We begin a new column in 2021 from The Franklin Partnership, which is a lobbying and strategic consulting firm in Washington, D.C. The following Q&A with Omar Nashashibi provides an introduction.
IH: Tell us about your background in Washington, D.C., and your connection to manufacturing.
Omar Nashashibi: The swearing in of President-elect Joe Biden will mark the fifth administration I have lobbied since permanently moving to Washington, D.C. in 1998. In my first job, I worked in public policy at the intersection of think tanks and the media. That experience taught me that you can come up with the best of ideas, but developing a plan to implement those ideas and explain them to the public are equally as critical. In Washington, most ideas remain just that – ideas never realized.
From there, I took my first job on “K Street” working for a small lobbying firm then multi-state law firm in the early 2000s. It was around this time that President George W. Bush imposed the Section 201 tariffs on imported steel. A metalworking manufacturing trade association hired our lobbying firm to work on this issue, a relationship that has continued for 18 years.
In 2005, I founded my own lobbying firm, The Franklin Partnership, with two partners. Our manufacturing practice currently includes five trade associations covering 3,000 small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses. They range from tool and die makers and machine shops to die casters and mold builders. Our job is to serve as the voice of those industries at the White House, federal agencies, before Congress and within lobbying coalitions.
IH: In your lobbying for these manufacturers, what are the top priorities in Washington?
Nashashibi: Obviously, most of the focus remains on the coronavirus and support for manufacturers as employers and as critical essential infrastructure as we worked to have them designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
We lobbied on the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program loans, tax credits for employee retention as well as OSHA and CDC guidance and other workplace safety policies.
However, despite the singular media focus on COVID-19, we saw significant action in 2020 on apprenticeships and job training and a flurry of regulatory activity at the EPA. These issues will continue to remain a top priority just as I continue to advise clients on global supply-chain disruptions; tariffs on China, Europe, steel and aluminum; and how trade impacts their industry. In my nearly 20 years working with manufacturers, I have found no issue is off the table, which has given me a broad portfolio from taxes and trade to job training and regulations.
IH: You said this will be your fifth administration since arriving in Washington, D.C. What do you expect from the incoming Biden administration, and what does it mean for the industrial heating industry?
Nashashibi: While I may have been in Washington now for over two decades, Joe Biden first started in our nation’s capital 48 years ago – not to mention having served as Vice President for eight of those years. He and his team will not have the learning curve of past administrations and will hit the ground running.
Based on sources in Washington, we expect Biden to act quickly on reversing OSHA, labor and EPA regulations implemented under President Trump. We are hearing a universal COVID-19 workplace safety standard is already in the works and to expect a tightening of rules from emissions control to energy consumption to high-temperature, high-noise operations.
We do not expect trade to take center stage as it did in the early years of the Trump administration, but Biden’s team is already receiving significant pressure from all sides on whether to lift tariffs.
On Capitol Hill, it is less clear given the close numbers each party holds in both U.S. House and Senate. We no longer expect significant permanent tax increases to the corporate rate, but the government spending and lost tax receipts due to COVID-19 mean the government will have to raise revenues somehow and on someone, eventually.
In the first 100 days of the Biden administration, I’ll be watching to see whether Speaker Pelosi can keep a divided Democratic caucus in line to pass President Biden’s priorities and whether Senate Majority Leader McConnell will give the White House an early win by moving a stimulus bill. Regardless, if I have learned one thing in all my years walking the halls of Congress, politics drives policy, so be prepared to explain your policy priorities to the media and public.