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

     In what was likely the last legislative week in Washington before November’s elections, the House was back in full swing conducting the business of the people. Recognizing good policy proposals regardless of party, I cosponsored Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) recently introduced legislation aimed at protecting our elections. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi does not share our attitude of bipartisanship, and I was disappointed that she rammed through a Democratic wish list masquerading as a COVID-19 aid package.

     This week I stood in defense of the First Amendment and religious liberty by sending a letter to Attorney General Barr urging him to investigate the mistreatment of churches and their congregations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, after having been regularly frustrated by the legislative processes these past 21 months, I offered my suggestions to the House Rules Committee on ways in which our chamber can operate in a more transparent and accountable manner. Additionally, I took to the House Floor on Wednesday to honor New Freedom Farm in Buchanan for the work they do supporting our veterans. It was a busy week, and I am very much looking forward to returning to the Sixth District for the month of October. I hope to have the opportunity to chat with as many constituents as possible over the next few weeks. And finally, I’d also like to take a moment to extend my thoughts and prayers to the President and First Lady as they battle COVID-19.

New Freedom Farm:

     Founded in 2016, New Freedom Farm in Buchanan, Virginia is a non-profit community that aids veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance abuse, and Traumatic Brain Injury. Through animal therapy, farming, and peer-to-peer support, this tremendous organization strives to empower veterans and help them heal through the realization of their own efforts and contributions. New Freedom Farm helps our servicemembers reintegrate into civilian life by fostering physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I applaud the entire team at New Freedom Farm for their passion and commitment to serving those who served our Nation, and it was a privilege to recognize their great work on the House Floor this week. 

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Protecting our Elections:

     The heart of our democratic republic lies in the integrity of our elections. For that reason, I cosponsored H.R. 8285, the Election Fraud Prevention Act, which was introduced by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). This bill would amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to prohibit payments to States that permit ballot harvesting. Currently, depending on the State or locality, voters have the option of mailing their ballot, leaving their ballot in a drop box, having their ballots collected and submitted by a third party, or returning them at the polls or a local election office. The Election Fraud Prevention Act ensures that voters seeking to turn in their absentee ballots may only be assisted by an election official or mail carrier acting in their official capacities as well as family members, household members, or caregivers. This legislation will help ensure our elections remain free and fair, and I am proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in supporting this bill. 

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 Defending Religious Freedom:

     In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many state and local governments have taken appropriate action to implement temporary health and safety guidelines to mitigate the risk the virus poses to our communities. However, the country has seen a concerning number of cases where misguided efforts have resulted in an intolerable infringement on the constitutional First Amendment rights of churches, their congregations, and other religious entities. That is why I joined my colleagues this week in writing to Attorney General Barr urging the Department of Justice to investigate possible violations of the First Amendment and remain vigilant in the preservation of our rights and protection of religious liberties for all Americans. To read the full letter, click the graphic below.

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COVID-19 Legislative Update:

     Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has authorized trillions of dollars in aid to help struggling families and businesses. However, as our Nation continues to deal with the effects of the coronavirus, there is no denying that the American people are in need of additional relief. Unfortunately, for months, Democrats have stood in the way of multiple attempts to provide targeted aid to those most in need. And sadly, as November approaches, Speaker Pelosi decided this week to introduce a partisan $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill that included poison pills that prevented it from attracting bipartisan support. Instead of actually working with Republicans, the Speaker instead decided to pass an election year messaging bill that has no chance of being signed into law. Some of the most egregious provisions contained in the bill include:    

  • Fails to provide sensible liability protections to businesses, hospitals, and schools to protect them from frivolous lawsuits
  • Allows illegal immigrants to receive direct stimulus payments
  • Mandates a blanket release for certain covered federal prisoners and alleged criminals
  • Uses taxpayer dollars to bail out failing multiemployer pension plans while failing to include any needed reforms to fix the problem
  • Federalizes elections, by including stringent, impossible to achieve mandates on how states must run elections
  • Bails out poorly run states and localities to the tune of $436 billion (Almost 1/5 of the bill’s total spending) 
  • Defunds the police by removing $600 million from the original Heroes Act intended for the COPS Hiring program

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Reforming Government:

     Many of the House Rules that are in place provide the necessary transparency and accountability in the legislative process, but sadly, these rules are often worked around or waived when it matters most. For this reason, I testified before the Rules Committee to express my thoughts on how our Chamber could practice better governance moving forward. First and foremost, we need to ensure that both legislators and the American people have adequate time to review bills before they are voted on. That is why I took this opportunity to discuss with Committee members my proposal to institute the 48-Hour Bill Review Resolution. Additionally, I urged the Committee to once again allow bills to be brought to the Floor under an “Open Rule”. This would enable Members to have greater input on legislation before it is voted on by allowing them the opportunity to offer an amendment to a bill outside of the committee process. No piece of legislation has been considered under an Open Rule in nearly four years, despite this practice having been commonplace in Congress for decades. And finally, I stressed to the Members of the Rules Committee the importance of individual bill consideration when it comes to appropriations measures. Far too often Members are asked to vote on massive packages that contain multiple programs that are wholly unrelated to one another, which makes it difficult to responsibly and thoughtfully consider legislation. I am hopeful that these rule changes will be implemented in the 117th Congress.  

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     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. 

     For the latest updates from Washington and across the Sixth District, please follow my Facebook and Twitter pages.

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