By Nancy Pelosi
The American people have made it clear: Our nation's top priority is job creation. No recovery can take place until we address kitchen table concerns of America's families: having a steady paycheck, being able to make ends meet, and helping our small businesses and entrepreneurs attract customers, grow, and hire.
This week, we've crossed the bridge from an obsession with the national debt and a real risk of default to a discussion of job creation. As the legendary Willie Nelson recently said: Americans are 'much more worried about ceilings over their heads these days than they are about the debt ceiling.' He's right; and Democrats know that nothing is more critical to Americans' economic security than good-paying jobs.
In Congress, our work must be putting people back to work. To meet that charge, Democrats have proposed our 'Make It In America' initiative, led by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. It presents ideas backed by both parties: to rebuild our roads, bridges, and rail lines; to invest in innovation, broadband, clean energy, and new technologies to create the jobs of tomorrow for our businesses and workers.
Make It In America is a manufacturing strategy designed to create jobs and keep America No. 1, and it will fulfill President Obama's goal to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. This is not a partisan agenda or cause; it is an American priority.
Take infrastructure, for example: Business and labor agree with the need to rebuild America by bringing the public and private sectors together. As the presidents of the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO said in a joint statement in January, infrastructure 'projects not only create jobs and demand for businesses, they are an investment in building the modern infrastructure our country needs to compete in a global economy.' One way to fund these projects, which has bipartisan support, is through an infrastructure bank.
Consider fairness in our trade relationships: In the last Congress, an overwhelming, bipartisan majority in the House passed legislation to demand China stop manipulating its currency and start playing fair in global trade -- an action that could create more than one million American jobs and enhance our economic and national security. On behalf of our workers, our entrepreneurs, and our small businesses, we can, and must, pass this legislation again.
This week's debt limit legislation created a new, bipartisan Joint Committee, which will soon begin deliberations on a comprehensive plan to reduce our deficit. Any real solution must put job creation and economic growth front and center. Any package must be balanced between revenues and spending cuts -- an approach supported by Democratic, Republican and independent voters. And we must hold true to our values, protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.
During more than 200 days in the majority, House Republicans have put our economy at risk by threatening a first-ever default on our debt and refusing to propose legislation to create jobs. Instead, they've passed bills that would destroy up to 2 million jobs -- nearly 10,000 jobs per day. And every time Democrats have brought a jobs initiative to the floor -- 10 times so far -- Republicans voted 'no.'
There's no better way to reduce the deficit than by creating jobs. We must focus squarely on getting our economy back on track, strengthening our middle class, and addressing the American people's kitchen-table concerns. Working together, it's time to place Americans' top priority -- job creation -- at the top of our agenda.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is the House minority leader.