Brindisi: No time for political ‘game of chicken’

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Rep. Anthony J. Brindisi, D-22, Utica, says he is hopeful a new economic aid package will get through Congress soon but it needs to focus on direct aid to workers out of a job during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak rather than merely aiding large corporations.

Brindisi, in the middle of a self-imposed self quarantine because he was in contact with a Cognressional colleague who tested positive for the coronavirus, spoke with the Daily Sentinel Monday about the negotiations among congressional leaders on a new aid package.

“For me, must-haves are immediate flexible dollars for small businesses to cover their cash shortages,” Brindisi said. “I don’t want to see larger businesses, larger corporations, be the sole focus of the relief act.

“I also want to see both direct assistance to workers as well as an expansion of unemployment insurance to make workers whole.”

The biggest sticking point among leadership negotiations was on the level of oversight on how aid is sent, and Brindisi said he agrees it is needed. “I don’t want to see taxpayers’ dollars or money that have to borrow going to support CEO bonuses or stock buy backs like we saw after the financial crisis.

“I also believe the government should get some equity in industries we have to help during this crisis, because when these companies become profitable again, I want the government getting paid back.”

Brindisi had no complaint about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing over the weekend while Senate negotiations were proceeding that she wold draft legislation, and said it is important for leadership of both parties in both Houses to express their prirorites. He said he believes the leadership understands the urgency.

“This is not the time for Democrats and Republicans to be playing game of chicken. We have to come together now sooner rather than later and pass a stimulus package.”

Last week, Brindisi had as many as 10,000 people on the call during a telephone town hall on the pandemic, which shows the level of concern. “I would compare this moment to world war two, where we had to come together as a country for the greater good. I have no doubt that we will do that, and American will emerge stronger than we were before. There’s no doubt things are going to change as a result of this.”

On Tuesday, Brindisi and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-21st. Dist of Schuylerville, released a letter they wrote jointly to Defense Secretary Mike Esper asking that plans to use the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit unused and old hospital buildings upstate. Both are on the House Armed Services Committee. Their letter did not specify any particular sites.

“We are proud of the response our Upstate New York community has provided so far in the face of this unprecedented situation, and I know our communities stand ready to further support the Department and other agencies with the response effort,” their letter said.

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