TRADE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE ACT -- (Senate - December 19, 2007)
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, in a moment, I am going to offer a unanimous consent request to pass H.R. 4341, which is a 3-month extension of something called the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act. We call it TAA.
But first I wish to speak for a moment about this program, because when we talk about families, when we talk about middle-class families--people who love this country, who play by the rules every day, and want to know that they can take care of their kids and have a job and a home and all those things we want for our children--we have a group of people in this country who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves losing their job because of this global economy we have--something called trade, jobs being shipped offshore.
Certainly, I support trade. We all support trade. But I want to export our products, not our jobs. Back when the free trade laws were passed, NAFTA and others, there was a commitment made by the Federal Government to help those who are caught in the middle, who lost their job because of trade policy.
Their job goes away, and the Federal Government is the one passing these trade laws. So the Federal Government said: OK, we are going to help people transition to new jobs, to be able to get the help, the support they need--some help for health care in the short run and be able to go back to college, go to community college, go to trade school, whatever they want to do to be able to transition, to be able to keep their standard of living, and, again, to keep their way of life.
We are in a situation right now where the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program will expire at the end of this year, and we have been pushing very hard for a simple 3-month extension. The House sent to us a simple 3-month extension of the current law until we can revise and update the law.
Now, I have to also say, I am very pleased, as a member of the Finance Committee, to be working with our chairman, to have joined him in introducing a very important bill to improve trade adjustment assistance, to be able to expand what we can do to more adequately meet the needs of workers and families and communities and small businesses that are impacted by unfair trade situations or the loss of jobs through trade.
But, right now, we have an immediate situation, an immediate situation going on that will affect thousands--tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands--of Americans across the country if this law expires. We have been doing everything possible to be able to simply get a 3-month extension. We did that once back in September--a 3-month extension. We are asking for another 3-month extension so we can pass this broader, more up-to-date law that will help more people.
When I think about this issue, it is something that is shocking to me, to think we would even have to be struggling with our Republican colleagues about a 3-month extension. I think about Greenville, MI, on the west side of Michigan, a town of about 8,000 people, who saw their Electrolux plant--they made refrigerators--that employed 2,700 people--they did a great job; they worked in three shifts; they were making a profit--but the company decided they could make a bigger profit if they moved to Mexico.
After a lot of discussion with the State, myself, and others in the Federal Government--how could we help them be able to stay--they said: Do you know what. You can't compete with $1.57 an hour and no health benefits, no pension benefits in Mexico. So they left.
The people in Greenville, MI, have been counting on the Federal Government to keep its promise through trade adjustment assistance, to be able to help them pick themselves up and continue their lives.
This is not some theoretical debate. I know these people. I know people in communities all across Michigan who have been told: Gee, we are sorry this current race to the bottom in trade, where you go to the lowest wage around the world, is affecting you. We are sorry about this, but at least there is the thing called TAA, trade adjustment assistance, that can help you.
Well, right now this is running out. It may not be there for new people who find themselves in a situation similar to the folks in Greenville. That is outrageous. When we think about the obstruction that has gone on, on this floor over and over and over again, the 62 different filibusters, the obstructions, the objections that have gone on, you would think, a few days before Christmas, the holidays--a time of charity and good will--we could come together, that our colleagues would join with us and simply allow a current law to continue for 3 months--just 3 months. That is it; just 3 months.
Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues have held this issue hostage over a totally unrelated issue. They have wanted to tie this to a dispute regarding the FAA. Certainly, the FAA is important, but they want to tie it to a dispute there and are blocking our efforts to simply move forward on a 3-month extension of something that directly helps working people in this country--families, communities. It helps families be able to stay intact, be able to move into this new economy, new world that everybody is talking about that involves a different kind of trade policy.
Our leader has offered that we will deal with trade adjustment assistance, a 3-month extension, but also address the unrelated Republican FAA proposal on its own, that both would be dealt with but dealt with separately. For some unknown reason, that was not acceptable. There has been a desire to tie them together and to object to proceeding on this very important effort to support families and to make sure nobody falls through the cracks come January 1.
That is the least we can do in the Senate. If this program expires, unemployed men and women all around America are going to be in a position to be denied the help they need to be able to continue on with their lives. Those who are currently involved in the program will be able to continue to receive help, but I can assure you, coming from a State in great transition right now, with thousands of people falling into that situation, where they need trade adjustment help, we have people who have been waiting and waiting and waiting and will find themselves in a situation on January 1 with no help.
This is not acceptable. This is absolutely not acceptable. It does not have to happen. There is absolutely no reason for this. We have a simple House bill in front of us--no secrets; very simple. Very simple: extend this critical program through Christmas, through New Year's. Get us into the new year so we can work out any other differences and let families be able to know we understand and we are not going to use unemployed men and women, who are unemployed through no fault of their own--the plant picks up and goes to Mexico, goes to China, goes someplace else. This is not their fault. They want to work. They are great workers. They are going to continue to find a way to work. But to hold them as pawns at this time is shameful.
So, Mr. President, I am being told there is going to be a Republican objection. I received a note to that effect. I am told there is no one here who is able to object at this time. But due to the courtesies of the Senate, I will not ask, although I am very tempted, I have to tell you--but due to the courtesies involved in the Senate, and the rules of the Senate, I will not proceed to ask for unanimous consent because, in fact, I have received a notice that the Republicans will, in fact, be objecting one more time, one more time, one more time to our ability to support and help working men and women and their families for the next 3 months.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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