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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 5, 2021

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One of the ways in which the US Congress has abused the trust of the people over the years is in the wasteful way it spends your hard-earned money. In recent years, the House and Senate have passed massive spending bills that are out of balance and out of touch with the priorities of the American people. Unfortunately, this year is no different. In fact, this year Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats have abandoned all pretense of fiscal responsibility by refusing to even pass a House Budget plan before taking up the twelve annual appropriations bills.

The Budget Plan is a blueprint for spending priorities that are supposed to be submitted by the President and passed by Congress in the springtime, and without it, the House Appropriations Committee is left to spend as much as it wants on whatever priorities it chooses. One reason I accepted an assignment to the House Appropriations Committee is to bring some sense of fiscal responsibility back to this broken process, and hopefully, I can inject some of the conservative philosophy from my time in Richmond that helped us to balance our budget in Virginia year after year. As I spend my first session with my colleagues on Appropriations, I am following through on my promise to remind them of four words they have forgotten in Washington: “We can’t afford it!”

Also this week, the full House addressed transportation by pushing through a partisan bill that neglected traditional infrastructure needs and instead provided nearly half its funding toward the Green New Deal. I am also continuing to fight against the abuses of Big Tech as a member of the newly-created Big Tech and Data Task Force, which will help find solutions to stop the abusive behaviors of Big Tech. I also enjoyed the opportunity to recognize the Amherst County High School Girls Softball Team for winning this year’s Class 4 State Championship. Finally, I am looking forward to hosting a Virtual Service Academy Day on Thursday for high school students interested in attending one of our Nation’s Service Academies. It was a busy week, and I hope everyone has been able to relax during the Independence Day holiday weekend and enjoy some time with friends and family.

Appropriations:
The House Appropriations Committee began debating the twelve bills that make up the funding levels for government agencies and programs. Throughout the process, my colleagues and I fought to rein in record levels of spending, opposed billions of dollars to fund Green New Deal initiatives, defended the rights of the unborn, and sought to protect our farmers and rural communities. One of my amendments would have prohibited millions of dollars in federal funding from being allocated to President Biden’s unauthorized Civilian Climate Corps, which would be the first major plank of the Green New Deal funded with your tax dollars. More about that amendment can be found here. As the appropriations process continues, the Committee should be looking for ways to address our growing national debt, not increasing the size and reach of the Federal government.


China Coverup:
From the very beginning, the Chinese Communist Party masked the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and hindered investigations at every turn. The American people, as well as the rest of the world, were subject to its devastating impact on lives, the economy, and families. That is why I introduced an amendment in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to require the Biden Administration to declassify intelligence related to any potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amendment also stated that funding authorized for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill would be withheld until the Director of National Intelligence has declassified the aforementioned information. If passed, this amendment would have ensured a greater level of both transparency and accountability from the Federal government. Unfortunately, despite similar legislation passing unanimously in the Senate, Committee Democrats voted down my amendment, which can be found here.

I also introduced a separate amendment that would withhold funding from the WHO until the Secretary of State certifies and reports to Congress that the WHO has conducted a transparent international forensic investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and implemented amendments to the International Health Regulations to improve transparency in response to outbreaks of infectious diseases. This amendment was also voted down, despite significant failures at the WHO throughout the pandemic. Text of this amendment can be found here.

 

Green New Deal in Disguise:
Rather than working across the aisle as the Senate is doing on a bipartisan infrastructure plan that does not increase the deficit, House Democrats jammed a partisan bill through the House this week that puts America on a road to nowhere. The bill was nothing but a partisan wish list that prioritized the Green New Deal agenda over the core needs of our Nation’s infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Further, the legislation actually prevents the building of new roads – ripping away the ability of states to prioritize the needs of local communities. The Sixth District is in dire need of resources to modernize its aging infrastructure and relieve the congestion bottlenecks that afflict our highways – most notably is Interstate 81. Each year there are nearly 2,000 crashes on I-81, with over 25% involving heavy trucks, and more than 45 major crashes a year causing delays greater than four hours. Current conditions are not only frustration but a grave public safety concern. It is unconscionable that instead of focusing on public safety and improvements to our Nation’s roadways, such as Interstate 81, Democrats hijacked this transportation bill for their own political messaging. I was sent to Washington to ensure our government is transparent and accountable for every action it takes. Spending $1 out of every $2 to comply with Green New Deal mandates is ludicrous, and I could not accept a deal that puts big cities and big government over the interests of the American taxpayers that I represent in rural America. Republicans are willing and open to negotiating realistic ways to rebuild our highways and infrastructure, but it must be done in a fiscally responsible manner.

Reining in Big Tech:
The unbridled power of Big Tech is out of control and continues to grow. The industry has often failed to protect users’ personal information, curbed competition by eluding antitrust regulation, and limited the free speech of private citizens and elected officials, often from one particular political party. There is no denying Big Tech needs to be reined in, and this week I was pleased to be appointed by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the Big Tech and Data Task Force. The Task Force will examine the rapid proliferation of Big Tech’s influence over the American people and their daily lives by focusing on the three areas of concern listed below. I look forward to working with my colleagues to find reasonable and realistic solutions to check the power of Big Tech.

1. Big Tech Responsibility: Task Force members will consider avenues to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
2. Big Tech Power: Task Force members will focus on competition issues
3. Big Tech Data: Task Force members will explore data privacy and security matters

State Champions:
I was pleased to recognize the Amherst County High School Girls Softball Team for winning this year’s Class 4 State Championship. It was a defensive game all around, and Amherst County pitcher, Dylan McNerney, kept the Lancers in it with incredible performance – striking out 10 batters. With the game tied zero-zero at the end of regulation, it took extra innings for the Lancers to pull off the victory against the Hanover Hawks. Before the final inning began, Head Coach Samantha Thacker told the team, “this is our time, this is our inning, we’ve got to stay settled and be patient,” – and they did just that. In the top of the eighth, two errors by the Hawks put runners on base for Amherst County with one out. When Kayleigh Combs stepped up to bat, she put the ball into play and an overthrow allowed Cheyenne Wall to race home from third giving the Lancers a one-to-nothing lead. Soon after, a wild pitch brought Maegan Lloyd home adding another run to the board. With a two-to-nothing lead heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Lancers were able to keep the Hawks scoreless, securing the team’s first-ever state title. Congratulations to the players and coaches on a great season, they earned it.

Virtual Service Academy Day:
This coming Thursday, July 8, my office will host a Virtual Service Academy Day via Microsoft Teams. Students and their parents will be provided information on the application, nomination, selection, and appointment processes. Representatives from the various service academies are expected to be present on the video call to answer questions. An academy appointment is highly competitive, where each academy selects nominees based on moral character, scholastic achievement, physical fitness, leadership, and college admission test scores. The earlier a student begins preparation, the more competitive that student will be in the process. While Academy Days are usually held in person, this first event of the year will be held online to accommodate interested students throughout the entire Sixth District. Please stay tuned for updates on additional in-person regional Service Academy Days in the near future. To sign up for this event, please visit Eventbrite here. Once your registration is submitted, a member of my staff will provide details on how to join the video call. Registration closes at 5 pm on Wednesday, July 7.

National Dairy Month:
The Virginia Dairy Industry, directly and indirectly, supports more than 45,000 jobs and contributes $344 million annually to the Commonwealth’s economy. Unfortunately, Dairy farmers were significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As normal wholesale markets such as schools and restaurants shut down, wholesale dairy farms had to shift their export strategy and fight to get their product into retail grocery stores that may have already had a contract with another dairy farm. Some farmers were simply unable to adjust their supply chain avenues in time and, due to the short shelf life of milk, much of their product was lost. As National Dairy Month comes to a close, I recognize the hardships dairy farmers have faced over the past year, and I am committed to continuing to support the industry that is so important to folks here in the Sixth District.

Independence Day:
On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia and voted to officially sever ties with Great Britain. Pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, 56 brave men proclaimed to the world the sovereignty of the Thirteen Colonies. This statement, made public two days later, has since become known as the Declaration of Independence, and its words are at the very core of the American Ideal.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I strive every day to uphold these values as your representative in Congress. I fight to ensure that the American Dream is never out of reach for any citizen in this country and that regardless of status, I will always work to preserve liberty and opportunity for all Americans.

COVID-19 Update:
As of July 5, 2021, Virginia has had 681,194 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 11,431. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of July 5th, 5,056,410 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 4,359,054 people are fully vaccinated.

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.

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Legislative Update

Statement of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner – On 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11:

“On the 20th anniversary of September 11th, we remember the lives lost at the Pentagon in Northern Virginia, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Twin Towers in New York City. We come together to grieve for those who were lost, the family and friends left behind, and remember all those impacted by the tragic events of 20 years ago.  May also remember the heroics that our nation’s first responders and everyday Americans displayed that day and every day since. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten. To our servicemen and women, the intelligence community, and those who have sacrificed their lives and dedicated their careers to defeating the scourge of radical terrorism, we remember and honor you.”

 

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Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – September 6, 2021

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Special Report: Surrender of Afghanistan

The consequences of ill planning became clear as we surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban, leaving an untold number of American citizens behind. America also saw the compassion of its people in relief efforts throughout Virginia and the country to those families who made it to safety. While the mission has moved to Qatar, the goal of making sure every single American is rescued and that no one is left behind must become our focus. Anything short of this will be unacceptable. When books are written and military strategy is taught about the catastrophic withdrawal of Afghanistan, those lessons will, unfortunately, include a focus on its failures and mistakes. There will also be a reckoning for those responsible, beginning with President Biden. I urge Speaker Pelosi to begin an immediate investigation into the failures of this Administration’s plan and into the civilian and military leadership who carried it out. We owe this to every American taxpayer and especially to those families impacted by this war and its conclusion.

Catastrophic Withdrawal:
Despite increasing Taliban violence in the first three months of 2021 and intelligence that the Taliban and al-Qaida were maintaining close ties, on April 14, 2021, President Biden announced a full United States troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. During this announcement, the President said, ‘‘We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit’’ and, ‘‘We’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely.’’ This was despite the assessments from his own intelligence community about prospects for the fall of the government in Kabul.

Matters were made worse on July 6, when the US military was withdrawn from Bagram Air Base, reportedly without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander. Further, on July 12, President Biden ordered 4-star General Austin Miller, Commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces-Afghanistan, to relinquish his position and depart Afghanistan, leaving the remaining United States presence without a seasoned leader in the face of a growing Taliban offensive. Additionally, despite the President saying, “there’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan,” and that, “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” the situation still rapidly devolved.


On August 6, the first Provincial capital, Zaranj, fell to the Taliban and led to a violent onslaught of offensives throughout other Provinces. By August 15, the United States Embassy in Kabul was evacuated and Taliban fighters soon stood outside chanting ‘‘Death to America.’’ From there, the stories of devastation only got worse. Americans and our Afghan partners struggled desperately to get to the airport for evacuation – many of which never made it – billions of dollars of US military equipment fell into the hands of the Taliban to now be used against our troops in the region, violence erupted in the streets, women, and girls had their freedoms stripped from them, and of course, worst of all, 13 brave US service members lost their lives following two cowardly suicide bombings outside of Hamid Karzai Airport. Each of these tragedies was preventable. Bad decision after bad decision from this Administration, compounded in an utter failure that has resulted in the loss of Afghanistan for generations. Those responsible must be held accountable for this disaster.

Leave No One Behind:
On August 19, President Biden told ABC News unequivocally that the US would not leave any Americans stranded. He said, “If there are American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out.” As the August 31 deadline came and went, President Biden broke his promise. He caved to the Taliban’s demands, abandoned his fellow Americans in a hostile country, and left thousands of Afghan partners to be hunted and slaughtered by the Taliban. In a matter of just a few weeks, the mantra of the United States military went from, “leave no one behind,” to, “we’re content leaving some of you behind.”

President Biden has claimed that the overwhelming majority of Americans left in Afghanistan wanted to stay. But this notion was undercut by his own military leadership. General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said Monday that Americans tried to get to the Kabul airport for the final evacuations but couldn’t. He said, “We maintained the ability to bring them in up until immediately before departure, but we were not able to bring any Americans out. That activity ended probably about 12 hours before our exit, although we continued the outreach and would have been prepared to bring them on until the very last minute. But none of them made it to the airport, and were able to be accommodated.” At the current time, the State Department estimates that there are at least 100 to 200 Americans still stranded in the country. This is on top of the thousands of Afghan allies who aided the war effort and protected American troops. This President failed our people and neglected the promises we made to our allies.

Refugees:
The United States owes a debt of gratitude to Afghan citizens who aided the war effort in various capacities over the past 20 years. We must honor our commitments to those who put their lives on the line to protect American soldiers, and they deserve to be given refuge from the brutality of the Taliban as they were promised. However, the hurried evacuation of more than 100,000 Afghan nationals over the past several weeks raises serious concerns about the vetting process that has been done for those evacuees. On August 29, 2021, President Biden directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to serve as the lead agency to coordinate the federal government’s efforts to resettle Afghans in the United States.

This announcement follows a memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security to US Customs and Border Protection on August 23, 2021, indicating that the agency found it appropriate to exercise discretionary authority to parole certain Afghan nationals into the United States. Since then, there have been multiple media reports of individuals with criminal records or potential ties to terrorist organizations being evacuated from Afghanistan. For example, the Washington Times has reported that an individual who was, “convicted of rape and deported from the US was allowed to board an Afghan evacuation flight and reach America.” Further, according to multiple media accounts, a US government official warned that as many as 100 Afghan evacuees flown out of Afghanistan are on government watch lists. These reports are extremely troubling, and we must ensure that anyone being brought to the United States has been fully vetted. That is why this week I joined my colleagues in writing to Secretary Mayorkas seeking answers to several key questions regarding the vetting process. That letter can be found here.

 

More than 600 people crammed into the hold of a US Air Force cargo plane that was leaving Kabul on August 15, 2021 (Photo: Defense One)

 

Office Available to Help:
From the very onset of this humanitarian crisis, my office heard from concerned constituents across the Sixth District, as well as from families who had loved ones and fellow American citizens stranded in Afghanistan. My office exhausted every possible resource and worked with the State Department to provide folks with the necessary tools to get to the airport before US forces left this week. Fortunately, we were successful in several cases in assisting the State Department in evacuating folks from the country. However, there is more work to be done. My office continues to process requests and will continue working the proper channels to aid those still in need to the best of our ability. Please do not hesitate to reach out to one of my District offices listed at the bottom of the page if you or someone you know needs assistance. For the latest resources from the State Department, click here.


Resources for Veterans:

Veterans who answered the call to serve our Nation – including over the last two decades in Afghanistan – deserve our thanks and respect. They also need to know they are not alone. Listed below are resources available to Veterans, provided through the US Department of Veterans Affairs and other organizations. For emergency mental health care, Veterans can also go directly to their local VA medical center 24/7 regardless of discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care. September is Suicide Prevention Month. If you are experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, please know that there is help available.

• Veterans Crisis Line

• Make the Connection

• VA Website – Mental Health Suicide Prevention

• Lifeline

• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA)

• Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)

• American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Knowledge Network

• American Association of Suicidology

• Means Matter Website Launched

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.

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US Senator Mark Warner urges passing bipartisan legislation to fund new semiconductor production in the United States

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) issued the following statement in response to reports that General Motors plans to halt production temporarily at nearly all North American plants due to the shortage of semiconductor chips:

“The continuing impact of the chip shortage – epitomized most recently in the news that GM will be forced to idle plants across North America – speaks to the urgency of passing bipartisan legislation to fund new semiconductor production in the United States. While the impact of this funding will not solve the global semiconductor shortage overnight, the longer we wait, the worse this supply chain crunch will become. I would urge my House colleagues to pass the legislation funding my bill as soon as possible.”

Sen. Warner, the co-chair of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus and former technology entrepreneur, has long sounded the alarm about the importance of investing in domestic semiconductor manufacturing. In June, he applauded the Senate passage of the United States Innovation and Competition Act, bipartisan legislation that includes Warner-led provisions to shore up American leadership in the microelectronics industry.

The United States Innovation and Competition Act – also known by an earlier name, the Endless Frontier Act – would help invest in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, packaging and advanced research and development by investing $52 billion to implement the CHIPS for America Act, a bipartisan law championed by Sen. Warner to help restore semiconductor manufacturing back to American soil.


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Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 31, 2021

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Amazingly, despite the current crisis in Afghanistan, an open southern border, soaring crime in our cities, and rising inflation rates, the Speaker saw fit to call Congress back into session last week solely to pass the framework for a $3.5 trillion socialist spending spree, as well as a misguided bill that would nationalize control of our elections and effectively ban protections like photo ID. The actions of the Speaker and this Administration this week highlighted just how truly out of touch they are with the American people. I will continue to fight for the best interests of Sixth District residents and will strive to advance policies that move this Nation forward.

Tragedy in Afghanistan:
The past week has been filled with shock, anger, and sorrow, as we watched the poorly planned withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan by the current Administration result in the preventable deaths of 13 American soldiers who were killed Friday by cowardly ISIS-K terrorists in a pair of suicide bombings. These killings, and the wounding of hundreds of Americans and Afghan civilians, cannot be allowed to stand. I strongly support aggressive military action to destroy those in ISIS-K responsible for this heinous act.

We must also demand answers from the current Administration about why the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan partners is being handled so poorly. This is not a partisan issue, as Members of Congress from both parties including Virginia Senator Mark Warner are calling for further investigation. It would be most productive if Speaker Pelosi brought the House back into immediate session, so we could investigate and hold accountable those whose mishandling of the evacuation created the conditions for this catastrophe. This includes the misguided promise to the Taliban by the Biden Administration that they will leave by August 31, an arbitrary deadline made by President Biden that ignores current conditions on the ground in Kabul. We must also demand answers as to why the Administration would endanger Americans and Afghan partners by sharing information about their identities with the Taliban. Already we are seeing the Taliban resume random door-to-door searches of homes in Kabul searching for those who helped U.S. forces. We cannot leave a single American behind, and we must protect those Afghan partners who have been loyal to our efforts over the last 20 years.

In order to do everything possible to protect those still stranded in Afghanistan, I am calling on the Administration to declare the Taliban in violation of their evacuation agreement with American forces, declare the evacuation date of August 31 null and void, and inform the Taliban that American troops will remain in Afghanistan for as long as is necessary to ensure that every American, every piece of American military equipment, and every Afghan partner who qualifies is safely evacuated. The American people deserve answers, and the 13 American heroes who lost their lives yesterday deserve strong and decisive action from a grateful Nation that honors their memory and their sacrifices for freedom.


Bernie’s Budget Giveaway:
The obvious issue Congress should have been addressing this week is the debacle in Afghanistan. However, instead, the Speaker called the House back into session to take up the Left’s number one priority – a decades-long wish list that is anything but traditional infrastructure. The passage of Bernie’s Budget resolution marked the first step to enact President Biden’s reckless $3.5 trillion tax and spending spree. Make no mistake about it, this is a trojan horse filled with Far-Left Democrats’ socialist dreams. It will kill American jobs, increase taxes on families, increase inflation, provide amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, eliminate right-to-work protections, expand government control of healthcare, and so much more. I joined my colleagues at a press conference this week highlighting the disastrous provisions included in this bill.

The budget calls for the highest sustained federal spending levels in American history and proposes $68 trillion in total spending over the next ten years, $16.3 trillion of total deficit spending over ten years, and increases the national debt by $17 trillion, growing to $45 trillion by 2031. This level of spending is reckless with inflation already at a 13-year high and real hourly wages have fallen 2.7 percent in the last quarter. Further, this week a key inflation indicator, the Core Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index rose by 3.6% from last month, marking the highest jump in 30 years (May 1991). This is on top of the Producer Price Inflation (PPI) index rising 7.8% and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rising 5.4% over the last twelve months – both record numbers. Americans are already paying more for everyday products, and legislation like this will only exacerbate the problem.

• Car rentals are UP 73.5%

• Gas is UP 41.8%

• Hotels are UP 24.1%

• Airfare is UP 19%

• Fish is UP 8.5%

• Sports equipment is UP 7.2%

“Remain in Mexico” Policy:
One of the many Trump immigration policies that the Biden Administration reversed which led to the crisis at our border was the Migrant Protection Protocols – more commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. This policy requires many asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they await hearings on their requests for safe haven in the U.S. Following the implementation of this policy by the Trump Administration, illegal crossings plummeted and more than 60,000 illegal immigrants were returned to Mexico in a 13-month period. President Biden’s reversal of this policy, along with canceling asylum agreements with our regional partners and halting border wall construction, led to record-breaking numbers of illegal crossings. My colleagues and I had written to the Department of Homeland Security expressing our concern with this policy reversal, but our concerns were ignored. Fortunately, this week, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the “Remain in Mexico” policy must be reimplemented. Hopefully, this ruling can help slow the crisis at our border.

Politicizing Our Elections:
The Constitution reserves to the States the primary role in establishing, “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives.” Yet, H.R. 4 would give President Biden’s Department of Justice and federal courts the power to exert considerable control over state and local election laws. Further, H.R. 4 would give the Biden Administration authority to veto states’ voter ID laws, despite a recent survey finding that 81 percent of Americans support voter identification laws. Further, this bill seeks to politicize voting and pushes a false narrative that there is a crisis in voting rights, when in fact there was record turnout amongst all demographics in the last election. Republicans support expanding access to voting, but this legislation was nothing more than a Pelosi power grab attempting to ensure Democratic control of the House.

PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act:
As many as 20% of Veterans who return from combat suffer from PTSD, and on average, 20 Veterans die a day from suicide. Congress must find solutions to combat this growing crisis, which is why I was pleased to support and see the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act signed into law. This bill creates a pilot program that will expand opportunities for Veterans to get involved with training and adopting service dogs. Studies show that service animals can help reduce depression, anxiety, anger, and alcohol and substance abuse, as well as fewer sleep disturbances. Further, properly trained service dogs can alert Veterans to PTSD triggers, such as crowded areas or unanticipated risks, and provide security and a calming effect to alleviate anxiety. Supporting commonsense bills like this is just one of the ways in which we can support those who have given so much to our country.

Honoring VFW Post 7814:
I recently honored the 75th anniversary of the Thomas-Fields Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7814, which was founded on July 11, 1946. This week I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the Post’s leadership and present them with a copy of the Congressional Record. I applaud the Thomas-Fields VFW Post for their tremendous work in our community and their efforts to aid those who served.

When African American Veterans of World War II returned to their homes in the Staunton-Augusta area, they were unfortunately excluded from their local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. Following their denied admittance, a group of forty-two Veterans then applied for a charter to organize their own post, which would carry the namesakes of Charles Thomas and Glenwood Fields, two African Americans from Staunton who died while serving their country in World War II. Since its formation, the Thomas-Fields Post has been an active civic organization in the African American community of Staunton and Augusta County, as well as played an active and significant role in local Veterans’ activities. While the Post welcomes all Veterans, it continues to highlight the heritage of African American and minority Veterans who have served our Nation. Recently, Post 7814 was recognized as a Meritorious Post by the State VFW Federation for its outstanding work over the past five years and was also named an All-American Post by the National VFW Council for the first time in its history.

COVID-19 Update:
As of August 29, 2021, Virginia has had 754,652 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 11,769. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of August 29th, 5,557,112 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 4,868,886 people are fully vaccinated.

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.

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Statement of Senate Intel Chair Mark R. Warner on unclassified summary of assessment on COVID-19 origins

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U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the statement below, following the release of an unclassified report on the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19:

“This report underscores the need for China to stop stonewalling international investigations into a global pandemic that has cost so many lives and livelihoods around the world. It is disheartening that the Chinese Communist Party remains unwilling to cooperate with an investigation of this magnitude, even as the world mourns the deaths of 4.5 million people and counting. At the same time, I would urge Americans around the country to denounce hateful rhetoric and discrimination against our AAPI (Asia/Asian Pacific Islands) friends and neighbors, many of whom have suffered racist attacks throughout the period of this crisis.”

Precautionary viral preventive masks were still prominent, especially during informal mingling during Senate Intel Committee Chair Mark Warner’s Aug. 23, 2021, visit to Inland Port in Warren County for a Roundtable on Infrastructure Act funding options. Four days later, he released a statement on the U.S. Intelligence community’s unclassified analysis of the COVID-19 Coronavirus’s origins. That unclassified report is both linked in Warner’s statement and printed out in its entirety below it. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini



UNCLASSIFIED REPORT – from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence


Key Takeaways

The IC assesses that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, probably emerged and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019 with the first known cluster of COVID-19 cases arising in Wuhan, China in December 2019. In addition, the IC was able to reach broad agreement on several other key issues. We judge the virus was not developed as a biological weapon. Most agencies also assess with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered; however, two agencies believe there was not sufficient evidence to make an assessment either way. Finally, the IC assesses China’s officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19 emerged.

After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information, though, the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident.

• Four IC elements and the National Intelligence Council assess with low confidence that the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus—a virus that probably would be more than 99 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2. These analysts give weight to China’s officials’ lack of foreknowledge, the numerous vectors for natural exposure, and other factors.

• One IC element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. These analysts give weight to the inherently risky nature of work on coronaviruses.

• Analysts at three IC elements remain unable to coalesce around either explanation without additional information, with some analysts favoring natural origin, others a laboratory origin, and some seeing the hypotheses as equally likely.

• Variations in analytic views largely stem from differences in how agencies weigh intelligence reporting and scientific publications, and intelligence and scientific gaps.

The IC judges they will be unable to provide a more definitive explanation for the origin of COVID-19 unless new information allows them to determine the specific pathway for initial natural contact with an animal or to determine that a laboratory in Wuhan was handling SARS CoV-2 or a close progenitor virus before COVID-19 emerged.

• The IC—and the global scientific community—lacks clinical samples or a complete understanding of epidemiological data from the earliest COVID-19 cases. If we obtain information on the earliest cases that identified a location of interest or occupational exposure, it may alter our evaluation of hypotheses.

China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19. Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the United States. These actions reflect, in part, China’s government’s own uncertainty about where an investigation could lead as well as its frustration the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China.

 

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

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Being back home gives me the chance to catch up with folks and to hear their views on current issues in Washington. Recent topics included the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and the linking of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package with an additional $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” proposal. Regarding the budget debate, I heard from constituents asking “how can we afford it”, “how is it paid for”, and “does it go for traditional infrastructures such as roads and bridges?” Rest assured, I share those concerns, and I am asking those questions as Congress returns to Washington, DC to debate and vote on these topics.

One other issue that I hear universally is the rise in inflation. Why are we having to pay more for gas, food, and nearly everything else? Additionally, the lack of a comprehensive plan to secure our border continues to have negative effects, and the latest data from Customs and Border Protection shows that the situation is only getting worse as over 212,000 illegal aliens crossed the border last month, marking a 21-year-high.

Closer to home, my office announced its participation in the Congressional App Challenge, which will allow middle and high schools students from across the District to grow in their computer programming skills. Regarding the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan, my office remains committed to ensuring the safety of American citizens and those who aided the war effort, in addition to providing recourses to the veterans who have sacrificed while serving in the country. It is an honor to serve on behalf of the Sixth District, and I look forward to meeting with even more constituents as I continue my travels throughout the region.

Tragedy in Afghanistan:
The situation in Afghanistan is tragic. The Biden Administration’s disastrous withdrawal has allowed the Taliban to sweep through the country, gain control of the capital, and the group is now in the process of setting up a government. My office remains committed to assisting in the evacuation efforts of American citizens still in the country, as well as Afghan interpreters and others who aided the United States over the past 20 years. I am working hard to obtain information from the State Department and find solutions to the tragic situation. If you have a loved one who is trapped there, urge them to do the following immediately:



U.S. citizens needing assistance to depart Afghanistan should register for any option that might be identified to return to the United States by completing this Repatriation Assistance Request for each traveler in their group as soon as possible to facilitate travel when the situation permits. Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who are awaiting immigrant visas should also complete this form if they wish to depart. Citizens must complete this form even if they have previously submitted their information to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

We are currently working with State to evacuate individuals and are awaiting further guidance. The situation is fluid, and we are working hard to obtain better information. If you are a resident of VA-06 and you have a loved one who is trying to escape Kabul, please reach out to my District offices located at the bottom of the page. Additional information from the State Department can be found here.

Further, the Veterans who answered the call to serve our Nation – including over the last two decades in Afghanistan – deserve our thanks and respect. They also need to know they are not alone. Listed below are resources available to Veterans, provided through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. For emergency mental health care, you can also go directly to your local VA medical center 24/7 regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care.

Vet Centers: Discuss how you feel with other Veterans in these community-based counseling centers. 70% of Vet Center staff are Veterans. Call 1-877-927-8387 or find one near you.

Make the Connection: Information, resources, and Veteran to Veteran videos for challenging life events and experiences with mental health issues.

RallyPoint: Talk to other Veterans online.

Center for Women Veterans, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Call or text 1-855-829-6636 (M-F 8AM – 10PM & SAT 8AM – 6:30PM ET)

VA Caregiver Support Line: Call 1-855-260-3274 (M-F 8AM – 10PM & SAT 8AM – 5PM ET)

American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network – MVCN


Inflation:

President Biden and Congressional Democrats’ out-of-control spending caused a key inflation indicator to reach a new record high in July. The Producer Price Inflation (PPI) index rose 7.8% over the last twelve months, which is a record high since the Bureau of Labor Statistics first began calculating the index in November 2010. Further inflation itself has increased every month since Joe Biden became President, and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 5.4% over the last twelve months — marking a 13-year-high rate of inflation. This matches the CPI’s largest jump since right before the financial crash in August 2008. On top of this, the Employment Cost Index — which measures wages and salaries, along with health, retirement, and other benefits — fell last quarter and is 2% below its pre-pandemic trend, when taking inflation into account. While Americans are making less, they are paying more for just about everything, and President Biden’s out-of-control spending is a major part of the reason why.

• Car rentals are UP 73.5%

• Gas is UP 41.8%

• Hotels are UP 24.1%

• Airfare is UP 19%

• Steaks are UP 10.7%

• Fish is UP 8.5%

• Sports equipment is UP 7.2%

 

 

Crisis at the Border:
Since taking office, President Biden has halted border wall construction, stopped the “Remain in Mexico” policy, canceled asylum cooperative agreements, and requested amnesty for millions.
These actions have had disastrous consequences and resulted in a humanitarian, health, and national security crisis at the southern border. Just last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported more than 212,000 border apprehensions, which marks the highest number in 21 years. Further, these numbers make July the fifth straight month in which illegal border crossings have surpassed 170,000, and more than 1 million illegal crossings have occurred since President Biden took office. The illegal immigration crisis is only getting worse, and this Administration must take corrective action immediately.

Congressional App Challenge:
This week, my office was pleased to announce its participation in the 2021 Congressional App Challenge (CAC). The App Challenge is a Congressional initiative to encourage student engagement in STEM programs and, more specifically, computer science. In the ever-evolving technological world, the continued growth of computer science and STEM skills are essential for economic prosperity and innovation. This App Challenge will give middle and high school students from across the Sixth District the chance to test their creativity and grow their programming skills. Registration is now open for students, and more detailed rules and guidelines can be found on the CAC’s website. The winning app from each Congressional District will be on display in the Capitol for one year.


Service Academy Day:

My office will be hosting the first of several Service Academy Days on Saturday, August 28, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Rockbridge County High School in Lexington, VA.

Students and their parents will be provided information on the application, nomination, selection, and appointment processes. Representatives from the various service academies will be present to provide information and answer questions.

• The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York

• The United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland

• The United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York

• The United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado

An academy appointment has an estimated value of over $400,000 and admission is competitive. Each academy selects nominees based on moral character, scholastic achievement, physical fitness, leadership, and college admission test scores. The earlier a student begins preparation, the more competitive that student will be in the process.

To register for the event, click here. More information on Service Academy Day and the nomination process may be found by visiting my website or by calling my Lynchburg office at (434) 845-8306.

Constituent Visits:
As the representative for the Sixth District, I continue to make myself available to those I serve. During this August District Work Period, I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet with individual constituents in my office, tour countless small businesses and manufacturing facilities, and participate in community events.

 

Molson Coors Beverage Company (Elkton)

 

Framatome, Inc. (Lynchburg)

COVID-19 Update:

As of August 22, 2021, Virginia has had 731,287 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 11,681. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of August 22nd, 5,475,640 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 4,788,915 people are fully vaccinated.

 

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.

Follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.

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8:00 am 2021 Gnarled Orchard Hard Cider ... @ Valley View Farm
2021 Gnarled Orchard Hard Cider ... @ Valley View Farm
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Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
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WARREN COALITION OFFERS FREE TRAUMA-INFORMED TRAINING IN SEPTEMBER Have you ever felt alone? Do you wonder why you react the way you do? Do you work with children? If you answered yes to any of[...]
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6:00 pm Monument to Mosby’s Men Ceremony @ Prospect Hill Cemetery
Monument to Mosby’s Men Ceremony @ Prospect Hill Cemetery
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3rd Annual French & Indian War W... @ Abram's Delight
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Saturday, September 25, and Sunday, September 26, from 10 am to 5 pm. 18th Century Colonial encampments with historical interpretation of British, French and Native Americans on the Western frontier of the Virginia Colony during[...]
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National Public Lands Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
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Friends of Sky Meadows Farm Market @ Sky Meadows State Park
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10:00 am 3rd Annual French & Indian War W... @ Abram's Delight
3rd Annual French & Indian War W... @ Abram's Delight
Sep 26 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
3rd Annual French & Indian War Weekend @ Abram's Delight
Saturday, September 25, and Sunday, September 26, from 10 am to 5 pm. 18th Century Colonial encampments with historical interpretation of British, French and Native Americans on the Western frontier of the Virginia Colony during[...]
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2:00 pm Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
Trauma-Informed Training @ ONLINE
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7:00 pm Community Parent Night @ Dominion Ridge Academy
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