Protecting our nation from those who would do us harm is the first and most important responsibility of Congress.
In the midst of turbulent times abroad, we must remain vigilant in deterring hostile nations and pursuing terrorist networks intent on harming our country. We must also identify and limit vulnerabilities within our borders, ports, and critical infrastructure. As an ever-shrinking global community and advancements in technology draw both our friends and our enemies closer, we must maintain our focus and commitment to protecting our national security. Protecting our nation means strengthening alliances with friendly nations and presenting a united front against adversaries, particularly those that sponsor or condone terrorist activities.
National security also means increasing our capacity to respond to domestic emergencies and disasters and reducing our vulnerabilities abroad and at home. It means limiting our dependence on foreign oil and the unfriendly or unstable regimes that dominate the world’s oil supplies.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Rebuilding our Armed Forces, National Guard, and Reserves. Our men and women in uniform have consistently performed above and beyond the call of duty, but they have been overstretched by recent conflicts. We need to focus our defense budget on retooling and reinforcing our military capabilities and rewarding those who have sacrificed for this nation, regardless of their service branch. We also need to identify and eliminate wasteful spending and unnecessary programs to ensure fiscal responsibility and accountability in our defense budget, while fully providing our service members with the tools and training they need to carry out their duties. Our military forces should be as cost-effective as possible, and that means investing in the National Guard with its dual federal and state missions. We need to ensure that our National Guard is capable and well-equipped for the full spectrum of missions, and I will oppose disproportionate reductions that target the Guard.
- Remaining vigilant against terrorism. Since 9/11, we have made significant improvements to our counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities. However, recent terror attacks and attempted attacks at home and abroad show that terrorists remain intent on causing us harm. Our military forces and intelligence agencies must continue to go after terrorists, including working with our allies to defeat our enemies. We must continue to develop new technology to detect and mitigate threats to our nation by air, land, and sea. We must also strengthen our federal, state, and local intelligence and law enforcement operations and streamline coordination between our national security agencies. By strengthening our security efforts at home and investing in efforts that help prevent terrorist ideologies from developing, we can diminish the threat of terrorism to our nation.
- Strengthening our cybersecurity. Modern warfare is evolving to target cyber networks. Countries like Russia, North Korea, China, and Iran have engaged in cyber warfare that targets U.S. networks. Enhancing our country’s cybersecurity to ensure that hackers cannot access our public and private networks is essential. In recent years, cybersecurity breaches have affected our government, our businesses and consumers alike. It is more important than ever that we take steps to strengthen our nation’s cyber security. Since I came to Congress, I have worked to provide the Department of Defense and our law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to strengthen our cybersecurity posture. In the 21st century, our adversaries will continue to use cyberwarfare against our democracy and we need to be prepared to defend our networks against the growing threat of cyber intrusion intended to impact our nation’s critical infrastructure, information systems and elections.
- Advancing peace and security in the Middle East. ISIS and other terrorist groups are a serious threat to security in the Middle East and beyond. They are responsible for executing innocent American civilians, massacring and persecuting religious minorities, and trafficking and enslaving women and girls. While much of territory once held by ISIS has been taken back by coalition forces, we must remain committed to rooting out the ideology that gave rise to ISIS in the first place. We have to take a similar approach in going after the people who fund terrorism. It is critical that we continue our efforts to track and cut off the financial resources of terrorist groups. These terrorist threats extend to our own country, as the terrorist groups recruit Americans to join their ranks. We need strong programs that work with our communities to counter violent extremism and prevent recruitment by militant groups seeking to exploit our citizens.
- Advancing peace and security in the Middle East requires the United States to continue providing vital assistance to Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. and NATO combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended, but a smaller military presence remains to advise and support the security forces. This strategy puts the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan in the lead for security and economic development and allows the United States to continue to conduct counterterrorism operations. The international community must work together to emphasize security and economic development for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. I will continue to push for strong and necessary oversight of U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and a responsible approach to U.S. troop engagement that ensures these countries cannot be used as a safe haven for terrorists again.
- Combating Iran’s destabilizing activity in Syria. The Syrian conflict has led to the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crisis and the worst refugee crisis since World War II. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 people have been killed and more than 5 million Syrians have registered as refugees since the Syrian conflict began in 2011. This crisis requires an international response and clear U.S. policy to address Iran’s destabilizing activity in the region.
- Combating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The situation in Yemen constitutes one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Out of a total population of 29 million, over 22 million Yemenis are in need of assistance and over 11 million are in acute need. Since March of 2015 the U.S. has been the largest contributor of aid to Yemen. Ongoing hostilities between the Saudi Arabia led coalition and Houthi forces have only exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. We have a responsibility to both support our allies in the region and ensure humanitarian aid reaches those who need it. Doing so realizes our moral obligation and enhances our security by thwarting those who wish to radicalize the youth in the region. In an effort to further the conversation in Congress about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen I voted in favor of debating a resolution to disapprove of the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. I have also voted in favor of debating legislation to repeal the existing authorizations for the use of military force so that Congress can carry out its Constitutional mandate to authorize the use of military force.
- Support for Israel. America and Israel are close allies whose interests in the Middle East and around the world remain strongly aligned. The deep and enduring friendship between our nations is based on values rooted in democracy and mutual strategic goals, and we must remain steadfast in our commitment to Israel’s security. I have strongly supported funding for security assistance to Israel, particularly for the Iron Dome missile defense system. I have consistently supported additional funds in order to bolster this program, including supporting the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016 that committed $38 billion in military aid to Israel over the next ten years. At the same time, I believe that the United States must reinforce its commitment to leading a meaningful peace process of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. With dialogue, patience, and resolve, our ultimate goal of peace through the region can be realized. As staunch allies of Israel, we must also ensure that harmful movements, like the resurgence in anti-Semitism and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement are not successful. The BDS movement undermines a two-state solution and is counterproductive to both Israelis and Palestinians.
- Curbing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is one of the most important objectives of our national security policy, and I strongly supported the sanctions that helped bring Iran to the negotiating table. After extensive review, I reached the conclusion that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the agreement reached between Iran and the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China – was our best available option to put the brakes on Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon. This was a difficult decision, and I have deep respect for those who hold different views on this subject. I supported the agreement for four key reasons. First, the agreement curbs Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon. The agreement requires Iran to give up 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, disconnect two-thirds of its centrifuges, limit uranium enrichment to a single research facility, open its nuclear facilities to continuous monitoring, and allow stringent inspections of its uranium supply chain. Second, if Iran cheats on the deal, sanctions can be reimposed or “snapped back,” and the military option remains on the table. Third, rejecting the agreement would splinter our international partnership of countries that has been critical to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Finally, this agreement will move in parallel with increased commitments to security assistance for Israel and our other allies in the region. In conjunction with my support for this agreement, I have pushed the administration and my colleagues in Congress for additional assistance to Israel and our other regional allies to strengthen their security through support for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding entered into in 2016 that commits $38 billion in security assistance to Israel. I will also continue to support efforts to combat terrorist groups in the Mideast and strengthen our response to Iran’s ballistic missile program, human rights abuses, and material support for terrorism. That is why I have supported increasing sanctions against Iran, including targeting those who provide financial support to Hezbollah.
- Combatting Russian aggression. Our intelligence agencies have confirmed that the Kremlin used cyberattacks, espionage, and propaganda to undermine our election, including attempts to hack into the election systems of at least 21 states. Russia didn’t just try to hack into our election systems. They also launched an extended information war designed to divide our country and destroy Americans’ confidence in our political system. Top intelligence officials have confirmed Russia interfered in our election, and are currently working to undermine upcoming elections. The Secretary of Defense has said that Russian aggression poses a significant threat to the United States and our allies. Since annexing Crimea, Russia has become even more emboldened and aggressive. Despite a fragile ceasefire in Ukraine, the Russian military maintains a significant presence in eastern Ukraine. Russia has conducted cyberattacks on U.S. computer systems and provides weapons to Iran and Syria. Our commitment to NATO is more important than ever. Our allies and adversaries around the world need to know that we will stand together to protect each other against military aggression. If President Putin continues to ignore international law and engage in hostile behavior, we must continue to escalate political and economic pressure on his regime and reinforce the global coalition against Russian aggression.
The United States and our allies should work to help the government in Kiev and deescalate the violence in eastern and southern Ukraine. I supported legislation that was signed into law in March 2014 to help accomplish these goals by authorizing loan guarantees and other assistance to help support the new Ukrainian government and imposing targeted sanctions on Russian officials who have contributed to the crisis.
- Combatting North Korean aggression. North Korea’s accelerating nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose a serious threat to the United States and our allies and the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is a ruthless dictator who has committed horrible crimes against his own people. We need a comprehensive strategy on North Korea that includes diplomacy, economic pressure and engagement with our allies in the region. That is why I voted for sanctions against the North Korean government in both 2016 and 2017. Under these laws, foreign governments that buy or sell defense equipment to North Korea are prohibited from receiving certain U.S. assistance. Our country’s financial institutions are prohibited from working with foreign banks that do business with North Korea. These laws also impose sanctions on North Korean cargo and shipping, goods produced by forced labor in North Korea, and people or companies that employ North Korean forced laborers. Unilateral escalation without a plan and without our allies is not in America’s best interest. I will continue to work to ensure that we do everything we can with our allies to address the threat posed by North Korea.
- Strengthening the vetting process for visitors and refugees. Over the years, I have called for a strong vetting process for visitors and refugees. The current vetting process for refugees involves layers of security checks, including health checks, repeated biometric checks, biographical and background screening, and in-person interviews by trained officers. Multiple agencies are involved including the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Defense, and U.S. intelligence agencies. The Department of Homeland Security has added an additional country-specific layer of review for Syrian refugee applications. A refugee applicant cannot be approved for travel until all required security checks have been completed and cleared. Another way to help ensure that those who seek to harm us do not get into the United States is to strengthen the Visa Waiver Program. That’s why I worked with members from both sides of the aisle to introduce the Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act that was signed into law in 2015 and requires additional biometric information and electronic passports for participation in the program and increasing information sharing between countries. I will continue to work with the Department of Homeland Security to improve and strengthen the Visa Waiver Program.
- Seizing the opportunity for a new day in North America. By working together, we in the United States, Canada, and Mexico can improve our ability as a region to compete in the world economy and to enhance our collective security. Together, the three largest countries on the continent are strong democracies with a combined population of 470 million people, increasingly integrated economies worth nearly $20 trillion that produce almost 30 percent of global goods and services, a secure international position, and the potential for achieving continent-wide energy independence. This was the vision put forward at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca in February 2014, and it is one that we should continue to embrace. This would include developing a North American competitiveness agenda focused on fair trade, increasing cross-border investment, innovation, and private sector integration, as well as improving coordination on regulatory practices, border management, and energy. Together, North America can more effectively export its products to new and emerging markets in Asia, South America, and Africa.
- Modernizing our relationship with Cuba. Revamping our approach to North America also includes modernizing our relationship with Cuba. I strongly support lifting the embargo and travel ban on Cuba. Increasing travel and commerce between our two countries will create new economic opportunities for American farmers and businesses and help improve the quality of life for Cubans. Our policies toward Cuba should emphasize our economic interests in expanded commerce and travel and our political interest in cultivating new freedoms for the Cuban people. Fifty years of the embargo have not secured these interests—it is time for us to try another approach. That is why I have introduced the bipartisan Freedom to Export to Cuba Act, which would eliminate the legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba, boosting job creation and exports. It does not repeal provisions of current law that address human rights in Cuba or that allow individuals and businesses to pursue claims against the Cuban government.
- Responding to global food and water shortages, environmental and climate change challenges, and national disasters. As the global population continues to grow, so will the demand for essential resources, including food and water supplies. The unpredictable effects of climate change could lead to more global instability due to rising poverty, mass migrations, increased border tensions, and greater demands for rescue and recovery efforts. It is our obligation to help those who lack access to stable food and water supplies. We must take steps to combat global climate change and also be prepared to respond to natural disasters, both at home and around the world.
- Combating global poverty and disease. We must continue to lead the global fight against AIDS, Zika, Ebola, malaria, and other diseases that are devastating entire regions. We must develop and distribute stockpiles of medicine and vaccinations to prevent future global epidemics.
- Increasing security at our borders, ports, airports and critical infrastructure sites. This includes the screening of cargo entering U.S. ports, enacting effective security regulations for nuclear and chemical plants, and guarding our food supply. We must provide our first responders and emergency personnel with the full resources they need to respond to disasters, natural or manmade. We must also continue to do everything we can to strengthen security at airports and at train stations. We need to continue to focus our attention on enhancing aviation security and ensuring that our mass transit and rail systems are prepared for new, changing and more sophisticated threats. We must also ensure that our airports are safely screening passengers in an efficient way
- Reaffirming our commitment to NATO and other international institutions that promote freedom and democracy. The United States must continue to lead the global community toward the common goals of peaceful exchange and interaction. International organizations and institutions can be vehicles for achieving our objectives and serving our national interests, and we must make the most of them.
- Reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Our national security is in part dependent on oil-producing nations whose policies and objectives often diverge from our own. Fostering stable and sustainable homegrown energy sources has great potential to increase our national security. Our energy agenda should include expanded incentives for biofuels, wind power, solar, and other sources of renewable energy, as well as domestic drilling, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear, geothermal, and waste-to-energy technology. Minnesotans know that the renewable fuels industry creates good jobs and strengthens our economy, in addition to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We should be investing in the farmers and workers of the Midwest, not the oil cartels of the Middle East.
Securing our elections. The freedom to choose our leaders and know with full confidence that those leaders were chosen in free and fair elections is critical to our democracy. We must ensure those on the front-lines of administering elections are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to keep them safe and we also must take measures to prevent a foreign adversary from interfering in our elections.
Since coming to the Senate, I have fought to make America more secure by:
- Enacting into law the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. When I arrived in the Senate many of the important 9/11 Commission recommendations had been languishing for years. In my first six months as a senator, I helped pass the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act to provide our government with a blueprint to prevent future catastrophes and strengthen the resources available to our first responders. These critical reforms provide increased funding to protect our ports, borders, and critical infrastructure, including enhancing rail and aviation security.
- Ensuring that our troops have the resources and support they need to do their jobs and remain safe. I have traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan to see firsthand the actions of our brave Minnesotans in the field and to meet with U.S. military commanders and diplomatic leaders. I have been impressed by our military leadership, encouraged by the spirit of our soldiers, and honored to meet with Minnesota troops and thank them for their service and sacrifices on behalf of our nation. I came home with a commitment to give our troops stationed in combat zones the equipment and resources they need to successfully carry out their missions and to ensure they are treated with the respect they deserve when they return home. In the Senate, I have supported funding increases for better and safer equipment – including to provide our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with mine-resistant combat vehicles and individual troop body armor – and to address shortfalls in critical National Guard equipment. I fought for and voted in favor of the 2018 budget deal lifting the budget caps on both the Department of Defense and domestic discretionary programs so that the resources needed by both the military and our domestic law enforcement agencies is available. I also fought to create and secure funding for a national Yellow Ribbon program, based on the Minnesota National Guard’s ground-breaking model, to ensure that Guard members and their families have the support they need before, during, and after deployments. [See Veterans section for additional legislation and actions.]
- Supporting our National Guard and Reserves. The wars in Iran and Afghanistan have also highlighted the importance of our brave citizen-soldiers in the National Guard and Reserves and the unprecedented sacrifices they have been called upon to make over the past decades. I have been fighting to ensure that our National Guard has the tools and resources it needs to be successful. [See Veterans section.] I fought to help the Minnesota National Guard host one of the National Guard Cyber Protection Units. Hosting a Cyber Protection Team allows the Minnesota National Guard to serve as a national leader in the fight against cyber terrorism. I helped to bring Active Association status to the Bulldogs of the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth. This designation helped ensure the base’s long-term future and increased economic activity in the Duluth community. I also fought to get new fighter jets – the “Block 50” F-16s – to the 148th Fighter Wing by working to secure funding to help modernize base facilities and improve infrastructure at the Duluth airport.
- Supporting sanctions. Sanctions are a critical tool for responding to and discouraging hostile actors. That is why I fully supported the sanctions President Obama imposed against Russia in response to their interference with our democracy; North Korea in response to nuclear tests; and Iran in response to its ballistic missile program. The United States must continue to impose sanctions on hostile actors to both defend our democracy and discourage belligerent behavior. We must also stand with our friends when they are faced with aggression from adversaries. That is why I traveled to the Ukraine, the Baltic states, and Georgia in December of 2016 with Senators McCain and Graham. Our allies in eastern Europe deserve our support in the face of Russian aggression. I am continuing to work to ensure we reinforce our bipartisan commitment to strengthening our NATO alliances.
Supporting Israel. America and Israel are close allies whose interests in the Middle East and around the world remain strongly aligned. The deep and enduring friendship between our nations is based on values rooted in democracy and mutual strategic goals, and we must remain steadfast in our commitment to Israel’s security. That’s why I have strongly supported funding for security assistance to Israel, particularly for the Iron Dome missile defense system and the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016 that committed $38 billion in military aid to Israel over the next ten years. I have consistently supported additional funds in order to bolster this program. Last year, I was one of the first cosponsors of a bipartisan resolution objecting to the United Nations efforts to undermine direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinians for a secure and peaceful settlement. I also joined 97 of my Senate colleagues in voting for the authorization of additional sanctions against Iran
Support for foreign aid and keeping the State Department strong. Helping our friends and allies is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. Foreign aid is critical to helping address refugee crises, preventing radicalization and promoting stability around the world. The United States has a long and proud tradition of providing life-saving humanitarian assistance. We must continue to provide that assistance and maintain our standing in the world as a nation that comes to the aid of those in need. We must also provide the resources necessary for our Foreign Service and State Department to do their work as the civilian face of the United States overseas and I oppose the major reductions to the State Department budget proposed by the current Administration.
- Countering Violent Extremism. While we must continue to focus on the effort to degrade and dismantle ISIS and other terrorist groups with military operations overseas, we must also stem the tide of recruitment of both foreign fighters and homegrown terrorists in order to succeed. That is why I have repeatedly urged Congress and the White House for the strongest level of funding for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) efforts that promote community engagement and work to prevent radicalization. In 2014, Minnesota received $216,000 in federal funding to create a pilot program to address violent extremism. In 2015, I worked to authorize more than $50 million dollars to address CVE, including $10 million in local community grants. I will continue to push for funding for critical CVE efforts. In 2016 Minnesota received over $770,000 to support CVE programs.
- Increasing the security of our nation’s transportation networks. The 9/11 Commission Act included measures to improve rail and aviation security across the nation. I also worked with the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to implement the Secure Flight program, which modernizes and improves security – and makes it more efficient – before travelers even get to the airport. The program also strengthens our ability to identify and prevent potential threats, while reducing delays and inconveniences to American travelers caused by terrorist watch list misidentifications. I also helped bring additional security resources and personnel to our airports, including more canine teams at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport that help keep our airport safe and decrease wait times at security checkpoints. In 2012 I introduced the No-Hassle Flying Act which increases security by encouraging foreign airports to enhance their baggage screening equipment and helps increase efficiency and the passenger experience by eliminating the need to have bags re-screened here in the U.S. The bill was signed into law in 2012. TSA reported that the cost savings realized from the increased efficiency resulting from the bill was over $1 million annually.
- Keeping our airports secure. In order to improve safety and efficiency at our airports, I supported increasing the Department of Homeland Security’s budget by more than $62 million to hire more than 1,000 additional screeners. I also fought to pass an amendment that doubles the number of law enforcement teams that secure the ticket lines and baggage claim areas of our airports. That amendment passed in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill and was signed into law in 2016. I have also worked with the Minnesota Airport Council to ensure that vital security resources get to our airports. I helped secure approval of overtime, deployment of additional K-9 teams, and the deployment of newly-hired Transportation Security Officers to Minneapolis-St. Paul to permit more lanes to be opened. These measures improved the safety and efficiency of security screening at our airports and helped reduce wait times.
- Strengthening vetting for international travelers coming to the U.S. I worked with members from both sides of the aisle to introduce the Visa Waiver Program Security Enhancement Act that was signed into law in 2015 and requires additional biometric information and electronic passports for participation in the program and increasing information sharing between countries. Due to the additional biometric information required under the law terrorist are far less likely to access the program. I continue to work with the Department of Homeland Security to improve and strengthen the Visa Waiver Program.
- Providing first responders with life-saving communications tools. I was an original cosponsor of the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act to allow for state-of-the-art technology that will help first responders in both rural and urban communities at no cost to taxpayers. I helped pass legislation to implement a nationwide wireless network to allow our first responders to clearly communicate when disaster strikes and focus on doing what they do best – saving lives. As co-chair of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus, I worked with members from both parties to successfully reauthorize the federal 9-1-1 Coordination Office to manage the transition to the Next Generation 9-1-1 emergency response system. I have also passed legislation to require multi-line phone systems to have direct dial 9-1-1 functionality, which would make accessing first responders easier for those in need. This legislation was signed into law in February 2018.
- Promoting domestic energy production. Over the past few years, U.S. oil production has surpassed that of Saudi Arabia. Through a combination of increased U.S. oil production, biofuels, and increased gas mileage standards that I supported, the United States has the opportunity to continue to reduce its reliance on foreign oil and approach energy independence. I successfully included legislation in the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills providing incentives for U.S. farmers to grow the next generation of biofuel crops. I have also urged the administration to support biofuels infrastructure development and have pushed for strong renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. I have also supported efforts to promote the use of renewable fuels in military installations to sustain the long-term capabilities of our forces.
- Advocating for Minnesota interests in meetings with customs officials and residents of Minnesota’s border cities about how to secure our borders. I have worked to cut through the red tape that has been created by some new border crossing laws to help business travelers, tourists, hunters, anglers, and families. As part of this effort, I pushed for the creation of a U.S. passport card as an alternative document for U.S. citizens crossing our northern border to maintain the flow of commerce and tourism, while ensuring security. I also introduced the Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act to help improve border screening and infrastructure at our borders. This bipartisan legislation was signed into law in 2016 and helps use public-private partnerships to improve trade and security at our norther border. I was also a cosponsor of the Northern Border Security Review Act which was introduced by Senator Heitkamp and was signed into law in 2016. The law requires the Department of Homeland Security to provide Congress with regular security assessment reports on the northern border.
- Supporting our Ally Canada. A common border connects the United States and Canada, but our common values and ambitions are the true foundations of the unparalleled friendship between our two nations. As co-chair of the U.S. Interparliamentary Group I have had the honor of leading delegations of U.S. senators to the annual Canada-U.S. meetings to discuss common issues and challenges our two nations face. We are stronger and more secure when we stand together with Canada.
- Helping Minnesota businesses get access to the Cuban market. Improving relations with Cuba is something that I’ve been working on with people from all across our state. Increasing travel and commerce between our two countries will create new economic opportunities for American farmers and businesses and help improve the quality of life of Cubans. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has estimated that exports to Cuba would nearly double if the embargo were lifted, putting total farm exports at between $40-50 million per year. That is why I have introduced the bipartisan Freedom to Export to Cuba Act. My legislation lifts the trade embargo and knocks down the legal barriers to Americans doing business in Cuba. My bill would help open up new economic opportunities for American businesses and farmers by boosting U.S. exports and would also help improve the lives of everyday Cubans by allowing them greater access to American products and services. I have successfully pressed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow direct flights between Minnesota and Cuba. I also convened a summit in Minnesota focused on ways to improve U.S.-Cuba relations and testified before the International Trade Commission to highlight the economic benefits of boosting American exports to Cuba.
- Global Health Response. The spread of viruses like Ebola and Zika threaten our national security. The best way to stop the spread of dangerous viruses is to address the outbreaks at the source. I fought to get more than $5 billion in funding to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including more significant investments in humanitarian aid and assistance to improve health care infrastructure. I also pushed for an immediate response to the Zika virus in the United States. As Chair of the Senate Steering and Outreach Committee, I brought together leading medical experts, public health officials from across the country, and other senators to discuss the need for congressional action on the president's emergency funding request to control the spread of the Zika virus. I also hosted a roundtable discussion at the University of Minnesota with local and national leaders to discuss Zika educational and outreach efforts in Minnesota and federal efforts to support local prevention measures and research. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $200,000 to Minnesota for Zika detection and preparedness.
- Demanding accountability for American taxpayer funds. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed disturbing revelations that billions of dollars in American taxpayer money was lost to corruption, fraud, and waste. There must be accountability for reconstruction funds that are intended to provide the Iraqi and Afghan people with the meaningful economic assistance they need to rebuild their respective countries. Illegal and unethical practices not only undermine reconstruction efforts – they hurt our troops in the field and impair their ability to carry out critical missions. When I first came to the Senate, I co-sponsored a bipartisan provision in the Defense Authorization bill that established an independent commission to increase transparency and accountability in wartime contracting. The commission, modeled after the famous Truman Commission during World War II, helps to ensure accountability for U.S. tax dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have also repeatedly voted to cut funding for programs the Defense Department has found to be unnecessary – including the F-35 alternate engine, the C-17 aircraft, and the F-22 Raptor fighter program – to ensure our defense budget is focused on the programs and technologies we need to strengthen our Armed Forces.
- Securing our elections and stopping foreign influence. Our top intelligence agencies confirmed Russia interfered in our election, launched cyberattacks against at least 21 state election systems, and are currently working to undermine upcoming elections. Right now there are more than 40 states that rely on electronic voting systems that are at least 10 years old and many election officials do not have the information they need about potential cyber threats. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, which would establish that alarm system by providing resources and information to upgrade and protect our election infrastructure. The bill also ensures the Department of Homeland Security shares election cybersecurity threats and information with state, county, and municipal election agencies. We also have to make sure our elections are free from foreign influence campaigns and there are rules of the road in place for social media that includes disclaimers on ads and increased transparency and disclosure. The law banning foreign contributions to U.S. elections has not been updated for more than fifty years. This means that current disclosure requirements for online campaign contributions do not fully protect our election system from foreign interference. That is why I introduced the Honest Ads Act with Senators McCain and Warner that would strengthen accountability and transparency by holding political ads sold online to the same standards currently in place for television and radio.
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