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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I thank the Chair, and I thank the chair of the Small Business Committee for her continued advocacy on this issue. It is so important for us to help small businesses; that is, if you believe they are the engine of economic growth for our economy, as I do, and as I think the chairwoman of the Small Business Committee does.

We know 75 percent of new job creation comes from small business. So we can continue to talk about the economy, we can continue to debate it or we can get down to the business of helping small business, as this bill does by outlining three principal programs: tax credits for small businesses on depreciation to make new investments; an enhancement of the 7(a) and 504 loan programs, which are successful programs for lending to small businesses where their capital has fallen off because the program ended in June, so we basically have a lot less money for small businesses; and a small business lending program that could help small businesses grow and help our economy at this critical point in time.

We are here tonight because we only have a few days left, but the chair of the Small Business Committee is not giving up on this issue and neither am I. I am saying it is important enough for us to stay and make sure we get this legislation passed because we want to grow small businesses. I know my newspaper, the Seattle Times, had this to say: ``Nothing should be more nonpartisan than putting people back to work.''

I think that says it all. If you are down to this, a program that could help grow small businesses, why would you be partisan at a time when our economy has huge unemployment and we have had such stagnant growth? Why would you continue being partisan instead of passing this legislation?

In fact, I haven't actually heard people on the other side say if we got through the cloture motion that they wouldn't support this legislation. No one has come to the floor and said: I will not support this legislation with this language in it. In fact, we have kind of had people indicate the opposite. So if that is the case, let's have the votes. Let's vote on this legislation and let's put people back to work.

One of the important things I wish to talk about is this small business bill is a lending program. As somebody said to me today: When you can't figure out how to stop something, then make up something that it isn't and claim that it is. That is exactly what has been going on, on the other side. They can't figure out a reason why they do not like this, but if they can pretend it is TARP-like, then maybe they have a chance of defeating it.

Well, this is not TARP-like. This is a small business lending fund, which is a voluntary program for small businesses, and it uses community banks as a conduit. So it is literally, if you will, similar to 7(a) and 504 programs in the sense that they are designed primarily to get capital to small business. Those two programs are direct lending programs that help with the partnership of banks, and this is a program we are creating--the Small Business Lending Fund--that helps, especially given that during this huge economic downturn, two-thirds of job losses in America since 2008, because of the implosion, have impacted small business the most. So when we look at all the job losses from 2008 to 2010, 81 percent of them are from small businesses.

So we can either design a program that is about helping to get capital to small businesses and move our economy forward or we can go home for the August recess and say we took partisan votes. I am for trying to solve this problem.

What this is not is a TARP bill. I love the comparison people make, because I didn't support the TARP legislation. But just by comparison, TARP was an open-ended bailout of Wall Street firms. It basically was the U.S. Government buying toxic assets. That is what it was. I call it, at times, a blank check, and being able to say no strings attached to firms that were failing and then actually get assistance from the government. In fact, if you look at it more specifically, TARP was an open-ended bailout. It basically said: Here are the resources--targeted at Wall Street. It bought toxic assets. The banks weren't viable. They basically got the revenue because people were concerned they were failing. Today's estimates are--we don't know what tomorrow's estimates will be--that it basically cost the taxpayers $100 billion.

So none of these things are what the Small Business Lending Fund is. The Small Business Lending Fund isn't a bailout, it isn't targeted at Wall Street, it doesn't buy toxic assets, it is not for banks that are not viable, and it doesn't cost the taxpayers any money.

So the other side is just trying to say this because they do not have anything else to say about this program. What they need to be able to do is to explain to their constituents why we have lost so many jobs with small businesses and we don't have a proposal on the table to help grow small businesses.

But I will tell you what this Small Business Lending Fund is: It is a program that is lending to small businesses, it is targeted at Main Street, it increases lending instead of buying toxic assets. TARP was just about buying toxic assets. This is about saying to banks: Show us a plan. If you have a plan on how you are going to increase lending to small businesses, then we will give you access to capital. So nothing could be further from the way TARP worked. TARP bought toxic assets and bailed out banks with no strings attached, and this is a lending program. The banks have to be healthy and viable. Nobody asked AIG or Citigroup or Goldman Sachs if they were viable. They just wrote a check. In fact, here you have to prove you are viable. This actually saves taxpayers money; that is, in essence, the Federal Government is going to be making loans available to small businesses and they will have to pay for that access to capital. That payment back to us is expected to generate over $1 billion.

So nothing could be further from the truth in how these two programs work. The bottom line is back to that small business job loss and how we are going to actually increase job growth for the future. I actually think this number is quite significant for our economy and that if we want to help small business, we will get them capital.

One banker from my State sent a message to me and said this:

We would absolutely use the funds for small business lending. Our bank has a backlog of $50 million to $70 million of loan requests, which is counter to statements of soft loan demand. We have reduced our lending to preserve capital as expected by the regulators.

They did that because that is what regulators expected. He went on to say:

This legislation would give us the capital to significantly increase lending.

That is a banker from my State. So that is what they are up against. They know this program will help them with the backlog of requests they have and the requirements they also have from regulators to keep capital and to have reserves. So this is about getting small business lending flowing.

When we think about the fact that this will generate, as some people say, an estimated $300 billion of stimulus to our economy, it is critical we get this program going. We have experienced six straight quarters of decline in overall commercial and industrial lending, and the total cumulative decline in the fourth quarter from 2008 until 2010 of March of this year has been a 20-percent drop--over $315 billion taken out of our economy.

So we can do something in the next couple days, if my colleagues will show the dedication of breaking partisan gridlock and also the commitment to stay here to get this legislation done. We can start to give hope to small businesses.

My colleague mentioned all the small business organizations that support this legislation. I would like to point out, some people say this might be about banks or it might be about community organizations. It is not. We are working with them because this program is designed to use them as a conduit, but we are tonight talking about this because we are talking about small businesses. We are talking about the gentleman from Mississippi who sent a letter to the chairwoman. We are talking about people who do not have a hired lobbyist back here representing them to go up and down the halls. They are depending on us.

We have heard these stories throughout America, of businesses not getting access to capital, of people having performing loans cut right out from under them, of people who had a bank that was basically providing small business capital who cut that access to capital and they had to do all sorts of things to keep their businesses going.

We can continue to have job loss in America or we can start creating jobs and do so by investing in small businesses. I hope we will get this legislation moving in the next 2 days; that we will be able to basically overcome the partisan gridlock. As the Seattle Times said, ``There is nothing that should be more nonpartisan than putting people back to work.'' I could not agree more. So I hope we get this legislation passed in the next 2 days.

I yield the floor.

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