In a time when America seems more divided than ever, and we have so many significant and overlapping challenges, the need for leaders who are able to come together is critical. We need bipartisanship to solve problems and leadership to drive the economic recovery.
Strong bipartisan passage of the U.S.-Mexico Canada Agreement earlier this year and the CARES Act this spring — the largest federal relief bill in history — remind us that strong support on both sides of the aisle is essential to meaningful and lasting legislative achievements.
At the forefront of such efforts is Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins, who we salute as a true champion of bipartisan leadership.
This year, the U.S. Chamber launched a new award to reward bipartisan leadership in Washington. Since the days of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Hamilton, America has benefitted from leaders who found ways to work together despite their differences. The new Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship recognizes those members of Congress who have demonstrated a willingness to work across the aisle in support of common objectives.
The score is based on the number of bills — except those formally opposed by the Chamber — a member cosponsors that is introduced by a member of the opposite party. Collins earned the Jefferson-Hamilton Award with a 100% score.
The time for bipartisan leadership is critical for small businesses in Maine and across the country. Nearly 8 in 10 small businesses are either fully or partially open, according to the MetLife and U.S. Chamber Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll. Supporting them now to help revive our economy is more important than ever.
Collins is doing this with her bipartisanship work on the CARES Act. Collins was one of the co-sponsors of the Paycheck Protection Program, a critical source of relief to help Maine businesses continue paying their workers. She delivered in garnering bipartisan support for it. In March, the CARES Act passed the Senate 96-0 with her leadership.
Collins is also ensuring the implementation of the CARES Act works for Maine. For instance, the pandemic has forced the closing of restaurants across the country, disrupting food supply chains that farmers, ranchers, and fisherman who rely on them.
Maine fishermen have been especially hard hit. Lobstermen have been forced to sell their catch from their homes, because there are fewer commercial buyers right now. Collins is there for them. Working with colleagues across the aisle, including Sen. Angus King, an independent, and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, both Democrats, Collins secured over $20 million in relief for Maine’s fishing industry.
Supply chain disruptions have also affected Maine farmers. Collins has again taken the lead. Working with Pingree, Collins urged the Department of Agriculture to emphasize the need for helping local farmers. The work paid off. Last month, Maine farmers could begin applying for relief through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Collins also is listening to the needs of Maine businesses and acting. With businesses shut down or limited in their operations longer than initially expected, more flexibility with PPP is needed.
Collins led the effort to get that flexibility through bipartisan legislation, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act.
“The Paycheck Protection Program is the single-most critical stimulus program protecting Main Street America from the economic consequences of measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Collins told her Senate colleagues last month. “The bill we are introducing today strengthens the PPP to reflect evolving economic needs, and I urge my colleagues to support it.” It has become law.
With so many challenges facing our country and so many voices that need to be heard, working together and finding common ground is more important than ever.
Leaders like Collins have shown they want to work with those across the aisle. They understand that representing the people is not about posturing, looking good on cable news, or being more a pundit than leader. It’s about finding practical solutions to real world problems.
Whether it’s COVID-19, the economic crisis, or working towards a more just society, we need strong but thoughtful leaders willing to listen as much as lead — and to act, not just talk.
Maine is fortunate to have such a leader in Collins.
Thomas J. Donohue is the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Dana Connors is the president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.