State chambers team up for visits on Capitol Hill

Chambers of commerce representing states with two of the country’s strongest economies teamed up last week to take their policy agenda to Capitol Hill. 

Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry staff and leaders from the Texas Association of Business (TAB) met with members of Congress to discuss policy priorities for the new Congress and to ensure the interests of each state’s job creators are represented on Capitol Hill. 

Arizona Chamber President and CEO Danny Seiden and Vice President of Government Affairs Courtney Coolidge joined a delegation led by TAB CEO Glenn Hamer and Chairman Massey Villareal for the trip, which included meetings with more than a dozen members of Congress, including U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, to discuss key priorities of the associations and the states’ broader business communities. 

Among the highlights of the visit, the team met with new Arizona Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R, and Texas Rep. Tony Gonzales, R, for an in-depth conversation about pressing issues impacting border states like Arizona and Texas, including border security, immigration reform, binational trade and commerce, and more. 

Specifically, the group discussed the need to address the border crisis in a way that ensures the safety and security of communities while promoting the efficient facilitation of legal commerce with each state’s No. 1 international trade partner. The congressmen expressed their commitment to find commonsense and bipartisan solutions to these issues, and to work with state business leaders and associations as partners in these efforts. 

That commitment was echoed in a separate meeting with Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, R, and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, R, who shared their plans to work together with Arizona and Texas businesses to pass meaningful policies to secure the border and reform the country’s immigration system. 

In addressing the associations, Sen. Sinema emphasized the growing humanitarian, security and economic problems associated with an unsecured border. She noted that when the border gets overwhelmed and operations at the ports of entry are disrupted, it creates a ripple effect with wide-ranging impacts to everything from crop production, to trade and commerce and more. 

“Arizona’s land ports of entry handle over 30 percent of Arizona’s imports and exports, so when Arizona-Mexico ports are shut down or unable to operate efficiently, that threatens billions of dollars in cross-border commerce a year,” Sen. Sinema said. 

The senator also expressed disappointment in the politicized and partisan approach to immigration coming out of Washington, D.C., reiterating the need to find common ground solutions. 

“That’s why I rejected the partisan echo chamber and at the end of last year partnered with my good friend, Senator Thom Tillis, on a bipartisan proposal to help solve some of the real problems our border communities and immigration system continue to face.” 

She noted the bill, which fell short of passage in the previous Congress, would have focused on needed investments in Border Patrol agents and Custom and Border Protection field operations officers; updated equipment and technology; increased measures to stop the flow of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs; improvements to the asylum system; and fixes to a loophole in our current visa system that would strengthen the country’s talent pipeline. Addressing that, Sinema argued, “will increase our country’s competitiveness and ensure America has the workforce it needs to power our economy and compete on the world stage.” 

Seiden said the Washington visit demonstrated the value in taking a regional approach to working with Congress. 

“We appreciated the opportunity to speak with members of Congress about some of the most pressing issues facing our state, including border security, cross-border trade, workforce and more. In Arizona and Texas, we know that these issues go hand-in-hand, and it’s encouraging to know we have leaders in Washington working in a bipartisan manner to find meaningful and long-term solutions,” Seiden said. “Arizona’s business community stands ready to work with Sen. Sinema, Rep. Ciscomani, and our elected leaders and partners in Texas and other border states to address these shared priorities.” 

Hamer agreed, saying the two states working together on Capitol Hill is a smart approach. 

“Texas and Arizona have two of the country’s most dynamic, vibrant economies. Together we have compelling and proven policy solutions to share with Congress,” he said. “With leaders like Sen. Cornyn and Rep. Gonzales and their colleagues in Arizona, the business community has partners in Washington who are ready and willing to pursue job-creating legislation.”

Robert Clarke

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