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Rep. Beyer: Inflation Reduction Act ‘My Proudest Vote’

Hailing the morning’s news of the higher-than-expected drop in inflation, Falls Church’s own U.S. Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.), held a Town Hall at McLean Community Center last Wednesday, where a bustling crowd of constituents gathered to hear news from the 118th Congress and ask questions about
a variety of issues.

Beyer began by noting that Virginia now has among the least gerrymandered districts in the nation, after independent and bipartisan redistricting that corrected 100 years of partisan influence on district lines. “Not surprisingly, this has caused complete chaos in the General Assembly,” acknowledged Beyer of the roughly 50 recent primary races with multiple incumbents, though he ultimately celebrated the result as preserving “the basic ideas of continuity of geography and history and community.”

“It’s been so much fun to see the Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, and the CHIPS and Science Act… all kick in the last couple months,” Beyer said, beginning his brief Capitol Hill update with a nod to recent key achievements of the Democratic party, “but the greatest victory of this morning is inflation dropping to 3.0 percent.” He continued to call inflation a “huge tax on the poor,” saying that rising rents and the prices of gas and food hit them the hardest. Still, he said that the U.S. has done better than any other nation in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic not only economically and with jobs, but with inflation, which he said is rapidly easing. “We expect [inflation] to be down below two percent by this fall,” he claimed.

Beyer also noted the 3.4 percent unemployment rate, the Black unemployment rate — and the gap between the two — are also at historic lows. He called this evidence of a successful “bottom-up, middle-out” strategy to building the economy.

“The Inflation Reduction Act is probably my proudest vote” in roughly 18 years of public service, Beyer said, “because it’s the largest environmental bill in American History.” He added that initial effects of the act, “an unparalleled investment in solar and wind,” are already being seen locally, noting specifically the electric school buses recently deployed by the Falls Church City and Fairfax County
Public School systems.

Beyer also touted the $35 monthly cap on insulin, while advocating for further interventions against diabetes. “Thirty-one percent of our $851 billion Medicare bill right now every year is just dialysis… end-stage renal disease,” Beyer shared.

Beyer Expects Nuclear Fusion on U.S. Electric Grid in Early-Mid 2030s

Beyer also said he was seeking to raise the height limit for helicopters over the region, compelling NASA to develop quieter aircraft and adjusting National Airport routes to reverse a previous move closer to the Virginia shoreline.

Falls Church resident Bill Mugg, who noted he was the third to ask about climate change so far, asked if anything was being done to reduce red tape to allow the nearly two terawatts of energy being generated by renewable energy projects — about 50 percent more than our country currently consumes — to connect to the Nation’s electric.

“Word on the tax credits is slowly getting out,” said Beyer of the Inflation Reduction Act, which he suggested was responsible for the energy surplus waiting to get onto the grid. He mentioned that demand for electric vehicles currently exceeds inventory, and production cannot keep up. Beyer also recalled a neighbor whose recent solar roof estimate was $17,000 — but only $7,000 after tax credits, and with a 25-year payoff of over $47,000, which he called a “no-brainer.”

“By the way… just because we don’t have control of the House doesn’t mean there isn’t other progress going on.” said Beyer, who noted that the upcoming five-year agriculture bill currently being drafted incorporates soil management techniques to store more carbon. He continued that through his advocacy to save the North Atlantic right whale, of which fewer than 350 are estimated to remain, he ran across new research on effect the plankton-eating giants have on the environment. “We have about one-fifth of the whales that we had 100 years ago on the planet.” Beyer said of the findings, “and one whale stores as much carbon as a thousand trees.”

Most questions from the audience were about climate change, with particular emphasis on the future world being left to younger generations.

“It’s a big deal for us, too, when you consider two of the hottest days of the last 125,000 years were last week,” said Beyer, “and June was the hottest month in the history of mankind.” He asked the audience to have hope, though, suggesting solutions were possibly right around the corner.

“The most important work I’m doing is on fusion energy,” he said, “it’s easy to understand, but not easy to do… it’s the energy of the sun.” He continued that last December’s breakthrough by California scientists — who, for the first time ever, produced more energy than was put in during a fusion experiment — has prompted massive private-sector investment in developing the technology.

“There are now 27 U.S. companies racing to be the first to put fusion energy on the grid,” Beyer said, adding that earlier this year Microsoft cut a deal with Helion to get a 50 megawatt plant online by 2028 (which, after a one-year ramp up period, would produce enough energy to power 50,000 homes, more-or-less indefinitely). Though most believe fusion technology to be decades away from widespread use, he said he believes fusion energy will be on the grid “by the early 2030s.”

Beyer also offered hope for the future, saying that the technology to pull carbon from the atmosphere already exists. “We can reverse [carbon levels] with direct air capture,” he said, noting that right now “the problem is that you use more fossil fuel to take it out than you actually get out.”

Fusion energy is the key to unlocking not only a source of renewable energy, but also the efficiency required for direct air capture to work. “When the energy source is Fusion, the natural resource is seawater, there’s no radioactive waste… the footprint’s about the size of a tennis court,” he said, “we can reverse 400 years of environmental damage over the rest of this century…”

“Some people ask me, if I could do one thing in Congress and only one thing… it’d be dealing with gun violence.” Beyer responded to a question from a Moms Demand Action activist, before listing statistics including the doubling of guns (from 200 to 400 million) in the country since 2003, the 48,000 gun deaths last year, and that “five percent of gun shops produce 80 percent of [gun] crimes.” Several audience members also expressed concern surrounding gun violence.

When an attendee challenged Beyer to define “the ideal outcome of an abortion,” the Congressman quickly made his position known. “Never having been faced with making an abortion decision in my life, as an old white man… my understanding is that a woman, who is pregnant, who decides that she doesn’t want to carry through with the pregnancy, if she has an abortion… [ideally] the pregnancy is terminated, she heals, and goes on with her life.” he said to an uproar of cheers and applause.

“I have plenty of respect for people who make individual moral or spiritual decisions,” added Beyer after being pushed further by the individual, “but I don’t want them making them for me or anybody else.”

Over the course of the nearly two-hour event, Beyer also discussed a variety of other topics reflecting the diversity of his constituent base, including efforts to combat suicide and introducing the “9-8-8” number for mental health emergencies, ensuring availability to homeopathic medicines, support for Hong Kong, the inclusion of cluster bombs in assistance for Ukraine, the national debt and deficit, and free trade.