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Public Statements

CBC Hour

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Let me thank you, Congresswoman Christensen, for all of your work, not only here in the House of Representatives, but what you do for the Congressional Black Caucus all across America.

What hasn't come out tonight is you are actually the first vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and you work so hard for all of us and we want to thank you very much. We want to thank you for convening this Special Order tonight. You work so hard to make it happen.

I also want to extend my appreciation to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who worked so tirelessly to help make successful the tour that we had a few weeks ago. She and her staff worked so very hard, and I want to publicly thank them for all that they did.

I had intended to go to two of the five events, but because of Hurricane Irene in my district, I did not make it to Los Angeles, but I did go to the first one. I was there in Cleveland with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge when we had the jobs fair and the town hall meeting, and it made such a powerful impression on me for us to get up that morning and to drive over to the community college and to see thousands of people lined up trying to get an interview for a job.

There was no question about it that these people were sincere, they were jobless through no fault of their own. Many of them told us that they had been jobless for more than 2 years, and they were standing in line hoping to get an opportunity to be interviewed by some of the fine companies that had come with the jobs in hand.

So I want to encourage us to continue our work. We have so much work to do. The national unemployment now is 9.1 percent and African American unemployment is at least 16.7 percent and probably more. As Congresswoman Waters said a few moments ago, among African American youth the number now approaches 50 percent, and so we have work to do.

The President has announced a very bold jobs plan that I hope that we can come together on as a Congress, both Democrat and Republican, House and Senate. I hope that we can come together and pass that package, the complete package, in just a few days because the American people are demanding that we do it.

We have a deficit panel that has now begun its work, 12 Members equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, half from the Senate and half from the House; and we are hoping and praying that deficit panel will be able to come together and present bold ideas to this Congress by November 23 so that we can demonstrate to the American people that we are serious about trying to create jobs.

But you know, Congresswoman, we as a Congress cannot do this alone. We as the CBC cannot do this alone. We have got to have shared sacrifice from people all across America, and that includes America's corporations. I have been disturbed over the last few days that America's companies are sitting on more than $2 trillion in retained earnings, and that is so disappointing.

So when we talk about creating jobs, American corporations have a responsibility, too, to put people to work and to start spending and investing in their own companies. So we go forward now, and we have a lot of work to do. We have a short term, as the minority whip said a few moments ago, and he is absolutely right; and I want to thank Steny Hoyer for his willingness to come to the floor tonight and to make the statements that he made. But we must have a short-term solution and a long-term solution. In the short term, we have to create jobs and we have to grow the economy. We have got to help businesses innovate, and we've got to improve the infrastructure so we can start getting more revenue from American workers. And, hopefully, in the long term we can begin to pay down the deficit.

So thank you for allowing me to come to the floor tonight and thank you for your leadership, and I thank the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus who works tirelessly. I don't know when he goes to Kansas City. He is from Kansas City, Missouri, and a good friend of all of ours. I don't know when he rests. He is our tireless leader. I understand that he may be next in the queue to speak, and I will eagerly await the statements from our chairman.

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Mrs. CHRISTENSEN. Thank you, Congressman Butterfield, and thank you for pointing out the fact that America's corporations are sitting on billions of dollars. They have an obligation. As I understand it, they claim there is uncertainty, and so they are holding onto their funds. But there can't be any more uncertainty in our corporations than in the families around this country who are hurting because they need a job.

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Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Without question.

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Mr. BUTTERFIELD. Mr. Cleaver, you brought up the subject of infrastructure in your remarks. That's a very important conversation that we've got to have in this country. You have served 8 years as mayor of a major city. Would you again speak to the importance of infrastructure and what it can mean to job creation and economic development in communities all across America?

I'm from a rural community. I have 88 small cities and towns in my district and they don't have access to money to build infrastructure. The infrastructure bank that you made reference to would just bring new life to rural communities. I know you served as a mayor. Just talk about the relationship between infrastructure and job creation.

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Mr. CLEAVER. What is generally said is that you get, four to one, jobs to money spent if we do infrastructure projects, and those jobs are long lasting.

Now, most of the infrastructure in this country is in decrepit condition. Most of the storm water sewers, wastewater sewers in cities around the country are over a century old. Roads are collapsing. Our bridges are collapsing. We saw in Minnesota 2 years ago what happens when we neglect our own infrastructure.

And the worst thing about it, Congressman Butterfield, is that we're building roads and bridges right now in Iraq, new roads and bridges and schools in Iraq right now. I'm just a dumb Methodist preacher, but something doesn't add up. We're doing all of this in Iraq and our roads are crumbling?

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Mr. BUTTERFIELD. And we have American workers ready to do the work if we can create the opportunities.


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