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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – January 24, 2021

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This last week, I attended the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the 46th President and 49th Vice-President of the United States respectively. While there is much on which President Biden and I disagree, I join President Trump and all Americans in wishing President Biden and his new administration the best of luck during this challenging time in American history. Further, while I was in Washington this week, I took the opportunity to thank members of the Virginia National Guard who have been serving in our Nation’s capital during the inauguration, and I expressed outrage at their relegation to parking garages following the conclusion of the events. Additionally, I began the 117th Congress by reaffirming my commitment to the sanctity of life and to defending the Second Amendment. As the new Administration begins, I will continue fighting for the people of Virginia’s Sixth District.

Inauguration:
On Wednesday, I attended the Inauguration of President Joe Biden out of respect for the office of the Presidency and to commemorate the peaceful transfer of power that has become a cornerstone of our American Republic. However, we must forge beyond this moment in history to meet the short and long-term challenges facing our country. As I have for the last two years, I will continue to support fiscal responsibility and reducing burdensome regulations, defeating the COVID-19 virus while getting Americans back to work and back in school, securing our borders, and supporting our brave men and women in uniform. After four years of progress, we cannot afford a third term of the Obama era’s failed policies. Already, the Biden Administration has announced a first-day agenda that will drag our country backward during a time in which our Nation desperately needs to move forward. With Democrats controlling both Chambers of Congress and the White House, I will continue to strongly advocate for the commonsense conservative values of the citizens of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.

Thanking the Guard:
While in Washington this week, I took the opportunity to thank members of the Virginia National Guard who have been deployed in Washington, D.C. these past two weeks. These civilian soldiers put their daily lives on hold in order to serve our country, and we are grateful to them for ensuring the safety and security of everyone attending the Inauguration of President Joe Biden. Whether battling forest fires in California, aiding hurricane relief efforts in Louisiana, or helping quell unrest in our cities this summer, the National Guard continues to live up to its motto of being Always Ready, Always There. Our Nation is forever grateful for their service and sacrifice here at home and in harm’s way across the world.

Sadly, these heroes stationed at the Capitol have not been treated with the respect they deserve. Following the inauguration, Guardsmen were ordered out of the Capitol complex into a nearby parking garage. While I was pleased that this situation was quickly remedied, it should never have happened in the first place. That is why I joined my colleagues in writing to the Capitol Police requesting an explanation as to what initiated this action. We must ensure our men and women in uniform are never simply used as pawns to be discarded again. To read the full letter, please click here.

Standing Up for Life:
This week marked 48 years since Roe v. Wade was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Since 1973, more than 50 million preborn children in America have had their lives cut short. Our right to life is among our most basic human rights, and I will continue fighting to protect the most innocent among us. One of the very first bills I signed onto in the 117th Congress works toward that end. The Protecting Life in Crisis Act would prevent federal funds allocated in COVID-19 relief legislation from being used for abortions or abortion coverage. The bill would extend existing Hyde Amendment protections to any coronavirus health care provisions, and prevent federal tax credits from being used to cover post-employment health care premiums (COBRA) that include abortion coverage.

Since taking office, I have fought to defend life and have a legislative track record of supporting policies to that end. I am incredibly proud to have received an “A+” rating from Susan B. Anthony List, one of the Nation’s most prominent pro-life organizations.

As the organization stated last year, “Congressman Cline has voted consistently to protect the lives of the unborn as well as the consciences of taxpayers who don’t want their hard-earned tax dollars paying for abortion domestically or internationally. Rep. Cline has defended the Trump administration’s pro-life regulatory efforts from pro-abortion attacks to prohibit their implementation.”

Supporting the Second Amendment:
Whether in Richmond or Washington, I have always been a staunch defender of the Second Amendment. That is why I earned an “A+” rating from the NRA last term, and I will remain an advocate for the Second Amendment in the 117th Congress. As evidence of this, the first piece of legislation I cosponsored in this term was H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. This bill affirms that law-abiding citizens who are qualified to carry concealed firearms in one state can carry in other states that allow residents to do so. Because some states refuse to allow their citizens to fully exercise their Second Amendment rights, concealed carry reciprocity is needed to protect the constitutional rights of millions of law-abiding citizens across America. I look forward to supporting this important legislation, as well as similar bills intended to protect citizens’ rights.

IRS Update:
The Internal Revenue Service announced this week that the agency will not start accepting federal tax returns until February 12. This decision was made to allow the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of agency systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits. Further, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS is urging all Americans to file their taxes online this year to ensure taxpayers receive their refunds in a timely manner. To learn more, click here.

COVID-19 Update:
I continue to be disappointed with Governor Northam’s inadequate roll out and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine across the Commonwealth. Currently, only 34% of Virginia residents have received the vaccine, which, percentage-wise, is the 49th worst in the country. And despite setting a goal of inoculating 50,000 Virginians a day, that number has fallen woefully short and stands at only 16,000. Further, the Governor has prioritized urban centers above rural areas in the Sixth District, which is unacceptable. As the federal government considers the rate at which states are administering vaccines to determine the next allotment of doses, I implore the Governor to take the steps necessary to correct this situation.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for the latest updates. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – February 28, 2021

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New cases numbers are declining and vaccination rates are rising, but there are still many across the Sixth District who are hurting from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we work to get our kids back in school and our businesses back open, Congress can and should act to provide help to those hit by the one-two punch of the pandemic and the state shutdowns. I have been proud to support several bipartisan bills over the past year that have provided trillions of dollars in aid to families and small businesses during this unprecedented time. Unfortunately, now that Democrats have gained control of the House, the Senate, and the White House, they have abandoned bipartisanship and pushed through a partisan and pork-laden package designed to pay back their supporters like Planned Parenthood and Big Labor. In fact, the $1.9 trillion bailout package passed at 2 am last Saturday morning spends only 9 cents out of every dollar on actual programs to combat the coronavirus. In addition, only 5% of the $130 billion in education funding in the bill will help schools reopen this year.

While I am disappointed in Speaker Pelosi’s abandonment of the bipartisan spirit that marked previous COVID legislation, I will continue to fight for the people of the Sixth District. This week, I joined a number of Members in introducing the National Right-to-Work Act, ensuring that protections against forced unionism that currently benefit Virginians would apply nationwide. No one in America should be required to join a union to get or to keep a job. I also voted against legislation that would have endangered religious liberty and threatened Title IX protections for women in sports. Additionally, I was pleased to connect with tens of thousands of constituents during my eighth telephone town hall, as well as recognize two local high school basketball teams on the House Floor for winning their respective division state championships. It was a busy week in Washington, and as we head back this Monday for another week of legislative business, I am always thankful for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman.

Biden Bailout:

Our families, our farmers, and our small businesses need our continued support as we navigate this COVID pandemic and work to reopen our economy, but they don’t need a $1.9 trillion package riddled with Democrat pork. While I could support additional relief to help get folks back to work and kids back in school, any further aid must be targeted, temporary, and actually tied to COVID. Not only is this legislation riddled with wasteful spending unrelated to COVID and bailouts for blue states like New York and California, but with more than $1 trillion in previously authorized coronavirus funds still unspent, it is premature. While there could be provisions of this bill that I would support as standalone legislation, H.R. 1319 as a whole is wasteful, partisan, and deeply flawed. For these reasons, I voted no on this bill. A few of the most egregious provisions unrelated to COVID contained in this legislation are listed below:

• $15 minimum wage hike which was ruled out of order in the Senate and will cost 1.4 million American jobs per the nonpartisan CBO.
• $350 billion to bailout blue states that have mismanaged their pensions and other programs for years
• $12 billion in foreign aid
• $1.5 billion for Amtrak
• $112 million for an underground rail system in California
• $50 million in funding for EPA environmental justice grants
• $10 million in grants to preserve Native American languages
• $1.5 million for a bridge connecting the U.S. and Canada

National Right-to-Work Act
Every American deserves the right to create their own success from their own volition – free of the requirement that they join an organization solely to hold a job. Simply put, as our Founding Father and fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” That is why I joined a number of my colleagues in introducing the National Right-to-Work Act. This legislation ensures that no American is forced to join a union to keep a job by erasing automatic-dues clauses in federal statute. Watch the video below.

Equality Act:
I oppose discrimination and have fought to defend our civil rights laws that ensure equal protection under the laws of our Nation. The Democrats’ so-called “Equality Act,” however, would do the exact opposite by discriminating against the religious beliefs of individuals and businesses. It would mandate both public and private schools, churches, hospitals, businesses, and other institutions recognize an individual’s chosen “gender identity” instead of their biological sex. This would force female athletes to compete against biological males, weaken our laws that protect against religious discrimination and compel employers to cover abortions and medical professionals to conduct or assist in performing abortions. This bill forces greater in-equality in the application of the law rather than equality, and I, therefore, voted no on the measure.

Harrisonburg-Rockingham Telephone Town Hall:
Before the Coronavirus pandemic began, I promised to hold in-person town halls throughout the Sixth District. In fact, since being elected, I have hosted 25 in-person town halls – with at least one being held in each locality throughout our region. I hope to continue those sorts of in-person forums in the future, but for now, as restrictions on public gatherings remain in place, virtual town halls remain one of the best and safest options to connect directly with constituents to ensure their voices are heard in Washington. While my previous seven telephone town halls have been District-wide, this week I hosted a regional forum for residents of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. More geographically targeted events like this moving forward will allow me to focus on the unique issues facing each of our individual communities. I look forward to holding similar events like this throughout the District in the future.

State Champions:
It was a great year for high school basketball in the Sixth District with two teams from our area winning state championships this past weekend. I was pleased to take to the House Floor to recognize both Parry McCluer High School’s boys basketball team and Luray High School’s girls basketball team for winning their respective division state titles. It was undoubtedly a year filled with significant obstacles, but both teams overcame them and brought home trophies to Buena Vista and Luray. Our community is incredibly proud of the hard work and resilience these two teams showed, and we congratulate them on this remarkable accomplishment.

COVID-19 and Paycheck Protection Program Update:
As of February 28, 2021, Virginia has had 576,050 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The current death toll in the Commonwealth stands at 8,552. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of February 27th, 1,266,983 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 666,970 people are fully vaccinated.

This week, changes were made to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has served as a lifeline to millions of small businesses across the country. From now until March 10, the Small Business Administration will only be accepting PPP applications from businesses with less than 20 employees in an effort to target relief to mom-and-pop shops in need. The program will reopen to larger businesses beginning March 11. The program is set to expire on March 31 and more than $10 billion in funding remains available. To apply for a PPP loan, click here.

Further, there was big news on the vaccine front this week as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency approval of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. This is the third vaccine that has been approved by the FDA following Pfizer and Moderna. However, unlike the other two vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s will only require one dose to be effective. Additionally, this vaccine can be stored in a simple refrigerator which should ease any complications with rollout. Johnson & Johnson is prepared to begin distributing nearly 3.9 million vaccines across the country as early as this week. This approval marks a huge step forward in making the COVID-19 vaccine more readily available to the folks across the Commonwealth.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for the latest updates. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

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Legislative Update

Warner welcomes unemployment insurance fix

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On February 25, 2021, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) welcomed a move by the U.S. Department of Labor to expand the number of workers who are eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that was created as part of the federal CARES Act. Last week, Sen. Warner and four of his colleagues raised concern with the Department that policy guidance issued to state unemployment offices on Jan. 8 was limiting the ability of workers whose hours have been reduced to access PUA benefits.

“There are workers all over the country who have had their hours reduced or been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19, and they should be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance under the CARES Act,” said Sen. Warner. “I’m glad to see the Department of Labor listened to our concerns and is adjusting their guidance to states to make clear that these workers are eligible for PUA benefits.”

On Feb. 17, Sen. Warner joined Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to issue revised guidance making clear that workers who have had their hours reduced, or who have been temporarily laid off even though their employer remains open, are eligible for PUA.

In the Feb. 17 letter to the Department of Labor, the Senators wrote, “Partial closures are very common for businesses like restaurants that are operating with limited indoor dining capacity, or only offering take-out services, and have resulted in many service workers working reduced hours or being temporarily laid off even though their employer remains open. The recent guidance directs states to deny PUA eligibility to workers who have been impacted by partial closures. This is of particular concern for workers who do not have sufficient qualifying earnings to be considered eligible for state unemployment, including workers who are newly hired. It is clear from the language of the CARES Act that PUA is intended to cover workers who are ‘unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work’, which would include workers affected by partial closures… We ask that the Department clarify that workers impacted by partial closures or their employer scaling back business operations are eligible for PUA, or use its authority under 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I)(kk) of the CARES Act to ensure these workers are eligible. This clarification is vital so that these workers can make ends meet during the pandemic.”

When emergency pandemic unemployment programs were set to expire at the end of last year, Sen. Warner successfully led the fight to include an extension in the $900 billion emergency COVID-19 relief legislation that Congress approved in December. From the start of this crisis, Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur and longtime leader on labor issues affecting contractors and the contingent workforce, has pushed to expand benefits for Americans who have found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own during the pandemic.

In March, Sen. Warner voted in favor of $2 trillion bipartisan legislation that, among other things, expanded access to unemployment benefits for gig workers, contractors, and the self-employed. In the months following the signing of the legislation, Sen. Warner urged states to quickly implement federal provisions easing restrictions on emergency unemployment benefits and called on the Department of Labor (DOL) to issue and clarify state guidance in order to ensure that workers were able to receive benefits. He also introduced legislation to help guarantee that Americans who earn a living through a mix of traditional (W-2) and independent employment income (1099) were able to fully access the financial relief made available under the PUA program.

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Legislative Update

Warner questions Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on need to include broadband funding in next COVID-19 relief bill

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On February 23, 2021, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) participated in a virtual Senate Banking Committee hearing with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, where he stressed the importance of including robust funding for broadband in any future COVID-19 relief package. According to current estimates, there are approximately 700,000 Virginians who still lack access to high-speed internet, which has become increasingly essential for telecommuting, distance learning, telemedicine, and more amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“I would argue, over the last eleven months, we’ve seen broadband is a necessity. I think it is absolutely COVID-19 related,” said Sen. Warner in questioning with Chairman Powell. “I hope that the current package can be changed to actually include a sizeable investment in broadband as good as our four bipartisan packages have been to date.”

He continued, “Experts like Tom Wheeler and Blair Levin have said somewhere in the $40 to $50 billion range, we can get about 97 percent coverage along with better affordability.”

In response, Chairman Powell said, “I would agree that it is a classic piece of infrastructure for the modern economy, for the service economy, for the technologically advanced economy and having it…as broadly available as possible could be a significant benefit economically.”

As a former governor and now in the Senate, Sen. Warner has long fought for increased access to broadband in the Commonwealth. In December, Sen. Warner negotiated and passed COVID-19 relief legislation that included $7 billion towards broadband, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit to help low-income families maintain their internet connections, $285 million to support broadband access in minority communities, and $300 million in broadband grants modeled on bipartisan provisions Sen. Warner drafted with his colleagues. Sen. Warner has also introduced comprehensive broadband infrastructure legislation to expand access to affordable high-speed internet and has also introduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott (R-SC) to establish a $10 billion Broadband Development Fund to prioritize funding for areas that currently lack service, support the deployment of advanced technologies in areas where there is the greatest need, and encourage projects that can quickly provide internet service.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), about 21 million Americans do not have access to 25/3 Mbps internet, which is the FCC’s standard for high-speed broadband. Of that 21 million, 16 million live in rural areas, while 5 million live in urban areas.

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Legislative Update

Warner highlights how response to violence was slowed by D.C. status as a non-state

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Today, February 23, 2021, the Senate Rules Committee and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee convened the first congressional hearing examining the security failures that enabled a mob supporting former President Donald Trump to overrun the U.S. Capitol on January 6. At the hearing, senators heard testimony from four officials, three of whom resigned following the attack: former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving, former U.S. Capitol Police Chief (USCP) Steven Sund and Robert Contee, acting chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

In the hearing, Sen. Warner – a senior member of the Rules Committee – questioned the witnesses about whether the response to the security breach was delayed due to D.C.’s status as a non-state. While the National Guard in other states and territories can be called up by the governor, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser lacked authority on January 6 to mobilize the D.C. National Guard in defense of the Capitol. Instead, the D.C. National Guard is placed under the authority of the President of the United States. The commander of the D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, has told the press that the Pentagon restricted his authority ahead of the mob invasion, and MPD acting Chief Robert Contee testified today that he was shocked by the administration’s “reluctance” on January 6 to approve the deployment of D.C. National Guard troops to quell the violence – resulting in a delay of several hours before troops arrived at the Capitol to restore order.

“I feel like the long-term discrimination against the District – and we’ve seen it in some of the COVID legislation where they did not receive the same kind of level of support that other states did – we saw it play out in real-time on January 6, the hurdles from the previous administration. I have concerns that deployment of the Guard was affirmatively slowed down,” Sen. Warner said at today’s hearing. “As a supporter of D.C. statehood, I would like to see that move forward. But even short of that, trying to ensure that the mayor has appropriate powers going forward.”

Sen. Warner is an original co-sponsor of the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, legislation to make the District of Columbia the 51st state. He is also an original co-sponsor of the District of Columbia National Guard Home Rule Act, legislation to grant the District of Columbia full control over the D.C. National Guard and the Metropolitan Police Department.

At today’s hearing, the senators also heard a terrifying and moving firsthand account of the January 6 attack from USCP Captain Carneysha Mendoza.

At the hearing, Sen. Warner, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also questioned whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was adequately sharing threat information with D.C. and Capitol police ahead of January 6. According to press reports, the FBI field office in Norfolk issued a field bulletin on January 5 warning of the potential for violence on January 6, but former USCP chief Sund testified today that he learned of the report only after the attack.

“I had a number of conversations [with the FBI ahead of January 6.] I called Director Wray on Monday the 4th, trying to express concerns that there might be this kind of activity. I never expected this level of violence. I had a number of conversations with senior FBI leadership on the 5th through the 6th. Candidly, I don’t think even the full FBI could have been fully informed of what was going to come to pass – but I felt like the FBI felt that they were in better shape in terms of intel and preparation than what came to be the case,” Sen. Warner said today.

Sen. Warner concluded, “Let me just say that my concern is that, in Virginia, we’ve seen these kind of anti-government extremists take to the streets in Charlottesville in 2017, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer. We’ve seen the same kind of groups come to the forefront on January 6. I think this is an ongoing threat to national security. I feel at times that, while the FBI and others have pointed this out, that it didn’t get the level of serious review that it should have with the prior administration. I know I felt at times that they did not want to take the information that was coming out of the FBI. I hope on a going-forward basis we’re going to be able to be more coordinated in terms of taking on anti-government extremism, whether it comes from the left or the right. This is a real, ongoing threat. I can tell you from our Intelligence Committee, that we’ve seen that many of these groups have connections and ties to anti-government extremist groups in Europe.”

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – February 21, 2021

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As the House prepares to return to Washington this coming week, I have been reviewing the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending package that does little to support actual COVID relief programs (only nine percent of the bill’s spending), but instead rewards chronic fiscal mismanagement in cities and states like New York and California. To help us defeat COVID, Congress and the Biden Administration should work to spend funds that have already been allocated and support opening up our schools and our economy. Small businesses are struggling here in Virginia, which is why I also wrote to Governor Northam urging him to support the tax-deductibility of PPP funds sent by Congress. Virginia should be helping small businesses, not tacking on extra tax bills when they can least afford them. I also participated in a hearing in the Appropriations Committee on child care programs to discuss how to best help folks who continue to juggle being parents, teachers, and working professionals during COVID. Additionally, I have continued to meet with constituents and advocacy groups to discuss their legislative priorities and ensure that their voices are being heard in Washington. While our region may have experienced some cold weather over the past few days, I am always thankful to be in Virginia’s beautiful Sixth District connecting with the folks I am honored to represent.

Advocating for Fiscal Responsibility:
Despite the federal government still having $1 trillion in unspent COVID funds sitting in its coffers, Democrats are preparing to pass an additional $1.9 trillion messaging bill. While I could support additional funding to ensure our kids are back in school and our small businesses are back in operation, we should make sure the money we approved last year has been spent before we decide that another dime is needed. Further, if the Majority passes this bloated “aid” package, Congress will have spent $6 trillion in the last year alone on COVID-related “stimulus”. That comes out to more than $17,000 per individual, $69,000 per household, and is larger than the GDP of every country on Earth other than the U.S. and China. This sort of spending is unsustainable and poses a serious threat to the longer-term viability of our economy. Any additional relief must be targeted, temporary, and tied to COVID.

Supporting Small Business:
This week I was joined by Congressmen Wittman and Good, in writing to Governor Northam encouraging him and the General Assembly to fully conform state tax law to the federal government’s recently enacted tax law to allow for full deductibility of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in order to ensure the recovery of Virginia small businesses. PPP has served as a lifeline to more than 100,000 Virginia small businesses and their employees since the pandemic began, and as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed last year, Congress made its intent clear that these loans were to be forgiven and fully deductible due to COVID-19. Failing to conform state tax law with that of the federal government would stick those most in need with a sizable tax bill they did not expect and cannot afford. Governor Northam and the General Assembly must now do their part and support mom-and-pop shops across the Commonwealth. I am confident those serving in Richmond will do the right thing. To read the full letter, click here.

Supporting working Families:
COVID-19 has significantly altered the daily lives of millions of Americans. Families with young children have been stretched thin as they try to juggle being a parent, teacher, and working professional. It is well past time for Congress to step up and provide solutions. The answer in most parents’ minds is simple – we must reopen our schools. As I stated in the Appropriations Committee this week, while relief aid is important, we must ensure that funding is going to where it is truly effective. And at this point, the most effective use of taxpayer dollars to alleviate the stress on parents would be allocating resources to get our kids back in the classroom.

Pulp and Paperworkers Resource Council:
The forestry industry brings in nearly $17 billion to Virginia’s economy each year and provides more than $3 billion in recreational opportunities to nearly two thirds of Commonwealth citizens. Further, the forestry industry contributes $345 million back to Virginia landowners for selling their timber and employs 103,000 people throughout the Commonwealth. That is why I was pleased to meet recently with members of the Pulp and Paperworkers Resource Council to discuss their legislative priorities for the 117th Congress. I will remain an advocate for this vital industry both here at home and in Washington.

Port of Virginia:
The Port of Virginia is the third-largest container port on the East Coast and is crucial to the success of various industries. The Port’s mission is to deliver, “opportunity by driving business to, and through, the Commonwealth.” They certainly deliver on their mission as a recent economic impact study shows that the Port, directly and indirectly, supports 390,000 Virginia jobs generating $23 billion in annual compensation and $2.1 billion in state and local taxes. With the Inland Port here in the Sixth District, it was a pleasure to hear from Port officials about how Congress can continue to support their work and ensure they remain a significant economic driver here in the Commonwealth.

COVID-19 Update:
As of February 21, 2021, Virginia has had 564,119 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The current death toll in the Commonwealth stands at 7,331. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of February 20th, 1,101,433 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 440,339 people are fully vaccinated.

This week, Virginia announced its launch of a hotline service hoping to streamline the vaccination process throughout the Commonwealth by preregistering those who wish to get the vaccine. The hotline can be reached at 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682), or can be found online at vaccinate.Virginia.gov.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for the latest updates. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – February 14, 2021

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This week, valuable time that should have been spent addressing the critical issues facing American families and small businesses were once again wasted by Congressional Democrats with another impeachment and trial of Donald Trump. And once again, Donald Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate. While Congress continues to put politics over people, it was nevertheless a productive week here in Virginia’s beautiful Sixth District. I had the opportunity to meet with several constituents and advocacy groups from across the District, including the Superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, folks from Special Olympics International, academic leaders, officials from the Port of Virginia, and members of the forestry industry. I also joined my colleagues in writing to several Biden Administration officials and the President himself regarding several troubling issues. Whether I’m in Washington or the Sixth District, I will always advocate for policies that benefit my constituents.

Meeting with Constituents:
Shenandoah National Park

In 2019, 1.4 million visitors to Shenandoah National Park spent $96.7 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,190 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $129 million. Needless to say, the Park is vital to Virginia’s Sixth District. For this reason, I maintain a close relationship with Park leadership and this week spoke to the new Superintendent, Patrick Kenney, to discuss how COVID-19 has affected the Park’s operations and the importance of safely reinvigorating tourism in the region during the pandemic.

Special Olympics International
Special Olympics International is an organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities by promoting acceptance for all, and by fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Federal partnerships allow Special Olympics to provide vital services to athletes and families, including the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program and Unified Champion Schools Educational programs. This week it was a pleasure to chat with Roanoke resident and Special Olympics athlete, Matt Crowder, about the organization’s work in enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. To learn more about Matt’s work, click here.

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Virginia’s Sixth District is home to more institutions of higher education than nearly any other district in the country. With more than 20 colleges and universities within our borders, students from across the United States flock to the Sixth District to pursue their education. For this reason, it is critically important that I foster an open dialogue between myself and our region’s schools to ensure that I am best representing their and our students’ interests. This week, I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with members of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and other academic leaders from across the district to discuss education policy and ways to ensure student health on campus. As an active member of the Congressional Independent Colleges Caucus, I will remain an advocate for the hundreds of thousands of students receiving education within the Sixth District.

Advocating on Your Behalf:
Reopening Schools
As a parent, I understand the importance of keeping our children safe and ensuring they receive a good education. Remote learning served an invaluable purpose in the height of the pandemic, but it cannot be the only option moving forward. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released clinical guidance titled “COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools.” In this report, the AAP outlined key principles to help with safely reopening our schools and strongly advocated that all policy considerations start with a goal of having students physically present in school. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has emphasized the importance of reopening schools “as safely and as quickly as possible for in-person learning.” To read more of the CDC’s guidelines for schools click here.
President Biden promised that he would support policies to reopen schools in the first 100 days of his presidency. Unfortunately, the Administration’s proposed policy of reopening 50 percent of our Nation’s schools and with students in the classroom as little as one day a week is not enough. This is unacceptable, and my colleagues and I wrote to President Biden insisting he reconsiders his plan. The full letter can be found here.

Open Borders
Based on information from sources on the ground, this week, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have seen illegal crossings soar to more than 3,500 migrants a day, up from 2,000 earlier last month. This comes on the heels of several Executive Orders signed by President Biden aimed at weakening our immigration system. These orders halt construction of the border wall, reduce immigration enforcement, order non-citizens to be included in the Census, eliminate the requirement for illegal immigrants to repay the federal government if they receive public benefits, and will allow for 125,000 refugees to be admitted into the United States this year. Policies such as these encourage migrants to make the dangerous trip across the U.S-Mexico border and pose a grave threat to our national security, our economic and health recovery from COVID, and to American jobs. Read a letter to President Biden expressing concern for these policies here.

Defending the Second Amendment
Recently, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee introduced the Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act. Not only would this legislation create a national firearms registry, but it would also require individuals to have a federal license to possess any firearm or ammunition. Further, this bill would mandate gun owners to have firearm related insurance and ban certain calibers of ammunition. Legislation like this tramples on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens, and I will strongly oppose it.

COVID-19 Update:
As of February 14, 2021, Virginia has had 549,999 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The current death toll in the Commonwealth stands at 7,012. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of February 13, 994,631 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 303,942 people are fully vaccinated.

On Tuesday, February 16 and Wednesday, February 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Martinsburg VAMC will be hosting walk-in COVID-19 Vaccination POD’s (Point of Dispensing) for enrolled Veterans who are 65 and older or Veterans who are essential personnel as defined by the CDC. Veterans will need to arrive by 3 pm to check in for the vaccine in the main lobby. Veterans will need to bring their VA ID Card and Driver’s License (or other identification) that shows their date of birth. To learn more, click here.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for the latest updates. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

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Upcoming Events

Mar
3
Wed
9:00 am Community Blood Drive @ Front Royal Fire and Rescue Department
Community Blood Drive @ Front Royal Fire and Rescue Department
Mar 3 @ 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Community Blood Drive @ Front Royal Fire and Rescue Department
The Front Royal Police Department is sponsoring a blood drive on Wednesday, and all eligible donors are encouraged to log onto redcrossblood.org to schedule a donation of the GIFT OF LIFE! Jeff Farmer and the[...]
9:00 am Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Mar 3 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Free Tax Preparation @ Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Free tax preparation will be available again this year through the AARP Tax Aide at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Front Royal, Monday and Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 15th. To make an appointment, please call[...]
Mar
9
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 9 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
13
Sat
10:00 am HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
Mar 13 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
HSWC Polar Plunge @ Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center
The Humane Society of Warren County “Polar Plunge” delayed from February 20 due to “too-polar” weather here in northwestern Virginia has been rescheduled to Saturday, March 13 – Don’t worry, it will still be a[...]
Mar
16
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 16 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
23
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 23 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Mar
28
Sun
2:00 pm Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 28 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Pictures with the Easter Bunny @ Warren County Community Center
Come join the staff of Warren County Parks and Recreation and get your picture taken with the Easter Bunny! Pictures will be taken and printed on site; upon departure you will be given an Easter[...]
Mar
30
Tue
6:30 pm Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
Mar 30 @ 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Dance Fitness Class @ Warren County Community Center
This class is for all fitness levels and anyone who is looking to have fun dancing to a variety of music styles from hip hop to swing to salsa, all while EXERCISING! This class will[...]
Apr
3
Sat
12:00 pm Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Apr 3 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Egg-stravaganza! @ Sky Meadows State Park
Eggs are popping up all over Sky Meadows State Park. Visit our egg-laying free-range chickens by taking our Chicken Walk. Go on an egg-citing Geocache adventure. Kids, use your scavenger hunting skills using clues from[...]
Apr
17
Sat
all-day Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
Apr 17 all-day
Shenandoah Epic @ Caroline Furnace
This tried and true Epic 24-hour AR will test your biking, paddling, trekking, and navigation skills as you explore two state parks (one of them brand new!) and national forest lands. Join soloists and teams[...]