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Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, we are in the process of debating the small business bill. I am so grateful to the distinguished Senator from Louisiana who has fought so hard to get this bill through the process of cloture, including an amendment attached to that piece of legislation which makes available $30 billion for the community banks to help out small businesses. I hate that it has taken so much time to get these important pieces of legislation through this body and out where it will benefit those needing it. Based on that, I am hoping we will bring this piece of legislation to a very speedy and expeditious close and that we will not continue to find political maneuverings to hamper the passage of this small business bill.
For the last 2 years, this country has been held in the grips of an unprecedented economic crisis. The housing market collapsed. The bottom dropped out of Wall Street. For the first time in generations, many Americans felt their hard-earned economic security begin to slip away. Too often, the focus of legislation has been on Wall Street rather than on Main Street. We have made some significant progress since the onset of our current crisis, but we still have a very long way to go, especially in creating new and sustainable jobs.
But this is an election year, and that means partisan bickering is on the rise.
So I believe my colleagues and I have a decision to make. We must make a decision. We can focus on winning the next news cycle, pitting Republicans against Democrats and falling into the same tired political battles that usually consume election years in Washington or we can reach for something better. We can tune out the partisan fights, reject the failed policies that got us into this mess, and prove to the American people that we have the will to make tough decisions to get our collective economy on the move again.
Our recovery is far from complete. We need to create more jobs. We need to bring American families more relief. Government can put people to work, but only the private sector--especially the small business sector--can create real and lasting employment. I believe that if we fail to continue the bold policies that pulled us back from the brink of disaster--if we shrink away from the difficult decisions that will move this recovery forward--then we place our economy at risk by slipping back into a recession.
This is a time for bold action, not pointless ideological battles. The Small Business Lending Act will move this economy forward in real and tangible ways. That is what the American people want and need, and they are asking us to get about the business of doing it.
The bill before us gives small businesses $12 billion in tax cuts. It helps small businesses create 500,000 new jobs. It incentivizes and increases small business lending. It helps small business owners access private capital to finance expansion and to hire new workers. That is where the jobs are going to be created, is with these small businesses we are now seeking to help. It rewards entrepreneurs for investing in new small businesses. It helps Main Street businesses compete with large corporations.
Just this past Friday, I hosted a small business forum in Chicago at Chicago State University and I spent the day talking with business owners from all walks of life from all over my State and from a wide range of industries. Everyone I spoke with said the same thing: We need help now. Pass the legislation. That is what they were telling me.
Tomorrow I will host a small business forum in partnership with my good friends over in the other Chamber, in the House of Representatives, including Congressman Lacy Clay of Missouri and Congresswoman Yvette Clark. Together, we hope to work directly with these small business owners to get capital flowing again.
These entrepreneurs are not asking for a handout from this government; they are asking for the tools and resources to grow themselves, to work and to build within their communities, and to create jobs for hard-working Americans. That is what they are asking for. Everyone I spoke with reminds me that there are many ways each of us can act to advance the interests of each of those small businesses in our own States. But together, by acting collectively and by supporting this bill, we can take a major step forward in strengthening our American economy.
As I have reminded this Chamber before, long before I entered public service, I was a banker. As a matter of fact, I was the vice president of the largest bank in my State. It no longer exists now, but it was Continental Illinois Bank and Trust Company. We were the seventh largest bank in America at that time. I ran a division that loaned money to small businesses. So I have firsthand knowledge and information of what it takes to finance and to run these businesses, because if I loaned you the bank's money, you were going to pay me back. It was not my money, it was the depositors' money, and I had to be the custodian of that money. Guess what. Just last Friday in Chicago, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of a company called Central City Productions--the largest black-owned production business in America--that produces TV programs and other marketing and competitive programs for the communities. They have been in business for 40 years. I loaned that young man in those days $50,000. Of course, that was 1970, and $50,000 went a long way then. It probably would take about $1 million to do what we did with $50,000 then, in today's market. So that is the knowledge I bring before this body and to this legislation we have on the floor: Knowing what small businesses take; knowing what we need to do to help those companies get the resources they need so they can get their inventory, so they can get their line of credit, so they can then put their people to work and sell their goods and services to their respective customers.
There is no greater investment we can make if we are serious about sustainable job creation and growth and to encourage investment and loaning to small businesses.
So I call upon my colleagues in this great body to seize this opportunity. Let's keep America on the road to recovery and restore the hard-earned security of ordinary folks who have suffered because of bad decisions on Wall Street. It will not be easy, but it is our responsibility, and it is the right thing to do. We have that responsibility. We have no other alternative than to, as the old saying goes, do the right thing. We must make sure this legislation is passed. We should start by increasing our support right now for this legislation for small businesses. These companies foster progress and they foster innovation. They have the power to create jobs and direct investment to local communities, where it can have the most and greatest impact and make a difference in our economic status.
Small businesses form the backbone of our economy, but in many ways they have suffered the most as a result of this economic crisis. That is why this sector should be targeted for our strongest support. There should be no debate about this. It should not be Republican or Democrat. This should be about helping America create jobs. We have outsourced all our jobs already to the foreign markets, which have shipped the manufacturing jobs out to other markets. We have to get back to manufacturing. Our small innovative companies should come back in so they can then create manufacturing jobs, so we can have value-added products and continue the workstream for people to be employed.
I ask my colleagues to reject the tired politics that got us into this mess and embrace the spirit of bipartisanship that can lead us out of this mess.
On behalf of small businesses, I call upon this body to take action. Our economic future may be uncertain, but with the Small Business Lending Act, we have the rare opportunity to influence that future. So let's pass this measure and guarantee some degree of relief for the people who continue to suffer the most. Let's renew our investment in America's small businesses and rely on them to drive our economic recovery. Let's do it now. Let's do it today. Let's don't even do it tomorrow.
Thank you. I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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