As states reopen, it is up to us to build a nation more resilient, better-equipped and more secure.
Crisis has always been a catalyst for change in America's history. Today, our nation faces the health and economic crises caused by COVID-19, which has killed tens of thousands of Americans and left millions unemployed.
As states reopen, it is up to us to build a nation more resilient, better-equipped, and more secure.
As lawmakers from opposite political parties, we know that Congress can create positive, generational change for the American people only when we look for common ground.
Emerging from this crisis, we call on the federal government to act on three priorities that will get America back on its feet. With investments in broadband access, support for the creation of domestic supply chains and requirements for Congress to meet its constitutional budgetary obligations, we believe that the United States can once again find transformation in a time of crisis.
Many Jobs Depend on Broadband
First, we believe that it is time for the United States to close the digital divide and bring high-speed internet to every family, regardless of their ZIP code. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how critical broadband access is to businesses, health care providers, and to American life in the 21st century. These investments are important for children who depend on remote learning, for patients using telehealth and for the many low-income and rural Americans who lack access to reliable internet service. The bottom line is that broadband is essential for participating in the American economy and staying connected to your community.
The need for the internet in rural America is great, and the return on investment, especially in the midst of an economic crash, would be powerful. About 40% of Americans in rural areas and 68% of Americans on tribal lands do not have access to high-speed internet. Delivering broadband to these communities would provide economic and quality-of-life improvements that would ripple through our nation’s rural towns and counties. Nationally, for every percentage point increase in new broadband distribution, employment expands by an estimated 300,000 jobs. We cannot ignore that correlation any longer.
Rebuilding Our Supply Chains
Second, Congress must work to establish lasting domestic supply chains, to stop the outsourcing of our public safety and national security. As we battle the pandemic, it is critical that we stay focused on getting Americans the immediate health and economic relief they need. We must reconstitute our medical and public safety supply chain back to the United States. Medical products, protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, emergency response equipment, and all other critical items and materials needed to respond to a national emergency must be produced domestically for domestic consumption, especially during a critical, time-sensitive crisis.
Our first responders must have access to the necessary resources to protect our nation, and Americans need a coordinated, fully funded, unified government response. Emerging from this crisis, we must have a bipartisan plan to ensure that our nation is not caught off-guard by another emergency, unable to protect our communities. We need to strengthen our supply chain and not be over-reliant on adversaries such as China. Our review of the COVID-19 response must be bipartisan, forward-looking, and equip our nation to respond to future threats.
Congress Must Pass A Budget
Finally, we believe that it’s time for Congress to pass regular appropriations and a budget that funds programs critical to our health, our economy and our national security. We cannot use continuing resolutions as an alternative to doing the hard work of making long-term budgeting decisions. Our taxpayers deserve a budgeting process that is transparent, bipartisan and that fully funds our national priorities.
The last time Congress comprehensively reformed the budget process was in 1974. A lot has changed in the four-and-a-half decades since then. Today, there are a number of targeted, bipartisan solutions for fixing the budgeting process in Congress, including proposals such as the No Budget No Pay Act, which would prevent House and Senate members from receiving their salary if they miss annual deadlines for budget and appropriations bills. As we discuss new processes to protect the health and safety of members during the COVID-19 crisis, this is also our chance to reform the way our lawmakers work for the American people.
The health emergency and economic crisis ahead of us loom large. But someday our nation will look back on this tragic moment, and hopefully, we will have come out stronger for it. We can emerge from this crisis more connected, more secure and better prepared if only we work together in a bipartisan way to meet the needs of our nation. In this historic moment of crisis, Congress is being called upon for an equally historic response. The American people deserve nothing less.
Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., and Kendra Horn, D-Okla., are members of the congressional Problem Solvers Caucus.