With Trump and his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, intent on leading “a deconstruction of the administrative state,” Virginians in the 10th Congressional District have great cause to worry. Statistically, Virginia has been a top state for federal employment and has consistently ranked in the top five states in the nation for workers employed by the government.
That may soon change. On Monday, Trump issued an Executive Order setting forth a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch, which calls for a complete overhaul of agency organization, and to “eliminate unnecessary agencies …, components of agencies, and agency programs.”
In advance of Thursday’s expected release of Trump’s budget proposal, the Washington Post writes that the resulting lay-offs would “be felt sharply in the Washington area.” Drawing from data provided by “an economic analysis by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, the reductions outlined so far by Trump’s advisers would reduce employment in the region by 1.8 percent and personal income by 3.5 percent, and lower home prices by 1.9 percent.”
These cuts would reverberate down the chain of government: from an increase in the payouts of federal and state unemployment benefits, the reduction of county revenue streams, and a curtailment of already-strained school budgets (which depend on income and property taxes). “We’re sort of adopting a budget this year with a bit of a blindfold on,” said Sharon Bulova (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, when asked about the shifting priorities coming from the Trump administration.
As the Congressional Representative for VA-10, it is up to Congresswoman Barbara Comstock to look out for these federal employees and their families. For it is not just these thousands of residents who depend on her, but also the businesses they patronize, and the schools in which they enroll their children – even the roads they drive on. Everything depends on Ms. Comstock standing up for her district.
The question remains, will she represent her constituents to Congress, or will she continue “representing Congress to her constituents” as one discouraged constituent recently wrote on Facebook. When one federal employee questioned Comstock on her vote for the Holman Rule (which allows Congress to target and slash employee salaries to $1 per year) she answered, “I voted for it but don’t support it. It’s only in place for one year – hopefully it isn’t abused.” Because it was a tele-Town Hall event, no one was allowed to ask any follow-up questions, and no further statements on the subject have been released.
Just yesterday, Ms. Comstock spoke at the National Active and Federal Employees Association (NARFE) Legislative Training Conference, where she was able to highlight her bipartisan co-sponsorship of H.R. 711 (from 2015) to eliminate the WEP penalty, which the organization says “unfairly reduces earned Social Security benefits based on government employment. NARFE supports WEP reform efforts along the lines of the original version of Chairman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) bill, H.R. 711 (114th Congress), which provided significant relief for current retirees who have been unfairly penalized by this provision for years.” Two years later, this bill is still in the subcommittee on social security. Ms. Comstock has released no statements urging her colleagues to move forward with this important legislation this session.
When NARFE thanked Comstock for her support at the conference, one member responded, “Barbara Comstock is not our friend. She’s been silent while the current Administration demeaned civil servants and demonized dedicated Intelligence Community employees. We can, and must, find a champion who will stand fast for us and our brothers and sisters.”
Paired with a drawdown on agencies that may be as drastic as 18-20% in some cases (such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Commerce Department), The Washington Post reports that Trump has indicated that he plans to shift funding to military expenditures to the tune of “$54 billion, [and divert] more money to start building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, and the creation of new initiatives that expand access to charter schools and other educational programs.”
Also expected to benefit from this change in spending priorities is the cybersecurity industry, of which Ms. Comstock is an avid fan. As she told the Washington Post back in February, “’That’s one area that will be very positive,’ said Rep. Barbara Comstock (Va.), the only Republican in the local congressional delegation.” Although Comstock criticized Trump’s federal hiring freeze for not being “strategic,” she predicted that his plans to lower taxes and reduce regulations would create jobs throughout the nation, including in the Washington region.
“Getting the economy going again is going to be the single most important thing,” she said.
She continues to post photo-ops with technology firms throughout her district, such as one at Haystax Technology, from yesterday:
Supporting the technology industry is not a bad thing, to be sure. But note the difference in her tone, in contrast to her post on NARFE. She had nothing to say about the imminent contraction of this vital workforce of federal employees. Only that she values the relationship and conversations.
Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s support of the sizeable federal workforce in her district has been tepid at best, disingenuous at worst. As the commenter above said, our district needs a champion, not lip-service from a 100% Trump-aligned elected official.
At the very least, we need a representative who stridently rejects the notion that “getting the economy going again” can happen concurrently with drastic cuts in federal employment in our district.