As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will use all measures available to ensure our nation’s security and stability, while maintaining a commitment to our values of freedom, democracy and human rights.
In order to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world, we must maintain our military readiness, technological capability and flexibility. As Virginians, we are a proud home to every branch, including the largest naval station in the world, premier Army, Marine Corps and Air Force installations and a robust Coast Guard presence. I am committed to providing top quality resources to our servicemembers and their families. I understand the importance of strong and smart national security decisions, which is why I will carefully consider all options before making any decision to send our troops into harm’s way.
Additionally, I was proud to support more than two dozen historic reforms to address sexual assault in the military that were signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). No servicemember should feel unsafe while serving to protect our nation, and I am committed to protecting and empowering the survivors of military sexual assault, increasing reporting and putting perpetrators behind bars.
I’m proud to represent the thousands of shipbuilders who manufacture the largest and most complicated items on the planet: nuclear air craft carriers and submarines. The Fiscal Year 2017 NDAA included a number of provisions that will benefit Virginia’s shipbuilding industry and defense community, including funding for procurement and sustainment of the statutory requirement to maintain the 11-carrier fleet. The bill also authorizes full funding for the Virginia-class and Ohio-class submarine programs, the LHA-8 amphibious assault ship and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
I’ve also been outspoken on the need to make our military more inclusive and integrated. I strongly support the Department of Defense’s decision to open all combat jobs to women because it is time for this barrier to be eliminated. I’ve also requested that the Department of Defense change its policy banning practicing Sikhs from serving in the military. Under current policy, implemented in 1988, members of the Sikh faith are unable to serve in the military unless they abandon their articles of faith—namely maintaining unshorn hair, beards, and wearing a turban—or secure a special exemption. While I applaud the Department for providing long-term religious accommodations to some Sikhs, I do not believe that any American should have to choose between his or her religion and service to country and will continue to urge the Department to change its policy.
Also, we should do everything we can to keep our promise to our veterans and reward them for their hard work and sacrifice. Last year, I joined Senate colleagues to call on the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to survey servicemembers about their compensation preferences. I am proud that the commission has decided to move forward with surveys because servicemembers deserve to have their voices heard as the Commission holistically considers compensation and benefits.
As a member of the Budget Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues to return to a normal budget process and put an end to short-term gimmicks and governing by crisis.
I’m proud to have helped Congress pass two-year budgets in 2013 and 2015 that offset the worst effects of sequestration. Thanks to these compromise deals, we were able to restore much-needed certainty for working families and businesses in Virginia and across the nation. I came to the Senate a strong supporter of two-year budgeting due to my experience as Governor and it is good to see others in Congress finally embracing this helpful reform. Looking ahead, I believe that rigorous debate and compromise are essential to putting our nation on a sustainable fiscal path and protecting the investments that are critical to our future.
As a Governor who had to keep a budget balanced during the worst recession in a generation and the only Governor in modern times to leave office with a smaller general fund than the one I inherited, I believe my experience is of value on the Budget Committee as Congress wrestles with the fiscal challenges our nation continues to face. Through rigorous debate and compromise, we can put forward a balanced and comprehensive deficit reduction plan that puts our country on a sustainable path and protects the investments that are critical to our future.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I’m proud to work with colleagues and partners to strengthen our nation’s leadership abroad and ensure that our foreign policy furthers our national security interests and leads to a more secure and prosperous United States. I am committed to enhancing relationships with international partners and providing foreign assistance that directly benefits the American people though investments that boosts trade, combats terrorism, strengthens our allies, eradicates poverty and disease, and fosters economic growth and democracy to address the drivers of conflict and instability around the world. I am committed to the oversight of the U.S. government’s foreign policy departments and agencies and am committed to making sure our diplomats have the tools, resources, and security they need to carry out their work, often in challenging environments, in support of the American people and promotion of our nation’s core values.
Through my role on the committee, I have worked to ensure Congress fulfils its constitutional duty on matters of foreign policy and to improve how Congress and the President consult on matters of war and the initiation of U.S. military action. I have introduced bipartisan legislation to revise the War Powers Resolution of 1973 as well as to authorize the current U.S. military mission against ISIL. I also advocated for Congress to have a formal role in approving the Iran Nuclear Agreement and was proud to coauthor the terms under which the Iran deal was considered by the House and Senate in 2015.
I remain deeply concerned about the open-ended nature of the Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m proud to support legislation that would repeal the Iraq AUMF approved by Congress in 2003 and hope Congress will move us closer to amending the open-ended 2001 AUMF passed more than 14 years ago in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
Since the beginning of U.S. airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq & Syria in August 2014, I have been demanding a debate and vote on a new authorization for the mission – one I believe goes well beyond the intent of the 2001AUMF. Instead, Congress has willingly abdicated its most solemn duty - to debate and declare war. Aside from our constitutional responsibilities, I believe that a debate in Congress by the people's elected representatives and a vote to authorize the mission is how we tell our servicemembers that what they're doing, what they're risking their lives for, has purpose, has meaning, and has the support of the American people. It’s also how we show our allies - as well as enemies - that we are committed to this fight.
I am committed to serving as a strong advocate for our nation’s values, including in the Middle East, a region currently rife with conflict. With respect to the devastating humanitarian crisis in Syria, I have called for the establishment of safe zones to protect civilian lives and supply lines for food, water and medical supplies. In 2014, I led an effort in the Senate to pass the Syrian Humanitarian Resolution to call for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2139 and ask the Obama administration to act with urgency and submit to Congress a comprehensive and robust strategy to address the Syrian humanitarian crisis. It is critical that humanitarian aid be allowed across Syria’s borders, and I will continue advocating for full, unrestricted access throughout Syria.
As Ranking Member of the State Department and USAID Management, International Operations, and Bilateral International Development subcommittee, I’m focused on ensuring our development policy and foreign assistance programs are consistent with our diplomatic goals and national security objectives. In light of the tragic 2012 attack on our diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, I have been committed to ensuring the safety of Americans in the Foreign Service and oppose attempts to delay construction of the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) at Fort Pickett. After numerous analyses reaffirming the practicality of constructing such a center in Virginia, groundbreaking for the new facility has finally begun in Blackstone, and the brave men and women who serve in our embassies around the world will finally have a dedicated facility to receive the best possible security training before they embark on assignments in high threat countries across the globe.
As a member of the subcommittees on: Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism; Europe and Regional Security Cooperation; and the Western Hemisphere, I am focused on building security partnerships and economic opportunities that will create more growth and job creation both abroad and at home with my first priority always the safety and security of the American people.
As a new member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in the 115th Congress, I will have the opportunity to focus on two of my longtime passions: health care and education. In this critical time for health care in America, I am motivated now more than ever to fight against harmful policy proposals that seek to reverse the progress we’ve made in increasing access to care for millions of Americans. I will also use my new role to look for ways to further address the opioid abuse epidemic that affects every corner of the Commonwealth.