Richmond Times-Dispatch: Wittman, Spanberger in ‘select’ company; Good gains budget, workforce posts


Two Virginia congressional representatives — Rob Wittman, R-1st, and Abigail Spanberger, D-7th — have gained “select” positions on two high-profile committees in the new Congress.

Wittman, who represents parts of the Richmond area in his newly drawn district, will serve on the “Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party,” while Spanberger, a former CIA operations officer who lives in western Henrico County, has a seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the 118th Congress that was seated last month.

“I used to be on the flip side of this,” Spanberger said in an interview on Thursday. “I also know what questions to ask.”

Wittman’s appointment to the new select committee on China coincides with rising concern about the balance between continued trade opportunities and potential national security risks from investments in Virginia companies and farmland by Chinese companies backed by the ruling Communist Party.

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The role of the select committees isn’t to produce or review legislation, he said in an interview on Monday. “They are more investigative, fact-finding and policy committees.”

The assignments were approved by newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who also appointed Rep. Bob Good, R-5th, to serve on the House Budget Committee and House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Good, whose new district includes part of Hanover County and all of Goochland, Powhatan and Louisa counties in the outer Richmond suburbs, was one of the final six conservative Republican holdouts who fought McCarthy’s election until they voted present on the 15th ballot.

In an announcement of the assignments on Tuesday, Good promised to push for greater parental involvement in their children’s education, oppose organized labor and “federal regulatory overreach,” while promoting business interests and reducing government spending.

“Our government doesn’t have a revenue problem,” he said. “It has a spending problem. We must put an end to reckless spending and begin to show fiscal restraint with hardworking American taxpayer dollars.”

For Wittman and Spanberger, the appointments to the select committees weren’t the only prizes they received in the new Congress. Wittman also was appointed vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, chairman of the subcommittee on tactical air and land forces, and to the House Natural Resources Committee. Spanberger also was reappointed to the House Agriculture Committee, of which she is the only Virginia congressional representative.

She also is the first Virginian since the late Rep. JoAnn Davis, R-1st, to serve on the House Intelligence Committee. Wittman succeeded Davis after winning a special election to fill her seat. Subsequently, he has won election to eight terms, the latest in November in the new district that includes western Henrico, western Chesterfield and eastern Hanover, as well as New Kent County and most of the Peninsula.

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Spanberger welcomed Wittman’s appointment to the new select committee on competition with China.

“Certainly with his focus on coastal Virginia, his focus on Armed Services, I think he’s a really good fit,” she said. “I think he will be valuable to Virginia.”

Similarly, Spanberger sees her ties to the intelligence community as important to the state because so many of those employees live in her district, now anchored in Prince William County and the Fredericksburg area, and so many affected agencies are based in Virginia.

“From an economic standpoint, the intelligence community is important for Virginia,” she said.

Wittman and Spanberger share concerns about China, but they don’t necessarily agree on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s abrupt decision to withdraw Virginia from competing for a proposed Ford Motor Co. factory that could have brought $3.5 billion in capital investment and 2,500 jobs at a site in Pittsylvania County. Youngkin citied national security concerns because of Ford’s partnership with CATL, a Chinese company that controls the technology for electric vehicle batteries.

“I think it was a smart strategic decision,” Wittman said of Youngkin’s withdrawal of support for the project. “If we allow China to be the single supplier in the [electric vehicle] battery market, it would be bad for the United States.”

Spanberger cited an “overlay” of competing concerns over Youngkin’s decision, which critics have attributed to similar anti-China moves made by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. “How do we ensure that we’re not sacrificing thousands of jobs for Virginians for sort of political reasons?” she asked.

“But how does the United States and, be it our states or be it our largest companies, how do we contend with competitive threats … as it relates to China?” she asked. “The bottom line is that China has long-term plans to dominate and create relationships of dependency.”

Wittman and Spanberger share concerns about China’s dominance in the production of essential pharmaceutical products and ingredients, as well as semiconductor chips and the natural resources necessary to produce them.

They also think Youngkin is right to raise concerns about the purchase of farmland, especially near U.S. military installations.

“I think the systematic purchase of large swaths of farmland across the United States should be very disturbing to Americans,” Wittman said.

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