The single most important thing Congress needs to do to create jobs and spur the economy is to create a long-term, pro-jobs, pro-growth business environment.
American businesses are the engine that drives our economy, but right now, theyíre idling. With a 9 percent unemployment rate, Congress needs to rev up the engine by taking concrete steps to improve our nationís business climate and our ability to compete in the global economy.
We can start with regulatory reform. Last winter, President Barack Obama issued an executive order directing all federal agencies to review their regulations and eliminate those that are costly, burdensome or donít make sense. Since then, the administration has repealed just one rule and advanced, in July and August alone, more than $17 billion in new regulatory burdens for businesses.
To remedy that, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and I are sponsoring the Regulatory Responsibility for Our Economy Act, which will give teeth to the presidentís directive. Letís make it law.
A good example of how lifting a regulatory burden can help is the commercialization of unmanned aerial systems. With UAS, we are witnessing the birth of a new industry with the promise of creating the exciting, good-paying jobs of the future. However, UAS are currently barred from flying in the national airspace.
These state-of-the-art aircraft are vital to our military, but they also have commercial applications, such as livestock monitoring, wildfire mapping, energy exploration, pipeline security, search and rescue, border patrol and missions yet to be imagined.
Iíve included language in the Federal Aviation Administration bill that would require the FAA to set up airspace in the United States so that manned and unmanned aircraft can be flown concurrently. Since Kitty Hawk, America has led innovation in aviation technology. If we donít act now, we could forfeit not only that leadership position, but also billions in economic activity and the high-paying jobs that come with it.
We also need to create a good environment for trade. We have free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that have been pending for three years. Together, they reduce tariffs on the order of 85 percent and represent more than $13 billion in export opportunities for American businesses, farmers and ranchers every year.
Most importantly, they represent more than a quarter of a million American jobs. The administration needs to bring those agreements to the Senate and House for ratification. Itís time we take them from pending to passed.
Perhaps no field is better equipped to create jobs and grow the economy than the energy sector. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce this spring released a study identifying 351 stalled energy projects nationwide that are costing the American economy $1.1 trillion in lost economic impact and nearly 2 million jobs a year.
Ironically, at a time when we need to invest and create jobs, America has no comprehensive energy policy.
Investors are waiting to see what kinds of rules will govern things like carbon-dioxide management, transmission-line siting and fracking for domestic oil reserves. Businesses are ready to make billion-dollar decisions regarding assets that will have a life of 40 years or more, but they donít know the rules of the road.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.