The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud to be one of the only entities in the Commonwealth capable of bringing all four sitting Congressmen representing Southeastern Virginia together for an informative session with our members. Congressmen Bobby Scott, Rob Wittman, Donald McEachin, and Scott Taylor each took the stage at the Chamber’s Congressional Forum to address the issues that matter to the business community of Hampton Roads.
The most important message relayed by all four Congressmen is that they are working together for the good of Virginia. They are reaching across party lines and representing needs of their constituents.
Both Congressman McEachin and Congressman Taylor publicly thanked Congressman Scott and Congressman Wittman for showing them around Washington, literally and figuratively. The senior representatives helped their junior counterparts learn the protocols and procedures to legislate at the federal Level, as well as, offer directions to get around the halls of Congress.
Congressman Bobby Scott touched briefly on a variety of issues including education. “No Child Left Behind was due for rework. We must continue to provide the best education for all our children.” In regards to higher education, Congressman Scott said “we need to spend money on higher education for education and training past the high school level.” On the topic of Healthcare, “The Affordable Care Act didn’t cure all the problems. It needs to be improved not made worse. We’ll repeal and replace but we are not going backwards.”
Congressman Rob Wittman focused most of his comments on the work he is doing with the House Committee on Armed Forces as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. “We will grow the Navy to 355 ships by extending the life of existing ships and building new ships. An additional 13 ships are in this year’s House and Senate budgets. That is up from the 8 in the President’s budget. This will allow us to build an aircraft carrier every 3 years instead of every 5 years. We are ramped up to build 15 destroyers. This needs a final push through the Senate.”
Congressman Donald McEachin stressed the collaboration of the delegation “as what will help make Virginia the best Commonwealth she can be”. Sitting on the Seapower subcommittee with Congressman Wittman, McEachin said one of his first questions was why do we need a 355 ship Navy? “I was told we need 355 ships to fight two wars simultaneously.” McEachin briefly touched on tax reform. “What I heard from the President is tax cuts. We can’t afford tax cuts. We need to be revenue neutral with tax reform. We cannot go to war and have tax cuts at the same time. We will blow up the budget like that. We are at war in diverse places and need those revenues for our soldiers, sailors and airmen.”
Congressman Scott Taylor began by thanking his peers for their support and guidance. He is the first freshman Congressman to sit on the House Appropriations Committee. Each of the other Congressmen noted this distinction with pride for Congressman Taylor. On the issue of tax reform, Congressman Taylor said “corporate rates have to be competitive. Working people are paying more taxes than at any other time in America.”
Congressman Taylor also serves on the Homeland Security, Military Construction/Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch subcommittees. He proudly stated that 71% of the funding for military construction is coming to Virginia. There are improvement projects coming to every base. He is working with the city of Virginia Beach to move forward a VA outpatient center that would bring 800 new jobs to Hampton Roads.
Taylor touched briefly on the economy and jobs. He is trying to change the Pell Grant system to include certification courses that provide the skills needed for jobs that are open right now.
During the question and answer period with the audience, Congressman Scott addressed the issue of contractors versus employees. This is a growing problem with Uber, Lyft and the gig economy. “Contractors are not entitled to minimum wage, worker’s compensation or anything you would expect an employee would get. This is a growing problem and we are looking into it. We do not have an answer yet.”
Congressman Taylor took a question on healthcare. “We need to rethink a lot about healthcare. We need to know how much things cost. Right now we are defending mediocrity.”
All four Congressman agreed recurrent flooding, sea level rise, global warming should not be a partisan issue. Congressman Wittman stressed we need to work together at the local, state, and federal level to develop good policies to leverage resources. Congressman McEachin suggested “we give incentives to switch over from fossil fuels”.
The Hampton Roads Chamber works as an impactful advocate for our members. This annual event bringing all four Congressman together is a superior opportunity to learn first-hand what our representatives are doing for us in Washington and to help shape the policies they will fight for on our behalf.
Thank you to our sponsors for the 2017 Congressional Forum:
Presenting Sponsors: COX and The Port of Virginia
Platinum Legislative Sponsor: Bon Secours
Silver Legislative Sponsor: Clark Nexsen
Bronze Sponsor: STIHL
Radio Sponsor: Sinclair Communications