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Mr. LeMIEUX. Madam President, it has been my privilege to work on the measure that is before the Senate, the small business bill that has been championed by my friend from Louisiana, Senator Landrieu, that Ms. Cantwell, the Senator from Washington, has been so instrumental working on, as well as my friend, Senator Klobuchar, with whom I worked on the export portion of this bill.
To the American people at home watching this, this must be a rather confusing process. Why is it that there is a piece of legislation, a Small Business Promotion Act, that has bipartisan support--why is it not being voted on today? Frankly, there are a lot of things around here we cannot agree on--the majority of things, it seems. But this is something we can agree on. It is going to be good for America. I was pleased to sponsor the amendment along with my friend from Louisiana, the LeMieux-Landrieu amendment, which is the lending facility. It is a provision that will bring money to local community banks to loan money to the people on Main Street--not Wall Street bankers but the bankers you see at Rotary or Kiwanis or at church or synagogue who loan to the auto mechanic, to the dentist, to the hair stylist, to the people working in your local communities.
In my home State of Florida, that is the vast majority of our businesses--nearly 2 million small businesses in Florida, small businesses that are struggling in the worst economy anyone can remember, the worst economy in Florida since the Great Depression.
Today I saw a report out of Florida Trend, one of our leading business magazines, saying that for the first half of the year, Florida now leads the country in home foreclosures. We are No. 1 behind on payments on our mortgages. Our unemployment rate is 11.4 percent, but that does not truly capture how bad the situation is because that unemployment rate is a moving average over time, and after a certain period of time when you have been out of work, you are no longer counted as unemployed because those who make these statistics believe you are not actively in the job market anymore. The truth of it is, if you walk down the street in my home State of Florida, you have a 1-in-5 chance, if you see an able-bodied adult, that they are unemployed or underemployed. Twenty percent is the real number of people who don't have a job or don't have enough of a job.
The people in my State are hurting. This is a bipartisan bill and it should pass. I am hopeful our leaders, Leader Reid and Leader McConnell, who are meeting right now, are going to come to an agreement on amendments.
Let me break this down for the American people so they can understand what is going on. Our friends on the other side of the aisle, the Democrats, are in the majority. They have 59 votes. They can control the agenda. We, here on the Republican side, want to offer amendments to bills, but we can only offer amendments by agreement. The majority that is in charge only lets us offer amendments if they agree to it, so we have little bargaining power. But we believe we should have the opportunity to make bills better.
So we are going to have some amendments to this bill, and we should have some amendments to this bill. You know what. If they are good ideas, the power of our ideas will prevail and the other side will agree to them and if they are not, they will not. If the American people, later on, think we have better ideas, maybe they will send more of us here and if they don't, maybe they will send more of them. But we should have the opportunity to offer our amendments.
On the other side, they are going to have some amendments, too, and that is fine, but they should be relevant to this bill. They should not be leftover appropriations on issues that have nothing to do with small business just because this is the train leaving the station and some Members of this body want to see their stuff put on it. I understand why they want to get things done, but this small business bill should pass, it should pass with relevant amendments from both sides, and we should do it today. We should do it today and pass it and send it over to the House so the House can pass it and send it to the President and he could sign it.
I say that as a Republican because, before I am a Republican, I am a Floridian and I am an American, and this bill is good for our country and it is especially good for my State.
I was pleased that the leader, Leader Reid, came down and made some changes in his proposal. I am heartened he is meeting with Leader McConnell right now. I hope they can work this out, because if they cannot work this out, shame on us. Shame on us if we cannot get this done when there is bipartisan support for this bill, a bill that will cut taxes for small businesses providing much needed credit and lending for local community banks to lend to small businesses without increasing taxes and without increasing the debt or deficit. When do we get to do that around here? Not too often--we do not.
I have tried to work in good faith with my friends on the other side to facilitate the negotiations today to get us to a place where we can have reasonable amendments, where the rights of the minority will be protected and in the same vein we can still get this bill passed and I hope we can do so because we have good people on the other side of the aisle who I know want to get this done.
I remain hopeful. I thank Senator Landrieu and Senator Cantwell. I see my friend from Rhode Island, whom I also thank for his good work on this bill, and I hope today we will get this done with a reasonable accommodation so we can help the American people.
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. LeMIEUX. I am pleased to.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Rhode Island.
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Through the Chair, if I can inquire of the junior Senator from Florida, is it not true that if one Member of his caucus, just one, had voted with us just a few moments ago on this vote, we would actually be on this bill and we could begin to move to amendments and consider the bill; is that not correct?
Mr. LeMIEUX. That reminds me, my friend, if I may, reminds me of the saying that half the truth is no truth at all. Yes, that part is true. But the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, is if this bill were not loaded with all these appropriations bills that have nothing to do with small business, we would be on this bill right now and it would be passed.
The keys to the kingdom lie with the majority. This deal could be done right now and we could get to this bill.
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