Chair Cantwell Questions Deputy DOC Nominee on Safely Rebuilding the Tourism Economy, Depoliticizing the Census

Cantwell Also Discusses Importance of Restoring Respect for Science at the Department of Commerce

March 10, 2021

Opening Statement Video | Audio | Transcripts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, questioned Don Graves, nominee to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce, on reviving the economy in the aftermath of the pandemic. Cantwell and Graves also discussed the Census, and the importance of science informing departmental decision-making on issues ranging from weather and data forecasting to fisheries management.

Yesterday, I think the airlines presented to the White House an idea of some sort of vaccination card. Now, as somebody who's traveled abroad at times and been asked for my yellow fever vaccination card, it's played a key role to tourism in certain nations around the globe,” Chair Cantwell said. “So what do you think of this--what do you think the Department of Commerce should be doing to look at this issue, and to further evaluate it?”

Mr. Graves responded, I agree that tourism is absolutely critical for our economic growth and our recovery. I believe strongly that we should do all that we can to help ensure that these industries know that the airline workers, the pilots, the flight attendants, and all the rest of the airline workers rely on us making sure that the standards are applied across the globe. And I would certainly, if confirmed, work with the White House, the CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, to ensure that we can get the tourism back on track, get our travel going, and make certain that that they have every precaution that they need, but make certain that travel is open, and that the United States is open for business.”

Cantwell began her questioning by asking about the delay in Census data.

“[The delay] will cause challenges for states as they try to meet their constitutional duties on redistricting,” Cantwell said. “So, some are already struggling with how to get meaningful public input with a truncated timeline. If confirmed, will you work to address the state issues and address the accuracy and timeliness of the census?”

Graves responded, “I absolutely will work on that issue. I will also listen to the experts, the career experts at the department, and not allow politics to impact the accuracy and timeliness of the Census.”

In her opening statement, Cantwell emphasized the need for science to be at the forefront when it comes to fisheries management.

I also want the Biden administration to elevate the role of science in decision-making,” Cantwell said. “Over the last four years, we saw science ignored and undermined, and we can't afford that. Our Pacific Northwest fisheries continue to need a science-based fisheries management system. And this is so important for sustainable fisheries, for the economic impact that they have on our communities.”

Cantwell later discussed the critical role science plays in our weather forecasting abilities.

“Another area of science will be weather forecasting and weather forecasting infrastructure,” Cantwell said. “The United States must be a leader in predicting and forecasting weather. Another crucial investment is just the fact that that information on weather makes so many other decisions for shipping, for maritime, for agriculture, space, NASA--everybody needs this information. So I hope we can count on you to help bridge that gap.”

Mr. Graves expressed his support for fishing communities around the country in his response.

“Sustainably managed fisheries are critical to our economy, to our culture, to the fishing industry,” Graves said. “I will absolutely work with the career staff at NOAA to make certain that we get these disaster dollars out the door and supporting those communities that have been most critically impacted by the pandemic, and by the challenge to our fisheries.”

Finally, Cantwell noted the Department of Commerce’s role in helping expand broadband access to rural and especially Tribal communities: “You'll also as oversight be given additional responsibility to help bridge the digital divide, particularly in Tribal communities. A 2019 report from the FCC said that less than half of those households in Indian Country have high-speed broadband service, a 27% gap from non-Tribal areas. So, we tried to enhance that in the December COVID package, and we'll look forward to working with you on that.”

Video of Chair Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE and audio is HERE.
Video of Cantwell’s Q&A with Mr. Graves can be found HERE and audio is HERE.
Transcripts can be found HERE.