million in American Rescue Plan Funds Headed to Pawtucket for New Bikeway

Source: United States Senator for Rhode Island Jack Reed

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded $4.8 million in federal funding to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for construction of the Blackstone River Bikeway. This federal grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan (P.L 117-2), which was supported by all four members of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation and signed into law by President Biden

This project will expand tourism and outdoor recreational activities by connecting Pawtucket and Slater Mill Historic Park. The EDA investment will be matched with $1.4 million in state and local funds and is expected to create 538 jobs and generate $284 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is dedicated to supporting the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sector as it works to recover and rebuild following the pandemic,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This EDA investment will attract additional outdoor enthusiasts to Pawtucket, boosting the economy and creating jobs.”

 

“I have always seen a comprehensive, connected bikeway as complimentary to the national historic park because it lets people explore the beauty and history of the Blackstone Valley,” said Senator Jack Reed. “We’ve been working on this effort for many years and I commend Secretary Raimondo and Mayor Grebien for helping us get it across the finish line. The bikeway segments already in place are a hit and this federal funding will expand, enhance, and link the Blackstone Valley Bikeway and make it a safe and scenic thoroughfare for cyclists, joggers, pedestrians, and visitors alike. Thanks to this new EDA grant, this shovel-ready project will boost tourism and recreation and promote healthy living.”

“The new Blackstone River Bikeway will draw more visitors to Pawtucket’s downtown and historic sites,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “This project, which was funded through our American Rescue Plan, marks another milestone in the successful decades-long cleanup of the Blackstone. Congratulations to Mayor Grebien on making this happen.”

“The American Rescue Plan continues to deliver for Rhode Island,” said Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01). “This $4.8 million grant will help construct several missing segments of the Blackstone River Bikeway, supporting tourism and outdoor recreation, while also creating economic development opportunities in downtown Pawtucket and along the riverfront. This smart, eco-friendly investment will create an estimated 538 jobs and generate an additional $284 million in private investment – a great example of federal funding at work.”

 

“Constructing and connecting bikeways throughout Rhode Island is a great way to amplify our green space and spur economic development,” said Governor Dan McKee. “The Blackstone River Bikeway will encourage residents to get outdoors, create jobs, and boost economic recovery in Pawtucket and the Blackstone Valley. I thank the EDA for investing in Rhode Island and its economic rebound.”

 

 

This project is funded under EDA’s $240 million competitive American Rescue Plan Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation program. EDA awarded $510 million in grants to all 50 states and territories in 2021. The two programs are designed to accelerate the recovery of communities that rely on the travel, tourism and outdoor recreation sectors.