MLive: We can't let high unemployment numbers become the 'new normal'
Last week, the Department of Labor announced that 347,000 people dropped out of the workforce in December, making the Labor Force Participation Rate stand at a meager 63-percent– the lowest level since the Carter Administration. While such statistics give us a general picture of large groups of people, for that one person without a job and struggling to make ends meet, the Labor report is more than a new data point. It is a personal crisis.
For the past year my colleagues and I in the House have been committed to finding ways to foster a healthy economy and increase opportunities for all. In 2013 alone, the House passed more than 200 pieces of legislation including dozens of pro-jobs bills. These bills included measures to make energy more affordable, stop harmful regulations, expand education and job training and to protect Americans from the President's health care law.
For example, the House-passed SKILLS Act would eliminate and streamline dozens of overlapping federal programs and help connect job seekers with the skills they need to succeed. The programs and reforms addressed in the SKILLS Act are important in helping both Michigan and our nation develop its workforce, while saving precious taxpayer dollars.
Meanwhile, the House-passed Energy Consumers Relief Act would help protect consumers from rising energy costs by increasing transparency for EPA rules. It's critical that we understand the full impact of proposed billion dollar rules before they are implemented, not after. This commonsense legislation would allow Congress and the American people to know the cost benefit of new regulations and prevent EPA energy rules that significantly hurt job creation and increase energy prices on families and businesses. After all, affordable and reliable energy is vital for a healthy and growing economy.
Regretfully, many of these 200 bills were never even taken up in the Senate last year. In fact, the Senate not only failed to pass a single jobs or appropriations bill in 2013, but of the 72 bills President Obama signed into law, 56 came from the House - including my bipartisan wage claims bill with Democrat Joe Courtney of Connecticut.
The Senate-led inaction comes at time when we've already been waiting five years for the President to approve the Keystone Pipeline, which would create tens of thousands of jobs immediately. The pipeline is strongly backed with bipartisan support in Congress and a broad coalition including unions and business groups. The House passed the Northern Route Approval Act last year with bipartisan support to clear the remaining barriers preventing the pipeline's construction, only to see another jobs bill sit idle before the Senate.
It's inexcusable the Senate refuses to even look at such critical pieces of House-passed legislation which could provide relief for the millions of Americans struggling to find a job and make ends meet. And with President's health care now a reality, we need the Senate to work with the House in a good faith effort to protect Americans from its harmful effects such as losing access to their health coverage, doctors and affordable health insurance premiums.
We cannot let high unemployment numbers and a failing health care law become the "new normal." My colleagues and I in the House won't accept this and I know many of you won't either. If the Senate would only act on these House-passed measures, we could offer more opportunities for all. We'd also gladly consider Senate-passed legislation with the same goals, but we're still waiting for them to produce such a plan. In the meantime, I look forward to continuing to work with all interested House colleagues in supporting and passing additional measures that promote a healthy economy, provide more opportunities for all and put Americans back to work.
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