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.

Cline: Senate trial of Trump was a waste of time

Following last week’s Senate trial of former president Trump, with harrowing accounts of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, this is all Congressman Cline could bring himself to say:

That’s it.

Nothing about Trump’s incitement of his supporters for months before the attack. Nothing about the Capitol police officer murdered and the 140 other officers injured by the mob. (Blue Lives Matter? Really?) Nothing about Trump’s phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy during the insurrection, in which Trump expressed no concern for the safety of members of Congress or Vice President Pence or anyone else, but said, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” And of course nothing about Cline’s own role in encouraging the false notion of massive fraud in the 2020 Presidential election, which Trump used to incite his die-hard supporters.

And still no explanation about Cline’s own whereabouts and experiences during the insurrection, or about the mysterious timing of a Facebook post just minutes before rioters breached police lines and entered the Capitol.

Is there any doubt that if Cline had (Heaven forbid!) been a member of the Senate, he would have ignored the overwhelming evidence of Trump’s complicity and voted with a clear conscience to acquit? Cline has never once called Trump to account for anything. Why would he start now? Out of fear or loyalty or both, he is behaving exactly how the dominant pro-Trump majority of his party demands he behave. More than 70 years ago, George Orwell had him and his colleagues pegged.

The selectively appalled Congressman Cline

Eleven House Republicans had the courage and integrity to vote Thursday to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments.

Our Congressman Ben Cline, of course, was not among them. He joined the majority of House Republicans in voting to allow her to keep her committee assignments despite her history of conspiracy-based claims, her racist and antisemitic beliefs and her approval of assassinating Democratic lawmakers. He has not said a word publicly criticizing her.

Meanwhile Cline claims to be appalled by some idle chatter among Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee over a rather ridiculous proposal by the awful Congressman Matt Gaetz to begin every meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. (Gaetz, like Greene and some other Congressional Republicans, is more interested in theatrics than in legislating.)

I can’t help noticing a very partisan bias in what appalls Cline. To choose one example of many, he apparently was unappalled by Donald Trump’s disrespectful behavior during a performance of the National Anthem in 2020. At least he never publicly said a word about it– as he surely would have if a Democratic president had behaved the same way.

Cline: Incitement? What incitement?

Before he dutifully voted against impeaching Donald Trump for inciting the deadly mob attack on the U.S. Capitol January 6, Congressman Cline delivered a brief shame-faced speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Note the rushed delivery, the downcast gaze, the absence of his usual cockiness in support of Trump. This was not a speech that Cline relished delivering. Quite a contrast from the defiant speech he delivered November 14 in Staunton supporting Trump’s phony charges of widespread voter fraud– a speech aimed at validating the lies about a “stolen election” that culminated in the January 6 insurrection.

After denouncing the assault on the Capitol (again without acknowledging on whose behalf the attackers were acting), Cline said he couldn’t vote for impeachment because “the legal standard for incitement has not been met.” While not acquitting Trump, he went on to suggest that weeks or months of investigations and hearings were necessary to determine if Trump was guilty.

Let me provide the necessary evidence to Cline, easily available on public media:

• On September 29, in his first debate with Joe Biden, Trump told the violent pro-Trump Proud Boys gang to “stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys participated in the January 6 attack.

• On December 19, Trump tweeted his supporters: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

• In his speech to supporters on the day of the attack, Trump told the media: “Turn your cameras, please, and show what is really happening out here, because these people are not going to take it any longer, they’re not going to take it any longer.”

He said: “We want to go back, and we want to get this right, because we’re going to have somebody in there that should not be in there, and our country will be destroyed. And we’re not going to stand for that.”

He said: “And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down, we’re going to walk down. Anyone you want, but I think right here, we’re going to walk down to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness.” (Trump did not walk down with them.)

He said: “But I said something is wrong here, something is really wrong, can’t have happened, and we fight. We fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Trump also said: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” But surrounded by all the incendiary rhetoric, that message appears to have got lost.

If Trump’s message wasn’t obvious to Congressman Cline, it was clear enough to the mob.

A man from Kentucky told the FBI that he and his cousin began marching toward the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 because “President Trump said to do so.” Chanting “Stop the steal,” the two men tramped through the building and snapped a photo of themselves with their middle fingers raised, according to court documents.

A video clip of another group of rioters mobbing the steps of the Capitol caught one man screaming at a police officer: “We were invited here! We were invited by the president of the United States!”

A retired firefighter from Pennsylvania who has been charged with throwing a fire extinguisher at police officers felt he was “instructed” to go to the Capitol by the president, a tipster told the FBI, according to court documents.

…..

Some have said they felt called to Washington by Trump and his false message that the election had been stolen, as well as by his efforts to pressure Congress and Vice President Pence to overturn the result.

But others drew an even more direct link — telling the FBI or news organizations that they headed to the Capitol on what they believed were direct orders from the president issued at a rally that day.

Cline has been getting a lot of well-deserved flak from constituents and others in the comments to his recent Facebook posts. But I found this comment particularly revealing:

Since I began tracking Cline on this website, I have not encountered a single instance when he directly stood up to Trump. Therefore there are only two possibilities:

That, as the commenter suggests, Cline lied about standing up to Trump. Or even worse;

That Cline believed Trump never said or did anything that required him to stand up.

Cline’s mysterious timing

Please note the time stamp on this Facebook post by Congressman Cline on Wednesday:

2:08 p.m. Just as pro-Trump insurrectionists were assaulting Capitol Police and just minutes before they breached police lines, Cline was trying to draw a direct parallel between the objections of a few House Democrats to the result of the 2000 presidential election (for which there were reasons to object) and the objections of Cline and 146 other members of Congress to the clear and convincing election of Joe Biden in 2020.

This is from a timeline published by USA Today:

Here is Congresswoman Luria’s tweet:

Again, note the time stamp.

Where was Cline when he sent his Facebook post? Was he aware of what was happening when he sent it? I hope journalists will do their duty and ask him.

Some Republicans who intended to object were so disgusted by the attack– incited in a speech by Trump himself– that they changed their minds and voted to affirm Biden’s victory.

Ben Cline was not among them.

Cline reaps what he sowed

As of this writing, it’s been more than 24 hours since we heard from Congressman Cline about the failed pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

You’ll notice no mention of those responsible or of President Trump’s incitement (as Republican Senator Mitt Romney rightly called it) of the mob.

We learned Tuesday that Cline intended to support the last-ditch effort in Congress to overturn the will of the majority of Americans who voted for Joe Biden over Trump in the 2020 election. Some Republicans who also intended to object were shaken enough by the pro-Trump assault on Congress that they reconsidered.

Cline was not among them. He voted to reject the certified results of the Presidential elections in Arizona and Pennsylvania. The motions to reject were overwhelmingly defeated. Joe Biden will be sworn in as President on January 20.

As far as I can tell (and I’ve probably been tracking his record and statements as closely as anyone in the past two years), Cline has never publicly spoken or written a critical word about our lying, mean-spirited, dangerous and deluded President. I suppose it was too much to expect him to start now. His Congressional office, after all, appears to include a shrine of sorts to Trump.

But Cline’s utter sycophancy to Trump, his refusal to accept the overwhelming evidence of Joe Biden’s legitimate election victory (repeatedly affirmed by Republican state officials and Republican-appointed judges), his support for his “friend” the coup-supporting Sidney Powell, helped enable the horrible events Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Cline claims to be a deeply religious Christian, so perhaps he should open his Bible to Galatians 6:7 and read:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Cline claims to back $2,000 relief payments, then votes NO

Let’s review what just happened.

On December 23, Congressman Cline published this on his campaign Facebook page:

To repeat, Cline posted:

There is too much wasteful spending in the massive omnibus spending bill, and the $600 rescue checks in the COVID relief need to be increased to $2000 per person.

Now, five days later, the House of Representatives has voted 275 to 134 for a stand-alone bill to do exactly what Cline said needed to be done: to increase the inadequate $600 per person COVID-19 relief payments to $2,000.

And among the 134 members of Congress voting against the increase was none other than Congressman Cline.

So while Cline told us last week that the $2,000 payment was needed, he couldn’t bring himself to actually, y’know, vote for it.

Perhaps he has a perfectly good explanation which his thousands of constituents in desperate financial straits due to the pandemic may be interested to hear.

Don’t you, Congressman?

UPDATE: Here is Cline’s lame explanation for his NO vote.

Trump said nothing about making the payment increases dependent on spending cuts. Cline is more of a Trumpist than Trump himself.

Let’s do it, Congressman

After voting in Congress for the spending package that President Trump now calls a “disgrace,” and after failing to object to the pitifully-low $600-per-person stimulus payment that Republican Congressional leaders insisted on for months, Congressman Cline has dutifully fallen into line with Trump by supporting a $2,000-per-person payment.

Undoubtedly there is some “wasteful spending” in the bill, but– as always– it would be good to know what Cline considers wasteful spending.

Cline’s utter sycophancy to Trump apparently overrode his pious “we can’t afford it” talk. But in this instance Trump (and Cline) are right. The soaring number of COVID-19 cases and the massive suffering endured by tens of millions of Americans who are unemployed, hungry or facing eviction require immediate and massive relief.

So as monotonously critical as Cline is of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, I hope he will put aside his usual partisan point-scoring and join with her in getting it done.