Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. Mr. Speaker, I came here to the floor tonight to talk with some of my colleagues and the American people about what I believe is the most pressing issue facing our country.
A lot of us have been home working in our districts over the last week, seeing our constituents, speaking at local Rotary clubs, visiting with constituents in the office and around the district. It is clear to me that the top priority for the American people over the last year remains the same, and that is jobs. People back home are encouraged and are optimistic about the future, but they need some signs that jobs are increasing here in the United States. Jobs remain the number one issue.
Since I got here a little over a year ago with some of my freshman colleagues, a lot of us have made jobs our sole focus. There are a lot of different things that we can do to encourage job creation. My focus has been on the private sector. Private sector job creation, in my view, is the way that we get our economy going again, not through government stimulus. We've tried that to the tune of about $1 trillion--almost $1 trillion--and it has not done what the President promised.
It seems to me the best approach is to create an environment here in this country where the private sector can flourish, where people want to take risks, where they want to invest and compete with other countries. How do we do that? There are a variety of ways and that's why we're here tonight, to talk about some of these.
I'm joined by some of my colleagues, and I think that they would agree that one of the ways that we can encourage the private sector to grow and create jobs is through fundamental tax reform. Another way is regulatory reform. Job creators around my district tell me what a lot of us know and that is that not regulation but overregulation, not regulation but excessive regulation, is a tax on businesses and it is a tax on job creators. So we need tax reform and we need regulatory reform.
We need to further pursue our energy resources here in the United States. We need to construct, for example, the Keystone XL pipeline that the President first delayed and then denied. Thirdly, we need to further explore our energy resources. Fourthly, we need to live within our means as a government. That means dealing with our spending problem, our spending addiction, our debt, our trillion-plus-dollar deficit.
If you were to ask me what is your plan, what would you do, what are you trying to do, what have you been fighting for over a year to try to encourage the private sector to grow jobs in this country with, I would say tax reform, regulatory reform, increased energy exploration and development here in the United States, and making the Federal Government live within our means. Those four things, if we can address them in bold ways, we can change the course of this country's fiscal situation and the economy and ultimately grow this economy and create jobs.
I'm going to turn now and yield to the gentleman from Virginia if he'd like to comment on some of this.
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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I would like to comment on something the gentleman just said. I think it is a great point.
A lot of times some of us think about this country and pollution here. I think what I hear you saying--it is a very good point--is that this is one world and we in this country through the processes and the regulatory structure that we have, we burn coal cleaner and we are a better steward of the Earth when it comes to using some of these traditional energy sources. What I hear you saying is--and I think it makes a lot of sense--if you believe that coal will not be used if we do not use it here, then that's not exactly accurate. Somebody is going to burn it. The question is: Do we do a better job with some of these traditional energy sources? Do we do a better job than other countries that will burn it if we don't? The Chinese can burn the same coal, yet regulate it in a way where they do a lot more damage to the environment.
That brings me actually to the Keystone pipeline. The President first delayed it, then he denied it so that the extreme environmentalists would be happy with him. If you apply what you are talking about, it seems to me we would rather be refining the oil sands from Canada in this country instead of the alternative that Canada has talked about, which is shipping it to China for refining. Why? Because we refine cleaner, we refine safer, and we do a better job.
Those oil sands are going to be refined. The issue is not if we don't refine them, no one will. The fact is they will be refined. The issue is do we refine them or do the Chinese refine them? I think what you're saying, and I wholeheartedly agree, we do a better job here.
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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I want to comment a little bit on the all-of-the-above strategy that you were talking about.
I'm an advocate for an all-of-the-above strategy. We've heard the President mention that, but we here in the House have been advocating for that. I have since I got here. That includes alternate energy sources, renewable energy sources, biodiesel, wind, solar. I'm for those things. But I'm also for the traditional energy sources and, in addition, nuclear. We have a clean, safe nuclear energy plant, power plant in Arkansas that we count on to provide safe, affordable energy. We also have coal plants, other sorts of energy sources.
In my district, we make the windmill blades that go on these massive windmills. We also have Welspun Tubular in my district, in the Second Congressional District of Arkansas, and they've recently been in the news because there has been a lot of uncertainty about their future as a result of the President killing the Keystone pipeline,
or denying the permit. The happy news that I have to report is that Welspun is doing some diversifying. They did have to lay some people off after the Keystone pipeline was delayed, but they're doing some diversifying so they can make some other sorts of pipe, and they're actually going to expand. I believe we will ultimately win the battle on the Keystone pipeline; and once we get the Keystone pipeline in full swing, the construction in full swing, then that will further help Welspun.
So I'm for all-of-the-above, but I know that in my lifetime we are still going to be using a lot of these traditional energy sources. It's not an either/or. We can continue to pursue wind and continue to pursue solar and continue to pursue biodiesel and alternate energies, renewable energy sources, but at the same time pursue the traditional sources, particularly, natural gas.
Natural gas is abundant and, best of all, it's American--and, in my case, it's Arkansan. We've got a lot of natural gas in my district and other districts in Arkansas. It is abundant and it is cheap. Where ethanol can increase the wear on a traditional car engine, natural gas can extend the life of that engine.
I want to turn the conversation over to my friend from the Third District of Arkansas, Congressman Steve Womack. He's got a lot of natural gas in his district as well.
Before I do, I just want to recap.
We have jobs as our main goal. And there are pillars under that goal of jobs, and those pillars are: tax reform, regulatory reform, further energy exploration, and getting our spending under control so that we deal with our debt and we live within our means. Those are four pillars. They're not separate from job creation. They are a critical part of encouraging private sector job creation and giving certainty to job creators.
Now I'd like to yield to my friend from Arkansas.
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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I thank my friend from the Third District of Arkansas and appreciate his comments here tonight.
I'd like to continue a little bit tonight talking about tax reform since Representative Womack was talking about some aspects of the President's proposal. I think most of us around here are certainly excited that the President has even started discussing fundamental tax reform. Unfortunately, I think that the President's proposal has a lot of aspects that would be burdensome to the businesses and the job creators that he purports to be trying to help, and so I don't think that it has much chance in the House or the Senate, and I think he knew that when he proposed it. But at least he is having that conversation. That's a start, that's a start.
As we talked about, whether you are talking about tax reform, energy exploration, regulatory reform, our commonsense budgeting, making the Federal Government live within its means, all of those relate to jobs. They all are directly related to encouraging private sector job creation.
We've been working on a highway bill recently. Infrastructure is a critical part of this equation. That's part of the spending our money wisely under the budgeting side of things because we need a strong infrastructure so that we can compete with other countries, continue to have economic development in this country. So that's a critical part of it.
But with regard to the President's tax plan, it raises taxes at least a dollar for every dollar in tax cuts that he provides to simplify the corporate tax code. It creates a whole new category of taxes for our companies that do business overseas.
And most glaringly, it doesn't do anything to address individual tax rates, the tax rates that you pay at home, I pay. And why is that important for job creation? Well, for a number of reasons. First of all, the code we have now is complex. It doesn't always reward hard work. In fact, sometimes it punishes it.
But one of the real specific reasons why we must deal with the individual tax rates to grow jobs is because many businesses pay their taxes, particularly LLCs, sole proprietorships, partnerships, mom and pop businesses all around the country in Arkansas and in my district, they pay their taxes using the individual income tax brackets. So you can't just address corporate tax code, although the President's corporate tax ``reform'' has got a lot of tax hikes in it that will make our businesses, our job creators in this country, less competitive.
But you can't just reform the Tax Code by dealing with corporate tax reform. You've got to look at individual tax reform, corporate tax reform across the board. You have to make it simpler, fairer, and flatter. Some of the terms that we've talked about, we've certainly advocated for that in our budget last year, and we are going to do it again this year.
It's critical, not only for job creation by larger businesses but by small business, mom and pop businesses. So tax reform is a critical part of what we need to do to get jobs going.
As I've talked about earlier, some of my colleagues talked about, there are a number of reforms that we have been pursuing for over a year now that relate directly to private sector job creation.
As I indicated earlier, it's tax reform. It's regulatory reform. It's more energy development. It's living within our means. Individually, these issues may not have jobs in the title, but they are the columns, the supports, that hold up the private sector job building, if you will.
I want to say a couple of things about the regulatory issue because I've just introduced a bill, H.R. 4078, Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act. Again, as a lot of us said, I'm not antiregulation. I don't know anyone that's against regulations across the board. What I'm against is the Federal Government failing to apply common sense when regulating. What I'm against are excessive regulations, overly burdensome regulations.
I'll give you an example. I had a jobs conference down in my district in Little Rock at the Clinton Presidential Library. We had a jobs conference. We invited a number of job creators. It seems to me if you want to know what to do to create private sector jobs or encourage private sector job creation, you'd ask someone who had actually created them, folks from the private sector, experts on this issue. We invited them in and said, Hey, what's the biggest obstacle to job creation? We had Democrats and Republicans both. And we asked them just point blank, and the number one answer was regulatory uncertainty.
What does that mean? Well, it means that folks have money that they might want to invest, but they hold on tight to that money because they're not quite sure what's going to happen. They're not sure whether we're going to get our debt under control or not. They're not sure how much ObamaCare, the President's health care law, is going to cost them. They're not sure whether the regulations that they've heard proposed by the EPA as potentially being proposed, they're not sure whether those are going to be implemented or not. It's just uncertainty everywhere. And I had someone say to me the other night, Well, there's always uncertainty.
Yes, there is always uncertainty. If you're a farmer, there's uncertainty whether there will be enough rain for the crops that year. There will always be some uncertainty in life because we don't have crystal balls. I get that. But what we don't want is a Federal Government that needlessly creates additional uncertainty.
You know, sometimes we say, I had enough problems before this came along. Well, that's what we're talking about. You have enough to deal with naturally. You have enough uncertainty as it is. You don't need the Federal Government creating more uncertainty.
If you talk to community banks who have been impacted by the President's Dodd-Frank law, they've got a lot of uncertainty. They're having to hire new folks to comply with the law. What are the new regulations going to be? We don't know yet, just know they're coming. Don't know what they're going to be yet, just know they're coming and they're going to be burdensome. The same with the health care law.
Here's a quote from, actually, a well-known Democrat businessman, commissioner on the Arkansas Highway Commission appointed by our Democrat Governor in Arkansas, former chairman of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, John Burkhalter. He said at my jobs conference:
Every project I look at now, I've got to wonder if I'm going to get to build it because, are the regulations going to stop me? I've got to admit that I pass on over 50 percent of the projects that I would like to do because of the burden, the hurdle of the regulations.
Now, the President recently said in his State of the Union Address that he has approved fewer regulations in the first 3 years of his Presidency than his Republican predecessor did in his. Well, the President said that, sitting right here on the floor of the House during the State of the Union this year, so I think it deserves some attention.
Well, is that true? If you just look at the numbers, it's true, if you just look at the number of regulations. But if you look at the number of what are called major regulations and the burden that it puts, the cost of the regulations, what this President has done far exceeds what we've seen before.
The previous administration issued an average of 63 major regulations per year. This administration has issued an average of 88, an increase of 40 percent. Under President Bush, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs reviewed an average of 77 economically significant regulations biennially. These are the ones that really impact business. I'm not talking about a minor regulation here or there. We're talking about the ones that really impact job creators. Under President Bush, his Office of Regulatory Affairs reviewed about 77 every 2 years. Under this President, it's 125. Not quite doubled, but not far from it. If the administration maintains its current pace, it would add nearly $150 billion annually in new regulatory costs over 8 years.
I'm going to yield to my friend from Virginia, but before I do, I just want to mention that I have proposed the Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act, H.R. 4078. What it would do, it would basically freeze the introduction and progression of major regulations, those having an impact of $100 billion or more. It would freeze those with exceptions for emergencies, health issues, what have you. There are exceptions in the bill. But it would freeze them until our unemployment rate gets down to 6 percent to show that we're getting our footing, because what the regulatory environment is doing to our job creators is stifling their ability to create jobs.
I'm going to yield now to my colleague from Virginia.
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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I have heard story after story from small-town bankers, community bankers, who say that not only are they deciding not to loan to folks based on character and based on relationship, but they're being told they can't. They're being told they can't. They are community banks, the sources of credit. The source of money for small-town America are being told who they can and cannot lend to. Their judgment is being taken away from them, and they're saying, Look, you don't have to decide. We're going to regulate that. We'll tell you who you can loan to and who you can't loan to, never mind the fact that you've known them for 20, 30, 40 years, generation after generation. We're going to control this from Washington.
This President talks about his financial reform bill going after Wall Street. Actually, the folks on Wall Street backed it. What it ended up doing is hurting the folks that had nothing to do with the financial collapse in the first place. Small-town community banks got the brunt of a lot of this because the big banks can afford the extra regulation and compliance. The small banks cannot. So, what the President's bill did is it ignored Fannie and it ignored Freddie--the problems--and then it went after banks. It made Wall Street happy in many ways. Many of them got on board and endorsed it. And then who took the brunt of the burden, the regulatory burden? Small-town banks. Small-town banks.
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Mr. GRIFFIN of Arkansas. I thank the gentleman from Virginia. I know we're running short on time, so I just want to say to the folks listening out there, wherever you may be, these are not new ideas. Some of the ideas you've heard tonight on tax reform, regulatory reform, energy exploration and making the Federal Government live within its means and investing in infrastructure, these are not ideas that just came up this week. You may ask yourself, why haven't we passed these a long time ago? Why haven't we worked on this before? Why are we just talking about it now? We have been for over a year. For over a year we have been working on these issues.
Many of these ideas we've passed. Let's take tax reform. We talked about that in our budget over a year ago--it will be a year, I guess, in April. Regulatory reform, I can't count the number of bills--not including mine, I just introduced mine--but we have passed bill after bill after bill that deals with regulatory reform. What about energy exploration? I literally can't count the number of bills that we've passed that deal with energy exploration, particularly the Keystone pipeline, bill after bill after bill.
If there's any softening in the President's position on the Keystone XL pipeline, you can bet it's because we have been relentless in this House--relentless in this House--pushing the President to allow for the construction of that pipeline. We've got a long way to go, but we'll keep pushing.
On the issue of the budget and living within our means, we've been fighting this battle for over a year. So none of this is brand spanking new. A lot of these ideas we've been fighting for for over a year, and we'll continue to. But we've got to keep talking about them, keep talking about them.
So what's happened after we passed them? Well, a significant number, about 30 or so, have passed this House, and they go right down to the other side of the building, and they sit in the Senate. Many of us grew up in the 1970s and saw the little cartoon, ``Schoolhouse Rock,'' the little bill sitting on the Capitol Hill steps out here somewhere. That little cartoon taught me the fundamentals of our democracy, how a bill becomes law. It passes this House, and then what happens? Well, it has to go down to the Senate.
Unfortunately, they haven't passed a budget out of the Senate in over a thousand days. So you can bet they haven't passed our bills, either. So we've addressed a lot of this stuff. And we're going to keep talking about it and keep pushing and keep pushing. But a lot of it is sitting right down there in the Senate waiting for action, going nowhere. So if you're wondering what's happened to these ideas, that's where they are. And we are continuing to work on them here, continuing to pressure the Senate and the President to try to work with us to get this stuff done, because these pillars--tax reform, regulatory reform, energy exploration, getting the Federal Government to live within its means and having a commonsense budget, and as part of that, addressing our infrastructure issues, all those together, they all relate to jobs. So we'll keep fighting for jobs.
I yield back the balance of my time.