U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, who represents the rural and agricultural western part of Virginia, has introduced three government reform bills with Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips, who represents the often-chilly suburbs and exurbs north, west and south of Minneapolis, Minn.
“We’re from different parties, but we’re Americans first,” Cline said. “And we want a bright future for our kids and for future generations, not just in our own district, but across the country.”
One of the bills that Cline and Phillips introduced would establish a 48-hour period for politicians and their staff to look through the text of bills before they go to a vote.
“This is already something we’ve seen in the last year and a half where [political] leadership rushes bills to the floor and we’re given very little time to review them,” Cline said.
Cline’s office receives feedback from district residents “all the time” about bills making their way through the legislative process, he said.
“We’re blessed in the 6th District with nearly two dozen institutions of higher education, so the district is very engaged and attentive to the legislative process and brings bills to my attention daily,” Cline said.
He said having more eyes on bills is positive for the government.
“This helps to leverage the American people to help us review these bills and identify problems or pork or something that’s being slipped by,” Cline said.
Another of Cline and Phillips’ bills would update the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which was originally passed in 1995 and has not been updated in more than 10 years, according to Cline’s office.
The bill would increase the number of people who would have to register as a lobbyist and and have enforcement of lobbying laws be conducted by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office instead of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant to corruption in Washington and the more the American people can learn about who is lobbying in Washington and who is being lobbied in Washington by the various special interests,” Cline said. “It helps the citizens regain control of their government from the various special interests that are dominating Washington right now.”
The third reform bill from Cline and Phillips would consolidate government data centers and require federal agencies to keep an eye on software purchases and resources to reduce unnecessary costs, as well as require documents be electronically sent to the National Archives and Records Administration to streamline requests and data access.
Cline said there are many things that brought him and Phillips together, even though Cline’s 6th District is considered solidly Republican and Phillip’s 3rd House District Minnesota seat is considered solidly Democratic by the Cook Political Report.
“It doesn’t just start and stop with government reform initiatives,” Cline said, adding they talk about sports, though they root for different teams, and their families.
However, they still have different principles that they do not always agree on or back down from, he said.
“We can in some issues disagree, without being disagreeable,” Cline said.
There is “pressure” for U.S. politicians to not work with other representatives from the opposite party, according to Cline.
“The pressure doesn’t come from here in the [6th] District. It comes from national media,” Cline said.
Some members of both the Republican and Democratic parties also put pressure on their members to not reach out to opposing party members, according to Cline.
“The trick has been, over the past year and a half, to identify those people who you can work with like Dean [Phillips] and try to make the most of those opportunities and steer clear of those who either make partisan politics their primary goal or are trying to interfere with bipartisan progress instead of contribute to it,” Cline said.
Residents of the 6th District do not share that kind of partisan rancor, according to Cline.
“I’ve never had a constituent say ‘You shouldn’t try and work across the aisle to get things done,’” Cline said.
The House of Representatives is out of session and slated to return after Labor Day.
Cline was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and is facing two challengers to retain his seat in this November’s election. Nicholas Betts, a Lexington law clerk, is the Democratic Party’s candidate for the spot and Aaron Luciani, a Roanoke businessman, is running as an independent.
Phillips could not be reached for comment Wednesday.