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Ms. LANDRIEU. Thank you, Madam President.
We are now on a very important bill, the small business jobs growth bill. It is a bill that actually many of us on both sides of the aisle--from the Small Business Committee to the Finance Committee, to Members who are not members of either one of those committees--have contributed immensely to the building of a bill that we think holds a great deal of promise for small businesses throughout our country that have been beaten and battered. But amazingly, in many places, these businesses, despite all the odds, are hanging on and they are looking for some help.
That is what this bill attempts to do--to build strong partnerships with the private sector, to use the resources that are already out there, most notably, our community banks, our small banks.
There are over 8,000 of them. We have not heard a lot about those banks. I see the Senator from Florida in the Chamber who is going to speak in just a minute. We have not heard a lot about community banks on this floor. All we have heard about are Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, AIG. We have heard about Wall Street and big banks. We have not heard about small community banks and small businesses--the 27 million of them that are struggling in America today.
This bill finally--finally--has reached the floor of the Senate. The House has already passed a very strong bill. It has finally reached the floor of the Senate to give us an opportunity to debate what we can do to help small business and what we can do to strengthen and support our healthy community banks in all our States.
It is an exciting time. I say to the Presiding Officer, I thank her as a member of the Senate Small Business Committee for being a part of this effort. Again, the Small Business Committee, in a bipartisan way, and the Finance Committee, in a bipartisan way, have contributed to this legislation, and we are moving to the final hours of this debate now.
AMENDMENT NO. 4500
The Senator from Florida, Mr. LeMieux, and I are offering an amendment which is pending before the Senate now. It is a very important amendment to the underlying bill. The pending amendment is the LeMieux-Landrieu amendment. It has many other cosponsors whom I will submit for the record in a moment. But this amendment that is pending now is a small business lending fund amendment that actually makes $1.1 billion for the Treasury. It earns that much over 10 years. It does not cost the Treasury anything. It earns $1.1 billion. It uses the power of the private sector. It uses the power of our community banks that are on Main Streets--whether it is in Tallulah, LA, Lake Charles, LA, or right down Canal Street in New Orleans or some of the main streets in Florida and other States.
It uses the power of those banks--their knowledge of the small businesses in their communities--and it leverages that powerful relationship to help end this recession. But we have to be about job creation, and the people who are going to create the jobs are small businesses.
Ms. LANDRIEU. As I turn the floor over to the Senator from Florida to speak about our small business lending amendment, let me say, again--I could not say it any more clearly--small firms--and this chart is from 1993 to 2009--small firms in America, those between 1 employee and 499 employees, created 65 percent of the jobs. Only 35 percent of the jobs were created by large firms. These numbers on this chart pertain to the last decade.
I say to the Presiding Officer, you used to be a banker in Illinois. You have a great deal of expertise here, and I think your own experience would tell you if we updated this chart--which we do not have the figures to do--I think this 65 percent would be increased substantially because the people out there creating jobs are small businesses.
We have seen news article after news article, just in the last couple weeks--the front page of the Washington Post, the front page of the New York Times--headlines: Big Firms Hoarding Cash; headlines: Big Banks Hoarding Cash. I guess so. They have gotten a lot of cash from this Congress. But it is the small businesses out there that are struggling to get capital to create jobs, and it is the small, healthy community banks that are out there battling with them to create jobs to revitalize their communities and increase demand.
So let's keep our eyes on this chart, and let's keep our minds focused on one clear fact: Small business in America is the most powerful job-creation engine, and right now we have to put a little fuel in that tank. That fuel is capital to healthy community banks that can then leverage the power of those healthy community banks to get money to small businesses at reasonable rates--not credit card rates at 24 percent, 16 percent, not payday lender rates that are at 30 percent, sometimes 50 percent but at reasonable rates--with reasonable terms so they can create jobs.
That is why the Senator from Florida and I are on the floor. I would like to yield the next 10 or 15 minutes to the Senator from Florida, Mr. LeMieux, the cosponsor of this amendment.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Florida for his excellent explanation using real stories and terrific visuals because he just painted a picture for us about what those empty shopping centers look like. We have seen those in our own States as well. He is absolutely correct. If we don't do anything, the problem is, they are going to stay empty. We just can't wish it to change. We have to act in a way that will help it change. That is what this bill is about.
Again, this is not a big government solution. This is a potential solution that holds a lot of promise based on strengthening relationships that already exist that are basically in the private sector. That is what this effort is. It is exactly as the Senator from Florida outlined.
He spoke about--and he is right--one of the arguments we have heard which we can't seem to understand. If there is somebody who can explain this, they should come to the floor and help us. We keep hearing: This is like TARP. So I wish to take just 1 minute to explain the differences in as simple a way as I can.
TARP stands for Troubled Asset Relief Program. It was $700 billion. It was a program that George Bush fashioned initially and was continued through this administration to give money to big banks that were getting ready to fail. I wish to say that again: $700 billion, fashioned first by the Bush administration, available to big banks that were failing and that many people were opposed to. This program is not $700 billion, it is $30 billion. It is not going to big banks on Wall Street; it is going to small banks on Main Street. The TARP money went to banks that were failing. This is going to healthy banks that are trying their best to lend; that want to help their communities to revitalize. So if anyone thinks this is like TARP, please come talk to me because I could explain how it is not anything like TARP.
I can show my colleagues many letters and many documents, starting with one, and then I will turn it over to the Senator from Minnesota. One of the main reasons it is not like TARP is because there were a lot of bankers who were opposed to TARP. They didn't like the government intrusion. They didn't like the rules and regulations. One could argue it was necessary, but many bankers weren't for it.
This letter I am holding--and I will have it blown up--is from the Independent Community Bankers of America. They represent 5,000 independent banks--5,000. I am just going to read the first paragraph of this letter that they sent to Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. This is a letter they sent to Leader Reid and to Mitch McConnell, minority leader of the Senate. It reads:
On behalf of the nearly 5,000 members of the Independent Community Bankers, I write to urge you to retain the Small Business Lending Fund in the Small Business Jobs Act. The SBLF is the core component of this legislation and the provision that holds the most promise for small business creation in the near term. Failure to even consider the SBLF in the Senate would be a missed opportunity that our struggling economy cannot afford.
Let me go on because this is important:
The Nation's nearly 8,000 community banks are prolific small business lenders with community contact, underwriting expertise. The SBLF is a bold, fresh approach that would provide another option for community banks to leverage capital and expand credit to small business.
I can't understand one reason to not support this. This is the core of this bill. The bill will be somewhat empty without it. This is the core of the bill.
So we are going to put this on this bill, and we are going to urge our colleagues to then understand that the bill will then be whole and we can all join together and vote for this very important bill and this very important amendment.
I am going to specifically answer the arguments raised by the minority leader on the floor in his very brief comments this morning. He made four arguments, and I will try to address each and every one in just a moment. Before I do, I will ask the Senator from Minnesota, who is a cosponsor of this lending provision and an actual designer and creator of one of the key components of it--because Minnesota, like Louisiana--we may be in different parts of the country, but our businesses depend on exports. Whether you are at the head of the Mississippi River or the foot of the Mississippi River, which we both represent in this Nation, and we often talk to each other about how narrow it is up in Minnesota and how wide and wonderful it is in both places, both north and south. But it really does connect us because it is all about exports and trade.
So I wish to recognize my friend, the Senator from Minnesota, who will talk about the export provision of this amendment and why it so crucial.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I thank my colleague for the beautiful stories she shared from her State. It makes this all so real. It is. It seems as if sometimes it is not when we debate these bills on the floor. But it is so real--the outcome of what we do on the ground in the States that we represent, and in these small towns. I will remember Matt's story. I am going to share the speeches that I give around my State, and how incredible it is that a young child would present an idea to a father and the father is smart enough to recognize what a good idea it was and took it and built a business, and through a great strategic partnership with the father, a private business owner, and a very willing Federal employee, found a program that works to build his business, now with up to 55 employees.
That happens all over the country. It happens in Louisiana. Speaking about Louisiana, I will read what our bankers at home--the bankers in my State--say about this program. I read the letter to Mitch McConnell and to Harry Reid, delivered by the 5,000 community banks in the Nation that are strongly supportive of this small business lending fund--community banks that know these businesses. They are standing there watching them and, in many instances, suffering and not able to give them the support they need because of the credit constraints that were so beautifully expressed by Senator LeMieux, as falling real estate values have put the original capital that was their collateral in the bank in some jeopardy, or it has to be scored in a different way. This bill will help. That is why bankers all over the country are supporting it.
Let me say what my bankers, who are normally a more conservative group--they don't agree on everything this Congress has done, either when Republicans or Democrats are in charge; they tend to be more conservative. They don't like big government and a lot of regulation and intrusion. This is what they have said on behalf of their small businesses:
On behalf of the members of Louisiana bankers, I am writing to express our support for the small business lending fund. Treasury would invest in community banks from this program that would be separate and apart from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. This legislation would serve as another voluntary tool for community banks to meet the needs of small business. Meeting the needs of these borrowers has been more difficult as regulators pressure many banks to increase their capital-to-asset ratios.
Given the severity of the downturn, it is difficult, if not impossible, for community banks to find new sources of capital. Thus, the only option for many banks is to shrink, which can mean making fewer loans. This lending provision would allow banks to avoid that result, continue to meet the needs of their communities. With an improving economy and public investment, such as those proposed, lending can increase faster in some of the hardest-hit areas of our country.
The Louisiana bankers would know about this, because we are in one of the hardest hit areas. Not only is the recession affecting us like everybody else, but if we haven't noticed lately, there is a lot of oil out in the gulf because of a tragic, unprecedented accident. The Gulf Coast community is struggling almost more than any other region of the country because of it. Now because we have constrictions on drilling--which I don't agree with but which are in place--we are finding employment harder to come by and businesses struggling even more. So our Louisiana bankers know this. They have sent letters to myself and to the junior Senator from Louisiana, Senator Vitter, asking us to please be supportive of community banks, saying you have done a lot to help the big banks and Wall Street, so please help us. That is what this amendment is about.
I am going to yield the floor for a few moments. I will come back within the next 30 minutes or so and continue this debate this afternoon. We are on the small business bill. The pending amendment is the LeMieux-Landrieu-Nelson from Florida-Merkley-Boxer-Cantwell-Murray-Whitehouse, and other Members are joining us as cosponsors of this amendment. Senator Burris from Illinois is also joining us on this amendment.
We are picking up support as organizations express themselves today to Senators, saying how important this small business lending fund is. It could leverage $30 billion. It will earn a billion dollars for the taxpayers, which is an attractive characteristic. It doesn't cost anything and it actually makes money, as any smart banker and business wants to do. It doesn't cost money--well, it costs a little on the front end but makes it back on the back end. It is supported by a growing number of Senators, we hope, on both sides of the aisle.
As we continue this debate today, I look forward to answering some of the concerns raised and will try to put those to rest so we can have a very strong vote on this amendment on the underlying bill.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I know Members are busy around the Senate today on various committees and special caucus lunches, talking about many aspects of not just this bill but other things that are pending. I thought I would come to the floor while we had this time to make a few general remarks about the small business bill and also specifically about the Small Business Lending Fund which is the amendment that is pending.
The Small Business Lending Fund amendment is a bipartisan amendment by Senator LeMieux of Florida and myself. It is also sponsored by the senior Senator from Florida, Mr. Nelson, Senator Merkley from Oregon, Senator Boxer from California, Senator Cantwell, Senator Murray, Senator Whitehouse, Senator Burris from Illinois. We added Senator Hagan just a few minutes ago as a cosponsor, and we are getting calls regularly, throughout the day, from Senators who want to be a sponsor of this amendment. We believe we have great support on the floor of the Senate, and that support is growing as this debate goes forward and as more people begin to understand that this Small Business Lending Fund is really the core of the small business bill.
There are three pieces of the small business bill. One piece that came out of the Finance Committee on a very strong bipartisan vote, I understand, was a $12 billion targeted tax cut for small businesses in America. There should be listed, I hope on my Web site and other Web sites of the Finance Committee, a list of all those tax cuts. One or two I am very familiar with would be a real advantage to anyone in America who wants to invest in a small business over the course of the next 6 months to a year. You will pay no capital gains if you hold that investment for 5 years; you will pay zero capital gains because that is one of the strategic targeted tax cuts in this bill. In addition, there is accelerated depreciation for small businesses--not for big businesses but for small businesses--so small businesses in America, defined as those businesses with under 500 employees, can write off some of the investments they are making to try to grow their businesses in these difficult times. We want to help them do that. So one important part of this bill is $12 billion in tax cuts to small businesses. This is a very important component.
The other important component came out of the Small Business Committee with a bipartisan vote. It strengthens the core programs within the Small Business Administration. It strengthens the 7(a) Program. It strengthens the 504 Program. These are programs that allow lending to small businesses for commercial real estate. They allow lending for the capital needs of those businesses--for businesses to purchase inventory, to purchase other goods and services necessary to operate their business.
These are longstanding programs that are very well supported on both sides of the aisle and that we find have worked so well we want to double the limits, we want to eliminate the fees, and we want to increase the guarantee from 75 percent to 90 percent. When we did this under the stimulus program a year ago on an emergency basis, we saw the number of loans go up dramatically. That time came to an end, and so in this bill we are reinstating that very successful program that works. Senator Snowe, the ranking member, and I are very supportive of that provision, and that is in the bill.
There are three main pieces. I have talked about two. The third piece is what this amendment represents. The third piece, according to the National Bankers Association, is really the core of the bill. That is according to the community banks, not the big banks on Wall Street but the community banks on Main Street. They have written letters to all of us--to the majority leader, to the minority leader--saying: Please support the Small Business Lending Fund. It is not like TARP, it is completely different, they say, and they are right.
As I said earlier this morning, a little bit of opposition we are hearing even from the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, indicated that one of the reasons that maybe some of the Republicans might not be for this is because this is like TARP. The TARP was a $700 billion bailout to big banks. This is a $30 billion partnership with healthy community banks. TARP was a $700 billion bailout for failing, unhealthy big banks on Wall Street. The small business lending program is $30 billion--much smaller, strategic private sector partnership with small community banks that are on Main Street to keep all of our small businesses open and operating and growing so we can get out of this recession.
I hope the arguments that this is TARP-lite or TARP, Jr., will go away because the facts are so completely different from one program to the other. This is a strong strategic partnership that could have been defined as a bailout. It was a bailout. Some of us think it was necessary, some think it was unnecessary, but it was a bailout. This is not a bailout. This is only going to healthy banks that, because of the falling value of collateral they are holding behind some of those loans because the regulators are looking at it a bit more, giving more scrutiny to banks everywhere--some of that is good and some is a little bit heavyhanded, but nonetheless it is happening--banks are having a hard time generating the capital to have those ratios correct when the regulators come in, and so they are cutting back on lending.
If we want banks to lend to small businesses, we need to help them, and they want us to help them. They are for this. The independent bankers have sent us letters. The community bankers have sent us letters, as well as the American Bankers Association. That is unlike TARP, where there were many banks, even some that received money, that didn't like the program. They didn't like it because there were lots of strings attached. They didn't like it because they thought it would ``ruin their reputations.'' They didn't like it because they didn't want to have to go through stress tests. I understand that. I think the program has worked pretty well, but that was that program. That was 2 years ago. This is now. It is a different initiative. It is not even really a government program; it is a private sector partnership between the Federal Government and taxpayers and their community banks that they know and they trust. They see these bankers at the Rotary Clubs and Kiwanis clubs. They see them in church, they see them in the synagogues, they see them on Main Street. These are the bankers who know their businesses and want to lend to their businesses. They know the businesses that have the potential to grow and those that potentially might not be able to grow. They know the businesses that have readjusted for this economy, this tough economy. We can trust our community bankers.
I am the chair of the Small Business Committee. I have had the most extraordinary opportunity as chair of this committee--on which you serve, I say to the Presiding Officer--to listen to small business owner after small business owner pleading, saying to me things like: Senator, I never missed a payment. Senator, I always sent in my money, and they cut my line of credit. Senator, we are desperate out here. We do not have access to credit. Please help us.
One argument I have heard some others make is based on a study that came out from the National Federation of Independent Business, the NFIB. I am going to try to get that study in just a minute because I want to respond to that. The NFIB study is quoted sometimes in this debate. Here it is here, the ``Small Business Credit in Deep Recession'' study. It is waved around on the floor by some people who are not sure how they might vote on this amendment because they have heard things. They are not sure, but they say: According to the NFIB, the National Federation of Independent Business, 40 percent of the banks say credit is not a problem. And there is some data here that is going to show that 40 percent of the banks say they were able to get all the loans they needed; 10 percent said they could get almost all the loans they needed. But the rest of the study is what is important. It is about 60 percent who say they could not get it, from the National Federation of Independent Business. Their own study showed that 60 percent of their businesses said they could not get the collateral from the banks that they so desperately need.
I know there is this little argument out there that there are no good businesses to lend to.
We all know that is not true. There are businesses in all of our districts. We are hearing from them. They cannot get credit because of new regulations, because of tightening capital ratios. This is a partnership with banks that has absolutely nothing to do with TARP, big banks, Wall Street, unhealthy banks. It has everything to do with community banks that are less than $10 billion. Those are the only banks that can even apply to be a part of this. It is completely voluntary.
If a community bank in Illinois or Louisiana--and I have talked to some--said, Senator, we are healthy; we have a lot of capital to lend, I have said to them, that is wonderful. Then you do not need to apply for this. But if you want to grow your bank in these times, then it is completely up to you. This will be available to you. You know what, they brighten up. They say, well, we did not realize that. We thought it was going to be something forced. Absolutely not. It is completely voluntary.
So for the NFIB and the 40 percent of their businesses that said they could not get collateral, this is a solution. I am very proud to offer this solution in this way. I also want to say we have letters from, I believe, almost 20 Governors who have said, please help us. We are trying to do everything we can in our State to stimulate growth and development. We are trying to do what we can. So they have sent letters, both Republican and Democratic Governors. A letter I have that I will submit to the Record is from February, from Christine Gregoire, the Governor from Washington State. She writes a very strong letter to Dr. Romer, our economic adviser for President Obama, to Tim Geithner, to Chairman Sheila Bair, saying, this small business lending program is what the State of Washington needs. We are full, she says, of small businesses that are knocking on our doors at the State capital that cannot get credit. We must open the opportunities for them.
If we want our States' economies to grow, which we do, whether it is Washington or California, I say to my good friend from Arizona, or from Tennessee, or from Massachusetts, the way they are going to grow is through small business.
Look at this. From 1993 to 2009, in the last 16 years--I think these numbers would be updated and it would even show more--65 percent of all new jobs in America are created by small business. When we have letters such as this from Governors who say their small businesses cannot get credit, what are we going to do? Sit here and do nothing? I do not think so. I think we should act.
One of the best ideas that has come forward from Republicans and Democrats that has been scrutinized and looked at and torn apart and put back together is a $30 billion small business lending fund that will not create a new government program. This is not lending by the government, this is lending by the private sector.
This is not lending by big banks, who do not lend--by the way, we have seen the bank lending, big bank lending to small business has declined in the last four quarters by 8.1 percent. Think about that. The banks that got all of the money in the last year of the Bush administration and the first year of the Obama administration, the banks that got all of the money, the reports show, cut lending to small business by 8.1 percent.
The banks that did not get any help, the healthy community banks in our States, even in these times have increased the lending to small business because, A, it is smart for them to do so, because when they do it right they make money, which is the whole point of them being in business, and because many of them also believe strongly in the communities in which they have built their business.
They helped build these towns. They do not want to see them take bankruptcy. They helped build the businesses on Main Street. Do you think they are happy to sit there and watch these businesses close up?
But we spent the last 2 years, the last year under Bush and the first year under Obama, bailing out Wall Street. When it comes to helping Main Street, it gets very quiet around here. I wonder why.
That is what this amendment does. We know small business creates jobs. We know there are credible small businesses in all of our States. Even according to the NFIB, even according to their own survey, 40 percent of the businesses said, we did not get all of the credit we need. If we could get it, if we could get credit from our banks, if we could borrow money from our banks, we could grow, even according to this study.
We are very proud of this lending provision in this bill. I think the whole bill is very good. Maybe there are some other amendments that need to be included, that could come from Finance or that might come from someone else. But the core of the bill, the $12 billion in tax cuts for small business, the strengthening of the small business lending programs and contracting programs and surety bond programs, which many of our Members have worked on, and this lending piece is absolutely crucial. It is one of the best things that we could do as a Congress to help small businesses find their footing, to help them get more certainty about the future.
They are the ones that are going to take the risk. We have seen the headlines in the last couple of days. If you are reading the Washington Post, if you are reading the New York Times, if you are reading your hometown newspaper, what do those headlines say? I will tell you what they say: Big business hoarding cash. Big banks sitting on $1.6 trillion in profits. They are sitting on it. They are holding it. They are not lending it.
Do you know who is lending? Do you know who is still lending, or they are trying to lend? The community banks of America. They are desperately trying to lend. And what are we doing? Sitting here not listening to them or not helping them. We must listen to them. I have letters here I have submitted to the Record, independent bankers, community bankers, American bankers: Please help the healthy small banks in America to do the job we want to do for you and end the recession.
When we vote on this amendment, I hope we get a strong vote. I hope people in this Chamber will not turn their backs on the small businesses in their districts and the healthy community banks that have been there for a long time. If we act responsibly, and if we join in partnership with them, and we rely on the private sector savvy that is out there, I think we can make some real headway. That is what I am hoping.
There is no silver bullet. I am not 100 percent positive this is going to work in the way that we think. But I am very confident that it has a great chance of working. Shouldn't we give the benefit of the doubt to our own small businesses and community bankers? A lot of people did not know if TARP worked. A lot of people do not think it worked today. But nobody was saying, oh, well, we are not sure; we should not do it. We rushed on out there and gave billions of dollars to Wall Street, billions of dollars to big banks.
Now when it comes to giving our community banks the benefit of the doubt, when it comes to giving small business people who have risked everything the benefit of the doubt, we are having some trouble. I do not understand that.
As the chairman of the Small Business Committee, I promised them I would follow in the good footsteps of the former chairs of this committee: Senator Snowe has been an outstanding chair; Senator Kerry has been an outstanding chair; Senator Bond has been an outstanding chair. They have been very strong advocates for small business in America.
When this program came across my desk, I wish I could say I designed it. I would love to take credit for it. But I did not. It was designed by other Senators. But when I saw it, I thought to myself, now this could work. When I heard the President speak about it, I thought, this makes a lot of sense. I thought, my goodness, this sounds like a good idea. The more I looked into it, I became convinced, it is not a good idea, it is an excellent idea. I am not going to leave it on the cutting room floor because of some political argument that makes no sense to me, and it should not make sense to anybody in this Chamber.
I see other colleagues are on the floor to speak. I have exhausted my 10 or 15 minutes. I am happy to yield the floor. And then, of course, I will come back to the floor, to come back to speak about this amendment. I want to say I am very proud of the support of Senator LeMieux, as well as a growing list of other Senators who have come forward to support this amendment and to speak on the bill.
I see the Senator from Arizona and I will yield the floor at this time.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Thank you, Mr. President. I will just be 30 seconds.
I will respond to the comments made by my ranking member. She and I have worked so closely together, and we just have a difference of opinion about this one particular piece of this bill, which is an important piece, so I will respond to her comments in a minute.
I do agree with one thing she said, which is there could be other amendments offered to maybe make this bill better. But I wish to ask my ranking member through the Chair: This amendment is pending. We are going to vote on this amendment. This amendment could potentially get 60 votes plus. If this amendment is voted in by the will of this Senate, even though she has reservations about it which she has beautifully outlined--as she always does--but if this amendment is on the line and let's say other amendments are offered and some pass and some fail, is she inclined to vote for the bill? This is the only question I am going to ask her.
I will restate it. I said to the Senator from Maine, with whom I have worked very well--we have worked together, but we have a different view about this particular program.
This is an amendment. I agree with her that amendments should be offered on this bill. I am hoping our leadership can work that out. If this amendment is agreed to by 60 plus--we may get 70 votes for this amendment; we don't know. We are picking up support for it. Although some people are opposed, we are getting a good amount of support for it. Does the Senator from Maine believe she could then vote for the bill?
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to get back to the issue at hand, which is the small business bill, a job creation bill for America. It is something that many of us have worked on now for over a year.
This bill has been developed by the work of many committees, both in the House and the Senate, over a long period of time--primarily the Small Business Committee and the Finance Committee, but also members from the Banking Committee and other committees that have been very much giving their input into this final product, which is in its final stage of passage.
This bill passed the House recently with these major components--a very strong, targeted tax cut for small business. The Chair knows how important that is to small businesses in Minnesota that are watching additional regulations come upon them--some for good reasons and some not for good reasons. They are looking at an increased cost of capital. They need tax relief. This bill provides that because of the good work that has come out of the Finance Committee. Out of our Small Business Committee, as the ranking member so eloquently expressed and outlined, came some key measures in the bill that will improve the core programs of the SBA--an agency that is well supported here, particularly on the Democratic side, and even with some Republicans who are supportive of that agency. We believe that by strengthening their programs, we can be of some help to small business in America.
The debate right now is on the small business lending fund. I have the greatest respect for my ranking member. We have a disagreement on this particular provision. I want to respond specifically to some of the criticisms of the program.
First of all, in her arguments against the program--but before I go into that, I want to say how pleased I was to hear--and I believe that the transcript will show this--that she said should this amendment get on with 60-plus votes, and other amendments are potentially offered, she is supportive of the bill. She has some specific suggestions as to how this program could be made better, in her opinion. Maybe we can come to some terms on that. I believe that, in good faith, on major bills such as this we should consider amendments, if we can. This is one of them. This is the first amendment, a bipartisan amendment. Senator LeMieux and I are sponsoring this amendment along with over a dozen other colleagues. Senator Cantwell has been a tremendous advocate of this program, as have Senator Merkley from Oregon, Senator Murray from Washington, Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota, Senator Nelson from Florida, and Senator Schumer. They will come to the floor later this afternoon.
We have a growing list--bipartisan list--with Senator LeMieux and myself and others supporting this small business lending program.
Let me try to answer specifically some of the concerns the Senator from Maine expressed. She said there have not been any hearings on this program. There were two House hearings on this initiative. I am going to get the date for the record. But there were two hearings on this specific small business lending program. In one of those hearings, which I will submit--the House markup--there were more than 16 amendments discussed and debated and offered. So I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that this small business lending program did not receive congressional hearings. It has.
This has also received the attention of the Nation, because the President himself spoke about it in probably one of the most highly publicized speeches a President can give, which is the State of the Union. He spoke to the small businesses of America and to the small healthy banks, and said we are going to try to craft a program to be your partner, to work with you, to get jobs created in America. So this has been discussed in hundreds of press conferences, two congressional hearings, and any number of Senators--particularly I want to say, Senator Merkley, Senator Boxer, and Senator Cantwell have spent hours and hours and hours of their time--days, weeks and months--on this provision, trying to work through any particular arguments that others might have.
I want to put that argument to rest. There have been hearings. I have conducted in my committee probably a dozen hearings on related subjects. I could fill this desk with paper, which I will not do and burden the clerk, with letters and comments and e-mails and testimony from hundreds of business owners who say they can't get capital. Our small businesses need help. We
want to work with our community banks. They ask: Why are you sending all of this money to Wall Street? We need some help right here on Main Street.
Also, the second argument the Senator from Maine made--and again, I have the greatest respect for my ranking member, and she is a good friend--is that she is concerned because the ``watchdog'' does not like this program and thinks that it might be like TARP--the congressional watchdogs. I don't know those watchdogs. I haven't met those watchdogs. I have seen their report, which is here, the May oversight report. I could give you a few summaries from this--that they are not sure this program would work, but maybe we should give the benefit of the doubt to our community bankers, whom we know and trust, and our small businesses.
Ms. Snowe, the Senator from Maine, for whom I have a great deal of respect, was speaking earlier about this provision that is pending before the Senate. It is a small business lending fund. Those of us offering this amendment believe it is time for us to get a focus on Main Street, to take our eyes off Wall Street for a minute and start focusing on Main Street, our small community banks that are trying to do their best to not only stay in business and make money, but they helped in many ways to build the towns and communities, and they are watching the businesses they lent money to close their doors. We would like to be a better partner with these community banks, in a strategic partnership, to help get money to Main Street businesses.
Senator Snowe is saying she has some reservations about this provision, and she outlined about five or six reasons she is not enthusiastic to support it. She said, one, that there were not enough congressional hearings or were not any congressional hearings. For the record, there were two hearings on this issue in the House. They were on May 18 and May 19. There were amendments offered. There was full testimony and full debate. There have been congressional hearings on this proposal. It is a relatively new proposal. It has been changed since it was first talked about over a year and a half ago. In my view, it has been greatly improved, greatly strengthened. There have been congressional hearings.
As I said, there has been a tremendous amount of attention on this issue. The President himself spoke about it in his State of the Union Address. It has been debated in many different ways over the last year.
No. 2, the Senator said her analysis is that this bill will not save $1.1 billion; it will cost $6 billion. I do not know the analysis she conducted. I have great respect for her ability to analyze numbers and understand details. She is one of the best around here. All I can tell my colleagues is, the group we go to, the agency, the authority on scoring that both Republicans and Democrats acknowledge as the authority on scoring has said this bill will save $1.1 billion over 10 years. That is the official CBO score that I am going to submit for the Record. Other people can do a different analysis. That happens around here sometimes. But when it comes down to the bottom line, the Congressional Budget Office is the only score that matters--Mr. President, you know that--and it says this bill earns, saves over 10 years $1.1 billion.
The third argument the Senator made is that the congressional watchdogs are not sure this program will work. This is their report. It is the May oversight report, ``Small Business Credit Crunch and the Impact of TARP.'' She put up a chart that said TARP-like. This is where that came from.
The congressional oversight report said this program, in their view, might be like TARP, and they are not sure there are any creditworthy businesses in America. That is what this watchdog said. They are not sure there are any businesses in America that are creditworthy to lend. That might be their opinion, but I am a Senator from Louisiana. I am listening to my small businesses. I see my small businesses. Many of them are creditworthy, and they most certainly, with a little bit of help from local community banks infusing capital into their business, could grow and expand.
Don't take my word for it. Let's see what Chairman Bernanke says. Chairman Bernanke said--and this was on July 12, 2 weeks ago:
It seems clear that some creditworthy businesses, including some whose collateral has lost value but whose cash flow remains strong, have had difficulty obtaining credit that they need to expand.
This is what the Chairman of the Fed says. He is obviously in a position to see what banks are lending, what banks are not, what he is hearing, he is listening, he is traveling. Maybe there are a few watchdogs and appointees in Washington who are having a little difficulty figuring this out. But if you go to the real streets, if you go to the Main Streets, if you get out of Washington and out of the beltway, you are going to hear many hundreds, thousands of small businesses--and the Chairman himself said there are many creditworthy businesses out there that are having a hard time getting capital. That is what the small business lending program does.
Mr. President, you have heard it yourself. In all our States we are hearing that. Those were some of the arguments the Senator made. I was pleased to hear her say that should the Senate vote on this amendment and get 60-plus votes--which, as we all know now is the way the Senate operates, not by a majority but by a supermajority--if 60 Senators say this is something they want to do to help Main Street, to help small businesses--this is not about Wall Street, it is not about bailouts, it is not about troubled assets, it is not TARP, it is a small business lending fund, a strategic partnership with community banks--if 60 of us say that, then she could be persuaded, if that is the will of the Senate, to pass the bill because there are other portions of this bill that are extremely important as well.
I reiterate the important support we are picking up and to state for the record again the testimony by many business owners. This one comes from Steve Gordon, president of INSTANT-OFF, Inc, in Clearwater, FL, not from Louisiana but from Florida. He writes:
I am the owner of INSTANT-OFF. We make water-saving devices for faucets. INSTANT-OFF replaces the aerator on any faucet, and each unit can save up to 10,000 gallons a year. Our market potential in the U.S. is estimated at 50 million units and globally between 100 million and 200 million. We can create 25 green jobs now. Twenty-five percent of those jobs will be people with disabilities. None of these jobs will be created without capital if I can't get the loan.
This is a common refrain, whether it is businesses in Florida, Minnesota or Louisiana. All they have are their credit cards which are maxed out. All they have are their credit cards that charge them 12, 16, 18, 24 percent. All these small businesses have is equity in their houses or they did have some equity in their homes to borrow against to start or maintain their businesses. They have seen their home equity diminish considerably. The bank calls them and says: Joe, your house was worth $400,000. We had it as collateral backing up your $200,000 line of credit or $300,000 line of credit. Now your home is half the value. I need to call your line of credit.
Are we not listening?
This small business lending fund, $30 billion, is going to help healthy small banks of $10 billion or less. Goldman Sachs cannot even apply for this money. AIG cannot apply for this money. National banks cannot apply for this money. These are community banks that we know, as the Senator from Florida said, are at our Rotary Clubs, they are at our Kiwanis Clubs, they are at our business owners banquets and luncheons. These are the community bankers we know and trust and they know the businesses in their areas and we know them in our districts and in our States.
The question is: Will the Republicans stand with a majority of Democrats and vote for small businesses? This is the New York Times. This is terrible. I see my friend from South Dakota in the Chamber. This is a terrible headline for his party: ``Senate Democrats' Plan to Aid Small Businesses Hits GOP Resistance.''
This is CQ Today: ``Democrats Plan to Make Republicans Vote on Small-Business Lending Fund.'' We did not have to have this vote. We have been forced to have this vote. Why would we even want to have a vote? After everything we have done to bail out Wall Street, we now come to a plan to lend money to Main Street and I have to hear from Republican leaders who say no.
``Senate Set to Pass Small-Business Bill.'' The reason we are in this deadlock is because Republican leaders, such as my good friend, have decided that we cannot, after all this, after TARP that was designed by President Bush, extended by President Obama to bail out Wall Street and large banks, now we have to hear: I don't know. We have either run out of energy or run out of will to help Main Street and small businesses.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Then I will continue to speak since I have the floor.
I am going to just continue to talk about the bill. I see other colleagues who are coming down to speak about it. I would just like to read some of the letters that have come to my office supporting the provision.
This is from the National Bankers Association:
Dear Senator Landrieu: I write this letter to you and the Members of the United States Senate in support of the LeMieux-Landrieu amendment. In no segment of the U.S. economy is the need for lending to small business more urgent than in the distressed communities that our banks struggle to serve every day. This recession has hit these communities the hardest. The number of home foreclosures has wreaked havoc on these communities. The small businesses that are the engines for economic activity desperately need access to capital. The U.S. economy will begin to see real growth when small businesses get access to the capital that creates the opportunities for prudent lending. This bill, with your amendment, is a vitally important piece of legislation.
I would like to say that again, underlined. They do not have to write letters like this to me. But it says: This bill, with your amendment--it could have just said: This bill without your amendment, or, this bill with no reference to the amendment. But they go to the effort to say:
This bill, with your amendment, is a vitally important piece of legislation. Its swift passage will send a powerful message through the U.S. electorate that Congress is aggressively working with small business to create real economic opportunities and to spur job growth where it is needed the most.
Why would they write letters like this? Do you think I sit in my office and draft them and then ask them to send them to me? I do not write these words. My staff does not write these words. They are writing them themselves because what they are saying is, people in America are not hearing anything from Congress about small business and small banks.
All we hear about every single day is big business and big banks. This bill gives them hope that we are hearing them, that we are listening, that we are not isolated, and we are trying. This program may not be perfect. But, heavens, it has gotten two congressional hearings. It has gotten a positive score. It has gotten endorsements from every bankers association and almost every small business association we have.
I see my colleague is here. Let me just read one more letter. I know she may have a question or two for me.
This is the National Association for the Self-Employed. We talk a lot about small business. Let me be very clear with people listening. There are 27 million small businesses in America. If anybody wanted to know, there are 27 million small businesses; 20 million of that 27 million are self-employed. That means there is just one person--it could be a self-employed lawyer, doctor, accountant, et cetera, et cetera, self-employed fisherman, self-employed social worker, or psychiatrist.
The small business self-employed, they really struggle because it is just them. So these small businesses we are talking about literally are just from one person, the self-employed; 5 people, 10 people, 20 people. We lose sight of them. They are the ones creating the jobs. They are the ones taking the most risk. They are the ones that have hocked their house, their boat, their car to start the business. They are the ones that depend on this business to work because if it does not, none of their kids go to college. Do you understand that risk? These are the businesses I am fighting for.
In these difficult economic climates in which traditional lending institutions have clamped down, the self-employed and microbusiness communities have been hit particularly hard, left without essential sources of operating capital.
Now more than ever, America's self-employed community, representing 78 percent of all small business in the United States, needs access to additional credit to weather this economic storm and to grow their business.
The National Small Business Association, America's oldest small business advocacy, urges us to support the small jobs bill of 2010 and the LeMieux-Landrieu small business lending fund.
After bailing out our big banks and Wall Street, Congress finally has the opportunity to help Main Street. We are going to have opposition from some people on the other side? The small business lending fund is not a bailout for sinking banks. It is a lifeline to small business owners struggling to stay afloat in turbulent economic seas.
It is not TARP 202. The small business lending fund is not aimed at helping small banks. It helps the small businesses themselves. The fund is designed to help strong community banks. There is a strength test to participate. The program is not designed to prop up failing firms; it makes loans to solid small businesses struggling to get credit. If we cannot do that in this Congress, I do not know what to do.
I ask the Senator, my good friend, perhaps she has some stories or she can think of some things that she could add to this debate to help me try to explain and to get through because, obviously, we are not----
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Ms. LANDRIEU. I thank the Senator for that question. I would like to respond. I do want to be courteous to the other Members who are on the Senate floor, and if we could get some kind of timeframe, then I would be very open to that.
But let me respond to this question. It is an important one because the Senator did not vote for TARP. The Senator from New Hampshire did not vote for TARP. Yet she is here as a cosponsor of this amendment. So it gives us some idea that Members who did not vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program understand this is completely different. It is for healthy banks, not failing banks. It is for small banks, not large banks. It is for Main Street, not Wall Street.
So the Senator is absolutely correct. I know she wants some additional time to speak on the bill. So I would like to ask my good friend from South Dakota, what is his intention? If we can get--I would like to ask unanimous consent that we just go back and forth, 10 minutes each, if that would be OK?
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Madam President, before my colleague leaves the floor, I want to say I did not realize he was such a fan of Elizabeth Warren. I was really under the impression that he and some of the leaders on that side had some objections to her style of leadership. But they surely have quoted her today because she was the author of this oversight report to which they keep referring. So I am so happy to know that the Senator from South Dakota and the other Senators who have spoken think so much of Elizabeth Warren because she is the one who wrote this report that said this might look like TARP II.
Now, that is what Elizabeth Warren says, and evidently my good friend from South Dakota really appreciates the leadership she is giving on this subject. Because the community bankers--not Elizabeth Warren, not bureaucrats in Washington, whom the Senator from South Dakota is defending--his own community bankers--yes, in South Dakota, his community bankers--wrote to Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, his leader, on behalf of the nearly 5,000 members of the Independent Community Bankers. A Communist group, a very liberal group this group of independent community bankers is. A big government group independent community bankers are. They have written a letter to the Senator from South Dakota. Evidently, he did not open his mail today.
Madam President, they write:
I urge you to retain the Small Business Lending Fund in the Small Business Jobs Act. It is the core component of this legislation.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. No, I will not yield.
I will say one thing to the Senator from South Dakota. If I took out the words ``big government,'' ``taxes,'' or ``regulations,'' neither the Senator from South Dakota nor most of the Members on the other side could finish a sentence, because they can't debate a specific. He gets up and starts talking about higher taxes and more regulations. This bill has tax cuts in it. This bill doesn't have any regulations in it. This is a small business lending program. My good friend, the Senator from Alabama, read the statement written by the political operatives beautifully. I am sure I will hear it on the Rush Limbaugh radio program today.
I don't need a speech to read. I have hardly read one thing except the thousands of letters that are pouring in, asking us to help small business. I will say with as much respect as I can to the ranking member of the Banking Committee, because I know I heard him say this bill didn't go through the Banking Committee: I wish to agree, and thank God it didn't. Because you know the last two bills that did? One was TARP I, which nobody likes. Then TARP II came through that committee, and then the big bank regulatory bill came through that committee. So I hope the ranking member isn't trying to convince me or the Republicans that that committee has produced great legislation. I say that with respect to the chairman of the committee. I know he is going to hear this and be aggravated. But to stand up and say because the small business lending bill didn't go through the Banking Committee, which has been roundly criticized by their side for too much regulation, is more than I can stand.
Thank goodness, this didn't go through the Banking Committee. It came straight from the hearts of bankers in our communities and small businesses who don't need any committee in Washington to tell them what is going on at home. They don't need any lobbyists to tell us what is going on. They can't get money. We have given out money to Wall Street. We have given out money to the big auto companies. When it comes to giving out a small $30 billion to our own community banks, the Republicans say no.
Then I have to hear the Senator from Alabama and the Senator from South Dakota--and I want whoever is listening to hear this: They say this is a big government program. The money doesn't even go to the government; it goes to the community banks. It is a voluntary program to community banks, and it then goes to business.
I will say again that there were Democrats who came to me and said--I am the chair of the committee--Senator, we don't trust the private sector. We don't think that if we give them this money, they will lend to our small businesses. Can't you do a direct lending program? There is a lot of support for a direct lending program. But knowing the GOP the way I do, I said to my friends, my colleagues: You know, if I thought I could get one or two or three Republicans for a government direct program, I might do that because it would be more efficient, but they are so mad at the government right now and they have everybody all riled up, so let's do it through our community bankers whom we know, whom they know and support. So we craft the program to be a voluntary private sector lending program to healthy banks, and they want to say no, because, they say, it is like TARP.
Well, let me tell my colleagues one Senator who is a Republican who doesn't think it is TARP, and that is Senator LeMieux from Florida. Another Senator who doesn't think it is TARP is the good Senator from Ohio, George Voinovich, who says it is not TARP.
But the Senator from South Dakota, who came to talk about how we can't
help small business, actually voted for TARP. The Senator who just spoke against this provision voted for TARP, to give money to banks and big banks with no strings attached. Yet he comes to the floor and now he can't help our community banks in their efforts to help small businesses. Every community bank, independent bankers, ABA, they are all supporting this. They didn't support TARP; many of them did not. They were afraid of it. They didn't like it. They still complain about it. This isn't TARP.
I know my colleague is here from the State of Washington. How much more time is remaining?
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Madam President, I thank the Senator from New York for those very kind words. But I wish to say again I am humbled, actually, to be able to present this amendment because it is quite unusual. Normally a chairman or a chairwoman presents amendments in bills that they themselves wrote. That happens here all the time. This is a very unusual situation.
As I said earlier today, I did not write this provision. I didn't know very much about this provision. It was written by Senators such as Senator Murray, Senator Cantwell, and Senator Merkley. They started working on this idea. They are not even members of the Small Business Committee. They started working on this idea and it picked up momentum and the President spoke about the need to get capital to small business.
Then all the small business organizations, most all of them, stepped up and said, yes, this is what we need. Then the community bankers and the independent bankers stood up and it snowballed.
It has gotten to have a great broad base of support. I am pleased this is a bipartisan amendment with the Senator from Florida--both Senators from Florida have been strong advocates. Senator LeMieux joined me in offering this amendment because, for some inexplicable reason, this was going to be left on the cutting room floor.
We managed to get huge bills out here for Wall Street. We managed to get huge bills out here for the automobile companies. But when it came to lifting this smaller bill for small business, it started running into some political rhetoric, some bumper sticker slogans for the next election, some hogwash.
I think our small businesses deserve more than bumper sticker slogans, hogwash, and electioneering chatter. So it got me mad. I said, you know what, I didn't write this provision. I am going to learn about this provision, though, because I am not going to have it stomped under by the same people who voted for TARP, voted for the big banks, voted to bail them out but, when it comes to helping small business, want to say there is something wrong with this. That is why we are fighting.
I see the Senator from Oregon, who helped draft this provision.
The Senator from South Dakota came here and said none of his people are for it. He must not be reading his mail. We have right here the South Dakota Independent Small Bankers--Independent Community Bankers of America, State Community Bank Associations. There are any number of them. I checked. Here we have Independent Community Bankers of South Dakota.
The Senator from South Dakota was just here and said no one in South Dakota is for this. He might want to go check his in-box or e-mail or his mail. The bankers of South Dakota I don't think are a very liberal group, I would guess. They are a pretty hearty bunch out there in South Dakota. I don't think they like big, fat government programs. But the reason they are for it is because it is not a government program. It is a Main Street program. It is for small businesses in South Dakota. That is why we are fighting for it. We are not going to go down without a hard fight.
I am going to recognize the Senator from Oregon in a minute, but the other thing the Senator from South Dakota said was that he loved this report. He said it. He quoted it. The May Oversight Report, ``Small Business Credit Crunch And The Impact Of TARP.'' The person who wrote this report is a good friend of his, Elizabeth Warren. So he is supporting this report in which Elizabeth Warren said in her view she is not sure this program will work. That is what this report says: She is not sure this program will work. She is entitled to that opinion. But I don't listen to Elizabeth Warren. I don't listen to Washington bureaucrats. I am listening to the small business associations of America. I am listening to the Taco Sisters Restaurant in Lafayette. I know it is a silly name, but it is a very important business to them. I don't care what anybody says about their name, Taco Sisters Restaurant. Katie and Molly Richard dreamed about opening a restaurant. For 24 years they dreamed this dream. Molly convinced her sister Katie to move back home from New Hampshire. She leased a small restaurant on Johnson Street in December of 2008 and opened in February. The restaurant smokes fresh gulf fish and shrimp. When we could actually fish for our shrimp and get our fish, they got it from the gulf.
Their restaurant was voted best new restaurant in Acadiana and best lunch spot in Acadiana. Do you know how hard it is to be the best in Louisiana when all of our restaurants are good? These little girls, these women, worked hard.
I want to tell the Senators from Alabama and South Dakota, they said:
We have good credit, a good business plan, but we have had trouble finding capital to grow our business. I was surprised credit would be so tight for a business like ours ..... [because we are the best.] Our business has seven employees and would like to keep growing. .....
We need capital.
And this troop over here wants to tell me that the amendment that Senator LeMieux and I are offering is a government program? This is for community banks. Because they want a bumper sticker to run on in this election they are going to throw the small businesses under the bus? Over my dead body.
The National Bankers Association, another very liberal group:
In no segment of the U.S. economy is the need for lending to small business more urgent than in the distressed communities that our banks struggle to serve every day.
This recession which they did not cause--let me go back here. I feel like I am in Alice in Wonderland. The Senator from Oregon is being patient. Let me get this straight. Big banks, some big banks on Wall Street traded derivatives and entered into major risky finance deals that almost wrecked the entire economy of the world. They, on that side, ran all around themselves when George Bush was President to throw money at them, to help them, and we have restaurants in our districts begging for $10,000 to keep their doors open and they are going to stand there and tell this Senator that my amendment is a government program? This isn't a government program. This is trying to get money to Main Street.
If they want to vote against it, go right ahead. This is very clear. You can't hide behind this. There are no 100,000 pages of this bill. It is a very simple program--$30 billion to community banks that are healthy. It is voluntary. All you have to do is lend it to the Taco Sisters Restaurant in Lafayette so they can continue to be the best restaurant, despite the fact of the moratoria so there is a shutdown so there are no more fish in the gulf that we can fish for. These businesses are still trying.
Did you hear Senator Cantwell read a story from some small business in her State that had to take out $60,000 on a credit card on which they had to pay 50 percent interest? Do we not hear them? We are trying to give the private sector a solution to put capital in community banks so that small businesses can get a loan at a decent rate and I have to listen to the ranking member of the Banking Committee say he is against it because it didn't go through the Banking Committee.
The last couple of things that came out of the Banking Committee have been a little bit problematic for me and many people, so I am glad this didn't come out of the Banking committee.
I see the Senator from Oregon. This is in large measure because of the design he has come up with, this idea, with several of my colleagues. I wish I could say I did it, because it is a good one, but I have adopted it because I am not going to leave it on the cutting room floor without a fight. It passed the House. Three Republicans voted for it in the House. Interestingly enough--of course all three of them are up in tough elections and I don't think they wanted to explain how they could vote for TARP, vote for Wall Street, but not vote for small businesses. This could be an interesting debate on the campaign trail.
The Senator from Oregon is here. Since he helped to actually write the program--as I said, maybe it is something I am not explaining well. Senator Cantwell is quite the expert. Senator Merkley is quite the expert. Let me turn it over to the Senator.
I see Senator Burris from Illinois. Let me ask unanimous consent for the two of them to speak for the next 10 minutes as in morning business, and if a Republican comes we will swap back and forth.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Absolutely. The Senator is correct. He refers to this long list, which I have read several times on the floor. It is quite lengthy. These are not liberal organizations. They are not even Democratic or Republican organizations. They are business organizations, including the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Arkansas Community Bankers, American Bankers Association, the Marine Retailers--these are conservative-to-center organizations. This isn't the Sierra Club. These are conservative organizations that are supporting this.
This is a private sector approach. It is $30 billion that will multiply to $300 billion. We have boxes of letters from small businesses saying all they have--as the Senator from Michigan knows--is the credit cards that they have to pay 16 to 20 percent on. Senator Cantwell almost choked me up when she said that one of the businesses in her State had to take out a loan at 50 percent. How do you make money when you are borrowing money at 50 percent interest?
We have a program where they can walk down the street and go to their community banks and borrow not from the payday lenders but from the community bank. The Republican caucus wants to tell us this is like TARP so they can put a bumper sticker on their car for the election.
The Senator from Florida is correct. There are any number of conservative organizations from all of their States that are supporting this.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Absolutely, this is a jobs bill. The Senator from Michigan represents a State that has been one of the hardest hit States, the automobile industry. She has firsthand experience there. She knows these numbers as well as I do: From 1993 to 2009, 65 percent of jobs have been created by small business, and only 35 percent of the jobs were created by big business.
If some people are wondering why this recovery seems to be a jobless recovery, it is because it is. Big businesses have a lot of profit right now. Has anybody noticed that the stock market is going up? They are sitting on their cash. Has anybody noticed what Goldman Sachs reported lately? They did very well out of this.
If you want a recovery with jobs, where people can actually go to work, earn a paycheck, and pay taxes to help us get out of this deficit, and stimulate demand, you better support this. I am so tired of hearing the other side, I say to the Senator from Michigan, when they come down here and say: But the NFIB says that there is no demand.
First of all, the National Federation of Independent Business did not say that. So to their credit, I want to say on their behalf--although they have not come out strongly in support, they are not opposing, they are neutral--their own survey said that 40 percent of NFIB'S membership--a very conservative organization--said they didn't need any money. But that leaves 60 percent who said they could not get the loans they had asked for.
So this whole argument that says there is no demand--I want the Senators who vote against this to go back and try to give a speech on Main Street. I challenge you, all of you who might consider voting ``no'' on this amendment, I want to see you go home and stand on any Main Street and try to say to your people--look them straight in the eye and say: We know down here there is no demand. Nobody needs any money because nobody is selling anything, and there is no demand.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I appreciate those remarks. A portion of the LeMieux-Landrieu amendment is to step up exports.
The Senator from Oregon has been one of the key designers of this program. He is going to speak about a very important point that we have been debating today. That point is this oversight report that was written by Elizabeth Warren, who now seems to be a very good friend of the other side. She wrote this report, and they held it up saying we have to listen to Elizabeth Warren. It is very interesting because I think they have had some problems with what she has been doing. Nonetheless, they think this report bolsters their argument.
I ask the Senator from Oregon to comment about this report because I think it has been misrepresented. I am confident it has been misrepresented. It basically says it is inconclusive. They are not sure this program is going to work. I will tell you who is sure this program is going to work: our community bankers, our small business associations that have written thousands of letters. Is anyone opening their mail?
I am not going to listen to a bunch of bureaucrats up here who are not sure something is going to work. I would like to listen to the hometown folks, and that is what this amendment is about.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Florida for his outstanding remarks and for his ability and his willingness to stand for the people of Florida because his State has had a great deal of difficulty, not unlike the State of California.
I see the Senator from California and the Senator from Illinois are on the floor and they want to speak. I would like to turn the next 5 minutes over to the Senator from California, but before I do, I want to respond to something the Senator from Florida said.
The Senator from Florida may not be the only Republican to vote for this amendment because today Senator George Voinovich said he would support the amendment. He is quoted today, if this quote that was reported in the paper is correct, as saying there is a real need out there to provide some money to some of these businesses and to get banks back involved.
We have got to start doing something. Voinovich dismissed claims by fellow Republicans, including Snowe and Minority Leader McConnell, that the lending program resembles TARP because it involves Treasury Department loans to banks. Republicans have nicknamed it TARP, Jr. ``I don't buy that,'' Voinovich said. `` That is just messaging.''
As I said, my good friend from Florida may not be the only Republican to stand up and vote for this amendment, and I hope others will because this could mean a great deal to small businesses throughout America. This is for small business, it is for jobs, it is to get this recession over. We have to focus on Main Street.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I see the Senator from Illinois. I will ask unanimous consent for him to speak for 2 to 3 minutes. But before that, I wish to thank the Senator from California. The Senator from Illinois would know this, but this issue, this provision came originally from an idea that Senator Boxer and Senator Merkley had. She deserves a tremendous amount of credit.
Of course, she represents the largest State in the Union. Of course, she represents one of the States that has high unemployment. Of course, she listens to the people of her State and they are saying: Senator, where is the money to create the jobs?
I will submit this for the Record. The Senator from California does not need to see this because she knows it: Jobs lost by small business. Do we want to know why this recession is happening? I wish I had this blown up: 81 percent of the job losses come not from big business, not from Wall Street. I understand Wall Street is having fancy lunches. They had a lot of fancy lunches on Wall Street today. Do you know who is not even eating lunch, there is no brown bag to put it in? Small business. The Senator from California is a great Senator, fighting for her State. She has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The Senator from Illinois knows this as well. I thank her for putting this provision forward. I am happy to pick it up and try to carry the ball a little way down the field.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. We have had three Senators come to the floor. The Senator, the ranking member of the committee is here now, Senator Snowe. I have the greatest respect for the Senator. She outlined a few points that she has concerns about. I will come back to that in a minute.
There were only two other Senators who came to the floor--the Senator from Alabama and the Senator from South Dakota. From what I could gather, they think--the Senators said they thought this was sort of like TARP.
I tried to explain to them that, first of all, TARP was a $700 billion fund for banks that had troubled assets. This is a $30 billion fund for healthy banks to lend to small business. There were lots of bankers opposed to TARP. I tried to say to them in this case every banking organization that we know of, national organization, and the majority of the State bankers--not all; I want to be clear--the majority are all for it. So we are having a difficult time.
There may be some questions about the cost. It gets into a lot of detail. The Senator from Maine raised that issue. Our score, I said, is what I go by. The Senator knows it will generate $1.1 billion for this program.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. It is not. The Senator is absolutely correct. That is why I spent the majority of this day trying to be responsive to the several arguments that have been raised against it. I thought the Senator from Oregon did a beautiful job, much better than I did, explaining the nuances of this report that has been used to criticize this program.
But again, it is a private sector approach which the other side usually likes. It is community bankers whom we know, to small businesses that we know need the help. I cannot quite understand where this opposition is coming from. I said earlier, if you are looking for a bumper sticker for the election, go look elsewhere. Don't put a bumper sticker on the backs of small business in America. They don't deserve it. The letters are heartbreaking. The letters from Illinois are heartbreaking.
Women who have waited for 20 years while they raised their children finally start their business and I have to hear from the other side they don't like the bumper sticker? This is not about bumper stickers. We have waited a year and a half to get on a bill for small business. The House has already passed this bill.
It is laughable, to try to go home to your district. I don't care whether you are in Arizona or South Dakota or Alabama, you will be laughed out of the townhall meeting if you go home and try to explain that you don't think small business should get money from their local bank. They don't have the money to buy a train ticket to New York.
I mean, this is not funny. So unless somebody comes down here and gives me a relatively good argument--and I have the greatest respect for the Senator from Maine. We have never argued about anything on our committee. This didn't even come to our committee so we never argued about it. We have not argued about one thing because we feel so strongly. But for some reason this has become a political football. She did not make it that way and neither did I. Somebody did, but neither one of us did.
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Ms. LANDRIEU. The Senator from Michigan is absolutely correct. That is why this is so flabbergasting to me, because the Senator is correct. The TARP, some of us voted for it, some of us did not, but there are some legitimate criticisms of it. I mean, it went to a lot of the big banks, bigger banks. It did go to some middle-sized banks, I will concede that to the opponents. They have pointed that out, that it went to some middle-sized banks.
But what we did not do was connect it to lending. They took the money and they cut the line of credit. We are trying to fix that. This is an amendment to fix what we did not do correctly. This is an amendment supported by bankers, by small businesses. It does not go to big banks. They are not even eligible. It is voluntary. They do not have to take it.
If any Senator wants to vote against this and go home and say: Look, I can only give you credit cards with 16 percent interest--your people in Michigan cannot survive that, the Senator knows. They cannot survive it.
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