Denny Does D.C.!By Dennis Vander Molen
Article Date: 09-01-2010
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This summer, AED Chairman Dennis Vander Molen got a firsthand look at what happens in our nation’s capital.
In a little over 24 hours, I left my home in Jackson, Miss., landed at Reagan National Airport, testified at two congressional hearings, attended two fundraising events for members of Congress, participated in one lobbying coalition meeting, and made it back to Jackson. Below is a journal of my time in our nation’s capital.
Day 1: Arrive at Reagan National Airport (DCA), July 14, 10:54 a.m.
After landing in Washington, AED’s Director of Government Affairs Daniel Fisher whisked me downtown. Daniel navigated through a sea of construction and equipment (I am glad someone’s equipment is being put to use!) on the 14th Street Bridge and we arrived at the Army Navy Club (ANC) (For those who don’t know, the ANC is the unofficial central hub for AED members when in Washington).
At the ANC, Daniel and I met up with AED’s Vice President of Government Affairs Christian Klein and our President and CEO Toby Mack. During a quick lunch, Christian and Daniel briefed me on my next activity and the primary reason for my trip to D.C. – my testimony before two congressional committees. Before I knew it, I was on my way to Capitol Hill to face a panel of lawmakers with images of the grilling of BP’s CEO running through my head.
Day 1: Arrive at 2360 Rayburn House Office Building, July 14, 1 p.m.
I was invited to testify at the House Small Business Committee’s hearing on reinstating the depreciation bonus that expired at the end of 2009. AED is doing great work as leader of an ad-hoc coalition of business groups to extend the important tax incentive. As a result, AED is seen as a key resource on small business tax issues, and committee staff had contacted Christian to see if he could find a witness – and that is what brought me to the Rayburn building this afternoon.
Following opening statements, Small Business Committee members asked questions of the witnesses. It appeared all committee members in attendance supported reinstatement of the depreciation bonus for 2010 and agreed that it would be beneficial to small businesses to do so. However, political disagreements were prevalent. In an election year and during the most highly partisan Congress in recent memory, it is no surprise that a little partisan bickering would surface even at the most non-controversial of hearings.
Committee member Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) was a breath of fresh air – or at least as fresh as an 84-year old former scientist can be. Bartlett was advocating for the end of depreciation schedules and a major simplification of the tax code. Nobody on the panel disagreed with him, but it will probably be another 84 years before we see something like that in this country. That would make things too easy!
Overall, my first time testifying at a congressional hearing was a breeze. No hostile questions. No yelling. It was just a few small business owners telling their stories before several lawmakers.
Day 2: Arrive at Capitol Hill Club, July 15, 8:30 a.m.
Following a nice dinner and good night’s sleep, I awoke the next morning full of energy. And, did I need it. An action-packed schedule and dealing with the heat and humidity of Washington is enough to make anyone exhausted.
The first order of business this morning for Toby, Christian and me was a fundraising breakfast for House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee member Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA). Graves has only been in Congress for a few months. He was first elected to the House in June, had to run in a Republican primary in July, and faced another challenge in a run-off for the GOP nomination in August. All that before the big contest in November!
Also attending the breakfast was Rep. John Mica (R-FL). Mica, ranking Republican member on the House T&I Committee, is set to be the chairman if the GOP wins enough seats in November to take the House. Mica reaffirmed his strong support for a multiyear, fully funded highway bill.
Day 2: American Family Business Institute, July 15, 10:30 a.m.
I had heard that the secret to getting things done in D.C. is to get enough of the cogs turning in the right direction. One of the ways to get those cogs turning properly is to partner in coalitions with other organizations that share your common interests. As a result, I was excited to join AED staff at the Death Tax Repeal Working Group meeting at the American Family Business Institute.
During the meeting, attendees discussed the estate tax in detail and planned congressional strategy. It was interesting to see how groups representing family business owners can work together to push for a particular legislative outcome. AED members should feel good about the efforts being made by the association and our partners to permanently resolve the uncertainty surrounding the estate tax.
Day 2: 101 Constitution Ave, NW, July 15, 2010, Noon
Next, it was back to Capitol Hill for a fundraising lunch for Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), the senior Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee. Considered to be one of the most powerful congressional committees, Ways & Means has jurisdiction over all tax, revenue, and trade issues, including finding a funding mechanism for the next highway reauthorization bill.
Regarding most tax matters (LIFO, estate tax, capital gains, etc.), Camp is a strong ally. Christian, Toby and I were able to discuss with him the importance of a highway bill and the need for Ways & Means to complete the revenue portion of the legislation in the near future.
Day 2: 2167 Rayburn House Office Building, July 15, 2010, 2 p.m.
Following lunch with Camp, we were back to the Rayburn building for my final round of testimony. Water infrastructure investment was the topic of the hearing before the House T&I Committee’s Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment. I was particularly excited to testify before Rep. John Boozman (R-AR), the senior Republican on the subcommittee. Two of Vermeer MidSouth’s facilities are in Boozman’s district.
Following witness opening statements, it was pretty clear that there is broad support from the business community, organized labor, and municipal water managers for substantial and sustained water infrastructure investment. Since approximately 12 cents of every dollar spent on sewer and drinking water projects go toward equipment purchases, this is good news for our industry.
Day 2: Depart Reagan National Airport (DCA), July 15, 2010, 4:55 p.m.
Wow what a trip! Participating in the legislative process and witnessing what AED’s Washington office does on a daily basis has been an eye-opening experience. My time in Washington also reaffirmed what I have come to realize through many years of attending the AED Government Affairs Fly-In meetings – what happens in D.C. matters to our businesses and equipment distributors across the country must stay engaged.
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