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Rothfus: Time for Action

Keith visiting local PA-12 manufacturer.
Keith visiting local PA-12 manufacturer.
As I returned to Washington, D.C. last week, two of the major stories in the national news were the record-breaking cold and the expiration of long-term Unemployment Insurance benefits beyond twenty-six weeks.

Let me begin by saying I am open to an extension of unemployment benefits that is paid for and coupled with reforms.  I am troubled that the conversation about Unemployment Insurance focuses so much on the benefits (which are important to many families) and not enough on the reasons people are out of work.

Just before I returned to our nation’s capital, I attended the inaugurations of new Pittsburgh and Johnstown Mayors Bill Peduto and Frank Janakovic.  As I drove through the snow on Route 22 between Pittsburgh and Johnstown, I thought about the great workers and businesses in our region.  I reflected on the things you have taught me in the last year and on the potential for growth in Western Pennsylvania and across America.

Personally, I would like to see more discussion and focus among those in Washington on finding positive solutions that actually create family-sustaining jobs and also ensure that people have the right skills and opportunities to find such jobs or earn a promotion or raise.

The House has worked in the past year to pass legislation that will help grow the economy and add jobs.  Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to act in kind on long-term solutions.

Did you know there are currently more than 165,000 unfilled jobs in Pennsylvania today?[1]  While many Western Pennsylvanians are looking for jobs, employers report that they cannot find enough employees with the right kinds of skills.

My colleagues and I produced legislation specifically designed to address this problem more than nine months ago.  The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act would help the unemployed and underemployed access critical job-training services more easily.  Among other reforms, the SKILLS Act would replace a confusing web of federal programs with the Workforce Investment Fund, a one-stop shop for information and support.

The House passed this common-sense legislation in March.  Almost one year later, the Senate still has not taken action.  This is an unfortunate pattern under Senator Reid’s leadership.

Washington’s actions have directly resulted in lost jobs in coal mines, power plants, and other Western Pennsylvania industries in the past year.  Meanwhile, President Obama and Senator Reid’s inaction and overreach have prevented the creation of new jobs.  The Keystone XL pipeline will create tens of thousands of jobs.  A broad-cross section of Americans support Keystone XL, including the workers who will build the pipeline and the consumers and businesses who will benefit from lower energy prices thanks to the increased access to affordable North American oil.  These jobs remain unfilled because the Senate has refused to act on multiple proposals from the House, and the President has refused his approval of the project and the jobs that come with it.

In 2013, the House passed 162 bills that are gathering dust in the Senate.  You can read more about the work we have done in the House of Representatives by visiting http://majorityleader.gov/bill-tracker/.

It is time for Senator Reid and our colleagues in the Senate to get focused on long-term solutions that empower and protect people by unleashing the potential for growth in our economy.  Doing so will lead to improved opportunity, increased wages and salaries, and freedom and security for every American.

Keith Rothfus represents Pennsylvania's Twelfth Congressional District, which includes all of Beaver County and portions of Allegheny, Cambria, Lawrence, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties.
Anne Tarr January 17, 2014 at 03:23 PM
"Let me begin by saying I am open to an extension of unemployment benefits that is paid for and coupled with reforms." This sentence disturbs me, Congressman Rothfus. Let me explain why I find it so disturbing. It seems always that what needs to be reformed are the safety net programs that Americans, average working Joes and Sues, rely on to get them through tough financial times. Yet nowhere do we see anyone talking about reforming and re-regulating the banking industry that was allowed to run amok and caused the mess in the first place. While the CEOs of Chase, BoA, Wells Fargo, etc. continue to play fast and loose with their assets, and laugh all the way to the bank, we Joes and Sues are left holding the bag, AND expected to make do with less and less, while our elected representatives do little more than mouth pithy, empty, soundbites on the evening news, point their fingers at the other party, and bury their heads in the sand. WE, the Joes and Sues, are NOT the ones who caused the economic problems we now face. WE are not the ones who made the mess! Why are we expected to clean it up? That is just plain wrong! The people who created the mess are the ones who need to pay for cleaning it up! The only "welfare" that needs to be cut is the seemingly endless gravy train of corporate welfare. After 34 years, it should be patently obvious to anyone with half a functioning brain cell that "trickle-down economics," or whatever fancy tag they've hung on it these days, is NOT working! Oh, and another thing! The notion that the new EPA regulations are causing coal plants in Pennsylvania to close is patently absurd! If the coal plants were being good corporate neighbors all along, they would have been implementing the cleaner technologies bit by bit over the years, as they became available. Which, by the way, would have created far more jobs than the tax breaks they were given, since workers would have been required to manufacture, install and train the workforce in the new technologies. Instead of being responsible and showing care and concern for their communities by cleaning up their act little by little over the years, which wouldn't have caused them any undue financial hardship, they chose to make the quick buck, and continued to poison our air and water. Now that the EPA has been forced to step in, they want to whine and cry that they can't afford to clean up their plants and now they have to close. That's a crock! It's always cheaper to fix the leak in the roof than to wait for the roof to cave in before you act. If the coal companies had "fixed the leaks" as they went along, they wouldn't be facing such crushing costs to comply with the new regulations. Not to mention, the new regulations wouldn't be necessary, would they? I disagree with you on so many points, but I do agree with your assertion that it is time for the gridlock to end. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming the other side, it's time for BOTH parties to man up, accept that BOTH parties bear responsibility for this mess, and it's past time for BOTH parties to remember WHO sent them to Washington and why, and to find the political will to go after the ones who are truly bleeding this country dry!

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