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Jefferson S.
Republican AL

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  • Nomination of Robert Leon Wilkins to Be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit

    by Senator Jeff Sessions

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    SESSIONS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that when I conclude my remarks, Senator Murkowski of Alaska be recognized.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I have been honored to serve with Senator Levin on the Armed Services Committee. He does an excellent job. He has spent a lot of time and many hours working to try to help us be successful in Iraq and other areas of national defense.

    I think Generals Dempsey and Austin were right to say we could not keep our troops there unless they had immunity from local prosecutions. But as I recall the net feeling about the President's decision to withdraw from continued negotiations on this contentious issue, the military felt this was not wise--at least many of them did--and they believed that had we continued to pursue negotiations, we may have been able to reach the kind of agreement which would allow us to help the Iraqi Government be stable and successful. Pulling out as we did always seemed to me to be too rapid, too precipitous, and created dangers which could place at risk that which our soldiers fought and died for. I do believe that is what happened. It is a tragic thing.

    I was in Falluja, not long after that bitter battle. We had hundreds wounded and almost 100 killed. The Marines performed with such valor and courage. It was one of the great, courageous performances of the U.S. Marine Corps. It is sad, sad to me to see that today Al Qaeda is flying its flag in parts of that city. It is a tragedy. It did not maintain the faith that we ought to have maintained with those that we in Congress directed to go out and fight this war and to be successful. Maybe yet something can be done successfully to deal with this situation, which I feel deeply about.

    unemployment insurance Mr. SESSIONS. I am here to share some thoughts about the remarks delivered today by President Obama on the growing problem of poverty and our chronic unemployment that has occurred during the 6 years of his Presidency, after he has declared that the recession is over and was over. Just this week the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said that ``the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer and the middle class is under siege.'' Wages are not doing well. Americans in large numbers are not doing well, and they are hurting. Washington Democrats, led by the President, are now proposing increased unemployment insurance and new wage-price controls, wage controls to mandate wages that have to be paid, to treat the consequences of a failed economy--a stagnant, slow-growth economy that is not creating jobs. These words and actions represent an admission that the [[Page S214]] White House economic agenda has been a disaster for poor and middle class people. It has not worked.

    I know he believed it would work. I know he has advocated these policies. I know he promised that they would work. But they are not working. Worst still, the President remains fully committed to the policy regime that he has been advocating, and that is not working. These policies have failed, not just for the last 5 years; they have failed for the last 50 years. They will never work. The President and Majority Leader Reid are correct, a nervous American business community is hoarding profits because they don't know what the future is going to be like. Those struggling to get by are feeling the results of corporate cost cutting and the policies that we are seeing executed by the government are impacting this situation negatively. They just are.

    I know the people proposing these solutions think they are caring about people who are hurting today. But if we care about them, we will use our heads as well as our hearts, and we will think through as to how to make growth occur in our economy, how to help jobs be created, how to have wages rise instead of stagnating or declining.

    Mr. President, $16 trillion has been spent fighting poverty since the war on poverty began 50 years ago, yet where do we stand today? Mr. President, 47 million Americans are on food stamps, 91.5 million are outside the labor force not working, and 46 million are living in poverty. In low-income communities the pain is especially severe. For example, in the city of Baltimore, 1 in 3 residents receives food stamps. In Chicago, 51 percent of the city's children live in a single- parent family. In Detroit, almost 1 in 3 households had not had a single person working at any time throughout the year--almost 1 in 3 households. The city's violent crime rate is among the worst in the country. More than half of all Detroit children live in poverty.

    The welfare bureaucracy that the left is determined to defend and expand is failing our fellow Americans. It is just not working. We can do better. We have to do better. No longer can we define compassion by how much money we spend on poverty but by how many people we lift out of poverty.

    The amount of money State and Federal governments spend on the welfare bureaucracy each year amounts to more than $1 trillion. That is a huge sum. It is twice the Defense Department budget. If all these funds were converted to cash and mailed to every household in poverty, it would equate to $60,000 per household. Yet as the President now admits, chronic poverty and a widening income gap is the new normal.

    We have huge bureaucracies, huge multiple conflicting programs, and programs that are not working and are not helping the people we are supposed to help. They just are not.

    Isn't it time that we broke from decades of policies that are proven not to work? Imagine how much better it would be if we combined dozens of overlapping welfare programs into a single credit with better oversight standards focused on the goal of helping people become financially self-sufficient. We need fresh approaches. We have to have fresh approaches. I believe it will happen. The sooner it happens the better off this country will be and the better off poor people will be.

    But all we get from the White House are the stale policies of yesterday. What is the agenda the President persists in pushing? Consider the cornerstones of the President's economic agenda, the things he has been pushing in the Senate and the Congress and advocating unilaterally through the powers of the executive President-- some beyond all law, it seems to me. These are the things he has consistently advocated for. He wants a government health care takeover, and that is proven to be a job killer. It is killing jobs and two- thirds of the jobs this year that have been created were part-time and in large part that has been a reaction to the Affordable Care Act.

    What else? He has a hostility, a consistent hostility to the production of American energy, which makes the country more wealthy, to produce our own energy rather than transferring our wealth abroad, to buy energy from abroad. It creates jobs in America, high-paying jobs.

    We have proposals for more and more taxes and more and more regulations that make it more difficult for U.S. workers to compete in the global marketplace. It makes it harder for their companies to be able to export and therefore create more American jobs.

    We have a lawless immigration policy that undermines American workers and their wages. It just does. They can say whatever they want to say, but the bill that passed the Senate, the comprehensive immigration bill, would have doubled the number of guest workers. Some say: Well, Jeff, they are just going to be agricultural workers. That is not so. Only a small number are going to be agricultural workers. They are going to be a million-plus workers traveling around the country taking jobs all over America--twice as many lawfully as would be the case under current law. This is supposed to be immigration reform? This is supposed to help American workers find a job or have a pay raise? We have a weak trade policy. We have to stand up for the American workers on the world stage and make sure that our trading partners are accepting our products like we accept their products, and if they do not, we have to defend the interests of the American worker. That is the way to help them have more jobs and better pay.

    We have a welfare bureaucracy that penalizes work. The President is proposing more massive spending, creating more debt. He has had the greatest debt increases in the history in our country. That is destroying and weakening growth in America. It places a cloud over the American economy, as experts have told us.

    These policies have been the order of the day for 5 years. That is what we heard. We need to spend more, we need to invest more, and we need to tax more. We have had more regulations than we have ever had in American history. We have had trillion dollar deficits the likes of which we have never seen before, and people wonder why the economy is not doing well.

    We blocked oil production in the gulf for an inordinate period of time and are only slowly allowing that to occur. We blocked a Canadian pipeline that would create thousands of American jobs. We blocked energy production on Federal lands. We make it harder for energy production on private lands to occur, and we wonder why we cannot create sufficient jobs and growth. We need lower-cost energy, cheaper energy. That is good for the economy. Falling natural gas prices have been a help because of new techniques in the production of natural gas.

    These statist, leftist policies have been tried in America before, and they have been tried throughout the world for decades, and they will never work. Taxes, regulating, more government, and taking over the health care industry will not create prosperity and jobs in America. It just won't. If it would, we would be doing so much better.

    Since the President has entered office we have added an incredible $7 trillion to the debt of the United States, and what do we have to show for that? Real wages are lower today than they were in 1999. Take-home pay has fallen for 5 consecutive years. Average household wealth is 60 percent lower today than it was in 2007; 1.3 million fewer people are working today than in 2007. Have we had a recovery? We have fewer people working today than we had 6 years ago, and every month we add 150,000 or more people, basically, to the age cohort of Americans that could be working, because the population is increasing that much. So you have to create real jobs to stay ahead of just normal population growth. There is 1.3 million fewer people working today, even though the population has grown by 14.5 million. There are 1.3 million fewer people who are working today than in 2007, even though the population has grown 14.5 million. That is not good.

    So the President is right to be worried about the health of the American middle class and lower-income workers in America. It sure has not been going well. I know he thought his statist ideas would work, and he pushed them steadfastly. He had a Senate that rubber stamped for 2 years what he wanted, including a $800 billion stimulus bill that was supposed to create jobs and prosperity in America, every penny of that borrowed.

    If we continue down this road, I fear we are going to sentence an entire generation of young Americans to poverty, [[Page S215]] joblessness, and stagnant economic growth in our economy. Majority Leader Reid said this week that, ``We should realize that today there is only one job available for three people seeking a job. Think about it.'' I agree that we absolutely must think about that. We should think seriously about it. My first thought is this. Since three people are looking for every one job that is open, then why has the President embraced an immigration bill that would double the flow of guest workers into America? They will take jobs that would be available for American workers. Why? That is what I think about.

    As David Cameron, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, said recently: Immigration cannot be a substitute for training our own workforce. Is there something wrong with him saying that? Isn't that an honest, correct statement, speaking for the interest of the average Briton? We need to help struggling Americans get off welfare, off unemployment, and into good-paying jobs.

    We have a loose labor market. We don't have a tight labor market. Byron York recently wrote an excellent column. He showed that the very same companies that signed letters to the President and the Congress demanding more guest workers are laying off American workers by the thousands. Big companies are signing letters that demand more workers, and they are laying off thousands of workers. It is a fact. He listed them. There were 10 or 15 companies. Some of them laid off thousands of people the very year they wrote to this Congress demanding more foreign workers. So now we have to extend unemployment benefits because people can't find jobs. We have to pass a law to set the wage so the wage can be higher because it is not going up through the natural free market as it should if we had a normal market for labor.

    Whom do we work for? I know who I work for, and that is the hard- working people of Alabama and the United States. I don't work for the masters of the universe. They are demanding more workers from Congress when millions of Americans are unemployed.

    America is not an oligarchy. House Republicans need to firmly tell this President that we work for the American people. We reject any immigration plan that puts special interests or corporate interests before working Americans. They need to say: We are going to defend the working people of this country. They are not being defended in the Senate by the Democratic majority, that is for sure, with regard to the immigration policy.

    A small group of CEOs don't get to set immigration policy for the country, no matter how much money they have. How many ads do they buy? We are not going to enrich the political class at the expense of the middle class, and we will reject the immigration bill that passed the Senate.

    That is one of the things we could do to help improve job prospects for Americans. It wouldn't cost us a dime. We wouldn't have to borrow money. It would actually get people off welfare and food stamps. It would put them back into the workforce, and put us on a better path.

    If we want to reverse the middle-class decline, we need a new economic vision. We need concrete steps to restore opportunity to the American people without adding a penny to the national debt. We need policies that work to create prosperity without borrowing and creating more debt. We just have to do that.

    What are some of the things that we can do? Produce more American energy. We can turn the welfare office into a job-training center. We can do this. We are going to have to do this. We are going to have to move people from dependence to independence. We need to streamline the Tax Code and make it more growth oriented, which will help us to be more competitive worldwide. We need to eliminate every Washington regulation that is not needed. These are regulations that kill jobs and kill competitiveness.

    We need to enforce trade rules with our partners that defend the legitimate interest of U.S. workers. We need to enforce an immigration policy that serves the national interest--the people's interest--and protects jobs for Americans. We need to make our government leaner and more accountable. Our government needs to do more for less just like good businesses and good corporations and good companies are doing all over America. We need to do that with our government. That will help the economy.

    We need to balance the Federal budget, restore the confidence of the American people, the world financial community, the vitality and the future of America, and spare our children from a lifetime of debt.

    These are all positive steps that are true to our constitutional heritage and our legacy of freedom and opportunity. Those are the things we should be doing and we can do. They are all steps that will create more jobs and more growth without borrowing money, and these are all steps that will lift millions out of poverty, and help struggling Americans realize the dream of financial independence.

    I don't know what the President was thinking when he talked about a few little promise zones--is that what he called them--around the country. This is somehow going to deal with the unemployment problem in America? He announced this today. I haven't had a chance to study it yet, but these are just a few spots on the map of the country. This is not going to have any kind of systemic impact on our declining growth and the weak recovery we are seeing today. If the recovery doesn't exceed 2 percent GDP growth per year, it will not create jobs faster than the population grows.

    I am afraid we are not in a good position there. We are not seeing the growth that we had, and experts are predicting slow growth in the years to come. We have to get off the path we are on and get on the path to growth, job creation, and prosperity. We have to make sure our American citizens are trained, skilled, and moved into good jobs so they can be independent and take care of their families without being dependent on the government of the United States.

    I thank the Chair and yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.

    unemployment compensation Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, it has been a disappointing week here in the Senate. I started out the week feeling pretty good and optimistic. I had a major presentation before the Brookings Institution. I talked about the enormous potential in this country for energy production and the fact that we are at the highest level of energy production domestically than we have been in 20 years and what great prospects we have for that. When we talk about jobs and economic opportunity, it is really one of the bright spots out there.

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