Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, this amendment would prohibit funding for President Obama's SelectUSA Initiative. It's a program that would otherwise receive just over $6 million in this bill.
Now, if you've never heard of SelectUSA, you're not alone. Virtually nobody has heard of it outside of the committee and those who are funding it.
Last June, President Obama issued an Executive order to establish SelectUSA. It was called the first-ever Federal effort to attract, retain, and expand business investment in the United States.
It seems to me that whenever a new Federal program is touted as the first of its kind, it's usually a pretty good indication that it's completely unnecessary. This is no exception to the rule.
A quick read of the vague ways in which SelectUSA says it serves the firms and economic development organizations certainly proves that--promoting the benefits of investing in the U.S.A., responding to inquiries about the U.S. business climate, helping investors confused by regulatory processes, offering guidance--these are hardly the responsibilities of the Federal Government.
In reality, it seems that the taxpayers are buying little more than a Web site pitching the benefits of U.S. subsidiaries to foreign companies. It includes 10 pages of links to Federal subsidized programs like Grants.gov, AARP-E, and the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program. That was the program responsible for Solyndra. Only the Federal Government could find a way to waste taxpayer dollars promoting the waste of taxpayer dollars.
Figuring out what SelectUSA does is one thing; deciphering its actual accomplishments is downright impossible. The Web site includes testimonials from companies like Rolls-Royce and Ikea, of plans to invest and develop in the U.S. These companies already do. This SelectUSA isn't helping them any more than it is helping anyone else. All the announcements are dated between 2006 and 2010, long before this program was even established. So these companies are touting the benefits of a program that
wasn't even established yet; how do they know?
Hours of research by our staff uncovered only one investment that's even tied to SelectUSA, and those claims are very dubious. There's a company that's called AGS, and the President has touted this in his program as being [Page: H2542]
responsible for luring AGS to the U.S. It's mentioned in conjunction with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and other local agencies, and it recently elected to invest more than $20 million in new U.S. manufacturing capabilities.
SelectUSA, described as an Obama-launched program, is said to have facilitated coordination between AGS and local officials. But if you look at AGS, AGS has been in this country for more than 40 years, just under a different name. It was called A.G. Simpson Automotive. It's been in business, as I said, with
General Motors and Ford for more than 40 years. That company has been a manufacturing presence in the U.S. since it opened a Michigan plant in 1991. Another plant was opened in Louisiana in 2003. This hardly sounds like a company that needed SelectUSA to help it discover the benefits of investing in the U.S.
There is simply no record of this investment outside of the administration press release and the Commerce Department blog post--not from AGS, not from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, not even from SelectUSA. Only an administration press release touts the involvement of SelectUSA.
Most telling of all, the 2013 Commerce Department budget justification to Congress--which requested $12 million and 20 additional full-time employees--doesn't even include a word about the AGS investment. So what does SelectUSA even do? Well, I think the committee isn't even sure what SelectUSA does because the report language in this bill asks SelectUSA to justify what it does and explain what it does because apparently nobody even knows. Yet we took the request from the administration of $12
million and simply cut it in half and gave them half of what they requested.
Why in the world are we doing this? At what point are we going to say we can't afford to throw money away like this? Congress didn't even create this program. It was just the administration who thought it up and now is trying to justify it.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. FATTAH. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for 5 minutes.
Hopefully, this will be the last time when I have to oppose my good friend on the floor of the House.
Let me just try to put this in some perspective. This is an administration that, in the last 26 months, 4.25 million new private sector jobs. In `09, $70 billion in loans to small businesses. An administration that's well on its way to more than doubling the number of exports. We have seen a very significant turnaround from the administration that left a couple of years ago, walking out the door while we were losing 700,000 jobs a month, and we lost millions of jobs over the last few months of
the last administration.
So now they have a Commerce Department that says we're willing to build on the efforts to have companies around the world select the United States as a place where they want to set up manufacturing plants stretched throughout much of our country now. The President visited the Rolls Royce plant in Virginia. In Alabama, you have BMWs being built. All throughout, you see companies that see the United States as a place that has a world-class workforce, the kind of transparency, the rule of law, the
ability to do transactions and have them protected in a court system that functions, to attract foreign investment here.
So what the Commerce Department has done, which is not unlike other administrations, they take in a group of these activities and they've rebranded them under SelectUSA because it's catchy, it's got a phrase to it. But these are activities that have been conducted by other administrations and will be conducted by future administrations because we want businesses to see the United States as the place to locate--even in States like Arizona, to locate and put people to work and make products.
So to come to the floor and say, well, this $6 million is wasted--no. This is a small investment that leads to billions of dollars in salaries, hundreds of millions in tax ratables for our country. We want to be open for business. This is a new day. It's a new administration. They have been creating jobs. I guess that some want to wish back the old crowd that were losing jobs, but I think we should follow in the right direction here.
I disagree with the gentleman. I hope that we vote down this amendment, and that we support the activities of our Commerce Department to continue to build this economy.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. FLAKE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
I would simply submit that when the committee has to ask in report language, please justify and tell us what you're doing, it's a pretty good indication that we don't know and that the program is frivolous and we're wasting money with it.
So, right here, SelectUSA, let me read from the committee report: ``The committee recommends $6.125 million for SelectUSA initiative, which is $3.425 million more than the fiscal year 2012 level and $6.125 million less than the request''--like I said, simply cut the request in half. ``The ITA redirected $2.7 million in FY 2012''--on and on and on. It says:
No later than November 30, 2013, the Secretary shall report on the location and type of assistance provided, the State to which firms sought to relocate and why, as well as the number of foreign firms that actually decided to locate in the United States as a result of the SelectUSA process.
I would submit that if we didn't know this by now, why in the world are we giving them 6.125 million more dollars? We're running a deficit of $1.3 trillion, and we're frittering away money like this when we don't even know what they're doing.
Mr. FATTAH. But let me say this: Georgia has benefited from this effort, and Arizona has benefited, Pennsylvania has benefited. The report language you see is just the work of the committee to ensure oversight for the funds that are now being provided, for a report on those funds and what States benefit so that when we have some other gentleman on the floor wanting to cut this program years forth from now, that we'll have an opportunity to be able to specify, as I've done, the great work that
this program is doing.
I thank the gentleman for yielding.