Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Motion to Proceed -- (Senate - November 15, 2007)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. STABENOW. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
THE FARM BILL
Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I rise to speak about the importance of the farm bill. I also wish to express the same deep concern about what is happening on process in the Senate, as so many of my colleagues and the majority leader have. This is the second week we have been trying to pass a food and energy security bill that is important for every community. The process that has gone on, frankly, since the beginning of the year, is one of delay, slow walking, and filibusters over and over again.
Yesterday, I showed a chart that read ``52 filibusters so far this year.'' Tomorrow we have potentially three more votes to close off filibusters. One relates to funding on the war that is tied to a policy change the majority of Americans want to have happen to move our men and women out of the middle of a civil war, to refocus us instead on the critical areas of counterterrorism, training, support for Americans who remain, those things the majority of Americans want to see happen. We have to stop a filibuster on that tomorrow morning. We then have two votes potentially on stopping filibusters on the farm bill. So my ``52'' is, as of tomorrow, potentially 55 filibusters this year.
We have never seen the level of filibustering that we have had in the current session of the Senate with our friends on the other side of the aisle.
In spite of the slowdown, in spite of the blocking of efforts to vote on amendments and to get a farm bill done last week, in spite of efforts this week, I am proud to say that yesterday we were able to work together to pass a reauthorization of Head Start. This is something that was done on a bipartisan basis. It will go to the President. We expect him to sign it. It will increase standards for teachers and extend resources so more children can receive Head Start funding. Head Start is so important to prepare children for school, to give them a head start. It is a wonderful program that involves parents being a part of the effort of preschool education. Despite what as of tomorrow will be 55 filibusters this year, we once again have put forward something that is important to the American people--investing in our young children, getting them ready to go to school. The Head Start bill did pass. I am pleased it did.
Concerning the farm bill that is in front of us, we have worked so hard together. We have a bill that came out of committee unanimously, a strong bipartisan effort to not only support traditional agricultural commodities but also to move us in new directions for the future. I am pleased, in addition to traditional farm programs that are supported in Michigan, that we were able to add support for the 50 percent of the crops grown that haven't been under the farm bill; specialty crops, fruits and vegetables are now a part of this farm bill. That is important.
We have also tied that to a partnership to expand nutrition, a significant new program expansion--it is beyond a pilot--the chairman of the committee has let in on fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks in schools, rather than children going to a vending machine and getting soda pop or candy. There are many parts of this farm bill that focus on nutrition. In fact, most people will be surprised to know the majority of the farm bill, over 60 percent, is in fact focused on nutrition. We need to get this done. We need to get this done both for our growers as well as for children, seniors, food banks that receive help, farmers' markets, organic farmers. This is very important.
We also in this farm bill have done something very significant--I notice our chairman from the Finance Committee on the floor who has led us in this, he and our ranking member--and that is creating a permanent disaster relief program as a part of the farm bill. I am very pleased that fruit and vegetable growers will be able to participate. We need to be able to respond quickly when there is a disaster--a flood, a drought, other kinds of disasters.
We also have moved this farm bill more aggressively in the direction of alternative energy, alternative fuels, biofuels. This is important in getting us off gasoline, off oil, when we look at prices continuing to rise every day. It is also a way to create jobs. In Michigan, we are creating hundreds of jobs now, with thousands to come, from ethanol plants and biodiesel plants. As we move to cellulosic ethanol, we will be able to create new opportunities for my sugar beet growers and the folks up north who are involved in timber and wood products, as well as switchgrasses and other areas. This is important. It is time to get this done, alternative energy for the future, addressing our energy needs, supporting our farmers.
I am proud also that American car companies within the next 3 years, by 2012, half of what they produce, half of what they manufacture will be flex-fuel vehicles, ethanol, other flex fuels.
We need to get this farm bill done to be able to support that effort.
Rural development is a critical part as well. I have small communities all over Michigan that would not have water and sewer projects if it was not for USDA rural development--another critical part of this bill.
I would simply say we have seen now, since last week, delay after delay after delay on giving us the opportunity to move forward and get this farm bill done. Now is the time to do that. I hope tomorrow we will vote to stop filibustering, we will vote to proceed to a critical bill.
Folks think the farm bill is only about rural communities, but all of us are impacted by every part of this farm bill. We need to get this done. It is time to get this done. I do not want to keep having to change this chart over and over again, although I fear I will, on how many times there is delay, how many times there is filibustering going on.
We have a farm bill in front of us that needs to get done for all of us. It has been done in a truly bipartisan way. It has very broad support. Now is the time to get this done for our American farmers and our families.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT