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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished chairman of the Finance Committee who I know is working so hard. There are so many different pieces of this that are so important to the American people.
I want to take a moment, after listening to colleagues--today and throughout the week--on the other side of the aisle, to talk about the fact that this package is strongly supported by the majority of our caucus and I believe the majority of the American people who know we have to do something different than what has been done for the last 8 years.
We have been debating whether to go back to policies that have been in place for 8 years--tax policies that have been passed on a number of occasions, over the last 8 years, under President Bush and when our colleagues were in the majority. We have seen those policies in place. We have seen the results of those, and they didn't work. I wish they had. My State of Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the country, over 10.6 percent, heading up to 11 very quickly. I wish they had worked because people in my State then would be working.
But that is not what has happened. The American people know that. The American people understand we have to do something different. I remember in those debates in the last 8 years when we came forward saying we need to put people to work by focusing on jobs directly, jobs rebuilding America, making sure we are focusing on jobs for roads and bridges and rebuilding water and sewer systems and rebuilding our schools and doing things that would directly stimulate the economy. But those were rejected with the same arguments we are hearing now, the same arguments.
We have talked over the last 8 years about the need to aggressively move to the new green economy so we are not only tackling our dependence on foreign oil but creating jobs in this new green energy revolution. There were the same arguments in opposition, on the other side of the aisle. We have put forward proposals to invest in our people, proposals to make sure that people who are hurt by this devastating financial and economic crisis--those who are unemployed or fearful of being unemployed, who cannot put food on the table and pay the bills and pay their mortgage--can get help. Too many times that has been rejected.
We now find ourselves here. There was an election where those policies were debated for a long time--not 1 year but 2 years. Those policies the American people took a look at, both sets of policies, and they said no. They said no to the policies of the last 8 years. They said no to inaction.
We all know we were talking 2 years ago about the fact that we had to address the housing problem, subprime lending, or we were going to see a rippling effect in the financial markets. There was inaction. Nothing happened. We find ourselves in a position today where we are seeing some 600,000 people now--that is the unemployment number for January; 500,000 the previous month, 500,000 the previous month. It is only getting worse and worse. Eleven million people in this country do not have a job and that is only the people we are counting.
We come to this point where, yes, there is a difference. I commend colleagues who are working together to get to the necessary 60 votes and are working in good faith. But fundamentally we have a difference in philosophy of how our economy should operate and, frankly, whom it should help. Our proposal, this President's proposal, is to make sure the majority of Americans, the overwhelming number of Americans who have been left out of this economy in the policies of the last 8 years get an opportunity to participate with job, jobs rebuilding America, jobs in the green economy, keeping our police officers on the streets, our teachers in the schools, retraining for the new economy and making sure people who have been hurt, devastated so much, get the help they need.
I urge us to join together in a new direction.
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I would like to engage my friend and colleague, the Senator from Washington State, in a colloquy.
I want to commend my good friend's work on behalf of America's workers, including the growing number of workers who have lost their jobs and need skill training and other services to secure good jobs in new or viable industries, including those that are retrofitting themselves to improve longer term global competitiveness. These industries promote energy efficiency, energy conservation, and environmental protection in such industries as advanced manufacturing, auto, aerospace, health care, and others.
As Senator Murray has rightly stated during conversations on this recovery bill, investing in job creation should be accompanied by investments in workers, an essential component to strengthening our Nation's productivity and long-term competitiveness. These workers include the increasing number unemployed or underemployed individuals across the country and the thousands of manufacturing workers who have lost their jobs, such as those in the aerospace industry and the automotive industry. In her role as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, we have worked together to help workers, particularly those in distressed industries, acquire the skills they need to secure family-supporting jobs in viable and emerging industries including the energy efficient and advanced drive train vehicle industry, the biofuels industry, and the energy-efficient building, construction, and retrofits industries. That is why I would like to clarify several provisions contained in the bill before us today that pertain to job training for workers. As the Senator knows, my home State of Michigan has experienced major economic dislocations from manufacturing plant closures and industry layoffs.
I would like to first ask the esteemed Senator from Washington State if it is her understanding that worker training in these industries would be eligible for consideration by the Secretary of Labor under the national emergency grant and competitive grant funding sections of the workforce provisions of this bill?
Mrs. MURRAY. Yes, the Senator from Michigan State is correct. It is my understanding that the Secretary of Labor will use these funds to help retool workers who have lost their jobs due to the recession and declining industries, including those in the green-collar industries the Senator mentioned.
Ms. STABENOW. Is it also the Senator's understanding that the most effective strategies in helping workers maintain and secure new jobs in emerging and viable industries, including the energy efficient and advanced drive train vehicle industry, the biofuels industry, the energy-efficient building, construction, and retrofits industries, and the aerospace industry are those supported by strategic partnerships among State and local workforce boards; institutions of higher education, including community colleges and other training providers; labor organizations; industry; and economic development entities that use sector or cluster-based training approaches for developing job training strategies and career pathway initiatives that lead to economic self-sufficiency?
Mrs. MURRAY. The Senator from Michigan is correct and makes an important point. Effective strategies for helping workers retool for jobs in viable industries should be informed by the critical stakeholders she noted. It is my hope that when distributing these funds, the Secretary of Labor gives due deference to those eligible entities with strategic partnerships among representatives from the affected industries, labor organizations, workforce investment boards, elected officials, and institutions of higher education, including community colleges and other training providers.
Ms. STABENOW. I would like to thank my distinguished colleague from Washington. I look forward to working with her in the future to ensure that investing in America's workers remains a critical component of our national economic recovery and growth strategy.
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