GETTING RESULTS -- (Senate - November 06, 2007)
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise to respond to what has become a regular drumbeat in this Chamber in terms of the distinguished Republican leader and those on the other side of the aisle talking about how we have not accomplished anything this year, how the budget has not gotten done. It is important to continually remember what we have been dealing with as the new majority coming into the Senate in January, laser focused on changing the direction and the priorities of the country, laser focused on getting things done for middle-class Americans who are counting on us, who feel squeezed on all sides and see prices increase on gasoline and health care and the cost of college, all those kinds of things that come down on Americans as they are working harder and harder every day, maybe facing the loss of a job or having lost a job, lower wages, and so on. Those are the folks we are fighting for every day and, I am proud to say, getting results.
It is important to realize what has been happening since January. Despite all of the lamenting on the other side of the aisle about not getting things done, what we have seen are 52 Republican filibusters so far this year--unprecedented, the number of times we have had to vote to stop a filibuster. By the end of this week, it will be 53 or 54. It will continue right on, as there are efforts politically to stop what we are doing to change the direction of this country and focus on those things middle-class Americans care about every day and want to see fixed. In spite of that, we are, in fact, getting things done.
One of the areas I am proudest of is our refocus in the budget on keeping our promises to veterans. We heard this morning that we need to pass a veterans budget. There is no question about it. There is no question about the fact that we not only need to, but we will. But we need to also remember that when we came in in January, last year's budget wasn't done yet. The previous majority didn't get the budget done at all in 2006. When we came in and were left, frankly, with a budget mess, we made sure that in the process of keeping the Government going, public services going for the balance of the year, we addressed veterans first and foremost by placing dollars into what is called a continuing resolution because we know our veterans have not been getting the resources they need, brave men and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan every day who have not been able to get the health care they need, too many caught in unfortunate bureaucracies.
We heard about Walter Reed and those who are receiving military health care and then moving to the VA, and too many folks who are getting caught in that process and being hurt by the process. We have made veterans and keeping our promises to them and our military the highest priority. We addressed the issues that came up regarding Walter Reed and passed the Wounded Warrior provisions in the Department of Defense authorization that my senior colleague from Michigan, of whom we are so proud, Senator CARL LEVIN, helped lead. He led that, and we are making those changes.
In the budget--and I am proud to be a member of the Budget Committee, which has made sure this has happened under our great leader from North Dakota, Senator Conrad--we have said for the first time we are going to fund veterans services at the level the veterans organizations say we need. We are going to use the numbers they recommend. We have seen consistently under this administration an underfunding of those things which are needed by our veterans coming home, the top of which has been health care, mental health services, and rehabilitative services.
We, since January, have made veterans health care the top priority. I am proud of the fact that we have added dollars. We have addressed the system problems. We have looked at what we need to be doing for families, both of Active military as well as our veterans. We don't have any concern at all about standing up and saying that we have been putting our veterans first, despite filibuster after filibuster after filibuster. Anyone watching will see more this week. It seems to be the nature of things today. But we have increased the dollars, the resources, the commitment--keeping our promises to veterans. We have done that in the budget for next year. We have done that in the funding available now. It is part of our overall vision and commitment.
We are getting results for middle-class Americans. That is what we are all about, the folks who are sending their children, husbands, and wives to the war to fight for our country, coming home, expecting us to keep the promises the country has made as it relates to veterans. We take that extremely seriously. We are keeping those promises as part of our efforts to get results for the American people. We intend to do that in this budget we will pass, that will go to the President, that will be historic in that it is keeping the promises to our veterans that they expect us to keep.
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