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Trump May Stop Separating Immigrant Families, But Kaine and Warner Fear What Comes Next

President Trump may have agreed to stop separating families at the Mexican border, but Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) fear the administration could soon concoct a plan to jail immigrant families indefinitely instead.

At a gathering of local faith leaders and immigrant advocates today (Thursday) at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd), both senators expressed relief that Trump backed down from his policy of breaking up migrant families that attempt to cross the border illegally.

Yet Warner lamented that Trump’s executive order “raises as many questions as it answers,” and the senators are deeply concerned that the White House will now try to convince Congress to pass some sort of compromise legislation on the issue.

Trump’s order yesterday (Wednesday) required families to be detained together until their criminal and immigration proceedings are completed — but a federal court order requires children to be released after 20 days, and Kaine and Warner both worry that Trump could try to push through legislation to supersede that order and remove any limit on detaining families.

“We could see version two, or version three, of this, that will get presented as something that’s not as bad as what came before,” Kaine said. “But I’m not going to agree to something bad just because he’s being cruel.”

Priscilla Martinez, a fourth-generation Mexican American with Loudoun’s All Dulles Area Muslim Society, worried that such an approach by Trump might prove effective.

While she noted that the public may be outraged about the family separation policy now, she’s concerned that people could become “anesthetized” to less extreme versions of it. She drew a parallel to the public reaction to Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries — while the initial executive order prompted mass protests, the administration subsequently proposed less draconian versions of the same policy that gradually drew less attention.

“They could easily put something forward that’s still bad, but people accept it because it’s less awful that what came before,” Martinez said. “I’m concerned it’s so bad right now, people might run out of steam.”

That’s why Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, the legal director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s immigrant advocacy program, urged the senators to not accept that this debate is over simply because Trump has changed the family separation policy. He suggested that they press the administration to allow children to be released to other family members instead of being held in a jail cell, a process he says Trump has worked to make increasingly difficult.

“Kids don’t belong in cages, and that’s the bottom line,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. “Whether it’s the same cage as their mother and father or two separate cages… Any solution that results in kids being kept in cages is no solution at all.”

Kaine and Warner agreed to that request, and they’re pledging to visit Virginia’s detention facilities for immigrant children in Bristow and Staunton to inspect their conditions. They do take some hope from reports today that the Border Patrol plans to stop referring migrant parents who cross the border illegally with children for criminal charges, but they say they can’t be sure what the White House will do next.

“This administration has no plan,” Warner said. “As we’ve seen continuously, he zigs and zags on an hourly basis.”

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Family Separations Prompt Action from Local Lawmakers

The issue of children being separated from parents seeking asylum at the U.S. border has prompted both words and actions from Arlington’s members of Congress.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) yesterday signed on as a cosponsor of the Keep Families Together Act — Democratic-backed legislation that would end the family separation policy that has sparked nationwide and even international outrage.

“Donald Trump’s family separation policy is immoral and Congress must put a stop to it,” said Beyer, in a statement. “Treating legal asylum-seekers, many of whom are fleeing violence which endangers their lives, in such a cruel manner is a violation of our country’s values and internationally-accepted agreements on human rights.”

Beyer yesterday also visited two fathers who were separated from their children at the border and being held at a detention center in Maryland. TV cameras were there as Beyer and his wife Megan described a “very emotional, very difficult” discussion with the men.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), meanwhile, have written a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, requesting an “immediate response” to a number of questions about the family separations, including:

  • Whether any facilities in Virginia are being used to house children separated from their families
  • The rationale for the “zero tolerance” policy that prompts separations
  • The plan for detention infrastructure to hold asylum seekers
  • Resources for separated children, including medical and mental health services
  • Specific information on the conditions for girls and toddlers
  • Plans for facilitating family reunification

Also yesterday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) recalled four members of the Virginia National Guard from their service on the U.S. border.

There’s more local fallout from the family separation issue. The Methodist church is considering expelling Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a member over his enforcement of the policy and justification of it by citing a Bible verse.

News outlets reported that Sessions is a member of the Clarendon United Methodist Church in Arlington, in addition to a Methodist church in his home state of Alabama.

Photo via @RepDonBeyer

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Arlington’s Lone Social Security Office Set to Close on June 22

The lone Social Security Administration field office in Arlington is officially set to close its doors two weeks from now, as county leaders continue to press for answers on why the location is shutting down.

The SSA announced in a news release Wednesday (June 6) that the office, located at 1401 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, will close on June 22. That will force the roughly 25,000 Arlington residents who visit the office each year to leave the county to receive an in-person consultation on their benefits.

In its release, the SSA suggested that Arlingtonians will be able to visit the administration’s offices in Alexandria, Fairfax or D.C. instead, or even use the SSA’s online services. Yet, ever since news of the office’s closure became public last month, advocates for seniors and local elected officials have argued that Social Security recipients often lack the transportation options and technical savvy to make those alternatives viable.

“This field office is conveniently located for our older and disabled Arlington constituents who trust and rely on the direct assistance provided at this location and may lack close access to transportation, or wish to discuss their affairs in-person rather than over the internet,” U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) wrote in a May 21 letter to the SSA’s acting inspector general. “At a time when our nation’s population of seniors is growing, it would be imprudent to reduce access to services seniors need and demand.”

The SSA claims, however, that its “expiring lease” at the Rosslyn building is forcing it to close the office. That argument doesn’t hold much water with Arlington leaders, who have long lamented that Rosslyn boasts an office vacancy rate of more than 20 percent.

“Given the vacancy rate within Arlington County and the likely continued availability of existing space, office space availability is not an issue,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) wrote in a May 1 letter to the administration’s inspector general.

Beyer also noted in his letter that the county has “made an overture to assist with finding a suitable space” for a new office in Arlington — a county spokeswoman confirmed that County Manager Mark Schwartz made such an offer. An SSA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on what discussions the agency has had, if any, with Arlington officials about staying in the area.

Kaine and Warner added in their note that county leaders have even floated the possibility that “it may be possible to extend the field office’s current lease because redevelopment of the Wilson Boulevard location is unlikely to occur for several years.” The County Board approved a full redevelopment of the block — also the location of the famed “Deep Throat” parking garage where Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward met with a source to help break open the Watergate scandal — back in 2014, but demolition work still has yet to start in the area.

Accordingly, Beyer, Kaine and Warner all demanded an investigation into how the SSA ultimately decided to close the office, and the administration’s inspector general agreed to order a review of the matter on May 21.

“The Social Security Administration should postpone the closure of its Arlington office while this review goes forward,” Beyer wrote in a statement. “It would be inappropriate for the office to be closed before the effects on the community are assessed. I thank the Acting Inspector General for undertaking this review, and look forward to its conclusions.”

The SSA office closure in Arlington is hardly an isolated decision, however. The administration has closed 125 of its roughly 1,250 offices since 2000, according to the advocacy group Social Security Works.

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Local Reaction to Trump’s Decision to Pull Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of an international nuclear deal with Iran is prompting condemnation from Arlington’s congressional delegation.

Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he plans to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran, reversing an agreement hammered out by President Barack Obama’s administration and a variety of other countries to slow Iran’s progress toward building a nuclear weapon. Both of Virginia’s senators, in addition to Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), were quick to criticize Trump’s move as one that will undermine the nation’s security.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is up for re-election this year, was a particularly vocal backer of the Iran deal. He issued a statement today blasting Trump’s move.

President Trump showed us again today that when he says “America First,” he actually means “America alone.” By violating the Iran deal, the President is creating a new global nuclear crisis while we’re trying to address another one with North Korea. His decision to break from the deal makes our country less safe by damaging our diplomatic credibility, weakening our alliances, and reopening the door for Iran to start enriching uranium. The Iran deal states that “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” Why would the President blow up this deal and free Iran of that obligation? President Trump has set us on a dangerous road where war becomes more likely, especially as his advisers beat the drums for regime change, which should never be a goal of U.S policy.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was similarly critical of the president’s decision.

The President’s refusal to waive certain sanctions on Iran sets in motion the dismantling of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has successfully prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons. While the JCPOA was far from perfect, by signing the agreement, Iran gave up 98 percent of its uranium stockpile, dismantled 2/3 of its centrifuges, rendered its heavy water nuclear reactor unusable, and agreed to unprecedented inspections that provide critical insight into, and early warning about, any attempts by Iran to accelerate its nuclear program. Trump Administration leaders, all parties to the agreement, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with its verification, have agreed that Iran has complied with its terms.

Simply withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA will not benefit the American people and U.S. national security: it will only succeed in driving a wedge between us and our allies, whose help we need to enforce any future sanctions regime against Iran, and will effectively green light Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Withdrawing from this agreement makes the United States, and the world, less secure.

Beyer also condemned the move in a statement.

President Trump’s extremely shortsighted decision to exit the JCPOA is another major step backward for our national security. Simply put, the President’s actions have made a nuclear-armed Iran more likely, and therefore made the world a more dangerous place. It will have serious negative consequences for the stability of the region, for our relationships with our allies, and will further embolden hardliners in Iran who want to develop nuclear weapons.

Now it is left to our European allies to attempt to pick up the pieces of the agreement and hold Iran to its commitments, even though we have not honored ours. Functionally, they are being held responsible for this administration’s irresponsibility.

At a time when we are trying denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, ideally with a similarly robust monitoring and verification scheme, this decision severely damages the United States’ credibility as a diplomatic and negotiating partner.

Both the US defense and intelligence communities, including Secretary Mattis, General Dunford, and the IAEA, have consistently certified Iranian compliance with the agreement and the robust nature of the verification regime. The President has embarked upon a path where the risks of both Iranian nuclearization and war with Iran are significantly increased. Unfortunately, it is hard to believe that President Trump has taken this path with a thoughtful plan in mind to address both the significant ongoing issues posed by the Iran as well as the renewed threat of nuclearization.

Once again and to our detriment, the President has shown that he will place domestic political considerations and his disdain for his predecessor above our national interest and global reputation.

Photo via @WhiteHouse

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Morning Notes

Overnight House Fire in Rock Spring — The Arlington County Fire Department battled a blaze in the basement of a home in the Rock Spring neighborhood early this morning. One occupant of the home was brought to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. [Twitter]

ACFD Battles Falls Church Fire — Arlington and Fairfax County firefighters battled a two-alarm house fire in Falls Church early Sunday morning. The home’s occupant was able to get out but was transported to the hospital. The house, which had “hazardous hoarding conditions” inside, it believed to be a total loss. [City of Falls Church, Falls Church News-Press]

Warner Blasts ‘Dark Underbelly of Social Media’ — Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) went on NBC’s Meet the Press over the weekend and addressed the topic of Facebook’s privacy issues and alleged Russian election interference. “I think the whole industry has been reluctant to accept the fact that we’re seeing the dark underbelly of social media, and how it can be manipulated,” Warner said, adding: “frankly, Mr. Zuckerberg needs to come and testify.” [YouTube]

Arlington on ‘Healthiest Communities’ Rankings — Arlington County ranked No. 31 on U.S. News and World Report’s new Healthiest Communities rankings. Neighboring Falls Church ranked No. 1 while the City of Fairfax ranked No. 6 and Loudoun County ranked No. 10. [WTOPU.S. News]

County Recognizes Businesses for Transportation Programs — “The Arlington County Board honored 19 local businesses and properties for their dedication to providing sustainable transportation to employees and tenants, as part of the Champions program. The program… motivates businesses, multi-family residential communities, commercial properties and schools to recognize the impact they can make on reducing traffic congestion in Arlington County.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Local Lawmakers Push Back Against Proposal to Sell Reagan National Airport

The Trump administration’s proposal to sell Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport as part of its $200 billion infrastructure plan has been greeted by a chorus of opposition from local lawmakers.

“Trump isn’t trying to fix our infrastructure, he’s trying to sell it off,” tweeted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). “This ‘plan’ is nothing but smoke and mirrors.”

The proposal also suggests that the federal government might divest itself of assets like the GW Parkway and the D.C. Aqueduct.

“It is particularly outrageous that Trump suggested selling off key local infrastructure,” Beyer said. “The President didn’t consult any state or local leaders about any of this, but if he had we would have told him that our community ardently opposes anything of the kind.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) joined in the opposition, tweeting the following.

Several state legislators from Northern Virginia, including two who represent parts of Arlington, put out a joint press release expressing “strong opposition to President Donald J. Trump’s proposal to sell these two critical national assets.”

“President Trump is gambling with two of our country’s most important transportation assets without considering the high economic stakes,” said Delegate Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan, Jr. (D-McLean). “From Chicago’s Midway Airport to Newburgh’s Stewart International Airport, attempted airport privatization has failed repeatedly, costing taxpayers money and creating economic uncertainty. Taking this risk with airports so critical to Virginia’s economy, not to mention the operation of our nation’s Capital, is simply irresponsible.”

[ … ]

“These are not just casinos that you can walk away from,” said Senator Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria). “The loss of federal support for these crucial national assets would have an unthinkable impact on our regional economy. The president should not be financing tax cuts for the rich on the backs of Virginia taxpayers and commuters.”

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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UPDATED: Federal Government to Re-Open

Update at 9:30 p.m. — The shutdown is over after legislation passed Congress and was signed by President Trump.

Federal workers will receive back pay for any time lost during the shutdown.

More via a press release from Rep. Don Beyer’s office:

Legislative language mirroring a bill offered by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) to protect the pay of federal workers during the government shutdown was passed by Congress today as part of a larger temporary funding bill. The inclusion of text of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act will guarantee that the entire federal workforce receives back pay for the time during which appropriations lapsed.

“It is deeply disappointing that Congress was unable to prevent a government shutdown, but the passage of the our bill’s language should at least minimize the damage to rank-and-file civil servants,” said Rep. Beyer. “I thank my colleague Rep. Wittman for standing up for the federal workforce again, and hope that this will be the last time that this bill is necessary.”

Text of the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act was included in HR 195, which passed both chambers of Congress today. The bill had nearly 100 bipartisan cosponsors.

Earlier: The federal government could re-open as early as tomorrow after the U.S. Senate voted to advance a short-term spending plan today (Monday).

Senators voted 81-18 to end debate — a procedural move — on a three-week bill that would fund the government through February 8. The bill would give Congress more time to negotiate a long-term spending package.

The U.S. House of Representatives could vote on the plan today, if it passes the Senate.

The government partially shut down at midnight on Saturday (January 20).

But the impasse appears to have ended in the Senate after Republicans committed to holding a vote on the future of those who were brought to the country illegally as children and protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Donald Trump announced he would end the program in March.

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) blamed Republicans for the shutdown and said they were “deeply disappointed” that it could not stay open. But they said they are “heartened” by discussions that could help resolve many long-standing issues.

“As a result of those discussions, we now have a path forward to resolve many of the challenges that Congress has punted on for months, including a long-term solution to sequestration and full-year funding for our government and the military,” they said. “Today we are reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that tens of thousands of Virginians rely on – after months of Republican obstruction – and giving service-members and federal employees peace of mind that their paychecks will arrive on time. We also have the opportunity to finally make investments here at home to fight the opioid crisis, provide relief for communities hit by natural disasters, allow those who rely on community health centers to get care, reform pensions, and much more.”

Warner and Kaine’s joint statement is after the jump.

“We voted against the House Republican Continuing Resolution on Friday night because it left unaddressed too many priorities important to Virginians. We remain deeply disappointed that our Republican colleagues refused to keep the government open this weekend while we finalized a long-term deal on these issues. President Trump and Republican leadership have hurt Virginia and our military by governing from crisis-to-crisis and being unwilling to compromise.

“However, we are heartened by our work with more than 20 Senators from both sides of the aisle this weekend to create a bipartisan path forward to give Virginians long-term certainty and protect Dreamers.

“As a result of those discussions, we now have a path forward to resolve many of the challenges that Congress has punted on for months, including a long-term solution to sequestration and full-year funding for our government and the military. Today we are reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that tens of thousands of Virginians rely on – after months of Republican obstruction – and giving service-members and federal employees peace of mind that their paychecks will arrive on time. We also have the opportunity to finally make investments here at home to fight the opioid crisis, provide relief for communities hit by natural disasters, allow those who rely on community health centers to get care, reform pensions, and much more.

“For more than three years, the Republican majority has blocked any viable effort to fix our broken immigration system. As recently as Friday night, Leader McConnell refused to commit to taking up the DREAM Act with any urgency. Today, Republican leadership has finally agreed to bring bipartisan legislation to protect Dreamers to the floor in the next three weeks, and both parties – as well as the American public – will hold them to it.”

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Arlington’s Congressional Delegation Blames GOP for Possible Government Shutdown

Arlington County’s representatives in Congress are blaming Republicans for the looming government shutdown, set to take effect at midnight tonight.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a short-term continuing resolution late last night (Thursday) to keep the federal government open for another month while negotiations continue on a long-term spending deal.

A major sticking-point for Democrats is the status of immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, who were brought to the United States illegally as minors and shielded from deportation.

President Donald Trump announced he would end the program as of March, and since then Democratic legislators have pushed for a permanent solution.

Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in Congress as well as Alexandria, Falls Church and a section of Fairfax County, slammed the continuing resolution as “appalling and absurd.” It is the fourth in as many months as wrangling over the federal budget continues.

Beyer’s full statement is below:

“House Republicans are now forcing us to take our fourth vote on a short-term funding resolution in as many months. This is appalling and absurd.

Like my fellow House Democrats, I spent months imploring my Republican colleagues to take action on key priorities for the American people, including passing long term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and protecting Dreamers. But they were too busy trying to use hundreds of thousands of young people’s lives as leverage and cutting taxes for the wealthy to solve these problems.

Donald Trump claims he wants to help Dreamers, yet he keeps taking to Twitter to derail bipartisan efforts to solve a problem he created. Republicans suddenly decided this week that they cared about CHIP, but they could have passed a clean reauthorization of CHIP any time in the past few months and refused to do so.

The President keeps talking about how ‘our military needs’ this, but has he listened to them when they have said that they need long term budget certainty? The same is true of our non-defense agencies, which are having to guess again and again about when and how they will be funded as the Republicans who have complete control of government repeatedly fail to do the basic job of governing.

The federal workforce deserves better than to experience the fifth Congressional budget fight in five months in February. I do not want the government to shut down, and today introduced bipartisan legislation with my friend Congressman Rob Wittman to protect federal workers’ pay if that happens. But Congress’ refusal to live up to its basic responsibilities to the American people must end.”

Were the government to shut down, for the first time since 2013, many federal workers would be furloughed — sent home without pay. It would also represent the first time that the federal government has shut down with one political party in control of all branches of government.

And Beyer has tried to mitigate the impact on federal workers — many of whom live in his district — by introducing the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act alongside fellow Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman (R).

The bill, which the pair introduced last April when another shutdown threat threatened, would guarantee back pay for federal workers who are furloughed.

“We are working hard to avoid a government shutdown, but if it comes our bill would protect federal workers from the worst of the consequences,” Beyer said in a statement. “This legislation is designed to shield civil servants, who need to support their families, from the disastrous effects of Congress’ failure to agree on a budget measure. We hope it will not be needed, but time is running out.”

In a joint statement Thursday, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.) criticized the House’s continuing resolution. The plan appears to have significant opposition from both sides of the aisle in the U.S. Senate.

The pair said it creates “uncertainty” to not have a long-term budget deal and to instead rely on short-term resolutions, and ignores many important issues.

“The current CR ignores key priorities — community health centers, permanent protection for Dreamers, emergency relief for Florida, Texas, western states ravaged by wildfires, Puerto Rico, the USVI, opioid treatment, and pension reform,” they said. “These issues are not going away and need to be addressed immediately.”

Kaine and Warner’s full joint statement is after the jump.

“We oppose the House Continuing Resolution, which punts budget discussions until mid-February. Congress should remain in session with no recess until we work out a long-term bipartisan budget deal that addresses all issues. We will support a short-term CR for a few days to keep the government open while we stay in town and conclude our negotiations.  But we do not support perpetuating the current budgetary dysfunction that is hurting our country and our Commonwealth. The Republican leadership has to get serious about finding a budget deal and quit relying on short-term patches.

“This is the fourth CR since the start of the fiscal year and would take us into the fifth month of the year with no budget deal. One-month CRs hurt all spending priorities and create deep uncertainty.  This pain is particularly acute in Virginia, which is home to hundreds of thousands of government employees, kids who rely on CHIP, military families, and national security professionals. Recently, Defense Secretary Mattis came to the Senate and appealed to us that we not pass another CR but instead do a full budget deal. As Senators who represent the state most connected to the military, we know he is right and know these continued gimmicks hurt our troops in Virginia and across the globe.

“The current CR ignores key priorities — community health centers, permanent protection for Dreamers, emergency relief for Florida, Texas, western states ravaged by wildfires, Puerto Rico, the USVI, opioid treatment, and pension reform.  These issues are not going away and need to be addressed immediately. We gave negotiators time to reach a bipartisan agreement to protect Dreamers and now they have a deal. This must be part of the negotiations, and there should be a vote on the compromise – or a clean Dream Act – without further delay.

“Finally, the President’s repeated statements urging a government shutdown are beneath the office and have heightened the budgetary dysfunction.  And his determined efforts to blow up any and all bipartisan discussions around Dreamers demonstrate that he is not interested in governing. He has to decide whether he wants to be President and engage in necessary compromise, or continue offering commentary from the sidelines.”

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National Park Service Approves More than $200 Million for Memorial Bridge Repairs

(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) The National Park Service has approved more than $200 million in funding to repair and rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge.

NPS announced today (Friday) it will spend $227 million on the repair contract. U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) helped secure the funding, alongside U.S. Reps. Don Beyer (D-8) and Gerry Connolly (D-11) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Construction will begin next fall on the 85-year-old bridge, with the project set for completion in 2021. At least three lanes of traffic will remain open at all times during construction, which — thanks to the project now being fully funded — NPS will finish in one phase rather than two, to save $35 million.

Officials estimate the repairs will increase the bridge’s lifespan by 85 to 100 years. Last year, the bridge won a $90 million federal transportation grant to help with repairs, matched by $60 million from NPS, after years of deterioration and neglect led to worries it could close by 2021.

Beyer, who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, said earlier this year he would push hard for federal money to fund repairs on a bridge that carries 68,000 vehicles each day from the county into D.C.

“After years of work to secure funding to fix Arlington Memorial Bridge, today’s announcement gives us hope that the bridge will remain safe and serviceable into the 22nd century,” Beyer said in a statement. “Our tour of the bridge and press conference in 2015 crystalized the dire need for this funding. Since then I have worked together with my colleagues in Congress, leaders from Virginia and the District, and two Administrations to secure the money for these structural repairs. This truly is great news, and I thank everyone whose efforts brought us here.”

Federal officials are scheduled to discuss the project during a press conference in the District at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

The full press release is after the jump:

Virginia’s two Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly (both D-VA) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) , today announced that after years of effort by the Senators and House members, the National Park Service (NPS) has approved $227 million to initiate a long-awaited contract to fully repair and rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge. The 85-year-old bridge, owned and maintained by NPS, is a vital daily route connecting Arlington, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The Virginia and D.C. delegations, with support of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, played a decisive role in successfully advocating for a federal FASTLANE project grant, as well as secured additional appropriations to launch the Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project in January. Construction will begin in the fall of 2018, with the project being completed in 2021, giving the bridge a lifespan of an additional 85 to 100 years. During construction, at least three lanes of traffic will remain open at all times to allow for continued use of the span. Identifying the remaining required funds allows the NPS to save $35 million in costs by completing the project in one phase rather than two, and will allow the project to be finished 18 months sooner than previously estimated.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of this progress on a key transportation project for this region,” Sen. Warner said. “It required the combined efforts of all of us from the national capital region – those of us serving in both houses of Congress, as well as the District government, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Transportation Department. These partnerships allowed the Park Service to design an innovative project that will save money and time for  the region’s commuters and visitors.”

“Arlington Memorial Bridge is among the nation’s most deteriorated bridges, and I’m extremely proud that after years of hard work, the National Park Service has committed full funding for rehabilitation of the bridge. This is a huge win for Northern Virginia commuters, as well as visitors to the nation’s capital,” Sen. Kaine said.”As we celebrate this good news, we should also redouble our efforts to pass a major infrastructure bill so other aging bridges don’t degrade to such a terrible condition in the first place.”

“After years of work to secure funding to fix Arlington Memorial Bridge, today’s announcement gives us hope that the bridge will remain safe and serviceable into the 22nd century,” Rep. Beyer said. “Our tour of the bridge and press conference in 2015 crystalized the dire need for this funding. Since then I have worked together with my colleagues in Congress, leaders from Virginia and the District, and two Administrations to secure the money for these structural repairs. This truly is great news, and I thank everyone whose efforts brought us here.”

“This is a victory for Northern Virginia commuters and the effort to improve our nation’s ailing infrastructure,” Rep. Connolly said. “I am pleased the National Park Service stepped up to the plate to address this uniquely federal transportation challenge. Communities across the country deserve this kind of good news about their old and failing infrastructure.”

“As Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, I could not be more delighted that the National Park Service has secured full funding to repair a critical priority, the iconic Memorial Bridge, with significant cost and time savings,” Rep. Norton said.  “When I visited the bridge before construction, I saw firsthand how it was barely standing, and why traffic has to be rerouted, bringing even more traffic congestion on both sides of the river.  With full funding rather than the phased dollars we already secured, we can finally break ground.”

The Memorial Bridge, which carries 68,000 vehicles daily between Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va., was originally opened in 1932 with a 75-year design life. It is now structurally deficient, having never undergone a major rehabilitation. As a result a 10-ton load limit remains in effect, and large vehicles, including trucks and buses, are prohibited from crossing. Without a major overhaul, it has been expected that the Bridge would have to be closed to vehicular traffic beginning in 2021. However, NPS has an annual budget of just $20 million for transportation projects across all its assets in the National Capital Region.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has previously estimated that closing the Memorial Bridge could cost local governments $75 million per year in transportation outlays alone. Moreover, transit studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge, further exacerbating congested roadways in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC.

Last year, the region’s congressional delegation was instrumental in securing $90 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for Phase 1 of the reconstruction of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, with NPS providing an additional $60 million in matching funds. At the time, NPS estimated that more than $100 million in additional funding would be needed in order to bring the Memorial Bridge into a state of good repair.

Due to years of chronic underfunding, NPS has been forced to defer billions of dollars in necessary maintenance on transportation infrastructure such as Memorial Bridge, as well as other facilities it operates, like visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds. In March, Sen. Warner and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced legislation, the National Park Service Legacy Act, to address the maintenance backlog at the National Park Service, which is currently more than $11 billion, and Sen. Kaine is one of a dozen bipartisan co-sponsors who have signed on to support the effort.

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Beyer Blasts Travel Ban, Warner Wallops Healthcare Bill

Arlington’s representatives in Congress are pushing back against a new Trump administration travel ban and the latest Obamacare repeal bill.

Trump announced the new travel ban Sunday night. The administration’s previous efforts to implement a travel ban targeting certain countries deemed a security risk were hindered by legal challenges and met with widespread protests.

In a statement, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says the new version of the ban is little improved from the previous versions.

Donald Trump cannot camouflage his Muslim Ban by adding new countries to it. Its discriminatory roots are still plainly visible. This policy is an attempt to use racial and anti-religious animus to divide people for political ends.

As with previous bans, the Administration provides no evidence that they enhance public safety. Meanwhile, the ban continues to stigmatize millions of Muslim Americans, as well as our key allies in the war on terror.

This policy has been wrong from the start, it is wrong still, and I will continue to oppose it.

Also issuing a statement last night was Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who weighed in on the latest effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Warner said the bill, which faces long odds in the Senate, would do more harm than good. He called for a bipartisan effort to lower healthcare costs and stabilize the health insurance markets.

This evening, the CBO released a score concluding millions of Americans would lose healthcare under this latest partisan repeal plan. Just hours before, S&P released a report finding that the Graham-Cassidy bill would cost our country about 580,000 jobs and $240 billion in lost economic activity over the next decade. There’s a reason why this bill is opposed by non-partisan groups from every sector of the health industry, including the American Medical Association, health insurers, hospitals, patients, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association. With even the center-right think tank AEI panning both this bill and the process under which it is being rammed through Congress, it is time for the Senate to put this bill aside and recognize that we must work in a bipartisan way to stabilize the health insurance markets and put in place permanent fixes to lower costs and expand health care options for Americans. I stand ready and willing to work with any Senator, Republican or Democrat, who seriously shares that goal.

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Trump’s Decision to End DACA Program Criticized By Local Leaders

President Donald Trump’s decision to end a program that protected younger undocumented immigrants from deportation was sharply criticized by various Arlington leaders today.

Trump announced his administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months to give Congress time to act and find an alternative plan through legislation.

The program protects some children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents from immediate deportation, and instead allows them a renewable two-year deferral and eligibility for a work permit. It is estimated that 800,000 people who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16., also known as “Dreamers,” have been shielded from deportation by DACA.

Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County, criticized the decision as an “act of malice.”

“President Trump’s decision to end DACA and begin deporting our Dreamers betrays nearly one million young people who grew up with this country as their own and made so many contributions to it,” Beyer said in a statement. “This act of malice will tear apart hundreds of thousands of American families and inflict serious economic damage on the country. Congress has no choice but to act immediately, and it should begin consideration of the American Hope Act to protect Dreamers.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington since December, said in a statement he is “disheartened” by the decision to end DACA:

I join my voice with those who are disheartened by the news that President Trump will rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Standing with my brother Bishops, I urge Congress and the President to enact legislation that will safeguard those currently protected by this important program.

While the issue of immigration is complicated — and our government has many considerations to balance in responding to the influx of those who seek safety, and personal and economic security in our country — offering special protection to those who only know the United States as home is a reasonable measure of compassion.

This news is undoubtedly troubling for the hundreds of thousands approved through DACA. I ask all Catholics and people of good will in the Diocese of Arlington to keep these individuals, as well as our government officials, in prayer. May we as a country be considerate of our neighbors and defend those whom we have offered protection and safe harbor.

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Trump’s decision could have enormous economic repercussions too, and urged Congress to act quickly.

In a statement, Warner said:

The DACA program was a promise to protect certain children of undocumented immigrants, who came to this country through no fault of their own, so they could safely come out of the shadows, attain legal status and realize their full potential. Over the years, the DREAMers have shown us their true character–working hard to become this nation’s next generation of students, entrepreneurs, and military men and women.  And while Congress has a responsibility to enact comprehensive immigration reform that provides them with a fair path to citizenship, which the Senate passed in 2013, we cannot let the Trump Administration’s disgraceful anti-immigrant policies leave nearly 800,000 DREAMers in limbo. Going back on our word threatens their safety, harms our economy and speaks volumes about who we are as a country.

Kaine said in a statement:

President Trump has made a heartless decision to target hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States through no fault of their own, breaking his promise that these ‘incredible kids’ could ‘rest easy’ and putting them at risk for being torn away from their families. In Virginia, 12,000 of these Dreamers are neighbors, friends, and students who just want the opportunity to contribute to their communities and our economy. Today’s action will force DACA recipients back into the shadows and put them in danger of being deported from the only home they’ve ever known.  Congress should immediately pass the bipartisan DREAM Act to protect these kids and then find an agreement on long-overdue, comprehensive immigration reform.

And Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) criticized Trump for pandering to “extremists on the far right-wing of his party.” In a statement, McAuliffe also urged the President to work with Congress on comprehensive immigration reform:

President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA is a heartless attack on 800,000 young people who were brought here by their parents at a young age. It will plunge families, communities, businesses, and schools into terrible uncertainty for no reason other than to keep a political promise to extremists on the far right-wing of his party. DREAMers are our friends, neighbors, co-workers, students, fellow taxpayers and the people who serve in the military to protect us. An attack on them is an attack on the fabric of our nation.

Today’s decision will not make America great again – it will damage our economy, make us less safe and even further diminish our nation’s standing as a leader on the world stage. As the Governor of a state where DREAMers make a significant contribution, I urge President Trump to reconsider this terrible decision and work with congress to pass real immigration reform that will bring these young people out of the shadows for good.

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Local Lawmakers Urge Bipartisan Cooperation After Obamacare Repeal Fails

After the U.S. Senate failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Arlington’s congressional representatives said Republicans and Democrats should now work together to fix the law.

On Twitter, Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, said lawmakers must work to make health care “better together.”

A so-called “skinny repeal” fell short of the votes required to pass after GOP Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against it, defeating the measure 49-51.

Previous bills, one which would have repealed Obamacare and another that would have repealed and replaced it with a House-approved plan earlier this year both fell short too.

The “skinny repeal” bill would have removed requirements that most Americans have health insurance, and that companies with more than 50 employees must offer health benefits. But the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would lead to 16 million more people without insurance in the space of a decade.

After the bill’s failure, U.S. Sen Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a statement that the process to improve health care must be more open and bipartisan.

“Thanks to the help of countless Americans who shared their stories and made their voices heard, we were able to stop a bill that would have taken health care away from millions of people,” Kaine said. “There is a better way. Let the public into the process. We shouldn’t be kicking millions off of their health insurance or increasing families’ health care costs. Tonight we put people over politics, and going forward we all need to work together to improve health care for all Americans.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) thanked the American people for raising their concerns about Obamacare repeal, and agreed with Kaine that improvements must be made in an open way.

“Thank you to all Americans who made their voices heard. You did this,” Warner said in a statement. “It’s time to drop this partisan repeal process for good and work together on ways to improve health care for all Americans.”

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Local Lawmakers Condemn Senate’s Move Towards Obamacare Repeal

Local representatives in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives sharply criticized the Senate’s vote Tuesday (July 25) to begin debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

The Senate voted 51-50 — with Vice President Mike Pence called on as a tie-breaker vote — to open debate on repeal, with three possible plans to be discussed in the coming days.

Those plans are the Senate’s own plan to repeal and replace Obamacare; a 2015 House bill that would have repealed the law; and a bill that passed the House earlier this year.

U.S. Sens Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) both released statements strongly condemning the vote on the Senate floor.

Kaine said:

“As one of my colleagues has said, not a single one of us came to the United States Senate to hurt people, but that is exactly what Republicans have set in motion with today’s forced vote on a secret bill. For many of my constituents in Virginia and millions of people across America, this bill likely means losing insurance or paying much more for health care.

“I spent Friday volunteering at the RAM Clinic in Wise County, where thousands of people had traveled far from their homes–many of them sleeping in their cars and outside in the heat–to get care. The magnitude of the need was heartbreaking, and the message from these families was clear: ‘help us, don’t hurt us.’ As the wealthiest and most compassionate nation in the world, we must make our health care system better, not worse, for these families. We have to do our jobs to protect the health care of the kids whose parents who have been writing to me and asking Congress to stop this heartless bill.

“This is about what’s right and wrong. This is about who we are as Senators. This is about what thinking, feeling, breathing, believing human beings in positions of leadership will do to help people, not hurt them. Americans–healthy and sick–need us to get this right, but Republican Senators got it wrong with today’s vote. In the coming days, I hope we’ll change course, move to a more open process, and get back to helping people.”

Warner added:

“Today’s vote will have very real and disastrous consequences for millions of Americans. The only question is how many people will be harmed, since Senate Republicans voted to move forward on a bill no one has yet seen but which we already know will raise costs and kick millions off their health insurance, including millions of children, elderly and disabled Americans who depend on Medicaid.

“There is still time for reasonable Republican senators to abandon this partisan process. It is long past time for Republicans to sit down with Democrats and work on a bipartisan solution that actually improves our healthcare system.”

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House, had not released a written statement as of the time of writing. On Twitter, Beyer also criticized the vote, and the uncertainty surrounding the Senate’s next steps.

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Local Leaders Condemn Trump’s Paris Climate Agreement Withdrawal

Minutes after President Trump announced his decision to abandon the Paris Climate Agreement, Virginia elected officials began to share their disapproval.

Trump said his decision to withdraw from the pact, signed by 195 nations, would help preserve American jobs and avoid placing heavy burdens on the country’s taxpayers.

Rep. Don Beyer (D), who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, highlighted how Trump’s decision to withdraw will negatively impact the United States’ foreign relationships.

“Trump’s decision will be a self-inflicted wound on our allies’ trust in American leadership,” Beyer wrote in a statement alongside fellow members of the House Safe Climate Caucus. “The Paris Agreement was a vision reflecting decisive action, hope, ingenuity, and the ideals with which we would define our country’s place in the world. Withdrawal from that agreement represents a triumph of ignorance, nativism and political pandering, and the message it sends to other countries will be disastrous for the relationships which have built and sustained our prosperity.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) released a statement condemning the president’s decision. He wrote that despite the withdrawal, Virginia will continue to do its part to fight climate change.

“The President’s dangerous action today will have a devastating impact on our environment, our economy, and our health,” McAuliffe said. “The United States economy is dependent on leadership in the world, yet the President seems inclined to sit back and let other nations pass us by. Climate change is a threat to our way of life. If President Trump refuses to lead the response, Virginia will.”

McAuliffe also detailed how his own actions have differed from Trump’s. He wrote how in early May, he signed an order to reduce carbon emissions in the Commonwealth.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the president’s choice goes against the country’s history of scientific innovation.

“The President seems to think that the U.S. commitment to cut about [one quarter] of our carbon pollution by 2025 is beyond the grasp of the country that won World War II and put men on the moon,” Kaine said in a statement.

Kaine added that he wants to be able to tell his future grandchildren that the US met the environmental challenge “head-on and triumphed over it, not shrank and cowered from it.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the president’s announcement a “rejection of settled science.” He also highlighted how this historical decision will impact Virginians in the future.

“It poses a direct threat to Virginia’s environment, economy and way of life,” Warner wrote in a statement.

But Kaine managed a few optimistic words amid the swirl of pessimism and condemnation.

“I am confident that our nation’s optimistic, can-do spirit will eventually prevail over this short-sighted dereliction of America’s leadership role,” he said.

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Sen. Warner Statement on Gen. Flynn’s Resignation

Sen. Mark Warner holds a press conference outside of his office on Capitol Hill 4/13/16Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has released a statement on the resignation of Gen. Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor.

Warner, who serves as the vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that he will continue to push to investigate Gen. Flynn and “any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.”

The full statement is below.

Reports that the White House may have been briefed weeks ago on the nature of Gen. Flynn’s calls raise deeply troubling questions. The American people deserve to know at whose direction Gen. Flynn was acting when he made these calls, and why the White House waited until these reports were public to take action.

These developments underscore how many questions still remain unanswered to the American people more than three months after Election Day, including who was aware of what, and when. This reinforces both the urgency and the significance of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russian interference, which will include a thorough examination of contacts between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns, as well as interviews with current and former government officials.

Nothing about this resignation, or resignations that could occur in the future, precludes the Senate Intelligence Committee from continuing to investigate Gen. Flynn, or any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.

It is clear that our task is more urgent than ever.

Update at 12:35 p.m. — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has also weighed in with a statement (after the jump).

The resignation of Lieutenant General Flynn cements the worst fears of many Americans and our allies about the connections between this Administration and the Kremlin. His alarming communication with the Russian government underscores the need to complete a full, independent, bipartisan, and transparent investigation of contacts between the Trump campaign and the Trump Administration, and the Russian government. It also raises new questions about why the White House didn’t act on confirmed intelligence regarding Flynn’s outreach to the Russian ambassador weeks ago. Flynn is now the third Trump advisor to resign due to unseemly ties to Russia and yet again President Trump is trying to distract from these serious allegations by railing against leaks in his Administration. We need to get to the bottom of these ties to Russia in order to protect our country.

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