News From Congressman Ben Cline
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Sixth District Perspectives 
with Congressman Ben Cline

The halls of the Capitol were supposed to be quiet week before last, during what is commonly known as a “District Work Period” for Congress. Members spend time working in their local offices, meeting with constituents, visiting local businesses, or speaking with community groups about local issues of importance. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with and report back to the voters who we represent in Washington and who we fight for each and every day.

What we normally don't do during District Work Periods is consider legislation. That’s because almost no one is there to cast a vote on the bills. It’s understood that the Speaker will not try to push legislation through when a bill's opponents are all back home in their districts. Normally, the Speaker shows respect to other Members by waiting for them to return to Washington. Respect for the institution of Congress and respect for debate is critical for the government envisioned by our founding fathers to function.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, decided to toss aside the the historic courtesies that have been shown to Members for centuries. Without calling Members back to vote, the Democrat leadership tried to pass H.R. 2157, a spending bill to address several natural disasters that occurred in the past few years. While I support efforts to provide assistance to communities who have been impacted by natural disasters, this brazen attempt to ram this bill through without any debate is symptomatic of just how broken Washington has become.

After several Republicans drove back to Washington to object to efforts to move the bill, it became clear why they didn’t want debate about what was in it. Amazingly, less than 30 percent of the $19.188 billion package has anything to do with actual disaster assistance. The rest of the bill was full of pork-barrel spending for pet projects and other non-emergency functions. Debating the bill also would have given Members the chance to understand that 86 percent of the funding in this bill was not even requested by the Trump Administration. Members should have also been aware that the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) was funded at $29 billion at the end of April, with projections of $18.2 billion in the fund at the end of the fiscal year.

While H.R. 2157 eventually did pass by a vote of 354-58, House Democrats failed to identify a way to pay for it without adding to our national debt. I will continue to vote against wasteful spending and demand fiscal responsibility in Washington in all areas. If we can find ways to balance our state budgets and our family budgets, I believe it is time for the federal government to follow suit.

In other action last week, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing to promote increased access to abortion. During the hearing, we heard from witnesses on both sides of the ideological spectrum. Amazing testimony came from Melissa Odhen, who survived an abortion procedure. As an adult, Melissa has made it her life’s mission to prevent abortions and stand up for the right to life. As a co-sponsor of the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, I am grateful to Melissa for sharing her story, and I will continue to advocate for the protection of life.

I also took to the House floor Tuesday to introduce language into H.R. 6, the DREAM Act, which would have prevented known criminals, gang members, terrorists, and other public safety threats from gaining legal status through this legislation. The perverse effect of H.R. 6 is that these public safety threats who could be denied a green card will still be free to stay in the country – as if the U.S. is a sanctuary nation. I made a motion that would have made it easier for Department of Homeland Security to deny gang members’ applications by making it an eligibility requirement that an alien not be a gang member, and by explicitly permitting DHS to consider the information found in gang databases. It would have ensured that criminals, gang members, and those who are terrorists and other public safety threats are referred for a determination of removal from the United States. I am disappointed that most Democrats in the House rejected this necessary change to the bill.

Finally, this week ended with quiet contemplation. On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, in the largest seaborne invasion in history. The success of D-Day laid the foundations for the liberation of Western Europe, the defeat of Nazi Germany, and ultimate victory in World War II. On Thursday, I participated in a solemn ceremony at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

I thank all veterans for their service, but I especially want to thank the men of Bedford for their courage and sacrifice on that day 75 years ago. Twenty-two men from Bedford were killed during the invasion and subsequent fighting. It was the largest loss of life on a proportional basis of any town in the United States. Their bravery and sacrifice continue to secure the freedoms we enjoy today. May we never forget the men of Bedford and the courage of all those who have fought for the greatest Nation on Earth, the United States of America.