Congressman Smith Says House Will Have Questions About Stimulus Package

Congressman Adrian Smith (Photo courtesy Rep. Adrian Smith)
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March 25, 2020 - 5:45pm

Now that the U.S. Senate is set to approve a $2 trillion stimulus package, members of the House will take a shot at it, a process that’s expected to start later this week. NET’s Jack Williams spoke with U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith about that process and how rural Nebraskans are reacting to the coronavirus pandemic.

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NET News: Congressman Smith you represent a huge portion of rural Nebraska. What are you specifically looking for in this historic stimulus package when it heads to the house? 

Congressman Adrian Smith: Well, what we want to do is keep folks employed and encourage employers to keep people on the payroll. So that's a huge focus and I think it will have dividends long-term and you know, it does give me pause though, looking at the huge number of dollars that we are currently working with.

NET News: Many Americans would get a stimulus check as part of this package. Is that enough in your opinion to get rural Nebraskans through this tough time?

Congressman Adrian Smith: Well, I think the more important component is the emphasis on keeping people in a job. And I know that there are a lot of small businesses across Nebraska. I know that their business is based in Nebraska with multi-state presence and so to keep folks in a job and so that's that focus would actually help the employer through a grant if they keep someone employed rather than a loan should they decide to terminate someone or lay them off because of the slower economy.

NET News: So do you feel like there is enough baked into the stimulus package when it comes to employment that satisfies you and the needs of rural Nebraska?

Congressman Adrian Smith: I will be going through the whole bill and looking at various components of that, interacting with colleagues. I know that we have had multiple conference calls, so there's a lot that is still to be decided. But it sounds like to me there is significant agreement on major components here. So you know, we want to do what's best for America. We're facing an unprecedented situation. With that being said, I know we're focusing on economic impact but let's not forget how important it is to maintain the social distancing so we can help flatten that curve, as it's been said before, because that will do more to bring the economy back than a lot of other things.

NET News: Yeah we've heard President Trump talk about the need for balance and that wrecking the economy would have dire consequences just as much as a health crisis. There is a balance there, though, right? Do you feel like the President is trying to reopen business and the country too soon or does he have a point?

Congressman Adrian Smith: Well, I appreciate the President offering some optimism, I think that can be well-placed. I think ultimately, though, this will be a data-driven decision and that data needs to show that too, we have flattened the curve and that the social patterns across America have hopefully been helping to accomplish that flattening of the curve, but we need more data certainly before other big decisions are made.

NET News: Rural Nebraskans probably haven't felt the impact of coronavirus like other areas like, Omaha and Lincoln. What are you hearing from your constituents? Are they worried at all?

Congressman Adrian Smith: Certainly. They are, I think, there's a frustration but certainly in appreciation as well around, you know, the Panhandle for example that I mean our local grocery store, even though they're currently no cases announced locally. They still spray down there their carts with bleach every 30 minutes and you know, that's just one thing that local businesses are doing. And so I certainly appreciate the effort to that everyone is putting in in certainly though I do want to emphasize how important it is that we that we take this seriously.

NET News: When this package gets to the House do you anticipate any major issues with it, I know the Senate had a few issues. What have you heard?

Congressman Adrian Smith: I think there will be debate, certainly, an exchange of ideas that's what we're supposed to do. And obviously it will be a little dicey on a remote basis primarily, but fact of the matter is you know, it's our job to sort through the issues to have the exchange of ideas but ultimately arrive at a decision as well.

NET News: I want to hear more about the remote part of it, so the debate, are you planning to do that a little differently than you've done in the past?

Congressman Adrian Smith: I believe that is the case at least looking at that right now, no decisions have been made about how ultimately that will look but I know it is the desire of many of my colleagues and myself included that, you know, if we can do this without forcing literally hundreds of us that to be re-exposed if you will though, that isn't good for the communities or certainly the message that we've been promoting of trying to flatten the curve. So the debate and ultimately a decision may need to be made not by a remote vote, but it's a matter of how we exchange and how we would all agree to move forward.

NET News: Congressman Adrian Smith represents Nebraska's Third Congressional Regional District. Thank for your time today.

Congressman Adrian Smith: Thank you

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