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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I would like to talk about the underlying bill that we are actually on today, which is the extenders package.
The Democrats negotiated in very good faith with the Republican Party to try to figure out a way to get tax credits, tax cuts to businesses that we all need to make sure continue in terms of research and development. These are credits they have relied on to keep not only their businesses open but keep them hiring. There is a long list. They have been well explained on the floor. They are all very popular with both sides of the aisle. They have been negotiated over and over.
The Democrats have, in good faith, argued or debated with the Republicans that we need to get these extended for the purpose of stimulating our economic growth. But we have said there is one that we are not going to pay for because, A, we don't have to pay for it; and, B, because it is an emergency. So everything in the extenders package is paid for. Every single item is paid for. Although some people don't like the pay-fors, every single item to extend a tax credit--not new spending on the part of the Federal Government through bureaucracy but tax credits--is paid for except for the unemployment benefits because it is an emergency.
With 15 million people out of work, it is an emergency. For anyone on that side to come to the floor and say Democrats are big spenders and we can't pay for anything and we don't know how to run the government, we have put a great package together. But there is one thing that is not paid for, and that is unemployment because it is an emergency. That is what this debate is about, whether they are going to vote for it. If they don't want to vote for it, it is completely at their feet that people in America today, who have no benefits, will not get them for the Fourth of July. They will not get them as we celebrate the birthday of our country. If they are not going to get them, it will be because the Republican Party decided that we, as a Congress, are going to have to find a way to pay for unemployment benefits, when they never paid for even 1 year of any war they helped lead us into when their party was in charge.
So I hope the leadership over here holds the line. We are going to pass the extenders package the way it was presented. They can continue to vote no on it. That is their choice. But everything in this bill--many things very important to the State of Louisiana, such as flood insurance--is paid for and is now being held up; for example, the placed-in-service date which keeps four or five of our major housing projects from being built. When I say housing, I mean neighborhoods, really, being rebuilt. That is being held up because this side is trying to make an issue of finding a way to pay for unemployment benefits when it is clearly an emergency, clearly qualifies as an emergency, and in the past was always clarified that way. That is what part of this argument is about.
As one of the managers of the small business bill, which we are moving to, I am very hopeful and will make sure that the extenders debate stays separate from the small business debate. Now that the extenders bill has been set aside, we have another bill we believe we can move forward with more bipartisan support for, and I want to thank the Republican Senators who helped to move this bill to the floor: Senators GRASSLEY, VOINOVICH, SNOWE, COLLINS, LEMIEUX, LUGAR, BOND, and BROWN of Massachusetts. These eight Senators have negotiated in extremely good faith with both the Finance Committee and the Small Business Committee to bring a package to the floor that will actually help create, we hope, millions of jobs in our country.
I want to make one editorial comment before I speak about the small businesses, and as a Senator from Louisiana, I feel compelled to do so.
I have helped to manage and craft, along with my committee members--and I am very proud of the small business piece of this bill. There are three pieces. There is the finance piece, there is a small business package, and then there is a treasury piece. I will discuss all of them briefly in just a moment.
We have worked hard over this year trying to come up with some things that the government could do that wouldn't cost that much money but could spur growth in small business. As the Presiding Officer knows, it is not the big businesses that are creating jobs. They are still laying off people or are putting in efficiencies, which means holding the line. Even as they get more contracts, they are not hiring because it is not what big business does. They have enough cushion to hold what they have, but small businesses are affected immediately by contractions and expansions. They can't afford to hold three or four people on their payroll without a contract, so they let them go. But the minute they get a new contract, they will hire them back. They are immediately tied to the daily, weekly, and monthly jolts in this economy.
That is why we see that 65 percent of all new jobs created since 1993 have been by small business. When we want to look out from 2009 to the year we are in, 2010, and to 2011 and 2012, which the country is depending on us to do, we should focus our attention where the jobs can be created. Mr. President, that is in small business. So that is what we are here this week and next week to do, and these eight Senators have said yes, basically, to small business in America. The package isn't going to be what all ten of these Senators would write if they could write it themselves, but they understand this is a good package. It is a worthy package to pass--the small business, the finance, and the treasury package--to get small business moving again.
I feel compelled to comment, before explaining some of the pieces of this bill, that it is concerning to me that while we are on the Senate floor talking about a small business package, back home in Louisiana and in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas, because of events almost beyond the control of any of us here, we are facing a real economic challenge with the oilspill in the gulf and the subsequent moratorium that was laid down by the administration on deepwater drilling. I have to say right now there are, in fact, about 50,000 to 60,000 jobs immediately at risk while that issue is being worked out. So while I am here on the Senate floor to help create millions of new jobs--and I believe this bill will do that--we also want to be mindful of not losing the jobs we have in trying to come up with some very quick, appropriate responses to the BP spill--the Deepwater Horizon spill--and the call for safety in the gulf. We need to be getting our people back to work.
I spent all morning in the Energy Committee on that subject, and I am proud to be leading and helping with some suggestions in that regard. But I have to say I want all the Members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to understand there is an economic calamity brewing in the gulf that needs our immediate attention. We can do more than one thing at a time here, so we are going to continue to move forward on the small business bill because small business in Louisiana will be helped, as well as those in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Texas, and small businesses all over this country.
There are a couple of important components in this overall bill. Again, I thank the members of my committee who voted these items out 17 to 1 and 18 to 0. Senator Snowe, the ranking member, did a magnificent job of working with the Republicans on our committee. We had many hearings and several markups. In the underlying bill, one of the most important provisions is the Small Business Jobs Creation Access to Capital Act. It increases 7(a) loans from $2 million to $5 million, 504 loans from $1.5 million to $5 million, and microloans from $35,000 to $50,000. If I had my way, I would like to see that go up to $100,000. Why? Because small businesses need access to capital. They must have access to grow.
If we want small businesses to be able to grow, they have to be able to expand by borrowing more money at relatively low interest rates on favorable terms, and then they can start hiring people to get the jobs necessary to, A, end the recession; and, B, as Senator Stabenow has said so beautifully all week, to start paying the deficit down.
What the Republican Party doesn't understand is that one way to pay the deficit down--not the only way but one way to chip away at it--is to get more people working so they can pay the taxes to the local, State, and Federal Government and we can then take that tax money and apply it to deficit reduction. Yes, we have to cut spending. Yes, we have to stop giving out tax cuts we cannot afford. They never want to do the tax cut piece, and they do not do the cutting piece well either most of the time. But what they need to understand is that creating jobs, both private sector and public sector jobs, where it is appropriate, generates taxes to the local, State, and Federal governments. Then we can begin chipping away at the deficit--a deficit they left, by the way.
When the last administration came in--when President Bush came into office--he was handed a surplus. We handed him a surplus of $5.1 trillion and said: Mr. President, here is a world at peace and here is $5.1 trillion in surplus; the economy is creating jobs.
When he left office 8 years later, he handed the next President a deficit twice that big, with Wall Street in collapse, two wars that hadn't been paid for, and a mess here at home--and they want to ask why we haven't fixed all that in a year and a half? It is quite humorous to me. I know President Obama is smart and good--though I don't agree with him on everything--but I don't think any human being could fix the mess they left in just a year and a half.
We have been plodding along trying to fix different pieces of it, but it hasn't been pretty. All of it isn't working, but we are trying. Most of it is working. That is what the American people expect of us. They do not expect
us to get it 100 percent right every day, but they do expect us to move forward; to say, yes, we will try not to say no and not to lecture Democrats about deficits they created.
Having gotten that off my chest, I want to say here we are in our small business package. I am very proud that eight of these Republican Senators joined us to get on the discussion on the small business bill. This is going to do a lot of good for a lot of people in many places, let me say, not just New York and not just Wall Street. This is a Main Street bill. This is about creating jobs in little towns in Oregon as well as little towns in Louisiana, small towns in Washington State and Maine. That is what this is about.
The second piece is the export piece. This is a very exciting chart to me. I am maybe not as good as KENT CONRAD is with charts, Senator Conrad, but I like this one very much. This chart shows the potential of small business in America. Just think about this. We have so many, millions and millions of small businesses, but less than 1 percent of them today are exporting. This is tragic, if you think about it. If we can get a few percentage points, up to 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent of small businesses in America exporting their products, using the Internet, using favorable tax provisions that will help--that are in this underlying bill--using new support and technological support from the Small Business Administration, from volunteer organizations such as SCORE, university-based technical support programs that can go to our small businesses and say: You sold 50,000 pairs of shoes last year but you sold them all down the road. We can help you sell them to China or sell them to India. Think about the possibility of that. And it is real.
That is what this bill does. Senator Snowe has done a tremendous amount of work. I am extremely proud of her work on the export portion of this bill. Again, large businesses, percent of firms that do not export, 58 percent. This number could be increased. But the exciting opportunity is small business. But sometimes they are intimidated, as you can imagine. They don't know how to negotiate with foreign governments. Some of the things we are going to do in this bill will help them move that number up and they are going to be able to grow.
Third, the contracting piece. I know some people on both sides of the aisle believe government is too big. Sometimes I agree with that and think it is too. We have to shape it, make sure it is efficient and effective and muscular, not flabby and big but bold and muscular, so it can do things it needs to do that the private sector can't do. But one of the things all governments do is spend a lot of money, and it is not just money to hire their own employees, it is spending money for the private sector. We contract out a lot of our work. When the Government has a job to do, we do not always do it with government employees; we contract it out. I do not have the exact numbers in front of me but it is billions and billions of dollars. We are the largest--if you put us in terms of a corporation--the largest corporation, potentially, maybe in the world. So the contracting provision we have in this bill says: OK, Federal Government, if you were a business, if you could contract with more small businesses, meet your small business contracting goals, then we could create a lot of jobs in America because it is, again, the small businesses that are creating these jobs.
If you give a big company a government contract, they might absorb it into their infrastructure. They are so big, they have millions of employees, or hundreds of thousands. But you give a contract to a small business, you know what happens? They might have five employees. If they get a very nice size contract from the government, they will hire 10 people to implement that contract and they will do it right away. So we have some contracting provisions in this bill that I am, again, very proud of. They have broad bipartisan support.
In addition, in this bill, which is paid for, is an additional $50 million for the Small Business Community Partnership Relief Act which gives $50 million in addition to women business centers, microloan intermediaries. It weighs or reduces the non-Federal share of funding so that for 1 year States all over this country can start enhancing and improving their Women Business Owners' Center, their Minority Business Centers, the centers that are in universities all over the country. I am sorry I do not have a map to show what the Secretary or Administrator of the SBA fondly calls our bone structure, because it is a great structure in the country. It is not just isolated little offices of the SBA.
If you can imagine, so many of our universities have small business development centers and SCORE chapters, which is retired business executives, senior executives who volunteer to help younger businesses. There are hundreds of these chapters around the country.
If you could imagine a map of the United States, you could see, if I could show where these centers are, there are centers at universities and SCORE chapters and community banks, almost within a few miles of any citizen. Any citizen could find a SCORE chapter or a university or a local bank. This bill is sending funding and help to all of those places. Again, not just on K Street here. There are lots of jobs on K Street. In fact, there are so many buildings going up on K Street, I am amazed how many. It never stops. There are lots of buildings going up, maybe, on Wall Street--lots of office space. But where I represent, there are empty spaces. There are lots of vacancy signs.
This bill is trying to push out money, not to the Federal Government but to our universities, to our private sector partners to help them tweak--help support small businesses to help small businesses grow. I am very proud of that piece. The job impact analysis was something Senator Snowe wanted. We worked with her. On everything we do, this is going to be a way to say, in this bill, how many jobs will actually be created, to record them so we can be accountable to the American people for that. I am happy she put that in the bill.
Going back to the 7(a) loan program, this is the major loan program of the SBA. As you can see, it has been sort of a happy and sad situation here over the last couple of years since 2008.
When Congress acts and puts money in this program, loans to small business go way up. When we dilly-dally and cannot agree and the program expires, loans go way down. When we get our act together again, it goes up. I wish this chart did not look like this. I wish it looked straight up, like this. Right now it is down beneath where it was before the stimulus act was passed. It has fallen below the ARRA average of $172 million. It is down to $154 million.
We need to get it back up. When we initially announced that the Small Business Administration was expanding the amount you could borrow, reducing the fees so you did not have to pay as much, and giving you a 95-percent guarantee rate, those loans are good loans. Small businesses need them, particularly because credit card companies are not lending the way they used to or charging you too much for the money they do give you. Credit lines are drying up. This is the core of the small business bill. I hope we will see this number go straight up.
Banks all over our country want this program. Many of them--not every bank participates, but I would say about 1,000 or 1,200 out of the 5,000 banks participate in this program, and they are very excited about getting this funding back in place so they can begin to loan money again to small business.
There are many other things we can do and should do. One of the amendments I have filed--I wish I could have gotten this in the base bill, but even as the chairman of the committee you can't get everything you want in the base bill. So I have agreed to offer one of these as an amendment.
I am very proud to have Senator Cochran's support, Senator Wicker's support, Senator Vitter's support. It is a bipartisan amendment. What it would do is provide in the small business bill interest loan relief for the gulf coast outstanding disaster loans from Katrina and Wilma, Gustav and Ike, from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
There are 13,207 loans. I will take a moment to try to explain it. I will try to wrap up in about 5 minutes.
There are currently today 13,207 small business loans that were taken out by businesses all along the gulf coast. Some of these loans are to fishermen whose boats were destroyed and they had just bought the new boat or fixed their net from some of these hurricanes. They were just getting back into the water. The water was coming back, the marsh was coming back after Katrina and Rita, and then all of a sudden the Horizon BP disaster happened.
The same people who were affected by these hurricanes and who may be affected by hurricanes in this season--which unfortunately promises to be a very difficult one--these are the businesses that are struggling to pay these loans on top of the economic disaster they are experiencing. So I am asking the Senate to please give some forgiveness--in the loan forgiveness, but give some special help to this group of loans. What we are asking in the amendment is 3 years of an interest rate reduction; not loan forgiveness, so the taxpayers will be paid back the full principal amount of all the loans these individuals and businesses have made. But if we could give them a little interest relief--let me give a specific example.
I actually took Karen Mills, our Administrator of the SBA, to Louisiana on several occasions to impress upon her the seriousness of this situation. I took her to see the Bergerons, who run a gas station in Lakeview. This entire neighborhood was destroyed, 8,000 families. Three of my brothers and sisters lived in this neighborhood, with four children each. They lost everything, their homes, their clothes, everything was completely destroyed. That was true of their 8,000 other neighbors. This gas station--the Bergerons came back. They operated one of the most successful gas stations in this neighborhood. In order for people to be able to rebuild their house, because they had fled to higher ground hundreds of miles away, families would drive long distances after work to come and gut their homes in Lakeview and try to rebuild their homes. But when they went to go back, there was no gas station for them to fill up their car so they could get back to where they were living until they could get home.
So the Bergerons, like a lot of what I call the pioneer businesses--the hardware stores, the gas stations--said you know, I have been here 40 years. Mr. Bergeron is in his 70s, still very active, but he said I am going to go back and open my gas station. So he went to the SBA and got a loan. The problem was, he did a great thing, but his business came back so slowly. But without his business no one in the neighborhood could come back because there was no place to get gasoline. He is paying on his loan $1,000 a month. If this passes, his note will go down to about $400 a month. It will give him a little bit of relief because right now in his same neighborhood he has a lot of people who work in the fishery industry or the seafood industry or the oil and gas industry, so some of his customers cannot come and get as much gas as they want to because they are being affected now by this Deepwater Horizon.
I am begging the Members of the Senate to please help this particular group. I wish we could afford to do for everyone in America but not everybody in America right now is on the gulf coast. But these 13,207 people are and we need to give them a little breathing room. That is one of my amendments.
I am going to yield the floor after I make a comment on a nominee. But that is one of the amendments I am going to ask the Senate, when we get an opportunity to offer amendments, to please give us a chance to help these small businesses. It is a temporary relief for them, but I think it is something they deserve and will help this region that has now been hit again.
NOMINATION OF WINSLOW SARGEANT
Mr. President, at this time I want to talk for a minute about Winslow Sargeant.
He is a gentleman who has been recommended by the President to serve at the SBA, in the advocacy position at the SBA. He comes highly regarded and highly recommended. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in electrical engineering and a background as a very successful small business owner. He is managing director of Venture Investors, a Midwest venture capital country with a concentration in starting up health care technology companies.
Dr. Sargeant has a great deal of support from a wide variety of individuals and businesses that I will submit for the Record.
With more than 80 percent of job losses coming from small firms, I believe this is someone who should be in the Office of Advocacy. For some reason, he is being held up by the other side.
I understand there are nominations being held up on both sides of the aisle, but I wanted to ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider--I am going to wait and ask for unanimous consent. I am not going to wait long, but I will continue talking for a few minutes. I will wait for a few minutes, but at some point I am going to ask for unanimous consent that he be moved ahead because here we are on a small business bill, and here is the man whom the President has nominated, who obviously is well credentialed, has tremendous support, who is being held up. We do not really understand why he is being held up, so I would like to know, and in just a few minutes, I am going to ask for him to go by unanimous consent.
In the meantime, I will speak about one other potential amendment to the underlying bill. This amendment is coming from Senator Boxer, and I am so excited that she came up with this idea and this amendment. I think it has a lot of potential, and I think many Members might support it.
Senator Boxer called to my attention that there are many small businesses that operate out of their homes, and if you think about it, there are many people who operate their business out of their homes but particularly women who are trying to raise children, they are still the primary caregiver--not the only caregiver, but in most homes the women are trying to balance being a good wife and a good mother and also contributing to the bottom line of their family income. So a lot of them might be running small businesses out of their homes.
Well, it has come to our attention that in order to take the tax deduction that is rightfully there for anyone, man or woman, who works out of their home--it has come to my attention through Senator Boxer that it is not really very easy to take that deduction. In fact, it is so complicated, to my knowledge, that many people don't take it. Think about that.
If we are really supportive of family values, of people being flexible; if we don't like spending a lot of gasoline traveling back and forth to work and we are kind of trying to encourage people to stay at home and work if they can--many women who are very well credentialed because the government spent a lot of money on our universities getting them the degrees they need, are home raising three, four, five kids, and they can't travel a long time to work, so they set up a business in their home. Senator Boxer's amendment would help them by simplifying this deduction.
I am hoping Senator Boxer will come at some time to the floor over the next couple of days--I am sure she will--and explain the details of this, but I think it would be an excellent provision to add to the small business bill because again, remember, this underlying bill is cutting taxes for small businesses, specifically cutting taxes for small businesses; it is supporting the small business programs to create more of them, both in our country and their export potential; and then it is giving--the third leg of the stool--$30 billion to banks in America, voluntarily. It is not TARP-like, nothing about TARP; it is $30 billion to small banks in Oregon, Louisiana, and other places to be able to then take that money and lend it to small businesses. That is the essence of this bill.
I am very hopeful we can add a couple of amendments to an already very good small business package. So I am hoping Senator Boxer will come at some point and explain this amendment.
My colleagues are here to speak, I guess, on either the extenders package or the small business package. I see the Senator from Ohio, who has been very supportive of small business. Of course, Ohio is one of the States that has been hardest hit, and Michigan has been very hard hit in the underlying economy. So I am very happy to have, hopefully, their support on the underlying bill.
But one more comment about the moratorium. And I started off by saying I am proud to be the chair of the Small Business Committee advocating for small businesses in the country. I think the small business package, the finance and treasury package that we have on the floor will deliver to the American people how to, in a very fiscally responsible way, help us create the jobs we need. But one of the points--and I am going to be very brief because I see the minority leader here, but at the same time I want to say again that the moratorium on the gulf coast--and the Senator from Kentucky will, I believe, agree with me on this point--the moratorium on the gulf coast is really hurting many small businesses now.
I know we have to get this drilling safer and it has to be very safe. The people of my State want that. The people of the gulf coast want that. But we hope sometime in the next few weeks to clarify or fix or modify this. The Federal judge, as you know, has ruled that the moratorium is lifted, because the Federal judge did not agree with the actions taken by this administration, nor do I. So while we are debating a small business bill, I am very hopeful that as soon as this small business package can pass, we can get on to getting more people back to work along the gulf coast who have been affected by both the moratorium and this bill.
UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--EXECUTIVE CALENDAR
I ask unanimous consent for Winslow Sargeant to be Chief Counsel for Advocacy, Small Business Administration; that the nomination be confirmed, the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table, and any statements relating to the nominee be printed in the Record; that the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action, and the Senate then resume its regular legislative session.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I was here earlier today, following Senator Baucus's handling of a portion of the small business bill. I am pleased to share in that responsibility on a small business bill that is not immediately before the Senate because, remember, we came off it temporarily to talk about the unemployment measure that is pending about which Senator Harkin just spoke.
I want to return to the small business bill because at some point, after a vote on the unemployment measure before the Senate, we will get back to a very important bill for you, Mr. President, and you have been a leader in this area, as well as many of us.
I want to speak for a moment about a couple of provisions of the small business bill. The bill itself has three major pieces to it. There is a piece that came out of the Small Business Committee about which I spent some time this morning talking, the elements of strengthening the SBA lending programs, expanding the limits for the amount of money that businesses can borrow. There is a piece that is coming out of the Finance Committee that is broadly supported. Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley have done a great job. Basically, it is tax cuts relative to small businesses that can help them with tax provisions. Then there is a piece that has come from the Treasury, the White House, the leadership team, about small business lending.
I want to talk for a few minutes about a piece of the small business package, and then I want to talk about the bank investment program, the $30 billion program.
First of all, one of the most important aspects of the small business bill is the extension and the expansion of 504 loans. To put this in plain English, these are the loans that the Small Business Administration partners with banks to make what we call floor plan lending. It is any business that has inventory--maybe it is a tractor company or a manufactured home company or a boat, marine industry with a small business owner--and you have some of these in Illinois, I know, Mr. President, and I have many of them in Louisiana--that has to buy inventory and put it in their showrooms for when people come by and they look at the product.
Some people might go on the Internet these days. My son does this. He spends a lot of time looking for automobiles because he has not yet been given permission to purchase his first one. He is looking every night, bringing pictures to his mother and father, talking about the benefits.
People today go on the Internet. They look at all these products they want to buy--boats, tractors, for example. They do not usually push the button to buy these products on the Internet; they go down to their local dealer. They want to walk into a showroom. They want to look at the product. They heard about it, and they might have documents from the Internet. They go to their local small business, whether it is in some parts of Illinois or Louisiana down in Thibodeaux, Violet, Larose. They walk into that local marine operator and say: I have looked on the Internet, and this is the kind of boat I want to buy. Do you have one in stock? If we pass this bill, he might have one in stock. If we do not pass this bill, chances are he will not be able to make that sale. That is what the 504 lending program does.
I have a letter from the National Marine Manufacturers Association that says they have over thousands of members. They say that they believe if we pass this provision in this small business bill, it could affect over 350,000 jobs in America because that is how these small businesses operate.
Unlike a lot of businesses we talk about, these are not businesses in China or in India or in South Africa or in France. These are small businesses with American-made products in our own neighborhoods, almost in every neighborhood in America, that has an inventory, that is trying to sell something. When that purchase is made, tax dollars are generated, money changes hands, and our economy gets rolling again.
This 504 lending program is not to be underestimated. It is not just an old government program that does not work. This program will potentially leverage loans up to $12 million. The way the program works is the Federal Government backs 40 percent of the loan. The banks usually take the first 50 percent, and then there is another 10 percent. So when you add all of that up, because our portion can now go up to $5 million, it is basically a $12 million loan.
That is a lot of money for a small business to be able to purchase a number of tractors for their inventory or automobiles or RVs or jet skis. This is a big industry, Mr. President. You know it. You see it on Main Streets all over the country.
When we pass this bill, I want my colleagues to know that those voting for it can be very proud. For those of my colleagues voting no, they are going to have some explaining to do because the automobile dealers in their States, the marine manufacturers in their States are going to say why didn't you vote for a bill that would allow me to go to my local bank, borrow up to $12 million so I can put inventory in our showrooms so people in this town can come to my shop or my place of business and purchase that equipment?
This 504 loan program is very important. It came out of our committee with broad bipartisan support. I am pleased it is in the underlying bill.
I want to say one more word. I know there may be others on the floor to speak. In another section of this small business bill, in our attempt to get jobs created in America to bring this recession to an end, to get our people back to work--yes, we have to extend unemployment, but eventually--eventually, not now, but some time soon, not now because it is too soon, many economists say, but at some time, we are going to have to stop the emergency extension of unemployment and have a job for people to go back to because I agree with Senator Harkin, most people--99.9 percent of people in America--men and women, Black and White, Hispanic or Asian, would rather work because it not only helps their family economically, but it is very rewarding to work, particularly at something one likes to do, and it is life affirming.
People aren't interested, as some of my Republican colleagues want to say, in sitting home and collecting $215 a week. In some States, I think in Mississippi, it is $146 a week. Who wants to do that? How many mouths can you feed at $146 a week? Please, tell me.
Not many. I do the shopping in my family. That wouldn't cover 4 days' or 5 days' worth of groceries in my family, and I have only two children.
So I am not sure what people are talking about on the Republican side, that people would like to stay home and collect a real big check. People want to get back to work. But in order to help them get back to work, we are going to have to have some extraordinary measures to get banks--medium-sized banks, community banks--lending again.
I think the President and the Treasury have come up with quite an innovative program. It is $30 billion, and many Republican Senators voted for it--at least eight. I don't know what the others were thinking, but I would like to give them a couple of arguments to rethink their vote.
Some of them have said this is the TARP again. Remember what TARP stands for. TARP stands for Troubled Assets Relief Program. It is a program for troubled banks. The ``T'' stands for ``trouble.'' This $30 billion program we have come up with should be called the healthy bank provision because this is not for troubled banks; this is for healthy banks. These are banks that are not troubled. They are healthy banks.
This program will allow them to voluntarily--not mandatorily but voluntarily--ask the Treasury to infuse some capital through an investment in all of our banks. The banks will then take that money and, if they follow the guidelines of Treasury in terms of the program as it is outlined, and they start to lend the money to small businesses, they will get a benefit. They do not have to pay the Treasury back a dividend. They can pay the Treasury back a lower dividend on the investment the taxpayers have made in that bank.
So for my colleagues who say this is TARP II, they are absolutely dead wrong. There is not a ``T'' in this program for ``trouble.'' This is for banks that are healthy, and I am very excited to say that our community banks in Louisiana survived this meltdown because they didn't engage in some of this reckless behavior that some of the large banks participated in. Our community banks in Illinois and in Michigan and in Ohio--I know they had a little more trouble in the rust belt--but many of the community banks in the South did very well and were very smart about their lending. They never got into trouble.
So this $30 billion infusion from Treasury into preferred stock in these banks, investments structured this way, will encourage these small banks to make money the old-fashioned way--not on transaction costs, not on charging people extra for the balance they do or don't have in their checking accounts, but by getting back to old-fashioned banking: making money in your bank when you make good loans to businesses. When you are smart and you are looking at businesses in your community and you are lending them money, they are expanding and they pay you back the loan with interest. You lend them more money, and they pay you back the money you lent them with interest. They grow, the business grows, the bank grows, and the community grows.
Mr. President, I suggest in America that we get back to the old-fashioned way that banks should make money. The Presiding Officer did that successfully when he was in Illinois--lend money to small business. That is what the President's $30 billion does.
I hope Republicans who voted against this provision because they believe this is TARP II will actually read the bill. It is not very long. It is just a few pages. It is just a few pages. It is not a troubled bank program; it is a healthy bank program, and they should be for it because, as the chairman of the committee, I have received a letter from the association that represents the community banks. They said: Senator, we favor this provision. We want this to happen.
So for the taxpayers listening, don't be fooled by the arguments on the other side. That just gets back to we are the party of no. We are going to say no, no matter how good the idea is. This is a good idea for healthy banks that the bank association supports. I think we should be for it, and I am hoping we can vote for it when we get back.
One other point. Then I am going to cede the floor. Because of the great work Senator Warner of Virginia and Senator Levin have done, they have convinced enough of us on both sides of the aisle, I hope, to add to this provision something we call the State small business credit access fund. So in addition to what President Obama came up with, he and his team, Senator Warner and Senator Levin did a lot of work on this and explained it to many of us. Many of our colleagues were Governors before they got here, so they know something about this. Their job was to create jobs when they were Governors. Now, happy for us, they are Senators and they are still trying to create jobs. So they brought an idea to our committee which we looked at very carefully and said yes. Then they worked through Finance, and Finance said yes.
What this does is set aside $2 billion for State programs that are already established and that act in very different ways but are mission-driven organizations run by our Governors. These are Governors from different parties, so it is not a partisan program. We are going to give $2 billion out through these programs, and they will then turn around and lend money and make the master plans of economic development in the State of Virginia real.
It helps the State of Michigan, where they have some great small businesses, CARL LEVIN says. But he said to me: MARY, the problem is that they do not have the collateral they once had to get the loan because their collateral has depreciated. So the banks are not going to lend them the money because they do not have the collateral. So we have come up with a way to enhance their collateral to make it a good loan--not a risky loan but a good loan. So that is in here.
So for people who say government is not creative or not innovative or we are not trying to do the smart things, this is a smart bill. Besides being a healthy bank bill, it is a smart lending bill. In some of these instances, the Federal Government is actually going to make a profit. So I hope when we get back, when we are talking about small business, we can be enthusiastic in supporting the basically $32 billion lending program, the small business package, and the tax cuts that Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley, with the help of Senator Snowe, have put together for small businesses throughout the country. I hope we can stop fighting, stop saying no, and just say yes to job growth and creation in America for hard-working taxpayers and Americans who deserve our best effort on this bill.
I yield the floor.
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