This week, the House will consider the Jobs for Main Street Act to create or save jobs here at home with targeted investments ($75 billion) for highways and transit, school renovation, hiring teachers, police, and firefighters, small business, job training and affordable housing — key drivers of economic growth that have the most bang for the buck. These investments are fully paid for by redirecting TARP funds from Wall Street to Main Street. The bill text is now available on the Rules Committee web site»
Speaker Pelosi, House Leaders, and Chairmen held a press availability this afternoon following a Democratic leadership meeting to discuss the House Democrats' jobs package. Transcript:
Good afternoon. It is with great enthusiasm that we present our Jobs for Main Street legislation which will be filed today and will be passed on the floor tomorrow. It is legislation that brings jobs to Main Street by increasing credit for small businesses, by rebuilding the infrastructure of America, by keeping police and fireman and teachers on the job. For those hit hardest by the deep recession, we will have unemployment insurance benefits, extension of COBRA, the extension of FMAP for Medicaid for people so they can have their health benefits, and of course food stamps for those in need.
It is a bill that creates jobs, that meets the needs of those who are unemployed, and puts us on a path to prosperity. We are very proud of the legislation. We hope that when we pass it here, that it will after the first of the year be passed by the Senate, signed into law before the President comes to deliver his State of the Union address.
And now, I am pleased to yield to our Majority Leader, Mr. Hoyer.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer:
Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. We've worked very hard over the last year to address the extraordinary fall in our economy that was left to us by the last Administration. You have heard me say in the last month of the administration, previous administration, 741,000 people lost their jobs. Last month, 11,000 people lost their jobs — still too many. We made progress, but we have not had success.
We therefore believe it is our responsibility to continue to fight to not only keep jobs, keep teachers on the job, keep police on the job, keep firemen and women on the job to make sure that we can respond to the public needs, but also to invest in creating jobs and building our infrastructure. Whether those are roads and highways, sewer systems, schools, whatever it may be that the public needs to have. We need the jobs and we need the investment in infrastructure.
That is what this jobs bill is about. That is why we are bringing it to the floor. We are confident we will pass it, and we hope the Senate addresses it in the near term.
I now want to yield to my distinguished friend, the Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Majority Whip James E. Clyburn:
Thank you, Mr. Leader, Madam Speaker. This jobs bill will build in some sustainability in American families. We hope that by doing this on our way out of here that the American people — families of America — will know during this holiday season that we are serious about addressing their issues and that we plan the first of the year to present to the President of the United States a bill that will help sustain the reduction in job losses that we just heard about. We go in January from 725,000 jobs down to November — 11,000 job loss. That is taking this in the right direction. We need to sustain that and that is what this jobs bill is all about — sustaining that forward path that we have now taken. With that, I will like to lead to . . .
I just want to say one thing before we introduce Mr. Obey. Thank you very much, Mr. Whip. As we have said, this is legislation to create jobs, to keep us on the road to recovery and it also reduces the deficit. Because of the hard work of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Obey's committee, we are able to make this presentation today in a way that is paid for and again, will grow the economy to reduce the deficit. I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge the great work of Mr. Obey, his Members and his staff in making this legislation possible. Mr. Obey.
Chairman David Obey:
Thank you, Madam Speaker. As has been indicated, we have gone from a job loss of 750,000 jobs a month down to about 11,000. That is terrific progress, but it still isn't enough and what we are trying to do therefore is basically two things. First of all the emergency help that we have provided to the biggest victims of the recession by extending unemployment insurance, by extending people's ability to hang on to health care through COBRA for instance. And then secondly, we want to redirect $75 billion which had been focused on the needs of Wall Street — we want to redirect that to Main Street and use it in order to preserve the jobs of teachers, firemen, policemen, prison guards, you name it, and at the same time provide another boost to construction of infrastructure projects around the country. If we don't do this, we are going to see unemployment in the construction industry in some states approaching 30 and 35 percent. That is clearly unacceptable. And Congress has an obligation to move.
As you know, Mr. Oberstar has been a champion on building infrastructure of America and meeting our transportation needs and his authorization was a basis for how we went forward with our appropriations. Mr. Oberstar.
Chairman James Oberstar:
Thank you, first of all, Madam Speaker for your leadership and your laser-like focus on jobs, and Dave Obey for his consistent pressure to sustain the success of the stimulus. We've been holding hearings every 30 days — my committee has a report card. We now have a hundred — 230,000 direct jobs — construction workers on highway and transit projects and another 130,000 jobs in the supply chain providing cement and asphalt and pipe and rebar and fence posts — for 350,000 real jobs created because of the recovery act. That's a $10 billion payroll. $179 million in unemployment compensation not spent, people's insurance restored, health insurance restored, and paying in excess of $500 million in taxes because they're receiving payroll checks, not unemployment checks.
This Main Street jobs program will sustain those jobs, will sustain the investment and the recovery of jobs out into this coming year. Without this investment, the Highway Trust Fund will decline, states will not be able to provide their 20 percent match, and we'll have a regression. The House acting on this now assures that states programs will be fully funded, Highway Trust Fund revenues will be invested, the sustainability of job creation will go forward, and we will be gaining jobs rather than losing jobs because of what the House will do in this recovery program.
As a member of the leadership, as Chair of the Policy committee — Chairman Miller — also Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee — has been tasked to take all the suggestions of the Members on how we go forward on job creation, give them priority, see how they can be paid for, and we thank him for his hard work. Mr. Miller.
Chairman George Miller:
Thank you, Madam Speaker. And thank you to you, and the rest of the leadership — Steny and Jim — for making this such a priority because it yields to the concerns that we have echoed in our Caucus every week as Members come back from their local communities. Yes, we have a few positive indicators — hopefully they will continue — on unemployment, but we hear in the private analyst community and among many people concerned about unemployment in this country — economists and others — that that could be overwhelmed if we do not do something to support local government. That we could have a wave of unemployment created by the cuts that they may face because of the fact that they are close to $300 billion underwater in their budgets.
And this bill makes an effort — I think a good effort — in making sure that we can assure the health and safety of our communities and the education of our children. We're watching as every year now as we get the reports from across the country — from thousands and thousands of schools districts and hundreds of thousands of schools — the gains that young people in America are making in terms of the proficiency in reading and mathematics and elsewhere. We cannot afford to lose that because of unemployment in the school districts. We cannot afford to lose that because of the downturn in the economy. Most business leaders will tell you that it's in this kind of atmosphere where you want to make your investment for the future. We need to continue the investments that we have been making in the education of America's young children by making sure that we do not lose hundreds of thousands of teachers across the American landscape and then children are put in an environment where they cannot continue to make those kinds of gains.
So this legislation on public service jobs addresses the need — as you heard from our leaders — of the health and safety of our community, the education of young people, and also to provide opportunities in this coming summer for young people who have graduated in many cases from school, are looking for jobs and haven't been able to find them, but to give them that opportunity to receive training and job opportunities. I think the mix of this legislation, with the emphasis on infrastructure, jobs, and public service jobs is what we need in our states, in our localities, in our economy, at this time. And looking forward to a good vote in our Caucus on behalf of jobs for Main Street bill.
Thank you very much to all of our colleagues. As was mentioned, the non-emergency part of this legislation is paid for, the infrastructure, credit for small businesses, the issues that relate to teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other parts of it are paid for by TARP funds.