SALEM NEWS: Business leader touts New England ties under Biden
As originally appearing in The Salem News

By Paul Leighton Staff Writer
Dec 10, 2020

New England will be well-positioned when it comes to the power structure in Washington, D.C., under a Biden administration, a key business leader told members of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

James Brett, the president and CEO of The New England Council, said the region not only has a strong delegation occupying positions of power in Congress, but noted that President-elect Joe Biden has appointed several people with New England ties to his White House team.

“We have some significant powerhouse players, and I think it’s going to bode well for us in New England that we have these champions,” Brett said.

Brett spoke via a webinar sponsored by the North Shore Chamber of Commerce entitled “The Washington Political Scene and the 2020 Election.” Brett is a former Massachusetts state representative who has headed the New England Council, which represents businesses and organizations throughout the six New England states, for 24 years.

Brett said New England’s congressional delegation is unique in the amount of power it has in Congress, citing key committee positions held by Richard Neal, Jim McGovern and Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.

Brett also cited several key appointments by Biden to his staff that have New England ties — Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, of Franklin, as deputy chief of staff; Annie Tomasini, of Dorchester, as director of Oval Office operations; and Mike Donilon, of Rhode Island, as a senior adviser.

Those names are in addition to the high-visibility appointments of John Kerry as special envoy for climate change and Massachusetts General Hospital infectious disease chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Brett said he does not think U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Congressman Steven Lynch will take positions with the Biden administration. He said former Gov. Deval Patrick and former Congressman Joe Kennedy might.

“(Biden) has 3,500 appointments,” Brett said. “We’ve seen the tip of the iceberg.”

Brett said he hopes Biden’s reputation for being able to work with Republicans will help to break down the partisan divide in Washington. He said that Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, was the only GOP senator to attend the funeral of Beau Biden, and that Biden and McConnell worked together to pass a stimulus bill in 2009.

“He has a unique relationship with McConnell,” Brett said. “I think it could bode well for the Biden administration. It’s going to be civil. No name calling.”

Brett said he is already seeing signs of bipartisanship in the effort to pass a stimulus bill before the end of the year to help the country deal with the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I cannot see Congress adjourning without a relief package,” he said. “The country is desperately looking for this. They need it to survive.”

“Overall I’m cautiously optimistic going into 2021,” he said.

Brett paid tribute during the webinar to Bob Bradford, who is retiring after 40 years as president of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce.

“Your extraordinary leadership has made the North Shore Chamber a powerful leadership group that is recognized all over New England,” he told Bradford. “You are leaving a legacy that will be unmatched for generations to come.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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