Nomination of P. David Lopez to Be General Counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionby Senator John Cornyn
Posted on 2014-12-02
CORNYN. Madam President, last week, before the Thanksgiving
holiday, our colleague from across the aisle, the senior Senator from
New York, gave a very significant speech at the National Press Club.
Senator Schumer is not just a senior Senator from New York; he is an
important Member of the Democratic leadership here in the Senate.
While giving the speech about the midterm elections, he said what many Members on this side of the aisle have been saying for the last 4 years, and that is that the Democratic party, by making the passage of ObamaCare their top priority after they won the election of 2008, ``blew the opportunity the American people gave them.'' He said they did so by focusing ``on the wrong problem.'' What I think he meant and went on to say is that they should have focused on the lack of jobs and the wage stagnation for hardworking, middleclass families in America.
As he pointed out, that broader group of the middle class represented a much larger segment of the electorate than just a small percentage of the electorate represented by the uninsured. I would add, parenthetically, that we know that even the best laid plans with the Affordable Care Act has proven to be a terrible failure.
Today the Wall Street Journal reported that between 2007 and 2013 health insurance premiums for an average middleclass American family have gone up by 24 percent. As we know, when the President said if you like your doctor, you can keep him, that proved not to be true. When he said the family of four would see their premiums go down by $2,500, that ended up not to be true either.
Two weeks ago, despite the overwhelming rejection the President's policies received at the polls, the President then decided to circumvent Congress and take Executive action on immigration, far exceeding any arguable authority that I believe most lawyers would think he has. Certainly, while we recognize it is within the President's discretion to prioritize the people against whom enforcement action will be taken, there is no legal authorization for doing other things he purports to have the authority to do, such as issuing work permits.
Then there is this. Just when it seemed that the Senate was beginning to work on avoiding a retroactive tax increase for millions of Americans, the President threatened to veto an important tax relief package, which, as I said, had bipartisan support, including the support of the majority leader, Senator Reid, and Senator Schumer, the senior Senator from New York. He did so because it did not include every single provision he thought it should include.
If we have not learned before, we should now know that if you insist on absolute perfection--in other words, you want everything you want, and the alternative is nothing--then most of the time you are going to get nothing. That is what taxpayers are getting when it comes to aborting this retroactive tax provision in the so-called tax extenders bill.
[[Page S6255]] To again quote our good friend from New York, by threatening to veto this job-creating tax relief, it appears that the President has once again focused on the wrong problem and is certainly going about this in a nonproductive and unconstructive way. It is unfortunate because the President seems to be positively allergic to good-faith negotiations and genuine compromise. Again, if your attitude is ``my way or the highway,'' you are going to get the highway all the time because that is not how our democratic institutions work. The only way things work is for us to find common ground and to compromise. Yet the President's attitude seems, unfortunately, out of touch. He seems more interested in getting his way by any means necessary--hence, the Executive action on immigration.
We increasingly know that actions are dividing the country and hurting hard-working Texans and American families across the Nation-- and not just by not contributing to the solution but by being a positive obstacle to bipartisan resolutions of so many of these problems. I realize the President must think that it is much easier to issue Executive orders and threaten to veto legislation from the White House, but it was not helping to solve problems we were sent here by our constituents to solve.
There is no real reason preventing us from getting to the tax relief I mentioned earlier that the President said he would veto. For years House and Senate Republicans--often with significant bipartisan support--have focused on making progrowth provisions of the Tax Code permanent, such as the research and development tax credit, accelerated depreciation, for example, and the section 179 provision.
To show how counterproductive it is for us to do these on a short- term basis or to try to jam them through a lameduck session, I had a farmer from Texas come and see me. He said: I am prepared to spend and invest $200,000 on my farm if I know this tax provision is going to be the law. If it is not, I won't. To me, that is just another example of how what we do here--or what we don't do here--has a negative impact on our economy and on investment in job creation.
While I know the bipartisan package proposed last week was not perfect, it certainly would have moved us in the right direction. It would have provided some certainty--indeed permanency--for some tax provisions and would have provided some temporary relief on others. Perhaps most importantly, it would have sent a signal to our constituents that we got the message that was delivered to us on November 4, and that we are going to commit ourselves anew to try to work together to provide certainty and protect millions of Americans from tax hikes that are just right around the corner and work on other constructive proposals to help solve problems that affect the middle class.
Unfortunately, the President has persisted in his attitude of refusing to negotiate with Congress, resulting in another missed opportunity, and ultimately another short-term fix that will provide no long-term certainty to taxpayers struggling in the Obama economy.
Come January, there will be a new majority in the Senate that will make the priorities of the American people the priorities of Congress. As for President Obama, we can only hope he will somehow have an epiphany and decide to work with us to unite the country rather than continue to divide the country with more Executive actions and his harmful ``take it or leave it'' approach to governing.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.
Mr. BEGICH. Madam President, I was not intending to come down here. I was getting ready to leave to see my 12-year-old son who just got home from school and make sure that he has dinner and do all the things that a parent would do, but I heard a speech earlier today--and I just heard another one--and it is like revisionist history. It is amazing to me to hear them talk about information that they claim is information--and really when you listen carefully, it is really more of the same.
I agree with my colleague who was just here that people want something different as the new Congress comes in. I will not be here, as the Presiding Officer knows, but that does not mean I will not be a participant in my community and also making comments when I hear things. But what I heard was they are going to finally get to economic development and improve the economy.
The two Members who spoke today whom I heard were here when I came to the Senate in 2009, and a few years later the Presiding Officer came to the Senate. People may have forgotten where this economy was in 2009. The stock market was in dismal shape. I believe it was around 6,500 or 6,800--somewhere in that range. Unemployment was at 10 percent, and the pundits and economists all said it was growing. Approximately 700,000 jobs were lost per month. Two of the three largest U.S. automobile companies were basically on their back and about to go bankrupt. New housing starts didn't exist, and prices of homes across the country were crashing. Consumer confidence was at the lowest point I have ever seen in I don't know how many years. The deficit was--annually--about $1.4 trillion.
I know what happens these days--because I have experienced it for the last several years--is news by the minute. What happens today in this moment of time are these one-liners and I can tell they are very synchronized today. They said that the economy was bad, and is still bad, and the bright spot is around the corner.
Actually, you have to look at where we are today, 6 years later. The stock market is at 17,000-plus. What does that mean? It means that people who have retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s or 529s--putting money aside for their kids' education--have had their value come back.
For my home State, which receives a benefit called the permanent fund check--we invest in the stock market with oil revenues we put aside constitutionally, and it is put in the permanent fund and a check is issued once a year. Guess what? This year the check is double from what it was last year. Why is that? Because it works on a 5-year average. Going backwards--I took the year 2009 off; it was a very bad year--what happened to the permanent fund check? It doubled this year in Alaska, which meant that people got that money in their pocket and spent it on the economy and helped to grow the economy.
Where is unemployment today? It is at 5.8 percent nationally--a 50- percent drop. GM, Ford, and Chrysler have added 500,000 jobs since mid- 2009.
I know that today was like revisionist history. Amnesia has set into some people over there. They want to recreate the news because the good news is hard to talk about because it is reality.
Now, there is still a challenge. The Presiding Officer has talked about this a great deal, and that is that people are still working harder and longer because the incomes have not gone up enough. They have not seen it come down to them yet, but they have seen it in certain elements. Housing prices are up. In the one single largest investment an individual makes in a lifetime--their housing prices are back up.
Gasoline prices--I have no idea if my colleagues fill up their cars with gas. I do. I know what it costs to fill up my tank, and it costs less now. The average price across the country now is about $2.77. In my State, it is about $3.35. But we were up to $5 in the urban areas-- but not anymore.
I saw the statistic today, and I wrote it down. I think I have this right. The price of oil has gone down and so has the price of gasoline. What does that save consumers every day? It saves consumers $630 million a day in current prices. It means that consumers are benefiting from that.
When you look at job growth--I believe we are in our 55th straight month of private-sector job growth. Again, we don't have it fully trickling down to the wages yet, but first we have to right the economy. I know the voters have made a decision. Before I came in, the economy was a disaster. Before the Presiding Officer came in, the economy was barely recovering. But I will not sit here and listen to revisionist history.
As a matter of fact, the consumer confidence level is the highest this month since 2007. That means consumers are finally feeling it a little bit. There is still more to go. But to pretend that nothing has happened over [[Page S6256]] the last 6 years--I can't use the words on the floor here because it would be disrespectful--is just not true. It has changed. We still have more work to do.
As a matter of fact, the tax extender bill--the items they didn't want to support permanently would have brought it to every single family that is still struggling. But I know there are tax provisions they want for the NASCAR owners, the horseracing owners. I get that. Those are their issues. I understand that. But we have to be realistic.
Also, the deficit. Think about this. When I came to the Senate in 2009, the annual deficit in this country was $1.4 trillion. Today, it is $480 billion. It has dropped by $1 trillion per year. Now do we want it to be zero? Yes. Do we want to have a surplus so we can start paying off the debt? Absolutely. But we have to get recovery first--get some treatment, which is what we have been doing--and then reinvest in the future. That means infrastructure, education, and objectives that matter to everyday Americans and everyday Alaskans.
I sit here and listen to these comments. Today it happened a little bit before 12:30 p.m., before our caucus break, because we usually break at 12:30 p.m. and I was going to go home. I turned on--my mistake. I turned on the station and I heard the commentary and I thought, Jacob is going to have to wait a little bit for dinner and I am going to come to the floor, because it is amazing to me. Exports-- businesses we create in this country we ship out, up 37 percent over the last several years. I will give an example of a company in Alaska. When I was campaigning, I ran into this company in Fairbanks. They had their manufacturing plant in China. Do my colleagues know where they have it now? It is in Fairbanks, AK. They moved it from China to Fairbanks. I told them they should put a 4-by-8 sign out there and say, We take jobs from China and bring them home. They are all good jobs. As a matter of fact, they are union jobs. So when people talk about how unions are destroying the country--they actually brought jobs back that are union jobs, paying good wages, good benefits, and took it from China and brought it to Fairbanks, AK. It is unbelievable what they do. They do business not only in Alaska, but in Hawaii and other places.
I listened over and over again today, and I want to make sure people--also I should mention housing prices are up, new housing starts are up, which is important for the construction industry. It creates jobs and makes sure we have competition so prices are stabilized over time. Retail sales are strong. I have no idea if my colleague who spoke earlier has ever been in business. He talked about the 179 depreciation. I have actually used it because I have been in small business. I have no idea if he understands how it works, but for small businesses, it is a big deal. It is why Democrats have supported that time and time again.
As a matter of fact, we had it in the minimum wage bill we brought to the floor, the 179 extension, which they voted against, they did not support--raising the minimum wage, bringing people out of poverty and, by the way, helping small businesses expand and invest so they can grow more. As someone who used the 179 more than once--as a matter of fact, my wife has small businesses and is now expanding and investing and is using the 179 depreciation. I hear what they are saying, but I don't know if they understand how it is used. When we had the minimum wage bill, coupled with 179, it seemed to make a lot of sense, but they didn't like that, either.
So I wanted to come to the floor because I think it is important that we, No. 1, don't take things out of context. They mentioned Senator Schumer's speech several times. They should read the whole speech, because I think they selected verbiage. I don't agree 100 percent with his comments, but I agree with the concept. We actually did two things. We worked on health care and we worked on the economy. I see people sometimes when they eat their food, they eat one piece at a time--their carrots first, and then their potato, and then their steak. We actually did a little bit of everything. We dealt with health care, because it was crushing the economy, but we dealt with the economy overall. We had to take votes on a regular basis that the other side would never do, because we bet on America. And the result is 6 years later, here we are. The economy is better. It is stronger. It needs more work, there is no question about it. We need to get the deficit to zero and get a surplus, and knock the debt down. That was driven up not just by this administration but by past administrations as well. They forgot about the two wars they didn't pay for. The extender bill is not paid for. We didn't hear one word about how that tax extender bill is not going to be paid for. It is going to be another part of the debt. But 4 or 5 months ago--my colleagues may remember this--we were on the floor debating veterans care, and all they said is how are we going to pay for it. Well, the veterans paid, but we had to find a way. But here we are going to give more corporate tax relief without paying for it-- except actually we do pay for it. Everyday Americans will pay for it with their taxes, and the debt, and interest on the debt. So we have to be clear about that.
I think about where we were, what we did, and where we are. It is significantly different than 6 years ago. It is better. I agree there is more work to be done to make sure we get more of the revenue stream and opportunities in the hands of individuals--hard-working Alaskans, hard-working folks from Massachusetts, and hard-working folks across this country. That is our next obligation. But to come to the floor and say the economy is a disaster is irresponsible. It is not correct. The numbers tell us differently. Actually, even the conservative Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and all of these other magazines and newspapers that I read are now talking about how the economy is moving because we have had this consecutive pattern which really tells how the economy is improving. That is important.
The last thing I will say from a purely Alaska perspective is not only are exports important to us because we do a lot of business overseas--we have seen exports increase. Our unemployment in Anchorage, for example, the city I am from, is 4.9 percent--a pretty good economy. Our fisheries industry, which I know the Presiding Officer and I share--78,000 jobs are connected to that--a $5 billion, almost $6 billion industry. Our tourism industry is up, with 2 million overall visitors to our State, again, generating income. There is more activity happening around the country than ever before, and my State is seeing it every single day.
But to come to the floor and continue to be naysayers and talk about how bad things are is really not responsible. We have done a great job. Can we do better? Absolutely. That is what we strive for every single day. And I hope--and I say this to the Presiding Officer because I will not be here after January--that they don't take the position where they are mad at immigration so now they are not going to do these economic development issues, or they are mad at something else and they take it out on some other program. We are going to have--the Presiding Officer will have differences with her colleagues, on immigration, maybe, on health care, on the economy, but we have to find common ground. The economy is a constant issue, and where investments should happen if we really want to have an impact down the road is investing in infrastructure, education, relieving--as the Presiding Officer has tried to do--relieving debt from students and families. There is now a $1.4 trillion debt, I think, on families for student loans. It is outrageous. We should be lowering those rates.
Also, as tax reform issues come up, which they will next year, I hope the Senate and the House look at objectives such as making a big impact for individual families, lowering the rates for individual families, hard-working families, if we want to put cash in their pockets, if we want to change the dynamics, give them more of their money back, not the top 1 percent or even the top 10 percent, but I am talking about the folks we see every day--I see every day--out there working hard. We need to make sure they can start putting money aside for college education for their kids, putting money aside for retirement, spending more in the economy, because maybe that car that is 15 years old isn't running so well anymore. That is what I hope we do. Individual relief is more important than corporate relief or the top 1 percent.
[[Page S6257]] On top of that, when we talk about corporate tax relief, never forget who really is driving the economy. It is the small business owners, including the limited liability corporations, the subchapter S corporations, the sole proprietor individuals. They all get taxed by individual rates. We will hear about corporate rate relief, which is important to be competitive, but that is for the big guys. But the guys we see every day--when we go to the cleaners, a sole proprietor; go to a restaurant, sole proprietor, maybe it is an LLC--they are not going to see that benefit unless we lower the rates for them. That is what we should be doing if we want to make a difference for them. Because they will use the 179 depreciation. The 179 has a limit. The big boys use it a little bit, but the limit is really designed for small businesses to reinvest. But if their tax rates are still too high, they won't be able to take advantage of that as much as they can. We want them to take advantage.
I didn't mean to take time here at the end of the evening. I know lots of times people want to get out. But, honestly, I couldn't sit there and listen to the revisionist history that continues to go on. The elections are over. I know now it is called the Obama economy. That is a new phrase. It is really collectively all of our economy, because we participated in trying to save it. They have objected to it for the last 6 years, so by their objection, they get to be a part of not having the result that maybe they wanted, but the result is the economy is much better. We need to do more work to make sure it gets into the hands of the individual out there. I know that is a priority to the Presiding Officer. But if I continue to hear it, I will continue to come to the floor and speak, because people can't get away with just saying over and over again that they are stating the facts, because the facts are very clear as I just stated. The stock market has gone up. Unemployment has dropped. Housing is up. Housing starts are up. The two largest automobile companies, all three of them now, over a half a million new jobs. Fifty-five consecutive months of growth. That is all good news and we should be proud of it. The Presiding Officer should be proud of it and the Senate should be proud of it. But there is no room for revisionist history when we talk about the fact of where we were 6 years ago and where we are today.
I appreciate the time and yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.