Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I understand we are not in any particular order. I wish to speak for about 15 minutes, and then I understand there will be leadership time prior to the vote scheduled for 5:45.

I wish to take a minute to refocus the Senate on the issue we were debating when we left on Friday. We took some time over the weekend--many of us worked through parts of the weekend--to see if we could try to bring a very important debate to a close. It looks as though, from conversations through the weekend and this morning with the leadership, we are making progress, so I am encouraged at this point. However, of course, until the motions are made and the votes are in, we are not 100 percent certain. But it feels as though the debate last week really moved many Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, to understand how important it is to focus our efforts--particularly in this last week before we leave for the August recess--on Main Street, on small business, on getting directed help and support, through a variety of different avenues, to Main Street. That is what we spoke at great length about last week.

Before I speak about a few pieces of the bill and parts of the bill, I would like to follow up on what my colleague from Florida, Senator Bill Nelson, just said regarding a provision we had hoped could have potentially been in this bill, but there is a possibility it could be included in an extenders package or some other tax bill that comes along either before we leave for August or when we come back in September.

I most certainly support his bill and what he outlined. He said it clearly, but just to restate, there are businesses along the gulf coast that are having an extremely difficult time not just with the major oilspill but now with the moratorium that has been put in place. Regardless of how one feels about the moratorium, it is having a very significant negative economic impact on businesses--not just big oil, which can usually find a way to take care of itself, but it is the smaller service companies and the machine operators. It is the helicopter pilots. It is the divers. It is the businesses that service the gulf that are having such a difficult time. I don't have the details here at my desk, but it is mounting every day--millions and millions of dollars in losses. The backdrop of this devastation in the gulf, of course, is the fifth anniversary of Katrina this August. This is August 2. The anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is August 29.

So the Senator from Florida is absolutely correct. There are businesses reeling along the gulf coast, having just recovered from a terrible spat of storms, including Wilma, Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike, and now the same area is being hit with the effects of the spill and the moratorium. So the Senator from Florida is absolutely correct. If we could provide some relief, which we have done--not routinely, but it is not unprecedented--as suggested by the Senator from Florida, I hope we can get that done.

I made mention--it is not in the small business bill, but it is an amendment I had filed earlier to this bill, and unfortunately I don't think we will be able to get it on this bill, but we will continue to work on it. It is sort of a companion bill to the bill of the Senator from Florida, and that is to provide interest relief to gulf coast businesses that have outstanding business disaster loans. Again, they are trying to get specific, targeted help to an area of the country that has been extremely hard hit. They have been affected not just by the national recession, but they have been book-ended by the national recession and the slams from Katrina and Rita and now the slamming from the oilspill and the moratorium, and the middle part is that we got hit by the recession. So we just need some special help and support.

I thank the Senator from Florida for coming down. I thank all of the gulf coast Senators who have been working so hard, unified, across party lines, to bring the kind of help and support we need for the gulf coast.

That will be debated on other bills to come. But I am looking forward to an opportunity to offer that amendment with my good friend, the Senator from Mississippi, Mr. Cochran, to again waive interest charges of up to $15,000 for all the outstanding business disaster loans on the gulf coast. That will give them a little reprieve, a little break at a time when they most certainly could use the reprieve and use the break. It only costs about $100 million. We have a way to pay for it. The money has actually already been set aside in another provision. We are going to use $100 million of a portion of money that is remaining in an account so that it does not add to the deficit. The Senator from Florida--I am not sure what his offset is, but, again, $100 million in the scheme of things is not an exorbitant amount of money by Washington standards, and we can most certainly find a way to pay for this special help to gulf coast businesses.

There are many Main Streets in the gulf coast. Whether it is the strip, as we call it--not just Las Vegas has a strip, but we have a strip running down through the panhandle of Florida; whether it is other Main Streets in resort towns; whether it is in Alabama or in Mississippi; whether it is Biloxi or Gulfport or Pensacola Beach--and I could go on and on; whether it is the Main Street down Grand Isle or through Morgan City, these businesses on Main Street are hurting.

So I have spent a good bit of time in the last week as chair of the Small Business Committee talking about the fact that we have seen significant job losses in this country from small business. This, again, is the monthly national employment report from Automatic Data Processing, so this is the government's official data: U.S. jobs lost by firm size for the last 2 years, from 2008 to 2010. We can see that 81 percent of the jobs being lost are being lost by small businesses, and these are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 people. If one would do the data based on businesses with fewer than 100 people or fewer than 50 people, I don't know what it would show, but I would venture to guess that the lion's share of business loss has come from the smaller businesses. So it goes without saying that when we want to replace the jobs, the fastest way to get them replaced is to give those same businesses the help they need to rehire.

If we could give those small businesses an opportunity to rehire, which is what this small business bill does, we might be able to have a job-filled recovery instead of a jobless recovery. People have called it that because it is showing signs of being just that. Many companies have been making profits. Wall Street has had a little bit of a good run lately. Big banks have been doing pretty well. So while the economy seems to stabilize, Americans, at least in my hometown of New Orleans and around Baton Rouge and Lafayette and Shreveport and New Iberia and other places, say: But Senator--and, of course, our situation is compounded even more than this--they say: We are losing jobs. Jobs are disappearing. Small businesses are laying off.

So whether we are talking about Louisiana or Michigan or Florida or Maine or South Dakota or Missouri or other places, if we want to see jobs created, we should be focusing some time and effort on helping small businesses to create those jobs. There are some things small businesses need.

I wish to spend a minute talking about the base of the bill again, of which we are very proud. This bill was built through the Small Business Committee and the Finance Committee.

This is a description of the small business access to credit. The top item is one of the important provisions of this bill. I wish to stress--because several Members have come to talk to me about credit unions--that credit unions and banks are included in this top provision. Credit unions and banks can use the programs of the SBA, and these programs will be expanded from $200 million to $500 million--the 7(a) Loan Program, which is basically the loans that small businesses make for capital and for investments. The 504 loans are traditionally real estate loans. Right now, they are capped at $1.5 million. We know lots of businesses out there that--I mean, $1.5 million sounds like a lot of money, but, of course, when you are in the real estate business, it doesn't go that far these days. So raising that to $5.5 million will go a long way.

In fact, I received a letter from a businessperson in the real estate business, and I wish to read a paragraph about what he said over the weekend about real estate loans, and then I will read the other part of his letter later. This is Mr. Gipson, Bryan Gipson, Sr., from Mississippi. He said:

Senator Landrieu: I am a commercial real estate broker. My company sells hotels throughout the southeastern United States. We have not completed a transaction in almost 2 years. There is no third party commercial financing for commercial real estate in the United States today. Our industry has been battered because of this. Hotels are closing throughout this country. Workers are being laid off. These workers make beds, they clean rooms, they work as wait staff, accountants, reservationists, and front desk personnel. Thousands of these hard-working Americans have been laid off. It is time for Congress to do something to put Americans back to work, back into jobs.

He is actually exactly correct. That is one of the main focuses of this. This is a Landrieu-Snowe provision on which we got almost unanimous consent out of the Small Business Committee to do. We did this in the stimulus act that was done earlier in the year, but it expired. So why are we doing it again? Because it worked the last time we did it. The documents are in, the review is in, and it was a roaring success. So we know it was successful. It expired, and we are now making it available for the next year. We know this program will get loans and capital out to businesses, much like Mr. Gipson from Mississippi. He could potentially borrow some of this money to keep one or more of his hotels open.

The small business trade and export promotion--this, again, was a bill from Senator Snowe and myself. Of course, we had a tremendous amount of input from other Senators, but we learned something very--well, I learned something quite troubling. I didn't realize this until this year.

I am going to get the chart to show it. Big businesses in America do a lot of exporting. Of course, that makes sense. They have big law firms. They have special tax counsel. They even have probably people who can do advance work in other countries to introduce them to all the right people. So big business has access to that. But small businesses don't get a lot of help from the Federal Government. They need help to try to open markets across the world for them.

It is interesting to think about what the greatest potential growth for small business in America is. It is not just the market in the United States, it is the market around the world. According to population, not buying power, 94 percent of the market isn't even in the United States; 94 percent of the market is somewhere else in the world. So if we can help our small businesses export, which is what this chart shows--small business is only at 1 percent. Think about that. Only 1 percent of small businesses export and 42 percent of large businesses export. They know what these companies should know: The markets are elsewhere, as well as here.

But if you have a good product, if you have the ways and the means to sell that product or service, there are people with a lot of money or with some money around the country who can buy that product. One way, as chair of the Small Business Committee, that I looked at strengthening small business just in sort of a conceptual way in America is if we could focus on helping them export. Look at the potential for growth. That is what we are looking for, potential for growth, because every small business that grows and one or two or three jobs are created and American products are sold around the world, we can kick this recession once and for all. Senator Snowe and I worked together on this export provision. Then we were joined by Senators Klobuchar and LeMieux, who I think both serve on the Commerce Committee. Commerce, besides the SBA, has a significant role to play. We basically enhanced our underlying provision with a Klobuchar-LeMieux amendment, and now we have, we think, a very strong provision to help businesses export. Just in a portion of it, we believe it could create 40,000 to 50,000 jobs in the next year. This is a very important component.

Small business contracting. Again, this was done by Landrieu-Crapo-Risch, Landrieu-Snowe, and Snowe-Merkley. It was a combination of what we could to have the Federal Government do a better job of contracting with small business. The Federal Government is so big and spends so much money and it has such large contracts that sometimes it is hard for small businesses--whether it is a printer in Delaware or a small manufacturer in Delaware or in Louisiana--to get any Federal business. The Federal Government has been getting better at helping small business, but it has been a focus of this Committee now for several years. We have improved this contracting provision. We believe, just this provision, without spending any more Federal dollars, using those Federal dollars that we are spending contracting with small business when they get those contracts--the best thing about them is they can take a Federal Government contract, particularly, and go to a bank and say to their banker: I just got a contract to provide 50,000 apples to the Federal Government, and I now have a contract for 5 years to do that; can I borrow some money from your bank? Because Federal accounts are looked at as a pretty good thing to have in your hand, they will then lend that small apple picker that amount of money, and they can go ahead and hire the workers to pick the apples and deliver them to the Federal Government. That is the idea. This works thousands and tens of thousands of ways for different products and services.

The Federal Government itself should be doing everything it can to help small business, and that is in our bill. Again, it is a bipartisan effort.

We then went to small business management and counseling. This might be considered soft to some people, but I think it is extremely significant in this time. It is not just the women business centers and the minority business centers, but it is also things such as the SCORE chapter, which used to stand for Service Corps of Retired Executives. Now it is expanded beyond senior executives. It is a large nonprofit organization, broad-based, that reaches out to a small business that has seen their market evaporate or their product not being in demand anymore. They are good in business, but they need new and fresh ideas and a fresh approach.

That is what we do behind the scenes to support them in thousands of places throughout this country--in universities, women business owner centers, nonprofit organizations that can step up and, at no charge to the taxpayers, say: Why don't you try this or that? We have tremendous stories of success. This was something Senator Snowe and I felt strongly about. That is in the bill.

These were estimates that were done not by our office but by those responsible for making such estimates, which said that maybe 10,000 jobs could be created. Who knows. If the counselors work hard and the economy starts picking up, thousands of jobs could be created because somebody was counseled through a difficult period, got a new idea, retooled their product or their shop, and they managed to survive the recession.

The small business disaster loan improvements was an important issue to Louisiana. I am happy I was able to include this. It is important to Florida also and potentially Alaska, which has a lot of aquaculture. In the past, for some reason, these particular businesses were not given any ability to apply for Federal disaster assistance, so many crawfish farmers and fishing and other aquatic businesses were left out in the cold after a disaster. We noticed that after Katrina, and we fixed it. We are extending it and extending help to aquaculture businesses.

Let me show this chart. This is to describe the importance of the small business bill, how many things it does focusing on small business, which is where I think the focus should be, and how bipartisan the underlying provisions are.

This is something that was worked on with Senators Kerry and Snowe. It is the 100-percent exclusion of capital gains tax. It is interesting, and it came out of the Finance Committee. They said: Why don't we jump-start things by saying to anybody who has a little money or a lot: If you invest in a small business and hold that investment--invest in any small business, I think below $50 million in capital, any small business--you make that investment and you hold it for 5 years--let's say you quadruple your money--you don't pay a penny of tax on that capital gain. That is what I call an incentive--zero capital gains if you invest in a small business in America in the next period of time. We have a difference of opinion about what that time should be with the House. It will either be 6 months or a year. I am hoping for a year. It is a little more expensive to do it that way, but I think that would be a tremendous incentive to people sitting on some cash and looking around for what to do with it. You can invest in a good small business in your community. If you hold that for 5 years and make a quadruple--or 400 percent--return on your money, you can keep it all. You don't have to pay tax back to the Federal Government. We are serious about jump-starting small business.

The other is to increase deductions for startup expenditures. That is Merkley and Alexander. It is bipartisan.

Another one is tax equity for the self-employed. Senator Bingaman worked on this provision for years. He literally has led this fight, with Senator Durbin and others, myself included, to try to get tax equity for the self-employed. There are 20 million self-employed people in America. The vast majority of small businesses in America are self-employed individuals. So we want to give them an opportunity to write off their health care costs, just like big corporations do. This is their No. 1 request. They have worked on it for 10 years. We couldn't find the money in the health care bill or any other bill, but we found the money in this bill to do it for them. I thank the Finance Committee and Senator Bingaman for leading that effort and Senator Grassley as well. That provision is in the bill. It is a $2 billion tax cut for the self-employed.

Again, we have an extension of bonus depreciation. That was very successful in the Stimulus Act. Some people get on the floor and don't read the details of anything, and they want to talk about how bad the stimulus package was. The fact is, that is not true. There were pieces of it that were extremely positive and we know it because we have the data and it was so good we want to repeat it here. So, yes, there were some things in the stimulus provision that were very good. One of them was the bonus depreciation to small business. You can immediately write off 50 percent of the cost of capital expenditures for 1 additional year for new property purchased and placed into service by 2010. This is an expensive provision; it is $5.5 billion. But we know it works, and we believe this incentive will go a long way.

It is a little bit of a stretch, but this came to mind and I am going to say it. Incentives work. Recently, in Washington, DC, the DC City Council passed an incentive, if you will, that when you go to the grocery store--which I do with my family--if you bring your own bags, you don't have to pay the bag charge. They just decided they don't want to have plastic bags floating in the Potomac. I thought it was odd when I first went to the store and came across that provision. I thought, nobody is going to pay much attention to having to pay 5 cents for a bag. But I can tell you, it is working. How do I know? Because I observe 80 percent of the people who come into the grocery store walk in with their own bags. For 5 cents a bag--I thought you would have to make the charge more than that to get people to do it. But it works out that a little incentive, placed in the right way, actually changes behavior. I am now bringing my own bags to the grocery store. When they ask: ``Do you want to pay 5 cents for a bag,'' I say, ``No, I have my own.'' So this can work. We know it works. I gave a small example. This is a more complicated and bigger example, but that is what we believe a good bill, drafted correctly, thought through carefully, can do to incentivize people to take actions they would not necessarily have taken. You are not going to pay people for doing it anyway. But if you can incentivize a business in the right way, they might say: I was going to hold off buying X, but because the Federal Government is giving me a 50-percent writeoff, I am going to buy it now. That is what we want. We want them to buy ``it'' now, because when they buy it now, the people making the ``it'' have to make more of them and it goes on and on and on.

The small business penalty relief is a bipartisan provision, again. This all came out of Finance. These get down into a little bit of minutia, but the point is there are small incentives that can provide credits to businesses, and they were done in a bipartisan fashion. Here is Kerry and Ensign. Here is Snowe and here is Grassley. This is Baucus-Grassley-Brownback. Here is Inhofe-Johanns-Menendez. It has been a real bipartisan effort. I am proud of that.

There are some differences of opinion about some portions of the bill. We have had a debate. The lending program is something that not everybody supports but 60 of us do. We got a strong vote on that lending fund. That is now added to the bill. So we have the LeMieux-Landrieu lending fund added by 60 votes. We have Senator Nelson, and Senator Murray was the lead designer of this--Senators Murray and Cantwell.

I am grateful for this $30 billion lending fund that will go to small banks, not big banks. You have to be below $10 billion. So if you are greater than $10 billion, go look for another program; this is not for you. But if you are a small bank--and most of your community banks are below $10 billion, so most of my banks in my State qualify, except for two or three. I don't know about Delaware or New York or other States, but I assume that would hold true. Probably 90 percent of all banks in every State, at least, would be eligible, but not every bank would because it is not for the big banks, just the smaller banks.

We want them to get to this loan program. It is completely voluntary--completely voluntary. If they lend to small business and increase their lending to small business in their neighborhood--to people they know, to people they trust, businesses they believe in--then they have to pay less money back to the Federal Government. But even doing that, we think the score is so significant that the Federal Government will actually make $1 billion. That is what the official CBO score says, that we will make $1 billion over 10 years.

Then we have an anti-Medicare and Medicaid fraud provision which Senator LeMieux came up with. I think he has some good ideas, and we have structured it in such a way that we do believe we can save the Federal Government a significant amount of money by including this. That money just comes back to the Treasury for deficit prevention. We haven't used a score against this, so this will go to deficit prevention.

Then the final part of the LeMieux-Landrieu amendment was expanding the export promotion. Again, this is done in a bipartisan fashion.

I know we are getting to the 5:30 mark. I don't see anyone else on the Senate floor, so I will speak for just a minute or so more because we are going to a vote on a different subject. But I would like to just put up the Main Street sign again to reiterate how important this is for Main Street and for small business.

I am not sure what is going to happen on the 5:45 vote which was supposed to be taken regarding funding for health care and education. But at some point right after that action at 5:45, I think the leaders will come to the floor of the Senate, and I hope I will hear them say we have reached an agreement on one, two, or three amendments on the small business Main Street bill so we can vote on those amendments either later tonight or tomorrow and then vote for final passage.

Again, I want to thank the list of sponsors and cosponsors. I think we have over 70 organizations, and maybe now it is over 100--the National Bankers Association, the American Bankers Association, the Independent Bankers of America.

So for those who say banks are not supportive, that they think it is like another program that is not popular, I don't believe the bankers would be supportive of this if they weren't for it. We have received very strong letters from America's Community Bankers and then the individual chapters, such as the chapter from Alabama, which has written us; the chapter from Georgia; the chapters from Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, and Iowa, as well as the Financial Services Roundtable, which is made up of some of the larger businesses. But their letter was very telling.

In it they say to me: Senator, even though a lot of our specific members may not benefit directly from this bill, we will all benefit indirectly because when small business is stronger in America, big business is stronger in America.

I am very happy to have received that letter. The Maine Association of Community Banks, Marine Retailers Association of America, Maryland Bankers Association--and I might say that Senator Cardin particularly, as a member of the Small Business Committee, has been very helpful to us in crafting this bill--the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Automobile Dealers, the National Council of Textile Organizations, and the National Restaurant Association, just to name a few.

So from Tennessee to New York, from California to South Dakota, all the way down to New Mexico and Arizona, the support is very widespread, and let me just read a few things in closing that some of the national organizations have sent.

This is from the National Small Business Association:

Unlike last year's TARP program, the SBLF would only advantage banks actually making small business loans. The National Small Business Association has advocated for the creation of such a fund to improve small business owners' access to capital since 2009. [We] urge quick action on the proposal, as America's small business owners can afford [no] further delay.

Again, from the Independent Community Bankers:

The Nation's 8,000-strong community banks are well positioned to leverage the fund and have established relationships with small businesses in their communities to get credit flowing. The $30 billion in capital provided by the fund could be leveraged by community banks to support as much as $300 billion in additional small business lending. We applaud the new program focused on getting funds to Main Street small businesses using Main Street community banks.

So whether it is from the Small Business Majority, the National Small Business Association, or the bankers that know our small businesses best, the word is, pass the bill and get Main Street moving again.

Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top