January 11, 2022
Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
If we want businesses to continue successfully competing and delivering growth, innovation, jobs, and prosperity, we need to give them the right environment to accomplish this.
While many voters want their leaders in Washington to fight, even more of them want Congress to get things done. At the U.S. Chamber’s annual State of American Business event Neil Bradley, U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, asked Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) how that happens.
Finding Common Ground
Sen. Shaheen’s constituents often ask her, “Why can’t you just work together to get things done to benefit the country?”
“They may be on one side of the political spectrum, but mostly they want to see the country advance,” Shaheen said. “They want to see their problems solved. And they want us to work together to do that.”
How does that happen? “What we do is identify common ground,” said Sen. Collins. “Neither of us thinks that coming together, discussing issues, and trying to find compromise is the wrong approach. I think it’s the right approach. We’re both pragmatic and want to produce results.”
Bipartisan Success of the Infrastructure Bill
The recent passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill showed how both parties could still work together on important issues.
“The best example of that is the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which represents the greatest investment in infrastructure in this country since the construction of the interstate system,” Sen. Collins noted.
Getting there took patience, persistence, and a lot of hard work. More than 50 meetings occurred for the infrastructure bill, Sen. Collins said. “I remember one night when Jeanne Shaheen and I stayed in my office [until midnight] working through the $65 billion in investment in broadband.”
That dedicated, good-faith effort got the bill through the Senate, said Sen. Shaheen. “There were times during the infrastructure negotiations when things might have fallen apart,” she said. “But when they did one person or another – people on both sides of the political spectrum – said, ‘We can’t fail. We have to get this done.’ And I think that commitment allowed us ultimately to reach agreement and find solutions.”
Keeping the Government Funded and Open
As members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Collins and Shaheen both understand the importance of keeping the federal government funded and avoiding shutdowns.
“The appropriations process really needs to work in order to provide some certainty for the business community,” explained Sen. Shaheen. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked very well in the last couple of decades. We’ve had too many continuing resolutions that have provided too much uncertainty.”
“When government shuts down because appropriations have come to a standstill, it represents failure to govern,” Sen. Collins said. “It’s really important that we get back to the system where we pass most appropriations bills prior to the start of the next fiscal year. If we did that, it would make a big difference.”
As Suzanne Clark, U.S. Chamber President and CEO, said in her State of American Business 2022 address, we need the federal government to “be an enabler, not an inhibitor. You set the conditions for businesses to succeed. If you want them to continue delivering the growth, innovation, jobs, and prosperity—then let them do it.”
With patience and dedication to the common good, leaders like Sens. Collins and Shaheen can accomplish that.
From the Series