By Marrett Ceo
Virginia U.S. Senator Mark Warner is ready for an American Renaissance following the conclusion of the election season. He’s focused on a desperately-needed second relief package for Americans amidst the coronavirus pandemic, and especially for those in his state, but he envisions all the moving parts of the moment as an exciting new beginning for the country.
A seasoned politician, Warner was just re-elected on Nov. 3 to his third Senate term. This is the second one he has won relatively comfortably. Prior to serving in the U.S. Senate, he was the 69th governor of Virginia from 2002-06. Warner also managed the 1989 campaign of former governor L. Douglas Wilder, the nation’s first African American governor and has served as a chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, as well as the Virginia Healthcare Foundation.
Before getting involved in Virginia politics, he used his law degree and experience working in the Senate as a staffer for then-Sen. Tom Dodd, which was a springboard to become an innovator in the telecommunications industry.
After a few failed businesses, at one point even living in his Oldsmobile, Warner formed the group of patents that purchased Nextel. According to OpenSecrets.org, as of 2018 he is now the wealthiest member of Congress with a net worth of over $214 million.
Warner reiterates his urgent desire to pass a second relief package for Covid-19 before the fiscal cliff of Dec. 31.
He would have taken the $1.8 trillion figure that came from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin before the election, but Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have disagreed over a passable number.
Anything reasonable is what Warner ultimately thinks the Senate and House should take.
The real concern Warner has about any package is the urgency of getting it passed quickly. He points out that a package should definitely happen while still on President Donald Trump’s watch before January when President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
“If we wait until early February, when people have gone for weeks without unemployment, people got six months back rent, back student debt, 30 percent of business (mainly restaurants ) more go out of business because they can’t maintain a way to do dining in the cold months, not good for economy or for Biden.” Essentially, right now Warner adds this is a time where legislators all are “playing with fire.”
The senator points out one unfortunate fact about the pandemic — that Black and brown communities have been hit harder by Covid-19, healthwise and economically.
Warner hopes the Senate will pass a bill going before the chamber entitled the “Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act.” This legislation would make “substantial investments” in Black-owned banks and Community Development Financial Institutions or CDFIs for lower income neighborhoods, making equity investment in firms for the long term.
Complicating the passage of a second Covid-19 relief package is a defense bill that must be passed soon, in addition to meeting a Dec. 11 deadline to come up with a package to keep the federal government fully funded and avoid a shutdown. Congress won’t be back in session until after Thanksgiving. Warner hesitates to say that vaccines will be publicly available by Christmas, although he also points out that their development is up to 95 percent with the now three major companies.
Three pieces of major legislation may seem like a bit much to do in a little amount of time, but Warner remains hopeful.
He first points out his desire to deal with Trump’s orders on bringing U.S. troop levels down there and other areas, such as Iraq. Warner warns that the soldiers still stationed there and the U.S. allies are left “high and dry.” He firmly disagrees with the recent order to suddenly withdraw nearly 2,000 troops from Afghanistan to around 2,500 and nearly 500 troops in Iraq.
If Democrats prevail in two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia on Jan. 5, Warner’s stature on the Senate Intelligence Committee will be elevated from Ranking Member to Chairman. Many issues could potentially come to the senator’s desk. He expressed relief that violence in the streets around Election Day, potential foreign interference, “people with AK-47’s” didn’t pan out and voting went smoothly despite concerns by the intelligence committee, the FBI and other agencies.
Despite several of Warner’s GOP colleagues remaining silent about Trump’s claims and actions, as well as how to deal with them, a lot of them have stepped up.
“If there had been a Democratic president who had done these actions, they would have been filing impeachment papers,” Warner said.
Regardless, Warner transfers further action on how to deal with the president’s proclivities and unorthodox behavior to the incoming Biden Justice Department, in addition to the New York state attorney general’s office who is handling issues related to Trump as well.
“Donald Trump lives on playing himself as a victim. We shouldn’t play into that narrative,” Warner said.
Warner is confident that there are enough Federal officials who will step up, including the military, on the transfer of power as Inauguration Day nears. With preparations being made for the swearing in ceremony taking place, he is both confident and cautious about making sure Americans get to see Biden being sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in person, not a virtual inauguration.
“Otherwise it plays into this Trump fallacy about the legitimacy of the Biden presidency,” Warner said. “I want the American people to see that picture of Biden, even with a Covid-limited crowd. We need to do it in a way that looks familiar to Americans.”
Raising eyebrows two weeks out from the election, Warner reminds of Trump’s firing of Chris Krebs, who had headed up the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Department of Homeland Security for not going along with the president’s “frankly fake claims” about election fraud. Warner is concerned about other agency heads such as the CIA or FBI possibly receiving the same treatment. He reiterates that the entire intelligence community will have to keep focus on their job, which is essentially to speak “truth to power.”
“They need to tell this administration the truth, whether they want to hear it or not” Warner pointed out, before adding “In the Trump crowd, anyone that delivers bad news gets fired. That’s not how you keep a country safe.”