News and Tribune

October 30, 2013

DONNELLY: Congress should focus on jobs

By JOE DONNELLY
Guest columnist

— My top priorities have always been to strengthen Indiana’s economy and to help create Hoosier jobs. We can all agree — Democrats and Republicans — that the recent government shutdown and the threat of failing to pay our nation’s bills were a significant setback to this seemingly simple goal.

Most people believe that Congress can play a role in creating the conditions for economic growth — even if that role is to simply not make things worse. Over the last several weeks, the government shutdown cost our economy an estimated $24 billion in economic activity, and every day wasted on the unnecessary government shutdown was another day Congress was not working to create jobs and move our economy forward.

Make no mistake: the recent congressional gridlock was senseless and embarrassing, but it also served as an important reminder that we are a stronger nation when we work together. That’s why I worked as a part of a group of 14 senators — seven Republicans, six Democrats and one Independent — that met several times during the shutdown to put together a bipartisan framework to reopen the government and ensure that our country met its obligations and paid its bills. In fact, the framework developed by our group served as the base of the agreement that ultimately ended the shutdown and prevented additional economic damage.

Our group did not always agree on every policy, but we understood the ongoing and potentially even larger threat to our economy. We knew that an acceptable solution would require working together with no guarantee of anyone getting 100 percent of what they wanted in order to find common sense ways to end the shutdown, prevent default and get back to improving our economy.

Despite what you may hear on cable television, there are Democrats and Republicans in Congress like myself who are committed to the simple idea that effective government can be a part of creating the economic conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.

Together, many of us share basic goals of a setting a level playing field that allows American businesses to better compete, encouraging a vibrant private sector that can innovate and adapt to the ever-changing global economy, and helping to create an educated work force that meets the needs of the 21st century economy and supports the families who are raising the next great generation of Americans.

In the weeks and months ahead, I will be working on my Opportunity Agenda, a blueprint of common sense policies designed to expand economic opportunities for Hoosier businesses, workers and their families. From infrastructure and energy to work force development and exports, we need to refocus our efforts on helping to help create more good jobs.

It seems pretty simple to me. Instead of creating economic problems, Congress should be helping to create a stronger economy.

— Joe Donnelly is one of Indiana’s two U.S. senators.