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Public Statements

Proposing a Minimum Effective Tax Rate for High-Income Taxpayers-- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COONS. Madam President, I rise today to address a simple but important issue about what our path forward is to building a stronger and safer America. I was deeply frustrated to hear earlier today that the Transportation bill, which was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan consensus in this Chamber, has gone over to the House and they cannot find a way forward to respond to this bill from us or find any clarity or certainty about whether to simply take up, debate, amend, or consider and enact, hopefully, our bill from the Senate or ask for short-term extensions of 30, 60, or 90 days.

Madam President, as you know as a former Governor and as I know as a former county executive, when investing in work as important as bridges and highways and roads that make infrastructure, transportation, and a reliable and predictable future for our economy possible, nothing is more important than certainty. Financing major highway projects, buying major pieces of equipment, and hiring the crews to do the work are exactly the sorts of things where certainty is critical.

I have a simple question to our friends in the other Chamber, which is when will they take up this bill that passed this Chamber by such an overwhelming margin and when will they take seriously the broad bipartisan input from every imaginable group in support of this.

I was active in my previous elected role as county executive with the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the AFL CIO. All have weighed in. In fact, if I remember correctly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote every single office at the Senate in support of this legislation, calling for specific action that both the Congress and administration could take right now to support job growth and economic productivity without adding to the deficit.

This bill came out of the committee after remarkable work by Senator Boxer of California and Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, two Senators who are widely viewed as being at the opposite ends of our political spectrum here in this Chamber.

When I go home to Delaware, I hear folks say over and over again: Why can't you work together? Why can't you iron out your differences and put America on a clearer, straighter track toward a stronger recovery?

Well, this is exactly the sort of bill that will accomplish that end. A 2-year reauthorization, a $109 billion bill that in my small State of Delaware would create 6,700 jobs now hangs in the balance. It will expire at the end of this month. Rather than take up and consider and hopefully pass this bill, folks in the other Chamber--and frankly, sadly, largely folks on the other side of the partisan aisle here--are refusing to do so and will instead take a short-term chip shot of an extension.

I simply wanted to say, if I might, that certainty is something I respect from my years in the private sector. Certainty is something I hear from the other side of the aisle in the other Chamber all the time. And this is a moment when certainty can be served by the House taking up and passing the Senate-passed bill.

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Mr. COONS. Madam President, the Senator from Alaska is absolutely right. In my county, we didn't do roads, our State does the roads, but we did sewers, and heavy capital investments in infrastructure would cost our little county tens of millions of dollars. We would be on a project, off a project, on a project, off a project. We were fortunate that our county in good times had enough money in reserve that we could go ahead and authorize the bond issue and authorize the project. But as the economy turned and as our balance sheet got tougher, we had to wait, we had to put things on hold, and we had to put off key projects.

I know the good Senator from Alaska, as a former mayor of Anchorage, also saw that happen in transportation. Is that not the case, that certainty was an enormous challenge when the Senator was relying on a Federal partner who was unreliable?

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Mr. COONS. What strikes me most about this, Madam President, and to the good Senator from Alaska, is that of all the sectors in the entire American economy--at least in my home State--that have suffered since the financial collapse of 2008, construction was hit the hardest. We already knew that we were far behind in investment. We have tens of thousands of bridges that are out of compliance with basic engineering standards. Half of our roads are below the standards we would expect from a modern economy. This is money that can and should be invested in putting people to work in construction, which has suffered from the highest unemployment. It has the support from the Chamber of Commerce to the AFL CIO, where we wrestled through the tough processes here over several weeks, and we have a strongly bipartisan bill sitting and ready to go.

There are other things we debate in this Chamber that will maybe create jobs, maybe won't. There is no question--even those who have the strongest concerns about the Federal role in our economy cannot disagree that Federal highway projects put people to work, strengthen our economy, and make us more competitive. This bill is ready to go. Why you would not take it up and enact it today, I cannot imagine.

To the good Senator from Alaska, I might say Alaska may have a shorter summer season than we do, but if you have 18,000 jobs at risk, I can only imagine the kinds of calls the Senator is getting from his home State, as I am getting from my State, urging that the House of Representatives take up this strong and bipartisan bill and pass it so we can all move forward and create some real jobs.

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Mr. COONS. I thank the Senator from Alaska. As we both know from our former roles, when you have a short-term extension, there are costs. It means that folks getting mobilized, getting organized, getting ready--you have to pull them back. When the State coffers, the county coffers, the municipal coffers don't have the ability to float and put in place the Federal funds they are waiting for, it means projects get canceled, people lose their jobs, opportunity and optimism that were moving forward get pulled back.

We have folks in this Chamber and the other, former Governors, former mayors, former county executives, former business leaders, who know the importance of a strong and reliable Federal partnership in strengthening infrastructure in this country.

I congratulate Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe for working together so well to craft a tough, strong, capable bipartisan bill, and it is my plea that the Members of the other Chamber will promptly take it up, consider it, and pass it so we can get America back to work.

I thank the Chair.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. COONS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with Senator Durbin and Senator Boozman for up to 30 minutes. And, as Senator Durbin indicated, we will suspend when Leader Reid arrives.

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Mr. COONS. I want to briefly lay the groundwork for the conversation we are going to have in this colloquy about the Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2012, of which Senator Durbin is the lead sponsor and Senator Boozman and I have joined him as original sponsors.

The core question is, what is it about the rapid growth in Africa and the economic opportunity in Africa that should concern Americans, that should concern our constituents at home, and that should occupy our time and attention.

Back on November 1 of last year, the African Affairs Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee delved into this. Senator Durbin, Senator Isakson, and I looked hard at the ongoing developments in Africa. As this first chart suggests, there has been a dramatic change in the amount of exports from China to Africa relative to the exports from the United States to Africa. In fact, since 2000, Chinese exports to Africa have outgrown U.S. exports to Africa by a more than 3-to-1 ratio.

Why does that matter? Why does it matter if American workers and American companies are losing out on a continent that I think many Americans view as having relatively modest opportunity? Frankly, Africa is a continent of enormous opportunity. In fact, out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the last decade, 6 of them were in Sub-Saharan Africa. That is not a widely known fact. So part of why I lay this groundwork to start this colloquy is to help folks who are watching at home and to help our colleagues understand why Senator Durbin has taken the lead in making sure that we focus America's efforts on strengthening our exports to Africa.

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