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Wittman’s Weekly: When shall we be stronger?

“They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? … Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.”

This quote comes from one of the greatest men in Virginia history, a patriot, a founding father, a native of Hanover County, and a man not known to mince words: Patrick Henry. He spoke these words during his famed “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, given in late March of 1775. The colonists of Virginia, and indeed all 13 colonies, were facing seemingly insurmountable odds; they were considering the then-unheard-of acts of Revolution and Independence. And yet they persevered. In the face of those odds, in the face of the dark times that followed, in the face of bleak winters and hot summers, the American spirit shone through. The United States, Americans, prevailed.

I have been reflecting on those words of Patrick Henry this week: “But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year?” Those questions have been in my mind as we face the uncertainty of the coming weeks, the coming year. 

Right now, our nation is facing many adversaries on many fronts. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought our nation’s economic growth and development to a standstill. It has resulted in the loss of more than 200,000 American lives, the closure of numerous small businesses, and a complete revolution in the way we operate on a day-to-day basis. 

It was recently announced that China now has the largest naval force in the world and has the capacity to outpace us for years if no action is taken. Additionally, they now have nuclear strike capability on our homeland. 

Millions of Americans do not have access to vital services like telemedicine, telelearning, and teleworking due to a lack of quality, high-speed broadband service. The economic and educational impact from this lack of service is immeasurable.

Thousands of people in our region sit each and every day in miles of traffic, waiting to move through one of the worst traffic hotspots in the nation. Freight and commuter traffic are delayed getting to their destinations which adds cost to businesses and consumers. Reducing and eliminating these delays also helps in creating cleaner air in these heavily trafficked regions.

And yet, even in the face of these challenges I ask, when are we more ready to face these issues? I’m reminded of another great quote from another founding father, Benjamin Franklin: “Look before, or you’ll find yourself behind.”

I am looking to our future, and I remaining steadfastly hopeful. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, folks of the First District have proven their resiliency. We have proven our ability to care for one another, to utilize the resources we need to manage these times, to ask for help when we need it and provide help when we can. It is this spirit that will see us through.

It is with this same spirit that I have been working and continue to work for you. That is why I have called on my colleagues in Congress to move on providing additional relief to Americans who need it most. I have joined a discharge petition to release millions of dollars in aid to small businesses and I will continue to call on my fellow Members in Congress to do the same and more.

Recently, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced Battle Force 2045, a new plan to expand and modernize our fleet to outpace our competitors and adversaries. Our fleet must be able to distribute lethality, adapt in a complex environment, and have the survivability necessary to engage in a high-end conflict—many aspects of this are highlighted in this Battle Force 2045 plan. Additionally, many of the specifics on how we will meet the challenges of the future, which I have been advocating for years, are in this plan. I look forward to working with Secretary Esper and the DoD in my role on the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee to make these a reality in the coming years. 

This year, I have continued my work to improve access to broadband services for all Virginians, building upon the work I have undertaken over the past decade. I firmly believe that we will see more done in the next two years than we have in the past ten, and much of that is thanks to the work I have done with stakeholders, elected officials, and members of the Administration over the past several years. I will continue to support localities as they apply for grants and work with providers to allow our localities to fully capitalize on the technology of the 21st Century. 

I currently have a bill before the House aimed at relieving congestion on our roadways, providing greater capacity for commuter and freight rail traffic. The Long Bridge Act of 2020 will allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge across the Potomac which increases rail capacity throughout the mid-Atlantic region. In conjunction with this bill, I advocated for a successful USDOT grant application from the Port of Virginia to increase their rail terminal capacity to get a greater number of trucks off the roadways while boosting our region’s economy.

Overcoming these challenges will not be easy, but they are all fights worth undertaking, and I look forward to continuing as your Representative, your fighter,  in the People’s House. It is my hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and House Democratic Leadership will work with the Republican minority to do what is best for the American people. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi continues to withhold vital relief for Americans in exchange for partisan talking points. Many radical members of the Democratic party have called for cuts to our nation’s defense, and key infrastructure funding continues to remain elusive. That said, I still remain hopeful that we can come together in bipartisan fashion to get the fight finished for the American people. 

It is obvious that our nation is currently facing disruptions, challenges, and uncertainty, but we are reminded that in our nation’s tumultuous past, the American spirit has shone through and I believe that will continue. It is an honor to serve as your Representative in the People’s House.  When will our nation be stronger? Will it be next week? Next month? Next year? One thing is certain: our nation will once again be stronger, we shall recover; but to achieve that the time to act is now.