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Mr. DREIER. Madam Speaker, I rise first to congratulate my good friend from north Charleston, a hardworking member of the Rules Committee, for his stellar management of this rule. And on the other side, a pretty fair job is being done by my friend from Fort Lauderdale, I have to say.
Madam Speaker, I will say that I listened to the opening statement of my colleague from Fort Lauderdale. As he talked about the plight of those in Florida, constituents of his who are struggling, I was thinking about the fact that today I deal with in an excess of 14 percent unemployment rate in the Inland Empire, part of the area that I represent in southern California.
When I hear the stories all across this country of people who are suffering, it does resonate. And it leads me to say, Madam Speaker, Why is it that we're here today? Why is it that we're here looking at an extension of unemployment benefits? Why is it that we're here looking at an extension of the payroll tax holiday? The reason is that we have an abysmally low, unacceptable gross domestic product growth rate in this country.
We have a GDP growth rate which is not acceptable. Yes, we've seen some positive signs, and we're all gratified about that. I truly believe that the positive signs that we have seen are in spite of, not because of, anything that has come from Washington, DC. I mean, years ago we passed a stimulus bill that was supposed to guarantee that we wouldn't see an unemployment rate that would exceed 8 percent. We all know what has happened. We've seen a great deal of suffering.
We've looked at the 82 percent increase in nondefense discretionary spending that took place in the 4 years leading up to our winning the majority. That, obviously, didn't play a role in getting our economy growing.
The reason our economy is growing is that there is a great deal of innovation, creativity, diligence, hard work on the part of our fellow Americans, small business men and women, working Americans who are out there doing it. That's the reason we're seeing these positive signs.
Now, if we did have pro-growth economic policies put into place, if we had those put into place, it's obvious that we would not have to rely on an extension of unemployment benefits. We would not have to look to extending the payroll tax holiday.
We all know that the payroll tax is designed to specifically go to ensure that people who are retirees are able to have those benefits. So we are, obviously, undermining that.
Now, we all argue, certainly on our side, that increasing taxes for anyone during slow economic times is not acceptable policy, and that's the reason that we are doing what it is we're doing, supporting this measure. It's obviously something that is essential because of the fact that we have not seen the kind of GDP growth rate that we can put into place.
That's why I believe that after we move beyond this, it is essential for us to do all that we can to implement the kinds of policies that will, in fact, spur the kind of incentive, create the kind of incentive that our job creators need. And there are a wide range of things that we have talked about. We all know what those are. I hope that we can come together in a bipartisan way to do just that.
I congratulate my friend, Dave Camp, and the other conferees who have come to this agreement. It is acceptable to some of us. Some of us are not enthusiastic.
My friend from Marietta, a few minutes ago, was talking about the package that existed last December. That was good public policy. It ended up not being good politics. I'll recognize that. It was the exception to the rule that good public policy is good politics, because what it did is that accepted what it is we're doing today, what the President requested, that we would extend this package for 1 year rather than just 2 months, which is what we had to reluctantly agree to last December.
And I also have to say that, on the sustained growth rate issue, that is, ensuring that hardworking doctors out there have the adequate compensation for their labors, we need to have major reform of the SGR structure; and I think that what we have done today is a step in that direction, and I hope very much that we are going to be able to do that.
So, again, I thank all my colleagues who've been involved in getting us to where we are. Now that we are going to do this, it's essential that we move ahead with very positive pro-growth policies.
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