Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined a virtual bipartisan panel hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the business community. The full discussion can be watched here.
This year, the annual “State of American Business” event focused on business competition for the future, including how competition drives success, innovation, and advancements in society. The Senators spoke about their bipartisan collaboration in the Senate to deliver on priorities ranging from the bipartisan infrastructure package to the Provider Relief Fund to assist health care centers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer and Head of Strategic Advocacy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, moderated the discussion. He began by asking the Senators about their bipartisan teamwork and legislative successes – most recently on the bipartisan infrastructure package.
Mr. Bradley asked: “You're both Senators, you're both from the Northeast, but sometimes you have pretty divergent views on public policy and the direction that Congress ought to take when it comes to legislating, yet somehow you two have a track record of finding common ground, whether that was broadband in the most recent infrastructure package, or your work on the Appropriations Committee. How does that work? What does that process look like?”
Senator Collins responded: “In this closely divided world that we're living in today, I think Americans at times feel that there is no bipartisanship in Washington. And there isn't as much as I would like, but there are many successful bipartisan efforts. And Jeanne Shaheen and I are great example of that. We do belong to different parties, but what we do is identify common ground…The best example of that is the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which represents the greatest investment in our infrastructure in this country, since the construction of the interstate system. Senator Shaheen and I worked on the broadband provisions, which are so important to our economy, to business location, to workers being able to work from home, and to education, and also to telemedicine.”
Senator Shaheen added: “I would echo Senator Collins' comments about our ability to work together and also about the presentation this morning as a way to encourage people to think about working together. I think probably the most often heard remark that I get from my New Hampshire constituents is ‘Why can't you all just work together to get things done to benefit the country?’ So I think that's what people are looking for. They may be on one side or the other of the political spectrum, but mostly they want to see the country advance. They want to see their problem solved and they want us to work together to do that.”
Mr. Bradley then pivoted to the Senators’ work together on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which approves the annual funding for the entire federal government.
Mr. Bradley asked: “Senator Collins, today we've been talking about the state of American business, both competition and collaboration. And appropriations, it's a competition in some respects between a limited pot of dollars, and different Senators and the House and the President all have different priorities. So it's not about removing competition from the system and the competition of ideas, it's about framing that competition in a way that produces an outcome. Is that the way that you think about it, and when you're leading potentially your side of the aisle on the Appropriations Committee? Is that the way you're going to approach it?”
Senator Collins concluded: “When government shuts down because the appropriations process has come to a standstill, it represents a failure to govern. When we pass continuing resolutions which fund government at last year's level, we increase costs to the business community because of the uncertainty and thus we increase costs to taxpayers because of the uncertainty. We prevent new starts, whether it's building a new destroyer or repairing a road, from going forward, and that increase costs, particularly nowadays. So it is really important that we get back to the system of passing most of the appropriations bills if not all of them prior to the start of the next fiscal year. If we did that, it would make a big difference.”