U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware

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  • Report touts economic value of National Wildlife Refuge System

    Senator Coons joined National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth at a Congressional briefing on November 14, 2013 to share the findings of a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study on the economic benefits of the refuge system.

    (Above) Senator Coons joins National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth at a Congressional briefing on the findings of a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study.

    Every year, millions of bird watchers, hikers, hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts visit the National Wildlife Refuge System, our nation’s extensive network of preserved lands and waters dedicated to conserving wildlife.  President Theodore Roosevelt created the first wildlife refuge in Florida in 1903 and since then, the system has grown to a network of over 560 refuges encompassing more than 150 million acres.  In Delaware alone, every year more than 200,000 people visit Prime Hook and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuges, which represent some of the best examples of pristine tidal saltmarsh and wetlands on the East Coast.

    This week, Senator Coons joined National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth at a Congressional briefing to share the findings of a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study of the economic benefits of the refuge system.  The report entitled, “Banking on Nature” quantifies the revenue generated for local and regional economies by refuges across the country, including Delaware’s very own Bombay Hook and Prime Hook.  From 2006-2011, over 46 million people visited the National Wildlife Refuge System generating a total of $2.4 billion in economic output. Considering that every $1 of investment in the refuge system yields around $5 for the economy, national wildlife refuges are among our most productive national investments.

    Wildlife refuges fuel the economic growth of surrounding communities by attracting visitors that support local economies when they pay for travel arrangements and buy food, supplies, accommodations, and other products and services. Refuges also give visitors and nearby residents access to the sights of waterfowl migration and gorgeous views of the landscape, which are free for all to enjoy. Additional ecosystem services provided by our coastal refuges include water filtration, flood mitigation, and healthy fish populations, solidifying their place as valuable natural assets.

    In October, Chris led a resolution with Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) recognizing the importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  The bi-partisan resolution, S. Res. 296, to designate the week of October 13th, 2013 as National Wildlife Refuge Week was adopted November 14 by unanimous consent.  Chris led similar resolutions designating National Wildlife Refuge Week in 2011 and 2012.

  • In budget conference, Senator Coons advocates for investments that sustain growth

    At the second meeting of the budget conference committee Wednesday, Senator Coons questioned Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf about the impact of Congress’ current spending decisions on the nation’s economic competitiveness and the long-term unemployed.

     “You've testified before that not all cuts are the same, and that there are some ways in which we are cutting that are hurting our long-term competitiveness,” Senator Coons said. “That short-term cuts in things like education, or infrastructure, or research and development produce longer-term reductions in our capacity, and that we should be prioritizing things that will accelerate growth – that we should not be simply trying to get through this difficult fiscal time in a way that focuses on austerity; that we should also be investing in a way that sustains growth.”

    When asked about policies that could accelerate growth and help the long-term unemployed, Director Elmendorf said, “Of all non-defense discretionary spending, half represents investment of some sort. About 20 percent of non-defense discretionary spending is investment in physical capital, such as highways, another 15 percent goes for education and training, and about 10 percent goes for R&D, such as health research. Over all, we think those investments help to build a stronger economy in the future and cutbacks in those investments would reduce output and income in the future.” 

    The problem of long-term unemployment, Elmendorf noted, also “has important economic effects over time… It poses a very large risk of there being some set of people who will not find their way back to work at all or will not find their way to the productive sort of work that they were in before they lost their jobs.”

    Elmendorf said the CBO has “reviewed the evidence on a large number of different ways of trying to help people get back into the labor force,” a number of which “have been successful on a small scale and have not been tried on a large scale.” Elmendorf pledged to work with Senator Coons on developing policies that help the long-term unemployed get back to work.

    Watch the entire exchange: 

  • Senator Coons touts job growth potential of startups on Morning Joe

    Senator Coons appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Friday to talk about his bipartisan work in the Senate to help innovative startups grow and create jobs. Between 1980 and 2005, all net new jobs created in the U.S. were created by firms five years old or less. Watch below.

  • Senator Coons Designates American Technological Innovation Day

    A bipartisan resolution sponsored by Senator Coons declaring October 29, 2013 to be “National Technological Innovation Day” was adopted by the Senate Monday. The declaration recognizes the important role of technological innovation in job creation and the U.S. economy, and was timed to celebrate the anniversary of ARPANET, the Internet’s precursor, created on October 29, 1969. The resolution was led by Senator Coons and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, including Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga).

    “America has produced some of the world’s most transformative technological innovations that have helped our economy prosper while advancing societies across the globe,” Senator Coons said. “I hope that National Technological Innovation Day will encourage Americans across the country to pause to appreciate the great work of those who came before, and rise to the challenge of becoming the next generation of inspirational American thinkers and inventors.”

    A significant portion of our economy’s growth can be traced to new innovations. Since our nation’s founding, American innovators have produced the light bulb, the polio vaccine, the transistor (the main component of a computer chip), communications satellites, Global Positioning System, and the Internet, to name just a few. National Technological Innovation Day recognizes the role of America’s innovative spirit in individuals who have started successful companies and pushed the frontiers of science in the lab. More than one-third of Nobel prizes awarded, 347 in total, have gone to American citizens, reflecting the domestic culture of achievement we have created.

    The resolution designating National Technological Innovation Day calls on individuals to observe the day by participating in activities that celebrate the history of innovation in the US, such as educational events and exploration of how modern devices work. It also encourages American youth to continue to enhance the future by pursuing invention and entrepreneurship.

  • Senator Coons, colleagues launch Manufacturing Jobs for America

    Senator Coons and 11 colleagues held a press conference on October 29, 2013 to announce the launch of Manufacturing Jobs for America, a campaign to refocus Washington's attention on manufacturing jobs. The effort comprises 40 bills from 22 senators, many of which are bipartisan, that will help America's manufacturers grow and prepare American workers for careers in advanced manufacturing.

    Chris opened the press conference, discussing the need for progress on legislation that will strenghten America's modern workforce, secure a more level global playing field, expand access to capital for new and smaller-scale manufactuerers, and establish a national manufacturing strategy. Citing the success of Miller Metal Fabrication in Bridgeville, Delaware, which has won manufacturing work back from China, Italy, and other countries, Chris urged renewed bipartisan efforts to accelerate America's manufacturing revival.   

    Participants in Tuesday's press conference included Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

    Watch Chris' opening remarks:

    Watch a highlight reel of senators' remarks at the press conference:

    Watch the full press conference:

  • Senator Coons supports bill to protect U.S. helium supply

    Though most Americans associate helium with balloons, a potential shortage of this critical element would mean more than just the loss of a popular party fixture – it would do real damage to our economy. That’s because helium has important applications in our everyday lives, with uses in arc welding, scientific research, microchip production, MRI scans, fire extinguishers, and tires. It is also used in nuclear reactors, space exploration, superconducting magnets….and yes, blimps and birthday parties. That’s why Senator Coons was proud to support legislation that passed the Senate on September 19th to ensure that a stable supply remains available for critical industrial, medical, and scientific activities dependent on the gas. 

    On October 2nd, President Obama signed the Helium Stewardship Act to guarantee the continued federal management of the nation’s helium reserves, located in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The program was set to expire on October 7th. Chris is pleased that both the House and Senate were able to act in time to provide continued management of this critical resource.

    The existing Federal Helium Reserve (FHR), managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, stores 42 percent of the nation’s supply, about one-third of global helium reserves. The FHR is the world’s only helium gas stockpile, and is located just outside of Amarillo, Texas. The Helium Stewardship Act permits the BLM to continue to sell helium from the national reserve to the private sector, relieving Delaware’s many industrial, medical, and university users of the fear of a national helium shortage.

    The Federal Helium Program was created in 1925 to secure supplies of a safer, non-combustible alternative to hydrogen for use in buoyant aircraft for the military. As further uses were discovered for the gas in the post-WWII period, the U.S. Government began to purchase helium and store it in an empty gas reserve in Texas. The stockpile of unrefined “crude” helium has been stored at the Bush Dome Reservoir in Amarillo, Texas since the establishment of the conservation program with the passage of the Helium Act Amendments of 1960.  The FHR was established as part of the country’s cold war efforts, recognizing helium’s historic strategic importance in lighter-than-air aviation in the 1920’s. The FHR was intended to provide a ready supply of helium for the rapidly expanding needs of defense, the space program, and scientific research.

  • Fitch Ratings warns of U.S. credit downgrade

    As the United States lurches closer to the debt ceiling deadline, Fitch Ratings, one of three major ratings agencies, has placed the United States credit rating on a Rating Watch Negative.  Ratings are placed on rating watch to notify investors that there is a reasonable probability of a ratings change.  According to Fitch, the federal credit was placed on negative watch because “political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default.”  Some of the other reasons include:

    • The United States Treasury Department may have a limited capacity to make payments after October 17th, but the inflows and outflows will be volatile.  Delays in payments of obligations would damage U.S. creditworthiness and the economy.
    • The prolonged negotiations are undermining confidence in the role of the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency.
    • The repeated brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling damages confidence in the U.S. government and political institutions. 

    Asked about the possibility of a first time U.S. default, Senator Coons told reporters Tuesday, "We are coming bracingly close to the edge. I think we're looking over it now. We're in very dangerous territory."

    During the last debate over paying our bills in July 2011, another ratings agency, Standard and Poor’s (S&P) issued a Negative Credit Watch.  Following a protracted debate which extended into August 2011, S&P announced a downgrade from AAA to AA+, where our credit rating stands today. 

    According to S&P in 2011, “The political brinkmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed.  The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.”  In response to S&P downgrading the United States’ creditworthiness, the S&P 500 dropped 6.7 percent in a single day, marking one of the largest drops in history.  Globally, investors lost $1.35 trillion in one day.

    United States Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said that the government will exhaust its ability to reliably pay our obligations on October 17th.  If the debt ceiling is not raised, nonpartisan analysts expect the U.S. Treasury to run out of cash to pay our bills sometime in the two weeks following October 17th

    "I'm stunned," Senator Coons said. "I think this is really reckless. There is no better option for us going forward than to reopen the government, pay our national debt on time, raise the debt ceiling, and honor our obligations as a country.”

    Credit Rating
    Debt Ceiling
    Government Shutdown
  • Video: Senator Coons warns about threat of default

    Senator Coons spoke on the Senate floor again on Monday, this time warning Delawareans about the looming threat of defaulting on our nation's debts. It was a sober and, at times, chilling look at what will happen, when it will happen, and what our potential paths forward really look like. He explains why "prioritizing" our debt, as some in Congress have recklessly suggested was a way to bypass the debt ceiling, would actually do more harm than good to our economy and our communities.

    Debt Ceiling
    Social Security
  • Video: Senator Coons speaks about the government shutdown

    Senator Coons spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday about the consequences of Congress' inability to avert a federal government shutdown. In his speech, Senator Coons shared three letters he's received from Delawareans affected by furloughs and the suspension of important government services and called on Speaker Boehner and House Republicans to take up and pass the bill that would reopen the government.

    Affordable Care Act
    Government Shutdown
  • Senator Coons salutes National Employ Older Workers Week

    The week of September 22-28, 2013 is National Employ Older Workers Week. As the number of Americans aged 55 and older continues to increase, it is important to recognize the growing role that older workers will play in Delaware’s economy and in the labor force across the country. In fact, older workers are the fastest-growing sector of the American workforce, and by 2014, Americans aged 55 and older will make up over 21 percent of the U.S. labor force. These hardworking men and women bring a tremendous amount of experience, dedication, and skill to their jobs and serve as role models for all workers.    

    To recognize National Employ Older Workers Week, and to honor and support older workers in Delaware, Senator Coons intends to cosponsor the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (S. 1391). This bipartisan bill would help protect older workers by reversing a recent Supreme Court decision that raised the burden of proof for employees bringing discrimination claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This critical piece of legislation is essential to ensuring that older workers have the same rights as other Americans under the law and to creating an equal playing field in the workplace for older Americans.

    Senator Coons is also a proud cosponsor of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 2013. This bill would reauthorize the original Older Americans Act of 1965, which provides federal funding to support a wide range of social services and programs for older persons. The Older Americans Act includes the Senior Community Service Employment Program, our nation’s only federal program specifically dedicated to helping low-income, unemployed adults aged 55 or older gain the job skills and training they need to find full time employment. The program plays a critical role in providing training, supportive services, and job search assistance to Delawareans. Senator Coons is committed to supporting this program and all employers and organizations that employ and assist older workers in Delaware.

    Older Americans
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