Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) held a meeting Wednesday with local and national election-focused organizations at Arlington’s Office of Elections in Courthouse.
Warner discussed the threats he feels loom largest over November’s election, specifically stressing his concerns about recent changes made to the U.S. Postal Service.
He also heard from Arlington’s and Alexandria’s respective election directors as well as representatives of The Center for Election Innovation & Research, New Virginia Majority, the Brennan Center for Justice, Fair Vote and Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program.
For Warner, foreign interference, the election system’s integrity and the risk COVID-19 poses to voter safety are the primary dangers facing the November 3 election, in which he is running for reelection.
Attendees raised worries about a national lack of funds for recruiting and training additional poll workers for this election’s unique circumstances. Inadequate public knowledge about the possibility that results may come in well after election, as well as timelines for requesting mail-in ballots, were also cited as a problem.
The Postal Service recommends voters request ballots no later than 15 days before an election, and then send in a completed ballot no later than 7 days before an election.
“We’ve got to make sure we educate our voters about all the different small nuances that are coming out of the state,” David Hollberg, the marketing manager of the U.S. Postal Service’s NOVA district, said.
According to Gretchen Reinemeyer, Arlington County’s Director of Elections, the county has already received 20,000 requests for mail ballots, a record-setting increase from past years.
Warner recently sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former logistics executive, asking him to reverse changes he has made to the U.S. Postal Service that critics say have unnecessarily slowed operations and could impact how many mail ballots are counted in the election.
DeJoy, who was appointed by President Trump after being a major campaign donor, reassigned around 24 top Postal Service officials this past Friday, further provoking allegations of purposeful inefficiency.
“It’s more than a little fishy when you do a late Friday night reorganization of the management of the post office 85 days before election,” Warner told ARLnow. “Mr. Trump continues to try to undermine people’s confidence in absentee voting.”
Throughout the meeting, an overarching priority was ensuring that American voters will feel the November election was done fairly and without exterior influences.
“The voters have always had confidence … that their voices were going to be reflected in those votes,” Warner said. “Nothing would do Russia’s job better than for that confidence to be undermined.”
The Supreme Court issued a pair of momentous rulings this week, and Arlington’s Congressional delegation is celebrating both.
On Monday, the high court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ individuals from workplace discrimination. Earlier today, it blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Arlington’s Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said the DACA ruling is “a great moment” for the nation, but cautioned that more work is to be done to reform the immigration system.
Dreamers are Americans, they belong here. This ruling is a great moment for the United States. It is important to remember, though, that even with this decision from the Supreme Court very important work remains. The ball once again is in Congress’ court to pass meaningful, humane, and comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system in ways which reflect our values as a nation of immigrants. The Senate could take a big step forward in that regard at any time by passing the Dream and Promise Act.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) likewise cheered the decision.
President Trump’s decision to end DACA plunged hundreds of thousands of innocent young people into legal limbo and wreaked havoc upon nearly every area of American life. I’m so thankful the Court has put an end to this Administration’s ill-conceived broken promise. Congress should now pass the HEROES Act to prevent the deportation of undocumented essential workers during the pandemic and the American Dream and Promise Act to permanently protect these kids and young adults.
Earlier this week, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said via social media that the Supreme Court “did the right thing” in giving LGBTQ Americans protection against employment discrimination under law.
It was *always* wrong to fire a person simply for being gay or transgender. I’m so glad the Supreme Court did the right thing today. https://t.co/PSZwT4cA2S
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) June 15, 2020
Amazon Not Giving Up on HQ2 Helipad — “The list of nongovernmental aircraft the Transportation Security Administration permits to fly inside the [Flight Restricted Zone], besides commercial fights to and from Reagan National, is basically nonexistent… In a statement, Amazon suggested it hasn’t given up. ‘We recognize there are several layers of approval for such a feature, and will continue to work with Arlington County and other relevant stakeholders as we determine its feasibility for our Arlington HQ,” the statement read.” [Washington Business Journal]
Pentagon Helipad to Get New Tower — “The Department of Defense has designs on building a permanent air traffic control tower to help guide aircraft landing at the Pentagon and is seeking a contractor to carry them out.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Concerned About Peak Trail Usage — “We’ve noticed the trails are pretty crowded between 3pm-6pm. To help stop the spread of COVID-19, we suggest finding a less busy time to walk, bike, or run on the trails or to find an alternate route.” [Twitter]
Mexicali Blues Closed, For Now — Clarendon mainstay Mexicali Blues has shut down its carryout business and is closing temporarily. [Twitter]
Candidate Blasts County’s Coronavirus Response — “Audrey Clement, who has been running campaigns for elected office for more than a decade, said last week that the County Board failed to use its powers to force restaurants to close in the earliest days of the crisis.” [InsideNova]
Va. Senators Seek Local News Funding — “U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined their Senate colleagues in a letter calling for funding to support local journalism and media to be included in any future COVID-19 relief package.” [Press Release]
Video: YHS Orchestra Plays Remotely — “Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings in D Major, RV 121 (1st movement) by the members of the Yorktown High School Chamber Orchestra during the COVID-19 pandemic.” [YouTube]
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats, said in a joint statement that the Virginia and the U.S. economies are at risk as Trump raises tariffs and tweets invective.
….better off without them. The vast amounts of money made and stolen by China from the United States, year after year, for decades, will and must STOP. Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
….all deliveries of Fentanyl from China (or anywhere else!). Fentanyl kills 100,000 Americans a year. President Xi said this would stop – it didn’t. Our Economy, because of our gains in the last 2 1/2 years, is MUCH larger than that of China. We will keep it that way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
The senators’ offices released the following press release Friday afternoon.
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement after China announced that it will instate additional retaliatory tariffs starting September 1 in response to President Trump’s plans to impose additional levies on Chinese goods:
“Time and time again, we have warned President Trump against escalating a trade war with China. Trade wars yield no winners and hurt consumers and producers all over the Commonwealth, especially the farmers and small business owners who count on Chinese demand for products grown in Virginia. We’re even seeing devastating second-order effects of this trade war, with the possibility that fires in the Amazon are being deliberately set to clear land for soybean exports to China. While the U.S. must absolutely crack down on China for its illegal trade practices, we can’t afford to do so in an incoherent and erratic way. Today’s announcement shows once again that the Trump Administration’s bizarre trade policies destabilize the economy, put the livelihoods of many Americans at risk, undermine global stability, and fundamentally fail to hold China accountable for its unfair practices.”
According to an announcement by the Chinese finance ministry, China’s tariffs will range from five to ten percent on items such as agricultural products, apparel, chemicals, and textiles, in addition to a 25 percent tariff on automobiles and a five percent tariff on automobile parts. These levies are scheduled to take effect on September 1 and December 15, matching the dates of the President’s most recent tariffs.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have continuously warned the Trump Administration about how its haphazard approach on trade hurts Virginia’s families, businesses, and economy. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), China is the Commonwealth’s number-one agricultural export market for soybeans. In 2018, Virginia exported more than $58 million soybean products to China – an 83 percent decrease from 2017.
Update at 5:15 p.m. — New tweets from the president further escalate the trade war with higher tariffs.
….Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer. As President, I can no longer allow this to happen! In the spirit of achieving Fair Trade, we must Balance this very….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
…Additionally, the remaining 300 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10%, will now be taxed at 15%. Thank you for your attention to this matter!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
Arlington Gets Best View of Fireworks — On a hazy night, Arlington — particularly Rosslyn — had the best view of the expanded D.C. fireworks. Smoke obscured the viewing for many parts of the District. [Twitter, Twitter, Raw Story]
JBG Trying to Lure Big Tech to Arlington — “JBG Smith Properties CEO Matt Kelly recently met with “a handful” of big West Coast tech firms in a bid to entice them to come to National Landing now that Amazon.com Inc. has chosen the area for its second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]
Police Chase Ends in Arlington — A high-speed police chase along I-66 ended in Arlington, near the N. Glebe Road exit. Virginia State Police say a woman fled from police at speeds of up to 120 mph while her three children were in the car. [WJLA, Twitter]
A Modest Proposal for Arlington — In a letter to the editor published by the Arlington Sun Gazette, a man apparently upset by the renaming of Washington-Lee High School to Washington-Liberty suggests also renaming Arlington “Amazon’s bitch.” [InsideNova]
Ebbin Cast as NRA’s ‘Boogeyman’ — “[State Sen. Adam] Ebbin, when told of [state Sen. Bryce] Reeves’s remarks at the town hall, said he never made any of the comments attributed to him. ‘Apparently I’m a radical homosexual who’s misquoted,’ Ebbin said sarcastically.” [Washington Post]
Checking Car Seats in Arlington — Writing about the new Virginia law requiring rear-facing car seats for children under two and below a certain weight, the Arlington County Fire Department noted on social media: “ACFD no longer does child seat safety inspections. Arlington County Police Department offers regular inspections to ensure the child seat is safely installed and secured in your vehicle.” [Twitter]
Warner Highlights Sept. 11th Memorial Trail — “U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are working together to further honor the heroes of September 11th, 2001. In a bipartisan resolution, Senators Toomey and Warner highlight the significance of the September 11th National Memorial Trail,” which runs through Arlington. [Press Release]
Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick/Twitter
For all of the problems caused by the government shutdown across the D.C. region so far, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) fears things could get “exponentially worse” as soon as next week if federal employees are still going without paychecks.
Warner, like the rest of his Democratic colleagues in Congress, already sees the standoff over border wall funding engineered by President Trump as “outrageous” and a “disgrace.” Thousands of federal workers in the D.C. area alone missed their first paychecks of the shutdown last week, putting a severe strain on their finances and the whole region’s economy.
But Warner foresees government employees reaching a crisis point should they miss another paycheck in the coming days, which looks like a sure bet as Trump refuses to give an inch in discussions with congressional Democrats.
“When people go without a second paycheck, which is coming next Thursday, and they hit the beginning of the month of February, there are mortgages due, their rent is due, other bills are due,” Warner told reporters during a visit to the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s food distribution center in Nauck today (Friday). “That’s when things get really bad… And what’s happening in our region, it’s already a crisis. But this is going to be a crisis that spreads all across the country. “
Warner pointed out that Congress and Trump could at least agree to provide back pay for furloughed workers, but he warned that restitution alone “doesn’t make you whole.” He’s already heard stories from people taking out loans to make it through the shutdown, or missing payments and seeing their credit scores take a hit.
And he’s especially concerned about federal contractors, which include not only high-priced tech workers but people working in cafeterias or custodial services, who may not make much money.
Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, told ARLnow that “many of the contractors who are most affected are our clients already.” He says the food bank has seen a “slight uptick” in interest since the shutdown started, and it began urging federal employees to swing by for free groceries, but he said that people who are already struggling to get by are the ones hardest hit by missing out on paychecks.
“We serve the working poor, and that includes many of the people who work for the government indirectly but are just hanging on,” Meng said. “Something like this happens, and it really hurts them.”
Warner notes that the shutdown will likely spell big trouble for Metro the longer it drags on. WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld told the D.C.’s regions senators yesterday (Thursday) that keeping federal workers at home is prompting a steep drop in ridership, costing the rail service about $400,000 per day.
It doesn’t help matters either that federal officials haven’t been able to reimburse Metro for about $33 million in expenses it has incurred over the course of the shutdown, an amount Wiedefeld estimates could balloon to $50 million by the end of the month. He warned that Metro would need to start relying on its line of credit to afford major capital improvements soon enough, or simply delay badly needed projects.
“In a way, it’s like Metro can’t catch a break,” Warner said. “Finally, the region stepped up, Virginia, Maryland, the District to provide additional, dedicated funding for Metro. Now we’ve got this crisis, not due to Metro’s performance but due to the government shutdown. It’s going to put Metro even further behind.”
Warner says Democrats are “absolutely” willing to negotiate on increased border security measures with the White House to end this standoff — but only if Trump agrees to open the government back up first.
“If you reward this bad behavior, he will try this again, he will try this again with spending bills going forward,” Warner said. “You don’t reward a bully.”
Warner points out that a bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter to Trump, urging him to fund the government for three weeks to let negotiations to start back up. But that effort fizzled, and he says it was “disappointing” to discover that the White House was actively pressuring Republicans not to sign on to that push.
“It’s tough if you’re a Republican senator to sign onto a letter, even a reasonable letter, when you’ve got folks like Jared Kushner and others lobbying against it,” Warner said.
Broadly, he believes Trump is hanging over the whole debate. Even though the Senate already voted unanimously to fund the government before Trump started demanding money for a border wall, Warner feels his Republican colleagues haven’t been willing to take action for straightforward political reasons: “You’ve got a lot of Republicans who are afraid of upsetting the president.”
So even as Republicans privately tell Warner that they’d like to end the shutdown, he doesn’t see much hope for any resolution soon. And that, he says, sits squarely on Trump’s shoulders.
“The president has said he was proud to own this shutdown,” Warner said. “This will be part of his legacy, which is already the worst legacy in modern American history.”
Spike Mendelsohn Planning New Restaurants in Crystal City — “Already in National Landing with Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza, Mendelsohn has a letter of interest out for two new spaces. One will bring his Mexican taco shop already on Capitol Hill, Santa Rosa, to Virginia. Another is a new concept: fried chicken.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Shutdown May Fry Local Economy — “Come February — perhaps by the beginning of the month, probably the middle and definitely by the end — the financial, occupational and psychological impact of this now-record government shutdown will go from the theoretical to the very, very real.” [Washington Business Journal]
Trump Signs Shutdown Backpay Bill — President Trump has signed a bill championed by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) that will provide backpay to federal employees affected by the government shutdown. Now Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are working to provide a similar guarantee for low-wage federal contractors. [Federal News Network]
JBG’s ‘Brutally Honest’ Amazon Pitch — A quote attributed to JBG Smith Chief Development Officer Kai Reynolds, talking about his pitch to Amazon’s HQ2 team: “So we literally sat down at 8 in the morning, and I started the presentation by saying ‘I’ve lived [in this region] a number of years, I had never been [to Crystal City]. While it’s better than I thought, it’s kind of a shithole.'” [Bisnow]
Snow May Disrupt Evening Commute — “The main band of snow is likely to come through during the evening and overnight hours. As the onset of snow may coincide with the evening commute, especially in our western areas, build in extra time to get home or consider leaving a little early to beat the rush. Some slick spots could develop, especially on untreated roads.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
Nearby: Attempted Kidnapping in Georgetown — “As she neared her front door about 5 p.m. Tuesday, a woman grabbed the child from behind and tried to abduct her, D.C. police said. The girl fought back and broke free. The nanny in the car screamed, and the woman ran.” [Washington Post]
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has never been much of a fan of the name “Crystal City.”
As a longtime Alexandria resident, the state’s senior senator has had to spend plenty of time in and around the Arlington neighborhood that will soon become home to Amazon’s vaunted new headquarters, all the while rolling his eyes at its moniker.
“I’m not sure ‘National Landing’ should be the name, but I’d be so glad to get rid of ‘Crystal City,'” Warner quipped Thursday (Dec. 13) at a roundtable discussion hosted at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus.
Luckily, his colleague on stage, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), had an alternative suggestion for the Crystal City-Pentagon City-Potomac Yard corridor ready to go: “Warner Plaza,” he said, prompting a round of laughter from the crowd of Northern Virginia business leaders and politicians.
That light-hearted banter aside, both senators acknowledged that the county will soon face far more dire problems than just naming its neighborhoods. Kaine and Warner both see Amazon’s impending arrival as a huge net positive for the county, and the state as a whole, but they also expressed a desire to take some action to help address the thorny issue of affordable housing in the area.
Kaine sees room for Congress to lend a hand, perhaps by expanding the federal “Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.”
The program is designed to incentivize affordable development, and Kaine teamed up with Democrats and Republicans alike to introduce a bill last year expanding its funding by 50 percent. His office estimates it would create or preserve 1.3 million affordable homes over the next decade, about 400,000 more than would be possible under the program’s current funding levels.
“We don’t have to recreate the wheel,” Kaine said. “We can take things that work and do more of them. It’s already a good program to create workforce housing, but we can do more of it.”
Considering the county’s challenges finding cash for its own affordable housing loan fund, more help from the feds would likely come as quite welcome news indeed for Arlington leaders. But, despite its bipartisan support, Kaine’s legislation on the subject has yet to make any progress.
Warner envisions a more local approach to the matter. While the state already has its own housing development authority, which is set to pour tens of millions more into affordable housing initiatives as part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed deal with Amazon, Warner thinks the area’s localities could stand to team up as well.
“I think there needs to be work done on a regional housing authority to make sure there will be affordable housing, and make sure people don’t get pushed out of their homes,” Warner said.
Warner does expect, however, that Congress can help out by ensuring stable federal funding for Metro in 2019.
Though the rail service did manage to score its first dedicated revenue stream this year, thanks to commitments from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. lawmakers, it remains subject to the whims of Congress for another $150 million or so in cash each year. And with Amazon bringing thousands of workers to the area, many of whom will likely rely on the Blue and Yellow lines to reach the offices, Metro’s health has been a key focus as officials look to prepare for the company’s arrival.
As Democrats prepare to assume control of the House of Representatives, Warner fully expects the “odds and leverage [for more Metro funding] will go up” next year. But that doesn’t mean he’s counting on adding more federal funds for the service, either, considering that Republicans still control most levers of power in D.C.
“I would love to say we could plus up that number, but I don’t think that’s in the cards with this Senate and this president,” Warner said. “But if we can get $150 million again, let’s take the money and run.”
Beyond the housing and transportation challenges Amazon may well exacerbate in the area, Warner echoed the views of his colleagues around the state that the new headquarters will be a “game changer” for the region.
With such high office vacancy rates even in a prosperous part of the state like Arlington, Warner says the region had a “level of vulnerability that I’m not sure the whole business community appreciated” before Amazon tabbed Arlington. Of course, he hopes that that tech company doesn’t simply bring prosperity for Northern Virginia when it gets here.
“I know it’s a little bit of heresy to say with an Arlington crowd, but I hope to find some Amazon contractors and partners to put jobs downstate too,” Warner said. “As the commonwealth makes a substantial investment, an investment that is about one quarter per job what New York overpaid for, by the way, we need to show that it will benefit the whole commonwealth.”
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.”
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.
Today I visited an ICE detention facility outside Baltimore with @Call_Me_Dutch.
There we spoke for an hour with two fathers, Carlos and Mario, who had been separated from their children, a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, for months.
What they told us was so disturbing: pic.twitter.com/MZTifSlKzc
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) June 19, 2018
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.
Today I'm recalling four Virginia National Guard soldiers and one helicopter from Arizona. Virginia will not devote any resource to border enforcement actions that support the inhumane policy of separating children from their parents. https://t.co/AmdbE0XoFi
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) June 19, 2018
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
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.