Mr. BURRIS. Thank you, Madam President.
For the past 2 years, this country has been held in the grip of an unprecedented economic crisis. The housing market collapsed, the bottom dropped out of Wall Street, and for the first time in generations many Americans felt their hard-earned economic security begin to slip away.
Here in Washington, Members of the House and Senate were faced with a harsh reality: For decades, regulators and policymakers alike had fallen short of their responsibilities. A divisive political process drove them to duck the tough issues and kick the can down the road time and time again.
This failure of regulation and the absence of political will allowed Wall Street fat cats to let their greed get the better of them. They gambled with our economic future. They designed complicated financial products and placed high-stake bets against them. In short, they built a house of cards, and when it finally came crashing down, the American economy lay in ruins.
There can be no quick fixes after a disaster of this magnitude. But under President Obama's leadership, our elected leaders finally took the bull by the horns and did what was necessary to stop the bleeding and set our country back on the road to recovery. I was proud to join many of my colleagues in supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act--a landmark stimulus bill that helped reverse the rising tide of economic misfortune. Thanks to this legislation, we have made some significant progress, though we still have a very long way to go. But this is an election year, and that means partisan bickering is in the air and it is on the rise. So I believe my colleagues and I have a decision to make: We can focus on winning the next news cycle--pitting Republicans against Democrats, and falling into the same tired political battles that usually consume election years in Washington--or we can reach for something better. We can tune out the partisan fights, reject the failed policies that got us into this mess, and prove to the American people that we have the will to make tough decisions.
Our recovery is far from complete. I believe if we fail to continue the bold policies that pulled us back from the brink of disaster, if we shrink away from difficult decisions that will move this recovery forward, then we place our economy at grave risk of slipping back into a recession. This is a time for bold action, not pointless ideological battles. This is a time to move forward, not backward.
I call upon my colleagues to seize this opportunity. Let us keep America on the road to recovery, and restore the hard-earned security of ordinary folks who have suffered because of bad decisions on Wall Street. It won't be easy, but it is our responsibility, and it is the right thing to do.
We should start by increasing our support for small businesses, especially those disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses. These companies foster progress and innovation. They have the power to create jobs and direct investment to local communities, where it can have the greatest impact. Small businesses form the backbone of our economy, but in many ways they have suffered the most as a result of this economic crisis.
That is why I have filed an amendment that will improve and expand the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Program. This measure would increase the continued eligibility amount from the current $750,000 net worth to $2.5 million so more small businesses could benefit from this assistance.
It is no secret that minority-owned businesses, particularly those in poor or urban areas, have been hit hardest by the current economic downturn. That is why these are the areas we should target for our strongest support. By expanding the existing 8(a) program, we can increase its economic impact without having to reinvent the wheel. We can rely on a proven initiative to inject new life into disadvantaged areas.
I ask my colleagues to support my amendment when it comes up for a vote, as well as the underlying Small Business Lending Act as a whole, which we will be debating shortly on the floor. I ask them to reject the tired politics that got us into this mess and embrace the spirit of bipartisanship that can lead us out.
On behalf of small and minority-owned businesses, I call upon this body to take action in that regard.
Our economic future may be uncertain, but with my proposal, the Small Business Lending Act, we have the rare opportunity to influence that future. So let's pass these measures to guarantee some degree of relief for the people who continue to suffer the most. Let's renew our investment in America's small businesses and rely on them to drive our economic recovery. Let's do it now. We need no more rhetoric, no more politics. Let's move forward and help small businesses in general, minority- and women-owned businesses in particular.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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