Most would assume that the rules governing procedure in the House of Representatives do not directly affect them. However, that is not the case in the 117th Congress. Democrats implemented a rule change earlier this year that allows them to bring any bill that passed last Congress to the Floor prior to April 1st without having to go through the committee process first. This has resulted in bills being passed in the House with little opportunity for Republicans to amend the legislation. That is how two overreaching gun control bills and a pro-union, freedom-crushing bill passed this week – all of which I opposed.
Further Democrats continue to fail the American people as they passed a $1.9 trillion spending package that does little to actually combat COVID-19 while driving our nation deeper into debt. On top of this, the Biden Administration has failed to act and is allowing the immigration crisis at our southern border to grow without any action to curb it. It was a frustrating legislative week, but I will continue fighting on behalf of Sixth District residents.
Defending the Second Amendment:
I was sent to Washington to uphold and defend the Constitution. I will not stand by and allow our rights to be stripped away, which is what the House Majority tried to do this week as they passed H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446. These bills continue the systematic and coordinated attempt by the Democratic Party to undermine our Second Amendment rights. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle claim that these bills will save lives. However, nothing in them would have stopped any of the recent mass casualty shootings that have occurred in our country. Rather than go after criminals who break the law – Democrats want to create a false narrative that will criminalize private gun ownership.
Democrats will tell you that these bills close loopholes. However, the loophole that they believe exists is that law-abiding Americans are able to own guns – though it would appear that the left has no issue with illegal immigrants owning a firearm considering they rejected my amendment which would require ICE to be notified if an illegal immigrant tries to unlawfully purchase a gun. The sole objective of this gun control package is to remove constitutional safeguards and put in place criminal penalties that would unjustly go after responsible gun owners. The Second Amendment is crystal clear that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. Our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to protect us from the government and gave individuals the Second Amendment to protect themselves and their families. These outrageous proposals vastly restrict our freedoms, and I voted NO.
On day one of his Presidency, Biden had no plan for opening up our Nation and schools, but he did have an idea as to opening up our borders to illegal immigration. And regardless of how the Biden Administration spins it, there’s an unmitigated illegal immigration crisis at the southern border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tell us unverified family unit claims on the border are up 400% since the inauguration and the number of individual migrants who have illegally crossed the border this year has already topped 200,000 – a seven-year high and a 173% increase from this time last year. Further, HHS facilities are already overflown as they take in an average 321 unaccompanied children a day compared to 203 just a few weeks ago. There is simply no denying that this is a crisis.
To make matters worse, the President of the United States, for the first time in our history, is actively encouraging felonious law-breaking on our southern border that is now a humanitarian, economic, and national security crisis — and the new Administration is showing no signs of ceasing aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Worse yet, Democrats in Congress are complicit in fueling this calamity. That is why this week I wrote to the Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee urging that she hold hearings and work together with Republicans to gather the facts about the current situation on the border and develop solutions to address this crisis. I am going to do everything in my power here in Congress to secure our borders and champion the American way of only allowing, welcoming, and celebrating legal immigration. Read the full letter to Chairwoman DeLauro here.
I was disappointed this week as Speaker Pelosi and her caucus passed the PRO Act, which would more appropriately be titled the PRO Union Bosses Act. This bill is nothing more than a political gift to labor unions at the expense of workers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and consumers. H.R. 842 would wipe-out right-to-work laws in 27 states, including here in Virginia. This bill undermines worker rights, traps employers in unrelated labor disputes, wreaks havoc on the economy, and forces Americans to join a union. No one should ever be forced to join a union simply to hold a job or be required to pay dues toward an organization that doesn’t share their values. This country was founded on the principle that every American deserves the right to create their own success from their own hard work, but at its core, this bill strips citizens of their liberty. As our Founding Father and fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” I voted against this misguided legislation.
Our families, our farmers, and our small businesses need our continued support as we navigate this COVID pandemic and work to reopen our economy, but they don’t need a $1.9 trillion package that is riddled with Democrat pork. More egregious than the reckless spending in the bill is the fact that only 9% of the funding authorized within the legislation will actually go toward combating the coronavirus through enhanced vaccine production and testing. Additionally, the bill fails to prioritize getting kids back in the classroom and of the $130 billion authorized to help reopen schools, only 5% will be spent in 2021. This bill is unacceptable and literally pays people to stay home rather than going to work.
While I could support additional relief to help get folks back to work and kids back in school, any further aid must be targeted, temporary, and actually tied to COVID. Not only is this legislation packed with wasteful spending unrelated to COVID and bailouts for blue states like New York and California, but with more than $1 trillion in previously authorized coronavirus funds still unspent, it is premature. The Biden Bailout as a whole is wasteful, partisan, and deeply flawed. For these reasons, I voted no on this bill. A few of the most egregious provisions unrelated to COVID contained in this legislation are listed below:
• $350 billion to bailout blue states that have mismanaged their pensions and other programs for years
• $12 billion in foreign aid
• $1.5 billion for Amtrak
• $135 million for the National Endowment of the Arts
• $135 million for the National Endowment of the Humanities
• $50 million in funding for EPA environmental justice grants
• $10 million in grants to preserve Native American languages
This week I took the House Floor to recognize Parry McCluer High School’s boys indoor track and field team for once again winning the Virginia Class 1 State championship. This victory marks back-to-back State titles for this incredibly talented squad led by Coach Poluikis. After the Fighting Blues graduated a number of their starters last year, Poluikis wasn’t sure if his team could go the distance. With only five Blues competing at the State tournament he said, ‘‘I knew we could win, but everything had to go perfect.’’ And everything did go perfectly.
Trevor Tomlin swept the 1,600 and 3,200. Brenden Plogger won the 1,000, and Zavery Wallace took the shot put. Kedryn Chandler contributed points with a second-place finish in the 3,200 and a third-place finish in the 1,600, while Omar Massenberg added points in the shot put. When all was said and done, Parry McCluer had come out with a two-point lead over runners-up Altavista.
This win was made all the more impressive by the fact that all of the team’s 58 points were scored in just four events. Congratulations to this Fighting Blues team on a remarkable season. You have earned it.
As of March 14, 2021, Virginia has had 594,735 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 10,019. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of March 13th, 1,713,722 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 974,837 people are fully vaccinated.
With 31 million Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the CDC released new guidelines for individuals who have been inoculated. The CDC has suggested that those who are vaccinated can:
• Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
• Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
• Refrain from quarantine and testing following known exposure to COVID-19 if asymptomatic
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – April 3, 2021
This week we mourn the loss of Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans, who was killed during an attempted breach of the Capitol Building Complex with a vehicle. Those who protect the institution of Congress do so selflessly and provide security and safety to Members of Congress, their staff, and the community. Elizabeth and I offer our condolences to the Evans family and continue to pray for a second officer who was injured. We extend our thanks to the entire Capitol Police Force for their continued service to our Nation.
Signed Into Law:
In 2019, I introduced and had signed into law the Small Business Reorganization Act, which simplified the process for entrepreneurs to use bankruptcy as a means of reorganization instead of closing down. Under this bill, businesses with less than $2.7 million of debt could file for bankruptcy in a timelier and more cost-effective manner. While in bankruptcy reorganization, a small business can negotiate with creditors while keeping the doors open, employees on the payroll, and suppliers and vendors paid. In 2020, a provision in the CARES Act raised the $2.7 million threshold in my initial bill to $7.5 million. While this provision was set to expire on March 27, 2021, Judiciary Chairman Nadler and I introduced the COVID–19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act of 2021, which extends this provision, and thus the $7.5 million threshold, for an additional year. I was pleased that on March 27 the President signed this bill into law, meaning significantly more businesses struggling from the pandemic can take advantage of this bill. Having this legislation signed into law is a great example of how both parties can put partisanship aside and work to find realistic solutions to benefit the American people.
Unfortunately, as we’ve come to know, not all legislation in Congress is bipartisan. While improving our Nation’s infrastructure should be, the Biden Administration has proposed a massive $3 trillion package that fails to prioritize our crumbling roads, bridges, ports, and rail systems. Instead, it includes $174 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, $213 billion for sustainable housing, $35 billion for climate science research, $45 billion for the EPA, $10 billion for a Civilian Climate Corps, and $27 billion for a National Green Bank. To make matters worse, the Biden Administration plans to pass the largest tax increase in more than 30 years to help pay for it. I stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help revitalize our Nation’s infrastructure such as I-81. But any plan must be fiscally responsible, a true transportation bill and not climate legislation, and fair for rural communities like ours.
Connecting with Constituents:
Before the Coronavirus pandemic began, I promised to hold in-person town halls throughout the Sixth District. In fact, since being elected, I have hosted 25 in-person town halls – with at least one being held in each locality throughout our region. I hope to continue those sorts of in-person forums in the near future but, for now, as restrictions on public gatherings remain in place, virtual town halls remain one of the best and safest options to connect directly with constituents to ensure their voices are heard in Washington. While my first seven telephone town halls were District-wide, I’ve begun hosting regional forums, which allow me to focus on the unique issues facing each of our individual communities. This week, I was pleased to host my ninth telephone town hall for residents of Roanoke City and Roanoke County. I look forward to holding similar events like this throughout the District in the future.
Frontline workers across the Sixth District have been working tirelessly to administer COVID-19 vaccines to those who choose to get it since December of last year. One of the largest vaccination sites in the area is hosted by the Roanoke City Alleghany Health District and Carilion Clinic at the Berglund Center in Roanoke. On Wednesdays, the site vaccinates around 3,500 people and upwards of 1,500 individuals on Thursdays. This week, I was pleased to tour the facility and take time to thank those working there. Their efforts are paying off, and on Wednesday, the clinic celebrated the vaccination of more than 100,000 people. As someone who has chosen to receive the vaccine, I am grateful to these dedicated folks for all their hard work.
Chris’s Coffee & Custard:
Beth and Alan Woodrum of Roanoke are the proud parents of three boys – their youngest of whom, Chris, has Down Syndrome. Amazing folks like Chris with a disability oftentimes struggle to find employment – not because they are incapable of doing the job, but because many aren’t willing to give them a chance. As of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 17.9 percent of people with a disability were employed. To help bridge this gap, the Woodrum family recently opened Chris’s Coffee & Custard in Roanoke. This tremendous coffee shop creates opportunities for gainful and meaningful employment for individuals with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. I enjoyed visiting with the staff this week to see their operation first-hand and try their tasty treats. I must say, their custard was out of this world.
Integrated Textile Solutions:
Integrated Textile Solutions (ITS), headquartered in Salem with a brick-and-mortar shop in Vinton, is one of the Department of Defense’s most trusted manufacturers in Virginia. Since its founding in 1936, the company has grown both in size and in the products it makes. For the past 30 years, the company has worked to protect those whose job it is to protect all of us. Not only do they provide equipment to the U.S. Military like shelters, body armor, decontamination products, and tactical gear, but they also provide products that have been invaluable during the pandemic such as masks, medical gowns, hoods, and tunics. I appreciated the chance to tour ITS’ facility this week and hear from the owner about the company’s mission to serve those serving us.
Roanoke Rescue Mission:
The Roanoke Rescue Mission has been dedicated to providing assistance to struggling individuals and families since 1948. This week, I had the privilege of touring the Mission and volunteered for a shift serving meals to those in need. On any given night, the Roanoke Rescue Mission’s dedicated staff and volunteers provide emergency shelter for nearly 250 men, women, and children and serve upwards of 600 meals a day. Not only do they provide food and shelter, but also offer several other services to those suffering from homelessness, disabilities, addiction, or abuse. The overwhelming contributions this organization makes to the Roanoke community simply cannot be overstated.
Other District Travels:
As of April 3, 2021, Virginia has had 623,881 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 10,287. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of April 3rd, 2,704,038 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,467,640 people are fully vaccinated.
To those celebrating throughout the Sixth District, I wish you a blessed and healthy Easter.
“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” ~ Matthew 28:5-6
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – March 29, 2021
It was great to be home in the Sixth District as the House met for a Committee Work Week. In between several virtual Appropriation subcommittee hearings, I met with various advocacy groups and constituents about the issues that matter most to them. And while Members of Congress were home in their Districts, that does not mean legislative work is not ongoing. I continue to monitor the crisis at our border, and I am following developments on a potential infrastructure package that may come before the House when Congress returns to Washington. With Spring weather right around the corner, I was pleased that the Governor plans to lift some capacity restrictions on recreational activities, but I would encourage him to go further in restoring the freedoms that Virginians enjoy. As always, I appreciate the opportunity to serve as the Sixth District’s representative and look forward to connecting with folks in-person over the next two weeks before returning to the session.
President Biden stopped the construction of the border wall, rescinded Trump-era policies that prevented the mass flow of migrants into our country, and promised a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants. Now, just less than 90 days into his presidency, our country is facing a historic crisis at our southern border – more than 16,000 migrant children are in U.S. custody, migrants are being released into our country without a court date, and even his own DHS secretary admits “we are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.” This entire situation poses a humanitarian, economic, and national security threat to our Nation. With CBP encountering more than 3,000 migrants illegally crossing the border a day and 200,000 already having entered the country in 2021, it’s time for President Biden to act. We must finish building the wall and invest resources to ensure border patrol agents have the tools necessary to do their jobs safely and effectively.
More Reckless Spending?:
The next big push by the Biden Administration seems to be to pass portions of the “Green New Deal” and call it an infrastructure package. While improving our roads and bridges is necessary, early reports indicate that the proposal will have a massive price tag of $3 trillion and will include countless unrelated initiatives, including charging stations for electric vehicles, free community college, and expanding the failed Obamacare policies. To make matters worse, President Biden plans to pass the largest tax increase in the past 30 years – in the middle of a pandemic. At a time when millions of Americans are struggling with COVID-19, imposing hefty tax increases on families and businesses will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and hurt our fragile economy. Further, on the heels of a $1.9 trillion spending boondoggle that spent little on programs to actually combat COVID-19, our Nation cannot afford to maintain these levels of spending. Even drunken sailors are embarrassed by Biden’s outrageous spending plans.
This week Governor Northam announced that he would be rolling back certain COVID-related capacity restrictions throughout the Commonwealth. This comes on the heels of writing to the Governor encouraging him to increase the maximum number of spectators allowed at outdoor recreational sporting events like high school football – a copy of the letter can be found here. While I’m pleased that the Governor upped maximum attendance at high school football games to 500, I’m disappointed occupancy will still be capped at 30% capacity and that cheerleaders and band members will continue to be considered spectators. As a whole, lifting some of these restrictions was a good start, but the Governor did not go far enough. With vaccination rates rising and case numbers dropping, I encourage the Governor to continue restoring the freedoms that Virginians enjoy by fully reopening our economy and schools. It’s time to get folks back to work, kids back in the classroom, and allow residents of the Commonwealth to go about their daily lives.
Regardless of whether I’m in Washington or home in the Sixth District, I always make time to meet with constituents. This week I met with a number of Sixth District residents to discuss several health care-related initiatives. Among the many groups, I met with this week were the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the GO2 Foundation of Lung Cancer, VCU Health System, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I also met with members from the Energy Independence Summit, the Citizens Climate Lobby, and the leadership of the University of Virginia. As the Commonwealth begins to reopen, I look forward to meeting with constituents in person again. If you would like to schedule a meeting with me or my staff, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of my offices listed at the bottom of this page.
As of March 28, 2021, Virginia has had 615,336 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 10,198. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of March 27th, 2,337,858 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,253,021 people are fully vaccinated.
This week President Biden signed the Save Lives Act into law, which recently passed through Congress unanimously. This legislation removes legal barriers that prevented veterans who were not enrolled in the VA system from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at one of the Department’s facilities. This bill now makes all veterans, their spouses, and their caregivers eligible to receive a vaccine at a VA facility.
Warner & Blunt introduce legislation to amend legislative error, protect rural health clinics
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced legislation today to prevent further financial instability for rural health clinics and safeguard the care they provide to underserved communities. The bipartisan Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 would make a technical fix to protect existing rural health clinics from a sudden and unexpected Medicare payment rate change that was erroneously brought on by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief bill.
“In the past year, rural health clinics have played an essential role in bringing urgent and lifesaving care to some of our most vulnerable communities. Unfortunately, this crisis has served to further throw these facilities into financial distress,” said Sen. Warner. “By fixing a legislative error, our bill will help avoid further financial volatility and allow rural health clinics in Virginia and across the country to continue serving the communities that need it the most.”
“Many Missourians rely on rural health clinics for affordable, quality care close to home,” said Sen. Blunt. “This bill will fix a technical error to protect these clinics from added financial strain on top of the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. I urge our colleagues to join us in supporting the vital role these clinics play in improving health care – and the quality of life – in rural communities.”
The emergency COVID-19 relief bill that was signed into law in December included a provision to reform Medicare payment rates for future rural health clinics. While this provision intended to “grandfather” existing rural health clinics at their current payment rates in order to ensure their financial stability, a technical error ultimately excluded clinics that were established after December 2019. As a result, hundreds of rural health clinics nationwide, and even more clinics that were in the “mid-build” phase, now face serious financial uncertainty. Among these are nearly 30 clinics in Virginia:
Shenandoah Medical Associates Front Royal, VA
Valley Health Family Practice Rutherford Crossing, VA
New Warren Memorial Hospital Campus Front Royal, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Clifton Forge, VA
Carilion Clinic Internal Medicine Hardy, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Buena Vista, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Rocky Mount, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Buchanan, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Floyd, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Rocky Mount, VA
Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine Galax, VA
Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine Martinsville, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Tazewell, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Wytheville, VA
Carilion Clinic Family & Internal Medicine Boones Mill, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Bedford, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Hillsville, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Bluefield, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Raphine, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Lexington, VA
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine – Westlake Hardy, VA
Volens Family Medicine Nathalie, VA
Clarksville Family Medicine Clarksville, VA
Sentara Obstetrics & Gynecology South Boston, VA
Halifax Pediatrics South Boston, VA
Chase City Family Medicine Chase City, VA
Halifax Family Medicine South Boston, VA
In order to protect these clinics from the chaos associated with a sudden payment rate change, this legislation would amend existing law to grandfather at the 2020 or first-year payment rate any qualified rural health clinic that was in existence, in “mid-build”, or that had either submitted an application or had a binding written agreement with an outside unrelated party for the construction, purchase, lease, or other establishments of such a rural health clinic prior to December 31, 2020.
This legislation has the support of a number of organizations including the National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC), National Rural Health Association (NRHA), Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA), Virginia Healthcare and Hospital Association, Missouri Hospital Association, Missouri Rural Health Association, West Virginia Hospital Association, Carilion Clinic, Valley Health System, Sentara Healthcare, Forrest General Hospital, Highland Community Hospital, Marion General Hospital, Walthall General Hospital, Jefferson Davis Community Hospital, Pearl River County Hospital, Braden Health, Braden Patient Safety Organization, Mississippi Hospital Association, and McLaren Health Care.
“In December, Congress passed significant and positive payment reforms for rural health clinics,” said Nathan Baugh, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association of Rural Health Clinics. “This legislation will ensure that all rural health clinics in existence at the time the law was changed, as well as those who were in the process of becoming a rural health clinic, are fairly grandfathered into the program.”
“On behalf of Valley Health which serves communities in VA and WVA, I would like to thank Senators Warner and Blunt for introducing this important legislation. Rural health clinics are the lifeblood of healthcare delivery in these rural underserved areas. Ensuring that Rural Health Clinics receive proper reimbursement is critical to their continued sustainability. This legislation addresses the concerns of many across the country that was developing rural clinics in previous years and will go a long way in protecting access to care in these communities which is especially important during the pandemic,” said Mark Nantz, President & CEO of Valley Health System.
“The past year has again reminded us of the critical importance of protecting and strengthening access to health care for all people, including those in rural communities,” said Sean T. Connaughton, President and CEO of Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. “This legislation aims to correct an oversight in existing law to ensure the adequacy of Medicare reimbursements for designated health care providers treating patients in underserved rural communities. We appreciate the work of Senator Warner and Senator Blunt in sponsoring the Strengthening Rural Health Clinics Act of 2021 and we are proud to support it.”
“Thank you to Senator Warner for his ongoing efforts to assist citizens in rural areas of the Commonwealth with sustainable and expanded access to affordable, high-quality health care,” said Nancy Howell Agee, President, and CEO of Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic. “Much of Carilion’s service area is rural with an aging population. Our community needs assessments consistently reflect concerns about access to primary and specialty care. Our Rural Health Clinics and expanded digital solutions, including telehealth, help us better serve the health care needs in the region and provide more sustainable access to care. Senator Warner has consistently worked to ensure that health care services are available for our rural citizens to the greatest degree possible. His efforts to help stabilize access to these services through our Rural Health Clinics is important and appreciated.”
A copy of the bill is available here. A one-page summary can be found here.
Warner presses IRS to fix problems delaying relief checks
With more than 7 million Virginians slated to get over $9 billion in relief as a direct result of the American Rescue Plan, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) urging the agency to ensure that families receive their promised COVID-19 stimulus payments by quickly and proactively addressing three common issues that Virginians experienced with the last round of economic impact payments (EIPs) earlier this year.
“I write today following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to raise specific issues my constituents had in accessing their second economic impact payments (EIP) in hopes those problems can be resolved and taken into consideration as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers the third round of economic impact payments,” wrote Sen. Warner in his letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
In his letter to the IRS, Sen. Warner identified the three most prevalent issues Virginia families ran into when attempting to access their second round of COVID-19 stimulus payments. The issues commonly heard from Virginians were:
1. Couples who filed a 2019 tax return as married filing jointly reported that only one spouse received a second EIP even though they received a joint EIP in the first round.
2. Social Security recipients who received the first EIP via direct deposit or direct express card but did not receive the second EIP.
3. Virginians who reported that the IRS’s Get My Payment application showed that they would either receive their payment via direct deposit or check but never received it.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for Virginians, working to ensure that they get the funds to which they are entitled. Last April, he pressed the Treasury Department to ensure that families who are not normally required to file taxes do not need to wait until the following year to receive the additional $500 payment per dependent child that they were promised. He also successfully pushed the Treasury Department to allow Social Security recipients to automatically receive CARES Act direct cash assistance without needing to file a tax return.
Here is a copy of the letter.
Dear Secretary Yellen and Commissioner Rettig,
I write today following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to raise specific issues my constituents had in accessing their second economic impact payments (EIP) in hopes those problems can be resolved and taken into consideration as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers the third round of economic impact payments.
The Administration is well aware of the millions of Americans facing economic hardship and should be applauded for its tireless work to deliver more relief as part of the ARPA. Further, I am appreciative of the IRS’s hard work throughout the pandemic. IRS employees have worked diligently to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in EIPs to Americans while managing the risks associated with COVID-19.
Virginians continue to reach out with specific problems they are having, particularly those trying to access their second EIP. Below, I lay out the three most prevalent issues my staff has identified. To help me respond adequately to my constituents, please review the three issues and answer the following related questions.
1. Couples that filed a 2019 tax return as married filing jointly are reporting that only one spouse received a second EIP even though they received a joint EIP in the first round. When the spouse not receiving the payment checked the IRS’s Get My Payment App, there was no information. Is the couple’s only recourse to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC)? Is there a reason why the second EIP was treated differently in this situation? Can the IRS take steps to ensure the same problem does not occur with the third EIP?
2. A number of my constituents who are Social Security recipients received the first EIP via direct deposit or direct express card but did not receive the second EIP. The IRS has said those constituents can file a tax return and claim a RRC but I am concerned for those Social Security recipients who are non-filers and are less equipped to file a tax return to claim their RRC. I am also concerned that these same constituents will not receive their third EIP. Please explain why the IRS did not send the second (December) round of EIPs automatically to Social Security recipients. Will the IRS commit to sending past due checks to Social Security recipients who should have received them? For the third round of EIPs, can the IRS commit to automatically sending checks to Social Security recipients? If not, why not?
Last year, the IRS created a Non-Filers tool to allow non-filers to gain access to the first round of EIPs to address this problem and make it easier for non-filers to access their EIP. Why did the IRS not reopen the Non-Filers tool to help Americans access their second EIP? Will the IRS commit to reopening the Non-Filers tool for the third round of EIP to ensure non-filers can easily access their third EIP? And will they be allowed to use this tool to claim checks owed to them from the first two rounds?
3. A number of constituents reported that the IRS’s Get May Payment application showed that they would either receive their payment via direct deposit or check but they never received it. Although the payment was issued to them and they qualified based on their 2019 tax return, the RRC is based on their 2020 tax filing. In some situations this has eliminated constituents’ eligibility for the second EIP. Will the IRS offer any flexibility or recourse for constituents in these circumstances?
I know the IRS is working diligently to serve the American people, and I welcome our continued collaboration to help Americans across the country. Thank you for your attention to this important issue.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – March 22, 2021
This past week was a continuation of Speaker Pelosi’s House passing legislation that didn’t go through the normal committee process and allowed few if any, amendments from the Republican minority. However, in a rare show of bipartisanship, the House did pass my COVID–19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act, which will provide significant aid to struggling small businesses. Last week I also had the opportunity to visit with constituents in Verona and hear from advocacy groups about the issues that matter most to them. As the House wrapped up a busy two months of session, I am looking forward to being home in the Sixth District these next few weeks connecting with those I am honored to represent.
When I visited the southern border two years ago, I saw firsthand the tremendous job that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was doing to curbing the influx of illegal immigration. These dedicated men and women put themselves on the line each day to ensure the safety and security of the American people. The difference between then and now was that President Trump made sure our border patrol agents had the resources necessary to do their jobs effectively when there was an uptick in illegal crossings. Sadly, however, we are once again facing an immigration crisis. When President Biden assumed office, he essentially slapped an open sign on our southern border. In the past two months, the President has halted the construction of the border wall, reduced immigration enforcement, reimplemented “catch and release”, promised citizenship for millions, and canceled asylum agreements with our Central and South American partners. These actions have created a disastrous situation.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 200,000 individual migrants have already illegally crossed the border, which is a seven-year high and a 173 percent increase from this time last year. There has also been a 163 percent increase in families apprehended these past two months. On top of this, at least four individuals on the FBI’s terrorist screening database have come across our border illegally in recent months, and apprehensions at the border jumped 28 percent last month compared to January. Even President Biden’s own Secretary of Homeland Security said we are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years. There is no denying that the entire situation is a humanitarian, economic, and national security crisis. Yet despite all of this, the House passed two bills last week that reward illegal immigration and say to the world that our laws no longer matter – I voted against both pieces of legislation. As your Congressman, I will fight to secure our borders and protect the homeland of the United States.
Aiding our Small Businesses:
In 2019, I introduced and had signed into law the Small Business Reorganization Act, which simplifies the process for entrepreneurs to use bankruptcy as a means of reorganization. Under this bill, when initially passed, businesses with less than $2.7 million of debt were able to file for bankruptcy in a timelier and more cost-effective manner. While in bankruptcy reorganization, a small business can negotiate with creditors while keeping the doors open, employees on the payroll, and suppliers and vendors paid. In 2020, a provision in the CARES Act raised the $2.7 million thresholds to $7.5 million. This provision was set to expire on March 27, 2021. Therefore, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, and I introduced, and the House passed, the COVID–19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act of 2021, which extends this temporary provision, and thus the $7.5 million thresholds, for an additional year. By extending the debt threshold for eligibility, significantly more businesses who have been impacted by government-mandated lockdowns will benefit from the Small Business Reorganization Act, which has served as a lifeline for struggling businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, since the inception of the bill, 80 percent of small business debtors have chosen to proceed under the provisions of my bill.
Domestic Violence Legislation:
Domestic violence is a persistent problem across our nation, and the effect of lockdowns on families in many states has led to an increase in reports of domestic violence. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I have supported efforts at the local, state, and federal levels to provide resources to those programs that help domestic violence victims. Last year, I introduced the bipartisan POWER Act with Congresswoman McBath (D-GA), which aimed to ensure that support services remained available to domestic violence victims during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two bills affecting domestic violence programs came before the House last week, and while I supported the intent of both bills, one of the bills was unfortunately hijacked for partisan purposes. The first bill, which I supported, was a bill to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund, H.R. 1652. The bill strengthens the Victims of Crime Act, or VOCA, which funds thousands of victim service providers around the country, including programs serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking, and drunk driving. VOCA grants also fund victim compensation, including paying medical bills, covering lost wages, and paying for funeral costs. It is critical that we ensure that these important grants continue to support victims across the country, and I was pleased to support the passage of this bill. The second bill was to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a law that I strongly support. Unfortunately, the previously bipartisan law that I have supported and voted for was amended to include several controversial provisions that I could not support. These included provisions that undermine and jeopardize due process; that curtail prosecutorial discretion; that weaken programs for female victims; that could re-victimize abused women, and that fail to provide religious hiring exemptions for faith-based grant recipients. For these reasons, I could not vote for the VAWA reauthorization proposed by Democrat leadership, and instead, I supported and voted for the Republican substitute to re-enact the most recent bipartisan version of the VAWA law.
I enjoyed the opportunity to visit Project GROWS in Verona last week. Founded in 2010, the group partners with various community organizations to address childhood obesity, malnutrition, and diabetes in the Shenandoah Valley through farm-based education. The group also strives to support its students’ physical, mental, and social well-being. Our region thanks Project GROWS for addressing these pressing issues affecting our region’s youth.
I was pleased to meet with members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s national board to discuss continued steps to ensure the safety and security of this vital ally. I have always been a staunch supporter of Israel, and in the 116th Congress, I cosponsored several pieces of legislation seeking to protect the Holy Land. One such bill was H.R. 1837 – the United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act, which authorizes increased security assistance to Israel, including the transfer of reserve stock weapons and boosting defense funding over the next five years. Further, I cosponsored H. Res. 246 – Opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement targeting Israel. The BDS movement seeks to weaken the Jewish State’s footing on the international stage, which is simply unacceptable. I will continue to support our closest ally in the Middle East in the 117th Congress, and I look forward to co-sponsoring similar legislation when introduced.
As of March 21, 2021, Virginia has had 604,904 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 10,117. Further, according to the VDH’s COVID-19 vaccine data dashboard, as of March 20th, 2,039,437 people have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,114,156 people are fully vaccinated.
Additional COVID Information:
The IRS announced this week that it will delay the federal April 15 tax-filing deadline until May 17. Taxpayers can also delay payment of any money owed to the IRS until said date. Additionally, Virginia extended its filing deadline to May 17 as well.
Further, the Salem VA Health Care System announced recently that vaccination appointments are now open for all enrolled veterans. Individuals are encouraged to reach out to their primary care teams or call the vaccination hotline between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule appointments. To schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, veterans should call 540-982-2463 and choose Option 2.
Finally, last week the House approved a 60-day extension of the Paycheck Protection Program which is set to expire on March 31. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the new deadline would be May 31. To apply for a PPP loan, 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. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates.
Senators introduce legislation to undo Trump-Era rulemaking concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
On March 16, 2021, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and 26 of their Senate colleagues introduced the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2021 in an effort to undo Trump-era rulemaking and guidance that, if fully enacted, would destabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance market, weaken protections for Americans with preexisting conditions, and increase costs for millions of individuals with quality health plans. With nearly 30 million Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 – a disease disproportionately affecting minority populations – this legislation would ensure that health coverage for individuals living with preexisting conditions meets the ACA’s minimum quality and consumer protection standards.
“In the midst of an unprecedented health crisis caused by COVID-19, we should make it easier, not harder, for more Americans to get access to affordable health care coverage. Unfortunately, the Trump administration used every tool at their disposal to undermine the success of the Affordable Care Act, including flooding the health insurance market with plans that don’t offer protections for the 30 million Americans who’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19,” said Sen. Warner. “With millions of Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 – a disease that can cause long-term lingering effects and complications long after recovery – we hope to provide peace of mind for individuals searching for affordable health care coverage that meets their needs.”
“For the hundreds of millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions like arthritis, cancer, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, kidney disease, or pregnancy, it is critical that health insurance fully protect them and cover essential health benefits. The Trump Administration’s 1332 Waiver Guidance was one of many, blatant examples of the previous administration’s lack of support in protecting those with pre-existing conditions,” said Sen. Cardin. “It is essential that Congress restore the 1332 Waiver Guidance to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions from being left with higher out-of-pocket costs for less services, now including tens of millions who have recovered from COVID-19.”
“The Trump administration’s dangerous efforts to undermine and unravel the Affordable Care Act – and in the middle of the greatest health crisis of our lifetime – is shameful. It also demands a robust response to mitigate the damage done and ensure every American has access to the quality, affordable care they deserve. That’s precisely what this legislation aims to do,” said Sen. Shaheen. “Our legislation would reverse President Trump’s rule that promoted “junk health plans” which exclude safeguards for those with pre-existing conditions. Millions of Americans and thousands of Granite Staters live with pre-existing conditions, and that is not including the many who’ve been afflicted with COVID-19 which very well may be considered a pre-existing condition in the future. We cannot – now or ever – allow Americans with pre-existing conditions to be denied the care and coverage they need and deserve. Health care is a right, not a privilege.”
“It’s time to turn the page after the Trump Administration spent years sabotaging our health care system and threatening guaranteed protections for people with pre-existing health conditions,” said Sen. Baldwin. “We need to protect and expand access to affordable health insurance. Anyone who says they support quality health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions should support this legislation. This is an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to join together and protect people’s access to health care when they need it most.”
Since the ACA was signed into law in 2010, congressional Republicans have constantly attempted to overturn it. Unsuccessful in their legislative effort, the Trump administration carried the baton in an effort to bypass the consumer protections available for Americans under the ACA.
Beginning in 2018, the Trump administration issued changes to the 1332 waiver guidance in its effort to sabotage Americans’ health care and undermine the critical preexisting condition protections that millions of Americans rely on. On January 14, 2021, on its way out the door, the Trump administration cemented its harmful October 2018 1332 wavier guidance – making it more difficult for future administrations to undo. Specifically, this rule gives states the green light to use taxpayer dollars to push “junk” health insurance plans that cost more and cover less. Under these plans, insurance companies can charge people more if they have a preexisting condition, can deny specific benefits – or can deny coverage altogether. In 2019, Sen. Warner led the entire Senate Democratic Caucus in introducing a resolution to force an up-or-down vote to reverse these harmful Section 1332 rule changes. Although Sen. Warner successfully forced a vote on this resolution, it was ultimately defeated by the Republican-led Senate.
The bill also boasts the support of numerous organizations, including the American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Alliance for Retired Americans, Virginia Poverty Law Center, Commonwealth Institute, March of Dimes, Hemophilia Federation of America, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Susan G. Komen, National Hemophilia Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, National Patient Advocate Foundation, Protect Our Care, Cancer Support Community, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Families USA, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Lung Association, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD).
“The importance of ensuring individuals have access to high quality, comprehensive and affordable health insurance coverage cannot be overstated,” said Lisa Lacasse, President, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “COVID-19 has certainly shone a spotlight on the impact of not having access to care for millions of people. However, the need for health insurance is not only about the current pandemic. This bill takes a critical step to help ensure individuals have the coverage they need when they need it, helping to reduce cancer disparities and improve cancer outcomes.”
“People with bleeding disorders and other serious health conditions rely on comprehensive health care coverage and stable insurance markets. HFA is pleased to support this bill which would roll back harmful guidance and rules released over the past three years, restoring key guardrails around the section 1332 waiver process,” said Sonji Wilkes, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, Hemophilia Federation of America.
“The Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act would overturn dangerous CMS guidance that allows states to undermine critical protections for millions of Americans living with pre-existing conditions. Under the guidance issued in 2018, ‘state innovation waivers’ could allow for the sale of cheap, inadequate health insurance plans that can deny coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions, charge them more for being sick or retroactively rescind coverage. We thank Senator Warner for championing the patient protections under the Affordable Care Act that are strengthening access to life-saving care, and we urge lawmakers to support this important legislation,” said Emily Holubowich, Vice President of Federal Advocacy, the American Heart Association.
“The Virginia Poverty Law Center thanks Senator Warner for filing the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2021. This legislation would reverse harmful actions taken by the previous administration and ensure that all consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act continue in states seeking certain waivers. All consumers, especially lower-income and vulnerable people with chronic health conditions, need and deserve these protections,” said Jill Hanken, Health Attorney, the Virginia Poverty Law Center.
“The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) is proud to support the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2021. Access to quality, affordable health care coverage is critical to Americans with preexisting conditions like asthma and plays an important role in addressing health disparities. Inadequate health insurance coverage remains unequally distributed along racial and ethnic lines, contributing to inequity in health outcomes. We thank Senators Warner, Cardin, Shaheen, and Baldwin for ensuring continued protections for individuals with preexisting conditions,” said Kenneth Mendez, President & CEO, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
“For more than a decade, cancer patients have relied on the vital protections provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Recent regulations expanded and promoted access to subpar insurance products, including Association Health Plans and short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI), which have undercut important patient protections and may leave patients vulnerable. These regulations also permitted states to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize inadequate insurance, exposing patients and consumers to greater risk while simultaneously increasing premiums for those who rely on comprehensive coverage. This legislation is an important step in reining in subpar insurance and a critical component of ensuring patients have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance. We applaud Senator Warner for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with Congress to protect the millions of Americans who live with a pre-existing condition,” said Gwen Nichols, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
In addition to Sens. Warner, Cardin, Shaheen, and Baldwin, the legislation is also cosponsored by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).
The introduction of the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2021 comes on the heels of President Biden signing the American Rescue Plan into law, which includes key Warner health care priorities to expand access to affordable health care coverage for Americans during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The American Rescue Plan offers states additional incentives to expand their Medicaid programs to millions of more Americans. More than 4 million Americans are eligible for Medicaid under the federal expansion included in the ACA but live in states that have elected not to expand their Medicaid programs. The American Rescue Plan encourages states to expand their Medicaid programs by offering a two-year federal matching payment of 95 percent. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan also ensures that Americans have access to affordable health care coverage by extending premium assistance and capping health care costs at a maximum of 8.5 percent of household income. These provisions are similar to actions Sen. Warner called for in legislation he led this year – the SAME Act and Health Care Improvement Act.