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Tim Day:

Good morning Congresswoman and good afternoon to Neil. We're both in Washington's, but one's on the East coast and one's on the East or West coast. So thank you very much-

Neil Bradley:

Congresswoman has a better deal.

Tim Day:

That's right. So thank you very much for joining me today. My name is Tim Day. I'm principal at Calfee Strategic Solutions, otherwise known as CSS. I joined CSS earlier this month and we'll be focusing on federal and state government affairs. My first guest today, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers. She represents Eastern Washington state and was elected to Congress back in 2004. And one of the things that I think is really important to understand for today's discussion is the fact that Cathy grew up on an orchard in a fruit stand in Washington and I think she's got small business in her DNA.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Absolutely.

Tim Day:

And so I think she's the perfect person to talk to you today about a lot of these issues, not to mention the fact that she serves on the Energy and Commerce committee which is an extremely important committee in Congress. Think about one half of all economic legislation has to go through her committee, which obviously is important in these times. My other guest, my second guest is a very good friend of mine and a former colleague, Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Tim Day:

Neil, it's one of those... He's the one that's worked in Washington for over two decades, both in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. So he's got a lot of expertise and a lot of good visibility into a lot of these issues that we're going to be discussing today. Before we get started, let me ask though, Congresswoman, how are you doing and how is your family and constituents doing in this crisis?

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Well, thank you Tim. And it's great to be with you. Great to be with Neil and we're doing well. Washington state's been on the forefront of the coronavirus. We had the very first case. So we have been dealing with it. The vice president came out on March 5th and that was a big deal to have him on the ground and it has been all hands on deck. It's a tough time for everyone but I must admit one of the bright spots has been so many stories of American ingenuity, American innovation solving problems and that's what I appreciate you highlighting today because that is our future and that's where we need to be focusing.

Tim Day:

Absolutely. No, thank you very much. And I think we've been watching what's going on in Washington and really look forward to seeing you back in DC hopefully real soon. But as we get started with today's conversation, Neil, I've been watching a lot of the webcast that you've been doing with Ink. And if you could lay the foundation for some of the discussion today, look back over the past month where we are today and look ahead on current status of the role of Congress right now into this epidemic.

Neil Bradley:

Well, thanks Tim and good to be with you and good to be with Congresswoman. We tend to think about this at the chamber in three phases. So the first phase was the immediate health care response and addressing the necessary but unprecedented actions we had to take to stop the virus by essentially bringing a halt to commerce. And so if you think about the way public policies responded at the federal level, that includes obviously the first three bills, including the CARES Act, that phase three bill, collectively, they were really targeted at providing resources to healthcare providers in the healthcare systems and supporting individuals and businesses, particularly small businesses who were shut down as a result of the pandemic. We're now entering the next phase, what we call phase two of our response to this and that's the reopening. Today we have nine states that are in the process of reopening more added to that each day. Reopening brings its own challenges.

Neil Bradley:

There's no playbook for this. We can't go pull a historical example off the shelf, but we know it brings its own challenges from everything, from how businesses implement common sense healthcare practices and implement social distancing. If you go talk to folks in the industrial sector or the construction sector, they may be well used to PPE and having safety offices. Well now all of us, and no matter what business we're in have to think about implementing safety measures and best practices. We're concerned about liability issues as we work to go through that. This phase is going to take us a fair amount of time to work through. We also know that some businesses may be reopened, but at 25% capacity or 50% capacity required for social distancing, that means they're operating but they're not going to be profitable. A movie theater is not going to pay the bills, fill on every other seat.

Neil Bradley:

We're going to have to provide some assistance to help them bridge out. And then the third phase is once after we exit this, it's really going to be about how we return to economic growth, how we prevent during any resurgence of the virus, having to resort to the measures that we've resorted to nationally in this instance, and then obviously long-term policy challenges. As you know, as the Congresswoman knows, you go back to major incidents, whether it was 9/11 or the great recession in 2008.

Neil Bradley:

Afterwards, after the immediate response, there are long-term policy changes made, sometimes good. Think about things like terrorism risk insurance, sometimes not so good. Think about the CFPB and Dodd-Frank. I don't think this time is going to be any different. We just want to make sure that as we get to that phase three, that we're focused on responsible policies that help us over the longterm grow, not some knee-jerk regulatory reactions that could help us. And hopefully we'll learn a lot of things from this, including I know some of the topics you want to talk about today on how we take advantage of technology.

Tim Day:

Absolutely. No, thank you Neil. That's very helpful. I think one of the things that, from my perspective, and one of the key takeaways is just how technology has been used in this situation and how much we rely on it. I think when you look at the power of the internet, cloud computing, and our mobile devices, I can't imagine a world without them.

Tim Day:

And so I think one of the things, Neil, as I was working at the chamber and now in this position, I think technology is part of every industry. And, for example, John Deere considers themselves to be a technology company. And so when you start to peel that back and think about the ramifications of it, it's pretty incredible and I think there's a lot of opportunity and looking at ways that technology has allowed us to change how we work, communicate, and live. So Congresswoman as part of your committee responsibilities and looking at the Energy and Commerce committee jurisdiction on tech policy, you have been very supportive well before the pandemic on a lot of technology issues. And I wonder what are some of the things that you've learned in this process and ways that you're thinking about this as a member of this committee that will be considering a lot of these things that we're talking about here today.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Tim, it has only caused me to celebrate more, the American spirit entrepreneurs, the innovators that have resulted in America leading the world, in industry after industry. As you said, it's been America's innovators technology that has been revolutionizing industry and that has been leading the world and has really resulted in us raising the standard of living and improving our quality of life. And even during this pandemic, COVID-19 and all of the pain and suffering that it has inflicted on people and industries, it's the new technologies and the innovations that are really the key to ending this pandemic and saving lives and restarting our economy. And I hear those stories every day. I've heard the stories of autonomous vehicles that have been helping deliver food and testing and medical supplies to endangered individuals. AI and quantum computing are critical to finding a cure and developing treatments more quickly.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

And we're talking about contact tracing. Now it's going to be very important that it is utilized in a way that people trust that their privacy is protected, but it can be a key in helping us track outbreaks in the future, which is on our minds as we think about potentially COVID-19 coming back in the fall or next year. So these are just a few examples of where it's the new technologies and the innovations that are very much a part of the solution and are going to be a key part of defining our future moving forward and making sure that America's leading.

Tim Day:

Right. No, absolutely. I think that's critical. And one of the things I would like to talk about a little bit later is the foreign competition and how do we keep our global dominance in technology going forward. But I think when we're looking at telecommunications and the digital divide perhaps, I heard today that there are approximately 12 million students in the United States that do not have access to online learning. And that puts them obviously at a severe disadvantage when we're in these kinds of situations. Hopefully this will be an opportunity for us in the Congress to start to look at these issues and take some leadership as it relates to telecommunications and those issues around broadband perhaps. Neil, from a chamber perspective. What are you thinking about and what are some of the things that your members have been bringing to your attention?

Neil Bradley:

Well, it's actually exactly that. You wouldn't think that maybe at the U.S. Chamber we'd be spending time talking about the digital divide in education, but we actually are. It's come up in a number of our conversations. We actually convened on Monday, economists from 30 of the leading companies throughout the United States, from the finance sector, the industrial sector, a couple from the tech sector and the premise of the conversation was how to think about the recovery and what shape it might be this whole, is it a W, is it an L, is it a U, but it quickly turned to some of the things that have to be done to have a strong recovery and come out of it and multiple times it turned to broadband access, not just for families and children, but for the ability to people to work remotely.

Neil Bradley:

And Tim as you know from your prior work at the chamber, how we connect rural communities, right? There's a lot of angst in rural communities, justifiably about some of the restrictions and it's true that maybe if you're in an urban environment, it may be easier to work remotely. You may have better access to broadband that you just don't have if you're in that rural environment. And I think this is going to be a real impetus to begin addressing some of those issues [inaudible 00:00:12:04]-

Tim Day:

No, exactly. No. I think it's not a secret, we're in a global marketplace and someone in the middle of the country needs to have the same access to a market as a small business person and to be able to compete globally, as I said. So I think that those kinds of issues are important.

Neil Bradley:

And if I can just say, if there's a silver lining on this, it's proven that people can work remotely and the idea that folks in maybe in the middle of the country, couldn't work for a company on one of the coasts and be incredibly productive, effective, and efficient, we have laid that to waste. Now, all we have to do is get them connected to the pipes, if you will, to be able to empower them to do this on a regular basis.

Tim Day:

Exactly, absolutely, totally agree. We are looking for those stories of hope. Congresswoman, you've talked about that. And I think as Neil said, some of those silver lining perhaps is learning from these situations and hopefully being able to improve upon them.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Absolutely. And broadband closing the digital divide it's more urgent today than ever. It's always been a priority. I represent a district that includes Spokane, which is the second largest city in Washington state, and then a lot of outlining communities in this crisis. Coronavirus has only underscored the importance of broadband in having a connection. And when you have schools closed, education, healthcare, telehealth. But if you... Telehealth, I was proud, excited to support, making sure that telehealth is reimbursed at equal levels, but yet if you can't connect, it doesn't meet the need in opening up our economy, businesses. It is critical that we close the digital divide and it has to be one of the priorities that we address in the next package and moving forward, I have worked on mapping legislation that I was pleased that president Trump signed into law just recently to make sure that we had more accurate maps when we were spending money through FCC or USDA rural development.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

But also the private investment has been extraordinary, hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment, and even right now, you see the service providers are doing an incredible job keeping their customers connected and dealing with increased volume, but there is a huge need that needs to be addressed and I believe that the government is going to have to play an increased role in providing support to build out these hard to reach areas where there's really no economic incentive.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

We started this conversation talking about technology being part of the solution. Take it for example, precision agriculture, which is definitely the future of agriculture. We have some demonstration projects in Eastern Washington, but we do not have right now the broadband that we really need to support these projects. And as we think about leading the world moving forward, we got to get this infrastructure in place.

Tim Day:

No, absolutely. It's critical. And I think one of the interesting points that I would like to get your opinion, do you see the workforce changing over time in the future as a result of what we're currently experiencing? How are businesses looking at this, Neil? Are they thinking of how this could be more permanent going forward?

Neil Bradley:

Yeah. Yes. Although, we just don't know. We don't know... At the moment we all have this pent up desire to get back to the office, to get back to where we were. At the same time we understand that we've demonstrated, as I said earlier, that we can do a lot more remotely and that [inaudible 00:16:06]. I think in particular, as we begin to experience this second phase, this reopening, this is not a light switch. It's not everyone's going to go back to the office at once.

Neil Bradley:

We talked to a lot of businesses who are talking about staggering their employees. So, some come in on one day, they're working from home the next day. You can imagine an environment that looks very different and we're already talking to building owners and managers and some of these companies that provide a common workspace, they're already planning and in the process of reconfiguring that because they fear we're just going to have less people at any one same moment in time who are in a physical location or a physical office. So, some of the changes are permanent. We just don't know the degree yet and the scale.

Tim Day:

So I'm going to jump ahead, given that we're approaching 3:00 o'clock, we started a little bit late, but I'm going to jump ahead of a lightning round of a couple of questions that I definitely want to get in. One, what are the chances of another funding, stimulus package happening, timeframe for that? It's a lot of opinions out there, but what's your best guess Congresswoman and Neil on that topic?

Neil Bradley:

I'll defer to the Congresswoman.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Well, I would just start by saying, I think that there is some spending fatigue that is starting to set in. We've had three packages, it's a presidential year and we're going to have to review where we are. Having said that, we're continuing to learn every day about the impact of this public health crisis and an economic crisis and every day that goes by, every week goes by, the impacts are deeper and there's a lot of needs. So I anticipate that there will be further packages because the needs are going to continue to be pretty deep and we're going to have to address those needs. But I also know that there is a concern about the financial situation that we are leaving or that we're creating as far as the additional debt that we're taking on and the impact that that's going to have on us in our future.

Tim Day:

Thank you. Neil, any thoughts in addition?

Neil Bradley:

No, the one thing I remind chamber members who think that this may be happening fast is it took two and a half weeks from the president's request to his signing of the replenishment of PPP. That was a pretty non-controversial bill at the end of the day in terms of the votes. If that took two and a half weeks to get done, think how much longer it's going to take to get this next phase done. I think the Congresswoman is exactly right. It's going to happen, but for those folks who are planning out two weeks from now, that seems a bit optimistic in my personal opinion.

Tim Day:

The other, I think there's been a difference of opinion. I think the Senate majority leader is maybe not so enthusiastic about infrastructure being included in something coming up. I know that's been a chamber of priority and Congresswoman, I know that's been a priority that you focused on as well. Any thoughts, high level on infrastructure and are we looking at perhaps... Congresswoman, you helped us get an AB bill passed in the house. That died unfortunately in the Senate, but are there things like that that might be able to be included? Autonomous vehicles have played an important part in the recent weeks as you alluded to Congresswoman about what they've been doing. And so, are there things that we shouldn't be proactive or at least presenting for consideration in that debate?

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Right. Yes. As I just mentioned, there are tremendous needs and we had tremendous infrastructure needs even before the Coronavirus. They have only been underscored as a result of the coronavirus. And again, there's going to be... I would love to see Congress work on some infrastructure type... I'm sorry, getting calls. So on autonomous vehicles, it certainly is a priority for me. I would like to see us pass a bill, get it signed into law, to make sure that America is leading the world. If it's an infrastructure package, great, if it's separate, great. But China right now is testing in our own backyard and we need to make sure that we're leading the world and we need to be thinking about our future 10, 20, 30 years down the road and it definitely includes autonomous vehicles.

Tim Day:

Thank you. Your leadership has been really appreciated and I know a lot of clients that I have now, and ones that I've worked with in the past at the chamber are really appreciative of those efforts. China, you mentioned it. I think that's something that, are we considering how to level the playing field? I mean, I think, supply chain management issues, getting a little more back here in the States that we have control over so that we're not having to depend upon a foreign country. What are your thoughts there and is that something that we're going to be seeing and debating in the near future?

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Absolutely yes. That debate is starting right now. This pandemic has exposed significant vulnerabilities, weaknesses in our supply chain. We have become way too reliant upon China, whether it's PPEs, whether it's pharmaceuticals, we must become... We must bring those supply chains back to the United States. And we think about our ability to produce new and advanced materials, whether it's for smartphones, for the internet of things, we got to have those supply chains available to us. So one area that I think we need to focus is to make sure that we don't allow China to use this crisis to continue to dominate. You saw that they had done this before, where they will use a crisis then to gain the market share and we need to make sure that we are increasing our domestic capabilities and really setting being the leader so that the rest of the world is following our leadership and not being so dependent upon China.

Tim Day:

Good. Neil, I know that's front and center for the chamber.

Neil Bradley:

That's well said and listen, we need to think about what barriers there are to having more manufacturing, more resource production here in the United States. Some of those are regulatory, some of those from the tax side. There's a lot that we should do. Our priority should be improving our domestic capacity on all the things that the Congresswoman mentioned and probably a whole bunch of other things I'm sure we would also agree on that we need to do and I think this is going to be a big part of this next part of the discussion and hopefully not just discussion. At the chamber, we want to see action in this space and I think we're going to in the near future.

Tim Day:

Liability has been a big issue I'm hearing from my clients and looking at how do we expand that to broader health care providers, volunteers, et cetera. Thoughts about that being a possible consideration for the next number being considered in a piece of legislation.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

I'm sorry, I'm having trouble hearing you. Did you say liability?

Tim Day:

Right. So liability issues covering healthcare workers, [crosstalk 00:24:05] broadening.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Yes. I believe that we need to take some action to protect our healthcare workers and other businesses, other industries, Congress included in the CARES Act and initial protection, some liability protections for some healthcare providers that maybe had retired and were coming back, but we need to do more. I'm hearing concerns. We've already seen some initial lawsuits in Washington state related to the Coronavirus. And I think this is clearly no fault of anyone and the impact has been grave. I think we all are doing everything possible and we need to look at how we put some liability protections into place, both at the federal and at the state level.

Tim Day:

Right. I think some governors have been doing that and hopefully we can start to look at that in the lead. Neil, what are your thoughts? Anything-

Neil Bradley:

That's exactly right. And my big fear at the moment is this is somehow becoming a partisan issue and it shouldn't be, right? So the things that we're asking for at the U.S. Chamber are very narrow, very targeted. It's no secret we've supported longterm permanent tort reform. We actually are not asking for that right now. That is not our request to the Congresswoman and others. Our request is very narrow, very targeted, we have an emergency situation, small businesses, mid-sized businesses who want to reopen, who are following the public health guidance of their local officials, shouldn't have to be worried that, God forbid, someone contracts COVID-19 and they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in years in court, trying to explain why they did everything that the public health officials recommended and still unfortunately, somewhat tragic, which we know is going to happen. By the way I mentioned, this is not partisan.

Neil Bradley:

Some of our model proposals, I don't know if you'd like us saying this, but we modeled it off of what governor Cuomo did in New York. So this is not partisan. We're seeing Democrat governors, Republican governors act on this. If we can set the normal firing lines aside here, I'm confident that we can do the right thing so that businesses can focus on reopening safely to protect their employees and their customers, which is the only thing they want to do. That's what they want to do. They don't want to be burdened by the idea of thinking about checking in with their lawyers before they reopen.

Tim Day:

Right. No, it makes perfect sense. And I look forward to working with both of you on that issue. It's an important one that we've been hearing about quite a bit. I just want to thank you. I think technology is not partisan, it tends to be bipartisan, which I think is good. It brings both sides in the aisle together. I was reading a white paper just this week that Bill Gates had written and in there, he said, he looks to global innovation as the key to limiting the damage of this crisis. And I think that's something that excites me and I think, going back Congresswoman to your stories of hope, we heard today about a very positive result on a drug from Gilead that's looking positive as it relates to the coronavirus. And so, there are glimmers of hope in this, and I think we need to be talking about that and looking at ways to increase those.

Tim Day:

And so, American ingenuity and creativity is critical in this process as you said. And I just look forward to working with you and the others on the committee. And Neil, I'll be looking to work with you and my other colleagues, former colleagues at the chamber on these issues. Any closing thoughts from your perspective? I mean, anything? I think it's interesting that we have a presidential election. This is going to be making it pretty difficult, I think as well, but we'll figure out a solution I'm sure as we go forward, but-

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Absolutely. I loved what you just said. And as you think about all the fear that is real right now, and there's a lot of fear, there's a lot of fear of the unknown. We're still learning about coronavirus. The best counter to that fear though, is to give people hope and to give them confidence. And it is through technology, it's through innovation that we're able to give people confidence. That's the way that we're going to be able to open up our economy, give people the confidence to go about their lives again. And so I just want to applaud American ingenuity and creativity again, as being part of that. That's the way we're going to solve the problem and continue to lead the world.

Tim Day:

Couldn't agree more, well said. Thank you both. I appreciate your time. And I look forward to seeing you back in DC.

Neil Bradley:

Thank you.

Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers:

Thank you. Good to be with you.

Neil Bradley:

Great to see you both.

Tim Day:

Thank you.

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