What are Democrats doing to create jobs? Sen. Harry Reid answers your questions

Jun 22, 2011

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will be online on Wednesday, June 22 at 2 p.m. ET to talk about ongoing Democratic efforts on job creation.

You can submit a question above or -- even better -- go to the 2Chambers blog to post questions and vote on other readers' questions. Sen. Reid will answer the most popular question (plus many more, of course).

Thank you all for joining me. I'm here to talk about the #1 priority of Democrats today: Job creation - an issue that I hope my Republican colleagues will soon focus on, too. Please let the questions begin.

The GOP blocked Senator Boxer's jobs bill yesterday. If the GOP keeps blocking these bills will you continue to send job bills to the floor to force McConnell's gang to vote against getting America back to work? Currently, yesterday's vote isn't even on the political page for MSNBC or CNN. If the Beltway won't give coverage to the jobs fight in the Senate, how will you be able to pressure the GOP to support jobs creation?

I agree that yesterday's jobs bill should have received bipartisan support, because it has received overwhelming bipartisan support in the past. I will continue to encourage my colleagues to support good jobs bills. Jobs are the #1, #2 and #3 priority of Americans, and the priority of Democrats. I continue to hope that Republicans will stop putting politics ahead of creating jobs, and we will continue calling for them to do so. For example, just this morning, my colleagues -- Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow, and Mark Begich -- joined me in urging job-creation measures to be included in the final debt reduction deal, led by Vice President Biden. The bottom line is that Republicans should join Democrats to focus on creating jobs, instead of spending all their time blocking jobs bills and continuing to push their plan to end Medicare.

How do we get congress to focus on jobs, besides hitting the iceberg?

Republicans have been blocking jobs bills on the floor and we can't wait can't afford to wait for them to stop putting politics ahead of creating jobs for middle-class Americans. That is why today I called for jobs-creating measures to be part of the deficit reduction deal being negotiated between the White House and Congress. We need to reach a deal before the first week in August to avoid triggering the dire economic consequences that will come from failing to raise the debt ceiling. Our hope is that including jobs-creating policies in this deal will help put Americans back to work even if we continue to encounter Republican obstruction on the floor.

In what tangible ways are partisan politics impacting the implementation of meaningful jobs programs? Do you see a spirit of cooperation developing between the parties to develop an initiative to promote job creation in the near term?

Let me put it this way: yesterday, Republicans blocked a jobs bill that has been creating jobs in distressed communities in a cost-effective manner since 1965. They blocked it even though this bill has previously passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. Instead of focusing on jobs, Republicans were more interested in loading up the bill with irrelevant amendments dealing with everything from light bulbs to the lesser prairie chicken to a sand dune lizard -- everything except jobs. This level of obstruction is extremely disappointing.

With so many people out of work, teenagers are finding it exceedingly hard to find jobs. Many need jobs to help pay for college since the (budget) cutbacks in financial aid & state scholarships/grants. What will the Democrats do to help this segment of the job-seeking population given that their future income potential ( & tax paying potential) depends on them getting college degrees?

The jobs bill to reauthorize EDA would have created jobs not only for businesses, but for universities across the country. I will continue to encourage my Senate colleagues to consider job creation measures like this. I would also point out that the health care reforms we passed last year help alleviate the economic pressures on young people just out of college by allowing them to stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26, up from age 23.

Sen. Reid, hispanic unemployment is currently 11.1% vs. 9.1% the national average. What have/are Democrats doing to generate jobs in our community?

Just this week in Las Vegas, we inaugurated a transportation center at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Hispanics make up a large portion of the Nevada labor force. And the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which we passed last Congress, provides additional tools to protect Latinos from job discrimination. Hispanic unemployment has been ticking down from an all time high of 13.9 percent because of the policies we’ve implemented. But we want to accelerate this trend and EDA would help us do so.

Why does politics seem to be discussed with a short-term focus?  The reason I ask is because I do not accept that one has to choose either spending to stimulate the economy versus cutting spending to reduce the deficit. I actually believe President Obama has stated the correct strategy. We need to get people working in jobs, and we need to spend to create jobs. Then, once the jobs situation is stable, we may then attack the problem of the deficit and reduce spending In sum, why don't more members of Congress address that different economic strategies may be needed in the short term versus the long term?

I believe we need to pursue strategies that address our immediate need for job creation while also getting our fiscal house in order, and I believe we can do both. Democrats voted for the biggest reduction in discretionary spending cuts in history, and we are currently participating in negotiations to make additional spending cuts. But we believe that when we cut spending, we need to do it in a smart way that targets waste – for instance, by ending taxpayer giveaways to oil companies that don’t need them because they are raking in record profits. Targeting waste like this protects jobs while also cutting our deficit. 
At the same time, we need to be making jobs our top priority. That is why we called today for job-creating measures to be included in the bipartisan deal to cut the deficit that is currently being negotiated. This is the right balance between smart fiscal policy, and solutions we need to create jobs in the short term. I will also say that the height of shortsightedness would be failing to raise the debt ceiling, as some of my Republican colleagues are threatening to do. Warren Buffet said this would be the "most asinine act" ever, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said failing to raise the limit could cause “severe disruptions in financial markets.” Americans would see their retirement funds and savings depleted when the markets react as most experts are predicting they will would. So we need to make sure we are keeping both the long-term and short-term effects of economic policy squarely in mind.

The average unemployment rate in most western European countries has average 8 or 9% for the last 15 or 20 years. Now that the U.S. is imposing the same sort of social welfare policies that make European workers too expensive to hire, why should we expect the U.S. unemployment rate to drop any lower ? 

I am confident that our unemployment rate can and will drop. But my Republican colleagues will have to shift their focus. We have two deficits in this country – a budget deficit and a jobs deficit. The jobs deficit is as critical to Americans as our budget deficit. I’ve called on Republicans to join Democrats in urging job measures to be included in a bipartisan debt-ceiling deal, led by Vice President Biden. And I hope Republicans will join Democrats in making this a priority.

How are Democrats doing to create a national clean energy policy? America needs a national clean energy policy to compete for green jobs.The United States needs policies to promote renewable power, reduce oil consumption, require energy-efficient appliances, and provide steady funding, for clean energy development

Just a few weeks ago, I joined Secretary Chu to announce a major solar project in Nevada, expected to create thousands of clean energy jobs. This project --the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project – will lead to jobs in construction and operations and jobs in manufacturing and transportation. Nevada continues to be a leader when it comes to the generation of renewable energy, and this project will also bring clean energy to the region. Democrats are also continuing to pursue policies that would help create a clean energy economy here in the U.S. Today, we cited policies to create clean energy jobs as one area that should be considered for inclusion in the bipartisan deficit talks. This year, we have also tried to move two bills that had clean energy components – the SBIR bill would have reauthorized tens of millions of dollars of research into clean energy, and the EDA bill had specific job-creating clean energy grant programs included this time around. But Republicans blocked both of them.

Is it true that there is a significant balance of unused stimulus money? If so, what are the barriers for investing in infrastructure restoration projects, extending UI benefits for the "99'rs" and small business loan programs?

Money in the Recovery Act was meant to get into the economy quickly to get the biggest bang for the buck. As the CBO just told us, the Recovery Act in the first quarter of 2011 increased "the number of people employed by between 1.2 million and 3.3 million, and increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 1.6 million to 4.6 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise."

Do you support HR 589 [The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act of 2011]? If yes, what are you doing to get it passed? If no, have you a better plan to keep job hunters alive while jobs are created?

The Congressional Budget Office has told us that the best thing you can do to help the economy in the short run is to provide assistance to the unemployed, so we should look at that legislation to see how it might fit within a jobs-focused package.

Thank you all for such thoughtful questions. It's nice to have this type of conversation. Of course, it's worth noting you can always follow my work in the Senate online at http://reid.senate.gov/. And if you use Twitter, please follow me @senatorreid, too.

In This Chat
Harry Reid
Harry Reid of Nevada has served as the Senate as Majority Leader since January 2007. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986. During his early years as senator, he served as Assistant Democratic Leader (1998-2004), also known as the ?Whip,? and Senate Democratic leader (2004-2006). Before becoming senator, he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Reid's career began in Nevada politics, after he received a bachelor?s degree from Utah State University and a J.D. from George Washington Law School. In Nevada, he served as city attorney of Henderson, a state legislator and Lieutenant Governor.
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