The State Chamber of Oklahoma is holding its annual DC Fly-In this week, allowing members the opportunity to get caught up on key national issues and hear firsthand how they’re playing out at the federal level.
More than 100 members of the Chamber have traveled to Washington for the event, being hosted this year at the Willard Hotel, about a mile up Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol where Congress is taking on an issue this week -- namely, funding the government -- that will impact, not only businesses, but virtually every single American.
The deadline to fund the government into the new fiscal year is September 30, but ultra-conservative members of the House Republican conference are threatening to derail any stopgap funding measure unless it contains significant spending cuts and border security provisions. But those provisions are non-starters for Democrats in the Senate, not to mention for President Biden.
Many of those on the Chamber trip agree that federal spending needs be reduced, but they do not want to see federal agencies shut down.
"I mean, from a business perspective, we want the government to continue to be funded, absolutely," said Stephania Grober, President of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma.
"With a lot of businesses in Oklahoma impacted by federal government spending," said Chad Warmington, Chamber President and CEO, "anything that’s a disruption to that is going to be a disruption to the Oklahoma economy."
The Chamber group should get an update on the budget talks when they hear from the state's federal delegation on Tuesday at the Capitol.
One state lawmaker in the group hopes to hear about opportunities for state-federal collaboration.
"Because there are different programs and things where we need to make sure the right hand is talking to the left hand," said State Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R), Speaker of the House Pro Tem, "where we don’t want to be duplicating efforts, wasting taxpayer dollars."
Among the panel discussions scheduled for Monday were sessions on the impact of the broken immigration system on businesses and how businesses can utilize AI in the workplace.
Chamber officials say these sessions are an important part of the event. "So that Oklahomans leave here, go back to Oklahoma," he said in an interview, "with a little broader perspective of what’s going on in the economy or going on in the world, or even in the world of politics."
In the end, the Fly-In is an opportunity for the Chamber to remind the delegation of their overriding belief that less government intervention is better for business, Warmington says that maxim could also help solve the biggest problem for all businesses in Oklahoma right now: workforce.
"How do we get the workforce we need to grow the economy that we want?" Warmington asked rhetorically. "And so I think will be having that conversation with [the delegation], as well: what government can do or in this case maybe get out of the way, to allow us to unleash the talent that we have in Oklahoma."