Executive Sessionby Senator Jeff Sessions
Posted on 2014-01-06
SESSIONS. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 10 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Unemployment Compensation Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, there is no doubt our employment situation in America is not good. Unemployment remains consistently high long after the administration has told us the recession is over. The growth that has been projected year after year has not been at the level the experts had projected. CBO has missed the growth levels. The Federal Reserve has missed the growth levels. We have come in below that consistently. Growth is not where we need it to be; there is no doubt about it. So we have a serious unemployment situation.
Perhaps the most grim concept we need to be well aware of is that workforce participation; that is, the percentage of Americans in the working age group who are actually working is lower today than at any time since the 1970s. That is a stunning statistic. Not since women entered the workforce in large numbers have we seen such low workforce participation numbers.
I believe, first and foremost, that an unemployment extension bill is treating the symptoms of the problem. It is an aspirin for a fever, but the fever has been raging for weeks now. Something is causing it, and we need to deal with the cause of it rather than continuing to treat the symptoms. I think that is so important for us to remember.
Also, this Nation is struggling economically for a number of reasons.
One of them clearly is the size of our debt. Our debt is so large-- $17-plus trillion--now that it is causing uncertainty in the economic markets. We have to get our spending under control. We have to do that. Every time we have a desire to do something good, we cannot continue to borrow the money to pay for it.
The unemployment bill that is before us today makes no attempt whatsoever to find spending reductions in other areas of this monstrosity of a government but borrows every penny of it. They say it is $6 billion. Well, it is $6 billion for 90 days--3 months. It is $26 billion over the full year. That is a huge sum of money.
We just had a big dispute over cutting retirement pay that our military people have earned, and it was a dispute over $4 billion. That was over 10 years--$4 billion over 10 years. This is $6 billion over 3 months. So this is a lot of money, and effort should have been made to try to find offsetting reductions in wasteful spending that occur throughout here before we go again to treat a symptom of a disease.
But the tragedy is--the tragedy is--that the policies of this administration are driving this poor growth record. It just is. First and foremost, the proposals have been to tax, tax, tax--tax more. Taxing the private sector will not create growth, no matter whom you tax. It will not be a growth-producing idea to tax the economy. Experts tell us that. The Congressional Budget Office tells us that.
So this is what we have been seeing every year. The budget that passed out of this Senate, the budget that was proposed by the President of the United States--the budget that passed the Senate with I think virtually every single Democratic Senator voting for it and all Republicans opposing it would have increased taxes $1 trillion and increased spending $1 trillion. The taxes were not used to reduce our deficit, as the balanced approach seems to suggest. ``We have a balanced approach to reduce our deficits. We are going to tax some and cut spending some.'' Oh, no, they did not cut spending at all. Their 10-year budget plan called for raising taxes $1 trillion and raising spending $1 trillion. Tax and spend--that is what it was. It was on the floor of the Senate. There is no dispute about that. No one argues about it. But we have agreed to a certain level of spending here to try to bring our economy under control--the Budget Control Act--and we have acknowledged on both sides of the aisle, as have independent experts, that we need to reduce spending and we need to contain the growth of spending and we need to reduce the deficits that are adding to the weakness of our economy and the uncertainty in our economy and creating risks in our economy.
So this bill borrows every penny of it--just a total violation of promised fiscal responsibility. It just is. I wish it were not so. I wish we could just do this and it would not cost anything. But it will cost, and it will hamper growth in our country.
There are other problems. We need more American energy. Energy produced in America creates jobs in America. It creates wealth in America. It keeps us from exporting large amounts--billions and billions of dollars--to Venezuela and the Middle East and other places around the globe. We could be producing that energy here, creating jobs here, keeping that wealth at home, strengthening our economy, and creating growth. That is what we should be doing.
The administration has blocked American energy. They have dragged their feet in every shape, form, and fashion, whether it is moratoriums in the gulf or blocking in Alaska, blocking the pipeline for our neighbors in Canada, or blocking production on public lands. This is not the way to create an economy.
We need a tax system that is not always going up but is more growth- oriented, simpler, more focused on creating growth. We need to eliminate every unnecessary regulation that burdens the American competitive marketplace and makes us less competitive globally instead of adding to them, and we have never seen anything like the plethora of new regulations being issued day after day, week after week, month after month, many of them challengeable constitutionally as being beyond the power of bureaucrats to issue because Congress did not pass the law to justify it. It is driving up the cost of energy, and it is driving up the cost of production in widgets in America, making us less able to compete with foreign competitors.
We need to stand up for American workers and American manufacturing on the world stage. It is time to tell our trading partners: We are willing to trade with you, big boy, but you have to play by the rules. This idea that you can violate the rules and we are still going to treat you as a great trading partner has to be over. We need to stand up for the American worker on the world stage. It has to be done.
Finally, at a time of high unemployment, should we not ask ourselves why the President of the United States and virtually every Democrat and a number of Republicans voted to double the number of workers who were coming to America under this comprehensive immigration bill? We admit a million a year legally. We believe in immigration, we support immigration, but at some point you are bringing in workers to take jobs from unemployed Americans. So now we are here trying to extend unemployment benefits to help unemployed Americans. Is there no common sense in this body? How can this possibly be? But that is the deal.
I know Senator Reid and Senator Leahy were on the floor earlier today, and they said we have to pass this comprehensive immigration bill. It would not end the illegality. It would reduce it only by about 40 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office, but it would double the number of guest workers coming in. Guest workers, by definition, are people coming to take jobs.
Why are wages down? One reason is--Professor Borjas at Harvard, who has studied this extensively; the Federal Reserve in Atlanta, which has examined this extensively; the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which has examined it--what do they find? They find [[Page S12]] that for middle- and lower income workers, their wages are significantly adversely impacted by this unprecedented flow of immigrant labor into America.
I do not have anything against people who want to come to America and work. They are good people. They want to have a job. I understand that. But any nation has to ask itself: What is the right amount? How many people can you absorb without causing millions of Americans to lose their jobs? And we now have to come to the floor of the Senate to ask what we can do to help them in this period of pain they are going through.
So I just want to say a couple things. We can do something now for the unemployed, but we need to be paying for it. We need to be staying within the spending limits we have agreed to. We do not need to pass any more laws that increases the amount of money we borrow. We borrow enough. For heaven's sake, we borrow too much right now, and it threatens our financial future, as expert after expert has told us. They have told us we are running a high risk, and nothing could be worse--nothing could be worse--for working Americans than that we have some other new financial crisis to spring up in the months or years to come because we were irresponsible today. Wouldn't that be a disaster? It certainly would.
So I will urge our colleagues to begin to focus on the underlying disease here; that is, the policies of an administration that has produced the slowest postrecession recovery maybe the Nation has ever had, except for the Great Depression, because it is tax more, regulate more, borrow more. That is all it is, and it will not work systemically to put us on the right path.
I know this is a tough challenge for us, but I am convinced that if this Congress puts its mind to it, there are more than a few places we can find waste, fraud, and abuse to help pay for and to assist those who have been unemployed for a long time. I believe we can absolutely do better than we are today about that, and I hope we will do so. It is not right to just say the only people who care about American workers and care about those who are unemployed are those of us who are willing to forget our budget limitations, to forget our financial responsibilities, and just borrow more and spend more, and somehow this is going to fix the problem we are facing. It will not. It will not fix the problem. In fact, it is creating the very disease that is causing workers to be suffering today.
Madam President, I appreciate the opportunity to share these remarks. I will repeat again, we are seeing very tough times for the American worker. Particularly, the lower income workers are having a difficult time, and there are many causes for that. But just taxing more, spending more, and borrowing more is one of the big causes of the problems we have today, and we are not going to fix that problem by even more of the same policies that got us into the situation we are in today.
I thank the Chair and yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Iowa.