By Rep. Ben Cline
The House was busy with activity this week and addressed a number of issues regarding the funding of both our government agencies and our military. Members also began unofficial discussions as to what a future coronavirus relief package might look like. And while nothing is set in stone, there are several priorities my colleagues and I would like to see included in any additional COVID-19 related bill. I also had the privilege this week to honor a member of the Virginia National Guard on the House Floor and had the opportunity to discuss some troubling developments surrounding the investigation by the Justice Department into abuses in the FBI and FISA Court process. No matter the issue, I will continue working to represent the values of the Sixth District and its residents.
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
Ensuring that our servicemembers have the necessary resources to do their jobs safely and effectively has always been a priority of mine. But in its current form, the FY2021 NDAA passed in the House this week circumvents the executive branch and limits the President’s authority to protect our national security interests both domestically and abroad. Further, Democrats included language in this bill that could strip military personnel of their Second Amendment Rights, while violating due process and limiting soldiers’ ability to protect themselves and their families. And further, the bill creates bureaucratic hoops that the Secretary of Defense must jump through in order to provide assistance to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in their ongoing efforts to secure the Southern Border. And while I could not vote for the House version of this legislation, I look forward to working with my colleagues, following Senate action, to pass a bill that makes certain our military has all that is needed to protect them, secure the Nation’s defense, and could actually be signed into law.
This week, the House began its annual appropriations process to fund our government’s various federal agencies. On Friday, we voted on a roughly 700-page bill specifically to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, State, and Veterans Affairs. While there were certainly aspects of the legislation I could support, unfortunately, the bill contained numerous provisions that were either unacceptable or wholly unrelated to the agencies at hand. To start, the bill passed in the House jeopardizes our national security by prohibiting funds from being used to continue building the wall along our Southern Border and restricts the President’s ability to transfer funds to address the illegal immigration crisis. Further, the legislation overturns the Administration’s Mexico City Policy, which would allow international organizations to receive funding even if they perform abortions. Additionally, it removes conditions that promote transparency and accountability within organizations such as the United Nations and World Health Organization. And finally, the legislation hinders the United States’ ability to pursue true energy independence and places burdensome reporting regulations on farmers relating to greenhouse gasses. These are just a few of the reasons why I could not vote in favor of passing this bill.
As Congress begins to discuss an additional COVID-19 relief package, there is not yet a clear consensus as to what would be included in such a bill. However, what is clear is that Congress must encourage small business growth and increased employment to ensure the long-term success and viability of our economy. Further, it is my hope that any future coronavirus related bill will include liability protections for businesses. With so many mom and pop shops already struggling, the last thing they should have to worry about as they reopen are frivolous lawsuits. Additionally, Congress must continue to make available the necessary resources to increase testing capabilities. And finally, we need to begin looking at ways to safely and securely reopen our schools in the fall. While remote learning was an acceptable alternative in the height of the pandemic, it is not suitable for our kids as a long-term option.
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.