REPUBLICAN AGENDA -- (House of Representatives - June 21, 2005)
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Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Tennessee (Mrs. Blackburn), and I commend her for conducting this Special Order tonight. It is a great opportunity for us to gather here and to really do a number of things. First, to set the record straight after responding to the comments made from the other side; but also, as the gentlewoman pointed out, to talk a little bit about our vision for America and what the majority has been doing in pursuing that vision through legislation that we have worked on here in the House of Representatives.
First of all, I would like to join the gentlewoman in supporting her statement that we are here as shepherds of the people's money. It is and should be our aim to give back as much of the money that is earned by the taxpayers, to the people that are earning that money, so they can use the money and put it to the work in the best way and the most efficient way possible.
In that spirit, Mr. Speaker, I would also point out that the other side, in making the comment that the President nor the leadership has noticed that there is a problem with the deficit, nothing could be further from the truth. All that needs to be done is if they would look back to the deficit, to the budget that we passed to deal with the deficit. The President has set the goal that we must halve the deficit within 5 years. And this House of Representatives along with the entire Congress managed to pass a budget which for the first time in at least 8 years begins to chip away at the so-called entitlement programs. And we will have a bill later this year which does that, to begin to arrest the exponential growth in those programs.
But also we passed a budget that actually achieves an approximate 1 percent across-the-board cut in nondefense, non-homeland security spending. Although those savings may seem meager, this is the first time that we have done that since the Reagan era. So, Mr. Speaker, I would differ strongly with the statements made by the other side to remind the people across this country that we are serious. We are serious stewards of their taxpayer dollars, and aim to be able to give back more of the hard-earned money that the families and businesses across this country earn on a daily basis.
Now, let us turn to maybe the accomplishments that the gentlewoman talked about just now, and make an introductory remark about how we are leading this country, how we are responding to those issues that are on the top of people's minds across this country, and certainly are doing everything we can to make safer our young men and women in uniform as they have volunteered their time and made a sacrifice for us to go over and to conquer the enemy that poses a tremendous threat to our freedom.
First of all, almost 4 years ago, on September 11, 2001, there is no question that all convention in terms of security was turned on its head. It was on that day, Mr. Speaker, that we saw 19 terrorists kill 3,000 Americans in about 20 minutes with box cutters on a plane. And that was something that was really demonstrative of the fact that we were not thinking the unthinkable. I dare to say that not many of us would think that such an awful, awful terrorist attack could occur on our own soil, but it did. And as the gentlewoman mentioned, we rose to the occasion and we passed the REAL ID act to make sure that no longer could a terrorist have access to false identification issued by any State government to board an airplane and use that airplane as a missile to kill thousands of Americans. No longer will that happen.
And as the gentlewoman points out, we were able to garner an awful lot of support on the other side. But mind you, it was not support coming from the ranks of the minority leadership, but rather it was the leadership on the Republican side of the aisle that took the lead on that issue.
But in terms of security and what is going on here at home, we are also dealing with a very real problem, and that is the spread of gang violence. This is not only a State problem, it is a national problem. It is an international problem that reflects the growing influx and occurrence of terrorists making it across the border, joining gangs, and participating in some very violent acts.
A little over a month ago here on the House floor, we passed what was called the gang buster bill to provide Federal law enforcement with extra tools to go ahead and identify and apprehend individuals connected with these gangs, and also to strengthen penalties so that we can put an end to violent activity in our community.
Once again, leadership position that was taken on the majority side of the aisle and, frankly, has not been at all echoed or supported by the other side's leadership. None of this, Mr. Speaker, none of this would be possible if we do not ensure that our economy remains strong.
In going back to the point the gentlewoman made about ensuring that the more taxpayer dollars that we can return to the people that earn it, the better off and the more productive our economy can be, we have witnessed over the last several months an incredible surge in the rate of job creation in this country. We are at about a 5.1 percent unemployment rate nationally, which is a lower rate, the lowest rate that we have experienced in this country since September of 2001.
I can say, Mr. Speaker, in my home State of Virginia, we have an approximately 3 percent unemployment rate, which again demonstrates the productivity gains that we have made, but also demonstrates that we have got an environment where individuals have taken to putting their capital at risk to create jobs and creates value.
Now, we all know we are in a 24-7 global economy. We make no mistake about that. I think it is an agreed-upon fact that today we in this country, it is not just that our constituents are competing across town, that it is not the competitor there that we are only worried about, but the competitor across the globe.
You talk to some of the economic developers that are active in today's global economy and they will tell you there is just as much of a chance that an individual or company looking to invest resources would do so in Lima, Peru, as they would in Lima, Ohio. That is the reality of today's global economy.
That is why we must compete. We must ensure that our tax laws are competitive. That is why we need to make sure that we enact some permanency in the Bush tax cuts because there is nothing more obvious than the impact of those tax cuts on the economy itself and the tremendous surge that we have experienced.
We need to make sure that the regulatory environment is competitive. We cannot have our regulators promulgating burdensome regulations that inhibit capital formation in this country, because literally we are competing with every nation in the world.
Mr. Speaker, we also must be mindful of what we have seen as the proliferation of junk lawsuits. Nothing can be more inhibitive of capital formation than for an individual or a company to realize that they may be subjected to frivolous lawsuits and exposure to liability that simply is not warranted.
All we have to do is recall the class action suits against some of the fast-food chains that posed a potential risk to them, exposing them to liability for making hot coffee. Frankly, for an individual to drive up to a drive-through window, purchase a cup of coffee and then not realize that it is so hot that if it spills on them it would cause a burn, to me, defies common sense and reason.
It is those types of frivolous lawsuits that were included in this class action reform bill that we have passed and the President actually signed into law. It is that type of legislation that has been guided through this House, through the support of our membership, and certainly at the direction of our Speaker and our leadership.
Mr. Speaker, we have a daunting task ahead of us in approaching the very real problem of Social Security. This is one of the most successful programs that we have ever faced in this country; but yet it is a program, given the demographics that we face in this country, that frankly is unsustainable.
The law, as it stands today, will not allow us to continue on the current course, and we have got to do something to bend the curve to ensure long-term solvency of our Social Security system and, at the same time, ensure that it is not only today's seniors that are beneficiaries of that program but it is our children and our grandchildren.
That is what we and the majority side of the aisle have set out to do. That is where the proposals have stemmed from. It is from the majority side of the aisle, and to date, Mr. Speaker, save but one Member on the opposite side of the aisle, we have seen nothing, nothing, no contribution from the other side of the aisle, not even contributing to the discussion that there is a problem facing the Social Security system today.
It is on that note, Mr. Speaker, with an issue of such import that I implore the other side of the aisle to join our discussion, to contribute to trying to come up with solutions for the American people. I implore the other side and the leadership there to begin to join the discussion in arriving at solutions for the American people.
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