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Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I rise to speak about the position we find ourselves in as we come to the end of the year. Despite the incredible successes we have had with the recovery act and equal pay and the Children's Health Insurance Program and so many other areas where we have been focused and working hard to make a difference, every step of the way, as with the current bill, we have been faced with stalling tactics, objections, and filibusters. Now with the very important Department of Defense funding bill, we are in a filibuster again. I had to make the motion I offered because we will have to come in at 1 o'clock in the morning and have a vote to stop a filibuster. That is what this is all about, filibustering a bill that has a pay raise in it for our troops, that has help for military families, that has the funding for the next year--we are in the middle of two wars--essential funding that is needed to support our military. As our Presiding Officer knows, having been a leader on this as well, we also have placed into this bill provisions that are incredibly important for families, extending unemployment insurance for families across the country who find themselves in a situation not of their making where their job has gone away or they have been laid off because the company can't continue to employ them, maybe because of rising health care costs, which is certainly part of the equation. People are finding themselves in a situation where due to nothing they have done other than be a good citizen, care for their kids and follow the rules, they are without employment. We have this year extended unemployment insurance--and I am so grateful that President Obama has been willing to do this, has helped to lead this in the recovery act and then again as we ended a filibuster, a month-long filibuster in October, brought that to an end in November to extend unemployment insurance. We find ourselves again, because of the unemployment situation, even though we see it getting a little bit better, with a long way to go. We are moving in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. This bill would extend for 2 months unemployment insurance that is critical for families. It would also extend help with health insurance. We are debating the larger health reform bill to create a way for families to be able to afford insurance and for us to bring down costs over the long run for businesses and for families.
This bill in front of us that is being filibustered by the Republicans would extend help for health care, for health insurance, for COBRA payments--a program put in place that made a lot of sense. If you lose your job, you could pay on your own to continue the coverage. But it is incredibly expensive.
So recognizing that, and recognizing how tough it is when you lose your job and you are in a situation--it is either savings or unemployment insurance or both--and you are trying to make the mortgage payment and care for the kids and put food on the table and pay the electric bill and all of the other things, and then to add a several hundred or several thousand dollar payment for COBRA on top of that has not been realistic for families. So we have placed a 65-percent subsidy, to help families get through this tough time, for health insurance. We also have assistance for food for families who, right now, again, have never had to ask for help before in their lives but now have a situation where they cannot put adequate food on the table for their children.
This bill is very important, and what we have in front of us, unfortunately, is another filibuster, another objection--like we have seen all year--to stop us from moving forward to fund our military, to support our troops with a pay raise, to help military families, and then to do a number of other things that are critical to do in the short run until we get into the new year and are able to focus more broadly on these things.
As the Presiding Officer knows, this is not the first time this has happened. We have had from the party of no 98 different objections this year. This is a record, a world's record I think: 98 different times that we have seen them objecting, filibustering, having stalling tactics to moving forward on things that ought to be bipartisan.
These are not Democratic issues when somebody has lost their job or when a small business needs help or needs health insurance they can afford or when a family finds themselves in a situation where they need to be able to have help to continue their health insurance or put food on the table. This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, this is American.
We have Democrats, Republicans, Independents, people who do not have a party, people who are not active politically, people who vote, people who do not vote. They are losing their jobs. They expect us to get it. They expect us to have a sense of urgency around here.
The troops who are serving us right now, who are in tougher times than we will ever face, are not saying what matters is whether you are Democrat or Republican as to whether we fund the troops and fund the Department of Defense and give them a pay raise they have earned and need or to help their families. They are saying: Come on. Come together. Solve problems. Get things done.
But yet, over and over--and we find ourselves tonight where we are going to be stopping a filibuster at 1 o'clock in the morning on a bill to fund the Department of Defense, on a bill that would help families get through the holiday season, keep a roof over their head, pay their heating bills, and keep food on the table.
To dramatize this even more, it is stunning to think about the fact that out of the 40 weeks we have been in session this year--40 weeks--for 36 of those weeks, we have had filibusters or stalling tactics, objections to amendments or objections to bills being put on the floor. That means only 4 weeks out of the entire year we have been in a situation where the Republicans have not been saying no, have not been stalling on things that are incredibly important.
Even with all of this, by any objective measure, there has been more accomplished this year than in any other time since the Great Depression. We need to be accomplishing more and faster because people have a tremendous sense of urgency about what is happening in their lives right now. So we need to be acting. Think of what we could have gotten done. We have all the things that have gotten done and have been addressed. Think about what we could have gotten done if we did not have 36 weeks of filibusters that we had to deal with and objections we had to deal with.
I hope, as we are going through this new year, there will be a sense that it is time to get things together here and work for the common good and put people back to work and tackle their health care costs and make sure people can afford to have health insurance.
Let me close by sharing a story from Annette from Lake Orion, MI. She says:
After a successful 21-year journalism career, I was laid off in May when my newspaper closed. I will turn 60 in October and am a 12-year survivor of breast cancer. My husband, who is 62, is on my health insurance.
Thankfully, the federal government is helping [us] pay for our COBRA, which would be more than $800 a month.
Senator, we're not pleading poverty. But it's easy to see the dilemma of many Americans in our shoes: Risk going without health insurance, you risk bankruptcy if someone gets sick. Pay the current price, and watch your life savings, which were supposed to support you in [your] old age, dwindle down.
Don't listen to those screaming to maintain the status quo; it doesn't work for too many Americans.
We have story after story where people are facing an early retirement--not by choice--dipping into retirement savings to try to keep their health care going. Young people, old people need us to act now, and I am urging Congress to act now.
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