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Legislative Update

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

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Special Report: Surrender of Afghanistan

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

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

Matters were made worse on July 6, when the US military was withdrawn from Bagram Air Base, reportedly without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander.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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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


Resources for Veterans:

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

• Veterans Crisis Line

• Make the Connection

• VA Website – Mental Health Suicide Prevention

• Lifeline

• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA)

• Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)

• American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Knowledge Network

• American Association of Suicidology

• Means Matter Website Launched

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – January 17, 2022

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Last week saw an attempt by Democrats to build support for an unconstitutional power grab under the guise of increasing “voting rights.” In reality, the bill would nationalize our election laws, legalize ballot harvesting, and use taxpayer dollars for political campaigns. While this bill has passed the House, the Senate will be debating and voting on the bill this week. Last week, I also wrote several letters along with my colleagues calling on President Biden to remove Education Secretary Cardona for vilifying parents, as well as demanding answers as to how our Nation is facing a testing shortage, despite more than $80 billion being appropriated by Congress to enhance testing. Finally, as the Virginia Supreme Court released the new Congressional maps following the 2020 census, I wanted to take the time below to explain what it means for Sixth District residents. Again, I’d like to thank everyone who has wished me well this week as I recovered from COVID-19, and I look forward to returning to Washington on Tuesday to serve the good people of western Virginia.

Partisan Antics:
Over the past several weeks, Senate Democrats have been advocating for the abolishment of the filibuster, which dates to 1837, in order to pass two unconstitutional and far-reaching “voting rights” bills that would strip rights away from the states and nationalize elections. The Senator leading the charge, Chuck Schumer, once said that eliminating the filibuster would, “be a doomsday for Democracy.” Further, Schumer himself has voted more than 500 times throughout his career to sustain the filibuster, and in 2020 alone, the Democrats used the filibuster 327 times. Yet that hasn’t stopped him or the Democrats from now flip-flopping on their position in order to pursue a liberal agenda. This is the height of hypocrisy.

The Constitution reserves to the States the primary role in establishing, “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives.” Yet, the bill the Senate is attempting to pass would give President Biden’s Department of Justice and Federal courts the power to exert considerable control over state and local election laws. For example, one of the main provisions in the bill would give the Biden Administration authority to veto states’ voter ID laws, despite a recent survey finding that 81 percent of Americans support voter identification laws. Further, these bills would allow politicians to fill their campaign coffers with tax-payer dollars through a contribution matching scheme. For instance, based on current fundraising levels, under these bills Speaker Pelosi would receive up to $22.7 million in public dollars for her reelection campaign, and Senate Majority Leader Schumer would receive up to $44.1 million for his reelection campaign. This is unacceptable, and American tax dollars should never be used to fund political campaigns. Further, another provision in the proposal would legalize ballot harvesting, which allows third-party individuals, volunteers, or campaign workers to collect and submit completed absentee or mail-in ballots from voters. This is a dangerous concept and presents a very real opportunity for voter fraud. At their core, these two bills seek to politicize voting and push a false narrative that there is a crisis in voting rights, when in fact there was record turnout amongst all demographics in the last election. Republicans support expanding access to voting, but these pieces of legislation are nothing more than a power grab attempting to federalize elections and ensure Democratic control of Congress.

Standing With Parents:
President Biden’s Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, lied to the American people when he denied requesting a letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that compared concerned parents to “domestic terrorists” in September during an interview with “CBS Mornings,” on Wednesday. He said, “We didn’t ask for that letter. We didn’t…No. Specifically, with that letter, we had no — we didn’t request that there was no involvement in that.” However, newly revealed emails contradict that assertion and confirm that Secretary Cardona, in fact, did solicit the letter. This is in addition to previous emails that revealed the NSBA coordinated with Biden’s White House and the Department of Justice for weeks about their letter’s content before publicly sending it. These revelations show an egregious act of betrayal on the part of the Federal government toward American families. Parents deserve an Education Secretary that will fight for them and their rights, not one who actively seeks to vilify them. For these reasons, I joined my colleagues in writing to President Biden urging him to fire Secretary Cardona. The full letter can be found here.




COVID Testing Shortages:

In May of 2021, Politico reported that the Biden Administration withdrew more than $2 billion out of programs authorized by Congress, including funding to expand coronavirus testing and emergency medical supplies. These funds were diverted to cover the cost of sheltering a surge of migrants that have crossed our southern border illegally in the past year – an influx that is no doubt a result of the President’s decision to sign executive orders reversing successful Trump Administration immigration policies. Due to this Administration’s decision to prioritize illegal border crossers over the health of American citizens, there are now countless reports of millions of Americans across our Nation waiting in lines for hours to receive a COVID-19 test. These same Americans are then forced to wait days to receive their results, putting their loved ones at risk. As a result of the shortage of COVID-19 tests and a severe backlog of samples that need testing, my colleagues and I wrote to the President demanding answers as to how his Administration plans to rectify the situation. The full letter can be found here.

Rising Costs:
This week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed what Americans already know – that the prices of everyday goods have skyrocketed in the past twelve months. New data shows that the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a key inflation index, hit a 40-year high in December. The CPI rose 7% last month compared to a year ago, marking the largest annual increase since 1982. The CPI report is the latest sign that Biden’s and Democrats’ out-of-control spending is only worsening the economic crisis as Americans are now making less while paying more for just about everything. Further, on Monday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also released the December Jobs Report, which was the worst of the Biden Presidency. The United States added only 199,000 jobs in December, falling more than 200,000 short of what experts had predicted. The hits only keep coming, and the Biden Administration has made clear that they have no plan to get our economy back on track.

Redistricting:
The Virginia Supreme Court recently released the finalized Congressional maps for the Commonwealth following the conclusion of the 2020 Census. While the majority of the Sixth District will remain the same, it now will include Frederick, Clarke, and Alleghany counties, in addition to the Cities of Winchester, Covington, and Salem. Unfortunately, though, the boundaries of the new Sixth District will no longer contain Bedford and Amherst Counties, nor the City of Lynchburg. However, please know, the new District lines will not officially go into effect until January 3, 2023. Therefore, I will still represent folks in Lynchburg, Bedford, and Amherst until the end of this year. Until January of 2023, folks in Frederick, Clarke, and Winchester should continue to contact Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, and folks in Alleghany, Covington, and Salem should continue to contact Congressman Morgan Griffith for all legislative and casework needs. While I would like to assist individuals in these areas with such matters before January of 2023, House Ethics Rules prohibit me from doing so. If you have any further questions about redistricting, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Mobile Office Hours:
Virginia’s Sixth District stretches more than 150 miles from Strasburg in the north to Roanoke in the south. While I have four District offices throughout our region in Harrisonburg, Staunton, Roanoke, and Lynchburg, my goal has always been to make myself and my staff as accessible as possible to folks in the Sixth District. For that reason, my staff regularly hold Mobile Office Hours throughout the District to assist residents with any issues they may have with a Federal agency, as well as hear folks’ concerns regarding legislative matters. This coming week, my staff will hold Mobile Office Hours in Lexington and Woodstock. For more information, please visit my website here.

COVID-19 Update:
This week in Virginia there was an average of 178.5 cases of COVID-19 per every 100,000 residents. This is up from an average of 161.7 cases from one week prior. This week’s positivity rate was 40.2%, up from 33.9% from last week. As many of you know, I was one of those who tested positive for COVID last week. I deeply appreciate the well-wishes from friends and constituents across the Sixth District. While I enjoyed working from home during my time recovering, I was disappointed to have missed the inaugural festivities in Richmond for Governor Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Governor Winsome Sears, and Attorney General Jason Miyares. Nevertheless, better to be safe than sorry when it comes to COVID. For more information, 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.

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Legislative Update

Warner Weekly Wrap-Up: Build bridges, not walls

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Happy Friday from the Warner press office. Sen. Warner is traveling around the Commonwealth this weekend – this afternoon, he was briefed in Richmond about the December 2021 cyber-attack on the Virginia General Assembly and spoke with the press about his proposed policy solutions. Earlier in the week, the Senate voted on sanctions and continued to work on voting rights.

Sen. Warner also participated in nomination hearings for Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve nominee Lael Brainard, and Sandra Thompson, President Biden’s nominee to be director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). In his capacity as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner also chaired the nomination hearing of Kenneth L. Wainstein, the nominee to be Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, and celebrated some exciting infrastructure funding announcements.

All of this (and more) in your Warner Weekly Wrap-Up:

BRIDGE OVER (WELL-FUNDED) WATERS


The bipartisan infrastructure law continues to make it rain for the Commonwealth of Virginia. This morning, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched its Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program – an exciting initiative devoted to repairing bridges nationally. Virginia will receive $536.8 million from this program, making it the largest EVER investment in Virginia bridges.

The funding comes at a critical time – with 577 bridges across the Commonwealth deemed “in poor condition,” this is an important investment in making transportation safer and more reliable.

In July 2021, Sen. Warner visited the historic Mayo Bridge in Richmond, which could receive funds as part of the law. Images from that visit here.

Sen. Warner was a key author and negotiator of this law, and he welcomed this latest announcement as just one of the transformative investments coming to Virginia as a result of its passage. In a joint statement with Sen. Kaine, he wrote,

“We’re thrilled to announce this record amount of funding to fix aging bridges across Virginia. Modernizing bridges will improve safety and support economic growth in every corner of the Commonwealth. Today’s announcement is one more reason we were proud to support the once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment that is improving lives and livelihoods across the country.”

This follows announcements about funding for Virginia airports and transit, with more announcements about IIJA funding expected all throughout 2022.

Beyond bridges, Sen. Warner announced another win for VA infrastructure this week, with an additional $500,000 headed to the Town of Dungannon to replace 13,840 feet of waterline so individuals and businesses have better access to clean, reliable water.

RUSSIAN SANCTIONS DISCUSSIONS CONTINUE

Sen. Warner continues to be an outspoken advocate for engaging in strict diplomatic negotiations with Russia as they continue their armed buildup around Ukraine. While some of his Senate colleagues proposed a bill that would complicate the ongoing negotiations, Sen. Warner carefully considered and voted against this ultimately failed bill, writing,

“The bill that we’re considering today is neither well-targeted nor well-timed; in the midst of serious diplomatic conversations, it takes a shot at our European allies and risks undercutting negotiations. I look forward to working with my bipartisan colleagues to continue advancing the strong support that exists for Ukraine, and backing a clear and resolute stance in opposition to Russian aggression.”

Sen. Warner has instead signed on to a bill with 25 colleagues that would offer a more targeted approach to sanctioning Russia in the case of a renewed Kremlin invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement on this bill, he wrote,

“This bill reinforces the message that the Biden administration must be conveying to Russia in face-to-face meetings this week – that accelerated aggression towards Ukraine will only strengthen U.S. assistance for our Ukrainian partners, reinvigorate NATO’s collective defense posture, and bring about devastating consequences for the Russian economy.”

VOTING RIGHTS SOLDIERS ON

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, conversations about the legacy and future of voting rights are heating up. Sen. Warner continued to be outspoken in favor of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act this week, issuing a statement, graphics, and several tweets on the topic.

Sen. Warner has also continued to support the idea of a carve-out to the filibuster to get it done. Next week, he will vote in favor of this legislation as Sen. Schumer will likely bring it to the floor. In Sen. Warner’s words,

“As a member of the greatest deliberative body in the world, I continue to believe that we must preserve the Senate’s ability to debate contrasting viewpoints on matters of public policy. However, voting is the bedrock of our democracy and it is a right that should never be up for contention. As President Biden doubles down on his efforts to safeguard democracy from the barrage of attacks by state legislatures, Virginians can be sure that I’ll be working in the Senate to do whatever it takes to protect Americans’ access to the ballot.”

He continues to release graphics highlighting the benefits of these bills and voicing his strong support for their passage.

GRAB BAG

STRENGTHENING PROTECTIONS: Sen. Warner signed onto a letter with 31 colleagues calling on the administration to offer or extend Temporary Protected Status protections for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua.

HEAR YE HEAR YE: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Warner held a nomination hearing for Kenneth L. Wainstein, the nominee to be Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, he also questioned Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, whom President Biden has nominated to serve another term atop the Central Bank, about the effects of inflation and child care on our economic growth.

FRIEND OF THE (BIG TECH) POD: Sen. Warner appeared on the Big Technology podcast to discuss why 2022 is the year Congress should finally take action and put guardrails around Big Tech.

ARP DELIVERS FOR RURAL VA: Another round of funding from the American Rescue Plan was announced Friday morning, delivering an additional $7.4 million for Virginia health providers and suppliers who serve rural Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicare beneficiaries. This brings the total to $130 million for 882 providers across the Commonwealth as a result of the ARP.

WEEK AHEAD

This weekend, Sen. Warner will continue his travel around Virginia and attend the inauguration of governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, and (weather permitting) will participate in events on Monday to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day. When the Senate readjourns on Tuesday, he expects to participate in debates on voting rights. He plans to hold a remote media availability for the press in Virginia, so stay tuned for an announcement on that.

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Legislative Update

Warner & Kaine announce Virginia to receive $536.8 million for bridge repair

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On January 14, 2022, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced the largest-ever federal investment in Virginia’s bridges, made possible by the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law negotiated by Sen. Warner and supported by Sen. Kaine. Virginia will receive $536.8 million over five years to address highway bridge needs, which include 577 bridges across the Commonwealth that are currently rated as being in “poor” condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“We’re thrilled to announce this record amount of funding to fix aging bridges across Virginia,” said the senators. “Modernizing bridges will improve safety and support economic growth in every corner of the Commonwealth. Today’s announcement is one more reason we were proud to support the once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment that is improving lives and livelihoods across the country.”

In July 2021, Sen. Warner joined Richmond officials for a tour of the Mayo Bridge, which was constructed in 1913 to cross the James River and is one of the hundreds of bridges across Virginia that are currently considered structurally deficient and expected to benefit from the investment announced.

In December 2021, Sen. Kaine joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in Richmond and Henrico County to discuss how the $7.7 billion in federal funds Virginia expects to receive from the infrastructure bill will be used to repair and replace roads and bridges and improve public transportation.


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Legislative Update

Statement of Senate Intel Chair Mark R. Warner on Nord Stream 2 pipeline

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement ahead of an expected vote this afternoon on S. 3436, a bill to require the imposition of sanctions with respect to entities responsible for the planning, construction, or operation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline:

“The bellicose actions and rhetoric that we have seen from Vladimir Putin in recent months represent the latest in a long string of offensive actions by the Russian President. Russia’s armed buildup around Ukraine – on top of the continued occupation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea – represents a serious threat not just to Ukraine, but to the broader peace and stability of Europe, and of the world. The Biden administration is actively engaged in conversations with Russia and with our European partners and allies to de-escalate the situation.

“What the Senate should be doing is reinforcing those ongoing conversations. We could do that by passing legislation that makes clear that accelerated aggression towards Ukraine will only strengthen U.S. assistance for our Ukrainian partners, reinvigorate NATO’s collective defense posture, and bring about devastating consequences for the Russian economy.

“The bill that we’re considering today is neither well-targeted nor well-timed; in the midst of serious diplomatic conversations it takes a shot at our European allies and risks undercutting negotiations. I look forward to working with my bipartisan colleagues to continue advancing the strong support that exists for Ukraine, and backing a clear and resolute stance in opposition to Russian aggression.”


Yesterday, Chairman Warner joined Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 24 of their Senate Democratic colleagues in introducing the Defending Ukraine S

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Legislative Update

It’s a new day in Virginia

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Happy New Year! I hope that you and your families had a safe and healthy holiday and that you are starting 2022 off on a positive note.

2021 certainly was full of highs and lows. In November, Virginia sent a very loud and clear message that we need new leadership for our Commonwealth to get moving in the right direction once more. The House of Delegates is now back to a Republican majority. Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, Lt. Governor-elect Sears, and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares will be sworn in to their new posts this Saturday. I am looking forward to working with them over the course of the next four years to bring about positive changes to critical issues like education, public safety, the business climate, and more. One thing is for sure, they are ready to go to work for you on Day One. It’s a very exciting and refreshing time for Virginia!

This year’s General Assembly Session began today and will continue for the next 60 days. During that time, the legislature will be working on a new state budget for the next two years along with about three thousand bills that will be filed and debated over the coming weeks. Committee meetings and floor debates will get underway in full next week and the pace for the next two months will be fast moving.

You will remember that last year’s session was like no other. Due to the pandemic, the Senate met in person but it was at the Science Museum of Virginia where we could spread out. The House of Delegates, however, had completely virtual meetings. Testimony from the general public in support of or in opposition to all bills in both chambers was done via Zoom. I did not support the lack of transparency this process afforded but am happy to report that this year, it will be back to business as usual – live and in person – at the Capitol.


The Senate will hold committee meetings in person at the Pocahontas Building and the daily floor sessions will be held in the Senate Chamber in the state Capitol. The Pocahontas Building will be open to the public again (maximum capacity limits will be monitored by the Capitol Police). Testimony from the general public on bills will be allowed in person, and a virtual option will be available for those not able or comfortable to come to Richmond.

I promise you that I will continue to stand up for our conservative ideals for you and your family. While the Democrats still have a slim majority in the Senate, we have a Republican House and Republican Governor. After two years of complete Democrat control, there is a lot that needs to be corrected. We will work to roll back many of the liberal policies that have been detrimental to our Commonwealth – burdensome business regulations, pro-labor union bills, so-called social justice reforms that actually make our most vulnerable communities less safe, and climate change policies that make Virginia look more like California than the Commonwealth that we know and love. It is a new day in Virginia. The core values on which my viewpoint on the world is built – small government, lower taxes, less regulation, and the freedom to bear arms and worship – will continue to guide my voting and actions this session.

I have a number of bills that I will be introducing this session that will deal with charter schools, small businesses, right to work, elections, elder abuse prevention, and public safety. I will be covering these more extensively in future updates along with other bills of interest the legislature takes up. To follow my legislative package, click here.

Even though this session still may look and feel a bit different, one thing that remains unchanged is my stellar legislative team. We will again have two offices operating during General Assembly:

Richmond Office- Room 502E Pocahontas Building
Connor Smith
connor@markobenshain.com
804-698-7526

Harrisonburg District Office
Jenni Aulgur
jennifer@markobenshain.com
540-437-1451

If you have scheduling requests, constituent concerns or would like to let me know what you think about a piece of legislation please reach out to my office at the contact information above or email me at mark@markobenshain.com As always, I appreciate hearing from my constituents on issues that are important to you.

I am grateful for the privilege of serving the Shenandoah Valley in the Virginia Senate!

Best,

Mark Obenshain

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Legislative Update

Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – January 10, 2022

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As Congress begins a new session, it is a good time to reflect and update you on the past year of service on behalf of the people of Virginia’s Sixth District. Over the last twelve months, I have worked on several legislative initiatives that advocate for small government, lower taxes, and the protection of our God-given constitutional rights. While the sections below are only snippets of my work, I hope they serve as a good representation of the policies for which I am fighting.

Introducing Legislation:
As I have done throughout my career, I have worked to reach across the aisle and introduce several pieces of legislation that could realistically be passed in both Chambers of Congress and signed into law by the President. Two areas in which Republicans and Democrats can often agree are on issues supporting Veterans and reforming the federal government, which is why I have sponsored the below bipartisan bills. I will continue working to find positive solutions to the issues facing all Americans and look forward to pursuing other legislative initiatives in the Second Session of the 117th Congress.

• H.R. 4433, the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act expands the options under which Veterans can access their earned GI Bill benefits to open or purchase a small business.

• H.R. 4434, the Ensuring Accountability in Agency Rulemaking Act requires all rules proposed by federal agencies, except in limited circumstances, to be signed and issued by an individual appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate – thus limiting the power of federal bureaucrats.


• H.R. 4866, the Federal Insurance Office Elimination Act seeks to eliminate a duplicative federal agency created by Dodd-Frank and returns regulatory power to the states.

• H.R. 4867, the Data Centers and Government Records Oversight Act implements a three-pronged approach to establish better governance and oversight regarding Federal technology practices, thus saving the taxpayer money and making bureaucracies more efficient.

Supporting Veterans:
Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have striven to support Veterans by advocating for legislation that honors the service and sacrifice of military personnel and their families. A few of the most consequential pieces of legislation I have championed for Veterans relate to burn pits, suicide prevention, health care options, Blue Water Navy, the widow’s tax, Reserve and National Guard bankruptcy, and opening up membership into the American Legion for previously disqualified veterans. Further, my District offices are committed to aiding Veterans with their claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure they receive the benefits that have earned. Below are just a few examples of pieces of legislation I’ve supported this year to accomplish these goals:

• H.R. 3224, the Deborah Sampson Act eliminates barriers to care and services that many women Veterans face and would help ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs addresses the needs of women Veterans who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and go without needed health care. (Signed into law)

• H.R. 1448, the PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement a pilot program to provide canine training to Veterans diagnosed with PTSD as an element of an integrative health program. (Signed into law)

• H.R. 2974, the Military Spouse Hiring Act expands the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to include the hiring of a qualified military spouse.

• H.R. 3674, the Vet Center Support Act directs the VA Secretary to submit to Congress a report on mental health care furnished by the Department of Veterans Affairs in certain States to ensure our Veterans are being properly cared for.

• H.R. 2192, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 ensures that applicable individuals who resided, worked, or were otherwise exposed to government-provided tap water that was contaminated with harmful chemicals, found at levels ranging from 240 to 3,400 times levels permitted by safety standards, at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, could obtain appropriate relief from harm.

Securing our Border:
President Biden inherited a southern border from President Trump that was secure. Unfortunately, since taking office, the Biden Administration has worked to open the border, not secure it. Our communities are less safe because the President has stopped building the wall, brought back Catch and Release, and did away with the Remain in Mexico policy. This has incentivized illegal immigration, and to date, at least 1.9 million illegal immigrants have unlawfully crossed our border in the last twelve months. It’s simple, border security is national security, and below are several bills I have supported this year to combat President Biden’s radical border agenda.

• HR 1496, Sarah’s Law requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States and has been charged with a crime that resulted in the death or serious bodily injury of another person.

• HR 413, the SAFE For America Act eliminates the diversity immigrant program, which makes immigrant visas available solely to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

• HR 4593, the Securing Our Border States Act establishes a block grant program to enable southwest border States to construct barriers along their borders with Mexico.

• HR 1259, the REMAIN In Mexico Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to implement the Migrant Protection Protocols as outlined in the January 25, 2019, memo titled Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols.

Rep. Cline during a previous trip to the US-Mexico border.

Standing for Life:
All life is precious, and throughout my career, I have always remained a voice for the voiceless and a vocal advocate for the unborn. Sadly, over the past year, we have seen the Democrats fight tooth and nail to expand the practice of abortion, all the while attempting to have your tax dollars pay for such procedures. However, rest assured, my Republican colleagues and I are pushing back against their pro-abortion agenda. Below are several pieces of legislation I have supported this past year to Stand For Life.

• H.R. 18, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions or for health coverage that includes abortions.

• H.R. 28, the Protecting Life in Crisis Act prohibits the expenditure for an abortion of Federal funds authorized or appropriated for preventing, preparing for, or responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

• H.R. 619, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act amends title 18, United States Code, to prohibit a health care practitioner from failing to exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.

• H.R. 541, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act provides for a moratorium on Federal funding to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.

• H.R. 534, the Protecting Life in Foreign Assistance Act restricts the availability of Federal funds to organizations associated with the abortion industry.

Advocating for Farmers:
Our Nation’s farmers and ranchers continue to weather every storm, working through supply chain disruptions, and ensuring we have a safe and healthy food supply from the farm to the table. I am committed to defending the Sixth District farm families and want to see these operations continue for generations to come, which is why I joined the newly established Congressional FFA Caucus. This Caucus will serve as a collective group of U.S. Representatives dedicated to issues related to the next generation of agriculture leaders and students pursuing careers in agriculture, food, natural resources, and related sciences. Along with supporting our next generation of agriculturalists, I have also been busy advocating for our local meat processors and livestock producers; bringing more choices to our students’ school nutrition options; and working to provide access to resources, like broadband, for our rural areas. Here are a few key pieces of legislation I have supported this last year on behalf of our farmers:

• H.R. 4140, the Butcher Block Act rebalances the cattle market by easing regulatory barriers and offering U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meat processing grants for small processors looking to expand or add shackle space.

• H.R. 1861, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2021 amends the National School Lunch Act to allow school districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to serve flavored and unflavored whole milk.

• H.R. 2244, the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act allows member-owned cooperatives and small broadband and voice providers the ability to refinance specific Rural Utilities Service (RUS) loans and waive all associated fees, resulting in saving providers millions per year in debt payments that can be passed on directly to consumers, invested in quality rural broadband networks, or used to upgrade aging electronic infrastructure.

• H.R. 3369, the Broadband for Rural America Act expands rural broadband assistance to improve the administration and accountability of the broadband programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to empower farmers, better serve rural America, and fuel our economy.

Defending the Second Amendment:
Whether in Richmond or Washington, I have always been a staunch defender of the Second Amendment. Our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to protect us from the government and gave individuals the Second Amendment to protect themselves and their families. Unfortunately, throughout the past year, Democrats have vilified gun owners and sought to limit the rights of law-abiding citizens. This is unacceptable, and I will continue to defend all citizens’ Constitutional rights from far-Left policies. To that end, below are several pieces of legislation I have supported in the past year to protect and expand Americans’ Second Amendment rights:

• H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act allows a qualified individual to carry a concealed handgun into or possess a concealed handgun in another state that allows individuals to carry concealed firearms.

• H.R. 95, the Hearing Protection Act removes suppressors from the definition of firearms for purposes of the National Firearms Act.

• H.R. 1534, the Protecting the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Act prohibits the President and the Secretary of Health and Human Services from declaring certain emergencies or disasters for the purpose of imposing gun control.

• H.R. 1210, the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act (LEOSA) Reform Act amends title 18, United States Code, to improve the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act and provisions relating to the carrying of concealed weapons by law enforcement officers.

Growing the Economy:
Since the day I was sworn in, I’ve been focused on growing the economy and keeping more money in the pockets of hard-working Americans. In that vein, I’m fighting every day to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses and employees and am also committed to lowering taxes that stunt economic growth. Further, I believe in promoting free trade agreements and policies that benefit farmers and small businesses in Virginia’s Sixth District. Below are just a few examples of pieces of legislation I’ve sponsored this year to accomplish those goals:

• H.R. 1712, the Death Tax Repeal Act repeals the estate tax, also known as the death tax, which, in effect, is a double tax on families and taxes property transferred at death.

• H.R. 3625, the Middle-Class Savings Act aligns the brackets for assessing capital gains taxes with those created in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to enable middle-class families to invest and save more through the stock market.

• H.R. 1346, the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act provides federal tax credits to support the travel, convention, trade show, entertainment, tourism, and hospitality industries across the country impacted by the ongoing pandemic.

• H.R. 4181, the Stop Inflationary Spending Act amends the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to require the Congressional Budget Office to conduct an analysis of the impact on inflation from certain reconciliation legislation reported or submitted pursuant to reconciliation directives in a concurrent resolution on the budget.

• H.Res. 620 the Protect Right to Work expresses support for right-to-work laws that protect workers from being required to join and pay forced dues to a union to get or keep a job.

Afghanistan:
Despite increasing Taliban violence in the first three months of 2021 and intelligence that the Taliban and al-Qaida were maintaining close ties, on April 14, 2021, President Biden announced a full United States troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by September of last year. While he said, “We will not conduct a hasty rush to the exit’’ and, ‘‘We’ll do it responsibly, deliberately, and safely,” we know that neither of these things was true. President Biden botched the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which resulted in the death of 13 American servicemembers, countless civilians stranded, and a complete Taliban takeover of the country. Below you can find the legislation I have supported in response to this tragedy. I have also signed several letters condemning the President’s actions and demanding answers to ensure this never happens again.

• H. Res. 607, Condemns President Biden’s failure to heed the advice of military and intelligence advisors about the speed and nature of the Taliban offensive, leading to a disorganized, chaotic, and abrupt evacuation of United States personnel and Afghan allies.

• H.R. 5142, posthumously awards a Congressional Gold Medal, in commemoration to the servicemembers who perished in Afghanistan on August 26, 2021, during the evacuation of citizens of the United States and Afghan allies at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431.

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