With the President’s signature on the bipartisan border security deal, the Trump shutdown mess is over, for now. Sen. Warner voted to keep the government open, as he had consistently throughout the funding debate. Now that the Senate has adjourned for the President’s Day recess, he heads out for a road trip across Virginia next week.
The President signed into law this afternoon the bipartisan funding and border security bill, averting another disastrous government shutdown.
The legislation fully funds the government through September 30th and includes numerous provisions the Senators championed to benefit Virginia, including a salary boost for federal workers and more funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration.
Sens Warner and Kaine released the following statement on the government funding bill becoming law.
“We’re relieved hundreds of thousands of federal employees won’t have to go without pay again because of President Trump’s determination to shut the government down, but these hardworking public servants are sick of us lurching from crisis-to-crisis every couple weeks,” said the Senators. “While we’re glad this bipartisan package includes many key Virginia priorities, it’s inexcusable that it does not include back pay for federal contractors, who are still hurting from the last shutdown. We hope Congress will finally pass legislation to address this issue.”
On the President’s national emergency declaration for border wall funding, the Senators said,
“We made significant investments in border security done the right way, and there’s no good reason President Trump should do a political power grab for more. When national security leaders brief us on the big security threats against our nation, they are not asking us for a wall. The President is just saying this is an emergency so he can get his vanity project, and it’s deeply concerning that he’s trying to build it by pulling from military construction funds, which is money that should be going toward projects like fixing military family housing and making security improvements to our bases.”
Click here for a list of the many provisions Sens. Warner and Kaine supported on behalf of Virginia that were included in the appropriations bill.
Before the vote on the funding bill, Sen. Warner took to the Senate floor to call on his colleagues to pass legislation providing back pay for low and middle-income federal contractors.
After the vote, Sen. Warner vowed to continue fighting to pass his contractor back pay bill, as well as legislation — such as Sen. Warner’s Stop STUPIDITY Act — which would end the practice of government shutdowns.
Sen. Warner also introduced legislation this week that attempts to undo some of the financial hardship facing federal workers and contractors harmed by the shutdown. The Protect Federal Workers’ Credit Act would protect the credit reports of federal workers and contractors who were hurt by the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
This bipartisan bill would require credit bureaus to remove negative information that was placed on the credit reports of federal workers and contractors who missed payments as a result of a government shutdown. The bill would apply to the recent shutdown and any future government shutdowns.
OUT OF TIME
On the Senate floor this week, Sen. Warner urged his Senate colleagues to take immediate action to ensure that 1,200 retired coal miners—500 of whom live in Virginia—do not lose their healthcare coverage by the end of the month.
In his remarks, Sen. Warner asked Senate leaders to protect miners who risk losing crucial benefits if a bankruptcy court allows the Colorado-based Westmoreland mining company to shed its obligations to provide healthcare to retirees. Sen. Warner joined several colleagues on the floor to urge passage of the American Miners Act, legislation that would secure pensions and healthcare benefits for the nation’s retired coal miners.
“We’ve got a crisis right now,” Sen. Warner said on the floor. “We talked about the Westmoreland bankruptcy, 1,200 miners. Five hundred of those live in Virginia. If we can’t get a solution on this deal right now on the American Miners Act, then a lot of those miners and their families are going to go without relief, because their day of reckoning is already upon us.”
The bill would also stabilize the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund that provides critical benefits for retirees suffering from this deadly disease. More than 25,000 coal miners and their dependents rely on the fund, but Congress needs to act to renew funding for the program. Failure to renew the tax that supports the fund would be particularly devastating for coal miners in Southwest Virginia, who have been disproportionately affected by an advanced form of the disease known as complicated black lung.
PARKS AND LEGISLATION
This week, the Senate passed a bipartisan public lands bill that permanently reauthorizes the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This permanent funding is key to preserving and protecting Virginia’s rich history and beautiful landscapes. By providing long-term security for this critical program, communities across the Commonwealth will be able to continue caring for our natural resources and history for future generations to enjoy.
The LWCF provides states and local communities with technical assistance, recognition, and funding to help preserve their own history and create close-to-home recreation opportunities. In the span of four decades, Virginia has received more than $350 million in LWCF funding to protect dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and more. This bipartisan package is supported by dozens of conservation and recreation organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, the League of Conservation Voters, the Outdoor Industry Association, and the Nature Conservancy.
The lands package also reauthorizes the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Grant Program, which support the preservation of sites on HBCU campuses that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Last year, Virginia Union, Hampton University, Virginia State, and Virginia University of Lynchburg received grants totaling $2.27 million under the HBCU grant program.
In addition, the bill includes language Sen. Warner supported with Senator Kaine and the entire Virginia delegation, which designates the George C. Marshall Museum and Research Library in Lexington as the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library.
Senator Warner also re-introduced legislation this week, the Restore Our Parks Act, that would make the largest investment in history in our national parks. Years of chronic underfunding have left our national parks with a whopping $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.
This bipartisan bill, which Sen. Warner introduced with Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME), would use existing revenues from mineral leases collected by the Department of the Interior to address approximately $5.6 billion of the highest-priority maintenance projects at national parks around the country. The legislation has the support of the Trump Administration, as well as a number of conservation groups and advocates for National Parks.
Currently, national parks in Virginia have a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $1 billion, ranking third behind only California and the District of Columbia in total deferred maintenance. For a detailed park-by-park breakdown of Virginia’s backlog, click here.
Over 100 organizations, including the National Association of Counties, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, have announced their support for the Restore our Parks Act.
Some highlights from the past week:
• NO ON BARR: In a floor speech, Sen. Warner expressed his opposition to the President’s Attorney General nominee, William Barr. He later voted against the Barr nomination in the final Senate vote.
• PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: Sens. Warner, Cardin, Shaheen, and Baldwin introduced the Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions Act, legislation that would prevent the Trump Administration from promoting “junk” health care plans that lack protections for people with pre-existing conditions and would increase health care costs for millions of Americans.
• Artificial Intelligence: Sen. Warner, Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement on the promise of artificial intelligence technologies while warning against laissez-faire policies put forward by the Trump Administration.
• FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA: Sen. Warner, along with every Democratic member of the Virginia Congressional Delegation, co-signed a letter opposing seismic testing off the coast of Virginia. The seismic testing permits issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which had been denied under the Obama Administration, are one step in the Trump Administration’s plan to open up the coastal waters off Virginia to potential oil and gas drilling.
• STUDENT DEBT: Sens. Warner and John Thune (R-SD) introduced legislation to help Americans tackle their student loan debt.
• SUPPORTING TEACHERS: Sen. Warner alongside a bipartisan delegation introduced the Teacher and School LEADERS Act, a bill which will reform Teacher Quality Partnership Grants to better support school leaders and allow for greater innovation in educator preparation.
• RAPTORS: Sens. Warner and Kaine were joined by every member of the Virginia Congressional delegation in urging U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to relocate an additional F-22 squadron to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton Roads after Hurricane Michael severely damaged the air force base in Florida where the planes had previously been based.
Senator Warner will be traveling through Virginia next week, holding events in Blacksburg, Salem, Hardy, Martinsville, Danville, Lynchburg, and Charlottesville. The Senate is out of session until Monday, February 25.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: April 20th, 2019
This week was the first of our two-week district work period. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous for Speaker Pelosi to recess the House for two weeks when her party can’t even pass a Budget plan as required by the Constitution. Nevertheless, I am glad to be home for Easter with my family and back in the Shenandoah Valley to catch up on the latest news. Additionally, in between all the meetings, events, and briefings, I was able to take a brief two-day trip to the Gulf Coast to see how we can use some of the exploration industry’s best practices to help lower energy costs for Virginia families.
As my colleagues and I stood atop an oil rig 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana, I was impressed with the efforts in place to ensure oil is extracted safely with a focus on the protection of fragile sea life and ecosystems. Witnessing the hard work that goes into protecting our environment while at the same time extracting oil leads me to believe the same could be done off the coast of the Commonwealth. The hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs in the oil industry could further improve Virginia’s economy and open new opportunities for our citizens. All of this is possible while also protecting the ecosystems off our coast. It would truly be a win-win.
I went on this fact-finding mission to see firsthand the work being done off the Gulf Coast and push for the same off the coast of the Commonwealth. Any energy policy must be an all-in approach. As we saw this week, America can pursue energy independence while ensuring that important protections for the environment are in place.
On Thursday, Attorney General William Barr made public the redacted Mueller Report. I voted last month to make the entire Mueller Report public, and I look forward to the Department of Justice making the full un-redacted Report available to all members of the House Judiciary Committee in accordance with Federal laws. In the meantime, I am taking the Easter weekend to read the redacted version of the Report.
While the talking heads in the media continue to chatter about what they think the Report means or doesn’t mean, I am more interested in the facts. As a former prosecutor, I refuse to rely on opinion, supposition, or jumping to conclusions.
Of course, I would prefer that the House move on to pressing issues like addressing the failure of Obamacare to lower health insurance premiums, the failure of our highway and infrastructure system to keep up with the booming US economy, and the failure of our Congressional leaders to stop the wave of illegal immigration that is flowing across our borders. But it appears that the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on which I serve, now wants to investigate the two-year long Mueller investigation. Chairman Nadler has subpoenaed all evidence collected over the course of the Mueller investigation. I am confident that Mueller did a thorough job of investigating the attempt by Russia to interfere with our elections. However, if the Chairman deems it necessary, I welcome the testimony of both Attorney General Barr and Special Counsel Mueller before the Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks. As I consider the Mueller investigation, the Report, and its findings, I pledge to uphold the oath I gave on Day One of this job to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: April 13th, 2019
Last November, I was honored to be sent to Congress by the voters of Virginia’s Sixth District. A majority of voters supported my plans to stand up for our common-sense conservative values and cut through the bureaucratic red tape that paralyzes our Federal government. During my first 100 days in office, I have found a House of Representatives in worse shape than even the most skeptical critic would expect. It is rudderless, inefficient, and gridlocked in partisan trench warfare. Despite the problems, however, I have also found reason for optimism as I find others who want to work on bipartisan solutions that can make a difference for folks here in Virginia and across our Nation.
In Congress, the debates over issues like ending illegal immigration often degenerate into the gridlock for which Washington is known. But one ray of hope during my first 100 days in office was when dozens of Democrats joined with Republicans and voted in favor of language similar to a bill I introduced, the Notify ICE Act. My bill would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) be notified if an illegal immigrant failed a firearms background check due to his or her immigration status. It was added to another bill through a legislative procedure called the motion to recommit. It took a lot of work and my colleagues and I suffered several setbacks throughout the process, but the floor vote was a rare show of bipartisanship when the motion passed the House with 29 Democrats joining Republicans to support this bill.
A piece of legislation important to the Sixth Congressional District was also recently signed into law by President Donald Trump. My bill designating the National George C. Marshall Library and Museum at Virginia Military Institute puts Lexington on the map for World War II scholars and lovers of history, honoring the life of one of VMI’s most celebrated and accomplished graduates. This legislation brings a renewed focus on the life of the man who is credited with the plan to rebuild Europe after the war, and it will help attract needed tourist dollars to the region and enhance the regional economy.
Since becoming the 35th congressman from the Sixth Congressional District on January 3, I have not only introduced the aforementioned two bills, but I have also co-sponsored 15 more which will benefit all Virginians. One of these bills, the Death Tax Repeal Act, is a bill which would benefit farmers and ranchers across the Sixth Congressional District. The men and women who raise our cattle, plant our crops, and feed America know how harmful the death tax has been to families in the agriculture industry. A repeal of this tax allows our working farm families to maintain their small businesses across generations.
Constituent services are another important part of representing the Sixth District, and nearly 450 constituent requests for assistance with a Federal agency have arrived at my office in the first 100 days of this congressional term. By far, the largest number involved the Veterans Administration, Social Security, and Medicare. I am pleased to report that almost 50 percent of these have already been completed. In addition, nearly 10,000 constituents have received responses to letters they have written to my office.
Communication with constituents helps to inform my votes in Congress and the legislation I introduce. In addition to written correspondence, I have been visiting communities all across the Sixth Congressional District. Since the November election, I have held seven town halls and listening sessions, beginning in Roanoke City and continuing across the Sixth District, from Lynchburg up to Front Royal. My staff has also hosted 66 mobile office hours, and I have spoken to students at 11 schools and at different events in cities and towns across the Sixth Congressional District.
I have been privileged to meet with thousands of constituents, introduce several bills, and cut through red tape in my first 100 days in office, but there is much more to do. In one of my first speeches after being sworn in, I reintroduced four words to Congress that Washington needs to hear again and again: we can’t afford it. I will continue to stand for fiscal responsibility and our Constitutional liberties as this session of Congress continues. I can’t do this without hearing from you. Visit cline.house.gov to make your voice heard or call me at (202) 225-5631.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline – April 6th
Perhaps the most interesting conversations on policy and the role of government occur when I am afforded the opportunity to meet one on one with constituents from across the Sixth Congressional District, hearing their thoughts on legislation, how government overreach is impacting their families, or how I can help them navigate government red tape. This week started with a meeting at Luray High School, where I spoke with Mrs. Baldwin’s senior government class and fielded a wide range of questions on the Constitution, items in the news, and the work we are doing in Congress.
Over the last three months, I have been privileged to answer questions from hundreds of students in all parts of the Sixth. While questions vary, there has been a consistent theme – hope for a brighter future. Students in the Sixth Congressional District are the same as Americans from all walks of life. They want the opportunity to graduate, possibly attend college or trade school, raise a family, and achieve the American dream. I tell each class with whom I meet that our job in Congress is to protect their liberties, remove the barriers that would hold them back, and allow them the opportunity to succeed.
Just as America has flourished since World War II, growing the economy and making the American dream accessible to a growing number of our citizens, individuals in other parts of the world want the same opportunities, as well. In the years following the end of World War II, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO, was formed as a military alliance among member states. Citizens of NATO member states strive for the same economic freedom we enjoy in America. That is why NATO is so important, standing as a defense against hostile adversaries.
This week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addressed a Joint Session of Congress and spoke of NATO’s positive impact 70 years after its formation. He also noted the challenges facing NATO, which has grown from 12 to 29 member states. Stoltenberg said President Donald Trump’s mission to increase defense spending by member states “is having a real impact.” Each member nation is obligated to contribute 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to defense spending. A report from NATO last month showed only seven nations were meeting such targets, including the United States at 3.9% of GDP, though the numbers have started to shift. Stoltenberg said just last month that member nations have increased spending by nearly 4%, adding $41 billion in defense spending as a result of President Trump’s calls for member states to meet their obligations. Stoltenberg expects that number to increase to $100 billion “by the end of next year.”
It was encouraging to hear from the NATO Secretary General and see President Trump’s pressure result in more countries meeting their goals. I voted to protect the President’s ability to pressure NATO members earlier this year, because NATO must remain a strong alliance for the security of the United States and its allies. In times of war, our NATO partners have played important roles in our victories. We must continue to hold our allies to their obligations in order for NATO to continue to be an effective tool for peace in our world.
In addition to hearing from the NATO chief, we took action on other items in Congress. I joined many of my House colleagues Tuesday to sign a discharge petition aimed at demanding a vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The bill extends legal protections to infants who survive an abortion procedure, including the right to receive medical care. We have seen a concerted effort this year to expand abortion up to and beyond the point of birth in the Commonwealth and other states. Twenty-five times this year, Republicans have asked for a vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has denied each of our requests. That is why I joined Whip Scalise, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, and many of my colleagues Tuesday to call on a vote through the discharge petition and declare that we are a nation that stands against infanticide.
Representing the Sixth Congressional District is a responsibility I take very seriously. Thank you for the opportunity to stand for the rule of law, fight partisan overreach, and stand for life as your representative in Congress.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: March 30, 2019
The Mueller Report was filed on Friday, March 22, and Attorney General William Barr summarized findings in a letter to Congress on Sunday, March 24. In the Attorney General’s letter, Congress and the American people were informed of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year, $25 million investigation. The conclusion? The Special Counsel did not find that the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in their efforts to interfere with the 2016 US Presidential Campaign.
As Americans, we should all be relieved that the investigation into potential collusion with a foreign government found no collusion, but many on the left are not satisfied. Democratic House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler and his colleagues have started a congressional investigation with 81 people receiving subpoenas so far and no telling how many more tax dollars going to waste on an investigation which is already complete. As I told WSHV-TV 3 on Wednesday, it is time to move on and get to work for the American people. We have real issues facing our country, from renewal of the higher education bill to addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure. That is why I encourage my colleagues to refocus their efforts on policy and not politics.
Addressing the concerns of the Sixth Congressional District is exactly what I did on Wednesday as I joined Republican Whip Steve Scalise and my colleagues on the House Energy Action Team to hold a press conference demanding a vote on the ridiculous Green New Deal in the House of Representatives.
The Green New Deal is a terrible idea. It is an attack on agriculture and our way of life in Virginia and the entire country. In the Commonwealth alone, agriculture and forestry have an economic impact of $91 billion and support over 400,000 jobs. If the radical left’s attempt to reverse the Industrial Revolution becomes law, farmers and many others would lose their livelihoods while local economies would be wrecked. In the Sixth Congressional District and all over America, we know the Green New Deal will not work. That is why we are calling for a House vote to once and for all put this bad policy out to pasture.
Before traveling to Washington on Monday, I visited Total Action Against Poverty (TAP) in Roanoke, a community action agency working to help community members improve their own lives.
One service that TAP provides is the weatherization of homes. Last year, TAP weatherized 32 homes in the City of Roanoke. One of those homes belongs to the Vance Family, with whom I met during Monday’s visit. Because of TAP’s weatherization program, they save nearly $30 per month on utilities. Further, the Vance’s neighbors also shared how TAP located a small carbon monoxide leak in their home, likely averting a life-threatening disaster for the family.
I thank the senior leadership of TAP for taking time to inform me on its work in southwest Virginia. If you see me out in your community, please say hello and let me know if you need assistance with a federal agency or call my office at (540) 857-2672. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Warner, Kaine praise recommendation by Air Force to permanently house F-22 Training Unit in Hampton Roads
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced that the Air Force recommends relocating the F-22 Flight and Maintenance Formal Training Unit (FTU) to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton Roads:
“We are pleased that after careful evaluation, the U.S. Air Force has determined that Joint Base Langley-Eustis should permanently house the F-22 training squadron. There is nowhere better to house these aircraft, the unit and supporting personnel and their families than Hampton Roads – a region celebrated for its defense assets and long history of strengthening our nation’s national security. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force and the Virginia Air National Guard as it moves forward with the relocation process.”
While Joint Base-Langley Eustis (JBLE) is designed to accommodate three squadrons, the base currently houses two squadrons. In February, Sens. Warner and Kaine led the entire Virginia delegation in a letter urging the Air Force Secretary to permanently house the F-22 training squadron at JBLE after Hurricane Michael devastated Tyndall Air Force Base. The unit was then temporarily relocated to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida while the Air Force determined the most appropriate permanent home for the Formal Training Unit.
Today, the U.S. Air Force announced that it has determined JBLE is the most suitable F-22 location to support Formal Training Unit operations. The Air Force will make its final basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.
Congressman Ben Cline’s office to host Service Academy Day in Roanoke
ROANOKE, Virginia – The office of Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) will host Service Academy Day on Saturday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke.
Students and their parents will be provided information on the application, nomination, selection, and appointment processes. Representatives will be present to provide information and answer questions about the various service academies:
• The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York;
• The United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland;
• The United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
An academy appointment has an estimated value of over $400,000 and admission is competitive. Each academy selects nominees based on moral character, scholastic achievement, physical fitness, leadership, and college admission test scores. The earlier a student begins preparation, the more competitive that student will be in the process.
More information on Service Academy Day and the nomination process may be found by visiting https://cline.house.gov/services/military-academy-nominations or calling Congressman Cline’s office at (434) 845-8306.