The annual DC Fly-In to Washington DC got off to a soggy start as our 40 Inland Northwest delegates arrived to a wet welcome. Spirits and energy were high despite the spring deluge, and Wednesday morning was dry and just a little humid – perfect for a walk to Capitol Hill. Using GSI’s 2015 Federal Legislative Priority Agenda as our guide, we broke into special-interest groups and commenced a full day of intentional conversations that represented a unified agenda for our region.
Our first official day in DC started with a lively discussion centering around the imminent expiration of the Export-Import Bank. Both sides of the aisle presented passionate discourse during the House Hearing on Oversight Efforts to Reform the Export-Import Bank, which is set to expire at the end of June. The Ex-Im Bank offers export financing through direct loans, loan guarantees and insurance to US businesses, large and small. As one of the top trade-dependent states in the nation, Washington state needs the Ex-Im Bank. And, since several of our members in the manufacturing industry utilize Ex-Im services, GSI will continue to advocate for its reauthorization.
A panel of five, consisting of Fred Hochberg, Chairman and President and of the Export-Import Bank; Nathan Sheets, Undersecretary for International Affairs, US Department of Treasury; Michael T. McCarthy, acting Inspector General for the Export-Import Bank; Mark S. Thorum, Assistant Inspector General for Inspections and Evaluations, Export-Import Bank; Kimberly Gianopoulos, Director, International Affairs and Trade; faced a peppering of questions from the House Financial Services and Oversight Joint Subcommittee.
Supporters continually pointed to the Bank’s low default rate of 0.174%; the fact that 90% of the Bank’s transactions were done by small businesses; and that 164,000 American jobs were supported by the Ex-Im Bank in 2014.
Those in opposition of the Bank’s reauthorization, voiced concerns about allegations of the Bank’s wasteful and fraudulent practices, and believe the bank in is need of reform. With just 31 legislative days remaining before the Bank expires, we’ll be keeping a close eye on progress, and will keep you informed on any new developments.
Elsewhere on the Capitol, healthcare was paramount. We met with staff from the House Energy & Commerce Committee, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) committee/Senator Murray’s Appropriations staff, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Our legislative priorities for healthcare include continued support and expansion of graduate medical education (GME), funding for Teaching Health Centers (THC) and reauthorization of the maternal, infant, and early childhood home visiting program (MIECHV).
Timing is everything, and Wednesday offered the perfect opportunity to say thank you to the staff and Congresswoman, as the Senate passed the “Doc Fix/SGR” legislation (HR2) late Tuesday night. It is headed to the President who is expected to sign this measure. The legislation provides funding through fiscal year 2017 for teaching health centers, which allows us to add more GME slots. The legislation also included two more years of funding for MIECHV. This was a great bipartisan effort that McMorris Rodgers, Murray and Senator Cantwell all supported.
With this short-term solution, our discussion shifted to the long-term need for sustainability of funding for GME and Teaching Health Centers, and the proper allocation of GME seats as there is great misdistribution in Washington and throughout the country.
Congresswoman McMorris Rogers was very interested in local leaders’ perspectives on the region’s access to quality healthcare, in particular the Spokane VA. The VA represents a microcosm of what the community-at -large is experiencing – a shortage of primary care physicians. When we return home, our work to drive the expansion of medical education in Spokane will continue.
Our last session of the day was a meeting in the Capitol Building, hosted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). Panelists representing international companies and trade policies shared insights, opportunities and challenges about doing business with Indian companies.
Ridhika Batra, USA Head at FICCI moderated the panel that consisted of Dhruva Jaishankar, Transatlantic Fellow at The German Marshal Fund; Kapil Sharma, Vice President of Government & Public Affairs, North America at Wipro LLC; Dave Ryan, Executive Vice President & Americas Regional Head at Tata Communications; Arun Kumar, Assistant Secretary, International Trade Administration at the Department of Commerce; and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
The delegation was encouraged to think creatively and explore potential that might not immediately come to mind when we think of India. Tractors, cars, coffee, hotels, mines … all of these things mean opportunity, for Indian – and American – businesses. We were reminded that when international businesses come here and invest they can’t do it alone – they need American business innovation to support their success.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers summed it up nicely when she said, “It’s time to cut the red tape and roll out the red carpet.”
The day ended with a reception at the Embassy of Canada. Increasing International Trade efforts is a top priority of GSI and our time at the Embassy was a great way to build new relationships with key officials that will strengthen business connections with outside markets – all while enjoying one of the best views of the city.
Thursday’s focus will be mainly on transportation and military affairs, with meetings at the Pentagon and around Capitol Hill.