The Green New Deal, solar energy tax credits, federalizing local elections, corporate board diversity requirements, and emission standards for airlines. What do you all of these things have common? They have absolutely nothing to do with the coronavirus outbreak, yet they were the top concerns for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi this week.
For over a month the coronavirus has ravaged the United States, and when you are reading this column is likely to have infected over 100,000 Americans and claimed well over a thousand lives. The harsh social distancing and self-isolation measures have come with steep economic costs as well. Just last week, the U.S. set a new record for weekly jobless claims with an astounding 3.28 million people seeking assistance. Yet, despite all of the challenges the country is facing, Speaker Pelosi thought it prudent to delay congressional action and selfishly push for the coronavirus response bill to include her partisan priorities that were entirely unrelated to the situation at hand. During this pandemic, Congress should be laser focused on providing immediate and targeted relief to the millions of hardworking families upended by this national health emergency. Yet Speaker Pelosi and her liberal lieutenants—to steal the phrase from former President Obama’s chief of staff— “never let a crisis go to waste.” I sincerely hope this is not how our government is going to keep operating while we continue to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaker Pelosi’s instance to incorporate her liberal fantasies into this response package, held up strong, bipartisan legislation that was not perfect, but provided critical resources to our struggling businesses on Main Street. For example, if you’re a small business with less than 500 employees, you can go to your local bank and get a loan that is guaranteed by the government. Best of all, if you use this loan to cover rent, utilities or payroll, then you don’t even have to pay it back. This is lifesaving support to many of our family-owned businesses that have been stunned or even shuttered by the coronavirus. Another essential provision of this bill provides the government with the ability to mass produce vaccines while they are still being tested. While there is inherent risk with this process, it would drastically reduce the time Americans would have to wait for lifesaving cures once a viable vaccine is found. Thankfully, American innovation and ingenuity have already pioneered feasible vaccine options that are currently being studied in human trials. Even better, with the resources provided for by this bill, we will be able to get that vaccine to market faster than ever before. While these provisions will help Americans across the country, I remain fixated on making sure the needs of our rural communities are heard and responded to.
I successfully pressed for legislation that will help our rural hospitals by increasing reimbursements and delaying costly cuts in Medicare funding. Additionally, I reached out to Governor Parson to ensure rural health care remains a priority at the state level during this public health emergency. Specifically, I stressed the importance of a reserve supply of ventilators for rural areas. This will ensure urban centers don’t block our access to this vital medical equipment as the virus spreads throughout our area. I’m also continuing to push for the needs of our farmers. This week, I outlined for U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue what executive steps the Trump Administration can take and what policies they can support to ease the burden on our farmers during this difficult time. Whether it’s through direct payments and access to low and zero-interest loans, or broader regulatory relief, there are a number of ways the administration can react quickly to help our farmers. As this outbreak continues, I will remain a vocal advocate for our rural way of life.
Even with this historic pandemic testing the fabric of our society, our communities are holding strong. I’ve been blown away by the incredible generosity pouring out from across southern Missouri. In Potosi, schoolteachers recorded themselves singing on a bus while preparing to deliver nutritious food to their students stuck at home. At Missouri S&T, dozens of 3-D printers are running around the clock while students there are hard at work assembling face shields and face masks for our doctors and nurses. We are going to weather this storm, and we are going to do so by coming together, helping our neighbors, supporting our local businesses and industries, and by keeping our faith. I’m optimistic we will start hearing more good news out of Europe and will hopefully see the rate of new cases slow. Regardless, we remain the best country on the face of the Earth to handle this crisis. This virus may temporarily tamper our vibrant economy and push our hospitals and doctors to the brink of exhaustion, but it will never win because it cannot dent the resolve of the American people. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in praying for those already impacted as well as those in the medical community fighting on the front lines to keep us safe.
God Bless and Stay Safe.
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith is the area’s state representative for the 8th Congressional District.