CommonWealth Magazine: 3 Washington priorities for New England As originally appearing in CommonWealth Magazine
Region’s leaders well positioned in Congress
By James T. Brett
January 23, 2021
AS THE BIDEN administration and the 117th Congress get underway, there is much hope for a new era of unity—both in Washington, DC, and across the nation. Our country has faced unprecedented challenges over the past year. We have grappled with a devastating public health crisis and a resulting economic crisis. We have encountered political turmoil. And we have awakened an overdue call for social change. The new administration and Congress must tackle a number of challenges and will surely be focused on advancing policies that support recovery and economic growth.
The New England Council believes there are several key issues where federal action could reap tremendous benefits for New England:
Additional COVID Relief – The COVID relief packages Congress passed last year have provided critical support to our nation, our economy, and our communities as we continue on the path to recovery. There is no question, though, that additional relief is needed–including additional unemployment assistance, stimulus payments for struggling Americans, state and local aid, or support for the businesses most severely affected by the pandemic. Fortunately, President Biden has already put forth a relief package and has indicated that an additional economic stimulus package is forthcoming. We urge Congress to take quick action on the President’s relief plan.
Infrastructure – We all know far too well that our region’s transportation infrastructure is in need of modernization. But the pandemic has also exposed–and in some cases exacerbated–other vulnerabilities, ranging from disparities in broadband access to outdated school buildings with inadequate ventilation. At the same time, we know that infrastructure investment will create new jobs, which is all the more important as so many have found themselves unemployed over the past year. Leaders on both sides of the aisle have historically supported investment in infrastructure, but have struggled to find common ground on the specifics. It is expected that the Biden administration will soon put forth a proposal, and the New England Council is hopeful that our leaders in Congress will come together to make much-needed investments in our nation’s infrastructure.
Clean Energy – President Biden has made clear that combating climate change will be a top priority. The new president’s team will undoubtedly enhance our nation’s environmental regulations while also promoting greater investment in renewable energy. The New England region – home of the nation’s first offshore wind farm, with several others in development – is already a leader in the renewable energy industry. We look forward to new federal policies that will encourage continued growth in this sector, which will not only support climate change goals but also create jobs and spur economic expansion.
The good news for New England? Our region is incredibly well-represented on Capitol Hill as the New England delegation continues to gain more and more clout in Congress. In the House, Massachusetts Reps. Richie Neal and Jim McGovern will continue to chair two of the most influential House committees: the Ways & Means Committee and the Rules Committee, respectively. Connecticut Repr. Rosa DeLauro was recently elevated to chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. And Massachusetts Rep. ratherine Clark, was recently elected assistant speaker, making her the fourth most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives.
With Democrats taking control in the Senate, three of the regions 12 senators will become committee chairs. Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy will assume the gavel of the Senate Appropriations Committee and fellow Vermonter, Sen. Bernie Sanders, will helm the Budget Committee. Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed will chair the Armed Services Committee. Other New Englanders will chair a variety of key congressional subcommittees.
Our region has incredible leaders in prime positions to advocate for New England’s priorities. Of course, with narrow margins in both the House and the Senate, bipartisan collaboration will be vital to advance these important policies. I am confident that our leaders in Washington will find a way to bridge the divide and resolve their differences through respectful debate and compromise. Our economy, our communities, and the fabric of our nation rely on it.
James T. Brett is the president & CEO of The New England Council, a regional alliance of businesses, non-profit organizations, and health and educational institutions dedicated to supporting economic growth and quality of life in New England.
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