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Legislative Update

Pressure on Senate Intelligence Committee to deliver on Russia inquiry



By Carl Hulse, New York Times

It does most of its work in secret, can be highly partisan and its members consider it a thankless job with few political benefits. But the Senate Intelligence Committee is suddenly central to a capital increasingly rattled by Trump administration turmoil.

With House Republicans showing little appetite for pursuing an inquiry into links between Russia and the new White House and the chances remote of an independent investigative commission being created, the Senate panel has — at least for the moment — chief responsibility for getting to the bottom of events surrounding the resignation of Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser and any foreign meddling in the presidential election.

Whether members of the committee can succeed is a vexing question. The panel split bitterly over an investigation into George W. Bush-era torture of terror detainees, and Senate Republicans are leery of being lured into a Democratic effort to undermine a new Republican president who could help them achieve their long-sought legislative goals.

Senator Richard M. Burr, the North Carolina Republican who leads the committee, last month indicated some reluctance about pursuing contacts between the Trump team and Russia before he and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, who has taken over the top Democratic spot on the panel, one day later issued a letter saying the committee would seek to “have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States.” The clear sense on Capitol Hill was that Mr. Warner had dragged his Republican colleague into accepting an aggressive inquiry.

Committee members of both parties now say they understand the magnitude of the suspicions surrounding the Russian accusations and believe they can work together. As the Senate voted Tuesday morning, Republican members of the panel huddled on the Senate floor to plot their way forward.

Mr. Warner said he and Mr. Burr agree the committee needs to take its investigation “where the intelligence leads us.”

“I don’t think there is anything I have been involved in in my tenure in the Senate that is as important as this,” Mr. Warner said. “This is about our basic democratic processes.”

Some of his fellow Democrats are not happy that the bulk of the inquiry will remain the purview of the intelligence panel given that much of its deliberations are conducted in secure rooms of the Capitol complex, away from the prying eyes of the news media and the public. Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, said that is a principal reason Republicans want to relegate it to the intelligence panel, and she called on Republicans to put aside a desire to protect President Trump and to create a special committee to “investigate this matter in a thorough, public and responsible way.”

“Republicans need to look in the mirror and do a gut check,” she said.

At the moment, Republican leaders seem to be in no mood to add to the furor surrounding the White House by forging ahead with such a special panel, pointing instead to what Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, called the “broad discretion” the committee has to look at intelligence matters.

Creating a special committee or commission would require the consent of both parties, and the idea is more likely to gain traction if the Intelligence Committee or others in Congress pursuing questions about Russia uncover compelling evidence that would make it hard to resist demands for a deeper, more public investigation. The special national commission on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was created only after a special joint investigation by the intelligence committees of the House and Senate conducted its own inquiry that raised new questions.

Members of the intelligence panel have multiple motivations for taking a forceful stance after Mr. Flynn’s resignation. Given heightened attention to the issue, lawmakers know they risk losing control of the investigation if they are seen as not being aggressive. Neither Democrats nor Republicans who sit on the committee — their work often unsung with constituents back home because of secrecy — want to see that.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who leads the Armed Services Committee, is also examining the administration’s relationship with Russia, though the intelligence committee has more official responsibility.

On Tuesday, Mr. McConnell said it was “highly likely” the committee’s investigation would expand beyond election interference to include Mr. Flynn’s activities. Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, predicted Mr. Flynn would be called before the panel to testify “about both postelection activities and any other activities that he would be aware of.”

Mr. Blunt, a member of the leadership with sharp political instincts, will watch along with fellow Republican senators like Susan Collins of Maine, a centrist who has challenged Mr. Trump on other issues, and Marco Rubio of Florida, a sometimes Trump critic who has urged the administration to take a hard line against Russia.

Democrats will do what they can as members of the minority party to push the investigation and try to force it into public view.

“My goal here is not to have some report that ends up on a shelf,” Mr. Warner said. “My goal is that while we protect sources and methods, have as much of this information as possible out to the public. The public deserves to know what happened, how it happened and what effects it had on our democratic process.”

As they absorbed Mr. Flynn’s resignation and looked ahead, uneasy lawmakers worried this matter and others might not end well for the administration. The beginning has not been so great, either.


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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 5, 2020



Amid honoring the life of Congressman John Lewis last week, the House continued to vote on bills to fund our government and other timely pieces of legislation. Further, there was some excitement within the committees I serve, including questioning Attorney General Barr in the Judiciary Committee and being named Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. I also had the opportunity to connect with constituents during my sixth telephone town hall. And finally, as school districts begin issuing guidance on what their fall terms will look like, I wanted to provide you the latest information on school reopenings from across our region. While last week was productive, I am glad to be spending a few days home in the Sixth District.

Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee:
Last week, I was honored to be named Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over issues relating to employment, welfare reform programs, human services programs, Community Services Block Grants, nutrition programs, child abuse, and domestic violence issues, and civil rights among other areas of focus. As the only freshman Republican to serve as a Ranking Member on the Education and Labor Committee, I appreciate the confidence my colleagues have in me.

When I was elected to Congress, I vowed to fight against business as usual. Unfortunately, the so-called “mini-bus” bill put forth by the Democrats last week was simply more of the same wasteful spending that got our country into the fiscal crisis it currently faces. This legislation flew under the radar despite having a price tag of a whopping $1.3 trillion, which accounts for a 13.9 percent increase from the currently enacted budget. To make the matter worse, this has been pushed through Floor consideration in about 24 hours, giving Members little time to debate spending more than a trillion dollars of American’s hard-earned tax dollars. This legislation shows a complete disregard for fiscal responsibility through market interference, increased entitlements, Green New Deal provisions, and additional bureaucratic red tape – all while lacking proper funding for border security and school choice programs. Further, the bill includes steps to defund police, measures to reverse religious freedom protections, and would implement provisions that slow economic recovery. It would have been reckless and irresponsible to support legislation such as this.

Questioning Attorney General Barr:
Last week, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee continued to participate in a partisan political theater rather than serious policy discussions. When called to testify, Attorney General Barr stood firm in defense of our Constitution and the President’s Rule of Law policies while withstanding a barrage of badgering attacks and misleading questions from Committee Democrats. I took this opportunity to ask the Attorney General about his thoughts on Governor Northam’s overreach in suppressing Virginian’s civil rights in regard to the expression of their religious faith.

Telephone Town Hall:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, I had been committed to holding in-person town halls throughout the Sixth District. In fact, since being elected, I have hosted 25 town halls – with at least one being held in each locality throughout the District. I hope to continue those sorts of in-person forums in the future, but for now, virtual events remain the best option to connect directly with constituents on a larger scale and ensure that their voices are heard in Washington. Last week, I enjoyed hosting my sixth telephone town hall and listening to folks from across the District. And moving forward, I will continue to make myself available as your representative.

Schools Reopening:
As we approach the beginning of the school year, school districts across the Sixth District are releasing information for the fall term. Here is a sampling of some school district plans as of August 3, 2020. Please keep in mind, this information may change as warranted.

Amherst County Schools: School will begin September 9
• All elementary school students will be in school Monday through Thursday with block scheduling
• For middle and high school students, they will split into groups. One group will go to school Mondays and Wednesdays, the other on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with both groups doing at-home instruction on Fridays

Augusta County Schools: School year will begin on August 18
• All students will have a combination of in-person and at-home learning with proper distancing for in-person learning
• Parents who are concerned with sending their children to school also have the option to choose 100 percent at-home learning

Bedford County Schools: Students will start back on three different dates
• Pre-k to 3rd Grade (and 4th for those still housed in elementary schools) will start on August 19
• 4th Grade housed in middle schools through 6th Grade will start August 20
• 7th Grade through 12th Grade will begin August 24

Roanoke County Schools: School year will begin August 24
• Parents can choose to have their students receive 100 percent online instruction
• There will be reduced class sizes for the students in K-2 who attend school in person five days a week
• 3rd Grade through 12th Grade will be split into two groups and will attend school in person two days a week with proper distancing

Rockingham County Schools: School year will begin September 10

• All grade levels will transition from distant learning to in-person learning with proper social distancing

Shenandoah County Schools: School year will begin August 17
• Pre-kindergarten through 5th Grade to be in class four days a week with virtual learning one day a week
• 6th Grade through 12th Grade students will do virtual learning four days a week and be in class one day a week
• Parents who are concerned with sending their children to school also have the option to choose 100 percent at-home learning

Warren County Schools: Tentative start date is August 12th
• The School year is set to run Aug. 27-June 8. However, the school board is still debating four potential reopening options, which include a mix of remote and in-person learning.
• Regardless of the option the County chooses, parents will have the option for their children to participate solely in remote learning.

A full list of Sixth District public schools reopening plans can be found here.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 26, 2020



The House was busy with activity this week and addressed a number of issues regarding the funding of both our government agencies and our military. Members also began unofficial discussions as to what a future coronavirus relief package might look like. And while nothing is set in stone, there are several priorities my colleagues and I would like to see included in any additional COVID-19 related bill. I also had the privilege this week to honor a member of the Virginia National Guard on the House Floor and had the opportunity to discuss some troubling developments surrounding the investigation by the Justice Department into abuses in the FBI and FISA Court process. No matter the issue, I will continue working to represent the values of the Sixth District and its residents.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
Ensuring that our service members have the necessary resources to do their jobs safely and effectively has always been a priority of mine. But in its current form, the FY2021 NDAA passed in the House this week circumvents the executive branch and limits the President’s authority to protect our national security interests both domestically and abroad. Further, Democrats included language in this bill that could strip military personnel of their Second Amendment Rights, while violating due process and limiting soldiers’ ability to protect themselves and their families. And further, the bill creates bureaucratic hoops that the Secretary of Defense must jump through in order to provide assistance to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in their ongoing efforts to secure the Southern Border. And while I could not vote for the House version of this legislation, I look forward to working with my colleagues, following Senate action, to pass a bill that makes certain our military has all that is needed to protect them, secure the Nation’s defense, and could actually be signed into law.

Honoring Captain Candice Bowen:
This week, I took to the House Floor to recognize Captain Candice Bowen who became the first woman to assume command of a Virginia National Guard infantry unit. She will lead the Woodstock-based Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. This command is well-deserved and her superiors say she has, “demonstrated the absolute ability to lead Soldiers in close combat.” I wish Captain Bowen the best of luck in this new role and know the soldiers in Bravo Company are in good hands.

The Horowitz Report:
The Horowitz Report found 17 significant errors and omissions by the FBI in their FISA warrant applications during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. Further, the report confirms that the Bureau knew much of the information contained in the now-debunked ‘Steele Dossier’ “could not be corroborated; that certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with information gathered by the Crossfire Hurricane team; and that the limited information that was corroborated related to time, location, and title information was publicly available.” Yet still, the FBI used this politically biased opposition research document to obtain warrants to surveil American citizens and a presidential campaign. Therefore, it is absurd that former FBI Director James Comey plans to release a book entitled ‘Saving Justice’. If he cared at all about justice and the Rule of Law, he would never have offered dubious evidence in the form of the Steele Dossier to the FISA Court.

This week, the House began its annual appropriations process to fund our government’s various federal agencies. On Friday, we voted on a roughly 700-page bill specifically to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, State, and Veterans Affairs. While there were certain aspects of the legislation I could support, unfortunately, the bill contained numerous provisions that were either unacceptable or wholly unrelated to the agencies at hand. To start, the bill passed in the House jeopardizes our national security by prohibiting funds from being used to continue building the wall along our Southern Border and restricts the President’s ability to transfer funds to address the illegal immigration crisis. Further, the legislation overturns the Administration’s Mexico City Policy, which would allow international organizations to receive funding even if they perform abortions. Additionally, it removes conditions that promote transparency and accountability within organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. And finally, the legislation hinders the United States’ ability to pursue true energy independence and places burdensome reporting regulations on farmers relating to greenhouse gasses. These are just a few of the reasons why I could not vote in favor of passing this bill.

COVID-19 Relief:
As Congress begins to discuss an additional COVID-19 relief package, there is not yet a clear consensus as to what would be included in such a bill. However, what is clear is that Congress must encourage small business growth and increased employment to ensure the long-term success and viability of our economy. Further, it is my hope that any future coronavirus related bill will include liability protection for businesses. With so many mom-and-pop shops already struggling, the last thing they should have to worry about as they reopen are frivolous lawsuits. Additionally, Congress must continue to make available the necessary resources to increase testing capabilities. And finally, we need to begin looking at ways to safely and securely reopen our schools in the fall. While remote learning was an acceptable alternative in the height of the pandemic, it is not suitable for our kids as a long-term option.

For the latest updates from Washington, please follow my social media accounts: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 19, 2020



As Virginia continues its phased reopening, it has been a pleasure to continue connecting with constituents both in-person and virtually. Listening to constituents will always be one of my greatest priorities, and that is why this week I not only hosted a telephone town hall with thousands of seniors but also asked for legislative input from folks across the District via an online survey. Further, I traveled to Luray this week to hear from business leaders about the importance of supporting pro-growth, pro-business policies in Congress. It is always a pleasure to be home in Virginia, but whether I am here in Sixth District or in Washington, know that my staff and I stand ready to advocate on your behalf.

Seniors Telephone Town Hall:
Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I remain committed to being accessible to my constituents and providing them with information and resources they may find useful. To that end, this week, I hosted my fifth telephone town hall since March. The conversation was geared toward seniors to discuss the pressing issues facing older Americans. I was pleased to have Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Regional Administrator Sharon Graham and Sheriff Eric Orange, Roanoke County Sheriff, join me on this call. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear from Sixth District seniors and discuss issues like Social Security, telemarketing and internet scams, Medicare and Medicaid, and more. To listen to a recording of the event, please click here.

Spirit of Enterprise:
Throughout my time as a public servant, I have always been an advocate for pro-growth, pro-business policies. With nearly 50 percent of the country’s population employed by small businesses, I know that the success of our local mom and pop shops means the overall success and prosperity of our Nation. And this week, I was honored to accept the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award in Luray. This award recognizes legislators with a track record of standing up for the small business community, and I look forward to earning this distinction in the future.

Your Opinion Matters:
This weekly e-newsletter regularly provides updates on my work both in Washington and from across the Sixth District. However, as your representative, hearing from you is equally important to me. As Congress continues to address issues related to the coronavirus, I’d like to know what other topics you believe the House should be focusing on. Click the image to take the survey below and let me know!

Census Reminder:
Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be taken every ten years. Participating in the Census is critical because the data collected makes certain that our part of Virginia receives its fair share of federal funding. It only takes ten minutes to help ensure that your hard-earned tax dollars are invested here in the Sixth District. To complete the Census, please click here.

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.

For the latest updates from Washington, please follow my social media accounts: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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Legislative Update

Cline named ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ award recipient by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce



This week, Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) accepted the 2020 ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award from the United States Chamber of Commerce. The award was presented by the local Luray-Page County Chamber during their ‘Business After Hours’ event at Shawnee Farms Estate.

The ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award recognizes Members of Congress who are committed to supporting pro-business legislation, bipartisan leadership, and constructive governing.

Congressman Ben Cline said, “I am proud to have worked during my first term to enact laws that help small businesses and their employees, and I will continue fighting for pro-growth policies that help rather than hinder the prosperity of our business community.”

Thomas J. Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “In these uncertain times with daunting economic and social challenges facing our nation, it is imperative that leaders in Washington are focused on propelling American businesses forward to create jobs and economic growth from California to Maine. As we rebuild our economy, legislators must lead by pursuing bipartisan solutions that create jobs and promote a free enterprise system. I’m proud to recognize these members of Congress for their commitment to driving opportunity and prosperity in America’s workforce and on Main Streets across the nation.

This is the 32nd year in which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has named ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award recipients.

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Legislative Update

Cline to hold telephone Town Hall dedicated to issues facing seniors on July 16th



Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) announced that he will host a Telephone Town Hall dedicated to issues facing seniors and those approaching retirement. Cline will be joined on this call by Sharon Graham, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Regional Administrator, and Sheriff Eric Orange, Roanoke County Sheriff.

The telephone town hall will take place Thursday, July 16, 2020, from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Constituents planning to participate should register at or dial (855) 933-0825 during the time of the call.

“Seniors face a number of issues concerning healthcare, scams, and more that younger generations deal with far less frequently,” Cline said. “For this reason, I am excited to host a telephone town hall specifically geared toward older constituents in the Sixth District. This event will give me the opportunity to hear directly from seniors about the issues most important to them and allow me to provide updates and resources they may find particularly useful.”

This event will mark the fifth telephone town hall held by Congressman Cline since March.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 12, 2020



It was great to be home in the Sixth District this week connecting with constituents both in person and on the phone. I not only had the privilege of joining the dedicated staff of Harmony Day Support in Forest for a ribbon-cutting ceremony but also had the opportunity to visit Sweet Briar College in Amherst County. Further, thousands of constituents joined me for a Coronavirus Telephone Town Hall where they were provided the latest updates on both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. As your representative, I will continue to make myself available to ensure your voices are heard in Washington.

Harmony Day Support:
This week I had the pleasure of joining the team at Harmony Day Support in Forest as they cut the ribbon on their new handicap accessible bus. Harmony is a tremendous non-profit that is dedicated to providing adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities with the tools and support necessary for them to lead fulfilling and independent lives. The vehicle was a generous gift from Forest River Bus as part of their National Bus Giveaway, and their donation will allow Harmony to continue its mission of serving those in need.

Sweet Briar College Visit:
Virginia’s Sixth District is home to more colleges and universities than nearly any other congressional district in the country. Throughout the past year and a half, I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit most of these schools and see first-hand the work these institutions are engaged in. This week, I toured Sweet Briar College in Amherst County and always was impressed by the exciting and diverse areas of study they offer. I was pleased that many of their courses pertain directly to industries that are prevalent within our region. I was briefed on the school’s agriculture and forestry activities as well as toured their vineyard, equestrian center, and greenhouse. Sweet Briar College is truly indicative of the abundance of educational opportunities the Sixth District offers students from across the country.

Coronavirus Update Telephone Town Hall:

Being accessible to my constituents and providing them the most up-to-date information on the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus is vital to help control its spread. As such, on July 9, I hosted the third Coronavirus Update Telephone Town Hall and was joined by Dr. Laura Kornegay, the Health Director of Central Shenandoah Health at the Virginia Department of Health and Steve Bulger, the Acting Regional Administrator for Mid-Atlantic Region III of the Small Business Administration.

During the conversation, we fielded questions about schools reopening, safety precautions for reopening businesses, the PPP and EIDL programs, and other federal efforts to mitigate the damages of this pandemic. A recording of the event can be found here.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) recently launched a new application portal to the federal PEUC benefits program. As you may know, this program provides up to an additional 13 weeks of regular/traditional unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have already exhausted their regular Unemployment Insurance benefits. This program applies to claims by individuals whose benefit year ended on July 6, 2019, or after. Payments to recipients are scheduled to start next week. Payments will be retroactive; the first payable week for qualifying applicants under PEUC is the week ending April 4, 2020. The final payable week for extended benefits in the week ending December 26, 2020. The final payable week for supplemental $600 weekly payment is the week ending July 25, 2020. To apply for PEUC benefits visit the VEC website here and click “Apply Online Now.”

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.

For the latest updates from Washington, please follow my social media accounts: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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