Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, first, I want to welcome everybody back. I don't think there is any snow in the forecast, so hopefully we can get some work done around here. Having spent the past week in Kentucky, I can assure you that my constituents are concerned, first and foremost, about jobs and the economy. And another thing they are concerned about is lawmakers in Washington making matters worse.
Americans are worried about the growing national debt. That is why Republicans hope to offer amendments to the jobs bill that we will be voting on today that would lower it. Those ideas should be considered.
Millions of Americans want to get back to work. That is why Republicans will offer ideas that will make it easier for businesses to hire new workers. Those ideas should be considered too.
Small business owners want greater certainty about the future. That is why Republicans will propose ideas that will keep their taxes from going up and make it easier for them to invest in their businesses. Those and other ideas from both sides of the aisle should be considered.
Later this week, we will have the health care summit at the White House. Americans want the administration to scrap its massive government scheme in favor of an incremental approach to health care reform. Unfortunately, the White House still seems unwilling to do the one thing Americans want most. It is still clinging to a massive bill that Americans have overwhelmingly rejected again and again for months.
The tragedy of this approach is that the longer Washington sticks with its failed approach to health care, the longer Americans will have to wait for the real, step-by-step reforms that will actually lower costs and lead to a better system. That is the kind of real reform Americans have wanted all along. That is what they have been asking for and that is what Republicans in Congress will continue to fight for.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, we all went home over this recess--most of us did--and we heard very clear messages. At least I can tell you I did. The messages are: Address the problems that face us and reach out a hand across the aisle and do it together. Pretty simple.
Today we have a chance to do that. Today we have a very clear chance to do that and to lift the spirits of the American people. The bill we will be voting on--actually we are voting to take it up, in essence; we need 60 votes to do that, unfortunately, because there is a filibuster again on this--is a very simple, straightforward jobs bill.
It has four parts. Two relate to tax breaks for business for doing good things. One is buying new equipment and getting a break on the expensing. The other is hiring people who have been unemployed for 60 days or more. The other two pieces involve the extension of the highway trust fund and the Build America Bond program, and that relates to building our infrastructure. In the case of the highway trust fund, of course, it does fund transportation of all kinds: transit systems as well as highways,
bridges, roads. Very important.
Build America Bonds is a way to help the States issue bonds that they have voter approval to do, and helps them with the interest rate. In California, that program--Build America Bonds--resulted in billions of dollars of bonding to build roads and schools and all kinds of important necessities for my people back home.
So we have four things before us in one package: two tax breaks very important to businesses and two very important infrastructure measures.
I want to have printed in the Record--and I ask unanimous consent to do so--a very important letter sent to us by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the Associated General Contractors of America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Laborers International Union, and the International Union of Operating Engineers.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, The American Road and Transportation Builders Association, The Associated General Contractors of America, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Laborers International Union, International Union of Operating Engineers. Hon. Richard Durbin,
Hon. Barbara Boxer,
Chairman, The Environment and Public Works Committee,
Hon. Max Baucus,
Chairman, Finance Committee,
Hon. James Inhofe,
Ranking Member, Environment and Public Works Committee.
DEAR SENATORS: We are writing on behalf of the undersigned organizations to express our strong support for prompt Senate passage of an extension of the highway and transit programs in the SAFETEA-LU legislation and inclusion of a transfer of General Funds into the Highway Trust Fund in an amount sufficient to support the appropriated FY10 funding levels consistent with at least a nine month period and should the Senate decide a one year extension period.
Passage of legislation that includes an extension and the funds transfer will provide much needed certainty and stability within the states, local transportation authorities and transit agencies to make long-term capital commitments and plan for a full season of work. All 50 states continue their highway construction season through September and into October, at least 45 states continue highway work into November and one-third of the states are still working in December. Without an extension
that also stabilizes the Highway Trust Fund, the transportation construction industry will continue to decline and much needed transportation investments cannot be made.
We continue to support Congressional efforts to enact a well-funded, long-term surface transportation bill. That work can go on in Congress while the program continues to fund needed transportation assets. Swift passage of a multiyear bill will have an impact in the out years but shoring up the trust fund now will allow the maximum job creation during the 2010 construction season. We face a shortfall in the trust fund at this time that makes an extension and funds transfer essential to creating
much needed jobs in the construction industry this year and to continuing to improve this nation's transportation infrastructure. The nation needs these investments now and we urge the Senate to act to move this critical legislation.
It is critically important given the urgency of the investment and jobs issues that these provisions be included in the Senate jobs bill to be introduced next week.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I wish my colleagues to hear this because it is very shocking, and it could happen in Delaware, California, Pennsylvania, any of our States. It is a special notice to contractors, dated February 19:
All bidders take note. Unless the Federal Government takes the necessary steps to ensure the availability of Federal funds for the remaining fiscal year prior to 12 p.m. on February 25, the scheduled February 26 bid opening will be postponed or withdrawn until further notice.
This is real. This is real. I know this is a political season. I know firsthand it is a political season. But there comes a time when we have to put politics aside for 5 minutes--I would say 15 minutes--when we vote, put it aside for 15 minutes and let's not have a circumstance where we hear from the Missouri Department of Transportation that they are about to shut down their bidding process.
I also ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter from the American Highway Users Alliance.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
Washington, DC, February 3, 2010.
Hon. Harry Reid,
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Hon. Mitch McConnell,
Minority Leader, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Hon. Richard J. Durbin,
Majority Whip, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Hon. Jon Kyl,
Minority Whip, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Senate Leaders: On behalf of our 270 motoring clubs, non-profit associations and businesses with an interest in safe and efficient highways, the American Highway Users Alliance asks for your support for the highway bill extension and Highway Trust Fund restoration in the initial ``jobs bill'' pending in the Senate.
Our members represent millions of motorists, RVers, motorcyclists, as well as hundreds of truck and bus companies. It is critical to us that the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent, that the expired highway bill is extended through the current fiscal year, and that rescissions that took effect on September 30, 2009 are repealed.
Compared to last year, the Federal Highway Administration is distributing about $1 billion less per month to the States in budget authority for highways. This cut is devastating all 50 state highway programs and will create serious impacts on the safety and efficiency of our Nation's commerce corridors.
If the initial job bill is enacted with an extension of the highway bill and a restoration of funds to the Highway Trust Fund, FY10 contract authority will be restored to pre-rescission FY09 levels and the highway program will remain solvent through the summer construction season.
We also take this opportunity to urge your support for additional highway funding in future jobs bills to be considered this year. The House has proposed that $27.5 billion be appropriated for highways in their bill. We strongly support this funding level and ask that the Senate concur with the House on this provision. The use of jobs bill funding for highways will not only add immediate construction jobs, but will also create and support hundreds of thousands of supply chain and induced jobs
in every part of our country.
Thank you for your leadership on highway issues. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Gregory M. Cohen,
President and CEO.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, it is signed by their CEO and President. They are asking us to support this bill. Here is what he says:
Our members represent millions of motorists, RVers, motorcyclists, as well as hundreds of truck and bus companies. It is critical that the Highway Trust Fund remain solvent, that the expired bill be extended through the current fiscal year, and that the rescissions that took affect in September be repealed.
They get it. These are our constituents who drive on the highways and the freeways, and they are begging us to act and set aside our political games for 15 minutes and vote cloture. By the way, I am hopeful we can; I am.
I also have a letter to the Members of the Senate:
The current lack of funding certainty in the Federal highway market is having a devastating effect on the transportation construction industry. Our industry is in dire economic shape. We urge the Senate to act promptly on passing the Reid amendment.
Let me tell my colleagues who signed this letter. The President and CEO of American Concrete Pavement Association, the President of the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the President of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the President and CEO of Portland Cement, the President and CEO of the National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have this letter printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
February 19, 2010.
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: As the principal suppliers of materials used to manufacture our nation's roads, highways and bridges, we call on the U.S. Senate to promptly enact the Reid amendment that extends the surface transportation programs and provides $19.5 billion for the Highway Trust Fund.
The current lack of funding certainty in the federal highway market is having a devastating effect on the transportation construction industry. Since SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009, the program has been extended 151 days under which state highway funds have been reduced by 30 percent. As a result, state transportation departments and contractors cannot plan for a full season of work just as the transportation construction industry is suffering its worst construction cycle since the
Our industry is in dire economic shape. Production of asphalt and concrete pavements experienced double digit declines in 2009. Nearly one in four construction workers are unemployed, and more job losses will occur in 2010 due to a lack of contract awards by state transportation departments across the country. While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) staved off a catastrophic decline in highway construction, uncertainty about longterm federal investment in state and local highway
programs, combined with a lingering recession and associated state budget problems, poses a significant threat to the future of transportation builders and suppliers.
We urge the Senate to act promptly on passing the Reid amendment. This legislation provides for a full year extension of the Federal Highway Program and funding to shore up the Highway Trust Fund.
Gerald F. Voigt,
President and CEO, American Concrete Pavement Association.
President, National Asphalt Pavement Association.
Robert A. Garbini,
President, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.
Jennifer Joy Wilson,
President and CEO, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association.
President & CEO, Portland Cement Association.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, these letters are stark in their message to us. If we don't listen to this incredible group of people who are writing us these letters--these are Republicans, they are Democrats, they are Independents, they are Americans. They are saying: Set aside your differences and fund the highway trust fund. This vote will send a shiver through the spine of our entire business community and our working people if we don't get 60 votes today.
So we have an opportunity today to send the clearest of messages that we are ready to come together around a simple premise; that is, the transportation infrastructure of this Nation is not a political whipping boy. There is no time to play politics here--no time. We have one State already saying: Beware. We are putting off our contracting. What more do we need to see than that? This is just the beginning of what is going to happen. We know the Build America Bonds program, which will allow State
and local governments to borrow at lower costs, is going to put people to work. Our treasurer, California treasurer Bill Lockyer, said Build America Bonds have enabled the State--our State--to sell more than $19 billion in general obligation funds to meet voter-approved mandates for more than 7,000 vital infrastructure projects, in turn creating or sustaining more than 100,000 solid, middle-class, private sector jobs and businesses, large and small, in California.
The Build America Bond program is something our local people want, whether they are in California or anywhere else in the Nation. This program can cover bonds for school construction, clean energy, and all the rest. It will allow us to put people to work, and the decisions will not be made here but in our cities, our counties, and our States.
Clearly, the two infrastructure pieces in the Reid bill are essential in both [Page: S607]
saving jobs and creating new jobs. Investments in infrastructure are a crucial component of job creation in our Nation. As we work our way out of this recession, the last thing we want to do is create uncertainty about our transportation funding. Too many people are counting on it.
I wish to mention, as the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, that what we are doing today will give us the time we need to pass a larger authorization, and I am working on that authorization with Republicans and Democrats on our committee. I wish to commend, in particular, Senator Voinovich for reaching out to me in an extraordinary way. He is reaching out his hand and he says: Let's get started. I say to him, through my remarks on the Senate floor: Absolutely. We are
going to start working. That bill is going to be transformational. It is going to, I think, be another boon to our economy.
There is one thing I can say after spending so much time back home. I have not heard one of my constituents in my State--and I traveled to every part of my State and I met with Democrats, Republicans, Independents, business, labor, nurses, firefighters, everybody--not one disagrees with this point; that is, a great nation must have a great infrastructure. Our infrastructure must be updated. That means our roads, our bridges, our highways, our transit systems, our sewer systems, our water systems.
We have water systems with arsenic in them. We have water systems that are not healthful for our families. No great nation can be a great nation if our people are not at the top of their game. You can't be at the top of your game if your child is getting ill because they are drinking tainted
water. These are the things we have to do, and they are done in the private sector. On the transportation side, there is a separate fund for that highway trust fund, separate funds that go into that user fee, and that is how we fund our highways and transit systems. It is a very sound idea.
Again, I say to all colleagues: If we turn our back today on this very straightforward proposal that extends the highway trust fund and gives it the funding it needs to spend at the authorized levels, we are going to see more State departments of transportation, such as this one in Missouri:
Special Notice: Unless the Federal Government takes the necessary steps to ensure the availability of Federal funds for the remaining fiscal year, then the bid opening will be postponed or withdrawn until further notice.
That is not a threat; it is real.
I yield the floor.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, if we are going to get the American economy back on track, we have to get the American people back to work. We know our serious troubles were not created in 1 day and we know they will not be solved overnight. But we have to begin. We have to take that first step. That is what the bill before us represents: a strong first step in the right direction.
This is a jobs plan that will cut businesses' taxes as an incentive to hire unemployed workers. It is a plan that includes tax breaks for keeping those workers on the payroll and even more help for small businesses to write off their investments. In fact, this legislation will allow small businesses to write off up to $250,000 for equipment and materials they purchased. That is a good deal. They do not have to depreciate it.
It will extend the highway trust fund and expand Build America Bonds. I just finished a meeting a few minutes ago with 11 Governors. This is one of the best programs with which they have ever dealt. We have no more money. It creates jobs immediately. It is oversubscribed. It is a wonderful program that will build roads, will build other projects, bridges. The highway trust fund, for example, will save 1 million jobs; in Nevada, thousands of jobs.
I have a letter, if people think this is not a serious issue we are dealing with--and I do this because it is the only one I have--from the Missouri Department of Transportation:
All bidders--PLEASE TAKE NOTE!--Unless the federal government takes the necessary steps to ensure the availability of federal funds for the remaining fiscal year prior to 12:00 p.m. on February 25, 2010, the scheduled February 26, 2010 bid opening will be Postponed/Withdrawn until further notice.
That is how it is. Missouri is not alone.
With this bill, we will create the right conditions for the private sector to start hiring again, and we are doing so in the right places.
These moneys, even though they come from Congress, the taxpayers' dollars go to create private jobs. These highways are not built by a bunch of Federal employees; they are built by private contractors. For every $1 billion we invest in infrastructure, we create 47,500 high-paying jobs and other jobs that spin off from them.
With this first bill, we will create the right conditions for the private sector to start hiring again. I think we are doing it in the right places. When we help small businesses thrive, we will create jobs that will let more entrepreneurs innovate and invent. When we invest in improving our roads and bridges, we will create jobs so workers can support their families but also create infrastructure to support our growing Nation.
This bill is as good for the employees as it is for the employers. This bill is good for the employers who will do the hiring. This is such a good deal. If a person is out of work for 30 days, a business can hire them. If they hire them for up to 30 hours a week, they do not have to pay their withholding tax, and at the end of the year they get a $1,000 tax credit.
On my trip home, businesses on the verge of hiring people said: This is going to allow us to hire people. We can afford to do this. This is as good for the employers doing the hiring as it is for the employees who will be getting hired.
One thing about this bill. Everybody should hear this. It is fully paid for, no deficit spending, which means we are not adding a single dime to the deficit, not a penny. We are doing this the responsible way, holding ourselves to the same budgeting standards we teach our children: You can only spend the money you have.
Each of these components--what are they? The Build America Bonds provision I talked about; extending the highway bill for a year; the provision Senator Hatch and Senator Schumer came up with that I talked about that allows an employer to hire somebody who has been off work for up to 60 days; and the final provision that allows them to write off $250,000 in purchases--is a good deal. That is what is in this bill.
We are doing this bill in a way that is responsible. You should not spend money you do not have, and that is what we are doing here. Each of these components--the tax breaks, the support to help small businesses grow and hire more workers, the new construction projects, and the fiscally responsible way we are doing it--is a nonpartisan idea. Republicans have supported every part of this bill in the past--every part of this bill--and Democrats have also done the same. There is simply no reason
it should not receive overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. But so far, I am sorry to say, this has not happened. I am disappointed that this has been the case.
As the Presiding Officer knows, we had to file cloture some 70 times last year--70 times. That is remarkably bad. Let's change that. I have spoken some with some of my Republican colleagues this past week and said: Let's don't do that anymore. Let's work together.
Who can complain about this bill? I have told the Republican leader and I have told anyone who will listen that we are going to move very quickly to a bill that will take about a day--travel promotion--after this. In every State in the Union, No. 1, No. 2, sometimes No. 3, but mostly No. 1 and No. 2, the economic driver is tourism. We are the only modern Nation that does not advertise itself. Watch TV and see the advertisements coming from Australia, New Zealand, South American countries, the
Caribbean islands, and European countries. We should do the same. The Travel Promotion Act will save $ 1/2 billion, and it also pays for itself. There is no deficit spending.
As we finish that bill--it should be toward the end of the week--we are going to move into the tax extenders, unemployment, COBRA, issues such as those. I have explained that to the Republican leader.
Rather than figuring out how we can up the other politically, let's figure how to put Americans back to work. I am sorry to say my friends on the other side of the aisle are looking for ways not to vote for this bill. The business community supports this legislation. It is jobs. Rather than rally around a plan we know will create jobs, I have heard excuse after tired excuse. But the American people want us to work together. They are not buying these excuses.
Why wouldn't we do this bill? We can create jobs starting in just a few days. If someone could explain to me what is wrong with this bill, I would be happy to listen to them. What is wrong with this legislation? Some have questioned the size of the bill. Only in Washington [Page: S610]
is a $15 billion investment to create and save more than 1 million jobs not enough. I was stunned to hear on the radio this morning--when I received my press briefing, I was told that
the unions and the left--whoever that is--oppose our bill because it is not big enough. Now try that one on, Mr. President. Only in Washington is a $15 billion investment to create and save more than 1 million jobs not enough.
The answer is not to do nothing. It is to do something to create jobs and then create more jobs and then create more jobs after that. That is why this is not the only jobs bill we are going to be dealing with or the last jobs bill we will bring to the floor. We have a jobs agenda, not a jobs bill. We are not going to stop until every American who wants a job can get one.
Some Senators--one Senator in particular, but there are others; this Senator does not stand alone--think that money that was spent on TARP should be returned for the deficit. Other Senators said: I think the money that has not been spent from the stimulus should be returned to employees. These are all good ideas, and amendments are going to be able to be offered when we get to our package later this week. That is the way it should be.
We want every person in America who needs a job to get a
job, but we cannot do it alone. My friends on the other side of the aisle share this responsibility. When I had 60 votes, all the responsibility was mine. It is no longer that way. We are down to 59, and 1 of my Senators is sick today. I did speak with Senator Lautenberg last night. He is doing fine. He is such a strong man. He said he will be back in a week or two. He is doing just fine.
If Republicans support this bill, as they have all the elements of it in the past, and they join us to pass it, we are going to do many more bills just like this to create jobs. However, if my friends on the other side of the aisle want to put partisanship ahead of people--people who are out of work--if they once again try to distract from the issue at hand, they will only confirm their reputation as the party of no. They will only confirm the American people's fear that Republicans refuse to
do anything to help them.
So to my Republican colleagues, I say as seriously and fervently as I can: Work with us. Show us you are serious about legislating. Show our constituents you are serious about leading. Show the skeptics that you know that putting people back to work is far more important than putting points up on the political scoreboard. Most important, I ask my Republican colleagues to show those Americans who deserve a job they can go to every morning, a job they can get up and go to, that we are willing to
do our job tonight.
It is remarkable we have to hold a procedural vote on a bill that will create jobs. It will be regrettable if the minority prevents us from moving forward, from taking that first step, from giving millions of unemployed Americans the hope that tomorrow will be better than yesterday.
Think what it is for someone to get up in the morning and have no place to go to work. I have met with some people, while I was home, dealing with domestic abuse. It has gotten out of hand. Why? Men do not have jobs. Women do not have jobs, either, but women are not abusive, most of the time. Men, when they are out of work, tend to become abusive. Our domestic crisis shelters in Nevada are jammed. That is the way it is all over the country. Jobs bring dignity, and that is what this legislation
is all about.
I hope we can pass this legislation and move on during this work period and work together in doing some good things for this country.
We have a couple minutes until 5:30 p.m. It is my understanding the vote is to occur at that time. Since there is no one on the floor, I ask unanimous consent that the vote start early, and we will not cut it off early.
Mr. REID. Madam President, I hope this is the beginning of a new day in the Senate. Whether this new day was created by the new Senator from Massachusetts or some other reason, I am very happy that we were able to get this vote. But there are some winners--not any individual Senator, not Democrats or Republicans; the winners are small business people throughout this country.
On my trip home this past 10 days, people are excited about the fact they may be able to write off $250,000 for things they badly need--not depreciate it, just write it off. The other three [Page: S611]
provisions are wonderful. To extend the highway bill for a year is going to save thousands of jobs in Nevada and 1 million jobs throughout the country. So the small business communities throughout this country are winners, and also workers. This is going to create
I had a long conversation today with the Republican leader, and I told him what the plans are in the Senate. He listened very closely, and we had a very good conversation. We are going to move, for a day or two after we complete this, to travel promotion, another bipartisan bill. It will save $ 1/2 billion. It will create thousands and thousands of jobs. All around the world countries advertise their tourism, but we do not. In this great country of ours, we do not see anything on TV. All we
see is money being spent by other countries having us go to their countries. We want to do the same in their countries. That is what this is all about. Every State in the Union, all 50, the No. 1, 2, and in a few instances the third economic driving factor is tourism. This will help tourism.
As soon as we finish that, toward the end of this week, what we will do is move to the Finance Committee matters that they worked on before, and they worked very hard. I am glad we have made progress in that regard. I told Senator McConnell that will be open to amendment. I will try to work out with him so many amendments on each side. If we cannot do that, we will not do that. I hope we can do that. But if we cannot, we will move forward on the tax extenders, the expiring provisions,
and a few other things.
It is really a new day. I look forward to this work period being one where we can all go home and say: You know, ladies and gentlemen from Nevada and New Hampshire and Illinois and New Jersey and New York and Arkansas, we are working together. We are really getting things done together. That is what legislation should be about. Legislation is the art of compromise. It is building consensus and working together.
Basically that is what this piece of legislation is all about. This is not the jobs bill that we just completed. At least cloture has been invoked, and we will vote on that in another day or so. It is part of an agenda. We are going to have, later this month, another jobs bill. I have spoken to a number of Republican Senators. They have specific provisions they want in this bill. It will deal with small business. During the last 10 years, 96 percent of all jobs in America were created by small
I am very happy we were able to do this.
I express my appreciation to Senator Boxer, chairman of the Public Works Committee. She has worked so hard. I love her committee. I was chairman on two separate occasions. It is a committee I have fond memories of serving on. Every time I see the enthusiasm of Barbara Boxer, I know why the State of California cares so much about her.
Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, before the majority leader leaves the floor, I want to say to him that today jobs triumphed over politics. That is a great day around here. Jobs triumphed over politics. I want to say to Senator Reid, this idea you have to keep these bills very straightforward and very easy to understand, this bill, four parts to it, two parts dealt with infrastructure, two parts dealt with tax breaks that were related to making capital investments and hiring unemployed workers,
is very simple for people to understand. I have to say to my Democratic colleagues, 57 of whom voted for this, thank you. And to the five Republicans who joined us, thank you so much. It means so much to the working families of this country, to the business community.
I want to say a special word to Senator Lautenberg if he is watching. I know how strongly he supports transportation. He is kind of Mr. Transportation in New Jersey. We all wish him well. We know he would have been here if there was any way for him to be here. I will not say any more than I said before. I want to thank specific people out there around the country whom I talked to on several conference calls over this break. They were always there. Night and day we talked. I explained
to them how close this vote would be. They explained to me that they understood what the stakes were, a million jobs at stake in relation to the highway trust fund, thousands more at stake in relation to the Build America bonds. This is a good day.
I thank the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; the American Road and Transportation Builders Association; the Associated General Contractors of America; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Laborers International Union; the International Union of Operating Engineers; the American Highway Users Alliance; Faster, Better, Safer Americans for Transportation Mobility; the AAA, which wrote to us. I want to say to all of them, they made this vote work because they knew
what was happening on the ground.
In closing, I have one more thank you. This is a strange thing to say but I want to thank the Missouri Department of Transportation for telling the truth. Listen to what they wrote:
All bidders--PLEASE TAKE NOTE!--Unless the federal government takes the necessary steps to ensure the availability of federal funds for the remaining fiscal year, bid openings will be postponed or withdrawn until further notice.
In other words, the Department of Transportation in Missouri, being the first State to be hit with this mess--by the way, followed closely by North Dakota, they are very close to this place, all of our States are--they came forward and told the truth that we had to act today. I hope the House will act with us, and we will get this resolved. In March we will start on the new bill. It is a good day.
I yield the floor.
Mr. DORGAN. Let me thank the Senator from California, Mrs. Boxer, and certainly Senator Reid and others. This vote was very important. The question for the Senate and the Congress is when 25, 26 million people wake up in this country and go looking for a job and can't find it--the numbers I know are 16 to 17 million people, but the real number of people who are unemployed in America is much higher than that. There are many who have given up hope. At a time when that many Americans
are looking for work and can't find it, they need some hope. This Senate has a choice of doing nothing or doing something. There are too many in this Senate who have always been satisfied to do nothing. Tonight, finally, in a piece of legislation that will put people to work, we know, for example, that the private sector hires people, small and
medium-size businesses. But we also know that when you spend money for highways, highway contractors are going to put people on payrolls immediately, because those programs and those projects are already engineered, already designed, ready to go. The money doesn't exist for them. When the money is made available, people will be hired immediately.
The same is true with respect to the wage tax credits in this piece of legislation. I held a hearing in the policy committee. We had three small to medium-size businesses there, all of which are profitable, all wonderful businesses, all ready to expand. But none of them could because none of them could find capital or they had no access to capital from their banks. Money was not available. These are successful businesses, profitable businesses, businesses wanting to and ready to expand, wanting
to hire more people and can't do it.
The fact is, this legislation is another step in the direction of saying to small to medium-size businesses, when you are ready to begin hiring again, here is an additional incentive to hire that next worker. Slowly but surely we have to find a way to give people confidence, give the American people confidence that this economy is improving, that there will be a job, there will be opportunity and hope in the future.
We don't so much spend our days with people who are out of work. Most people serving in the Senate have a pretty wonderful opportunity. They put on a suit in the morning. We are the kind of people, we shower in the morning, put on a suit, are dressed up all day, come here. Our jobs are not being shipped overseas. In most cases, people in this Chamber have not been so much subject to the deep recession. But a lot of people have. Five-and-a-half million people who used to work in manufacturing
making things have lost their jobs in recent years. The [Page: S612]
question for most of those people who are looking for some hope from their leaders is: Will somebody do something, or is the government going to be content to do nothing?
The action this evening by which these four pieces of legislation, which include some incentives for small and medium-size businesses, some bonding authority that will increase economic activity, the extension of the highway program that will put people back to work, expensing for small businesses--these are all things that are going to actually put people on payrolls. It is not a case where we will hire somebody as a government worker. It is a case of incentivizing highway contractors to hire
people to help build roads and bridges and repair roads and bridges. It is a case of incentivizing small to medium-size businesses to say: If you need that extra little incentive to hire that next person, here it is.
Finally, and even more important than the incentive, is the signal this sends, the signal that maybe at least, at long last, we will begin to see some progress, some cooperation, circumstances in which Republicans and Democrats vote together in sufficient numbers that things can get passed and get done. With as deep a recession as we are in, the deepest since the Great Depression, there is an urgency. It ought to be treated as an urgent situation. This vote this evening may well put us on the
road to understanding how urgent it is and how important it is that we take action rather than delay.
I thank the leader and so many others. Senator Durbin and I worked on a jobs package. These four provisions are in that package. There are other pieces we can implement in the future that will also be substantially important in getting people back to work, putting America back to work. I know the Senator from Ohio will speak next. I know he hopes that perhaps we will not just put people back to work but perhaps will make products that say ``made in America'' once again. Wouldn't that
be a wonderful thing.
One additional point. I spoke earlier describing the metaphor of filling the bathtub. We are trying to get the faucet going with incentives to put people to work. At the same time you have to plug the drain a little bit. We have a drain of jobs going out of this country. The President, in the State of the Union, said: Let's get rid of that unbelievable tax break that we provide people for moving jobs overseas. I have been in the Senate working on that for a long time. It is unbelievable that
we say to somebody: Close up your factory, fire your workers, move the jobs overseas, and you get a big fat tax break. We need to plug the drain, in addition to opening the faucet to try to get additional jobs and work on that in addition to the progress we have made this evening that will give some hope to the American people who want to go to work and need a good job.
I yield the floor.
Mr. BROWN of Ohio. Madam President, I thank Senator Dorgan, who has led with Senator Durbin on all kinds of job creation efforts, understanding that although the private sector creates these jobs, it is a partnership with the private and public sector and State and local and Federal governments. He had it right. We need to follow his suggestions and those of Senator Durbin as we move forward, including what was on the floor earlier this evening.
There are in my State some 640,000 unemployed people, in a State of about 11 million. There are hundreds of thousands more who are underemployed. There are tens of thousands of small businesses across Ohio. There are hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who help ensure that roads and bridges and transit systems serve the best interests of residents and businesses.
The bill we voted on today would help those Ohioans. These Ohioans didn't bring about our Nation's economic crisis. It wasn't people who work every day in Zaynesville and Lima or Findley who brought this on, but they are paying the price for it every day. Too many people are losing health insurance.
I was just on public television with the senior Senator from New Hampshire. I pointed out that 390 Ohioans every day lose their health insurance. This economy has squeezed more and more people, people who have jobs, let alone the anxiety of people who have jobs and are afraid that they will lose those jobs. Small businesses in my State have everything it takes to thrive, but they are undermined by this perilous economic climate. Construction workers, manufacturing workers, small businesses, other
hard-working Ohioans who keep our State going are losing jobs, not because they are not good employees, not because they don't show up, not because they aren't working hard, but because the dollars aren't there to pay them because employers are laying them off, whether in the private or public sector. Unemployed workers are remaining that way not because they don't have the drive or the skills to succeed.
Majority Leader Reid has introduced a bill based on proposals from Democrats and Republicans alike that would give tax breaks to small businesses and ensure dollars continue to flow into the highway trust fund. It is a bill designed to cut businesses a break. It is a bill designed to sustain our roads and bridges and transit systems to prevent massive job loss among the millions of Americans who work to ensure the safety and the effectiveness of our transportation infrastructure. If
they are working, if people are working construction, if our bus drivers in the cities who are getting particularly the elderly and low-income people to their doctors' appointments or to their workplace, if they are working, if the bus drivers and the transit workers and the construction workers and the highway builders, if they are working, then there is more money in the economy and more people are working.
It is a bill, unfortunately, most Republicans in this Chamber, for whatever reason--they always have a reason to be obstructive literally 100 times in this session, more than 100 times--it is a bill that most of my Republican colleagues are determined to kill. I thank Senator Voinovich, the senior Republican in my State, for his support. I thank the other four or five Republicans who voted at least to let us debate this bill, something in the past they haven't even been willing to do
on other legislation.
So at least we have made progress that way. But if the press is right, the Republican leadership and their lobbying friends gathered together. They have been working 24/7 to convince the public that a bill solely focused on small businesses and middle-class jobs is a bad bill. You may have seen news reports that 100 lobbyists sat down with Republicans and figured out a strategy to try to kill this jobs bill. It is the same story, it is the same movie we watched last year on health care. It is
the same story again that we have seen, that they are doing whatever it takes to kill this legislation. Fortunately for the American people, fortunately for these hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who are unemployed or underemployed, they did not get away with it today, that enough Republicans broke with their leadership and supported efforts to move forward on jobs legislation.
Earlier today, I met with 200 to 300 Ohioans to unveil a report on how to get our State's economy back on track. This was a group of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, and it was a group that had everyone from the mayor of Mansfield and the mayor of Marietta, to small businesses, to large companies, a couple of executives, American Electric Power Company, to a whole host of citizen activists who want to do whatever it takes. They want to fight for made-in-America legislation that Senator
Dorgan mentioned. They want a manufacturing industrial policy in this country. We are the only country in the developed world that does not have a real plan on how to do manufacturing, on how to build an industrial economy, on how we begin to lead the world not just in the technology, which we have done in solar and wind turbines and biomass and fuel cells--we lead in technology; we do not lead in industrial development and making those products. We developed the wind turbine technology in Sandusky,
OH, about 30 miles from where I live, but most of the wind turbines, the components--a lot of components are made in Ohio, but most of the wind turbines are manufactured and assembled overseas. It is the same on solar technology, the same on biomass, the same on fuel cells. Our scientists, our engineers, our professors, [Page: S613]
and our researchers develop a lot of this technology, but we are not making it in Ohio and New Hampshire and States around the country.
So today, as I said, all couple hundred, 250, 300 Ohioans--Democrats, Independents, Republicans--gathered to figure out how to do this, to move our State forward. As I said, there were a lot of Republicans. But Republicans in Washington look at the world differently. Many of them are trying to demonize a bill that provides tax breaks, that saves jobs. They need to take a step back, the Republicans in this body who I believe are very out of step with Republicans and everybody else in States such
as mine. They need to take a step back and remember for whom they work.
Opposition for opposition's sake is not working for the American people. On the Senate floor, we need to work together to save small businesses, to help these small businesses get credit, to help these small businesses work with local communities to provide jobs. That is what they want to do. We can do this if we work together.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.