Another appalling interview of Ben Cline

If anyone thought Congressman Cline was sincere when he talked about bipartisanship and compromise, they should take 16 minutes to listen to a recent interview conducted by rightwing radio talk show host John Fredericks.

In his second interview by Fredericks since his election to Congress (his first was in December), Cline leaves no doubt that he believes the interests of the people of the Sixth District are identical with whatever President Trump happens to want and that the only compromising necessary is to be done by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.

Lowell Feld of Blue Virginia provides a list of some of Cline’s most egregious comments, along with some pertinent observations:

First, Cline appears to agree with the host that Democrats are “pushing for open borders” as part of a nefarious plot to “replenish their voting base.”

Cline DEFINITELY agrees that Democrats are supposedly “pandering to the far left,” that supposedly “the Democrat [sic] Party has been hijacked – you could see that in the Sixth District this year, my opponent was a far-left Bernie Sanders supporter, wanted Medicare for All…was not interested in securing the border with a wall.” (factual note: 70% of Americans support Medicare for All, including 52% of Republicans – the people Cline says are “far left” – while the “wall” is opposed by 58% of Americans)

Cline bizarrely claims that the only reason freshmen Democrats are refusing to negotiate on Trump’s unpopular, nonsensical “wall” is that they are “too scared” of Nancy Pelosi…including that “she’ll cut off your head before you even feel the pain.” Alrighty…

Cline goes completely over the top/off the deep end, sounding like a far-right radio host or whatever, ranting that “Nancy Pelosi can’t  operate a speaker as business as usual and just jet off on her trip with her Democrat [sic] colleagues to go visit the troops and pose for photos while Washington is shut down and the federal government is shut down back here.”

Cline (who can’t seem to stop blaming Pelosi for everything) launched into this particular rant as he evaded a question about whether members of Congress should get paid during the government shutdown (clearly he is continuing to take his salary). Instead he said he favored “creating some pain” for members and suggested that preventing Pelosi from visiting American forces in Afghanistan (hardly a pleasure junket) was a way of making her feel pain. What pain (if any) Cline himself is suffering he did not specify.

Cline suggests that Trump consider doing the State of the Union from “the border,” maybe at a “stadium in Arizona or Texas.” LOL

Cline claims the concept of a “reasonable freshmen Democrat” is a “near extinct personality,” as they supposedly all ran “to the left and are products of the left.” Again, LOL.

Cline vows to have Trump’s back, claims that Trump has stood for the “rule of law” (that’s beyond laughable, of course, as this administration has been almost completely lawless/an assault on the rule of law) and “protection of the American people.” Uhhhh.

Discussing his appointment to the House Education and Labor Committee, Cline made clear that his hostility to organized labor remains intact.

“The Democrats are going to put all kinds of labor union bills through and I’m anxious to stand up for the right of the worker.” He then explained what he really means: “I don’t support forced unionism.” In other words, Cline will continue to defend “right to work” laws which allow workers to receive the benefits of union representation without having to help support the union that negotiates for those benefits.

(Cline should recall that voters in large parts of the Sixth District– including heavily Republican areas– opposed his effort in 2016 to embed “right to work” in Virginia’s constitution.)

As for education, Cline said, “We need to reduce and eliminate [???] the federal role in our education system.” Does this include the millions of dollars in federal aid to public schools in the Sixth District which support reading programs and professional development activities for teachers, among other services?

Hold your applause, Congressman

On Wednesday Congressman Cline posted on his Congressional website:

Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) applauded U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s announcement today (January 16) that 40 Farm Service Agency offices in Virginia, including several serving the Sixth District, will temporarily re-open to provide essential services.

“Agri-businesses in the Sixth Congressional District depend on access to capital to manage their operations and keep their businesses running without disruption,” Cline said. “Secretary Perdue and the Trump Administration have made the right decision to provide essential services that will minimize the impact on our producers with existing farm loans. FSA offices will be open for three days to assist farmers with processing certain payments, servicing loans, and to provide other specific services.”

USDA announced today that FSA offices will re-open on January 17, 18, and 22 to provide certain services.

It’s good that Sixth District farmers will have access to some vital services for a few days during the Republican-enabled government shutdown. But what Cline fails to mention is that FSA employees are being called back to work without pay— and without any idea of when they will finally receive it. And of course he doesn’t reveal that he joined the overwhelming majority of Republicans in voting against a bill to fund the FSA and other crucial government services that have nothing to do with immigration or border security.

One more thing, Congressman Cline: if the Trump administration had made “the right decision,” this disastrous shutdown would never have happened.

Quoting MLK and denouncing racism isn’t enough

On Tuesday Congressman Cline posted on Facebook:

Today would have been the 90th birthday of the Reverend Martin Luther King, and we are still striving to achieve Dr. King’s vision of a Nation “where our children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Earlier today, I spoke to members of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) at their “Day at the Capitol.” I joined a bipartisan group of Representatives who assured the AJC audience that we stand united against anti-Semitism and in defense of the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel.

I then joined my House colleagues in voting for House Resolution 41, which denounced white supremacy, white nationalism, and the racist remarks of Rep. Steve King. Republican Leader McCarthy made the correct decision yesterday to remove Rep. King from his committees, and I hope that the Republicans of Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District will, in determining whether or not to nominate Congressman King for re-election next year, reflect on our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who stood for a Nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

I am proud to stand with my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, in condemning racism and in supporting President Lincoln’s fervent prayer that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

I appreciate Cline’s willingness to denounce white supremacy and call out Steve King by name for his hateful comments. It’s a refreshing contrast to his predecessor Bob Goodlatte, who appointed King chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice and called him “well-suited” for the position. King’s racism was evident years ago, but Goodlatte and many other Republicans chose to overlook it.

But as the Republican-enabled government shutdown drags on, Cline might want to think about what Martin Luther King– a true friend of labor— would have said about forcing people to work for weeks (or longer) without badly-needed pay to support themselves and their families.

On shutdown, Cline sides with Trump instead of his constituents

More than 7,000 federal employees live in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District. Thousands of them have been furloughed or have been working without pay since the Trump-imposed government shutdown began on December 22.

On Friday these employees missed their first paychecks of the shutdown, leaving many of them wondering how to meet basic expenses for food, rent, mortgages and child care.

But there’s no sign that Congressman Cline has taken the slightest interest in their fates. On Friday evening he attended the Woodstock Fire Department Spaghetti Dinner. That was a good thing to do. But perhaps he could follow the example of Congresswoman Elaine Luria and also meet with some of the Transportation Security Administration agents at the Roanoke airport who have been working without pay since December 22 to protect the safety of airline passengers and crews.


(Congresswoman Luria has said she won’t take any of her Congressional pay until the shutdown is over. Several persons have contacted Cline’s office to see if he is doing the same, but have not received responses.)

Meanwhile Cline stands loyally behind President Trump, suggesting that the solution to the shutdown is in the hands of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, The best he can come up with is a lame joke and a mild suggestion that Republicans might be willing to compromise on Trump’s demands.

“I’m happy to call it Nancy’s border protection barrier – it doesn’t have to be called a wall – if that satisfies her,” Cline added. “And, on our side, the president might not get $5.6 billion for the wall that he wants. It might be 5. It might be 4.6.”

In fact Trump has shown no willingness to be flexible on the amount, and even rejected an effort by Vice President Pence to arrange a compromise.

Meanwhile Cline dutifully voted with most House Republicans against appropriations for government agencies providing essential services, including food safety inspections and, yes, the border security that he and Trump profess to be so concerned about.

As border security workers being forced to work throughout the shutdown, some unions are reporting that their employees are being overworked and understaffed. Carlos Favela, a spokesman for a border patrol union in El Paso, Texas, told the Los Angeles Times that “our agents are being stretched thin.”

Away from the border, federal courts and immigration judges who were already backlogged in over 800,000 cases before the shutdown have all been furloughed. Pending cases and hearings will now have to be rescheduled, with the average wait time exceeding two years. Essentially, migrants will be able to stay in the United States longer despite Trump’s desire to curb illegal immigration.

And as The Washington Post points out, it’s not just federal workers and their families who are suffering.

There are the tens of thousands of contractors who rely on the federal government but are not full-time employees and are not likely to receive back pay. There are the stores, restaurants and other businesses that are hurting in cities and towns across the country, with workforces dependent on patronage by the government and its employees. The national economy is taking a hit, too, with estimates putting losses so far at $3.6 billion. And U.S. taxpayers are not receiving the government services they pay for, such as food inspections or museum exhibits or care for precious national parklands.

The longer the shutdown persists — and Mr. Trump has blithely talked about months or even years — the more the damage will compound. It shouldn’t come to that. Republicans in Congress who see the harm that is being done to their constituents need to work with Democrats to end this intolerable situation by reopening the government.


Cline tells Trump: “the American people will support you”

For all of Congressman Cline’s pious words about bipartisanship and compromise, he made clear in a Facebook post after President Trump’s misleading speech to the nation on Tuesday that he has no interest in either.

We must secure the border. Keep fighting for the Rule of Law and what is right, President Trump, and the American people will support you.

Cline posted a clip of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer speaking about the need to control illegal immigration.

But Schumer was speaking in the context of supporting comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for millions who are already here illegally. Many Republicans oppose this, falsely equating it with “amnesty.” I hope Cline is not among them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is.

And nowhere does Schumer say that a “wall” is the most effective way of preventing illegal immigration, let alone suggest that the government should be shut down until a wall is funded.

Even though four out of every 10 voters in the Sixth District supported Cline’s Democratic opponent in the November election; even though Democratic candidates for Congress got 8.6 million more votes than Republicans nationwide; even though 65 percent of voters oppose Trump’s government shutdown to secure funding for a wall; Cline insists that “the American people” will support Trump if he continues to keep large and vital parts of the government closed until he gets his way.

Congressman Cline: hitching your wagon to Trump’s falling star isn’t just wrong for the people of the Sixth District and the nation; it won’t do you any good either.

In first votes, Cline stands with Trump on wall and shutdown

On the first day of the 116th Congress, the House of Representatives passed bills to end the Trump-imposed government shutdown which is causing hardship to hundreds of thousands of federal employees.

If Mr. Trump would take the time to check in with what’s happening in the real world, he might read about the divorced Army veteran who’d worked “three jobs to survive” before getting hired as a paralegal at the Federal Trade Commission — and who now has no idea if he’ll make the rent. He could hear from the single mother who says that she’ll have enough for rent — but not for food. He might be moved by the wife of a corrections officer wondering how her family will handle their “mortgage, day care and car payments” while her husband is working without pay. Or by the disabled Air Force vet who, having waited more than a year for “service-connected surgery,” cannot get final approval for her procedure until the shutdown ends.

One package of bills passed by the House (and agreed to by the Senate last year) would reopen nearly all the federal agencies that have been closed since December 22. Another bill would temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security.

But because of President Trump’s insistence on funding for a border wall (the one Mexico was supposed to pay for), all but a few principled Republicans voted to keep these agencies shut down and thus impose further misery.

Congressman Cline, despite his stated eagerness to end the shutdown, was not among the principled Republicans. And his answers to questions in an interview this morning indicate he won’t be satisfied until Trump is satisfied– whenever that will be.

Cline asserted, “My constituents want to see a wall.” Whether a majority of people in the Sixth District agree with Trump on a wall is questionable, but a better question is: How many of them are willing to continue shutting down large parts of the government to achieve that aim?

If you want to express your opinion to Cline about this or any other matters, you may do so via his website or by calling his office at (202) 225-5431.

Welcome to Cline Watch

For the past two years, I was the author of a website tracking Virginia’s Sixth District Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte. As a partisan liberal Democrat I had very little good to say about him, but I strove to be as accurate as possible.

As Goodlatte’s 26 years in Congress end today, I am retiring Goodlatte Watch and launching this website to track his successor, the new Sixth District Republican Congressman Ben Cline– with the same objective and the same commitment to accuracy.

Although I don’t expect to have much good to say about Cline either (he is welcome to surprise me), I want to start here with a compliment. In December he held open meetings with his future constituents in four cities that he failed to carry when he was elected in November– Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington and Roanoke. This kind of in-person outreach, allowing for give and take, is a refreshing contrast to Goodlatte’s refusal to hold any such meetings since 2013. I only hope Cline continues to hold such events regularly throughout the Sixth District and to schedule them at times convenient to the largest number of people (not just on weekday mornings and afternoons, as he did in December).

I also welcome his stated commitment to bipartisanship. I hope this carries over into a willingness to compromise on divisive issues facing the nation– even when it means defying the leaders of his own party.

On the other hand I was not reassured by an interview he did last month with radio talk show host John Fredericks in which his rightwing, pro-Trump views were on full display. He was more eager to trash Nancy Pelosi (whom he disparaged repeatedly) than he was to lay out any sort of positive agenda to help the people of the Sixth District. When he did talk about what he wanted to accomplish, it was mostly in terms of cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood unrelated to abortions, slashing environmental protections and shutting down certain government agencies “permanently.”

I sent Cline an email weeks ago asking which government agencies he wants to do away with, but have yet to get a reply.  If by some chance I hear back from him, I will be pleased to share his response with the readers of Cline Watch.

I welcome any ideas, tips or questions.