Congressional delegation voices concerns about trade, immigration policy

August 10, 2018

ASHLAND — Trade and immigration were the dominant topics Thursday at the annual get-together between Nebraska’s congressional delegation and members of the Lincoln and Omaha business communities.

And the consensus expressed by the state’s Republican congressional team was that the current crackdown on trade policy is threatening to Nebraska’s economy, particularly its agricultural sector, while a bipartisan solution to immigration reform is nowhere to be seen.

“I do not see any alignment in the near term” that would agree on immigration policy, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said, “and that’s a missed opportunity.”

“It’s difficult to figure out the pathway,” Sen. Ben Sasse said, “in a Congress that’s really a broken institution right now.”

Sasse said the drift away from political and public support for trade agreements like NAFTA, the pact that binds the United States, Canada and Mexico together in a trading partnership, is “critically dangerous for Nebraska (and) its ag producers.”

The North American Free Trade Agreement has “created jobs in all three countries,” he said, with the result that “our producers and our consumers win.”

Rep. Don Bacon told the gathering, sponsored by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, that the immigration battle is “tailor-made for compromise.”

Everyone could achieve “an 80 percent solution,” he said, but there is “a lack of willingness to come together.”

Sen. Deb Fischer pointed to legislative advances in defense funding and infrastructure investment along with “the focus on broadband access in rural areas” that is included in farm legislation.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Fischer said she is centered on nuclear modernization, missile defense and a new commitment to “recognize space as a war domain.”

The United States needs to deploy defense systems that would protect its space-based satellites, she said.

Sasse pointed to the parade of U.S. Circuit Court nominees that have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on which he sits.

President Donald Trump’s appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is “a judicial rock star,” he said. The committee has not yet held hearings on that nomination.

Fortenberry, Smith and Bacon extolled the impact of tax cuts contained in the tax reform package earlier approved by Congress.

The results have been positive for taxpayers and the economy, Smith said, and they accumulated “more quickly than anticipated.”

Smith is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which crafts tax legislation.

Gov. Pete Ricketts also addressed the meeting at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum adjacent to Interstate 80 near Mahoney Park.

“Nebraska is doing very, very well,” he said. “We are on a roll.”

The state needs to continue its aggressive economic development activities, plan for additional international trade and “control our spending,” Ricketts said.

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