Jobsby Senator John Thune
Posted on 2015-01-07
THUNE. Madam President, I share the view of my colleague from
Missouri about the importance of the Keystone Pipeline. We will have an
opportunity over the next several days to talk more extensively about
that and the importance it has to our economy and to energy security.
Obviously it is something that we think is about jobs and the economy,
which is why there is so much support for it in the Senate among
Republicans in the Senate, and I would argue--I think there will be a
lot of Democrats as well.
Yesterday Republicans assumed the majority in the Senate thanks to the overwhelming support of the American people, and we are ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work.
This week President Obama is going to be traveling around the country attempting to take credit for the recent shred of economic good news we have finally seen after 6 years of economic stagnation under the President's policies. Unfortunately, all of the campaign-style tours in the world cannot disguise the fact that our economy is nowhere near where it should be. More than 5 years after the recession supposedly ended, Americans are still feeling the pinch. Wages are stagnant. Household income has declined by almost $3,000 on the President's watch. The price of everything from health care to education has risen. And the President's policies have done nothing to help. In fact, the President's policies have actually made things worse. Whether it is the taxes in the President's health care law or the energy tax proposed by the President's out-of-control EPA, the President's policies have done nothing to help the economy.
But there is reason for Americans to be hopeful. Poll after poll has demonstrated that the American people are concerned about jobs and the economy, and in the new Congress Republicans are going to make jobs and the economy our priorities. We are committed to passing legislation that would help create jobs, grow the economy, and expand opportunities for struggling middle-class families, and we plan to get started right away.
This week the senior Senator from North Dakota, Mr. Hoeven, reintroduced legislation to approve the job-creating Keystone XL Pipeline. According to the President's own State Department, this commonsense project would support more than 42,000 jobs. It would also substantially increase revenue to State and local governments, providing increased funding for local priorities such as schools, roads, and bridges.
I can speak firsthand to that because it would cross my home county, Jones County, in South Dakota. I can say the people in my home county see the opportunity to generate revenues that would help support the local school district in an area of the State which is losing population and having a harder and harder time keeping the school open.
The pipeline has bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress, and I am hopeful that the President will drop his inexplicable opposition and finally sign off on this job-creating project.
Republicans also plan to take up the other job-creating measures that spent far too long languishing in the Democratic-led Senate. The Obamacare tax on lifesaving devices, such as pacemakers and insulin pumps, has already had a negative impact on jobs and the medical device industry. At a time when our economy is still suffering from years of stagnation, repealing this tax is a no-brainer. I am confident we will have bipartisan support for this repeal, and I hope--I hope--the President will sign it.
Republicans also plan to repeal the Obamacare provision that changed the definition of full-time work from 40 hours per week to 30 hours per week. This provision is forcing businesses to reduce employees' hours and wages and hire part-time rather than full-time workers in order to comply with the Obamacare requirements. Millions of Americans who want full-time work are currently stuck in part-time jobs because they can't find anything else. The last thing the government should be doing is making it more difficult for employers to offer full-time positions.
Another Obamacare position that is making it difficult for employers to hire is the employer mandate. Later today I will introduce a bill called the HIRE Act, which would make it easier for employers to hire new workers by exempting Americans who have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks from counting as employees for whom a tax penalty must be paid by the employer under Obamacare's employer mandate.
In addition to passing job-creating legislation, the new Republican majority is committed to increasing congressional oversight. Executive branch agencies have been out of control under the Obama administration. The President's EPA alone has proposed billions of dollars' worth of regulations that will have a catastrophic effect on our economy and eliminate tens of thousands of jobs, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs. Just one of these regulations--the backdoor national energy tax on coal-fired powerplants--would cause Americans' energy prices to soar and destroy families' livelihoods.
In my State of South Dakota, household energy prices could increase by as much as 90 percent. South Dakotans with incomes below $50,000 a year already spend one-fifth--one-fifth--of their aftertax income on residential and transportation energy costs, which is twice the national average, I might add. They can't afford a 90-percent increase in their costs.
What is more, this national energy tax will have almost no effect on our air quality. It would devastate communities and drive up energy bills in this country for nothing.
The EPA is far from the only Federal agency to have abused its power under the Obama administration. Take the Obama IRS, for example, which targeted organizations for extra scrutiny based on their members' political beliefs. It is past time for Congress to assert its oversight authority and check the executive branch's overreach.
While Republicans want to work with Democrats as much as possible, we will not hesitate to draw a bright line between Democratic and Republican priorities.
Republicans want to address some of the biggest challenges facing our economy, to put our Nation on the path to long-term prosperity. That means doing things such as reforming our Tax Code, which is inefficient and bloated, making it simpler and fairer for families and businesses in this country. It also means reforming our regulatory system to eliminate inefficient and ineffective regulations that are discouraging job growth.
The Democratic-led Senate was pretty dysfunctional. The minority party was largely shut out of the legislative process. Bills were frequently written behind closed doors. The committee process was largely defunct. Too often the Senate floor was a forum for partisan politicking rather than serious debate. What was the result? The voices of too many Americans got shut [[Page S36]] out of the process and the Senate accomplished next to nothing for the American people.
Republicans intend to change all of that. Under Republican control, the Senate will return to regular order. That means bills will once again be debated and amended in the open, in committee, before coming to the Senate floor. Once bills come to the floor, all Senators, regardless of party, will have the opportunity to offer amendments and to fully debate legislation before it comes to a vote.
The American people deserve a Senate that works and Republicans intend to give it to them. The American people have spent a long time struggling in the Obama economy, but they are about to get some relief. Republicans are determined to pass solutions that will help create jobs, grow our economy, and expand opportunities for American families. We hope--we hope--the Democrats in the Senate and the President will join us.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Vermont.