By: Rep. Ben Cline
The House returned to Washington last week to unfortunately play politics with a number of pressing issues facing our nation – most notably our crumbling infrastructure. However, one bit of news that should have all Americans cheering is the June jobs report. As America reopens, the number of jobs added in the United States blew past expert predictions for the second month in a row. The economy gained a whopping 4.8 million jobs in June, making it by far the largest single-month gain in our nation’s history. And while it was a busy week in Washington, I am thankful to be spending this Independence Day in the District. This weekend might not be as filled with festivities as it usually is, but I am truly blessed to be celebrating surrounded by family and friends in a beautiful District that I am proud to call home.
Fixing Our Nation’s Infrastructure:
The Sixth District is in dire need of resources to modernize its aging infrastructure and relieve the congestion bottlenecks that afflict our highways. Most notable for our area is Interstate 81 – a road that is the economic backbone of the region and that spans six states, with over 300 miles of it in Virginia, and stretches the majority of the District from Front Royal in the north to Roanoke in the south. Each year there are nearly 2,000 crashes on I-81, with more than 25 percent involving heavy trucks, and over 45 major crashes a year causing delays greater than four hours. Current conditions are not only a frustration, but a grave public safety concern. People are dying on this road, and the failure to keep America’s infrastructure up to par is costing lives.
Sadly, instead of focusing on public safety and improvements to highways like I-81, the Majority passed an infrastructure bill this week that is nothing more than political messaging. H.R. 2 prioritizes big cities and big government over the interests of the American taxpayer, while neglecting the needs of rural America. We simply cannot afford the $1.5 trillion Green New Deal agenda that was included in this legislation. Instead of negotiating realistic ways to rebuild our highways and infrastructure, the Majority created uncertainty for our local communities by saddling them with an ever-growing deficit and even more restrictive government regulations. There no doubt that our nation is in need of an infrastructure overhaul, but it must be done in a fiscally responsible manner.
That is why I support the Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review (STARTER) Act. The STARTER Act focuses on state flexibility, provides reasonable regulation reform, emphasizes traditional core transportation needs, prepares our system for future transportation technologies, and places a greater emphasis on rural America. The bill:
Ensures state flexibility
Streamlines the project delivery process to maximize available funding
Prioritizes more programs and functions of our existing federal surface transportation programs
Incorporates innovative developments in technology to improve our infrastructure
Provides for the infrastructure needs of America’s rural communities
Addresses the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund
I was disheartened to see the Supreme Court ruling last week in the June Medical Services v. Russo case. Louisiana passed a law that protects women by requiring that abortion providers have access to a nearby hospital in case of an emergency that threatens the life of the mother. Abortion facilities sued the state on the grounds that the law places an “undue burden” on mothers seeking abortions. By fighting against Louisiana’s common-sense safety regulation, abortion advocates have proven that they care little for the lives and health of women and are primarily invested in the industry of abortion. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court issued a misguided ruling deeming that Louisiana’s regulation of abortion clinics is somehow in violation the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, I will continue fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. We must continue to stand for life.
Phase Three Reopening:
On July 1, Virginia moved into the Phase Three of reopening. Although there is a slight increase in confirmed cases, Virginia continues to remain steady in most counties, which allowed for the continued reopening.
In Phase Three, non-essential retail, beaches, and state parks are open in full capacity, but with proper distancing. Restaurants will also be open at full capacity, but bar seating continues to be prohibited. Entertainment venues are open with 50 percent capacity. Fitness and exercise centers are open at 75 percent capacity with no restrictions on shared equipment, but an increase in sanitization is encouraged. Childcare and personal grooming businesses are open in full capacity. The 50-person limit on gatherings have increased to 250 people. Please note that the situation remains fluid, and these guidelines are subject to change. Keep in mind that even as these businesses open, face coverings and physical distancing are still required.
On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia and voted to officially sever ties with Great Britain. Pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, 56 brave men proclaimed to the world the sovereignty of the Thirteen Colonies. This statement, made public two days later, has since become known as the Declaration of Independence, and its words are at the very core of the American Ideal.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I strive every day to uphold these values as your representative in Congress. I fight to ensure that the American Dream is never out of reach for any citizen in this country and that regardless of status, I will always work to preserve liberty, opportunity, and equality. President Trump gave a great speech on Friday from Mt. Rushmore. On this Independence Day weekend, I urge you to take some time to listen and reflect on what the day is all about.
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.