‘With new Congress, Virginia is losing clout’

By Lynn R. Mitchell

When veteran Virginia congressmen James P. Moran, a Democrat, and Frank R. Wolf, a Republican, announced their plans to retire, then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., had a plan to mitigate the damage. He would make the case that the commonwealth should get one and possibly two new seats on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Then Cantor lost his primary.

In January, Virginia will have gained three new members in Congress — but lost 71 years of seniority, including a valuable stronghold in Republican leadership.

That was the beginning of a comprehensive article that recently ran in the Washington Post by political reporter Rachel Weiner.

When Virginia lost Congressman Eric Cantor, all Virginians lost, not just the 7th Congressional District that Cantor very effectively represented.

Sadly, the right has a radical faction that is much like the radical left — loud, obnoxious, ignorant that Cantor’s leadership reached beyond the 7th District, and even dancing on the grave of former D.C. mayor Marion Berry who died this weekend.

The truth of the matter is, seniority counts. Cantor was the second most powerful Republican in Congress. Now we have a freshman in the 7th, and a freshman (Barbara Comstock who was elected to replace retiring Frank Wolf) in the 10th. Ms. Weiner continued:

Perhaps just as bad, Virginia’s and Maryland’s entire Senate delegation is Democratic — and poised to enter the minority with the GOP’s dramatic sweep of last week’s elections. One of them, Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), will lose her post as head of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Federal workers and contractors in the region have already been badly hurtby two rounds of sequestration budget cuts. Now, with another budget battle looming and Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, two incoming House members from Virginia — Don Beyer (D) and Barbara J. Comstock (R) — will be fighting an uphill battle for the estimated 172,493 government workers in their combined districts.

The problem is that they’re all Democrats in a Congress where both chambers will soon be led by Republicans, and their combined experience won’t lead to much influence. The entire Maryland delegation will have only one member from the majority party — Rep. Andy Harris (R), a conservative whose politics and leadership aspirations make him unlikely to stand up for the state’s federal largesse

“You can have impact in small ways, but it takes years” to build power on Capitol Hill, said Steve Stombres, a top Cantor aide. “They’re not going to be the ones making those decisions for a long time.”

… as the committee seat negotiations show, [Cantor] was willing to help his delegation in some crucial ways. He was a forceful advocate for defense spending, which supports about 40 percent of southeastern Virginia’s economy. He pushed privately for federal funds for high-speed rail in the state and loan guarantees for shipbuilding.

… the atmosphere in Congress already makes it hard for anyone to do much for their constituents, said Stephen Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.

“In the days of earmarks, [Moran and Wolf] really did well for us,” Fuller said. Now, he says, given that Maryland and Virginia ranked near the bottom of all states in economic growth last year, “if these guys are working for us, maybe it’s time that they leave.”

Ahh, Virginia … you didn’t even realize what you had.  Buyers remorse is going to be tough on this one.


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