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Wittman's Weekly: Washington Wins and Losses
Washington, December 12, 2020
My focus as your Representative in Congress is to work on behalf of the people of the First District and their top concerns, and I will continue to serve as a strong supporter and vocal advocate for these ideas and principles to make sure our priorities are being addressed in Congress and we make progress toward their completion. Before you begin your holiday break, I wanted to ensure you know what’s happening in Washington and how I am advocating on your behalf.
Win: House Passage of Bipartisan NDAA
Congress’ first duty is to ensure a strong military and robust national defense to protect the homeland. For too long our military has been crippled by a readiness crisis, and it has come at far too high a cost—the lives of our men and women in uniform. Earlier this week, I was proud to see the House pass, with my support, this year’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21 NDAA). After a months-long process of negotiations and discussions, made more difficult by the logistical impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am proud to have supported such a bipartisan piece of legislation and am thrilled that the House passed this vital bill – I call on my colleagues in the Senate to do the most good for our servicemember by passing this bill.
The FY21 NDAA supports our military community both throughout our nation and here in the Commonwealth. Our area is home to one of the largest populations of military members, their families, and the hardworking Americans who develop and support the platforms, systems, and programs that our warfighters use to execute their critical missions around the globe. Advocating for our military community is one of my highest honors in Washington, and I am proud of the provisions in the FY21 NDAA that put our military community first. For more information, click here.
Win: US Navy’s 30-year Shipbuilding Plan
On Thursday, the US Navy released its updated 30-year shipbuilding plan. This 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan is all about implementing the National Defense Strategy as it pertains to Great Powers Competition. I am pleased with the Navy’s focus on maximizing our asymmetrical advantages with a focus on attack submarines while simultaneously shoring up our weaknesses by increasing our logistics fleet. It appropriately adjusts the 355-ship goal to a force structure that envisions a 403-ship manned requirement with expanded manned and unmanned teaming.
While this plan puts our nation on the right track for dominating the seas, we must recognize that we are in a difficult budgeting environment. But one thing is for certain: our budgeting decisions must be as flexible as the strategies we hope to fund, and nothing should be off the table. This 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan is the right plan at the right time. It is good for our nation, our service members, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. I look forward to working with the Navy and the Department of Defense to turn this plan into reality.
Win: House Passage of the Long Bridge Act of 2020
I am so glad to see the passage of my vitally important legislation, The Long Bridge Act of 2020. Commuter rail is an important component to reducing traffic congestion in Northern Virginia. Long Bridge, which spans the Potomac River between Virginia and Washington, D.C., is a critical gateway between southeast and northeast rail networks that carries all Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, and CSX traffic.
A new Long Bridge will ease congestion along the I-95 corridor and cut down on the commuter travel time that plagues many VA-01 residents. Constituents in my district rely on the services of Amtrak and the VRE to commute throughout Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Fredericksburg. The current Long Bridge structure is the primary constraint limiting VRE’s ability to operate more passenger trains which could significantly reduce traffic in Northern Virginia and help with the commutes of First District residents. The construction of a separate passenger-only bridge will also allow freight to move more freely from the Port of Virginia, taking thousands of large trucks off of Virginia roadways. I am proud to see this legislation pass the House today, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this legislation quickly to do the most good for the people of our region. Click here to read more.
Win: Rural Digital Opportunity Funding
Earlier this week, the FCC released results of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase 1. Phase 1 allocates $9.2 Billion to close the Digital Divide in 49 States, including Virginia. Click here for an interactive map. RDOF Phase 1 will provide over $238 million to 16 different bidders and connect about 186,475 homes and businesses across the Commonwealth of Virginia, many of whom are in the First District.
I am thrilled with the work done by the FCC to execute a successful Phase 1 auction. These dollars will go a long way to connecting millions of rural Americans who need broadband connection the most. This auction is the single largest step ever taken to bridge the digital divide. To ensure compliance and to maximize taxpayer dollars, the winning recipients must meet a number of development milestones that will require them to reach all assigned homes and businesses by the end of the sixth year. I look forward to working with the FCC to ensure the success of the RDOF Phase 1 auction and will hold them accountable to work towards an effective Phase 2 which will target partially served areas with $11.2 billion.
Loss: Continuing Resolutions
The House voted on a Continuing Resolution (CR) on Wednesday. This simply means that rather than buckling down and getting the work of the people done, Speaker Pelosi’s irresponsible legislating continues to hold the American people hostage. The American people do not want to be fretting about government funding a few days before Christmas – they need tangible relief, a clear path forward into 2021, a guidepost on the road to recovery. Instead, House Democrats play partisan politics while the people pay the price.
While it does avert a government shutdown, it only serves as a Band-Aid on a broken leg. House Democratic Leadership has chosen to kick the can down the road of providing additional relief for hardworking Americans, small businesses, and frontline healthcare workers. It also means we will face another funding deadline on December 18th, at which point we will face another budget crisis: passing spending bills and fulling funding our government or passing another CR and continuing the broken budgeting cycle.
Members of Congress should be held accountable for their inaction. That is why I believe we should immediately pass my legislation called the Inaction Has Consequences Act that says if Members don’t complete appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year, they don’t get a paycheck. If my legislation were to become law, we would not find ourselves in these shutdown or stop-gap funding scenarios. Congress should feel the same pressure our federal employees have felt.
Loss: Still No Relief for Small Businesses
On Thursday at 11:30 am, I joined my colleagues for a press conference to discuss House Democrats’ unwillingness to immediately extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and provide critical relief for small businesses who desperately need it. As Speaker Pelosi admitted a few days ago, she is waiting until we seat a new president to pass meaningful legislation. For example, we’ve already lost over 100,000 restaurants through the US, never to reopen.
The American People deserve a House of Representatives that will do what’s needed, but House Democrats have blocked over 40 attempts by House Republicans to deliver much needed aid to American small businesses and workers. I have called on Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats to release the $138 billion in unused PPP funds that could be helping small businesses and their workers.
This should not be a partisan football. I call on Speaker Pelosi to end her hypocrisy. Now.
With only a few days left in the year, I willing continue to tackle these critical challenges facing the Commonwealth and the nation. You elected me to fight on your behalf in Washington, and I hope to bring you a lot more “wins” in the new year. God bless.