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.

 

Cline shrugs off Trump’s insults to combat vets

At a town hall meeting last week in Lynchburg, Congressman Cline repeated his usual talking points: opposing impeachment of President Trump,  denying a woman’s right to choose abortion under any circumstances, rejecting any law restricting anyone from owning and carrying any kind of gun.

But this account from The Lynchburg News and Advance caught my attention:

Ken Smith, a local Army veteran, took issue with some of Trump’s negative comments directed toward the late Sen. John McCain, as well as other remarks aimed at top military leaders.

Smith said he also feels some of Trump’s comments are demoralizing and won’t lead to a better America. “One of the views that I would like you to take back to Washington is we need better leadership, and to support anybody who has this attitude to our military personnel is personally an affront, I think, to all veterans,” Smith said.

Cline said he thinks Trump through his legislative agenda and policies has demonstrated clear support of servicemen and women. “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.”

There are reasons to question the Trump administration’s support for servicemen and women and their families as well as for veterans.

But what is Cline saying here? That routinely insulting war heroes and other combat veterans is the sort of thing one expects from a New York businessman? And hey, what’re you gonna do?

Surely even a New York businessman should be smart and informed enough not to say things like this:

injuries

Will Cline summon whatever small courage it takes to join the VFW in demanding an apology?

Cline’s irresponsible tweet

As Congressman Cline surely knows, none of the bills introduced in the Virginia General Assembly would require the confiscation of anyone’s guns. But here he is enabling Donald Trump’s scaremongering shortly before what is sure to be a tense day in Richmond on Monday.

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A more responsible statement came from House of Delegates Republican leader Todd Gilbert.

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Cline could have said something like that. But he seems only interested in pandering to what he imagines is his base.

Cline will hold town halls in Lynchburg and Roanoke on January 23

Congressman Cline’s next town hall meetings have been announced.

The Lynchburg town hall is scheduled for Thursday January 23 from 8 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. at American Legion Post 16, 1301 Greenview Drive, Lynchburg. (Register here.)

The Roanoke town hall is scheduled for Thursday January 23 from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. at VFW Post 1264, 4930 Grandview Avenue NW, Roanoke. (Register here.)

Perhaps some of our Lynchburg and Roanoke 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 opposes bill protecting older workers from discrimination

Nearly 40 percent of the people in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District are 50 years or older. So Congressman Cline should be especially sensitive to the problems faced by older workers.

He’s not. Cline joined most other House Republicans to vote against the bipartisan Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.

This bill amends the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to establish an unlawful employment practice when the complaining party demonstrates that age or participation in investigations, proceedings, or litigation under such Act was a motivating factor for any unlawful employment practice, even though other factors also motivated the practice (thereby allowing what are commonly known as “mixed motive” claims).

The bill (1) permits a complaining party to rely on any type or form of admissible evidence, which need only be sufficient for a reasonable trier of fact to find that an unlawful practice occurred; and (2) declares that a complaining party shall not be required to demonstrate that age or retaliation was the sole cause of the employment practice (thereby rejecting the Supreme Court’s decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., which requires a complainant to prove that age was the “but-for” cause for the employer’s decision).

The bill passed with the votes of 227 Democrats and 34 Republicans. Cline and 153 other Republicans voted no.

One of the leading Republican supporters of the bill is Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York. As you may recall, Cline sent out a fundraising appeal for her reelection campaign following her outspoken support for President Trump during House hearings on impeachment.

So Cline helped Stefanik when she joined him in defending a corrupt Republican president engaged in abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, but couldn’t bring himself to join her on a simple matter of workplace justice for older Americans.

Cline opposes crackdown on toxic chemicals

Believe it or not, there was a time when a Republican president (Richard Nixon) called on Congress to do more to protect the environment.

Times have changed. Last week only 24 Republican members of the House of Representatives voted for the PFAS Action Act, which would crack down on the use of a class of chemicals known as PFAS. Congressman Cline was not among them.

Used in tape, nonstick pans and other everyday substances, PFAS have been linked to cancer, decreased fertility, developmental delays and other conditions and have been found in high concentrations in sources of public drinking water and other sites around the country.
…..
Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell — the bill’s lead sponsor — called the chemicals an “urgent public health and environmental threat.”

Nearly 300 military sites across the county have PFAS contamination, including several in Virginia, and as many as 110 million Americans are drinking PFAS-contaminated water, she said, citing Environmental Working Group data.

While 223 Democrats voted for the legislation, Cline and 156 other Republicans voted no— essentially siding with the interests of the chemical industry and against the health of the public, including our men and women in uniform and their families.

Another “under the radar” vote by Cline which deserves the full attention of his constituents.

Cline gets pushback on Iran, climate change

The Harrisonburg Citizen reports on Congressman Cline’s Monday town hall in the city:

Republican U.S. Rep. Ben Cline told about 50 of his constituents in Harrisonburg Monday night that while he wants  to avoid war with Iran, he agreed with President Donald Trump’s assassination order of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani based on the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in place in Iraq.

“Given the information I have, I believe that the action was appropriate,” said Cline, who just finished his first year representing Virginia’s 6th Congressional District. “Now the question is: where do we go from here?”

The action may or may not have been appropriate (Soleimani was a brutal and murderous figure), but undertaking it with no clear idea of possible ramifications seems reckless in the extreme.

“There is a point where if there is a response, and the President determines that a full engagement is necessary, we would work in concert to make sure the war is avoided as much as possible,” Cline said. “But if it does occur, it should be short, and is one we win overwhelmingly.”

It’s hard to decipher Cline’s meaning here. Does he believe there could be a “full engagement” short of war? And historically, predictions of “short” wars have a poor record of accuracy.

When a constituent asked if he agreed with Trump’s tweet following Soleimani’s assassination – which threatened to target Iranian cultural sites in response to retaliation – Cline said he would support action that complies with international law.

Audience members asked follow-ups asking him to clarify his answer, and Cline said he believes the president would abide by those terms and would revisit the language of the tweet.

Bombing cultural sites is against international law, and considered a war crime. But of course Cline can’t bring himself to directly criticize Trump on even his most reckless statements and actions.

At times, it was a tough crowd, for instance, when Cline was asked about congressional action on climate change.

“Humans can contribute to that change, and I think the evidence is showing that it can,” Cline said. “Then there’s the question of how much is it contributing to that change, and I believe that there’s still a lot of debate about how much.”

A cacophony of “no’s” built up in response to his answer, prompting Cline to backpedal.

“Maybe we should review the rules,” he said.

Whatever that means.

Thanks to everyone who turns out for Cline’s town halls and challenges him with uncomfortable questions.

Update: Commenter Martha Sider writes:

I attended the meeting. When he said “Maybe we should review the rules” he was responding to the cacophony of “no’s” and went on to say that such outbursts from those who hadn’t been called upon would not be tolerated. 

Cline will hold town hall in Staunton on January 7

Congressman Cline’s next inconveniently-scheduled town hall meeting has been announced.

WASHINGTON – Residents of Staunton are invited to a town hall event with Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06). This town hall event is an opportunity for residents of Staunton to engage in a dialogue with Rep. Cline about the important issues in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.

The Staunton town hall will take place Tuesday, January 7, 2020 from 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM at VFW Post 2216 located at 212 Frontier Drive, Staunton, VA 24401.

“I look forward to meeting with the citizens of Staunton next week,” Cline said. “As with my previous town hall in the area, this forum will allow me to engage with Staunton residents and take their views to Washington.”

Constituents planning to attend should register here on Eventbrite. Citizens of Staunton will be given priority regarding comments during the town hall.

Signs and noisemakers are prohibited.