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: June 15, 2019
On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked America and our way of life. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks in New York, northern Virginia, and Pennsylvania. When the shocking images of the World Trade Center and Pentagon first appeared on television, first responders were already on the scene. In the weeks and months that followed, these first responders and construction workers worked hard to find victims and clear debris. At the time, they were told the air was safe to breathe. They and the American people found out later that it wasn’t true.
The health impacts for those who worked and lived in lower Manhattan in the months after the attacks are real and have in many cases been crippling – even deadly. That is why Congress passed legislation in 2010 to open the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund to first responders, construction workers, and others, which covers the cost of treating illnesses associated with exposure to toxins following the attacks.
I have co-sponsored legislation to renew the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund permanently. On Tuesday, I was in the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties when those suffering from illnesses tied to their service after the 9/11 attacks testified. Those who testified moved me and the nation as they discussed the illnesses which have beset them nearly two decades after the attacks. I was pleased to join my colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee in passing H.R. 1327 by unanimous consent. Now is the time for this bill to move to the full House and Senate for passage.
This week also brought about the beginning of appropriations season, with votes on amendments to a minibus package slated for passage next week. What is a minibus? It is a collection of appropriation bills, in this case five bills funding the following agencies: Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Legislative Branch, Department of Defense, State Department and Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water.
The action taken by Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats to pass this mega package which appropriates close to $1 trillion in deficit government spending is the height of dysfunction. Traditionally, appropriations bills are debated as standalone bills allowing proper consideration of each executive branch’s budgets and operations. Instead, these five bills have been combined and hidden spending added. Among the many surprises in this package is $400 million for Title X Family Planning, a significant source of funding for Planned Parenthood. In fact, it would increase funding by $113.5 million above the enacted FY 2019 level.
While increasing funding for money which will eventually flow to Planned Parenthood, this minibus would fund the Department of Defense at $8 billion below President Donald Trump’s request for core defense purposes. Not properly funding our military puts our national security at risk at a time when there are heightened tensions with Iran and other advisories around the world.
Perhaps the most self-serving item from the minibus package debated this week is a pay raise of $4,500 per year for Members of Congress. If the Speaker and her Democratic Caucus cannot pass a budget or appropriations in a transparent and non-dysfunctional manner, why does Congress deserve its first pay raise in 10 years? I will vote against this package when it comes to the floor next week and I encourage my colleagues to do the same.
Rockingham County Town Hall
I invite residents of Rockingham County to a town hall event Monday at 5:30 p.m. This is an opportunity to engage on important issues in the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia, so I can take your views back to Washington. This is my second gathering in the area, having previously held a listening session with the residents of the City of Harrisonburg in November.
The Rockingham County town hall will take place Monday, June 17, 2019, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at Linville-Edom Ruritan Club, 3752 Linville Edom Road, Linville, VA 22834. Register on Eventbrite by clicking here.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If you have comments on legislation moving through the House, you may leave your comments with my Washington office by calling (202) 225-5431. If you need assistance with a federal agency, my district office may be reached at (540) 857-2672.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: June 8, 2019
The halls of the Capitol were supposed to be quiet week before last, during what is commonly known as a “District Work Period” for Congress. Members spend time working in their local offices, meeting with constituents, visiting local businesses, or speaking with community groups about local issues of importance. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with and report back to the voters who we represent in Washington and who we fight for each and every day.
What we normally don’t do during District Work Periods is consider legislation. That’s because almost no one is there to cast a vote on the bills. It’s understood that the Speaker will not try to push legislation through when a bill’s opponents are all back home in their districts. Normally, the Speaker shows respect to other Members by waiting for them to return to Washington. Respect for the institution of Congress and respect for debate is critical for the government envisioned by our founding fathers to function.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, decided to toss aside the the historic courtesies that have been shown to Members for centuries. Without calling Members back to vote, the Democrat leadership tried to pass H.R. 2157, a spending bill to address several natural disasters that occurred in the past few years. While I support efforts to provide assistance to communities who have been impacted by natural disasters, this brazen attempt to ram this bill through without any debate is symptomatic of just how broken Washington has become.
After several Republicans drove back to Washington to object to efforts to move the bill, it became clear why they didn’t want debate about what was in it. Amazingly, less than 30 percent of the $19.188 billion package has anything to do with actual disaster assistance. The rest of the bill was full of pork-barrel spending for pet projects and other non-emergency functions. Debating the bill also would have given Members the chance to understand that 86 percent of the funding in this bill was not even requested by the Trump Administration. Members should have also been aware that the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) was funded at $29 billion at the end of April, with projections of $18.2 billion in the fund at the end of the fiscal year.
While H.R. 2157 eventually did pass by a vote of 354-58, House Democrats failed to identify a way to pay for it without adding to our national debt. I will continue to vote against wasteful spending and demand fiscal responsibility in Washington in all areas. If we can find ways to balance our state budgets and our family budgets, I believe it is time for the federal government to follow suit.
In other action last week, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing to promote increased access to abortion. During the hearing, we heard from witnesses on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Amazing testimony came from Melissa Odhen, who survived an abortion procedure. As an adult, Melissa has made it her life’s mission to prevent abortions and stand up for the right to life. As a co-sponsor of the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, I am grateful to Melissa for sharing her story, and I will continue to advocate for the protection of life.
I also took to the House floor Tuesday to introduce language into H.R. 6, the DREAM Act, which would have prevented known criminals, gang members, terrorists, and other public safety threats from gaining legal status through this legislation. The perverse effect of H.R. 6 is that these public safety threats who could be denied a green card will still be free to stay in the country – as if the U.S. is a sanctuary nation. I made a motion that would have made it easier for Department of Homeland Security to deny gang members’ applications by making it an eligibility requirement that an alien not be a gang member, and by explicitly permitting DHS to consider the information found in gang databases. It would have ensured that criminals, gang members, and those who are terrorists and other public safety threats are referred for a determination of removal from the United States. I am disappointed that most Democrats in the House rejected this necessary change to the bill.
Finally, this week ended with quiet contemplation. On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, in the largest seaborne invasion in history. The success of D-Day laid the foundations for the liberation of Western Europe, the defeat of Nazi Germany, and ultimate victory in World War II. On Thursday, I participated in a solemn ceremony at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
I thank all veterans for their service, but I especially want to thank the men of Bedford for their courage and sacrifice on that day 75 years ago. Twenty-two men from Bedford were killed during the invasion and subsequent fighting. It was the largest loss of life on a proportional basis of any town in the United States. Their bravery and sacrifice continue to secure the freedoms we enjoy today.
May we never forget the men of Bedford and the courage of all those who have fought for the greatest Nation on Earth, the United States of America.
Here’s your Warner Weekly Wrap-up – June 8, 2019
While the nation continues to mourn the 12 lives lost in Virginia Beach, the Senate adjourned a day early this week to accommodate Senators traveling to Normandy for events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing.
REMEMBERING OPERATION OVERLORD
Senator Warner celebrated the 75th anniversary of the largest air, land and sea operation in human history a little closer to home – in Bedford, Va., home of the National D-Day Memorial.
“You are about to embark on the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you… I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.” – Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
On June 6, 1944, the Allied Expeditionary Forces, under the command of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, landed on the shores of Normandy, paving the way for the end of World War II. Of the 156,000 Allied soldiers who arrived that day, nearly three dozen men hailed from Bedford, Va., population 3,200. By the day’s end on Omaha Beach, nineteen “Bedford boys” with Company A of the 116th Infantry would lie dead. At least four more soldiers from Bedford would be killed as part of the campaign – inflicting Bedford with the highest per-capita D-Day casualties of any town in America. In recognition of the community’s tremendous sacrifice, in 1995 Congress designated Bedford as the site of the nation’s National D-Day Memorial.
Sen. Warner joined more than 100 World War II veterans, Vice President Pence, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, military leaders and thousands of visitors from around the world for Thursday’s observance of the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. Sen. Warner, the son of a WWII Marine corporal, told those in attendance:
“These men stepped up when their country needed them the most. It’s the spirit of that sacrifice that we celebrate today and will continue to celebrate so history will never forget what happened on D-Day.”
TRAGEDY IN VIRGINIA BEACH
After the D-Day celebration, Sen. Warner traveled to Virginia Beach, where he and Sen. Kaine met with local elected officials, community leaders, and first responders in the wake of last Friday’s tragic shooting that left 12 innocent victims dead.
Thursday evening, Sen. Warner joined thousands of mourners at a community memorial service in Rock Church in Virginia Beach to honor and grieve for the 12 lives lost.
Earlier this week in Washington, Sen. Warner called on the Republican-led U.S. Senate to take up bipartisan legislation to reduce gun violence, and applauded Governor Northam’s decision to call a special session to work on gun safety legislation.
The Senator’s travels across Virginia are continuing today and tomorrow, with stops in Kenbridge, South Hill, Emporia, and Richmond.
FIGHTING FOR SWVA JOBS
Sen. Warner and Sen. Kaine introduced legislation this week to protect Southwest Virginia jobs by blocking a Trump Administration plan to close the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, which employs dozens of people in Coeburn, Va.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture announced plans to close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers that provide job training in rural communities around the country for young adults ages 16 to 24. Among the sites slated for closure under the Administration’s plan is the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, which for decades has helped provide young men and women in Appalachia with the skills needed to succeed in an ever-modernizing economy while assisting in the conversation of public natural resources.
Sen. Warner has vocally opposed the move, which would be devastating for Wise County and communities throughout Southwest Virginia. Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Morgan Griffith, last week sent a letter to the Trump Administration urging it to keep the Flatwoods site operating, and this week joined with Senators from both parties to introduce the bipartisan Job Corps Protection Act, which would prohibit the Trump Administration from closing any of the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers located across the country.
Some highlights from Sen. Warner’s busy week:
• FOOD DESERTS: Sen. Warner wrote an op-ed in Sunday’s Virginian Pilot and Daily Press newspapers calling on Congress to expand access to healthy food in urban food deserts.
• SON-IN-LAW: After Jared Kushner told a reporter that he wouldn’t necessarily call the FBI if a foreign power contacted him today to offer elections assistance, Sen. Warner called on Congress to pass his legislation requiring political campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections influence to the federal authorities.
• ELECTION SECURITY: Sen. Warner delivered the Weekly Democratic Address this week, calling on Republican leaders to bring bipartisan election security legislation up for a vote on the Senate floor.
• DATA BREACH: After a data breach exposed personal and health information of nearly 12 million Quest Diagnostics customers, Sen. Warner, the co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, wrote to the company’s CEO asking what steps the company takes to protect customer information.
• CLIMATE CHANGE: Sen. Warner co-sponsored a bill directing the President to develop a plan for the U.S. to meet its commitments under the historic Paris Climate Agreement.
The Senate will take votes on several judicial nominees, including the nomination of Judge Rossie David Alston, Jr. to serve on the Eastern District Court of Virginia. On Tuesday, Sen. Warner will join a Banking Committee hearing on money laundering, and participate in the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington.
On Wednesday, he’ll speak at a kickoff event for the 400 Years African American History (AAH) Commission featuring the singer Nick Cannon.
On Thursday, the Senate is expected to vote on resolutions seeking to block the Trump Administration’s sale of weapons to Bahrain and Qatar.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: June 1, 2019
Since taking office in January, I have found the federal government to be a tangled web filled with bureaucrats who often know little about places in Virginia like Amherst, Vinton, Monterey, or Woodstock. For the average citizen, it can feel overwhelming when they need to receive assistance or simply get questions answered by someone in a distant federal agency. It can be infuriating.
The government is supposed to work for the people, not the other way around.
I have been fighting in Washington to restore control of the government to its citizens, and as I work to bring accountability back to our federal bureaucracy, I am also available to help you break through the red tape of the federal government. I have established four offices in the Sixth District and staffed them with folks from the area who are ready to assist you in navigating the federal bureaucracy.
Common issues brought to my attention often deal with the Veterans Administration and Social Security, as well as passport renewals through the State Department. Veterans and retirees deserve the benefits they have earned. Travelers vacationing or working out of the country need to have a valid passport that will not expire within six months of their travel dates. We can not only find the right people to talk to in the VA, Social Security, and the State Department, but we are ready to go to bat and file inquiries or appeals on your behalf. Since January, my office has already handled 677 constituent cases. I can’t promise favorable outcomes every time, but we will work tirelessly toward a final resolution to the challenges you are facing with the federal bureaucracy.
It is not just the VA, Social Security, and State Department with which people struggle. I often hear from people who are in a struggle the IRS, need assistance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or need assistance in finding or applying for a grant. Even if it’s not a problem with the federal government, we can help give you directions about who to call. You can contact me at the district office that’s most convenient for you:
• Harrisonburg – (540) 432-2391
• Lynchburg – (434) 845-8306
• Roanoke – (540) 857-2672
• Staunton – (540) 885-3861
Last Wednesday night, I hosted my ninth town hall meeting in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District. More than 30 residents from across Amherst County and surrounding areas came out to bring their concerns to my attention and ask questions about legislation making its way through Congress. I enjoy meeting with constituents, and I value the relationships I develop with each of you. I am humbled by the trust you place in me to take your thoughts and concerns to Washington each week, and I consider them each time I vote on a bill in committee and on the floor of the House.
The next opportunity to meet with you is Monday at 8 a.m. at American Legion Post 199, 411 South Muhlenberg Street, Woodstock, VA 22664. To register, please click here.
If you cannot attend a town hall or would like to express yourself on a specific bill coming before the House, I encourage you to call my Washington office at (202) 225-3772.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: May 25, 2019
When it comes to covering Congress, the media often focuses on one or two controversial pieces of legislation at a given time. What many Americans do not know is each week, a whole host of bills are passed under a House provision where there is little debate and often the bills are passed on a voice vote. Reading each one takes a lot of time and effort, but it is important to make sure I understand how each bill would impact the Sixth District and its citizens. In this week’s column, I want to highlight a few of this week’s suspension bills along with a brief synopsis of the legislation.
With Memorial Day upon us, the House focused heavily this week on veterans’ issues and passed nine bills aimed at keeping our promises to the men and woman who served our country in uniform.
In response to the 20 veterans a day that die by suicide, the House passed several pieces of legislation addressing the effectiveness of treatments, staffing, and reporting that will provide Congress timely information to better guide our efforts to stem and ultimately end this national tragedy. The Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act, H.R. 2333 requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to assess the VA suicide coordinators’ responsibilities, workload, training, and vacancy rates and determine whether the use of coordinators varies among department facilities. Similarly, the Veterans’ Care Quality Transparency Act, H.R. 2372 directs the GAO to study the effectiveness of outside groups and programs that work with the VA to provide suicide prevention and mental health services to veterans. Additionally, in wake of an increase in the number of veteran suicides which have taken place at VA facilities, Congress passed the Fostering Intergovernmental Health Transparency in Veteran Suicides Act, H.R. 2340. This bill requires the VA to notify Congress of every suicide that occurs inside one of their facilities.
Congress also sought to address concerns relating to veteran mental and physical health by passing the Whole Veteran Act, H.R. 5359 which directs the Veterans Affairs Department to prepare for Congress a report which includes potential alternative care options for retired service members. To provide increased mental health resources to veterans who meet certain criterion, the House also passed the Vet Center Eligibility Expansion Act, H.R. 1812 which would allow veterans and active-duty service members who responded to a national emergency or major disaster to have access to Vet Centers, a right in which they have fully earned.
Our chamber also took up legislation that would increase success to the 165,000 veterans’ who transition from the military into civilian life. That is why the House passed the Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William Bill Mulder (Ret.) Transition Improvement Act, H.R. 2326. Far too often, our veterans struggle to transition into civilian life, and this bill is intended to make that career change easier. We also passed the Veterans’ Education, Transition, and Opportunity Prioritization Plan Act, H.R. 2045 which creates a new agency within the VA that will prioritize veterans’ benefits relating to education, job training, and home loans.
Furthermore, the House took a step to better the lives of our disabled service members by supporting the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, H.R. 1200. As the title suggests, this legislation provides disabled veterans and their families with a cost-of-living adjustment meant to help ease the burden of day-to-day expenses.
Finally, we sought to improve the efficiency of the VA by passing legislation to close a loop hole which allowed outside third-party organizations to take advantage of the GI Bill and bill the VA for, in some cases, $100,000 per student for flight training expenses. The bill also allows the VA to replace government-issued headstones or markers in a private cemetery to add an inscription for a spouse or child who died before or after the veteran. I am proud to have joined my colleagues this week in supporting these pieces of legislation which will benefit millions of veterans across this country.
Amherst Town Hall
Next week, I will host a town hall in Amherst County. The town hall will take place Wednesday, May 29, 2019, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Amherst-Monroe Ruritan Club, 115 Bruner Road, Monroe, VA 24574. Sign up on Eventbrite by clicking here.
As with my previous town hall meetings across the Sixth Congressional District, this town hall will allow me to engage with Amherst County residents and take your views to Washington.
Citizens of Amherst County will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall. I hope you can attend.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman.
Telehealth: an opportunity to expand health care in rural communities
We have an opportunity to expand access to health care for Americans with the help of technology.
Senators Brian Schatz, Lisa Murkowski, and I have introduced a bipartisan bill to increase access to health care services in rural areas by investing in telehealth. This legislation would expand the use of technology-based education models – known as Project ECHO – that connect specialists with other health care professionals through the use of technology.
Specifically, the bill would create a program to provide grants and technical assistance to further develop and evaluate the ECHO model and other similar models. The grants would be used for:
• Equipment to support the use and expansion of the models, including for the secure exchange of electronic health information;
• Support for health care providers that provide services under these models;
• Instructional programming and training; and
• Information collection and evaluation activities to study the impact of such models.
This is about connecting rural and underserved areas in Virginia and across the nation with specialty care so we can better help those with substance use disorders, chronic diseases, and other complex health care conditions.