Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its August jobs report that indicated only 142,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy, marking the lowest amount of job growth in 2014. Perhaps worse, only 62.8 percent of the working-age population is employed. During the week of Sept. 12, 315,000 Americans applied for unemployment aid, an increase of 11,000 claims from the previous week and more than all summer. As the economy continues to creep along with marginal growth, more people continue to feel that the country is heading in the wrong direction.
A recent Politico poll indicated 57 percent of likely voters disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy. Unfortunately, we are caught in the president’s second-term slump, where international crisis has risen to the forefront while Americans continue to struggle at home. While Obama cannot bear the brunt of a downed economy alone, he is not helping the situation. Despite the many challenges we face throughout the world, the American people deserve leadership both abroad and domestically.
While congressional inaction dominates the news coverage, there have been real bipartisan solutions passed out of the House of Representatives in the form of more than 40 bills that will increase American competitiveness and facilitate an environment for job creation. Yet, almost every single one of these bills sits idle, awaiting Senate action even though most have received Democrat support in the House.
Despite Senate inaction, the House has continued to produce legislation to create an environment where small businesses can expand and the economy can grow at a faster pace. The chamber has passed legislation that will streamline inefficient and cumbersome regulations in order to spur capital investment that will help start-up companies and small businesses.
We’ve also passed legislation to expand job opportunities, including bills to promote research and development, along with reforms to make energy more affordable for American families and businesses.
Notwithstanding failed attempts at repeal, we have also passed bills to improve the Affordable Care Act, including a replacement of the law’s 2.3 percent medical device tax, which is especially harmful to Pennsylvania’s economy. This measure received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, including backing from Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. Yet, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has failed to bring the measure to a final vote in the Senate. If passed, this will mark at least 17 times that the president will sign legislation correcting flaws with the Affordable Care Act.
Despite these modest steps, the Senate needs to act on the bipartisan legislative measures passed by the House. If the Senate’s prerogatives differ from the House, Reid should at least put forth legislative proposals based upon his party’s vision and bring them to a vote. While both chambers of Congress must pass an identical bill in order for it to become law, the process of going to conference and hashing out our differences still exists. We’ve witnessed this with the 2014 farm bill, signed into law this past February, which is a huge win for Pennsylvania’s economy. Additionally, the president recently signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which will aid in putting Americans back to work through reforms made to our nation’s workforce development system. Both of these examples were heavy lifts, but no one ever said representative democracy was easy.
Given the August jobs report and tremendous pressures on American families at home and our national interests overseas, there is obviously need for much more to be done. However, in our constitutional republic everyone must be at the table for the system to work. The American people deserve as much.