Our hearts go out to the victims of the tragic terrorist attack in New Zealand today. Sen. Warner expressed his condolences and solidarity for the victims this morning, saying:
My heart breaks for the victims of the terrorist attack in New Zealand. Let’s keep the Muslim community in our prayers and stand against the hateful ideology that is behind these attacks on places of worship.
Here’s your Warner Weekly Wrap-up:
This week, Sen. Warner continued his fight for improvements to conditions in military housing. On Monday, Sen Warner held a housing roundtable with military families in Newport News. On Thursday, Sens. Warner and Kaine traveled to Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper. While on base, the Senators visited military family homes and listened to servicemembers and their families at a roundtable discussion.
For months, Sen. Warner has been sounding the alarm on substandard housing conditions in military housing units run by private contractors — following pervasive allegations of health hazards – including lead poisoning, cockroaches, mice, mold blooms and water leaks.
Last week, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, which would create stronger oversight mechanisms, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.
Provisions of the bill include:
• Basic allowance for housing: The installation commander shall withhold payment of a service member’s housing allowance until a military housing official has inspected an environmental, safety or health hazard, verified that appropriate remediation has taken place, and the service member concurs that the remediation is satisfactory. In the case that the hazard requires the service member to leave the housing unit, the housing company will pay all relocation costs.
• Housing costs: Ensures service members don’t have to pay a deposit, and any fee or penalty related to ending a lease early, except for normal wear and tear. The bill also requires contractors to reimburse service members for damage to their private property caused by a hazard.
• Withholding incentive fees: Requires the Secretary of Defense to withhold incentive fees to any contractor who persistently fails to remedy hazards.
• Common credentials: Creates standard credentials for health, safety and environmental inspectors across services, and including contractors, to ensure consistent inspection practices.
• Additional transparency for service members: Requires the Defense Department to establish an electronic system so that service members can track and oversee their work orders.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been outspoken advocates for service members and their families, pressing the Defense Department to address the health and safety hazards on military bases across Virginia. In August, Sens. Warner and Kaine asked the Army for a plan to address the dangerous conditions found on its bases, including Fort Belvoir in Virginia. In February, Sen. Warner met with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, pressing for steps the Department plans to take to resolve serious health hazards in military housing.
In February, the Senators wrote to the Secretaries of the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army, urging each branch to make improving military housing conditions a priority and requesting more information on the existing contracts with several private companies that manage thousands of family housing units at military bases across Virginia. In November, Sen. Warner also wrote to then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressing what the Senator termed “unacceptable conditions” in the homes, and demanded a briefing from the Defense Department on the situation as well as a plan from the Defense Department to ensure the safety of military families residing in private housing moving forward.
This week, Sen. Warner announced stunning new numbers highlighting the crumbling state of national parks in Virginia. He continued to emphasize the need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act – bipartisan legislation endorsed by the Trump Administration – to address the maintenance backlog at national parks across the country.
These numbers from the National Park Service (NPS) show that despite completing more than $671 million in needed repair work in the 2018 fiscal year, the national backlog of deferred maintenance needs grew by more than $313 million last year, bringing the total cost of overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites across the country to $11.9 billion. In Virginia alone, the backlog grew by $100 million last year, leading to a $1.1 billion shortfall for Commonwealth’s park sites.
One of the major increases came from deferred maintenance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This week, Sen. Warner met with Parkway superintendent J.D. Lee at Warner’s office in Washington, D.C. In the meeting, Warner and Lee discussed the fact that deferred maintenance on the Blue Ridge Parkway increased by more than $46 million in 2018, bringing the total for the parkway to $508,077,342, including $212,702,891 in Virginia alone. Sen. Warner also reiterated the need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act.
The Restore Our Parks Act has widespread support among legislators and conservation groups. It would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.
Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act in February along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME). A similar bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and has the backing of more than 120 cosponsors.
VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2018 is available here. The chart below reflects VA data for FY17 and FY18.
FY17 Deferred Maintenance
FY18 Deferred Maintenance
|Appomattox Court House National Historical Park||$1,998,224||$3,263,249||$1,265,025|
|Assateague Island NS||$2,774,577||$2,545,865||– $228,712|
|Blue Ridge Parkway||$186,619,608||$212,702,891||$26,083,283|
|Booker T Washington National Monument||$1,370,913||$1,418,420||$47,507|
|Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP||$327,072||$823,242||$496,170|
|Colonial National Historical Park||$421,872,932||$433,899,266||$12,026,334|
|Cumberland Gap National Historical Park||$1,848,864||$1,805,537||– $43,327|
|Fort Monroe National Monument||$2,280,548||$2,495,127||$214,579|
|Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP||$10,371,731||$12,688,403||$2,316,672|
|George Washington Birthplace National Monument||$1,306,614||$1,648,576||$341,962|
|George Washington Memorial Parkway||$233,441,316||$293,494,667||$60,053,351|
|Harpers Ferry National Historical Park||$64,760||$498,101||$433,341|
|Maggie L Walker National Historic Site||$531,648||$702,422||$170,774|
|Manassas National Battlefield Park||$6,516,560||$8,186,965||$1,670,405|
|Petersburg National Battlefield||$11,754,041||$8,924,807||– $2,829,234|
|Prince William Forest Park||$18,619,932||$24,148,020||$5,528,088|
|Richmond National Battlefield Park||$6,581,205||$5,261,371||– $1,319,834|
|Shenandoah National Park||$79,208,621||$88,765,195||$9,556,574|
|Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts||$31,149,289||$34,175,868||$3,026,579|
Some highlights from Sen. Warner’s busy week:
• GALLING: On Monday, Sen. Warner responded to the President’s budget proposal and highlighted the draconian cuts to critical programs like medical research, education, environmental protection, transportation, and health care, as well is its provisions that single out federal workers.
• SCAMMERS: This week, Sen. Warner and Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the Securities Fraud Enforcement and Investor Compensation Act, bipartisan legislation that would give the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) power to seek restitution for Main Street investors harmed by securities fraud.
• CLEARANCE: Along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to protect the integrity of the security clearance process and ensure that it cannot be abused for political purposes.
• IT’S POLITICAL: Sen. Warner took Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger to task for her efforts to gut consumer protection rules concerning payday loans.
• FOOD DESERTS: This week, Sen. Warner reintroduced bipartisan legislation to increase access to grocery stores in areas designated as “food deserts.”
• INTERNET OF THINGS: Sen. Warner reintroduced the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, which would require that devices purchased by the U.S. government meet certain minimum security requirements.
The Senate adjourned yesterday for its March recess and will return on Monday, March 25th.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: April 13th, 2019
Last November, I was honored to be sent to Congress by the voters of Virginia’s Sixth District. A majority of voters supported my plans to stand up for our common-sense conservative values and cut through the bureaucratic red tape that paralyzes our Federal government. During my first 100 days in office, I have found a House of Representatives in worse shape than even the most skeptical critic would expect. It is rudderless, inefficient, and gridlocked in partisan trench warfare. Despite the problems, however, I have also found reason for optimism as I find others who want to work on bipartisan solutions that can make a difference for folks here in Virginia and across our Nation.
In Congress, the debates over issues like ending illegal immigration often degenerate into the gridlock for which Washington is known. But one ray of hope during my first 100 days in office was when dozens of Democrats joined with Republicans and voted in favor of language similar to a bill I introduced, the Notify ICE Act. My bill would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) be notified if an illegal immigrant failed a firearms background check due to his or her immigration status. It was added to another bill through a legislative procedure called the motion to recommit. It took a lot of work and my colleagues and I suffered several setbacks throughout the process, but the floor vote was a rare show of bipartisanship when the motion passed the House with 29 Democrats joining Republicans to support this bill.
A piece of legislation important to the Sixth Congressional District was also recently signed into law by President Donald Trump. My bill designating the National George C. Marshall Library and Museum at Virginia Military Institute puts Lexington on the map for World War II scholars and lovers of history, honoring the life of one of VMI’s most celebrated and accomplished graduates. This legislation brings a renewed focus on the life of the man who is credited with the plan to rebuild Europe after the war, and it will help attract needed tourist dollars to the region and enhance the regional economy.
Since becoming the 35th congressman from the Sixth Congressional District on January 3, I have not only introduced the aforementioned two bills, but I have also co-sponsored 15 more which will benefit all Virginians. One of these bills, the Death Tax Repeal Act, is a bill which would benefit farmers and ranchers across the Sixth Congressional District. The men and women who raise our cattle, plant our crops, and feed America know how harmful the death tax has been to families in the agriculture industry. A repeal of this tax allows our working farm families to maintain their small businesses across generations.
Constituent services are another important part of representing the Sixth District, and nearly 450 constituent requests for assistance with a Federal agency have arrived at my office in the first 100 days of this congressional term. By far, the largest number involved the Veterans Administration, Social Security, and Medicare. I am pleased to report that almost 50 percent of these have already been completed. In addition, nearly 10,000 constituents have received responses to letters they have written to my office.
Communication with constituents helps to inform my votes in Congress and the legislation I introduce. In addition to written correspondence, I have been visiting communities all across the Sixth Congressional District. Since the November election, I have held seven town halls and listening sessions, beginning in Roanoke City and continuing across the Sixth District, from Lynchburg up to Front Royal. My staff has also hosted 66 mobile office hours, and I have spoken to students at 11 schools and at different events in cities and towns across the Sixth Congressional District.
I have been privileged to meet with thousands of constituents, introduce several bills, and cut through red tape in my first 100 days in office, but there is much more to do. In one of my first speeches after being sworn in, I reintroduced four words to Congress that Washington needs to hear again and again: we can’t afford it. I will continue to stand for fiscal responsibility and our Constitutional liberties as this session of Congress continues. I can’t do this without hearing from you. Visit cline.house.gov to make your voice heard or call me at (202) 225-5631.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – April 6th
Perhaps the most interesting conversations on policy and the role of government occur when I am afforded the opportunity to meet one on one with constituents from across the Sixth Congressional District, hearing their thoughts on legislation, how government overreach is impacting their families, or how I can help them navigate government red tape. This week started with a meeting at Luray High School, where I spoke with Mrs. Baldwin’s senior government class and fielded a wide range of questions on the Constitution, items in the news, and the work we are doing in Congress.
Over the last three months, I have been privileged to answer questions from hundreds of students in all parts of the Sixth. While questions vary, there has been a consistent theme – hope for a brighter future. Students in the Sixth Congressional District are the same as Americans from all walks of life. They want the opportunity to graduate, possibly attend college or trade school, raise a family, and achieve the American dream. I tell each class with whom I meet that our job in Congress is to protect their liberties, remove the barriers that would hold them back, and allow them the opportunity to succeed.
Just as America has flourished since World War II, growing the economy and making the American dream accessible to a growing number of our citizens, individuals in other parts of the world want the same opportunities, as well. In the years following the end of World War II, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO, was formed as a military alliance among member states. Citizens of NATO member states strive for the same economic freedom we enjoy in America. That is why NATO is so important, standing as a defense against hostile adversaries.
This week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addressed a Joint Session of Congress and spoke of NATO’s positive impact 70 years after its formation. He also noted the challenges facing NATO, which has grown from 12 to 29 member states. Stoltenberg said President Donald Trump’s mission to increase defense spending by member states “is having a real impact.” Each member nation is obligated to contribute 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to defense spending. A report from NATO last month showed only seven nations were meeting such targets, including the United States at 3.9% of GDP, though the numbers have started to shift. Stoltenberg said just last month that member nations have increased spending by nearly 4%, adding $41 billion in defense spending as a result of President Trump’s calls for member states to meet their obligations. Stoltenberg expects that number to increase to $100 billion “by the end of next year.”
It was encouraging to hear from the NATO Secretary General and see President Trump’s pressure result in more countries meeting their goals. I voted to protect the President’s ability to pressure NATO members earlier this year, because NATO must remain a strong alliance for the security of the United States and its allies. In times of war, our NATO partners have played important roles in our victories. We must continue to hold our allies to their obligations in order for NATO to continue to be an effective tool for peace in our world.
In addition to hearing from the NATO chief, we took action on other items in Congress. I joined many of my House colleagues Tuesday to sign a discharge petition aimed at demanding a vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The bill extends legal protections to infants who survive an abortion procedure, including the right to receive medical care. We have seen a concerted effort this year to expand abortion up to and beyond the point of birth in the Commonwealth and other states. Twenty-five times this year, Republicans have asked for a vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has denied each of our requests. That is why I joined Whip Scalise, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, and many of my colleagues Tuesday to call on a vote through the discharge petition and declare that we are a nation that stands against infanticide.
Representing the Sixth Congressional District is a responsibility I take very seriously. Thank you for the opportunity to stand for the rule of law, fight partisan overreach, and stand for life as your representative in Congress.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: March 30, 2019
The Mueller Report was filed on Friday, March 22, and Attorney General William Barr summarized findings in a letter to Congress on Sunday, March 24. In the Attorney General’s letter, Congress and the American people were informed of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year, $25 million investigation. The conclusion? The Special Counsel did not find that the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in their efforts to interfere with the 2016 US Presidential Campaign.
As Americans, we should all be relieved that the investigation into potential collusion with a foreign government found no collusion, but many on the left are not satisfied. Democratic House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and his colleagues have started a congressional investigation with 81 people receiving subpoenas so far and no telling how many more tax dollars going to waste on an investigation which is already complete. As I told WSHV-TV 3 on Wednesday, it is time to move on and get to work for the American people. We have real issues facing our country, from renewal of the higher education bill to addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure. That is why I encourage my colleagues to refocus their efforts on policy and not politics.
Addressing the concerns of the Sixth Congressional District is exactly what I did on Wednesday as I joined Republican Whip Steve Scalise and my colleagues on the House Energy Action Team to hold a press conference demanding a vote on the ridiculous Green New Deal in the House of Representatives.
The Green New Deal is a terrible idea. It is an attack on agriculture and our way of life in Virginia and the entire country. In the Commonwealth alone, agriculture and forestry have an economic impact of $91 billion and support over 400,000 jobs. If the radical left’s attempt to reverse the Industrial Revolution becomes law, farmers and many others would lose their livelihoods while local economies would be wrecked. In the Sixth Congressional District and all over America, we know the Green New Deal will not work. That is why we are calling for a House vote to once and for all put this bad policy out to pasture.
Before traveling to Washington on Monday, I visited Total Action Against Poverty (TAP) in Roanoke, a community action agency working to help community members improve their own lives.
One service that TAP provides is the weatherization of homes. Last year, TAP weatherized 32 homes in the City of Roanoke. One of those homes belongs to the Vance Family, with whom I met during Monday’s visit. Because of TAP’s weatherization program, they save nearly $30 per month on utilities. Further, the Vance’s neighbors also shared how TAP located a small carbon monoxide leak in their home, likely averting a life-threatening disaster for the family.
I thank the senior leadership of TAP for taking time to inform me on its work in southwest Virginia. If you see me out in your community, please say hello and let me know if you need assistance with a federal agency or call my office at (540) 857-2672. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Warner, Kaine praise recommendation by Air Force to permanently house F-22 Training Unit in Hampton Roads
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced that the Air Force recommends relocating the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton Roads:
“We are pleased that after careful evaluation, the U.S. Air Force has determined that Joint Base Langley-Eustis should permanently house the F-22 training squadron. There is nowhere better to house these aircraft, the unit and supporting personnel and their families than Hampton Roads – a region celebrated for its defense assets and long history of strengthening our nation’s national security. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard as it moves forward with the relocation process.”
While Joint Base-Langley Eustis (JBLE) is designed to accommodate three squadrons, the base currently houses two squadrons. In February, Sens. Warner and Kaine led the entire Virginia delegation in a letter urging the Air Force Secretary to permanently house the F-22 training squadron at JBLE after Hurricane Michael devastated Tyndall Air Force Base. The unit was then temporarily relocated to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida while the Air Force determined the most appropriate permanent home for the Formal Training Unit.
Today, the U.S. Air Force announced that it has determined JBLE is the most suitable F-22 location to support Formal Training Unit operations. The Air Force will make its final basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.
Congressman Ben Cline’s office to host Service Academy Day in Roanoke
ROANOKE, Virginia – The office of Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) will host Service Academy Day on Saturday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke.
Students and their parents will be provided information on the application, nomination, selection, and appointment processes. Representatives will be present to provide information and answer questions about the various service academies:
• The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York;
• The United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland;
• The United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
An academy appointment has an estimated value of over $400,000 and admission is competitive. Each academy selects nominees based on moral character, scholastic achievement, physical fitness, leadership, and college admission test scores. The earlier a student begins preparation, the more competitive that student will be in the process.
More information on Service Academy Day and the nomination process may be found by visiting https://cline.house.gov/services/military-academy-nominations or calling Congressman Cline’s office at (434) 845-8306.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: March 23, 2019
This week has been a District Work Week for Congress and being back with the great people of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District serves as a constant reminder of how lucky I am to represent them in Congress. It was refreshing to travel the Sixth Congressional District to listen to constituents, meet with business owners, visit with high school classes, gain insight from a higher education facility, and hold two town hall meetings.
With over 20 colleges and universities in Virginia’s Sixth District, it is important that Congress address the issues facing education. As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I have been hard at work listening to the concerns of students and administrators about the price of education and how to make college education more affordable. The price of a college education continues to rise, which has made pursuit of a college degree difficult. No one should have to miss out on the opportunity to receive a college education because of cost.
One example of innovation and cost cutting in higher education is the Roanoke Higher Education Center, which I visited Monday. This center offers over 300 different programs offered by 11 organizations, including universities and nonprofits, and has assisted over 10,000 students in completing programs at a more affordable rate than an average 4-year program. Recently graduated high school students are most likely to take advantage of programs like the ones offered at the Roanoke Higher Education Center.
While in Roanoke, I took time to meet with seniors at Faith Christian School. I also visited government students at Central Virginia Community College’s Amherst Campus, Bath County High School, and E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg this week. Students at all four schools applied what they have learned in government classes to ask insightful questions about the role of government and how to get involved in the political process. I always enjoy these visits and thank each school for the opportunity to meet with students.
In addition to addressing students across the Sixth Congressional District, I also had the opportunity to meet with many residents at town halls in Bath and Warren Counties. Town hall events like those in Bath and Warren Counties give me the opportunity to hear directly from citizens about the issues that families are discussing around the dinner table and at the coffee shop. These listening sessions allow me to understand their views and take them back to Washington.
If you were unable to attend a town hall event, know that my office is always available to assist you. You may contact any of my offices using the following phone numbers:
• Harrisonburg: (540) 432-2391
• Lynchburg: (434) 845-8306
• Roanoke: (540) 857-2672
• Staunton: (540) 885-3861
• Washington: (202) 225-5431
If you would like to meet a member of my staff in your local community, they host recurring casework mobile office hours across the Sixth Congressional District. Casework staff mobile office hours are available to assist with a federal agency or allow you to share concerns. The following casework staff mobile office hours will take place next week.
• Vinton Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 – 8:30am
Vinton Town Hall (Conference Room)
311 South Pollard Street
Vinton, VA 24179
• Montvale Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 26, 2019 – 3:30pm
11575 West Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike
Montvale, VA 24122
Additional casework staff mobile office hours will be announced for the first week of April. A complete list of mobile office hours, town halls, and other events may be found by visiting http://cline.house.gov/about/events and looking under “Upcoming Events.”
My office also nominates high school graduates to our nation’s service academies. It is not an easy path, but nomination and admission to one of our nation’s service academies – the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – provides a world class education for all who attend.
A Service Academy Day will take place Saturday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke. If you are a high school sophomore or junior interested in attending one of the nation’s service academies, this information day is for you. Meet with academy representatives and get the information you need to be prepared for admission to some of our nation’s most elite institutions.
Finally, I would like to note the 40 individuals welcomed to our country as citizens this week in Harrisonburg. These men and women come from all walks of life. Some came from communist nations and others from war zones. Despite our varying backgrounds, we are now united as Americans. It was moving to see each take an oath of allegiance to the United States and wave the American flag with pride. I encouraged each new citizen to get involved in their community and the political process.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your reben clineben clinepresentative.