Rep. Lee: Time for parties to join forces on pandemic relief

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Wade Vandervort

Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., is interviewed during a roundtable discussion to highlight the importance of protecting Southern Nevada senior citizens from fraud and abuse at the Henderson Multigenerational Center on Monday, July 29, 2019.

Fri, Nov 20, 2020 (2 a.m.)

Democratic Rep. Susie Lee feels voters earlier this month gave a mandate to Congress: Work together.

The only way to get much-needed aid to Americans to survive the health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic is for Congress to take a bipartisan approach, she said.

“I think people are starting to realize it right now that we have to move forward,” Lee said. “I think if anything, this election showed us just how incredibly divided this country is and how much people are just wanting Congress to work together.”

Lee won reelection with the rest of Nevada’s House delegation, but has Congress’ lame duck session to work through before the makeup of both chambers shifts and President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Like her Southern Nevada colleagues in the House, Lee said she wants Congress to “pass some form of continued relief for the American public.”

Lee, who sits on the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, is hopeful the sides can work together in the session that started Monday to pass some form of relief, such as extending unemployment benefits. That would directly impact Nevadans, 12% of whom are still jobless after the mid-March shutdown of the economy.

But Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly not held talks on a new relief package with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The sides are divided on how much money they want to pump into relief, with the Democrat-controlled House leaning toward $2.2 trillion and Senate Republicans leaning toward $500 billion.

President Donald Trump recently called for passage of a relief bill on Twitter, stating it needed to be “big and focused.”

“Obviously, it’s a big hill to climb,” Lee said. “I believe that our best opportunity was prior to the election, but I’m not going to give up fighting.”

The upcoming Senate runoff elections in Georgia, which will determine control of the upper chamber, will lay the groundwork for how much bipartisanship will be needed to pass any meaningful legislation after Jan. 20.

“Would it be nice to have, absolutely,” Lee said. “Is it a must? I believe that, again, the mandate that we in Congress all should be marching towards as a result of this election is a desire for us to work together and get things done in a bipartisan manner.”

Managing the pandemic crisis is going to take up at least the beginning of her next term in office, and she said that the “economic pain” will only end when the spread is stopped.

The pandemic has also shown the need, she said, to further diversify Nevada’s economy.

“I think it’s very clear to us that the business model around gaming and tourism has been blown up as a result of this pandemic,” Lee said. 

Lee said Nevada is a leader in fields such as renewable energy and drone technology, and that the new UNLV medical school building could expand opportunities in that space.

“Whenever we see a recession or economic downturn it seems to hit our state the hardest because we are so vulnerable, because we are not diversified,” Lee said.

If people want to get the economy back on its feet, Lee said, they have to “do their part.”

“We sit there and talk about protecting our freedoms. Well, it’s protecting our neighbors and protecting ourselves,” Lee said. “Wear a mask. How hard is that, to wear a mask when you’re in public? Practice social distancing.”

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