Q&A with Diana Harshbarger

A native East Tennessean, Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger was born in Bloomingdale, a small community right outside of Kingsport. She attended East Tennessee State University and graduated from Mercer University College of Pharmacy with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Rep. Harshbarger has been a licensed pharmacist and a successful business owner for over three decades. First elected in 2020 and re-elected to represent District 1 in 2022, she currently serves on the House Education and Labor, and House Homeland Security Committees.

If you were introducing your district to your colleagues in Congress, how would you describe it?

That’s easy—I am always bragging about my district! I describe East Tennessee as “God’s country,” because it’s true! My constituents—or as I call them, my friends and neighbors—love their faith and their freedom. Plus, with a backdrop like the Smokies, it’s tough not to feel blessed to call East Tennessee home every day.

What is your proudest accomplishment from your first term in Congress?

In my first term in Congress, my team and I have been able to help thousands navigate the passport application process, hunt down their tax returns tied up within the IRS, seek legal citizenship in this great nation, apply to attend a military service academy, and more. I’ve helped veterans get the care and recognition they deserve by working with the VA and writing legislation to expand healthcare coverage and benefits for veterans. These are services that make an immediate difference in people’s lives, and I am proud to offer so many ways to help.

As a member of the House Rural Broadband Caucus and an active proponent of advancing access, tell us about any advances in bringing reliable connectivity
to rural communities.

Bringing broadband to rural communities requires tough consideration of which entities are prepared and qualified to deliver quality services. This Congress, I worked closely with the Appropriations Committee to ensure that rural broadband remains a funding priority, while also engaging with stakeholders that could deliver on funds. With significant dollars now being dispersed for this goal, the next step is to ensure our local energy companies have the capability to get the job done efficiently and within a budget.

With your background in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, what are some of the most beneficial steps we can take toward combatting the tragic opioid epidemic and providing access to quality care?

Our dreadful opioid and illicit fentanyl crises require comprehensive response strategies that include prevention, law enforcement, closing our wide-open southern border, the expansion of evidence-based treatments, and support for those in, or seeking, recovery. More broadly, improving access to quality care can be boosted through things like continued investments in and expansions of telehealth, and initiatives like Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) where the banking community has been a great partner. Making HSAs accessible to more people by allowing folks to personalize their health care and save for health costs now and in the future and removing unnecessary red tape so these accounts work better and are easier to use.

You served in the last Congress on the House Education and Labor, and House Homeland Security Committees. What are some of the policy initiatives of those committees heading into the next Congress?

This upcoming Congress, the Committees on Education and Labor and Homeland Security will have plenty on their plates. In the 117th Congress, House Democrats thought they could reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act without allowing Republicans a proper seat at the table. We look forward to real negotiations next Congress, when Republicans control the House and hopefully the Senate. In the Homeland Security Committee, Republicans are looking forward to looking for real solutions to fixing Biden’s crisis at the southern border. We will have a strong position to negotiate for real protections against illegal immigration, hopefully including additional border wall construction. In every Committee, Americans can expect oversight, oversight, oversight. We have plans to bolster our national security, balance our federal budget, and require the responsible parties to answer for their incompetence.

Banks are the economic engines of our country and in District 1 the banking industry is diverse and strong. How have you seen banks play a role in the success of the region and what role can they have moving forward to help further advancement?

Banks are absolutely critical to ensuring that our community has the capital necessary to grow and thrive. From projects like loans, to municipalities updating their infrastructure, to assisting the private sector in opening new manufacturing facilities, banking is critical to the development of East Tennessee. I feel lucky to have strong relationships with our local banks who provide opportunities for our constituents to continue investing in our home.

Which committees are you interesting in joining?

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