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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.
anderson3rd January 17, 2014 at 09:49 AM
Thank you for your service Mr. Rothfus. We need to look at North Dakota and Texas to learn how to make our natural resources work for us. The national economy can only change for the better from improving the local economy. Utilizing our local natural resources will provide so many primary and secondary and trickle down jobs. Western Pennsylvania is packed full with hard working, family oriented, good people that would make that endeavor a success. We need to tap our resources responsibly and immediately. We can make Western PA and the Pittsburgh region an example of success. From our Education Facilities, Medical Industry and Manufacturing, we have everything going in our favor. We just need someone like you to get in there and make them let us prosper. Thank you for all you do sir.
Ralph Meyer January 18, 2014 at 10:18 AM
Sounds good until you look at the republican record in the house, their love of the rich (NO TAXES ON THE RICH, PLEASE, they pay our campaign funds and buy us our seats!!!) and opposition to anything to benefit the health and wellbeing of almost everyone else, not to mention seeming to just love guns and the murder and mayhem they cause in the wrong hands by being totally unwilling (as are many democrats) to pass decent strict gun control laws that will keep them out of the hands of criminals and psychologically dangerous people. So Mr. Rothfus's activities in the direction of training folks are fine and dandy, but where is the support for health care for all? It is good that he seems now to support extending unemployment insurance, and it's nice to talk about jobs available, BUT, there are a lot more people out of work than there are jobs available...so where are the figures on that?

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