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Friday, May 24, 2024

2024 Congressional Forum Focused on Bipartisanship and Improvements

Rep. Bobby Scott and Rep. Rob Wittman at the Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce 2024 Congressional Forum. (Photo: Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce)

WILLIAMSBURG — The Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce hosted its 2024 Congressional Forum, featuring Congressmen Bobby Scott Rob Wittman, in a moderated format at The Maine of Williamsburg on Monday, April 8.

The Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce noted it is committed to advocating and collaborating with Congressional representatives to keep citizens informed on topics being discussed in Washington.

Chamber members had the opportunity to learn first-hand from Scott and Wittman about what is happening politically at the national level and how it affects the Greater Williamsburg business community.

Scott, a Democrat, has served Virginia’s 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993. He is currently serving his fifth term as the Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Democratic leader, where he has advanced legislation to improve education and expand access to affordable health care. Scott has also served on the Committee on the Budget and the Committee on the Judiciary.

Wittman, a Republican, was first elected to serve Virginia’s 1st Congressional district in 2007. Wittman serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee, where he has earned a reputation for being an advocate for men and women in uniform and for being a champion of the Chesapeake Bay.

Moderated by Mindy Carlin of Access Point Public Affairs, both Scott and Wittman focused on working together and how bipartisanship benefits the Commonwealth.

Economic development, education costs, infrastructure as well as research and development were some of the areas discussed during the forum.

Regarding economic development initiatives, Wittman discussed Congressional renewal of Generalized System of Preferences (GPS).

Explaining that GPS “looks at how will U.S. businesses compete in a worldwide marketplace? What do we look at as far as imports and exports? What do we look at as far as tariffs and how small businesses can get into the marketplace? How do folks try to get into that trade space?” Wittman continued, “It is very important that we have a level playing field. That we ensure our businesses in the United States, and in the Commonwealth, have the ability to get into that business and have the ability to compete.”

“We would love to have your thoughts and ideas on things that would be advantageous to you as we review the Generalized System of Preferences,” stated Wittman.

“That issue has been a thorn in the side of the shipbuilding industry for years. Shipbuilders have been trying to get into the commercial market but because the other countries subsidize, it can never be competitive.” Scott added, “Our challenge right now is to make sure that businesses have skilled workers they can hire and that the people looking for jobs have those skills.”

The increased cost of higher education, and how the Federal Pell Grant is distributed along with student loan debt, was touched on with Scott who said, “we want to make sure people have access to higher education so they can get better jobs. We have to make sure people are being qualified through skills training.”

Adding to that topic, Wittman discussed the Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act which can assist in access to resources for students to use.

“The need in the future isn’t necessarily going to be limited to two and four-year degrees,” Wittman said. “Our four-year universities need to be very transparent about the degrees that they grant and what they do.”

Both Congressmen discussed the importance of infrastructure and transportation in Hampton Roads, citing the recent Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore as one reason these topics are being monitored closely by themselves and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce listens to Rep. Scott and Rep. Wittman at its 2024 Congressional Forum. (Christopher Six/WYDaily)

Bipartisanship

Relationships between political parties and understanding the views of each political side play a key role in government.

“Sen. John Warner set the tone … we are there to represent our constituents and we need to do it in a dignified and constructive manner. We have a weekly brunch where we discuss what we can do to move Virginia forward.” Scott continued, “We (Virginia) have as diverse of a delegation philosophically as any delegation in the country but we set the model of how we can work together on issues when you agree.”

Scott added when disagreements happen, “we work hard to maintain decorum. It matters because if we did not have a cooperative working relationship, we wouldn’t get anything done at all. So, I think if you just follow John Warner’s mandate, that we are here for constructive work, that a lot more can get done.”

Wittman agreed, saying, “John Warner used to call it the ‘Virginia Way.’ Virginias are thoughtful, reasonable and we listen and can have difficult conversations. The foundation of those relationships is what is in the best interest for Virginia? is a question we ask ourselves. We may have different ideas about how to get there but our focus is how are we going to get there. It’s about the end result.”

“Everyone that serves in elected office should remember; Look past the party label and look at what does that person and the people they represent have in common with the people I represent,” said Wittman. “When you look at those areas, what you find is there is a whole lot of things we have in common.”

Rounding up the forum, Carlin asked each representative to share qualities they value and appreciate in one another, and both Congressmen expressed a shared respect for each other.

“He (Wittman) is a conscientious legislator so, it is easy to get along together,” expressed Scott.

Wittman concurred, saying, “What I value is just having a conversation. We always talk and compare notes but, it always goes back to the things that are best for the Commonwealth.”

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