Last week, President Obama embarked on a three-day bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia. The Administration billed this tour as an opportunity for the President to talk to Americans about his American Jobs Act. While I question the real purpose of his trip, I believe it is more important to put ideological rhetoric aside and work together to find common ground. With more than 14 million Americans out of work, we must focus on delivering commonsense legislation that will help our businesses put people back to work.
Recently, the Administration and Senate leadership have decided to bring up individual parts of the President’s jobs plan, rather than attempting an unwise all-or-nothing approach. I believe that debating individual pieces of the President’s bill is a prudent way to work together. Despite our differences, House Republicans stand ready to work with the President and the Senate to find areas where we can work together. I sincerely believe we can find bipartisan solutions to help unemployed Americans and our economy.
One area with broad bipartisan consensus is support for our nation’s veterans. The brave men and women who put on the uniform to protect our nation and preserve our freedom deserve to be fully supported when they return home. Servicemembers returning from combat should not struggle to find employment. I believe a comprehensive approach is needed to solve the problem of high veteran unemployment. We must evaluate the root causes of veteran unemployment and seek to fix these problems.
Since becoming Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I have focused on lowering the veteran unemployment rate. In July, I introduced the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011. The VOW Act was designed to help veterans overcome barriers to employment by using proven programs that will help them gain valuable skills to compete in today’s tough job market, as well as ensure that returning veterans have access to improved transition programs to help ease the return to civilian life.
The VOW Act’s goal is to completely remove barriers to employment that should never have existed in the first place. Returning veterans often find that when they come home, they are not easily able to use the skills they learned in the military because of excessive licensing and credentialing regulations. A servicemember who has received extensive military training and honed their skills in the most trying of environments is surely more than capable of applying these skills when they return in the civilian workforce. For example, combat medics who have performed their medical duties on the battlefield should not have to pay for and complete additional licensing and credentialing to become EMTs. I was extremely pleased to see the VOW Act pass the House of Representatives this month by an overwhelming vote of 418-6.
Common Ground can be found not only on the need to breakdown the barriers veterans face in finding employment, but also on providing employer tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans. The President’s jobs bill includes a proposal to extend employer tax credits for hiring veterans and disabled veterans, providing businesses a tax credit of up to $9,600. I have also introduced a $25,000 tax incentive to hire veterans, which would not only immediately help veterans, but would also help small businesses grow by reducing the cost of capital equipment. Additionally, my bill includes provisions that ensures that businesses cannot simply hire a veteran, receive a tax deduction and then fire the veteran. This incentive promotes veterans employment and at the same time, helps our businesses expand.
I also believe we can work with the Administration to remove many burdensome regulations. Starting January 1, 2013, businesses that provide goods or services to federal, state, or local governments will have 3 percent of their payments for such goods or services withheld. The Administration has proposed delaying this onerous requirement until December 31, 2013. I believe we can work together to do even better and repeal this withholding requirement completely.
Recently, the President asked EPA to withdraw its new draft ozone standards. I fully support this measure, but I believe we should not stop there. Throughout the 112th Congress, the House of Representatives has passed numerous bills looking to roll back the kinds of excessive environmental and economic regulations that hinder job creation. Attacks by those who believe that reevaluating and replacing these unnecessary regulations are akin to supporting pollution are off the mark. Every American wants to have a clean environment for their family. I believe that the best way to achieve this goal is to work with state and local agencies to implement the kinds of measures that actually address any problems that may exist.
Other provisions that represent opportunities to forge bipartisan agreements include the extension of 100 percent bonus depreciation and payroll tax relief. Extending bonus depreciation would allow businesses to deduct the cost of business equipment investment, making it easier to expand their businesses by investing in new machinery and equipment. The President has also proposed an extension and expansion of the current payroll tax holiday through January 1, 2013. I wholeheartedly support tax relief for families and small businesses; however, I have concerns that the President has proposed to pay for this temporary relief with a tax increase on charitable deductions. We must make sure that any temporary tax relief is not offset with a permanent tax increase down the line. Nonetheless, a robust debate on this issue can certainly lead to bipartisan agreement that avoid these pitfalls and provide much needed tax relief to spur economic growth.
I believe that we can continue to find common ground because we have already worked together to pass important legislation, including the most recent trade legislation that will increase access to foreign markets and allow our businesses to expand and hire new employees domestically. The new Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea will help to level the playing field for American workers, businesses, and farmers. According to estimates from the Obama Administration, these three agreements have the ability to add 250,000 American jobs and $10 billion to our economy. I believe that these Free Trade Agreements represent an important first step in the right direction, and I hope they signal the beginning of a comprehensive strategy to bridge ideological divides and pass legislation that lowers unemployment and gets our economy back into high gear.