Salem now has a new member of Congress.
Rep. Ben Cline, a Republican who represents Virginia’s 6th Congressional District, now represents the city after redistricting moved the boundaries of Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, which is represented by Rep. Morgan Griffith.
Cline won the ability to represent Salem in November’s general election after defeating Democratic challenger Jennifer Lewis by nearly 29% of the vote.
The Fincastle resident was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, after having represented the 24th District in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2002-2018.
In an interview with The Salem Times-Register last week, Cline said he’s looking forward to representing Salem.
“Morgan Griffith is a good friend and a great leader in Congress and a Salem native,” Cline said. “He continues to serve the people of the 9th District from his residence in Salem. We’ll be a great team for Salem. I’ve joked that Salem will be one of the few communities with two congressmen representing it and looking out for it.”
Cline said he has learned a lot about Salem’s history and priorities from Griffith. He added that the campaign also helped him obtain a good understanding of the community.
Some of the concerns he heard while on the campaign trail had to do with inflation and government overreach in education. He noted his positions on the House Committee on the Budget and House Committee on Appropriations will allow him to attempt to “right the fiscal ship of state.”
He also heard about infrastructure and transportation. “Making sure the folks in Salem aren’t bottled up in traffic jams. Those kinds of reforms are important,” he said.
“I look forward to serving Salem and taking the interests and concerns of the people of Salem to Washington,” he said.
This year marks Cline’s first time being in the majority since joining Congress.
“I got to spend all of my time in the state house in the majority. It was really a shock coming into the minority and Nancy Pelosi’s house. We had to face intense partisanship as we fought against a number of bills that ignored conservative input,” he said.
Cline said his conference wants to avoid what he characterized as “the same mistakes that Nancy Pelosi’s team made.”
He added that the Republican conference wants to respect its colleagues, even when there is disagreement. “We can achieve more by listening and respecting our colleagues because each one of us represents 750,000 constituents,” he said.
Despite being in the majority, Cline has concerns about the legislative process.
“I continue to have concerns about the way that things work in Washington, the partisanship and the division,” he said. “We do have to change how Washington works and sometimes that means upsetting the apple cart.”
Cline pointed to the delay in the election of Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA—20) as speaker of the House of Representatives as being “chaotic,” but noted that “it was important to make sure that we locked in important reforms to the process” so that a more conservative agenda can be achieved by the body.
He’s hopeful that his caucus can reach agreements with Democrats on areas of common interest, like veteran services, transportation and infrastructure.
“I’m optimistic because there are people who are in Congress on both sides of the aisle who do want to work together to make the place function better,” he said. “That starts with getting our fiscal house in order.”
At the time of the interview, Cline said he was getting ready to introduce a bipartisan bill to address the regulatory bureaucracy, specifically regulations that he said are harmful to businesses. He said regulations are “being churned out of Washington by lower-level bureaucrats.”
He explained that the courts have found that major regulations need to be approved by agency heads. The bill he is putting forward will prevent such regulations from being issued by the types of lower-level officials he mentioned.
“Every regulation that comes out of an agency has to have a signature or the endorsement of the head of that agency,” he said of the aims of the bill. “That’s hopefully going to curb a lot of these runaway regulations and some of the excessive actions made by some of the unnamed bureaucrats.”
Due to its bipartisan nature, Cline said thinks it will likely pass on the suspension calendar. He hopes the suggestion will be viewed by the Biden Administration as being helpful instead combative.
“I think everyone agrees there are too many regulations coming out of Washington,” he said. “This is a commonsense solution that everybody should be able to support.”
He’s also working on a bill related to small business regulations. It aims to require that when regulations are drafted, information related to how they will impact small businesses has to be gathered.
“One of the things these agencies have a disconnect with is small business that they often impact. The costs aren’t considered by these agencies when they’re promulgating these regulations,” he said. He pointed to employees being fired and the growth of businesses being restrained as two downsides of regulation that aren’t often considered. “Requiring these agencies to actually measure how much their regulations impact small businesses would help to rein in some of the aggressiveness of the regulatory bureaucracy.”
He described the second bill as being a “twin” to the first one.
Cline noted he will be scheduling a series of town halls in the near future in each of the jurisdictions he represents. He plans to hold the first group of meetings in the jurisdictions that are newly incorporated into the 6th District, then will proceed to hold additional meetings in the jurisdictions he has already been representing.
Cline noted that although his legislative work is important, he doesn’t want his constituents to forget about the services that his office makes available to them.
“If it touches the federal government and constituents are having problems with red tape, my office can help,” he said. “If folks have any issues, I’m more than happy to help.”
His downtown Roanoke office serves Roanoke, Roanoke County and Salem.