Across the country and across the political divide, it is clear to everyone that we have a jobs crisis. Through no fault of their own, 25 million Americans - equal to the entire population of Texas - are unemployed or underemployed. The jobs crisis has reached a boiling point, which is why we see Occupy Wall Street protestors crying out for an America that lets all of us reach for the American Dream again - a dream that says if you work hard and play by the rules, you can have a good life and retire with dignity. Economists on the left and right are pleading with policymakers to invest in our crumbling infrastructure and to act swiftly to create jobs, so our economy does not slide back into recession.
With a double dip recession possibly looming, how has the House of Representatives, the "People's House," responded? Instead of addressing this urgent matter, the Tea Party-dominated Congress has gone nearly 300 days without offering a plan to create jobs. If this were not irresponsible enough, Tea Party Republicans are actively squashing measures that would create jobs. Republicans have blocked job creating legislation at least 17 times on the House floor.
Democrats will not be deterred. The stakes are too high for the American people. In addition to bringing job-creating legislation to the House floor and championing the President's American Jobs Act, House Democrats have put forward our own bold plan for job creation: Make It In America. This comprehensive plan would create jobs now through policies to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, improve our education, and strengthen our manufacturing base.
The Make It In America plan for jobs is manifested in several essential bills. For instance, the Currency Reform Act would create approximately one million jobs by leveling the playing field for American manufacturers with countries, including China, that manipulate their currency. Despite bipartisan support in the House and Senate, Republican Leadership in the House has stubbornly refused to bring this bill up for a vote.
As part of this legislative package, I am offering a commonsense idea: American tax dollars for infrastructure projects should go toward employing American workers. When I talk of this idea to constituents in my district, Democrats, Republicans, and even Tea Party activists are enthusiastically supportive.
In Washington, DC, I have proposed this idea in two bills that would ensure clean energy and transportation projects are made in America. After all, two million unemployed construction workers stand ready and able to do this crucial work. On the House floor, I have offered all 435 voting Members of Congress the opportunity to help their constituents find a job -- yet no Republican votes were forthcoming.
Not too long ago, I offered an amendment on the House floor requiring that materials used for construction on our dilapidated school buildings should be made in America. That way, money would circulate throughout our communities to create a powerful multiplier effect. Instead of even debating this amendment, my Republican colleagues said "No" and changed the topic.
There's a pattern here. In the House Natural Resources Committee, my amendments to ensure that American jobs are created by using U.S. materials for hydropower facilities, oil pipelines, offshore gas rigs, timber, and renewable energy were all rejected. Some of these bills I didn't support, but if we're going to pass bad legislation, the least we can do is create good jobs in the process. For the National Defense Authorization Act, I offered an amendment requiring 40% of military construction subcontracting dollars go to local subcontractors. Again, an effort to create jobs in our community was stonewalled by my Republican colleagues.
Just today on the House floor, during consideration of H.R. 1904, aptly nicknamed the Taxpayer Giveaway to Resolution Copper Company Bill, my colleague Representative Raul Grijalva and I offered an amendment to at least maximize the job creating effect of this flawed legislation. Our amendment would require that all ore produced from these mines be processed in the United States and that all equipment used there be made in the United States. When receiving such massive public assistance from American citizens, companies should at the very least commit to creating jobs in America. The House Republican response to our amendment was as predictable as it was disappointing. They continued to say "No" to jobs and "No" the American worker.
Citizens of all political stripes have wondered what this Congress has been up to. A quick recap: The Democratic-led Senate passed the Currency Reform Act to create one million jobs. A majority of Senators - nearly all Democrats and not a single Republican - voted to create 1.9 million jobs through the American Jobs Act. Meanwhile, House Republicans introduced a budget that would actually destroy nearly one million jobs while ending Medicare. Even conservative economists confirm that their economic proposals would not meaningfully address our jobs crisis. Tea Party Republicans have also manufactured four different artificial budget crises that have recklessly endangered our fragile economic recovery.
It's time for House Republicans to end the games and to start working with Democrats to create jobs now. Poll after poll shows, Americans on the left, right, and center - even apolitical Americans - believe job creation should be the top priority of their Representatives. It's time for the People's House to represent the people.
Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield) represents Californians in Solano, Contra Costa, Alameda, and Sacramento counties.
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