Commentary: Independent Progressive: What Do Our Electeds on Capitol Hill Do?

Commentary: Independent Progressive: What Do Our Electeds on Capitol Hill Do?

As I see the endless, disappointing news out of Washington, I often wonder what roles our elected defenders play in shaping it. By elected defenders, I mean those I hope are at least defending our interests, if not furthering them--U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and Congressmen from the 11th and 8th districts, Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer.

I don’t include Barbara Comstock of the 10th, a Republican who constantly, if not 100 percent of the time, votes rightward with Donald Trump and is unlikely to be defending interests of 99 percent of us.

Mine is a quite unscientific review of Electeds’ work and achievements. It is based on keeping eyes and ears open, reading WAPO and NYT, and watching a bit online and some TV news. I should note that my Electeds are all Democrats, hence in the minority, often playing defense with low legislative scores.

Surprisingly, Sen. Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has become a frequent and effective presence on network and cable news. He sharply criticizes Donald Trump and House Republican efforts to brand the Special Prosecutor’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, alleged collusion by the Trump campaign and related wrongdoing as a “witch hunt.” Further, he does so in a supportive, bipartisan way with the Committee’s Republican Chairman. While I am a critic of Warner on many issues, e.g., gun safety and non-support of organized labor, I commend him for his work to protect Democracy, the defining issue of today.

Our junior Senator, Tim Kaine, distinguished himself as candidate for Vice President, winning the popular vote but, alas, not the deciding Electoral College. Now he is enmeshed in another election—for re-election to the Senate against Virginia’s mini-Trump, Corey Stewart. Kaine needs to win this election, then redouble his efforts to demonstrate leadership and legislative acumen.

In this progressive’s opinion, Congressman Don Beyer is emerging as the leader of the pack. An exceptional intellect as well as a genuinely nice guy, Beyer has a strong resume: successful businessman, two-term Virginia Lt. Governor, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein, and four years in Congress. He is beginning to be recognized as a key national policy voice. His oversight of the Trump administration focuses on vital public policy concerns, inter alia, the environment (climate change in particular), soaring economic inequality, immigration, national security, and executive branch corruption.

Beyer was the first lawmaker to call for withdrawing Jared Kushner’s, Trump’s son-in-law and top “policy advisor,” security clearance for lying on his application. And, just last week, Beyer was the lead author of legislation calling for grant assistance to states to enhance election security against intrusion by the Russians in upcoming elections--only to be voted down by Republicans.

Since the Department of Justice’s latest attack on immigrants, the so-called “zero tolerance” policy began separating families at our borders, including tearing infants from parents and imprisoning children in detention centers around the country, Beyer has led congressional fact-finding efforts to reveal the impacts of this cruel policy. He has revealed detention centers here in our area, and the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton. In the latter there have been reports of children suffering “severe mistreatment and abuse” and being “routinely beaten while shackled.”

According to Beyer, “The sad truth is that many of these children will probably bear psychological scars throughout their lives from the trauma inflicted on them through Trump’s family separation policy.”

To see more of Rep. Beyer’s reports on the workings and impacts of the barbaric policies, follow Don Beyer on Twitter, or attend one of his town halls.

Like Don Beyer, Congressman Gerry Connolly is also running for re-election, for a sixth term, this year. Connolly, having worked as Foreign Affairs staff for several years, is now on the Foreign Affairs Committee where he is a sharp critic of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord. As Ranking member of the Oversight Committee on Government Operations, he has been a reliable critic of Trump’s environmental and education policies.