As a new member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I have made education a top priority for the 116th Congress. It is important for me to gain an understanding of local educational needs while also getting to know the next generation’s thoughts on national issues like the cost of higher education. I had the honor to speak to students at Spotswood High School in Rockingham County on Tuesday, where juniors and seniors asked thoughtful questions regarding issues which currently impact them and others which could affect them in adulthood. It was a privilege to meet such a great group of young people who are interested in the political process.
I also visited Waynesboro where I met with Mayor Terry Short, Vice Mayor Bobby Henderson, and City Manager Mike Hamp. During our meeting, we discussed expanded economic development and Blue Ridge Community College’s new “online outpost,” which will drive even more growth to the region’s skilled workforce.
Additionally, I had the privilege of meeting with student representatives of the Lexington division of the Council on International Educational Exchange. It was exciting to share ideas about the United States Government with students from countries including Germany, Tajikistan, Spain, Italy, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Lithuania as they continue their studies in U.S. history and politics.
In addition to education policy, I again raised concern in Congress about excessive spending. It is no secret in Washington that we have a spending problem. As promised during my campaign, I took the floor last week and delivered the message that, “We can’t afford it.” I delivered the same message Wednesday to the House Budget Committee when I testified about the risks our national debt poses to the United States. In just 10 years, our national debt has exploded nearly 50% and appears no closer to coming under control than in September 2011, when then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Rogers said our nation’s debt was the biggest threat to national security.
In other committee work, the House Education & Labor Committee debated H.R. 582, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, an unsustainable level in rural areas like the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia. While well intentioned, analysis by former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimates a raise of the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 would result in the loss of 9.6 million jobs, essentially wiping out all job growth experienced since 2014. Just as the federal government cannot afford its unsustainable level of national debt, small business owners cannot afford such a drastic increase in the minimum wage.
In the House Judiciary Committee, we discussed the recent failure of Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has historically assisted communities in working toward an end to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I understand the critical importance of advancing a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA. I’ve seen firsthand what VAWA can do in the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia and the women that it helps.
When VAWA was first enacted, it represented a major change in how our nation addressed violent crime and domestic violence. This bipartisan effort brought a collaborative and coordinated approach to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence from perpetrators by ensuring swift justice. I hope we can work together to reauthorize VAWA and not let it degenerate into yet another partisan fight.
My job is to ensure your values are represented in Washington, but I am also available to assist you with federal agencies. That is why my office hosts Casework Staff Mobile Offices across the Sixth Congressional District. During the month of March, a staff member will be available to meet with citizens to assist with problems they might have with a federal agency and hear their views on current issues before Congress. Visit cline.house.gov/about/events for a complete list of locations. Next week’s locations, dates, and times are listed below.
Fincastle Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 – 9:00am
Botetourt County Courthouse (Second Floor Conference Room)
1 Main Street
Fincastle, VA 24090
Buchanan Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 – 10:30am
Buchanan Town Hall (Conference Room)
19753 Main Street
Buchanan, VA 24066
Broadway Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 9:00am
Broadway Town Hall (Council Chambers)
116 Broadway Avenue
Broadway, VA 22815
Warm Springs Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 11:30am
Bath County Courthouse (Second Floor)
65 Courthouse Hill Road
Warm Springs, VA 24484
Mount Jackson Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 11:30am
Mount Jackson Town Hall (Council Chambers)
5901 Main Street
Mount Jackson, VA 22842
Monterey Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 2:30pm
Highland County Library
31 North Water Street
Monterey, VA 24465
Thank you for the privilege of representing you in Washington.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: May 21, 2019
This past week I joined several of my colleagues in the Rose Garden at the White House to listen as the President unveiled his proposal to reform our immigration system. This important measure focuses on areas of bipartisan agreement on the critical issue of immigration, including changes to our asylum laws and visa allocation process.
As anyone following the news is aware, the flow of illegal immigrants across our southern border is at historically high levels. Just last month, nearly 100,000 individuals crossed the border illegally. While these individuals have broken the law, often our immigration courts are so overwhelmed that many claiming asylum are released into the United States to await their hearings, for which more than half of these illegal immigrants will never appear. President Trump’s proposal would focus on securing our border, modernizing security along the southern and northern borders through sustainable funding. It would also focus on streamlined hearings, so our courts are no longer backlogged with an ever-growing immigration caseload.
The proposal set forth by President Trump would also put the United States in line with countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan by shifting our immigration policy to a merit-based visa system. By shifting to a merit-based system, the Trump Administration believes more immigrants will be able to find employment with higher wages. Currently, the average immigrant earns approximately $43,000 per year, and only 55% of immigrants secure employment. Under the President’s proposal, the employment rate would rise to an estimated 69% for all immigrants, and wages would be about $93,000 per year.
The President’s proposal is a good starting point as we begin the discussion on immigration. There is a lot of work ahead of us as we seek to reform a broken system, and I am proud to be a part of that conversation as the President and Congress work toward a long-term solution. It is an issue the American people want addressed instead of continuing to kick the can down the road.
One bill that I stood up against this week was H.R. 987. As I said during the floor debate, this bill is another bait and switch maneuver by the House majority. The original bill was a bipartisan consensus that allows consumers to access cheaper generic drugs. It would have driven down costs and saved Americans $3.9 billion over 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority took a bipartisan bill and loaded it down with unrelated language that banned the sale of certain types of short-term health insurance plans. Over the past decade, Obamacare has destroyed our health insurance industry, taken decisions away from individuals, and given that authority to the federal government. As a result, premiums are skyrocketing, with the highest in the country being right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. To double down on the mistakes of Obamacare is harmful to Americans, which is why I voted against this bill. While the bill passed the House by a mostly party-line vote, the Senate is unlikely to pass it and the President is unlikely to sign it in its current form, making the entire effort a giant missed opportunity to pass what was originally a bipartisan bill.
I also visited with representatives of the Staunton Talking Book Center, who were recognized this week by the Library of Congress as the Sub-Regional Library and Outreach Center of the Year by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The Center is located at the Staunton Public Library and serves individuals unable to read standard print materials. I was proud to attend the awards ceremony at the Library of Congress and congratulate them on their prestigious honor.
Finally, during National Police Week, I took time to thank the men and women in blue who risk so much to protect our communities. On Tuesday, I attended the Lynchburg Police Department’s Memorial Service. This service has taken place for over 24 years to acknowledge the law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This year, we remembered Virginia State Trooper Lucas Dowell and Winchester Police Officer Hunter Edwards. While these men died as heroes, they will also be remembered for their everyday acts of kindness by those whom the officers helped in their communities. Even though the week honoring police has ended, I hope you will join me in thanking our men and women in blue each day.
Bringing down the cost of prescription drugs
Hundreds of Virginians have reached out to me to let me know how the high cost of prescription drugs affects their health and their ability to put food on the table or a roof over their heads. I spoke about this on the Senate floor this week and shared some of the stories I’ve heard from constituents.
• Laurie from Norfolk shared her story with me. She has rheumatoid arthritis and lives on Social Security. She can’t use her hands without the drug, but can’t afford the $65,000 the drug company charges for the drug. Even with Medicare part D, the drug costs $8000, which is 1/3 of her annual income.
• Andrew from Great Falls shared the story of his father with me. When he wrote to me, the drug his father needed to battle Leukemia cost $146,000 a year.
• Marie from Virginia Beach shared her story with me. The drug she needs to take is $375,000 a year. Without the drug, she tells me she will likely be bedridden.
We need to ensure that patients are able to access the medicine they need. So I’m going to continue fighting to bring down prescription drug costs so that Virginia families can get the care they need without jeopardizing their health or economic security.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: May 11th, 2019
Not everything in Washington is partisan politics. On Thursday in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Members had the opportunity to question Andrei Iancu, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It was a wonderful opportunity to address a concern residents of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District grapple with each time they fill a prescription.
It is no secret that prescription drug prices are at record highs and experts do not expect prices to fall back to Earth anytime soon. In fact, a recent study found prescription prices rose 3.3 percent in 2018, are protected to grow 4.6 percent this year, and could average 6.1 percent per year through 2027. With prices continuing to rise, Congress must ensure that the marketplace includes timely access for citizens to affordable generic drugs.
On the floor this week, we passed bills that reaffirm long-standing relations with Taiwan and promote American business diplomacy abroad.
H.Res. 273 not only reaffirms the U.S. relationship with Taiwan but encourages strengthened relations with one of Asia’s most mature and stable democracies. America’s friendship with Taiwan is as vital now as it was 40 years ago. I support increased relations and was proud to support this bill.
H.R. 1704, the Championing American Business Through Diplomacy Act of 2019, would require American ambassadors to promote American economic interests in the nations where they are based. Ambassadors and their staffs would receive training on economic diplomacy, which would promote the export of American goods and services. This has the potential to grow the American manufacturing sector and further strengthen our nation’s already impressive economic growth and record employment figures.
As I have discussed in previous columns, the nation’s economy continues to show strength. Just this week, Hershey announced a $104 million expansion in Stuarts Draft which will add 65 new jobs. Last week, Merck announced a $1 billion expansion in Elkton which will add dozens of jobs paying high wages. These are just a few examples of how tax cuts and a reduction in Washington red tape has led to investment in our communities and its citizens. I believe the economy can continue to charge forward if Congress identifies and cuts areas of the federal bureaucracy which are impeding growth. I am committed to protecting Virginia jobs and growing our economy. This is how job creators will invest in expansion and add more people to the payroll, allowing more Virginians to achieve the American dream.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your representative in Congress. Please reach out with questions or if you need assistance with a federal agency by calling (202) 225-5431 or visiting cline.house.gov.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: May 4, 2019
It was a special week in the U.S. House of Representatives, where on Thursday Rev. Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg served as guest chaplain and opened the day’s proceedings in prayer. It meant a lot to have an esteemed Christian leader from Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District begin the day’s proceedings with a call to God for forgiveness, wisdom, and blessings on the National Day of Prayer.
This week started with votes of bipartisanship on a variety of suspension bills, including H.Res. 327 and H.Res. 328, bills to encourage greater public-private sector collaboration to promote financial literacy for seniors and young adults. Both the elderly and young people need an understanding of basic financial services such as banking and student loans, as well as the potential fraudsters out to steal their hard-earned life savings and how to prevent such illegal acts. I thank leaders on both sides for their efforts to bring these bills to the floor.
This week also brought Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to the House Committee on Education and Labor. With economic growth at 3.2% in the first quarter of this year and unemployment at its lowest level in 50 years, I was encouraged to have Secretary Acosta before the committee discussing the positive economic environment for American workers. The Department of Labor has encouraged economic growth in the private sector by cutting red tape, which opens the door for job creators to expand with less government interference.
One area we touched on during my questions was the important principle of right to work, a law that protects the rights of workers to get or keep a job without being forced to join a labor union. States with right to work laws are typically economically strong and growing, which is just where the Commonwealth of Virginia finds itself. We are competitive with surrounding states and often land new businesses and jobs due to our friendly business environment. It is imperative that the U.S. protects the rights of states like Virginia to maintain their right to work laws if we are to maintain a healthy, growing economy.
On Thursday, I took to the floor to once again request a vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 962). As you may know, this is the 36th time House Democrats have refused to go on the record and once and for all say murder of a child who survives an abortion is wrong. For the 36th time, they have refused to stand for life and against infanticide. I stand with Republican Whip Steve Scalise and my 197 other colleagues who have signed a discharge petition which would force a vote. I believe we will secure the final 19 signatures necessary to finally force a vote and put all Members of the House on record.
The week concluded with my signing another discharge petition, which would force a vote on the Green New Deal. This misguided legislation would hurt the U.S. Economy, Virginia agriculture, and put our farmers and ranchers out of business. Just as with the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, I believe it is time for Democrats to put their beliefs on the record with a vote on the Green New Deal and when it fails, hopefully we can meet and work on true solutions with an all of the above energy policy for the United States.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. If you need assistance with a federal agency, please call my office at (202) 225-5431. And feel free to like @RepBenCline on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and follow my YouTube channel.
Congressman Ben Cline testifies for Interstate 81 Funding
Congressman Ben Cline testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee May 1, 2019 advocating for improvements to Interstate 81. Each year there are nearly 2,000 crashes on I-81, with over 25% involving heavy trucks, and over 45 major crashes a year causing delays greater than four hours.
Current conditions are not only a 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. Cline say that Congress must act to get America’s roads moving again with public safety at the forefront of our agenda.
Warner meets with the 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with the National Teacher of the Year, Rodney Robinson, at Sen. Warner’s office in Washington, D.C. Robinson, a social studies teacher in Richmond, Va., was recently named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). He teaches at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Justice Center.
“It’s clear that Mr. Robinson has devoted his career not just to teaching, but to making meaningful change in the lives of students who need it the most,” said Sen. Warner. “By designing a unique curriculum focused on understanding the history of prison and the juvenile justice system, Mr. Robinson is working to redirect justice-involved students and equip them with the educational opportunity they need to empower themselves. I am proud that teachers in Virginia and all across our nation can look to Mr. Robinson as an example of an educator who uses his classroom to actively tackle a larger structural issue in our society.”
“Our kids need more – they need more specialized curriculum, more specialized courses,” said Robinson. “I’ve noticed that the kids that have the lowest recidivism rates are the ones we help set up with job or mentorship programs to get them in some sort of positive activity where they can make something out of their lives.”
Robinson has worked for Richmond Public Schools for 19 years, and has been teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center since 2015. In the meeting, Sen. Warner and Robinson discussed the importance of providing students with the resources and opportunities they need to learn technical skills and earn industry certifications that will allow them to make a living in the future.
The National Teacher of the Year Program is managed by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Each year, the nation’s top teacher is selected from among state teachers of the year representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity.