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Ben Cline: Education, spending among top priorities

Ben ClineAs a new member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I have made education a top priority for the 116th Congress. It is important for me to gain an understanding of local educational needs while also getting to know the next generation’s thoughts on national issues like the cost of higher education. I had the honor to speak to students at Spotswood High School in Rockingham County on Tuesday, where juniors and seniors asked thoughtful questions regarding issues which currently impact them and others which could affect them in adulthood. It was a privilege to meet such a great group of young people who are interested in the political process.

I also visited Waynesboro where I met with Mayor Terry Short, Vice Mayor Bobby Henderson, and City Manager Mike Hamp. During our meeting, we discussed expanded economic development and Blue Ridge Community College’s new “online outpost,” which will drive even more growth to the region’s skilled workforce.

Additionally, I had the privilege of meeting with student representatives of the Lexington division of the Council on International Educational Exchange. It was exciting to share ideas about the United States Government with students from countries including Germany, Tajikistan, Spain, Italy, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Lithuania as they continue their studies in U.S. history and politics.

In addition to education policy, I again raised concern in Congress about excessive spending. It is no secret in Washington that we have a spending problem. As promised during my campaign, I took the floor last week and delivered the message that, “We can’t afford it.” I delivered the same message Wednesday to the House Budget Committee when I testified about the risks our national debt poses to the United States. In just 10 years, our national debt has exploded nearly 50% and appears no closer to coming under control than in September 2011, when then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen said our nation’s debt was the biggest threat to national security.

In other committee work, the House Education & Labor Committee debated H.R. 582, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, an unsustainable level in rural areas like the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia. While well intentioned, analysis by former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimates a raise of the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 would result in the loss of 9.6 million jobs, essentially wiping out all job growth experienced since 2014. Just as the federal government cannot afford its unsustainable level of national debt, small business owners cannot afford such a drastic increase in the minimum wage.

In the House Judiciary Committee, we discussed the recent failure of Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has historically assisted communities in working toward an end to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I understand the critical importance of advancing a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA. I’ve seen firsthand what VAWA can do in the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia and the women that it helps.

When VAWA was first enacted, it represented a major change in how our nation addressed violent crime and domestic violence. This bipartisan effort brought a collaborative and coordinated approach to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence from perpetrators by ensuring swift justice. I hope we can work together to reauthorize VAWA and not let it degenerate into yet another partisan fight.

My job is to ensure your values are represented in Washington, but I am also available to assist you with federal agencies. That is why my office hosts Casework Staff Mobile Offices across the Sixth Congressional District. During the month of March, a staff member will be available to meet with citizens to assist with problems they might have with a federal agency and hear their views on current issues before Congress. Visit for a complete list of locations. Next week’s locations, dates, and times are listed below.

Fincastle Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 – 9:00am
Botetourt County Courthouse (Second Floor Conference Room)
1 Main Street
Fincastle, VA 24090

Buchanan Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 – 10:30am
Buchanan Town Hall (Conference Room)
19753 Main Street
Buchanan, VA 24066

Broadway Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 9:00am
Broadway Town Hall (Council Chambers)
116 Broadway Avenue
Broadway, VA 22815

Warm Springs Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 11:30am
Bath County Courthouse (Second Floor)
65 Courthouse Hill Road
Warm Springs, VA 24484

Mount Jackson Casework Staff Mobile Office 
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 11:30am
Mount Jackson Town Hall (Council Chambers)
5901 Main Street
Mount Jackson, VA 22842

Monterey Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 14, 2019 – 2:30pm
Highland County Library
31 North Water Street
Monterey, VA 24465

augusta free press
augusta free press