The Postal Distribution Center in Merrifield has been drawn into a national debate over the future of the United States Postal Service.
In a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Congressman Gerald E. Connolly demanded access to mail facilities for himself and all Members of Congress to oversee operations. Connolly serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations
“I write to reiterate my request for immediate access to the Postal Distribution Center in Merrifield, Virginia — as well as access for my Congressional colleagues to other postal facilities,” Connolly wrote. “Oversight of Postal Service operations is more important now than ever, particularly in light of the troubling findings of the Inspector General that actions taken by Postal Service officials slowed postal operations nationwide in the midst of a global pandemic and economic collapse.”
Connolly said in the letter that he requested access after the Inspector General reported slowed operations at the agency.
“This letter follows my October 2, 2020, request for a tour of the Merrifield Postal Distribution Center in my Congressional District, as well as my October 13 letter requesting your new legal analysis of the Hatch Act, which you baselessly claim prevents Members of Congress from visiting Postal Service facilities within 45 days of an election,” Connolly wrote.
The letter continues with a rebuttle to an argument fron DeJoy that the Hatch Act would prevent Connolly from inspecting the USPS facility. According to the letter:
The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the committee of jurisdiction for the Postal Service in the House of Representatives, and the Subcommittee on Government Operations has been charged with overseeing postal operations. As Chairman of the Subcommittee, I have a responsibility to oversee postal operations–which includes having access to postal facilities, managers, and employees–and this responsibility does not cease merely because an election is approaching. I did not seek access to the Merrifield facility in my capacity as a candidate for office, but rather to discharge my official duties as a Member of Congress and a Member of the Oversight Committee.
On October 20, 2020, you sent a letter citing new Postal Service guidance that you claim was approved by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Yet OSC–the principal enforcement agency of the Hatch Act–has made it clear that the Hatch Act does not prohibit federal employees from allowing Members of Congress to tour federal facilities for an official purpose. According to your own letter, the portions of your Hatch Act policies that you claim OSC did not object to did not include your policy of prohibiting Members of Congress from postal facilities.
A spokesperson for the USPS said that they were aware of the pending request from Connolly and planned to respond directly, though what answer they were planning to give was not clarified.
“We are aware of the Congressman’s most recent request and plan to respond again directly,” said Martha Johnson, senior public relations representative for USPS.
In an email to Tysons Reporter, Connolly said inspecting the USPS facility in Merrifield was about restoring public trust.
“The Postmaster General’s partisan and political actions have eroded trust and caused nationwide concern about the USPS,” Connolly said. “Congress has a responsibility and constitutional duty to provide oversight, and that includes seeing on the ground how operations are being affected by Mr. DeJoy’s reckless changes”
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While local representatives were quick to call for Gov. Ralph Northam’s resignation over a blackface controversy, the public response has been slower to controversies involving Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District), who made headlines last year when she unseated Republican Barbara Comstock, expressed unequivocal support for Vanessa Tyson, who accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004.
I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (@RepWexton) February 6, 2019
Congressional Reps. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and Gerry Connolly (D-11th District) have been silent so far on the accusations against Fairfax.
Other local representatives, like State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District), shared a neutral statement from VA Senate Democrats but have made no other public comment.
"The facts here are still being determined. Every individual deserves the opportunity to be heard, and we respect anyone who comes forward to share their story."
— VA Senate Democrats (@VASenateDems) February 5, 2019
The National Organization for Women, however, did call for Fairfax’s resignation Wednesday.
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(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) The longest federal government shutdown in the county’s history has, at least for now, come to a close. Tysons’ state and federal representatives — who are all Democrats — are expressing relief at the shutdown’s closure but with harsh condemnation of President Trump.
Tysons, Vienna and Merrifield are represented by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District). Connolly was one of the first local representatives to comment on the news and called the decision long overdue.
— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) January 25, 2019
With the shutdown ending, for now, Connolly announced today that he has introduced — with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — the Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act of 2019, “which would bring the 2019 pay increase for civilian federal employees in line with the raise given to members of the military.”
Pimmit Hills and parts of McLean are represented by Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), who criticized Trump for waiting so long to back the deal proposed in December.
“I’m grateful that the shutdown will end soon, but I do not understand why it happened at all,” Beyer wrote in a statement. “Why did President Trump inflict this shutdown on the country?… It inflicted extreme pain on the people I represent, and there was no reason for it. As the president approaches the new deadline he just agreed to for the expiration of government funding, he must think of people besides himself. This must never happen again.”
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District) expressed concerns over the long term impacts of the shutdown.
“Hundreds of thousands of Americans will never recover from Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell’s petty power play,” Wexton wrote in a statement. “They should apologize for all suffering they inflicted on federal workers, contractors, and everyone who was impacted by their senseless shutdown. This debacle accomplished nothing other than to lower our nation’s standing in the world and attack our already overburdened federal workforce.”
Even with the shutdown ended, Professor Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, warned that there could still be lingering economic effects of the delays in fee and payment collections by Fairfax County.
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Senators Try to Intervene for Farm — “As operations wind down at Claude Moore Colonial Farm following a contract dispute between the National Park Service (NPS) and the farm’s friends group, both of Virginia’s U.S. senators are asking for an yearlong extension so the parties can try to hammer out an agreement.” [InsideNova, Patch]
Vienna Council Wants Marco Polo Demolished — “The vacated Marco Polo Restaurant fell into disrepair before it burned down Oct. 14 in a blaze allegedly set by a pair of teenage arsonists. Vienna Town Council members on Dec. 10 urged town officials to step up their efforts to have the building’s charred remains demolished and removed.” [InsideNova]
FCPD Looking for Local Missing Man — Fairfax County Police are looking for a 35-year-old man who went missing after last been seen “near the 2200 block of Mohegan Drive in Falls Church.” He was wearing a black turban and jogging pants and is “considered endangered,” according to police. [Twitter]
For residents of the corner of McLean inside the 10th Congressional District, last night’s election saw Jennifer Wexton (D) oust Barbara Comstock (R). But for the rest of the area, incumbents will be returning to office.
Not only did Wexton win in Fairfax County, but the Dranesville District heavily favored Wexton by 3,592 votes.
It was an active race, with 73 percent of voters casting ballots across the Dranesville District. Even before election day, the 10th District race saw an unusually high number of absentee ballots.
Comstock won the seat in 2014 after replacing Congressman Frank Wolf (R), who’d held the seat for over 30 years. Wexton will be the first Democrat representing the 10th Congressional District since 1981.
But while McLean saw high turnout in the competitive race, the Tysons area voter turnout was lower than the countywide average.
Countywide voter turnout was 69.8 percent, but the Tysons precinct only reported 58.7 percent voter turnout. At the nearby Magarity and Rotonda precincts, voter turnout was 66 and 64.7 percent respectively.
In the 8th Congressional District, incumbent Don Beyer (D) handily beat challenger Thomas Oh (R), winning 76.3 percent of the vote.
It was a similar story in the 11th Congressional District, where incumbent Gerald Connolly (D) defeated challengers Jeff Dove (R) and Stevan Porter (L) with 71.1 percent of the vote.
In the statewide race, Sen. Tim Kaine (D) won a 15-point victory over Republican Corey Stewart.
Two constitutional amendments allowing tax exemptions and the public safety bonds request were also approved.
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Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) has introduced a bill that would nix the Trump administration’s strict new limits on refugee resettlement in the U.S.
Connolly, who represents Tysons and Vienna in Congress, said in a statement that “Congress has a moral responsibility to stand up to the President and let the world know we are still a welcoming and compassionate nation.”
More from a press release:
Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Vice Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was joined by 60 members in introducing the Lady Liberty Act, legislation to reverse the Trump administration’s recent actions to severely limit refugee resettlement in the United States.
“The Trump administration is once again slamming the door on refugees,” Connolly said. “Against a record high global refugee crisis, the Trump administration’s record-low refugee admissions cap is dangerous and un-American. The Lady Liberty Act will reverse this callous backslide and restore America’s leadership role in refugee resettlement.”
“No one chooses to be a refugee,” Connolly said. “These people are seeking safety and a better life. Congress has a moral responsibility to stand up to the President and let the world know we are still a welcoming and compassionate nation.”
The Lady Liberty Act would require the President to set a goal of admitting no less than 110,000 refugees annually. Under the administration’s recent action, refugee resettlements would be capped at 30,000 refugees in fiscal year 2019, down from 45,000 this year. Since 1980, the U.S. has resettled more than 3 million refugees and set an average annual goal of 95,000 refugee admissions. The previous low ceiling for refugee resettlement in the U.S. was 67,000, set by President Reagan in 1986. There are currently 25 million refugees around the world.
Connolly’s legislation has been endorsed by The Alliance, CASA, Church World Service (CWS), Ethiopian Community Development Council, Family Action Network Movement (FANM), HIAS, Human Rights First, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Veterans for American Ideals, We Are All Americans.
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