Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joined the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry Friday to discuss what they have been working on in Washington D.C.
Since being sent to the Senate, both have worked on legislation regarding issues such as trade and immigration reform.
Here is what is happening on Capitol Hill.
The United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement was introduced last year as an updated North America Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to promote fair and free trade between the North American countries.
McSally said she believed if the USMCA was introduced in Congress right now it would pass.
“We [have] got to get that across the finish line as soon as possible,” McSally said. “The importance of this to our economy here in Arizona, as you know, it’s over 200,000 jobs. We need politics to stop being played with this…this isn’t about President Trump; this is about the American people. This is about the people we represent.”
One issue that had been holding back the USMCA was the United States’ tariffs on steel and aluminum with Canada. Friday morning, President Donald Trump lifted the tariffs.
“President Trump announced that he’s removing tariffs on aluminum and steel as it regards to Canada and that’s important because removing those tariffs against Canada will help us move forward with the USMCA,” Sinema said. “In the United States Senate, there’s some pretty broad shared agreement on moving forward with the USMCA.”
Ports of Entry
In April, Sinema and McSally teamed up to oppose the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency’s (CBP) decision to remove officers from the Arizona ports of entry after the agency saw its highest total number of daily apprehensions and encounters in over a decade twice in one week.
“We’ve got to figure out a better way than moving agents from another key, critical part of border security at the ports of entry that would also hurt our economy in order to address that issue,” McSally said.
“Removing CBP officers from those ports of entry is actually a really dangerous move,” Sinema said. “That’s where the primary sources of fentanyl capturing, and other drug interdiction happens. So, when you take away CBP officers from those ports of entry not only are you slowing down legitimate commerce, you’re reducing our ability to capture the illegitimate commerce that’s coming in–the counterfeit goods and the drugs.”
Another key issue with the ports of entry is infrastructure. Recently the Douglas City Council and Cochise County Board of Supervisors approved a proposed location for a new commercial port of entry in the area, but the senators think more work is needed.
“Our infrastructure at these ports of entry needs to be updated. Funding these ports of entry, the infrastructure projects for these is so critical and it was actually included in the president’s proposal. We’ve got to get these modernized [and] we’ve got to fight to get that funding,” McSally said.
The trade war with China
“My concern is that given this manufactured trade war with China and how we’ve seen it get upped significantly just in the last week or two, that’s really a problem,” Sinema said. “The legislation that Senator [Rob] Portman (R) of Ohio and I have introduced simply says that if the Executive Branch implements tariffs using this regulation that says you’re relying on national security interests that [then] the Department of Defense would then have to certify that there is indeed a national security interest.”
While the trade war between the U.S. and China has been growing, both senators believe tariffs are not the right way to address the issue.
“I appreciate the administration trying to take them on, I would hope that our allies could join the team so we could continue to crank up the pressure on them. [They are] a national security threat for sure and that is very much my focus. I’m a free and fair trader at heart, so I don’t support tariffs,” McSally said.
“China is a bad actor; we can all agree on this. They steal our patents, they do some bad stuff when it comes to internet and cybersecurity, they’re not fair players, but the way to fight with China is not to hurt your own businesses. That doesn’t make sense,” Sinema added.
McSally and Sinema both discussed different veterans issues that they are currently addressing in the Senate.
McSally is working with Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) to help veterans have an easier time getting a job at the country’s ports of entry.
“Streamlining that process for them was the first thing we were able to get into law, but we still have real challenges,” McSally said. “This session I’m working…on [a bill] that allows… law enforcement and veterans who have already been vetted, have already gone through background checks [to not be] waiting and being tripped up on a case-by-case basis related to the polygraph requirement. [It’s] just giving a little more flexibility for them to quickly be able to bring these people who have already shown they can be trusted and put their lives on the line.”
McSally is also working to help victims of sexual assault in the military.
“We have to make sure [when you join the military you] are going to be safe and you’re not going to have crimes committed to you by another person in uniform,” she said. “We’re going to criminalize sexual harassment for the first time ever in the USMJ as part of my legislation and that’s a good starting point.”
Sinema is working to make it easier for veterans to join the veteran service organization the American Legion, which you can only join if you served in a declared conflict.
“The first bill I introduced in the United States Senate was a bill called the LEGION Act,” Sinema said. “Most of our younger veterans have or are currently serving in undeclared conflicts. So they don’t qualify for membership in the American Legion. Our bill fixes that and will open up membership in the American Legion to hundreds of thousands of veterans across the country.”
Other Key Issues
At the luncheon, Sinema also discussed her legislation to remove the health insurance tax for small businesses.
The health insurance tax is a provision of the Affordable Care Act and is expected to cost $400 per family for the average small business. Sinema is working with Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) to repeal the tax.
Sinema also noted her efforts on immigration reform where she is working with other senators to address loopholes in the immigration laws.
McSally discussed her recent visit to the Ivy Brain Tumor Center and how she is working to raise awareness of glioblastoma, the deadliest form of brain cancer, and providing funds to help find a cure.
She also talked about the Tomato Suspension Agreement and how another agreement needed to be reached in order to protect Arizona jobs and consumers from higher tomato prices.