News From Congressman Ben Cline
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Sixth District Perspectives
with Congressman Ben Cline

    Americans have become used to two things in December - the holiday season and a looming government shutdown right before Christmas. This year was no different. After being called back to Washington for an additional week of legislative business, Congressional leaders still could not reach a long-term deal to keep the government open and secure additional COVID-19 relief. However, despite the inefficiencies of Congress, we were able to pass historic legislation supporting female veterans this week. Further, I was pleased to see the Senate pass my bill protecting inventors and look forward to it being signed by the President. Finally, with FDA approval of two separate vaccines, hopefully we have arrived at the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Update:

    After months of tireless efforts by doctors and researchers, a COVID-19 vaccine is finally here - two of them in fact. This week not only did Pfizer begin distribution and inoculation of its vaccine, which was approved late-last week, but the FDA granted Moderna an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its vaccine as well. According to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, based on the distribution plan outlined by Operation Warp Speed, 20 million individuals will be vaccinated this month, 50 million people will have received the vaccine by the end of January, and 100 million will have gotten it by the end of February. 

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Coronavirus Telephone Town Hall:

      As a Member of Congress, a top priority of mine is to be accessible to the constituents of the Sixth District. For this reason, I made a commitment to hold town halls throughout the District to hear first-hand from those I represent and bring their views back to Washington. While I enjoy in-person town hall meetings and hosted 25 of them prior to the pandemic, state gathering restrictions currently prohibit me from doing them. While not preferable, I have hosted an additional six telephone town halls during the pandemic. On Monday, December 21 (tomorrow), at 6:30pm I will be hosting my seventh telephone town hall. This event will focus on COVID-19 and the recently approved vaccines. I will be joined by two special guests – Representative Phil Roe, the Chairman of the Congressional Doctor’s Caucus, and Dr. Laura Kornegay, Health Director for Central Shenandoah Health District. To participate, register at cline.house.gov/live or dial (855) 933-0825 during the event. I look forward to an informative event and hope you will join me. 

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Small Business Visits:

        Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been committed to visiting small businesses across the Sixth District to hear first-hand of their experiences. These meetings have demonstrated how economically devastating the state government-mandated restrictions have been. Here in Washington I have echoed their pleas to safely lift the lockdowns in order to save jobs and get our kids back in school. This week, I had the chance to visit Yelping Dog Wine and Skipping Rock Beer Co., both in Staunton. There I listened to both the owners and employees to gain a better understanding of how the pandemic has affected their lives and livelihoods. I will continue meeting with business owners and others impacted by the pandemic to ensure their requests for help are heard in DC. 

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Patents for Humanity:

         In late-June I was pleased to introduce and have the House unanimously pass the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s “Patents for Humanity" competition recognizes inventors who develop creative solutions to global humanitarian problems. Through this competition, the USPTO awards inventors with a certificate for an accelerated review of a future patent. The Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act supports this program and the innovators it recognizes by making these acceleration certificates transferable while codifying the program into law. Smaller companies and the USPTO encourage the growth of this vital program. This bill increases the power of the program to encourage those seeking to make global change to pursue their innovations, as well as the opportunity for similarly-sized start-ups to receive a certificate via transfer. Innovations recognized in the past by the program have included better ways to diagnose and treat HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases, improved crops and better sources of nutrition energy sources for those without a reliable electric grid, and methods to preserve clean drinking water and improve sanitation. I was excited for this legislation to be passed by the Senate this week, and I am looking forward to the President signing it into law. 

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Supporting Veterans:

     Currently, women veterans comprise the fastest growing demographic within the Veteran community, yet there is no consistency of services to meet the unique needs of females within the VA system. Fortunately, the Deborah Sampson Act, which passed in the House this week, seeks to change that. This legislation requires the VA to establish policies to report and respond to harassment and sexual assault at its facilities, establish a new VA Office of Women’s Health, expands services for veterans who experience intimate partner violence or military sexual trauma, and extends and expands VA assistance for veterans with newborns. This legislation is historic, and I was pleased that it passed in the House unanimously. In fact, this legislation had been rolled into a larger bill, the Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvements Act, which also expands education and training opportunities for transitioning service members and further ensures veterans impacted by COVID-19 have access to proper care. One of my top priorities as a Member of Congress is making certain that we take care of our service members, and this legislation continues that ongoing effort. 

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     Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431. 

     For the latest updates from Washington and across the Sixth District, please follow my Facebook and Twitter pages.

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