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John T.
Republican SD

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  • The Economy

    by Senator John Thune

    Posted on 2015-01-20

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    THUNE. Mr. President, tonight the President of the United States will lay out his agenda for the year, but unfortunately it sounds as if much of it will be a rehash of the same stale, top-down ideas Democrats have been trotting out for the past 6 years: more taxes, more spending, more regulation--in other words, more government. If Democrats could sum up their agenda in one phrase, it would be ``government knows best.'' But the past 6 years have very clearly demonstrated that government does not know best. The past 6 years of the Obama economy have not been kind to American families.

    It is time for new ideas. It is time to change the focus from building up government to building up people. Americans need more jobs, better wages, and lower costs for health care, education, and energy, and the Republicans' priority is meeting those challenges. We want to rebuild the economy from the ground up and increase economic opportunity for every American.

    [[Page S254]] Tonight the President will talk about helping middle-class families, and Republicans are pleased to see the President pivoting back to middle-class concerns--something Republicans have never looked away from. We hope President Obama is serious about wanting to work with Republicans to address the challenges facing the middle class, but it is a little hard to take the President seriously when he is talking about helping middle-class families while simultaneously issuing veto threats for bills that would benefit them.

    Within the past 2 weeks, the President has issued veto threats for two bills that would help create jobs for middle-class families--a bill to fix ObamaCare's 30-hour workweek provision, which is affecting employees' hours and wages, and a bill to approve the Keystone Pipeline. The House passed both of these bills earlier this month, and the Senate is currently in the process of considering the Keystone legislation. If it weren't for the President's veto threat, Keystone XL could be approved in the next few weeks, but thanks to the President, the future of the pipeline is still in doubt.

    The Keystone XL Pipeline is supported by bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress. Six of the Senate Keystone bill's original sponsors are Democrats. The American people support the pipeline. Unions--a traditionally Democratic constituency--support the pipeline because their members want the jobs the pipeline would create. In fact, a number of unions sent letters just this month reiterating their support for the pipeline.

    This is what James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said: The Teamsters Union continues to believe that the Keystone XL pipeline will contribute to enhanced energy security, economic prosperity, and, of critical importance, the creation of good-paying jobs.

    Those aren't Republican talking points; that is a letter from James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

    Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said something similar: At a time when job creation should be a top priority, the Keystone XL Pipeline project will put Americans back to work and have ripple benefits throughout the economy. During construction the project is expected to support at least 42,000 jobs and contribute $3.4 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

    Again, that is from Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

    Yet, despite all this support, President Obama is willing to turn his back on American workers to appease the only people who seem to oppose the pipeline; that is, members of the far-left environmental wing of the Democratic Party.

    Over the years, the President has offered various excuses for why he is not yet ready to approve the pipeline. He has cited environmental concerns. The only problem with that, of course, is that the President's own State Department has stated the project will have minimal impact on the environment. The President has also cited the court case over the pipeline's Nebraska route as a reason for waiting on the pipeline approval. Well, as of a week and a half ago that excuse is gone. The Nebraska Supreme Court has now upheld the pipeline's route. The administration responded by reiterating the President's veto threat.

    President Obama has tried to minimize the impact of the pipeline delays by diminishing the importance of the jobs the pipeline would create. He has repeatedly mentioned that most of the jobs the pipeline would create would be temporary. Well, tell that to a construction worker who is looking for a job. Does the President oppose all infrastructure projects because some of the jobs they create are temporary? Or does he just oppose projects when the jobs they create are opposed by the fringe elements of his party? The Keystone XL Pipeline will be a boon to our economy and to American workers. The President's own State Department has stated that the pipeline would support more than 42,000 jobs during construction and contribute $3.4 billion to the economy. In my home State of South Dakota the pipeline will support 3,000 to 4,000 jobs during construction and generate over $100 million in earnings, according to the President's State Department. These are not my figures. These are figures from the President's own State Department.

    Keystone will bring in millions of dollars in State and local taxes for a host of local priorities--from schools to law enforcement to roads and bridges. In addition to providing jobs and generating revenue for State and local governments, the Keystone XL Pipeline will also help America's farmers get their goods to the market. Rail backlogs this fall left too many farmers struggling to ship their harvests. Keystone XL would help alleviate future backlogs by taking 100,000 barrels of North Dakota and Montana oil off the rails, which would free up substantial space for farmers and for other rail shippers.

    Finally, the Keystone XL Pipeline will strengthen our energy security by reducing our dependence upon energy supplies from volatile countries. This increased energy security will also keep energy prices low for American families. Recent gas price reductions are largely due to increased North American energy development which has reduced our dependence on oil from countries such as Venezuela, Russia, and Iran. The Keystone XL Pipeline will help us continue to replace oil imports from volatile countries with our own oil and imports from our friend and ally Canada. That in turn will help keep American families' energy bills low. With energy bills accounting for more than a quarter of after-tax income for families making less than $30,000, lowering Americans' energy costs should be a priority.

    It is time for the President of the United States to fish or cut bait. Approving the Keystone XL Pipeline should be a no-brainer. Republicans support it, Democrats support it, unions support it, and the American people support it. The pipeline would create jobs. It would increase revenue for local governments. It would strengthen our energy security, and it would do all of this--all of this--without spending a dime of taxpayer money.

    President Obama can talk all he wants tonight about helping American workers and middle-class families, but it is his actions that will show whether he really means what he says.

    If the President is serious about helping middle-class families, if he is serious about standing with American workers, then he will approve the Keystone XL bill when it gets to his desk.

    Mr. President, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Flake). The Senator from Arkansas.


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