The Spinal Column: Rep. Stevens talks trade, manufacturing

“I am proud of this board and the leadership they show as part of Oakland County as well as in Michigan’s 11th District,” Rep. Haley Stevens (D) told the White Lake Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting via Zoom. “It is a privilege to work alongside this board.”

Stevens then presented the board with a Congressional Flag, which had been flown over the U.S. Capitol. “I flew this flag in honor of White Lake,” she said. “Normally this presentation would more ceremonial, but it is still a recognition to the board’s leadership, which takes the needs of the community very seriously, are fiscally responsible, and are growing as a result. It’s absolutely magnificent.”

Rep. Haley Stevens

She went onto express her gratitude to township Supervisor Rik Kowall. “White Lake residents have an incredibly accessible supervisor in Rik. He’s always given me good advice on a variety of things and I’ve learned a lot from him. I truly never met a more hard-working, pragmatic township supervisor.”

The trade deal is good for Michigan

Stevens, who is up for re-election this November – facing Republican challenger Eric Esshaki – joined the meeting to discuss her first term in Washington, D.C. She explained that she was one of a dozen Democrats to support the new United States-Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal.

“I recognized that this trade deal was important, catalytic, and essential to our region,” she said. “I took a stand on that when it wasn’t popular, sending a note over to our house leadership to express the need to get this passed because this is going to mean American jobs, Michigan jobs, and as a representative of the largest concentration of automotive suppliers in the country, I wanted to make sure we increase job growth opportunities and bring certainty to our manufacturers. Low and behold, the trade deal passed overwhelmingly, with bi-partisan support, and we’re moving into implementation. We now have a real framework and a pathway to compete globally and sell American products, Michigan products. This will be a key piece of the economic story as we make our way through this slight downturn as a result of this pandemic.”

Focused on manufacturing and supply chains

Stevens is also working across the aisle, and across congress, on the Resilient Manufacturing Task Force Act (RMTF Act.) The bipartisan, bicameral legislation is intended to strengthen the domestic supply chain to help the economy withstand future disease outbreaks, cyberattacks, natural disasters, and other emergencies. The Act authorizes $5 million to create a Resilient Supply Chain Task Force, led by the Secretary of Commerce in coordination with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Energy, to identify critical vulnerabilities in U.S. supply chains.

Introduced two weeks ago, the RMTF Act is supported by Congressman Troy Balderson (R-OH), U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL.) “Introducing a bill in the House and Senate, with your friends on the other side of the aisle, is how to get things done in Washington,” said Stevens. “The Resilient Manufacturing Task Force Act is a real opportunity for us in Michigan because this bill will charge the Department of Commerce to create a manufacturing guard to be led with small businesses and private sector enterprises.”

Last year, she and Balderson introduced the American Manufacturing Leadership Act aimed at strengthening manufacturing workforce development and engaging with small and medium-sized businesses. Stevens joked, “Sure, Troy’s from Ohio and I’m from Michigan, but manufacturing and supply chain is where Michigan and Ohio can come together.”

Stevens said one thing both of these bills have in common is to avoid being overly reliant on China. “We’ve stood up to China these last couple of years. I’m very proud of that and I’m a part of that agenda,” she said.

Last January, Stevens was elected chairwoman of Research & Technology Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. “This committee is one of the best-kept secrets in Congress because we actually get things done,” she said.

And in May, Stevens introduced the Child Care is Essential Act, to create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund. “This bill is aimed at ensuring the 40% of daycares in Michigan that are in threat of imminent closure don’t have to permanently close their doors,” she said.

The media fosters divisiveness

Despite Stevens’ success in reaching across the aisle, she said this doesn’t get coverage in the media. “I have become convinced that part of the divisions in the country are because of the media,” she said. “They won’t ever cover the good stuff; they just want to cover the in-fighting. I wish I could put the Zoom camera on my shoulder as I walk through the halls of congress and talk to my colleagues from across the aisle.”

She went onto say, “I come from Michigan and from manufacturing, and when you’re on the shop floor, you’re not looking at who’s this or that in their politics. You’re focused on results.”

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