DEMOCRATIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS -- (Senate - December 19, 2007)
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, as we bring the session to a close, I want to spend a moment speaking about how far we have come this year. Our leader, who was speaking about accomplishments, is someone whom we should all be thanking for his leadership in bringing us to a point where we have been making changes that affect middle-class families all across America in a very positive way. There is a lot more to do. We are anxious, frustrated, pushing hard, because there is a lot more to do. But we have made a great start. We have made a downpayment on the change families are asking us to make. It has not been easy because we have seen an effort of continually trying to block change, of filibusters which are a way to drag things out, slow things down, stop things from happening. It is quite extraordinary.
In the past, the highest number of filibusters was 61 over a 2-year period. Our Republican colleagues actually beat that in 1 year, 62 different times running the clock out, slowing things down. It was extraordinary to me as a member of the Agriculture Committee--and the distinguished Senator in the chair is also a committee member as well--to see almost 3 weeks of filibustering on the farm bill, an effort to address food security and energy security and move us forward on farm policy. Fortunately, we were able to get beyond that. But we have been able to get beyond this extraordinary wall of objections over and over again because of the amazing and consistent and dedicated leadership of our leader and all of those in leadership, our committee chairs and others who have been so dogged and diligent about wanting change to happen.
I did want to particularly recognize Senator Reid, who is more committed to our fight to maintain the American dream and quality of life for families and businesses and farmers and Americans all across the country than anybody I know. I thank him for that.
We have achieved tremendous gains. We have seen change happen. We have raised the minimum wage this year. We have created open doors in a real way for people to go to college--for low-income families, we raised the Pell grant twice this year--but also to make sure that middle-income students can afford to borrow at lower interest rates, cutting interest rates in half in order make it possible to go to college and have the American dream. We have passed so many different bills that address our safety and security and opportunity for families. There is so much more to do. But we are focused. As we come to the end of this year and we think about all of what is affecting families today, all the pressures that families feel, it is important to say one more time that we understand, we get it. We are working very hard because time is of the essence.
Frankly, there are things that should have been done that haven't been done. We are going to be right back at it in January.
I am proud of the fact that we have addressed one of the major concerns for families in Michigan and all across the country who face the loss of a home because of the mortgage crisis, because of predatory lending practices or other circumstances in which they find themselves in a situation of losing their home.
Last week on Friday we were able to pass FHA reform that will allow more people to get refinancing for their homes. This is an important step. I am pleased to have led the effort to make sure the law was changed so that if somebody loses their home or refinances below their mortgage value, they don't end up getting hit with another tax bill on top of losing their home. We have a lot of families right now who are coming up to Christmas. They don't have a place to put the Christmas tree. They don't have a home now, or they are worried about whether they will be able to have their home next Christmas. There are tremendous pressures that families are experiencing on all sides.
We have been able to take two steps to address that: one, to make sure that if a family finds themselves in that situation, they don't also have the insult of adding a tax bill to their economic crisis.
That is great. I am very proud of that. I am proud we were able to work together with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the House and in the Senate and the President. I commend the President for working with us on that issue. I am hopeful he will do more of that. We need him working with us on hundreds of things that will make a difference in people's lives. But I am pleased in this one area where we were able to do that.
People are feeling squeezed. As the distinguished Presiding Officer knows, people are feeling squeezed on all sides in their lives. Too many people are seeing their wages go down, if they have a job. They see their health care costs go up, their gas prices go up, their health care costs go up--all the costs--the costs of college going up.
One by one, we are addressing those issues. We are focused on making change happen, to help families working hard every day who want to make sure the American dream is there for their kids and for their grandkids, who love this country. They are people who love this country and say: Hey, what about us? Is anybody paying attention to us? The majority of Americans who are working hard every single day, following the rules, who love their family, love their faith, and want to know somebody is paying attention to their needs and their lives and their desire to have that American dream and to have the American way of life. So we understand that.
I am proud to be part of the majority that has made a commitment to address those things--whether it is bringing down the cost of college, raising wages, being able to address the costs of gas and energy; whether it is addressing food and nutrition and conservation and alternative fuels or the mortgage crisis.
The common theme for us is: Making change happen for middle-class Americans and those who love our country and want us to help them be able to keep that American dream, by having the rules be fair and having it make sense for them in this country.