Op-Ed: Time For Action

Congressman Keith Rothfus speaking with manufacturing workers.

Congressman Keith Rothfus speaking with manufacturing workers.

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.

7 comments

  • The Congressman tells us: ‘Did you know there are currently more than 165,000 unfilled jobs in Pennsylvania today?’ and that its because of a lack of skills.Partly true, although there was a time when businesses trained people ‘on the job,’ Now they expect the state to do it–not necessarily a bad idea, but they should pay into it, no?But he doesn’t mention the larger point. Despite those 165,000 openings, there are more than 450,000 job seekers in the state, roughly 3 for every opening.There is a cure. Hiring all of them for public infrastructure. Pay for it with a financial transaction tax. It’s all in the ‘Back to Work Budget’ of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.Leaders serious about jobs would get behind it, and create similar programs locally.But something tells me not to hold my breath on our Tea Party guy doing something rational that would benefit us all.

  • He didn’t confuse me with his double talk in the first 6 paragraphs.  He says “I am open to an extension of unemployment benefits that is paid for and coupled with reforms”, yet he voted AGAINST extending those same benefits,  In the next 5 paragraphs he hammers home all that’s wrong with the Democratic party, while attempting to ensure us the House of Republicans really and truly have the best interests of the middle class as their primary cause.  After 40 years of voting (every election, mostly Democrat) I’ve tired of BOTH PARTIES hammering each other, at the expense of the middle class.  We, the American people, have been fed a line of BS by both parties, flavored with patriotism and sprinkled with red, white and blue to cover the stench of what’s REALLY going on right under our noses.I googled SKILLS Act,  and clicked on “Read the Bill”.  It came up “Page Not Found” (as of 5:00 PM Saturday Jan 11th).  They must have hired the same IT Team as the ACA, but that’s OK,  They’re are allowed to make mistakes.    In reference to Kieth’s SKILLS Act, here is what the Daily Kos says:”So, what did the SKILLS Act do?Here’s the AFL-CIO’s summary of some of the bill in its letter to representatives urging opposition:(1) Consolidate categorical programs and combine funding streams into a single Workforce Investment Fund that would give states wide discretion to pick and choose eligible groups of participants, make programs more vulnerable to cuts, and pit one group of workers against another in competition for limited resources.  It would inevitably lead to fewer services for dislocated workers and the degradation of services to Native Americans, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, ex-offenders, refugees, older Americans, disadvantaged youth in Job Corps centers, and other vulnerable groups.  (2) Eliminate Wagner-Peyser Employment Services and ignore the fact that the Wagner-Peyser system is charged with other duties that are only tangentially related to WIA, such as the certification of the use of foreign labor by employers, and the strong financial and structural relationship between the Employment Service and the State unemployment insurance systems.  Financed primarily by the Federal UI trust fund, the Employment Service enforces the UI work test, a key feature of determining ongoing eligibility for UI benefits and in times of high unemployment, states often reassign Employment Service workers to help with the legally complex function of processing UI claims.(3) Eliminate the mandate for labor representation on state and local boards, simply ignoring the need for a workforce development system that features balanced representation among all stakeholders who are currently involved in programs that strengthen our nation’s workforce……Basically, the SKILLS Act would “help” the unemployed by pitting disadvantaged groups against each other and weakening the power of labor.  That sounds par for the course for the House GOP and a bad deal for the unemployed and American workers in general.”So Keith… stick your SKILLS Act where the sun don’t shine.I didn’t vote for you the first time and I won’t vote for you – EVER!!

  • JP – What happened to paragraph breaks?  I had them in the letter below – now it looks like one big mushy thing.

  • Keith and his friends never need a way to pay for tax cuts for the rich nor do they ever have to pay for their wars that they profit from.

  • More than one million unemployed Americans lost their benefits as the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expired. Thousands more are expected to be affected over the next few months. “I’ve spoken to many Beaver County families, who are crushed and full of fear as they are facing crippling effects of the very tough times ahead.

    I feel for these people and see the pain and worry in their eyes!”

    Extended unemployment benefits, which are anything more than 26 weeks, should have been on Keith Rothfus’s mind while driving through the snow on Route 22 between Pittsburgh and Johnstown to attend the inauguration of two mayors. Instead Congressman Rothfus voted NO to extend unemployment benefits but believes in a (SKILLS) Act program that he and Keiths colleagues produced would help the unemployed and underemployed access critical job-training services instead.

    I have to wonder if Keith or his colleagues have taken a number of issues that are creating the “jobs that support a family” in our nation such as: capital investment has become “labor saving.” Outsourcing jobs to other countries and robotics are accelerating labor workforce good paying jobs.

    Second, our persistent trade deficits have exported too much demand. There’s nothing wrong, with increased global trade. The problem comes when it stays out of balance for so long, as it has in America.
    The fact is that our economy has generated too few jobs for most of the last 30 years and is likely to continue to do so. The only viable response is a return to an idea that once animated domestic policy making: full employment, the notion that everyone who wants to work should be able to find a job, and if the market isn’t up to the task, then the government must fill the gap.

  • My original comment appears above and includes this statement, “I googled SKILLS Act,  and clicked on “Read the Bill”.  It came up “Page Not Found”.THAT WAS POSTED 5:00 PM JAN 11TH.  TODAY IS JANUARY 22ND 8:14 PM AND IT STILL READS “PAGE NOT FOUND”.  HELLO???  IS ANYONE OUT THERE??? DOES ANYONE IN THE ROTHFUS CAMP READ THIS STUFF?ERIC CANTOR?WHY CAN’T YOU A-HOLES FOLLOW UP ON WHAT YOU WRITE??