Two-faced Ben Cline

The Lexington News-Gazette reports on Congressman Cline’s town hall meeting in Lexington on Tuesday:

Congressman Ben Cline began by chronicling his efforts to “reach across the aisle” in Washington, but many residents called into question his sincerity, city divisive rhetoric on past occasions.

When he speaks to largely Democratic audiences, as he did in Lexington, Cline likes to talk about his supposed unhappiness with the partisan divisiveness in Washington and his alleged efforts to achieve bipartisanship in Congress. But Lexingtonians and others in the Sixth District have good reason to question his earnestness.

He proved it once again when he spoke to a reporter after the town hall.

The majority of the audience shared concerns about how much power President Trump has.

The reporter asked: “Is that a question you get asked often of how much power is the president allotted?”

He replied: “No, I think that question was born of frustration at what Democrats see as a lack of balance between the branches of government. This president is winning and it is frustrating for some people on the other side.”

So Cline dismissed the genuine alarm of many people– not just Democrats– about Trump’s increasingly authoritarian style of governing: his willingness to defy and bypass Congress and ignore the courts whenever it suits him, his absurd assertion that Article 2 of the Constitution give him the right to do whatever he wants as president, his politically- and personally-motivated use of his powers of pardon and clemency, his proclamation that he is the law of the land.

Instead, Cline said, the only reason Democrats and others are upset is that Trump is winning and they are losing.

Congressman Cline: If you believe that, your willingness to shrug off Trump’s appalling abuse of power makes you and your fellow sycophants as dangerous to our Republic as he is.

Cline will hold town hall February 18 in Lexington

Congressman Cline has announced plans to hold a town hall meeting on Tuesday February 18 in Lexington from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Lexington Community Center, 300 Diamond Street.

According to the announcement:

Citizens of Lexington will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall.

Constituents may register for the town hall here.

Perhaps some of our Lexington readers can take the opportunity to ask Cline about some of the things he has said and done, as chronicled here and elsewhere, since he was sworn in as our representative in Washington.

Cline the union hater

Congressman Cline not only joined almost all other House Republicans to oppose the Protect the Right to Organize Act, he tried to justify his anti-worker vote with a speech on the House floor.

The Washington Post reports:

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, known as the PRO Act, would amend some of the country’s decades-old labor laws to give workers more power during disputes at work, add penalties for companies that retaliate against workers who organize and grant some hundreds of thousands of workers collective-bargaining rights they don’t currently have. It would also weaken “right-to-work” laws in 27 states that allow employees to forgo participating in and paying dues to unions.

Cline is wrong to claim that “right to work” laws protect “the fundamental right to work.” The first thing to know about “right to work” laws is that they do not guarantee anyone the right to work. (“Right to work” is a phrase invented by anti-union interests.) Instead these laws weaken unions by forbidding agreements requiring all workers who benefit from a union contract — including wage increases, health and retirement benefits, paid vacations and a grievance procedure — to pay a share of the cost of union representation. It’s a matter of simple fairness.

Cline went on to assert: “Because of Virginia’s pro-business and pro-employer stance, it has once again been ranked as the number one state in which to do business by CNBC.”

You will notice that Cline didn’t mention anything about Virginia also having a “pro-worker” stance. That’s because it doesn’t. A study last year by Oxfam America ranked Virginia last among the states on protecting workers’ rights, based on wage policies, such as state minimum wages; worker protection policies, such as accessibility to paid time off; and right-to-organize policies, including union protections.

Cline continued: “Every American should have the right to get a job or keep a job or keep a job without having to join a labor union. This bill would inappropriately pre-empt and prohibit that right.”

Wrong. The PRO Act would strengthen the rights of workers to organize a union, but it would not force anyone to join a union. It would simply permit employers and unions to agree to contracts allowing unions to collect fair-share fees covering the costs of collective bargaining and administering the agreement from any workers who don’t want to join.

Cline then complained that the act would require employers to provide unions with contact information of employees before a vote by employees on unionization, claiming this would “enable harassment and intimidation” of workers.

In fact almost all the harassment and intimidation of workers trying to organize is carried out by employers. A study released last month revealed: “Employers were charged with violating federal law in 41.5% of all NLRB-supervised union elections in 2016 and 2017, with at least one [Unfair Labor Practice] charge filed in each case.” This included illegal firings, coercion, threats and intimidation of workers trying to exercise their right to organize. The PRO Act would strengthen the weak-to-nonexistent penalties against employers who engage in such behavior.

Finally, Cline may want to take into account the opinions of his constituents in the Sixth District. In 2016 Virginia voters rejected a Republican effort led by, among others, then-delegate Ben Cline to enshrine Virginia’s anti-union “right to work” law in the Commonwealth’s Constitution. Opposition to the ballot measure came not just from traditionally Democratic urban areas but from rural Republican-leaning parts of the Commonweath. The overwhelming majority of those voting “no” were not union members.

In fact voters in much of the Sixth District — including majorities in Republican-leaning Augusta, Bath, Highland, Page and Rockbridge Counties, as well as Buena Vista and Waynesboro — opposed Cline’s “right to work” amendment in 2016.

It seems most of the people Cline represents in Congress don’t hate unions as much as he and other Republican politicians think they should.

Mitt Romney puts Cline to shame

Following the Senate’s vote to acquit President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress– after hearing no relevant witnesses and receiving no relevant documents– Congressman Cline issued a statement repeating the talking points he has relied on since the impeachment process began.

Unlike a handful of Republicans– who said that Trump acted wrongly in the Ukraine affair but not wrongly enough to warrant removal from office– Cline continues to excuse Trump’s behavior while accusing Democrats of “fueling rancor and division” in the country.

Unfortunately for Cline, his effort to shift the blame to Democrats was undercut by the one Republican in Congress who refused to bend to the fierce pressure on his side to acquit Trump– and who happened to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States in 2012.

Congressman Cline: Before you wrote those tired talking points, I hope you at least took the time to listen to Senator Mitt Romney explain his vote of conscience– a concept you may be unfamiliar with. Romney had nothing to gain politically from his vote and a lot to lose. Listen and learn what it means to put country above party. I hope you will feel some shame.