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Whitehouse: We Must Take Action to Create Jobs

*As submitted to the Congressional Record.

Mr. WHITEHOUSE: This evening, I cast my vote in favor of the Senate moving forward with critical job-creation legislation. With 61,000 Rhode Islanders and millions of Americans currently looking for jobs, we must take swift action to help put people back to work. Sadly, as they have all-too-many times this Congress, Republicans chose to obstruct our efforts by blocking us from even debating the American Jobs Act.

This filibuster is particularly disappointing because the American Jobs Act, as introduced in the Senate by Leader Reid, represents a balanced and already-tested approach to job creation. Indeed, the bill includes a host of provisions that have received wide bipartisan support in the past. It may not be the exact bill each of us would draft on our own, but it’s a thoughtful and reasonable place to begin working on a Senate jobs plan.

I say the bill is “balanced” because it includes a full range of job-creating provisions from tax credits to help businesses hire, to infrastructure programs that will put people to work updating and upgrading our roads, bridges, and schools.

In addition to being “balanced,” I say the American Jobs Act is “tested” because it includes programs that have worked in the past. For example, the Federal Highway Administration estimated that one billion dollars invested in our highways supports about 28,000 jobs. That means that the President’s proposed investment of $27 billion would generate or save over 750,000 jobs. In addition to the upfront investment, the bill would deposit another $10 billion in a National Infrastructure Bank which could leverage the money with private investments to create hundreds of thousands of additional jobs. We know how well the National Infrastructure Bank would work from the experiences of local revolving funds like Rhode Island’s Clean Water Finance Agency.

We also know that funds provided by the bill would prevent hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers, and fire fighters from losing their jobs. According to the Department of Education, $10 billion in emergency funds provided last summer have already spared 114,000 teachers’ jobs. The $35 billion included in the American Jobs Act would keep hundreds of thousands of additional teachers and first responders from getting pink slips. A lot of small businesses count on teachers and fire fighters and police officers with paychecks coming in to do business.

Mr./Madame President, we’re not just talking about statistics in this debate. The millions of jobs that would be created or preserved under the American Jobs Act would hit home for families who have been trying to find work for so long.

Just last week, I held a telephone town hall with Rhode Islanders from all across our state. We took questions from folks on issues from jobs to the future of Medicare and Social Security. There was one call in particular that really stuck with me. It was from a woman named Diane in Narragansett. Diane, a Marine veteran, and her husband are both out of work and struggling to put food on the table for their three young children. Her husband – a trained heavy equipment operator and welder – has taken temporary employment as a landscaper and a fisherman, but can’t find a steady paycheck. They have missed bill payments and have struggled to keep a roof over their heads. On the call Diane said, “[o]ur dream of owning a house is shot out the window. [We] don't know where to go…[We] don't know what else to do.” Diane and her husband are hardworking people doing their best to survive in a frustratingly sluggish economic recovery. They are just asking for a fair chance to provide for their kids and reclaim their portion of the American dream.

We owe it to Diane and her family to set aside our differences and focus on getting something done to create jobs for the American people. It’s not too late for us to work together to help solve our nation’s jobs crisis. Let’s cut the politics and delay tactics and begin that critical work.

I thank the chair, and I yield the floor.

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