CONSUMER-FIRST ENERGY ACT OF 2008--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - June 10, 2008)
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, to review where too many families are today in our great country, we have 324,000 people--324,000 people--who have lost good-paying American jobs just since this January. Just this January, not last January, not the January before or the January before but just in the last few months, 324,000 more Americans--middle-class Americans, working hard every day and trying to keep up with the gas prices, trying to keep up with the mortgage payment, pay for food, send the kids to college, probably having a bigger health care bill--have lost their job and gone, probably, on unemployment compensation to be able to help their family to be able to continue. And, Mr. President, 72,000 of those individuals and families impacted come from my great State of Michigan, with 49,000 jobs having been lost since May, 17,000 of those lost in Michigan since April.
At the same time, we all know gas prices are now at $4 and going up, foreclosures nationally are over 702,000 homes this year, with over 31,000 of those in Michigan.
All of that is to say that we have a picture now of middle-class Americans, of those who believe in America, who are and who have been working hard every day, who want the American Dream for themselves and their families finding themselves being hit over and over again with one cost after another.
Even those who have not lost their jobs are concerned that they may. Will the plant stay open? Will the employers keep the same number of people on when their costs are going up? Too many people have gone from $28 an hour to $14 an hour, or $30 an hour to $10 an hour.
What we are seeing across the country is people who are desperately concerned about their ability to keep their standard of living and to remain in the middle class of this country. In many cases they are desperately concerned about simply being able to put food on the table, being able to get the money to put the gas in the gas tank so they can go look for the next job.
With this backdrop--and with millions of Americans saying: What about me? What about my family? What about some kind of action that will help my family, and understand what we are going through right now? With all of that as a backdrop, what we have seen today, once again, is absolutely outrageous. It is absolutely outrageous. Two very important bills were brought forward where we simply asked to be able to proceed to discuss them, and once again the Republican minority has said no. They blocked everything, stopped everything. No. No.
There is no sense of urgency, no sense of urgency about gas prices, no sense of urgency about getting off of foreign oil and energy independence. There is no sense of urgency about what is happening to families every single day.
It is amazing to me, when we look at the numbers. We have in fact had so many Republican filibusters we have to Velcro the chart. In the interests of conservation, in the interests of not having to print up multiple charts a day and waste good old posterboard, we actually have had to Velcro the numbers because they change so much. Twice today--we have now well exceeded what was a 2-year high in previous Senates in the over 200-year history of our great country. We did that last year.
What does that mean? This all sounds like insider process kinds of things--it is just folks talking about partisan politics. The reality is we are talking about whether the Senate is going to be able to move forward to debate issues and solve problems that people care desperately about. They do not care whether this is an election year or not an election year. They don't want excuses. They want us to get something done because they are trying to figure out how in the world they are going to be able to keep things going and make ends meet for their family in this great country we call America.
We have seen 75 different times that there have been filibusters that have been blocking our ability to actually get something done. What was filibustered today? What efforts were made to block us today? First, a very important bill, the Consumer-First Energy Act, to take on what is happening on gas prices. I know, talking with my family, home this weekend--folks were looking at me, saying: What in the world is going on? What can be done?
We have put together legislation multiple times to address it, short term and long term, as it relates to gas prices which are so outrageously high. But over and over again we are blocked. Why? Because the oil companies do not like it. That is what this is about. Unfortunately, the oil companies do not want to see us move in the direction of being able to tackle issues of whether there is, in fact, price gouging; whether there are in fact issues around speculation; whether we are going to have competition with alternatives to oil. They do not want us to do that. They do not want us to tackle the issue of the tax subsidies they receive.
What we see instead of action, as we could have had today, we see this past week oil prices at $140 a barrel, almost twice the price from last year. It is almost twice the price from last year, and OPEC says it could be $200 this year. Think about that when you are trying to get to work, trying to maybe take the kids to camp for that week or maybe trying to go to the grocery store or go looking for work or maybe take mom or dad or the kids to the doctor. We are talking about a huge burden that is building up and up.
Unfortunately, while gas prices now go over $4 a gallon, we are seeing an effort to, one more time, block commonsense efforts to do something about it for the families of America. Unfortunately, on the other side of the aisle, there has been a desire to make sure that we continue big oil tax breaks rather than addressing what our families need. Last year the big oil companies pocketed $124 billion in profits. It is fine to make a profit. We want companies to do well, to make a profit. But we also want to make sure when that is happening they are reinvesting in the economy, reinvesting in creating more supply. We want them to be reinvesting in new energy. Unfortunately, that is not happening.
We also want to have tax policy that makes sense in terms of where we want to invest in new technologies. The oil companies are doing pretty well, I suggest, right now. I do not think my tax money or your tax money or the tax money of any of the folks here or any of the folks around the country needs to be used to incentivize big oil, which is exactly what is happening right now.
They are doing pretty well. We have been trying and we have been blocked through Republican filibusters, to take away subsidies, taxpayer subsidies for oil companies and move them over to subsidize new, growing industries, green options, alternative energy--wind, solar, advanced battery technologies, consumer tax credits to buy the next generation of vehicles, the next generation of appliances. Those are the kinds of tax credits that encourage people to focus on energy efficiency and conservation in their homes, those things that will move us in the right direction. That is what we have been trying to do. And we have been blocked.
The bill that was stopped also creates a permanent tax on windfall profits for the major oil companies. If they are not going to invest in America and invest in our future and buy the next airplane or put it into more big bonuses, then we need to have a windfall profits tax that will redirect those dollars back so we can take them and invest in the future.
I see our distinguished leader on the floor and I am going to suspend for a moment, if I might. I know he has some important business he needs to do.
I yield to our leader and ask that I later be recognized to continue my comments.
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