Madame Speaker, the national unemployment rate is 9.8%. The unemployment rate in my home state of Michigan is 12.8%. America is desperately in need of jobs, and American workers need Congress to focus on legislation that will help create jobs. This legislation is a solid step in that direction. I have often said that the government can’t create jobs — it is the private sector that creates jobs, and Congress can help the private sector by removing barriers to job creation.
This legislation lowers taxes and makes American manufacturers more competitive so they can invest and create the jobs that American workers need now. Therefore, it fits squarely within the core principles of the Republican Party. Republicans support lowering taxes, making American workers more competitive, liberalizing trade, and letting the private sector thrive and create jobs.
At the outset, this legislation extends our trade preference programs, especially the Andean Trade Preferences Act. I would rather see Congress vote on our trade agreement with Colombia, but for over three years the Speaker has refused to permit a simple up or down vote on that agreement. The Speaker has refused to bring that agreement to the floor even though it would level the playing field for American workers and generate new exports and support American jobs. Despite the lack of progress on that agreement, I strongly support the continuation of the ATPA program. This program is crucial to Colombia, and we cannot subject such a strong ally to the injury of letting the program expire on top of the insult of our inability to act on the trade agreement.
Furthermore, this legislation extends the bipartisan, bicameral 2009 Trade Adjustment Assistance law that is helping trade-affected workers, farmers, firms, and communities retool and compete in the 21st century. The 2009 law provided a more flexible, cost-effective and accountable regime focused on re-training. It also recognized the important role of services in the U.S. economy by bringing services workers into the program. These improvements to the TAA program help workers by getting them more quickly off government support and back into good paying, private sector jobs.
Importantly, this legislation delays – for a year and a half – a controversial U.S. Labor Department final rule mandating that the states use exclusively state “Employment Service” employees to administer TAA-funded benefits and services. Unless this delay is enacted now, 27 states will no longer be allowed to use a mix of staff. Similarly, without this delay, even the other states that elect to use only state ES staff would be adversely affected because they could not make different staffing choices in the future.
In today’s economy, it makes no sense to require states to make costly and burdensome changes to successful programs that are helping workers find new jobs. This delay is also so important because it would help restore the 2009 bipartisan, bicameral compromise on this issue.
In addition, this legislation removes barriers by lowering taxes on imported inputs that enable value-added, American manufacturing and support U.S. jobs – inputs that aren’t otherwise available in the United States. These provisions have been fully vetted through a bipartisan and transparent process.
Finally, this legislation is fully paid for, which is crucial in this time of rapidly rising fiscal deficits.
Madame Speaker, I am pleased that this legislation accomplishes all those goals and is a truly bipartisan product. I want to thank my colleague from Michigan, Chairman Levin, for his close cooperation in preparing this legislation and in bringing it to the floor today for a vote.
Madame Speaker, I hope the other body takes up this legislation quickly and passes it. Several of these important programs expire at the end of the year, and there is no time to waste. Further delay would be harmful to American workers.