As the Biden administration and the 117th Congress get underway, there is much hope for a new era of unity across the nation. Our country has faced unprecedented challenges over the past year including a devastating public health crisis and a resulting economic crisis, political turmoil and social unrest. The new administration and Congress face numerous 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. However, additional relief is needed — including additional unemployment assistance, stimulus payments for struggling Americans, state and local aid, and support for the businesses most severely affected by the pandemic. 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 proposals.
Infrastructure: We all know far too well that our region’s transportation infrastructure is overdue for modernization. But the pandemic has also exposed — and in some cases exacerbated — other vulnerabilities, ranging from disparities in broadband access to outdated school buildings. At the same time, infrastructure investment will create 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 agree on the specifics. It is expected that the Biden administration will soon put forth a proposal, and the Council is hopeful that our leaders in Congress will come together to make much-needed investments in our nation’s infrastructure.
Cleanenergy: President Biden has made clear that combating climate change will be a top priority, and his 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 to support climate change goals, while also creating jobs and spurring economic growth.
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, New Englanders chair three of the most influential committees. Massachusetts Reps. Richie Neal and Jim McGovern will continue to chair the Ways and Means Committee and the Rules Committee, respectively. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro was recently elevated to chair of the Appropriations Committee. And Massachusetts Rep. Katherine 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, including Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, who 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 our 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 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 and CEO of The New England Council, a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, nonprofit organizations, and health and educational institutions dedicated to supporting economic growth and quality of life in New England.
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