Cline’s lie-filled speech

Before joining every other House Republican to vote against the For the People Act (HR1), to protect and expand voting rights for all Americans, Congressman Cline spoke on the House floor in opposition to the bill for one minute and twenty seconds.

In that brief time, Cline managed to lie about three things and misrepresent something else while calling into question the basis of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Cline’s Lie: HR1 forces “taxpayers to pay politicians to campaign for office.”

Fact: “H.R.1 does not spend any taxpayer funds on public financing. Rather, it imposes a 2.75 percent surcharge on certain criminal fines and civil and administrative penalties collected by the federal government, primarily from corporate defendants and their executive officers.” While Cline opposes any form of public financing of political campaigns, he raises no objections to corporate financing of campaigns, and is in fact pleased to accept corporate money for his own campaigns. He supports the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, allowing unlimited private money in election campaigns.

Cline’s Lie: HR1 mandates “that states send ballots in the mail proactively.”

Fact: “The Democrats’ bill does not require states to send out ballots that voters have not explicitly solicited. Rather, the bill requires states to give all voters the option of requesting a mail-in ballot without an excuse.”

Cline’s Lie: HR1 abolishes “the signature requirement for mail-in ballots.”

Fact: HR1 would “prohibit states from requiring voters casting a ballot by mail to provide identification aside from a signature, and require signature discrepancy issues to be resolved by at least two trained election officials; require states to make a good faith effort to notify voters of apparent signature discrepancies and provide an opportunity to cure any issues within ten days.”

Cline’s Misrepresentation: HR1 mandates “that states accept mail-in ballot up to 10 days after election day.”

Fact: The bill only refers to ballots mailed on or before election day. Ballots mailed after election day will not be accepted.

(My impression is that Cline simply grabs onto Republican talking points without bothering to fact-check them.)

Cline began his remarks by calling HR1 a “top-down federal power grab” that would block states from setting their own election rules. But that was the same reason white Southerners in Congress gave for opposing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which eliminated literacy tests and enabled millions of African-Americans to vote for the first time. Last July Cline paid a handsome tribute to his late colleague John Lewis, who marched and bled and went to jail to achieve that law– which also empowered the federal government to override state election procedures.

Does the congressman understand the irony?

Cline opposes COVID relief, backs anti-union bill

Back in Washington after paying homage to former President Trump at the CPAC conference in Orlando (he participated in a panel praising Trump’s trade policies), Congressman Cline joined every other House Republican to vote no on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

At a time when many of his Sixth District constituents are dealing with unemployment, eviction and hunger, and local governments are scrambling to maintain essential services, here are some of the items in the bill which Cline opposed despite overwhelming support by Americans :

  • $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans, on top of the $600 payments issued through the stimulus bill passed in December. (Cline endorsed $2,000 checks when Trump proposed them, but mysteriously voted against a bill to provide them.)
  • Expanded unemployment insurance and child tax credits.
  • $85 billion for COVID-19 contact tracing and testing, increasing the size of the public health workforce and vaccine distribution and supply chains
  • Aid to state and local governments facing deep budget shortfalls due to COVID. (Cline likes to suggest that all this aid will go to “bail out” states like New York and California, when in fact it will be distributed to governments all over the country, including in Virginia’s Sixth District.)
  • $130 billion for schools and child care, enabling safe in-person learning by improving ventilation systems, reducing class sizes, buying personal protective equipment and implementing social distancing.
  • Further assistance for child nutrition and help with rent and mortgages.
  • Grants for restaurants and bars that have lost business due to the pandemic and additional funding for paycheck protection programs.
  • Reduced health care premiums for low- and middle-income families through the Affordable Care Act.

Remember: Cline will deserve no credit for any of these things that will help tens of millions of Americans, including thousands of the people he purports to represent.

But the congressman wasn’t quite finished disdaining struggling working families in the Sixth. He reaffirmed his longstanding hatred for organized labor by supporting a bill in Congress to impose an anti-union right-to-work-for-less law on the entire country.

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 Commonwealth. 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.