BY FREDA MIKLIN
On August 17, Shaun Boyd, CBS4 political specialist, moderated a panel discussion sponsored by the Colorado Chamber of Commerce with Colorado Congressmen Ken Buck, Jason Crow, Ken Lamborn, Joe Neguse, and Ed Perlmutter. Missing were the female members of the delegation, Diana DeGette and Lauren Boebert.
Boyd asked first about the long and short-term geopolitical implications of the United States pullout from Afghanistan.
Congressman Neguse said, “The central goal is to bring our citizens and our Afghan partners back to the United States.” Buck used the term “failure of leadership” three times in describing the actions of the United States, adding, “This president is weak. European leaders don’t respect us…We have to recapture the strength we projected in the past. Hopefully we will do that with the next president.” Perlmutter said, “We could have done this better,” but termed Biden a strong president and pointed to the $2 trillion cost of the war that we will no longer be spending. Lamborn said that China and Russia “will see weakness in President Biden” and that “people are going to question the president’s judgment personally.” He wanted it to be clear that the efforts of the men and women in uniform “kept our country safe for 20 years from another 9/11.” Crow, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, said of those who served, “Do not question their service. Thousands of Coloradans have served their country honorably and proudly and if they hadn’t done it, someone else would have done it in their place. I learned a long time ago in the Army that you do an after-action review after the mission. There will be plenty of time for debate…Four presidents, multiple Congresses have played a role. But the mission is not over…My message is very clear to the administration…Hold that airport until we get everyone out that needs to get out. This is a moral issue as well as a national security issue.”
Boyd turned next to the COVID-19 pandemic, asking the congressmen what actions could be taken at the federal level to stop the spread and mitigate the impact.
First to respond was Rep. Buck, who said, “I think what Governor DeSantis did in Florida was a common-sense approach and I think many governors overreacted to the threat of the pandemic…We have to ask people to take personal responsibility for their own health and do what we can to keep the economy running.”
Perlmutter credited Governor Polis with the fact that, “We have fewer deaths per capita than Florida,” and, “We are down to the lowest unemployment that we’ve had in 18 months in Colorado. He added, “We’ve got to take precautions. Viruses mutate.”
Boyd asked Lamborn whether he saw another shutdown coming. Lamborn answered that businesses are having a hard time because of a lack of manpower, adding, “A lot of people have made the calculus that they’re better off not working.” He said that vaccines shouldn’t be mandatory, that people should choose for themselves whether they should get vaccinated.
The moderator asked Crow whether he thought it was a mistake to give the unemployed $300 additional per week until September 6. Crow said no, pointing out that, “You make decisions based on the best available information at the time, and “this pandemic is not over…You can’t bifurcate public health from the economy.” He also made the point that, “This is now our choice. Unlike 18 months ago…We can stop this…if people get vaccinated. Then we can move on.” Boyd pointed out that many are still choosing not to get the vaccine. Neguse said, “I think Colorado has done a terrific job of trying to strike the right balance…in terms of making sure that we protect the public…and also ensure that our businesses are able to flourish.” Perlmutter said he didn’t think the extra $300/week in unemployment compensation was keeping people out of work. Rather, he believes, “People have changed their minds” about what type of work they want to do.” He also said that the $300/week won’t be extended past its end date of September 6.
On the infrastructure bill passed in the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support, Perlmutter said that he supports it and it will be taken up by the House Rules Committee August 23.
He continued, “There are important parts for roads, bridges, and our water systems in Colorado. There are also millions of jobs in it. Our U.S. Geological Survey laboratory at the Federal Center is housed in a warehouse that was built in World War II…There are many things in this bill that will keep America competitive in the future.”
Lamborn said, “I would not support it as it came over from the Senate but there are some parts I support.” He said he was against $60+ billion for Amtrak because it is poorly managed and, “There are other examples I could give you as well. I am fearful for our children and grandchildren when we take on massive amounts of debt.”
Crow said, “This package is an illustration that Congress can still work. This was not easy to get to, but it got done in a bipartisan way. Everyone didn’t get everything they want but it’s a package that I’m excited about because we are making investments in infrastructure and people, and investing in ourselves has always paid for itself.”
Buck responded that, “We have $30 trillion of debt. This is not just a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that is largely unpaid for—and the “pay-fors” are a Washington D.C. joke… Speaker Pelosi… is going to combine this $1.2 trillion with another $3.5 trillion bill that is going to raise taxes and spend money…that has nothing to do with infrastructure. We can’t keep doing to our country what we’re doing. We have to pay our bills. Let’s put a sequester in place. Let’s not just spend to get a president re-elected or a Congress re- elected.” Crow said, “It’s day care, it’s child care, it’s K-12 education. Those investments will more than pay for themselves.”
Boyd raised the issue of using some of the $4 billion in federal stimulus money that Colorado received to backfill the state unemployment fund that is $1 billion in the red. Lamborn, Neguse, and Perlmutter did not object to the idea. Buck was against it and Crow was uncertain. Perlmutter said that he wanted to talk about human infrastructure and capital infrastructure. He named the GI Bill as an example of a great human infrastructure investment, including community college and day care, all of which served to help people work in their fullest capacity.
Boyd shared a question from a Chamber member about whether the reconciliation package would include a tax increase. Crow said that small businesses’ taxes won’t go up and people making less than $400,000/year won’t see an increase in taxes.
Neguse said that Crow was right but that Congress will debate the various aspects of the bill. Buck said he would oppose all tax hikes, adding, “The Trump economy was the greatest economy that we’ve had since World War II.” He said that tax increases will send jobs overseas. Perlmutter agreed that it is most important to keep jobs from going overseas.
On the question of shortages in the supply chain, all the congressmen agreed that China could not be trusted and that the United States had to do everything it could, including investing in infrastructure, bringing manufacturing and research and development back to this country, and aggressively prevent China from stealing our intellectual property.