January 12, 2023
Evan H. Jenkins
Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
As a new Congress begins, legislators are faced with numerous challenges and opportunities that will shape the future of our country’s public and private sectors. Addressing these issues will require bipartisan cooperation and collaboration to create effective government policy.
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 State of American Business conference, Evan Jenkins, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spoke with two U.S. Representatives, David Joyce (R-OH-14) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) about the current Congress’s priorities and agenda for 2023 and beyond, and how each party can work together to achieve its goals.
America Must Work in a Bipartisan Manner to Address National Issues
According to Rep. Joyce, the most important step we can take as a country right now is to set a budget and work toward the priorities of the House Committee on Appropriations.
“If we can do that and actually pass appropriations, I think it'll go a long way towards curing a lot of those ills,” he said. “If we look at it as a whole, I think it's important in this Congress that we get down to the real business of it … [and] unless we can work in a bipartisan manner, nothing's going to get signed or go into law.”
The Country Is at Risk of Defaulting on Its Debts
This summer, the federal government will reach the current statutory debt limit. To avoid an economically catastrophic default, Congress must raise the ceiling. It should also use the opportunity to advance bipartisan solutions to our growing federal debt.
“Folks think that somehow this is going to be a magic ball on how we change all of government,” said Rep. Joyce. “These are debts that are due and owing. We've incurred them, and now, we need to honor those debts.”
“The national debt is out of control, and it's time we certainly take it seriously, but we need to start negotiating good faith with the members on both sides of the aisle to talk about what we're going to do to start getting on the ramp … [and] back out towards the sea,” he continued. “Right now, we're unfortunately looking at the iceberg that's in front of us, but we must stop worrying about the money that was already spent and figure out how we're going to fix these problems going forward and take care of that debt.”
Rather than committing to something that “sounds good in a soundbite,” Rep. Joyce said, “we need positive work moving forward.”
Immigration Reform Is One of the Most Pressing Issues in the U.S.
According to Jenkins, “the Chamber's agenda for American strength calls for securing the border and increasing legal immigration, permitting reform, and new trade deals.” Of those priorities, Rep. Spanberger believes immigration is highly important.
“I think there's possibility and promise for any of those three priorities, but certainly, I think immigration reform is the most pressing and urgent of those priorities,” Rep. Spanberger said.
“I think that we've already seen positive steps forward that, to me, really indicate that our country is ready and at a point where we're able to take action,” she added. “Some bipartisan legislation that we've seen introduced in the Senate is a positive indicator that there is an effort across the aisle in a bipartisan way of making steps forward.”
For example, Rep. Spanberger shared the bipartisan delegation of senators headed to the border to talk about security priorities and how we can both secure the southern border and other ports of entry along with completing comprehensive immigration reform. She added that the president’s recent meeting with the leadership of Mexico and Canada “have been important indicators of the timelines.”
National Security and Economic Security Remain Top Priorities for the U.S.
Rep. Spanberger noted that, when it comes to national security and economic security, America continues to be a global economic leader.
“We have to protect the full faith and credit of the United States in order to continue in that role,” she said. “When we're approaching challenges related to the debt limit, ensuring the full faith and credit and our global economic standing should be a priority of every member of Congress.”
She continued, “From a national security standpoint, supporting our allies and joining with our allies is an important priority for us.”
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