Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – February 6, 2023
The House of Representatives was full steam ahead this week as we work to get our country back on track. The Judiciary Committee heard from victims and personnel on the ground regarding the devastating impacts of the border crisis. Also, the House passed two pieces of legislation to get federal employees back to the office and to denounce the devastating ideology of socialism. Additionally, I was proud to celebrate the Woodstock Fire Department’s 200th anniversary and enjoyed meeting with constituents throughout the Capitol. The President is set to address the Nation during the annual State of the Union next week. As we face multi-faceted crises created by Joe Biden’s ineptitude, from sky-high inflation to the open border to high energy prices, House Republicans will continue working for the American people.
Returning to Law and Order, Securing the Border
Restoring law and order in America begins with securing our southern border. The House Judiciary Committee has oversight of the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and we began the first of many hearings on the Biden administration’s disastrous handling of the southern border. We heard from a father who lost his 15-year-old son to fentanyl poisoning by a drug dealer who sold counterfeit pills. We also heard from Sheriff Mark Dannels of Cochise County, Arizona, who told us that the criminal cartels are exploiting the border, and enslaving illegal migrants in drug smuggling and sex trafficking operations.
The facts speak to the need to address this crisis:
-4.7 million illegal crossings since Biden took office
-251,487 migrant encounters at the border in December alone, and 70,000 ‘got-aways’
-38 illegal immigrants on the Terrorist Screening Database have been apprehended attempting to cross the border so far in this fiscal year since October
This crisis must be fixed not only by oversight and exposure, but by a change in failed policy. The Biden administration must end ‘catch and release,’ fully reimplement ‘Remain in Mexico,’ and finish border wall construction. If the administration does not come to the table to fix these policies, there will be consequences, especially for DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas due to his dereliction of duty to protect the homeland. To address this crisis, I’ve supported H.R. 597, the Stop the Cartels Act, which would rapidly combat the cartels’ human trafficking operations and stop the flow of illegal migrants by imposing harsher punishments on the cartels. I’ve also cosponsored H.R. 29, the Border Safety and Security Act, which would tackle the flooding of migrants at our border by requiring DHS to turn away illegal migrants who do not have valid documents to enter the U.S., while requiring detainment for legitimate asylum claims as adjudication proceeds. House Judiciary Republicans have many more questions ahead on the Biden administration’s catastrophe at the southern border, and I look forward to getting answers the American people deserve.
The President’s Late Budget and the Fiscal Crisis
President Biden is on track to miss his deadline of the first Monday of February to submit a budget for the third year in a row, delaying the budget process. Equally troubling is that the President and his administration have shown no signs that they intend to offer a balanced budget. As the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) Budget and Spending Task Force, I, along with RSC Chairman Rep. Kevin Hern and our colleagues, wrote to President Biden demanding answers on this failure and urging swift action on the budget process, as the national debt breaches the current limit of $31.4 trillion. With the new 118th Congress, Democrats and Republicans must take this opportunity to fix our Nation’s unsustainable financial trajectory, but cannot get the ball rolling until the president submits a budget to Congress. President Biden needs to do his job so we can begin ours. To read our letter, click here.
Denouncing the Horrors of Socialism
For decades, the embrace of socialist ideologies around the world has led to evil regimes denying their people of their fundamental human rights, and subjecting them to imprisonment and abuse. Socialism has led to painful human tragedy such as starvation, torture, and mass murder – taking more than 100 million lives around the world. I am pleased that the House passed H. Con. Res. 9, which describes some of the horrors perpetuated by socialist regimes, denounces socialism in all its forms, and voices opposition to implementing socialist policies in the United States of America. The House of Representatives should unequivocally repudiate socialism, which is antithetical to American values and the Founding Fathers’ belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This resolution makes clear that we must always ensure dangerous, socialist, un-American policies are never brought to pass in our great Nation. To watch my speech on the House Floor in support of the resolution to denounce socialism and advance American freedom, click here.
The SHOW UP Act
Americans have suffered because of the federal government’s detrimental pandemic-era telework policies. I’ve heard from many constituents in the District on how they’ve been negatively impacted by federal agencies allowing their taxpayer-funded employees to stay home. If the American people are expected to show up to work, federal employees should be held to the same standard. That’s why the People’s House passed legislation, H.R. 139, the SHOW UP Act, which would end teleworking for federal employees and require them to return to the office and do their jobs, just like hardworking Americans do every day. President Biden said the “pandemic is over.” America is back to work, and the federal government must be too.
Woodstock Fire Department’s 200th Anniversary
I was pleased to recognize the 200th anniversary of the all-volunteer Woodstock Fire Department. Tracing its history back to 1823, the department has served the Shenandoah Valley as one of the oldest departments in the Commonwealth and the Nation. Today, the department has 40 active volunteers and is led by Captain Zach Hottel, a third-generation volunteer himself. The Woodstock Fire Department is commemorating its founding of February 8, 1823, with a “Bicentennial Birthday Bash” at the Woodstock Fire Station. I am thankful to the firefighters and department personnel for their service, and I wish them another 200 years of success in serving the Valley.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
This week’s showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of February 10th
Are you looking for the full movie-going experience without having to wait in the long lines that often accompany that experience? Then look no further because Royal Cinemas movie theatre is the answer. Get the whole gang together and enjoy a movie! Reserved seating in all auditoriums.
Here is a list of this week’s showtimes at Royal Cinemas as of Friday, February 10:
Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adult: $10
- Child (under 12): $7
- Military: $8
- Student (college): $8
- Senior: $8
- Matinees, All Seating: $7
Thursday Feb. 16th – “Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”
@ 6:00 (2D) and 8:50 (3D)
- “Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”
- “Creed III”
- “SHAZAM!: Fury Of The Gods”
- “Super Mario Bros.”
New Cold War in Ukraine
This semester as I am teaching a class on the Cold War, it seems as if the major comparison we are discussing is the war in Ukraine. I am grateful this war is still on students’ minds, as often with tragedies like Ukraine there is a great deal of emotion at first that wanes over time. I assume that is what Putin was hoping for, waiting until the world stopped caring. Yet instead, we have recently learned the U.S. and others are sending the Ukraine tanks but stopped short of sending jets. The question my students have asked is would we have handled this differently during the Cold War? It’s a good question and one without a simple answer as each president is different, yet during the Cold War we did have the foreign policy of containment to help guide our decisions.
Considering it’s been 34 years since the fall of communism, it might be worth reviewing the concept of containment. It was, for good or bad, our foreign policy for the second half of the 20th century and influenced Americans in almost every aspect of their lives. The term and the concept came from a 1947 article in The Journal of Foreign Affairs, titled “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” and written by someone calling himself Mr. X. George Kennan had written the “long telegram” to the State Department the year before, but it had not received much traction. The following year he wrote basically the same thing anonymously for the journal.
Kennan was a career diplomat and a leading expert on the Soviet Union. He took a similar approach towards the Soviet Union as we take today, that the Russians are good people but are led by bad ones who cannot be trusted. While this sounds like common sense today, in 1945 we had just come off an alliance with Stalinist Russia in fighting WWII. During that time, we portrayed Stalin as a firm but fair leader and President Truman believed he could work with him. Kennan disagreed.
Kennan put forth two key concepts that he believed drove the Soviet government, the need for a repressive dictatorship at home and a belief that the West/Capitalism would never accept a communist government. It was the second that justified the first. Stalin had previously argued that eventually the world would divide into two “centres,” the socialists centers and the capitalist centers, and that the fate of the world would come down to which side won the battle between them.
Kennan also argued that for communism to survive it needed to expand but that Stalin was more concerned with security at home than expansion of communism. This is where containment came into play. The Soviets would only expand if allowed to by American weakness. If America and its allies showed enough strength, they could contain communism to its current borders with their military or economic strength. America did not always actually have to fight, just convince Stalin they would. This meant the U.S and allies would have to spend billions of dollars and be willing to send troops to remote corners of the globe to stop them. If Stalin believed the U.S. would fight, he would push but ultimately not risk war. We would have to fight proxy wars across Asia, South America, and the Middle East, but Russia would never go head-to-head against the U.S. so long as they believed we fought fight back. It was about containing communism, not pushing it back.
An early example of a successful containment policy was Berlin. After the World War II, both Germany and Berlin were divided between the Russian-controlled communist side and the American/British democratic side. Berlin was in the heart of communist East Germany and Stalin decided to cut off road access to the city from West Germany. Instead of attacking or allowing West Berlin to fall, America began a fifteen-month airlift where American pilots flew around the clock bringing West Berliners everything they needed to survive. Stalin could have stopped the U.S. by shooting down American planes but that would have led to war. Eventually, knowing the airlift made him look bad, Stalin opened the road back up. With the Berlin Airlift, Russia acted and America reacted in kind and contained communism to its current borders. If only it was always so easy. Other containment examples include the Korean and Vietnam War, both of which cost American lives and only Korea was successful.
In the end, democracy won out over communism, but it is debatable whether containment was the cause. It was not always a perfect policy. It forced the U.S. to side with those who did not stand for what America believed in simply because regimes opposed communism, groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan or despotic governments like the Ngo Dinh Diem administration in Vietnam. However, the Soviet Union did fall. It is impossible to answer if containment would still work today, yet it is hard to imagine Russia’s invasion of Ukraine if they thought they would face American troops. It is difficult to know how Putin chose when to invade. He did so in 2014 when he captured Crimea and then again in 2022 with the current invasion. The space in between was during the Trump years. While Trump did use more Cold War rhetoric, future historians will have to decide once this crisis has passed.
Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.
Warner, Kaine urge repeal of defunct same-sex marriage ban and more Va. headlines
• The 6-year-old Newport News boy who shot his elementary school teacher allegedly choked a different teacher “until she couldn’t breathe” in a prior incident at the school, according to a new legal filing by the wounded teacher’s lawyer.—Associated Press
• Virginia’s politically divided legislature and short session mean lots of bills are dying, and others that aren’t dead yet have little hope of survival.—Roanoke Times
• U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine sent the General Assembly a letter officially backing the repeal of Virginia’s antiquated 2006 ban on same-sex marriage. “It is long past time that Virginia’s governing document conveys to same-sex marriages the same freedoms, rights, and responsibilities that are afforded to all other constitutional marriages,” the senators wrote.—Richmond Times-Dispatch
• The Republican-controlled House of Delegates did not take up a Democratic bill that would have barred people convicted of insurrection-related charges from holding government jobs in Virginia.—VPM
• A central Virginia man is a national mustache champion who spends 20 minutes per day styling his ‘stache and sleeps with a special pillow to “preserve the shape of his handiwork.”—Washington Post
by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury
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$pecial $weets for your Valentine
If your lover loves chocolates, then maybe any heart-shaped box will do, but if you have a cool $14,000 around, try the Gargantua by The Ross.
Packed in a hexagonal box of pure volcanic glass is a collection of just six chocolate pieces. That’s more than $2,333 each if you are counting, but if you are, you won’t be buying. Each piece represents a natural element, including an octahedron for air, an icosahedron for water, and a dodecahedron for ether. The pieces are wrapped in gold leaf. Hurry! They only make 1,000 boxes, making it the ultimate vanity gift.
There are many expensive types of candy for gifts, each with a special claim to fame.
Slightly lower on the expense scale, but still pretty salty, are Fran’s Salted Caramels. If your sweetie really loves caramels, buy 160 pieces for $275. You get a lovely wrapped box of caramel with milk chocolate sprinkled with sea salt that has allegedly been smoked over oak. And not just any oak — Welsh oak. You can also get 17 pieces for a sweeter $17.
For the bonbon lover, try Dandelion Chocolate Company, where $65 buys 21 pieces in the Classic Box of Chocolates. The big draw: You’ll know where this single-origin dark chocolate comes from. You won’t associate with any pedestrian chocolate in this box containing flavors like passionfruit and pistachio.
For a treat that transforms your “chocolate into a powerful force,” try Vosges Chocolate’s Prima Materia Truffle Collection.
For $95, you get 20 truffles shaped like little colorful planets and packaged in a round, earthy box. In every box, you get a tasting and breathing guide to appreciate flavors like Cornish Apple and Armenian Apricot fully. They also make a Grateful Dead collection, another powerful force.
The party is over for tax credits
The big tax perks after the pandemic are reduced this year. Parents won’t be getting checks, but they will still have a (smaller) credit to use against taxes owed.
The Child Tax Credit was boosted for the 2021 tax year to $3,600 for children younger than 5 and $3,000 for kids 6 to 17. For the 2022 tax year, the child tax credit will drop to $2,000 for all children 16 and under. Some low-income earners may receive a partial tax credit of up to $1,500. Children 17 years of age no longer generate a tax credit.
The Child and Dependent tax credit was also boosted in 2021 to a max of 50% of costs up to $8,000 per child (max 2 kids) but will drop in 2022 to a max of 35% up to $3,000 per child (max 2 kids). Last year, the credit was fully refundable, but for 2022 it’s non-refundable.
Further, tax deductions for charitable gifts will also be less generous. Many Americans depended on charities for food and other vital services when the pandemic was still in full swing. In response, lawmakers increased incentives to make cash donations, which are expiring. So if you’re used to giving, for better or worse, tax authorities may be taking more this time around.
The Earned Income Tax Credit was also expanded in 2021 but is set to decline in 2022. For the 2021 tax year, the qualifying age dropped from 25 to 19, but it’ll now return to 25. The maximum EITC credit for childless workers will also decline from $1,502 to $560.