Cline on the Virginia Beach massacre

Nearly 48 hours after the horrific slaughter in Virginia Beach, Congressman Cline has finally acknowledged it on his Facebook page.

Sorry, Congressman. That’s too late and much too little.

On Saturday– one day after the atrocity– Cline addressed a meeting of the Sixth District Republican Committee in Harrisonburg. He did not mention Virginia Beach at all. But he did restate his commitment to opposing any and all forms of firearms regulation. He said that when he entered Congress this year, he urged Republican leaders to appoint him to the Judiciary Committee and “task me with defeating gun control bills.”

As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Cline helped kill virtually every legislative effort to impose regulations of any kind on ownership of firearms or the kinds of weapons and accessories that can be sold or owned in the commonwealth.

In 2018, after he was named chair of the Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee in the House of Delegates, he bragged about his endorsements by the National Rifle Association (one of the largest donors to his campaigns) and the Virginia Citizens Defense League— which prides itself on being more extreme than the NRA.

In 2017, the VCDL PAC even went so far as to say, “Ben just might have the ONLY absolutely unblemished record in the [General Assembly]! He is as faithful as they come!”

This, after all, is a man who opposed issuing a new Virginia license plate with the message: “Stop Gun Violence.”

So we don’t have to guess what Cline’s position would have been on this if he had been in Richmond this year.

A Virginia bill designed to ban sales of large-capacity magazines similar to those used by the Virginia Beach gunman died in committee in January on a party-line vote.

The fate of the legislation, SB1748, was so widely expected that the outcome drew virtually no public attention. For more than 20 years, Republicans and a few rural Democrats in the General Assembly have killed almost every measure aimed at restricting gun ownership.

…..
Virginia Beach police said their officers shot and killed the gunman after a lengthy gun battle in which he used two .45-caliber semiautomatic handguns that were purchased legally.

Along with the weapons at the scene, investigators found a sound suppressor and extended magazines, which contain more than the standard number of rounds. Police have not identified a motive for the shooting.

[State Sen. Adam P.] Ebbin’s bill would have prohibited any person from importing, selling, bartering or transferring a firearms magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Eight Republicans voted it down, with six Democrats in favor, in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Jan. 28.
…..

Another bill that died in the Virginia House in January would have allowed localities such as Virginia Beach to ban firearms from government buildings such as the one where the attack on Friday occurred. Virginia Beach Council member Guy King Tower said after the shooting that it was regrettable that the city needed state approval to take such actions.

It’s regrettable too that we are represented in Congress by a man whose devotion to the radical “gun rights” lobby is so slavish that he dutifully opposes the most common-sense measures to restrict gun violence– even those supported by many or most gun owners.

Cline will hold town hall June 3 in Shenandoah County

Congressman Cline has announced plans to hold a town hall meeting (register here) on Monday June 3 from 8-9:30 a.m. (another inconvenient time for most people) at American Legion Post 119, 411 South Muhlenberg Street, Woodstock, VA.

According to the announcement:

Citizens of Shenandoah County will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall. Signs and noisemakers are prohibited.

Perhaps some of our Shenandoah County 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 demands action on robocalls. Now what?

It’s been more than a month since Congressman Cline wrote to Attorney General Barr calling out the Department of Justice for failing to enforce more than $208 million in fines against lawbreaking robocallers.

I think even those of us who disagree with Cline on most other issues can appreciate his stand on this one.

Cline concluded his letter to Barr:

In the interest of the American people, the Justice Department must reevaluate its practices when it comes to enforcing FCC fines against robocallers. I look forward to hearing your plan to remedy the situation and working with you should the matter require a legislative solution.

I emailed Cline more than a week ago asking if he had received a response to his letter. So far he has not replied. He has not mentioned anything more about it on his website, his Facebook page or his Twitter account.

I hope Cline will follow up and hold the Attorney General (and ultimately the President himself) accountable if there is no serious response– not just words but action– to his letter.

We’ll be watching.

Cline rolls over for Trump

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Congressman Cline tried to make the case that Congress has more important things to do than investigate evidence of President Trump’s possibly criminal behavior.

But Blitzer noted that “members of Congress can do more than one thing at a time. You guys can investigate, you can do oversight, but you can also pass legislation on critically important issues.”

Cline said he would be willing to have former White House counsel Don McGahn– who provided much of the incriminating evidence against Trump in the Mueller Report– testify before the House Judiciary Committee “if Mr. McGahn can work it out with the White House.”

Work it out with the White House? The White House instructed McGahn not to testify, in defiance of a subpoena. Is that good enough for Cline? Does he or doesn’t he believe that Congress is a coequal branch of government?

 

 

Cline will hold town hall May 29 in Amherst County

Congressman Cline has announced plans to hold a town hall meeting (register here) on Wednesday May 29 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Amherst-Monroe Ruritan Club, 115 Bruner Road, Monroe, VA.

According to the announcement:

Citizens of Amherst County will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall. Signs and noisemakers are prohibited.

Perhaps some of our Amherst County 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.

Has Cline read the whole Mueller Report?

Last week I emailed Congressman Cline as follows:

Dear Congressman Cline:

Before the redacted Mueller Report was released, you expressed an eagerness to read it and judge the contents for yourself.

Have you in fact read the Report in its entirety? If so, does it raise any issues of concern for you about President’s Trump’s behavior, regardless of whether any actual crimes were committed? If it does raise concerns, I think you owe it to your constituents to identify those concerns publicly.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Unlike my previous queries to Cline, this one produced an actual reply. And since it appears to be a form letter sent to everyone who contacts the congressman about the Mueller Report, I don’t think he’ll mind my sharing it:

Dear Mr. Zitver,

     Thank you for contacting my office regarding the conclusion of the Mueller Investigation. I appreciate hearing from you on this matter.  

     The Mueller Report, which was the result of a two-year, $35 million investigation, was publicly released on Thursday, April 18. I supported and voted on March 14 for H. Con. Res. 24, which provided that Congress shall publicly release any report relating to the Special Counsel’s investigation, in compliance with all federal laws. The report was provided to the Congress and the public in a redacted form to protect grand jury material, information that would harm ongoing investigations, information that would disclose sensitive sources, and information that involves third parties.

     As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I believe the Justice Department should provide the entire Committee with a version of the report free from most redactions. Of course, the redaction of grand jury testimony is necessary to comply with federal law. The Chairman can obtain access to the grand jury testimony with a court order, but he has not yet made such a request of the court. For that reason, I did not support the issuance of a subpoena on April 19 for the full unredacted report. Additionally, I opposed the effort to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt for his failure to comply with the subpoena, since providing the full unredacted report would have put him in violation of federal law. Nevertheless, I continue to hope that a compromise can be reached so that most of the redacted portions of the Mueller Report can be made available to all of the Judiciary Committee members.

     As you know, the Special Counsel did not find evidence that either Presidential campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in their effort to interfere with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The Special Counsel also did not recommend that any additional charges be filed as a result of the investigation.

     The nearly 400-page report detailed the work of 19 attorneys, 40 FBI agents, and countless others who issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained 230 orders for communications records, and interviewed almost 500 witnesses.  

     It is an honor to represent you and all of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance in the future. To receive the latest updates from my office I encourage you to sign up for my e-newsletter at cline.house.gov or like my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sincerely,

Ben Cline
Member of Congress

In other words, he didn’t answer my questions.

Cline seems downright eager to shift the focus from the contents of the Mueller Report itself to what he considers its suspicious origins– a diversion that even conservative commentator Mona Charen isn’t buying.

Now we have heard from Cline’s colleague Justin Amash, the first House Republican to say President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct.

The Michigan lawmaker, often the lone Trump dissenter on his side of the aisle, shared his conclusions in a lengthy Twitter thread after reviewing the full special counsel report.

Amash wrote that after reading the 448-page report, he’d concluded that not only did Robert S. Mueller’s team show Trump attempting to obstruct justice, but that Attorney General William Barr had “deliberately misrepresented” the findings and that few members of Congress had even read it.

So I repeat my questions to Congressman Cline and hope others will do the same: Have you in fact read the Mueller Report in its entirety? If so, does it raise any issues of concern for you about President’s Trump’s behavior, regardless of whether any actual crimes were committed?

Update: In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Cline said he has read the entire redacted Mueller Report. That answers the first question. It would be good to get an answer to the second question.

Cline opposes bill to make generic drugs cheaper, protect the ACA

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to enable lower costs for generic prescription drugs and to protect the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition against denying health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.

Only five Republicans joined the Democratic majority in voting for the MORE Health Education Act. Along with the other Republicans, Congressman Cline voted no.

To address prescription drug costs, the bill would restrict the ability of generic drug manufacturers from blocking competitors, thus cracking down on anticompetitive behavior by pharmaceutical companies.

The bill also contains several provisions to roll back attempts of the Trump administration to push junk health insurance plans to the general public. These plans, which Trump and Republicans champion, do not contain the protections for people with preexisting conditions enshrined in the ACA, such as ensuring costs are not higher and that people with preexisting conditions cannot be denied health insurance.

Further, the bill would add $100 million in funding for the program that helps people sign up for health insurance through the ACA, as well as restore funding for marketing and outreach so more people are aware of the health care options under the ACA.

Before the vote, Cline spoke against the measure on the House floor:

“As lawmakers we owe it to Americans to protect their rights to make their own decisions, particularly as it relates to health care… Reject this idea that government knows best.”

Considering Cline’s approval of government interference at every stage of a woman’s pregnancy from conception to birth, he appears to have a selective understanding of Americans’ rights to make their own decisions.

And the Affordable Care Act, for all its correctable faults, has not limited Americans’ access to health insurance. It has greatly expanded it— especially in states like Virginia, which (despite the opposition of then-Delegate Cline and other Republicans) approved expansion of Medicaid under the ACA.

Thanks in large part to the Medicaid expansion that Cline so passionately opposed, since January 1 more than 277,000 previously-uninsured Virginians have obtained health insurance– including more than 28,000 of Cline’s constituents in the Sixth Congressional District.