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Mrs. BIGGERT. I thank the gentlelady for having this tonight.
Mr. Speaker, I thank all of the Republican women who are here and especially the freshmen because they have brought so much enthusiasm, so much talent, so much intelligence to this body, and it really has been such a help to us.
When I was elected to Congress, I was the only Republican woman to be there. It was kind of lonesome, so I thought, well, at least I can be the president, the vice president, the treasurer, the secretary of the freshmen Republican women that year, but there was nobody else to be there with me, so I had to do it all alone. I've been here a long time. This is my 13th year. To see what has happened and the enthusiasm and what is going on and the changes that are happening is incredible.
I came from a family where my father was the first to go to college. His parents had emigrated from Finland even though they were Swedish. He went to college, but he always said to my three siblings and me, You can do anything you want to do if you get a good education; but he made one mistake, maybe, because he said he would pay for it. So my older sister went to medical school; I went to law school; my brother went to law school; my sister got her master's in Latin and Greek, but she doesn't use that too much anymore.
So that was true, because I never, never expected that I would be in Congress. I never expected that I would be a lawyer. In fact, I went to a wonderful school--Stanford for undergraduate--and then applied to law school. For my first year, I went to the University of California; and the first thing that greeted me was a professor who said, You're taking the place of someone who belongs here, which was a man. That really has changed my life, because I excelled in everything I did. I transferred law schools, by the way, and went back to Illinois.
My first job out of law school was clerking for a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The reason I got it was that a young man from a different school where the judge had always hired--the judge didn't particularly like him, so he called over to Northwestern, and they sent me over there, and that's how I got that job. I continued in the legal profession, but I found that I got involved in a lot of volunteer work along the way, too--being chairman of boards and whatever and then running for and being elected to the State assembly.
The reason I wanted to go into the State assembly and into Congress was from what I learned from volunteer work--and from having four children, first of all, and then from being president of the high school school board--because I wanted my children to have the best education; and the way to do that is to get involved and to participate as with all of the others, like being chairman of the Visiting Nurses Association of Chicago, and I got into Medicare and Medicaid. So all of these things led me to want to go into Congress. I was asked to do those things. Then finally, when a seat opened up in Congress, I said, I'm going for this. I was elected, and I've been here and on three committees that are really important still--with the Financial Services, the Education and Labor, and the Science Committees.
Let me just talk a little bit about trade because, as has been said by so many Members much more eloquently than I, government does not create jobs; it's the private
sector; but government needs to act to reduce and get rid of the barriers that we have put on so many of the businesses so that we can have economic growth so that we can have those jobs. One way is to look at the trade issue.
We cannot have protectionist trade policies. Free trade agreements are one of the many ways to improve all American standards of living and to get our economy back on track. The administration has three trade agreements that are on the shelf, already negotiated and all ready for approval--Colombia, Panama and South Korea. These trade agreements alone have the potential to create 250,000 jobs for Americans in America. What has been so concerning is that the President has not acted, and a failure to act means that we will continue to lose sales and jobs to other countries which do not face the trade barriers that our goods and services are facing. On many products, tariffs would come down immediately upon the enactment of these agreements, giving a boost to exports and jobs.
Let me just tell you about one company that has trade with Colombia. It's a big company with big, big machinery; and every time they send one of those pieces of machinery into Colombia, it's a $200,000 tariff, which shouldn't be there, while we have open doors and while we have trade that can come here.
We have wasted so much time. We have wasted at least 2 1/2 years for not doing this. I think, with these trade agreements, such an increase would provide a tremendous boost to the national economy, especially to my home State of Illinois, where we rank No. 5 in the exporting States for manufacturing and agriculture products. So I would encourage the administration to immediately send up those trade agreements. Doing so would immediately put people back to work and provide a much needed boost to our economy.
I thank all the women who are here today, and I thank you for doing this and for giving us the opportunity.
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