Cline opposes bill to fund National Parks

Even though 81 House Republicans voted YES, and even though the Sixth Congressional District includes portions of Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Congressman Ben Cline voted NO on the Great American Outdoors Act.

The bill would provide $9.5 billion over five years to pay down the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog and provide permanent funding at $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports natural areas and recreation activities. Virginia has more than $1 billion worth for deferred maintenance at its national parks.

Why would Cline oppose a bill that will provide funding for badly-needed maintenance and repairs at our National Parks in Virginia, including those in the district he is supposed to represent in Congress? Wouldn’t improving these facilities help our district economically? I thought that was one of his priorities.

Cline cheers DeVos’s effort to weaken public schools

Another bizarre and out-of-touch Facebook post from Congressman Cline.

Everyone– students, teachers and parents– wants schools to reopen as soon as possible. The sticking point– which Cline and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seem to ignore– is whether it can be done safely.

It’s absurd to suggest that the challenge of reopening schools is comparable to reopening stores and restaurants. As one commenter to Cline’s Facebook post pointed out, “Going to a restaurant is a choice, attending public school is required.”

Spending an hour or less at a time in a store or restaurant is a lot different from spending six hours a day, five days a week in a classroom.

Congressman: Due to the coronavirus, many public school systems in the Sixth District are starved for funds, which would make reopening difficult even if COVID were to magically disappear. Are you and the other Republicans in Congress prepared to provide sufficient federal resources to help schools reopen safely?

Your vote against the HEROES Act in Congress– which would have provided billions of dollars to help stressed local school districts– suggests otherwise.

Instead you throw in your lot with Secretary DeVos, who is always looking for reasons to undermine public education.

Once again, your devotion to the whims of the Trump administration overrides any concern for the students, teachers and parents you purport to represent.

No more Mr. Nice Congressman

Judging from some of Congressman Cline’s recent posts on his campaign Facebook page, he has decided to throw in his lot with President Trump’s racially-divisive culture war.

Don’t expect any more statements (however weak and selective) calling for justice and supporting peaceful protests in the wake of the George Floyd murder. Instead, look for more posts like this, linking with approval to an article by Ben Domenech, rightwing publisher of The Federalist, complaining that Republican officeholders aren’t doing enough to challenge “anti-American leftists and their enablers in the Democratic Party.”

Domenech writes: “The thirst among Republican voters isn’t even for policy. It’s for seeing the politicians they elected join the fray.”

So, according to Domenech, Republican officeholders should stop caring about secondary stuff like policy– the ostensible reason they ran for office. Instead they should enlist in the battle to protect American history and heritage from Democrats who want the coming election to be a choice “between a party that loves this country and one that views its history with disgust, as racist and irredeemable.”

Excuse me, to which Democrats is he referring? Those who think Confederate generals– traitors to the United States who fought for the cause of keeping human beings in bondage– do not deserve public honor?

Is there room for a nuanced discussion of which monuments and symbols are obsolete relics of another era and which should be preserved despite the flaws of the people they honor?

Apparently taking Domenech’s advice to “join the fray,” Cline posted this about the Lexington City Council’s unanimous vote to change the name of city-owned Stonewall Jackson Cemetery:

Congressman, you can’t simultaneously enslave Black people, as Jackson did, and “bridge racial divisions.” It doesn’t work that way.

After revealing his contempt for Lexington (which voted heavily against him in the 2018 Congressional election), Cline speculates sarcastically about the cemetery’s new name.

I suppose they’ll rename it something like “Lexington Cemetery: Now with Surprise Inside!” Or if they want to be more accurate, something like “Future Democrat Voter Quarry.”

“Future Democrat Voter Quarry?” What are you saying here, Congressman? That Stonewall Jackson and others interred at the cemetery will rise from their graves and vote Democratic? That local Democrats will cheat in future elections by voting on behalf of the people buried there?

Hilarious stuff, Congressman. But not exactly in keeping with your pious recent letter calling for civil discourse and the need to find common ground with our political opponents.

Cline versus the “tyrants”

Is a year-and-a-half of non-stop sycophancy to Donald Trump starting to take a toll on Congressman Cline?

At a moment when the COVID-19 cases are increasing in 40 of 50 states– when states like Texas which ignored warnings and reopened too early are reversing course and imposing restrictions– Cline has approvingly posted on Facebook a report from April about Attorney General Barr’s order to US attorneys to “consider legal action against governors if their efforts to stop the spread of the new coronavirus infringe on Americans’ civil rights.”

In a two-page memo, Mr. Barr directed all U.S. attorneys to “be on the lookout” for local and state directives that could violate religious, free speech or economic rights under the Constitution.

The clear purpose of the order (which as far as I can tell has never resulted in action against any state) was to pander to the small minority of Americans who opposed sensible measures (like mandatory facemasks in public) and to try to intimidate governors whom Trump believed were acting too aggressively to control the virus. Fortunately most of the states that did act aggressively months ago have been able to bring the virus under control and start to reopen responsibly.

You know. The states governed by “tyrants.”

Cline’s pathetic Biden-bashing

Congressman Cline was a guest this week on the radio show of Charlottesville-based right-winger Rob Schilling.

No tough questions, of course. Just some invitations to talk about how allegedly awful a candidate Joe Biden is (including the obligatory reference to “sleepy Joe”).

According to Cline, Biden is “gonna be led by the Left, by the antifas of the world.” (“Antifa” is the latest Republican scare word, deployed even more often than “Pelosi.”)

Schilling actually suggested that Democrats are desperate to ditch Biden as their candidate for president– perhaps having failed to notice that Biden is currently leading Donald Trump by about 10 points in the national polls and by substantial margins in many of the “swing” states.

Cline seemed to agree, saying incongruously, “There are always those who want to see democracy replaced with dictatorship rule.”

Cline writes that “Joe Biden has been nowhere to be seen for months – that is not the type of leadership America needs.”

In fact Biden appears regularly online and will speak to the Virginia Democratic Convention on Saturday. He traveled to Houston last week to meet with George Floyd’s family. But of course Cline can’t acknowledge a simple fact: that Biden, unlike Trump, is being careful not to endanger the public during the COVID-19 emergency, and this is to his credit.

Here’s the latest from the orange-skinned candidate Cline enthusiastically supports:

Cline’s latest non-response

In non-response to my recent message to Congressman Cline about President Trump’s increasingly deranged and dangerous Twitter posts, I received the following form letter:

Frankly, Congressman, given your sycophantic support for Trump– regardless of his indefensible statements and actions– it is hard to assume “good intentions” by you. And if, as you claim, you have encouraged civil discourse from Trump, I haven’t seen the evidence.

This was Cline’s pathetic reply to Ken Smith, a Lynchburg Army veteran, who complained at a January town meeting about Trump’s insulting comments about the late Sen. John McCain, as well as other remarks aimed at top military leaders:

“Some of his rhetoric is that of a New York businessman,” Cline said in response to remarks Smith pointed to. “I am neither a New Yorker nor a businessman.”

Until Cline provides details of his supposed efforts to encourage more decent behavior by Trump, how can we take anything he says about civil discourse seriously?

Wall Street isn’t Main Street, Congressman

Congressman Cline posted on Facebook Monday:

Before Cline and other Republicans pop the champagne corks, they should be aware that according to the latest jobs report:

— Many people who have hung onto their jobs in the current crisis have seen their hours cut. The number of workers who want full-time hours but are working part-time because their employer doesn’t have enough work for them has more than tripled, from 2.7 million in February to 9.4 million in May.

— Roughly a fifth (6.6 million) of those out of work because of the virus are being counted as having dropped out of the labor force. This is because jobless people are only counted as unemployed if they are actively seeking work, which remains impossible for many.

— If all the 32.5 million workers who are out of work as a result of the virus had shown up as unemployed, the unemployment rate would have been 19.7% in May instead of 13.3%.

Rising stock prices do not put food on the tables of families who are struggling to obtain basic nutrition.

Food banks and other anti-hunger advocates have been pleading with Congress to increase food stamp benefits to make it easier for households to buy groceries, arguing it’s a much more efficient way to get food to the hungry while cutting down on the stress and stigma of waiting in food lines. But the program has become so partisan the idea of expanding it has been almost a nonstarter, even as Washington has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on other forms of aid like unemployment insurance and stimulus checks.

The gridlock comes as data increasingly shows the country is experiencing some of the highest food insecurity numbers on record, even with all of the aid Congress has doled out in recent weeks.

And of course the stock market is not the real economy, especially as it affects tens of millions of working people. That was true even before the COVID pandemic, and it will be true afterwards.

A brief encounter with Congressman Cline

It seems that if you want to talk about anything with Congressman Cline these days, you need to make an appointment. I suspect that if it’s a matter he’d rather not discuss– such as the forcible dispersal of peaceful protesters so Donald Trump could have a photo op– an appointment is even more necessary (and harder to get).

Fortunately Cline’s website provides online forms to request a meeting– either in the Sixth District or in Washington, DC. If you request a meeting, please let me know the result.

Cline’s weak and selective response to protests

Congressman Cline has issued a statement on the protests following the killing by a police officer of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis:

Congressman Cline:

When are you going to call out Trump on his deranged and incendiary reactions to the protests– and about any number of subjects? That’s your necessary first step. Until you do that, everything else you say is beside the point

You express your respect and appreciation to those who protested peacefully. But you have nothing to say about the use of tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters outside the White House so Trump could have a photo op holding a Bible he has never read in front of a church where he was not invited. Or about the many other instances of unnecessary or excessive force by police. Until you can manage that, your denunciation of violence rings hollow.

You may want consider the the opinion of Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of only two African-American Republicans in Congress.

“But obviously, if your question is, should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo-op, the answer is no.”

Can’t you even acknowledge that?

Finally: It’s all very well to quote the Floyd family. I agree with them, as I hope most Americans do. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch a powerful statement by George Floyd’s younger brother Terrence.

The meaning of his words are clear enough. Not only is the Floyd family committed non-violence; it is committed to voting people like you and the president you so dutifully support out of office.