With the dawn of a new year come new opportunities to meet existing challenges for our nation’s economy. We stand at a crossroads in history where we must rebound from an economic downturn the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time.
The foundation of our national economy is American small businesses — our nation’s strongest job creators. Helping them thrive is the most important thing we can do to fix our unemployment crisis and grow the economy.
Last year — my first as chairman — the Small Business Committee was a voice for our nation’s nearly 30 million small businesses. We provided oversight for small-business policies and programs that span more than 20 different departments and agencies in the federal government. We have focused on small-business issues related to regulations, complex tax policy, research and development, government inefficiency, export policies, federal contracting policy, Dodd-Frank regulations and the health care overhaul law, among others.
Last year’s legislative accomplishments included the introduction of two regulatory bills and the extension of various Small Business Administration programs. We reauthorized the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, two of government’s most effective programs for spurring innovative ideas among the small-business research-and-development community.
We held hearings on and advocated for the repeal of the 3 percent withholding requirement for contracting businesses and the health care reform law 1099 reporting requirement.
We kept the Obama administration accountable during oversight hearings with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the under-performing Small Business Lending Fund and an Office of Management and Budget official about the White House’s attempt to politicize procurement.
We also created a new interactive website, Small Biz Open Mic, to communicate with small businesses all over America.
And our work has just begun.
As we begin the second year of the 112th Congress, we will continue to push policies that encourage small-business job creation. Unemployment is still very high at 8.5 percent. The rate of “underemployment,” which represents people who want to work but have stopped searching and those who are forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, stands at a whopping 15.2 percent.
Our committee’s agenda for this year is an active one. We stand ready to evaluate the president’s proposal to consolidate several agencies and departments that deal with commerce, small-business lending and trade programs. In addition to overseeing the implementation of the free-trade agreements for small exporters, we will fight for policies that increase trade agency coordination and streamline the export process, to make it easier for small businesses.
One simple way to help small firms is by providing more opportunities through federal contracting. While several important provisions have been built into the federal procurement system to help small companies receive a share of government contracting opportunities, there is still more to be done on behalf of small contractors.
This year, our committee will produce legislation that will ensure small businesses have strong advocates and fair processes, which will allow them to compete for and successfully perform federal contracts — representing $536 billion in business. The legislation also adds transparency and accountability so that we can deter and punish bad actors.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.