The House returned to Washington last week to, unfortunately, play politics with a number of pressing issues facing our Nation – most notably our crumbling infrastructure. However, one bit of news that should have all Americans cheering is the June jobs report. As America reopens, the number of jobs added in the United States blew past expert predictions for the second month in a row. The economy gained a whopping 4.8 million jobs in June, making it by far the largest single-month gain in our Nation’s history. And while it was a busy week in Washington, I am thankful to be spending this Independence Day in the District. This weekend might not be as filled with festivities as it usually is, but I am truly blessed to be celebrating surrounded by family and friends in a beautiful District that I am proud to call home.
Fixing Our Nation’s Infrastructure:
The Sixth District is in dire need of resources to modernize its aging infrastructure and relieve the congestion bottlenecks that afflict our highways. Most notable for our area is Interstate 81 – a road which is the economic backbone of the region and that spans six states, with over 300 miles of it in Virginia, and stretches the majority of the District from Front Royal in the North to Roanoke in the South. Each year there are nearly 2,000 crashes on I-81, with more than 25% involving heavy trucks, and over 45 major crashes a year causing delays greater than four hours. Current conditions are not only frustration but a grave public safety concern. People are dying on this road, and the failure to keep America’s infrastructure up to par is costing lives.
Sadly, instead of focusing on public safety and improvements to highways like I-81, the Majority passed an infrastructure bill this week that is nothing more than political messaging. H.R. 2 prioritizes big cities and big government over the interests of the American taxpayer while neglecting the needs of rural America. We simply cannot afford the $1.5 trillion-dollar Green New Deal agenda that was included in this legislation. Instead of negotiating realistic ways to rebuild our highways and infrastructure, the Majority created uncertainty for our local communities by saddling them with an ever-growing deficit and even more restrictive government regulations. There no doubt that our Nation is in need of an infrastructure overhaul, but it must be done in a fiscally responsible manner.
That is why I support the Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review (STARTER) Act. The STARTER Act focuses on state flexibility, provides reasonable regulation reform, emphasizes traditional core transportation needs, prepares our system for future transportation technologies, and places a greater emphasis on rural America. The bill:
• Ensures state flexibility
• Streamlines the project delivery process to maximize available funding
• Prioritizes more programs and functions of our existing federal surface transportation programs
• Incorporates innovative developments in technology to improve our infrastructure
• Provides for the infrastructure needs of America’s rural communities
• Addresses the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund
I was disheartened to see the Supreme Court ruling last week in the June Medical Services v. Russo case. Louisiana passed a law that protects women by requiring that abortion providers have access to a nearby hospital in case of an emergency that threatens the life of the mother. Abortion facilities sued the state on the grounds that the law places an “undue burden” on mothers seeking abortions. By fighting against Louisiana’s common-sense safety regulation, abortion advocates have proven that they care little for the lives and health of women and are primarily invested in the industry of abortion. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court issued a misguided ruling deeming that Louisiana’s regulation of abortion clinics is somehow in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Nevertheless, I will continue fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. We must continue to stand for life.
Phase Three Reopening:
On July 1, Virginia moved into Phase Three of reopening. Although there is a slight increase in confirmed cases, Virginia remains steady in most counties, which allowed for the continued reopening.
In Phase Three, non-essential retail, beaches, and state parks are open in full capacity, but with proper distancing. Restaurants will also be open at full capacity but bar seating continues to be prohibited. Entertainment venues are open with 50 percent capacity. Fitness and exercise centers are open at 75 percent capacity with no restrictions on shared equipment, but an increase in sanitization is encouraged. Childcare and personal grooming businesses are open in full capacity. The 50-person limit on gatherings has increased to 250 people. Please note that the situation remains fluid, and these guidelines are subject to change. For the most up to date information regarding Virginia’s Phase Three reopening, click here. Keep in mind that even as these businesses open, face coverings and physical distancing are still required.
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, opportunity, and equality. President Trump gave a great speech on Friday from Mt. Rushmore. On this Independence Day weekend, I urge you to take some time to listen and reflect on what the day is all about. The speech can be found here.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 9, 2020
While I am home in the Sixth District and not in Washington, DC, know that I am always working on behalf of you. This week, House and Senate Leadership, along with the Administration, discussed an additional COVID-19 relief bill. As potential legislation develops, I will continue to monitor these ongoing negotiations. Further, to help fight red-tape and burdensome regulations, I introduced bipartisan legislation on Friday aimed at saving taxpayers potentially billions of dollars. There was also some excitement here in the District between the naming of a new Superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and the opening of a new emergency call center in Roanoke. And until the time that I am called back to Washington to further address the coronavirus, I look forward to spending time traveling our beautiful District and seeing the folks who I am privileged to represent.
In the midst of House and Senate Leadership negotiations regarding an additional COVID-19 relief bill, the President took Executive Action this week to help those in need. In his order, the President provided $400 per-week supplemental unemployment payments to out of work Americans, extended student loan relief, and afforded protections to those facing evictions. The order also directed the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of the employee portion of certain payroll taxes through the end of 2020. This action follows the recently introduced Health, Economic Assistance Liability Protection & Schools Act, or HEALS Act in the Senate.
Among its provisions, this legislation seeks to address several underlying issues still affecting our Nation during the coronavirus pandemic. As millions of Americans continue to face financial hardship, this legislation would provide a second round of direct Emergency Impact Payments to individuals to help them through these difficult times. Further, the bill continues enhanced unemployment benefits established under the CARES Act but lowers the rate slightly to help encourage folks whose places of business are reopening to go back to work, which will ensure the long-term viability of our economy and the financial stability of American families.
The HEALS Act also provides $105 billion in education funding to ensure our schools can open safely in the fall. Additionally, the bill extends the Paycheck Protection Program, which has allocated nearly $612 million to businesses right here in Virginia’s Sixth District and is currently supporting 70,000 jobs in our area. And finally, it affords liability protections to businesses, hospitals, and schools, which is vital as our country continues its phased reopening process. While House and Senate Leadership and the Administration continue negations on a final package, I am hopeful that bipartisanship will prevail and that a targeted relief bill is voted upon soon on the Floor. With that said, before passing another piece of coronavirus-related legislation, we must be mindful that there is still at least $500 billion that has not yet been spent from previous relief bills.
SMART Government Act:
The size and scope of the Federal bureaucracy often leads to waste at the expense of the American taxpayer. That is why my colleague, Congressman Dean Phillips (D-MN), and I have teamed up to introduce a series of reform bills over the course of the next few weeks.
This week, we introduced the bipartisan SMART Government Act aimed at promoting efficient technology use by Federal agencies. This legislation would implement a three-pronged approach to establish better governance and oversight regarding Federal technology practices. First, the bill would work to consolidate the more than 12,000 government data centers to not only save Federal dollars but to promote transparency within these facilities. Additionally, it would require Federal agencies to properly track and report their software assets to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in purchasing.
And finally, this legislation would mandate that documents transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration are done so electronically to ensure the government is better equipped to access its data and respond to individual requests in a timely manner. The Federal government invests more than $90 billion annually in information technology, and these measures are needed because, at this time, the Federal bureaucracy lacks the necessary oversight measures to protect against waste.
Blue Hills E-911 Communications Center Facility:
This week, I was pleased to attend the ribbon-cutting of Roanoke’s new 31,000-square-foot Emergency Communications Center. The building will house both Roanoke’s Emergency 911 Center and Virginia 811. Combined, these two entities field more than 1.5 million calls from area citizens each year. The new facility will not only benefit day-to-day operations, but it will also prove beneficial for handling major events and multi-jurisdictional incidents. This public-private partnership was born of a mutual need for better space to dispatch professionals in response to incoming calls. This project will undoubtedly help both organizations best serve our community.
Shenandoah National Park:
Shenandoah National Park not only provides tremendous outdoor recreation to Sixth District residents but also serves as a tourist destination and economic driver for our region. I am excited by the announcement of Patrick Kenney as the new Superintendent, and his experience as the Deputy Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park will serve him well.
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 Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.
Reps. Cline and Phillips introduce bipartisan bill to promote efficient technology use by federal agencies
Congressmen Ben Cline (VA-06) and Dean Phillips (MN-03) introduced H.R. 7949 – the SMART Government Act. This legislation would implement a three-pronged approach to establish better governance and oversight regarding Federal technology practices.
H.R. 7949 would:
1. Work to consolidate the more than 12,000 government data centers, which would not only save federal dollars but would promote transparency within these facilities.
2. Require Federal agencies to properly track and report their software assets to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in purchasing.
Rep. Cline said, “The Federal government invests more than $90 billion annually in information technology yet lacks the necessary oversight measures to protect against waste. The SMART Government Act is a first step in working to promote a system of technological use that is more accountable to and efficient for the U.S. tax-payer.”
Rep. Phillips said, “We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of rocks – we found a better way of doing things. Congress is an 18th-century institution operating in a 21st-century world. In order to meet the needs of the American people, and save the taxpayer money, we have to update and innovate. The SMART Government Act will modernize our government and put us on the path towards being more efficient and responsive to our constituent’s needs.”
This legislation is the first in a series of bipartisan government reform bills that Congressmen Cline and Phillips intend to introduce together over the next several weeks.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – August 5, 2020
Amid honoring the life of Congressman John Lewis last week, the House continued to vote on bills to fund our government and other timely pieces of legislation. Further, there was some excitement within the committees I serve, including questioning Attorney General Barr in the Judiciary Committee and being named Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. I also had the opportunity to connect with constituents during my sixth telephone town hall. And finally, as school districts begin issuing guidance on what their fall terms will look like, I wanted to provide you the latest information on school reopenings from across our region. While last week was productive, I am glad to be spending a few days home in the Sixth District.
Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee:
Last week, I was honored to be named Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over issues relating to employment, welfare reform programs, human services programs, Community Services Block Grants, nutrition programs, child abuse, and domestic violence issues, and civil rights among other areas of focus. As the only freshman Republican to serve as a Ranking Member on the Education and Labor Committee, I appreciate the confidence my colleagues have in me.
When I was elected to Congress, I vowed to fight against business as usual. Unfortunately, the so-called “mini-bus” bill put forth by the Democrats last week was simply more of the same wasteful spending that got our country into the fiscal crisis it currently faces. This legislation flew under the radar despite having a price tag of a whopping $1.3 trillion, which accounts for a 13.9 percent increase from the currently enacted budget. To make the matter worse, this has been pushed through Floor consideration in about 24 hours, giving Members little time to debate spending more than a trillion dollars of American’s hard-earned tax dollars. This legislation shows a complete disregard for fiscal responsibility through market interference, increased entitlements, Green New Deal provisions, and additional bureaucratic red tape – all while lacking proper funding for border security and school choice programs. Further, the bill includes steps to defund police, measures to reverse religious freedom protections, and would implement provisions that slow economic recovery. It would have been reckless and irresponsible to support legislation such as this.
Questioning Attorney General Barr:
Last week, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee continued to participate in a partisan political theater rather than serious policy discussions. When called to testify, Attorney General Barr stood firm in defense of our Constitution and the President’s Rule of Law policies while withstanding a barrage of badgering attacks and misleading questions from Committee Democrats. I took this opportunity to ask the Attorney General about his thoughts on Governor Northam’s overreach in suppressing Virginian’s civil rights in regard to the expression of their religious faith.
Telephone Town Hall:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, I had been committed to holding in-person town halls throughout the Sixth District. In fact, since being elected, I have hosted 25 town halls – with at least one being held in each locality throughout the District. I hope to continue those sorts of in-person forums in the future, but for now, virtual events remain the best option to connect directly with constituents on a larger scale and ensure that their voices are heard in Washington. Last week, I enjoyed hosting my sixth telephone town hall and listening to folks from across the District. And moving forward, I will continue to make myself available as your representative.
As we approach the beginning of the school year, school districts across the Sixth District are releasing information for the fall term. Here is a sampling of some school district plans as of August 3, 2020. Please keep in mind, this information may change as warranted.
Amherst County Schools: School will begin September 9
• All elementary school students will be in school Monday through Thursday with block scheduling
• For middle and high school students, they will split into groups. One group will go to school Mondays and Wednesdays, the other on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with both groups doing at-home instruction on Fridays
Augusta County Schools: School year will begin on August 18
• All students will have a combination of in-person and at-home learning with proper distancing for in-person learning
• Parents who are concerned with sending their children to school also have the option to choose 100 percent at-home learning
Bedford County Schools: Students will start back on three different dates
• Pre-k to 3rd Grade (and 4th for those still housed in elementary schools) will start on August 19
• 4th Grade housed in middle schools through 6th Grade will start August 20
• 7th Grade through 12th Grade will begin August 24
Roanoke County Schools: School year will begin August 24
• Parents can choose to have their students receive 100 percent online instruction
• There will be reduced class sizes for the students in K-2 who attend school in person five days a week
• 3rd Grade through 12th Grade will be split into two groups and will attend school in person two days a week with proper distancing
Rockingham County Schools: School year will begin September 10
• All grade levels will transition from distant learning to in-person learning with proper social distancing
Shenandoah County Schools: School year will begin August 17
• Pre-kindergarten through 5th Grade to be in class four days a week with virtual learning one day a week
• 6th Grade through 12th Grade students will do virtual learning four days a week and be in class one day a week
• Parents who are concerned with sending their children to school also have the option to choose 100 percent at-home learning
Warren County Schools: Tentative start date is August 12th
• The School year is set to run Aug. 27-June 8. However, the school board is still debating four potential reopening options, which include a mix of remote and in-person learning.
• Regardless of the option the County chooses, parents will have the option for their children to participate solely in remote learning.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 26, 2020
The House was busy with activity this week and addressed a number of issues regarding the funding of both our government agencies and our military. Members also began unofficial discussions as to what a future coronavirus relief package might look like. And while nothing is set in stone, there are several priorities my colleagues and I would like to see included in any additional COVID-19 related bill. I also had the privilege this week to honor a member of the Virginia National Guard on the House Floor and had the opportunity to discuss some troubling developments surrounding the investigation by the Justice Department into abuses in the FBI and FISA Court process. No matter the issue, I will continue working to represent the values of the Sixth District and its residents.
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
Ensuring that our service members have the necessary resources to do their jobs safely and effectively has always been a priority of mine. But in its current form, the FY2021 NDAA passed in the House this week circumvents the executive branch and limits the President’s authority to protect our national security interests both domestically and abroad. Further, Democrats included language in this bill that could strip military personnel of their Second Amendment Rights, while violating due process and limiting soldiers’ ability to protect themselves and their families. And further, the bill creates bureaucratic hoops that the Secretary of Defense must jump through in order to provide assistance to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in their ongoing efforts to secure the Southern Border. And while I could not vote for the House version of this legislation, I look forward to working with my colleagues, following Senate action, to pass a bill that makes certain our military has all that is needed to protect them, secure the Nation’s defense, and could actually be signed into law.
Honoring Captain Candice Bowen:
This week, I took to the House Floor to recognize Captain Candice Bowen who became the first woman to assume command of a Virginia National Guard infantry unit. She will lead the Woodstock-based Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. This command is well-deserved and her superiors say she has, “demonstrated the absolute ability to lead Soldiers in close combat.” I wish Captain Bowen the best of luck in this new role and know the soldiers in Bravo Company are in good hands.
The Horowitz Report:
The Horowitz Report found 17 significant errors and omissions by the FBI in their FISA warrant applications during the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. Further, the report confirms that the Bureau knew much of the information contained in the now-debunked ‘Steele Dossier’ “could not be corroborated; that certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with information gathered by the Crossfire Hurricane team; and that the limited information that was corroborated related to time, location, and title information was publicly available.” Yet still, the FBI used this politically biased opposition research document to obtain warrants to surveil American citizens and a presidential campaign. Therefore, it is absurd that former FBI Director James Comey plans to release a book entitled ‘Saving Justice’. If he cared at all about justice and the Rule of Law, he would never have offered dubious evidence in the form of the Steele Dossier to the FISA Court.
This week, the House began its annual appropriations process to fund our government’s various federal agencies. On Friday, we voted on a roughly 700-page bill specifically to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, State, and Veterans Affairs. While there were certain aspects of the legislation I could support, unfortunately, the bill contained numerous provisions that were either unacceptable or wholly unrelated to the agencies at hand. To start, the bill passed in the House jeopardizes our national security by prohibiting funds from being used to continue building the wall along our Southern Border and restricts the President’s ability to transfer funds to address the illegal immigration crisis. Further, the legislation overturns the Administration’s Mexico City Policy, which would allow international organizations to receive funding even if they perform abortions. Additionally, it removes conditions that promote transparency and accountability within organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. And finally, the legislation hinders the United States’ ability to pursue true energy independence and places burdensome reporting regulations on farmers relating to greenhouse gasses. These are just a few of the reasons why I could not vote in favor of passing this bill.
As Congress begins to discuss an additional COVID-19 relief package, there is not yet a clear consensus as to what would be included in such a bill. However, what is clear is that Congress must encourage small business growth and increased employment to ensure the long-term success and viability of our economy. Further, it is my hope that any future coronavirus related bill will include liability protection for businesses. With so many mom-and-pop shops already struggling, the last thing they should have to worry about as they reopen are frivolous lawsuits. Additionally, Congress must continue to make available the necessary resources to increase testing capabilities. And finally, we need to begin looking at ways to safely and securely reopen our schools in the fall. While remote learning was an acceptable alternative in the height of the pandemic, it is not suitable for our kids as a long-term option.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – July 19, 2020
As Virginia continues its phased reopening, it has been a pleasure to continue connecting with constituents both in-person and virtually. Listening to constituents will always be one of my greatest priorities, and that is why this week I not only hosted a telephone town hall with thousands of seniors but also asked for legislative input from folks across the District via an online survey. Further, I traveled to Luray this week to hear from business leaders about the importance of supporting pro-growth, pro-business policies in Congress. It is always a pleasure to be home in Virginia, but whether I am here in Sixth District or in Washington, know that my staff and I stand ready to advocate on your behalf.
Seniors Telephone Town Hall:
Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, I remain committed to being accessible to my constituents and providing them with information and resources they may find useful. To that end, this week, I hosted my fifth telephone town hall since March. The conversation was geared toward seniors to discuss the pressing issues facing older Americans. I was pleased to have Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Regional Administrator Sharon Graham and Sheriff Eric Orange, Roanoke County Sheriff, join me on this call. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear from Sixth District seniors and discuss issues like Social Security, telemarketing and internet scams, Medicare and Medicaid, and more. To listen to a recording of the event, please click here.
Spirit of Enterprise:
Throughout my time as a public servant, I have always been an advocate for pro-growth, pro-business policies. With nearly 50 percent of the country’s population employed by small businesses, I know that the success of our local mom and pop shops means the overall success and prosperity of our Nation. And this week, I was honored to accept the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award in Luray. This award recognizes legislators with a track record of standing up for the small business community, and I look forward to earning this distinction in the future.
Your Opinion Matters:
This weekly e-newsletter regularly provides updates on my work both in Washington and from across the Sixth District. However, as your representative, hearing from you is equally important to me. As Congress continues to address issues related to the coronavirus, I’d like to know what other topics you believe the House should be focusing on. Click the image to take the survey below and let me know!
Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be taken every ten years. Participating in the Census is critical because the data collected makes certain that our part of Virginia receives its fair share of federal funding. It only takes ten minutes to help ensure that your hard-earned tax dollars are invested here in the Sixth District. To complete the Census, please click here.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.
Cline named ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ award recipient by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
This week, Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) accepted the 2020 ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award from the United States Chamber of Commerce. The award was presented by the local Luray-Page County Chamber during their ‘Business After Hours’ event at Shawnee Farms Estate.
The ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award recognizes Members of Congress who are committed to supporting pro-business legislation, bipartisan leadership, and constructive governing.
Congressman Ben Cline said, “I am proud to have worked during my first term to enact laws that help small businesses and their employees, and I will continue fighting for pro-growth policies that help rather than hinder the prosperity of our business community.”
Thomas J. Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said, “In these uncertain times with daunting economic and social challenges facing our nation, it is imperative that leaders in Washington are focused on propelling American businesses forward to create jobs and economic growth from California to Maine. As we rebuild our economy, legislators must lead by pursuing bipartisan solutions that create jobs and promote a free enterprise system. I’m proud to recognize these members of Congress for their commitment to driving opportunity and prosperity in America’s workforce and on Main Streets across the nation.
This is the 32nd year in which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has named ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award recipients.