Washington, DC— Recently, Rep. Ron Kind and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Congressional Affairs Ron Eidshaug spoke with members of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce during an Eggs & Issues virtual event. During the event, Rep. Kind and Mr. Eidshaug discussed the Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship, which Rep. Kind recently received from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rep. Kind’s leadership on the USMCA, and a number of other topics.
“We congratulate the Congressman on earning the US Chamber award and believe that bipartisanship is important to effective governing,” said Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs and Workforce Director Scott Rogers.
Below are excerpts from the conversation:
The Chamber has been doing our scorecards since 1965… in today’s world, and with the way partisanship has gotten, that doesn’t work. There are legislators out there who are Democrats who are working really, really hard to get accomplishments for the business community and for their communities across the finish line. We were not doing a good enough job — number one, working with those Democrats and number two, applauding those Democrats & supporting those Democrats, what they were working so hard on, on our behalf. So at the beginning of 2019 we updated how we are doing our scorecard. We updated our scorecard to include leadership and bipartisanship. So you can earn extra credit on our scorecard when you’re taking a tough stand.
Congressman Kind is the poster child for members of Congress that we want to support in that way. USMCA would not have gotten done without the work of Ron Kind. Full stop. He was leading that effort on trade, on this agreement, on other agreements, for years. And we were not doing enough to, sort of, do what we could to highlight that hard work. So, we are very, very proud, for the first time, to salute Congressman Kind, present this award for bipartisanship, and not only on the bipartisanship side.
He came just a squidge under on the leadership side as well. On the bipartisanship side he scored 96%, on the leadership side he scored 94% and that’s pretty darn close. So I only have one award to award today, but certainly we need to recognize in both areas, and again say thank you. Congressman, thank you for putting pressure on us to recognize not just your good work in this area, but also the good work of your colleagues on the Democratic side who have stood with the business community on trade and many, many other issues. So, we’re very proud to do this, were very proud to partner with the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce as well. And as soon as we are able to get these awards out of the basement of the Chamber building in D.C., we look very, very forward to presenting these to you in person. But I just want to say thank you and congratulations and we really appreciate it.
Rep. Ron Kind:
It is a deep honor for the National Chamber to recognize me with their first-ever bipartisan award, the Jefferson-Hamilton Award. And listen, we know, especially now with the challenges that we face health-wise, economic-wise, and given how polarized the political system has become, we see the only way you can get things done is by reaching across the aisle, be respectful, get in the same room, listen to each other, break through the intense polarization that exists and find some common ground. And that has been, kind of, part of my DNA since day one.
But listen, we still have a lot of work that still needs to get done. And the reason I work in a bipartisan fashion is because it’s the Wisconsin way. Quite frankly, it’s the Chippewa Valley way, too. I’ve been so impressed with the collaboration and the partnership at the local level, especially up there in the Chippewa Valley with the leadership of the local Chamber.
When it comes to dealing with the healthcare crisis at our doorstep, the fact that you’ve stood up at the Chippewa Valley Economic Recovery Task Force right now, with the co-chairs of Greg Moore and Dale Peters. But also the fact that Jennifer you and Dave and Scott, and the whole Chamber Team have leaned into that in a very meaningful fashion to help our businesses navigate through this very difficult and uncertain period. How can we start reopening but doing it in a safe way so we are protecting those workers returning to the workforce, so we are protecting the customers. And that’s what this is all about. It’s about establishing those bonds of trust so that workers know that when they go to work that they are going to be kept safe, and they’re not bringing a virus home with them, and for customers to be able to get out in a safe environment. If we can’t establish that trust, this economic downturn is going to be that much more dangerous, and that much more prolonged, and the damage is going to go on for quite some time. So I congratulate all of you in the approach that you’re taking at the local level to figure this out and listen to the health care experts.
I think every week I’m on the phone with Lieske Giese who is a public health director in Eau Claire county, getting an assessment from her and also finding out what more needs to be done. And again, the collaboration that she and all the healthcare providers have had in the area has really been a model in how to approach it, and quite frankly, one of the only reasons why we’re not one of those extreme hot spots that we’re seeing in other parts of the country right now. Our virus cases have gone up a little bit, but hospitalization rates haven’t, knock on wood, nor has the death rate…. So there are some steps we have to take, and we have to just follow the best medical and scientific guidance and advice that is available, and we’ve heard this over and over again. We’ve gotta wash our hands over and over again, maintain proper social distancing, and please wear some facial covering or facial mask if you do go out in public. I’ve been proud to fly my own colors here, the Green Bay Packers, so we can have some fun here and get creative with it. But I never viewed this as a red issue or a blue issue, it’s a red, white and blue issue. We’re literally all in this together. And we’re only as safe and healthy as the closest person next to us these days, and we don’t know who is asymptomatic, might have the virus and is spreading it.
And I don’t know if you’ve talked about the reopening of our schools, higher ed and K-12, but those are going to be some really tough decisions that have to be made. Again I hope we’re following the best medical and scientific guidance that’s available on it. Clearly there are trade-offs, we’ve witnessed this learning and how difficult that is for our kids. But we also need to recognize that it’s not just the children’s health that’s at stake, but it’s the teachers, the support staff, the administration, and one out of every four teachers has one of those co-morbidities that make them more susceptible to an extreme health risk if they are exposed to the virus. So all that too is going to need to be taken into consideration. And I’ve been reaching out a lot, over the last few weeks, with my chancellors, and tech school presidents, and principals, and superintendents and even talking to a lot of teachers and parents about how we can do this. Because it is important. And if we could control the virus, we could open up the economy more, and we could open up our schools more, without infecting more people.
Now I know you guys were probably talking earlier this morning too about the next stage of Congress and the next COVID packers. We’re hard at work on that already. Now, a few weeks ago the House did pass the HEROES Act which was our iteration of the next package, knowing that wasn’t going to be the final bill, knowing that we’re going to have to sit down and negotiate with the Senate, negotiate with the Administration in the coming weeks. But there was some important provisions in the HEROES Act that I hope we can retain, not with least to which is the 5016C status of Chambers in the country, we got that language in the HEROES Act now so you can qualify for P3 assistance. And we’re hoping to be able to protect that and keep that in any final package.
But we also have to deal with the huge revenue drop with state and local budgets right now because of the economy and the central programs and services they have to maintain. If those start collapsing, if we start having a huge number of unemployed, it’s only going to deepen this crisis economically and prolong the recovery. So we need a short-term backstop all about creating a bridge to the other side, until we can develop a vaccine… until everyone is safe again in this country and throughout the world.
But we also need to do some more back filling when it comes to Personal Protection Equipment for our healthcare providers. I’m hearing from many of them that they’re running into shortage problems even in our area and testing supplies too, the reagents. We still haven’t figured out this nut yet, and we do need to develop a more comprehensive testing regime. Now I’m hearing from our public health directors that they need more resources and more help when it comes to contact tracing, so if we do identify someone with the virus we isolate and then contact those who have been in contact with that person in order to contain and mitigate its spread. And we’re still not at the capacity that we need to be in order to do that very, very well. So that too is important.
And then we’ve had some adjustments with the Paycheck Protection Program. Just a couple of weeks ago in a bipartisan fashion we made reforms to it, simplified it, give you more flexibility, and I’ve had discussions with a lot of our local lenders. Jan, I was just on the phone with Brandon Brikers just the other day about the P3 program and his thoughts on how it’s working and what we need to be considering. And I agree with him that it was really the Congressional intent to send these loans out to small businesses and it was going to be hard for small businesses to pay them back. So if we may be able to get in the next package a loan forgiveness for those loans 150,000 or below, which is the vast majority of the P3 loans that went out, that would go a long way in simplifying it and saying, “Listen, we understand the economic turmoil you’re in, the huge revenue drop, don’t worry about the P3 loans.” Although we do need effective oversight, we do need an accounting of where it all went and how it’s working so we know what adjustments to make to it, that would simplify it too. And I’ve been a strong advocate on that front… I’ve got a lot of feedback about the importance of liability protection. And I agree, I think we need to take some steps for liability protection with the virus. And I’m not just hearing it from businesses, I’m hearing it from educators too and their opening up schools and what exposure they may face liability-wise. But with that, I think, comes responsibility. We’re just not going to pass blanket liability regardless of how people are acting with this. As long as businesses, as long as schools, as long as other entities are undertaking important infectious disease protocol, taking necessary steps to protect the people that they’re in charge of, then I see the need for liability protection. But I don’t think we can just pass a blanket one regardless of how these entities are behaving. We have to be able to separate those who are doing an honest, good job protecting peoples’ lives and those who aren’t. I think that’s where the discussions are surrounding right now with it and I hope that’s part of the final package we’re working on.
The timing of this Ron, I don’t know, we’re back in session starting next week, and probably will be for the next three weeks because the Senate is in session through the first week of August. So my guess is the COVID package will probably, hopefully, come together by that first week in August. We have a lot of work in front of us but we certainly appreciate the feedback that you all have been giving throughout this entire process. I’m trying to do my best to reach out, even under these weird virtual circumstances that we’re still trying to get used to, but it’s the best we can do. I encourage you to continue to do that… I especially appreciate the feedback I’ve been able to get from all of you during this process based on the survey you’ve been getting from your membership. And that’s very helpful for our guidance when it comes to making this policy.
So Ron, thank you again for the award. I’m going to continue to do my best to break down those political barriers and we need more of that in Washington, in Madison, back home. We just can’t draw these political fault lines and expect to do good by the American people and quite frankly it’s not the Wisconsin way.
Watch the full event here.