By Representative Leonard Lance
To get an accurate assessment of the state of our Nation's economy one only needs to look at the current fiscal data coming out of Washington.
Our gross national debt recently topped the $16 trillion mark for the first time in our Nation's history.
Moody's Investor Services warned that it might downgrade the United States' AAA credit rating if government officials don't deal with the Nation's debt problems.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported recently that the 2012 budget deficit through August stands at $1.17 trillion -- the fourth straight year of deficits exceeding $1 trillion.
Americans recently learned that only 96,000 jobs were created last month, continuing a streak of 43 consecutive months of unemployment eight percent or higher. And nearly 370,000 more Americans simply gave up even looking for work in August, placing labor force participation at its lowest rate in three decades.
And top accounting firm Ernst & Young released a study commissioned by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) showing more than 700,000 jobs could be lost nationally should Congress allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire.
Over the past several months I have met with our state's job creators throughout the Seventh Congressional District to understand better what Congress can do to jump-start our economy and get more Americans working again.
During our meetings I heard a consistent message: The best way Congress can help put more Americans back to work is to provide greater economic certainty to small businesses.
We all know that small businesses are the economic engine that keeps our country moving.
Seven in ten jobs in this country are created by small businesses.
And small businesses are the heart of thriving local economies and critical to our national recovery efforts.
Yet too many small businesses are struggling to expand under the weight of higher taxes, red ink, over-regulation, runaway federal spending and rising energy prices.
House Republicans and some congressional Democrats have made every effort to address these issues and provide greater certainty to individuals and small businesses.
We have passed more than 35 bills that would help improve our economy and spark job creation, but nearly all of these bipartisan measures await action in the Democratically controlled Senate.
In the House, we have voted to extend the current tax rates for all Americans and pledged to move forward with tax code reform in 2013. And we worked together to cut taxes on small businesses.
We have passed a federal budget that tackles the Nation's most pressing fiscal problems and brings our federal budget back into balance.
And the House has put forth a responsible plan to replace the scheduled defense sequester with an alternative that eliminates wasteful spending and reduces the scope of government in a responsible manner while not threatening our national security.
The House has passed legislation that repeals cumbersome federal regulations, reducing costs of federal red tape.
And we have passed an all-of-the-above American-made energy policy to expand affordable energy and create jobs.
Let me be clear -- we have had some bipartisan success working with the U.S. Senate.
Together the House and Senate passed a combined legislative package signed into law by President Obama to fund federal transportation programs and create thousands of jobs while also keeping loan rates low for millions of students.
And over the summer Congress passed a new law that will ensure that patients will have improved access to innovative, life-saving therapies and medical devices while protecting and creating jobs in New Jersey.
This bipartisan cooperation, however, has not gone far enough.
The U.S. Senate must consider the dozens of bipartisan, pro-jobs House-passed measures currently stalled and awaiting action. Only then can we remove the cloak of uncertainty and achieve the economic growth that our Nation so desperately needs.