Congressman Bobby Rush

Representing the 1st District of Illinois

Rush Pushes to Move the 21st Century Workforce Legislation through the Committee Process

Feb 11, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), ranking democratic member of the Subcommittee on Energy & Power continues to put pressure on the Energy & Commerce Committee to increase funding toward training for manufacturing and energy jobs for underrepresented groups. In his opening statement at a markup yesterday, Rush urged the Committee to move the 21st Century Workforce Development bill through the legislative process. The bill would make training minorities, women, veterans, and displaced workers a national priority. It would also establish a clearinghouse for information on resources regarding training and workforce development programs.

In a subcommittee markup yesterday evening Rush addressed this concern. Below is a transcript of his remarks:

“Mr. Chairman, I must confess I am more disappointed with what is omitted from today’s package of bills than I am excited about what is included.

“Specifically, Mr. Chairman, my office has continuously worked with the majority on workforce legislation that both sides have previously expressed support for.

“In fact, less than a year ago this subcommittee held a hearing on the 21st Century Workforce legislation where we heard from witnesses representing organizations as diverse as the National Electrical Contractors Association to Hispanics in Energy, all strongly supporting the bill.

“In that same hearing, Mr. Chairman, Members on the majority side gushed over Charles Wilson, a young man from my own district of Englewood in Chicago, who had beaten the odds by overcoming his impoverished upbringing to become a Senior Nuclear Reactor Operator Trainer.

“Many colleagues from both sides of the aisle praised Mr. Wilson for his uplifting life story and remarked on how the 21st Century Workforce legislation would help to produce additional Charles Wilsons all across the country.

“So the question I pose now, Mr. Chairman, is what happened since then? Why has this subcommittee still not acted to move this commonsense piece of legislation forward?

“Mr. Chairman, tomorrow we will be marking up bills that will benefit selective industries from brick makers to coal refuse facilities.

“Additionally, the bills before us will make it easier for utilities to consolidate and merge and pipeline companies to circumvent the rights of property owners.

“Yet, where is the relief for communities that look like the one I represent? What is this subcommittee doing to help minorities, women, veterans, and displaced energy workers find good-paying jobs and careers?

“Mr. Chairman, I find it very difficult to explain to my constituents why this subcommittee has yet to move a bill that has publicly received such widespread, bipartisan support.

“In fact, not only has the 21st Century Workforce bill received public support from Members on both sides, but it also enjoys the support of stakeholders as diverse as the American Petroleum Institute, Halliburton, and BP, all the way to nonprofit organizations such as the American Association of Blacks in Energy, the National Urban League, and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.

“So again, Mr. Chairman, I must ask: what is the hold up?

“While it is a nice gesture that the subcommittee will mark up a bill that would finally, in 2016, strike offensive terms such as “negro” and “oriental” from parts of the federal statute.

“I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that for constituencies such as the one I represent, a much more meaningful and impactful message would be to actually provide opportunity and assistance to historically overlooked and underserved communities that need help the most.

“So, Mr. Chairman, I hope that by the time this package of bills reaches the full committee markup it will also include the 21st Century Workforce legislation.

“And if not, at the very least, I hope that these perpetually overlooked communities will receive an explanation as to why their interests are still not being addressed.

“Thank you and with that I yield back the balance of my time.”