(Senate - February 27, 2017)

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[Pages S1441-S1442]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                      CONFIRMATION OF WILBUR ROSS

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, today Mr. Ross joins the growing list of 
billionaires appointed by the Trump administration. It is not their 
wealth that concerns me, but their past conflicts with the agencies 
they are promoted to lead and support, providing guidance for policy 
and for administration of the laws. It is for this reason I cannot 
support Mr. Ross today.
  Every American has a stake in the strength of our economy. We rely on 
the Department of Commerce to facilitate trade, investment, and 
innovation in a direction that ensures long-term benefits for 
Americans. Today while the wealthiest among us continue to profit, 
middle class families are working long hours to pay their bills and put 
food on their tables. The cost of living is outstripping their family 
budgets, and we must get ahead of this curve.
  Mr. Ross has a background of buying fledging companies, and while he 
might turn around the profit margins of those companies, it is at the 
cost of American jobs. He has been called fair and practical, but has 
also committed his career in business by expanding in low-cost 
countries like Mexico and China. The economic policies of this country 
cannot be built on representing the interests of rich investors, but 
must also be creative in spurring job growth in American communities 
where industry has disappeared. We can shape our global trade policy in 
ways that benefit the United States, without having to do so under the 
assumption that the United States needs to operate in isolation in 
order to realize economic success. We can build industry at home, while 
partnering abroad in trade for our products. But it will take the 
commitment of the next Secretary to focus on our human capital as 
innovators and not as mere cost considerations.
  Although America's role in the global market is expanding, our 
closest trade partner remains across our northern border. Each year, we 
export hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of goods and services to 
Canada, making it our largest export market in the world. Vermont is an 
active contributor to this flow of commerce. Supporting initiatives 
that strengthen this partnership will benefit local businesses in 
Vermont and across the Nation. Mr. Ross wants to renegotiate the North 
American Free Trade Agreement, and while we can debate the merits of 
NAFTA, the talk of renegotiating this agreement without the partnership 
of Mexico and Canada has many Vermont businesses concerned about the 
implications for their future and for the Vermont jobs that depend on 
our export markets.
  We live in a global economy, and I work with Vermont businesses every 
day who rely on importing goods and materials in order to successfully 
create a final products that are a combination of U.S. and foreign 
made. This is the reality for many businesses today. I do not criticize 
the decisions a businessowner makes for the quality of their product. 
But every large corporation makes a choice between cheaper overseas 
labor and materials or investing in the workforce here at home for 
greater gains in the future. That is a choice that Mr. Ross has made on 
several occasions for the benefit of profits not workers.
  I have said it time and again, but America thrives when our middle 
class is strong. As Secretary, Mr. Ross will be expected to represent 
the interests of all Americans. I hope he takes this commitment 
seriously and works across party lines to create new industry and 
opportunity that take root in the very communities that suffer from 
lack of it. The Secretary of Commerce cannot look at individuals as 
statistics of profit or loss, but must understand the innovative spirit 
that brings opportunity where it may otherwise be lost.

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