Ms. STABENOW. I thank the Chair.
Mr. President, every debate we have in the Senate comes down to a question of values and priorities for all of us, how we spend our time personally, how we spend our time in the Senate, where we choose to put our efforts.
I wish to speak today about where I believe we should be putting our efforts if we are going to spend 30 hours of time speaking on the floor of the Senate.
First, I remind colleagues again, lest we get lost in all of the discussion of what we are talking about, we have, since I have been in the Senate, approved 168 judges. We have confirmed 168 judges, and we have said no to 4-168 to 4. Almost every one of those 168 I voted for.
We are talking about four people who currently have jobs who want to be promoted to lifetime positions as Federal judges. What I would like to spend my time talking about today are the 3 million people who don't have jobs. Three million Americans have lost their jobs during this same time period, in the last 2½ years.
What I want to spend my time speaking about are the 162,000 people and more who have lost their jobs in the great State of Michigan, most of those in the manufacturing sector.
I am very proud of the fact that Michigan is first in the Nation in the manufacturing of automobiles. About 31 percent of all of the automobiles that are made in this country and almost 17 percent of all the trucks made in this country are made in the great State of Michigan.
I am proud of the fact that we produce about half the office furniture. Three leading office furniture manufacturers in the Nation are based in Michigan. I am proud of our tool and die makers. I am proud of everyone in our small manufacturing businesses. Most of our businesses are very small with under 20 people in auto supply and in the tool and die industry. I know they are under severe crisis today.
We are under severe crisis in Michigan and in this country as it relates to our manufacturing economy. That is worth 30 hours of debate on the floor of the Senate. That is worth 30 hours of action on the floor of the Senate.
We cannot afford to lose our ability to make products in this country. That is what we do in Michigan. I am proud of the fact that we make products, we grow products, and we do it well. Give us a level playing field for our businesses and our workers, and we will compete and win. That is not happening, and I am deeply concerned about the stories after stories I have heard.
I wish to share a couple stories today. I look at the headlines: "2,700 jobs in danger as Electrolux considers closing Greenville refrigerator plant." This is in the Grand Rapids Press:
Electrolux Home Products announced today it may eliminate 2,700 jobs at Greenville refrigerator plant and shift production to Mexico.
That is all too common a headline, and it is something that is going on in Michigan.
Such a move would be a huge blow to the city of Greenville and Montcalm County, where Electrolux and its predecessors have long been the largest employers and among the largest taxpayers.
That is what we should be talking about: What is happening in Greenville and Electrolux.
"Ford sets a timetable for plant closings. Revitalization plan called for cutting 35,000 jobs."
Ford Motor Co. will close plants in Ohio and Michigan by year's end and another in New Jersey in the first quarter of next year.
It goes on:
Another factory in Ohio will end production in the next four years.
Not four people who already have jobs, but people who right now are working hard every day, 9 to 5 or longer, to earn a paycheck so they can have a good-paying job in the United States of America and send their kids to college, to afford their health care, to afford their house, maybe a cottage up north, which is something we like to do in Michigan, maybe a boat, maybe a snowmobile-those things that allow a good quality of life in our country. We are in danger of losing that when we lose manufacturing jobs.
"Straits Steel closing sad news for plant's 180 employees." This comes from Ludington.
We read in the Lancing State Journal: "Jobless rate could rise in the winter." There is more concern about what happens when we lose construction jobs in the wintertime.
I receive a lot of letters from people writing me and asking for help. They would love to see us spending 30 hours on the floor of the Senate not only talking but actually doing something to save their jobs and to support our manufacturers.
I would like to read you just one letter from Walker, MI:
I am writing to you in the hope you will read my letter. What I want to write you about is how much of our industry is disappearing. Factories continue to close or lay off. Often they leave the State and, even worse, they leave the country. A lot of these are American companies, like Lifesavers plant in Zeeland.
Yes, we need bankers, lawyers, doctors, and computer consultants. I am one. But that is not our strength. Our strength is in our industry, in our farms, in our shops. I live in Grand Rapids, MI, and I see a lot of construction, but it is all retail and restaurants. How can we continue to grow if we are all making only $8 to $10 an hour? Most of the time you can't even make that. Henry Ford knew that he had to pay his employees a living wage so that they could afford to buy his cars.
There is story after story coming from the State of Michigan, across the Midwest, and all across our country. They are asking for our help. With over 3 million jobs that have been lost-3 million, not 4-3 million jobs that have been lost, what is the response of the administration? We have had to fight to stop them from taking people's overtime pay. Can you imagine, 3 million people lose their jobs and what is the response? Take away the other people's overtime pay.
Then we have to fight to extend unemployment compensation for the people who have lost their jobs and are having difficulty finding new jobs. Of deep concern to me is what is happening as relates to a lack of a level playing field in China and Japan and other Asian countries. We know in the Banking Committee-and the esteemed Senator presiding today I know has expressed concerns as well as to what is happening to the currency manipulation in China and Japan. Effectively, we are seeing a tax on American goods and services sold in China and Japan, and they get a tax break here or a price break because of what they are doing. We need a level playing field.
We asked the administration to do something; join us; we know it is happening, and yet they refuse to step up and join us in the tough efforts that need to happen to give our businesses the level playing field they need to keep jobs in America.
We have seen a refusal to address the high health insurance costs. We need to create more competition with pharmaceutical drugs. We need to be working with our employers to lower health care costs, the No. 1 pressing issue that has caused layoffs, that has caused people to pay more in deductibles and premiums and has caused businesses to struggle to survive.
Let's talk about those issues that create jobs, that relate to our ability to have a standard of living that we have been accustomed to and deserve in this country. If people are willing to put in a day's work, they ought to be able to know there will be a good-paying job there so they can care for themselves and their families and they can do those things that will allow them to have the best possible life in this great country of ours.
Finally, we have seen a continual block over and over on the issue of increasing the minimum wage. An awful lot of folks working for minimum wage are women. They are women with children. They are working minimum-wage jobs, most often without insurance. They are paying for daycare. They are wanting to work and yet finding themselves in a situation that, no matter how hard they try, working 40, 50, 60 hours, they just can't make it because the minimum wage has not kept up.
So it is very concerning that we have seen a continual effort to block a simple $1.50 increase in the minimum wage for 7 million people living in the United States of America, who work hard and play by the rules and assume that if they do that, they will be able to succeed and care for their families. Seven million people need our help today with a $1.50 increase in the minimum wage.
Thirty-seven percent of those folks right now are seeking emergency food aid, and they are working. They are working, and yet they cannot make it and are having to ask for food assistance. So we over and again have asked for the support of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to address those 7 million individuals who work hard every day and believe in America and want to be able to be successful.
So I am very hopeful that we will be able to do that.
UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST-S. 224
At this time, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate now return to legislative session and proceed to the consideration of Calendar No. 3, S. 224, the bill to increase the minimum wage; that the bill be read a third time and passed, and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table.
Mr. SMITH. Mr. President, I would ask that the Senator modify her request so that just prior to proceeding as requested, the three cloture votes would be vitiated, and the Senate would then immediately proceed to three consecutive votes on the confirmation of the nominations, with no intervening action or debate.
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I would object.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator will not modify her request?
Ms. STABENOW. No.
Mr. SMITH. I would object.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The objection is heard.
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I am going to turn in a moment to my esteemed colleague from Connecticut who has been in this Chamber time and again, not only addressing the issue that brought us here but other issues as well. He is someone who has been fighting for those good-paying jobs. He is a consensus builder and problem solver and somebody who knows how to get things done. I am very grateful to be sharing this time with him today because of the wonderful leadership he brings to the Senate and the way in which his work has touched so many lives of people in Michigan as well as across the country.
In conclusion, I end as I started by saying what we do around here always relates to values and priorities. I hope we will choose to focus our time and attention on those things that affect the most people in our country, those things that are best to move our country forward and to keep the economic engine moving forward for all of us, that will at the end of the day allow us to say that what we did on the Senate floor today gave people an opportunity to work hard and create a better life for themselves and their families.
We are losing the manufacturing sector in this country. We need a sense of urgency about that. We need to act to give our businesses and employees a level playing field and address those issues that will allow them to keep jobs in this country. I hope as we are debating about 4 people, we will remember 3 million people who are counting on us to act.
I now yield time to my colleague from Connecticut.