Wahpeton Daily News: Armstrong discusses challenges of COVID-19

August 6, 2020
In The News

It currently seems like there’s more interest in messaging than legislating, U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said.

Armstrong, who visited Daily News and News Monitor Thursday, Aug. 6, discussed the challenges of approving COVID-19 aid. The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives has the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. The Republicans, who have a majority in the U.S. Senate, have proposed the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection and Schools (HEALS) Act.

“We knew the next COVID package was going to be harder,” Armstrong said. “One of the reasons is that $600 billion of the last package still hasn’t being deployed. This next package is as big as the first three combined if you look at what the Democrats are putting forward.”

There’s never been a fight about the U.S. economy vs. people’s health, Armstrong said. It’s been a fight about “our society vs. our health.”

“People aren’t geared to stay in their house for two years. The industries that are important in North Dakota are suffering, some from COVID-related — oil and gas is really getting crushed. That started before COVID, but it’s been exasperated,” Armstrong said.

The agriculture industry has had a poor two years, Armstrong said, affected by everything from weather challenges to supply chain issues as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also the restaurants, bars and small businesses to consider.

“Right now, to be viewed as successful is if you’re doing 50 percent of your business,” Armstrong said. “Well, anyone who understands how net and gross works in a restaurant knows what this means. I used to run the bar my dad still owns. If you lose 10 percent of your business, you lose 90 percent of your profit. Fifty percent is unsustainable over the short term, let alone the long term.”

One thing he’s noticed in Washington, Armstrong said, is that the House Democrats are a unified group.

“Speaker Pelosi, even with her new group and everybody and all the challenges she has, when they need to, they absolutely stay together. Republicans inherently never have. That’s just the difference. It’s unfortunate that the negotiating stance seems to be, ‘We’re not moving. Come to us or we’re not doing anything.’ That’s all posturing. We’ll see what ends up actually being done.”

Armstrong is running for a second two-year term in the U.S. House. He’s being challenged by Democratic-Nonpartisan League candidate Zach Raknerud and Libertarian candidate Steven Peterson. Daily News has reached out to Raknerud and Peterson to allow both candidates equal opportunity to share their platforms.

There are many lawyers in the Republican Party, but Armstrong estimates he’s the only one who spent 10 years doing solely criminal defense on the federal and state levels. While in office, he has worked across the board with Republicans and Democrats.

A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Armstrong recently took part in police reform hearings.

“The lone congressman from a state that’s 89 percent white probably doesn’t seem like the one you want to work with. But I’m a huge fan of criminal justice reform and addiction reform. I’ve written it all,” he said.

With less than three months until Election Day, look to Daily News for coverage of North Dakota and Minnesota’s campaigns, candidates and items under consideration.