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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first, I ask unanimous consent that at 4 p.m. the majority leader be recognized.
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I agree with my colleague and friend from Texas about the fact that people are scratching their heads. People in Michigan are wondering what in the world is going on right now. We are still trying to recover from a recession and we have a long way to go for most Americans--even though the unemployment rate has come down substantially in Michigan. At one point, we were at 15.7 percent, and that is just what you count, in terms of unemployment. Now it is 10.7 percent and going down. Still, it is way too high. Families are under water, their houses are under water, and they are trying to recover in terms of their incomes and hold it together and look for new work or job training. And what about the kids in college and all that comes with that? Some in the middle class may be struggling to stay in the middle class, or just get into the middle class.
Small businesses are wondering what the heck is going on around here when they are trying to, hopefully--folks who held on through the recession and trying to come back, trying to invest, keep the doors open, hire more people--they are wondering what in the world is going on here.
We are in a situation where these negotiations have now just become so political and the discussion so unrelated to what the budget is about and, most importantly, to what people care about. The political piece of this now, about pulling in issues around women's health care, is distracting us from getting a 6-month budget done, which is distracting us from what we ought to be talking about, which is jobs and the economy and putting people back to work and supporting small businesses to get the capital they need to grow. We are in a situation now where the whole process has been politicized to the point where it is extremely disappointing to me and extremely concerning.
What the bottom line ends up being is that middle-class families, veterans concerned about their disability claims, or seniors concerned about their Social Security or Medicare claims, or small businesses that are putting together loan applications or somebody trying to close on their house with FHA is being held hostage to politics that have nothing to do with the budget.
This latest distraction over breast cancer screenings and cervical cancer screenings for women and girls is just another in a long list of distractions from the budget crisis and, most importantly, from the focus that we need to have on creating jobs.
We have all agreed that Washington, just like every family, has to change the way it does business, has to focus on cutting the items that are not important, to focus on what is important. Every dollar that is being paid, every taxpayer giving a dollar has found it is a lot harder to earn that dollar than to give that dollar. We better be taking care of that dollar, stretching it as far as possible and focusing it on the things that are most important because those dollars are hard to come by these days. That is the reality.
We have come together. It has been a long time in coming, but we have come together. We have agreed on significant spending cuts, changes, while keeping a focus on education, innovation, and growth of the future. Now, at the eleventh hour, all of a sudden what was agreed to in terms of significant spending cuts to allow us to bring the budget together and focus on deficit reduction, somehow that is gone and we are now talking about whether women's health care will be funded in this country, whether women are going to be able to receive blood pressure checks, cancer screenings, and other preventive care efforts.
Is that really what this is about? Are we really going to hold middle-class families, small businesses, and veterans hostage over blood pressure checks for women and cancer screenings for women? Really? Is that what this is about? Stunning. This is absolutely stunning.
In the great State of Michigan, women's health clinics that at this point are proposed for elimination provided 55,000 cancer screenings last year, and there were 3,800 abnormal results. Women who found out those results early were able to detect their cancers early and get the treatment they needed to save their lives. It could be your mom, your grandmother, your daughter, your friend, your neighbor, somebody at church.
Is this really about telling women in communities across Michigan--in Marquette, Muskegon, Burton, Owosso, Three Rivers--that they cannot get their breast cancer screenings; telling women in Flint, Grand Rapids, Ypsilanti, and Sturgis that they cannot get their cervical cancer screenings; telling women in Warren, Brighton, Big Rapids, and Battle Creek that they cannot get their blood pressure checked or their cholesterol tested? Are Republicans really planning to shut down the government and hold middle-class families and veterans hostage in order to stop breast cancer screenings and cholesterol checks? Unbelievable. I think it is shameful.
It is time to come together and get this budget done. As I understand it, there was an agreement last night on the level of spending cuts. We need to get this done and move on to the real focus and debate we need to be having about how we grow the economy and compete in a global economy.
There could be a lesson learned from what people in my State have gone through and done in the last couple of years. We did not give up on the American automobile industry. With the support and help of our President and Members here, despite some incredibly tough times and difficulties in terms of cutting back that had to take place, we did not give up. Workers sacrificed cutting starting pay in half; retirees, the companies, the shareholders, communities, everybody got together and said: We know there is a big problem, and we are going to get this fixed, and we are going to sacrifice together.
Then we did an important thing with the support of people here, and I am very grateful for it. We said: We are going to invest like crazy in innovation. Because we did that, that combination of resetting the budget and the finances for the auto industry and then investing in innovation with the great help of our wonderful engineers and skilled labor force and a whole lot of smart people who came together with battery investments and retooling loans and are bringing jobs back from Mexico now and investments in new advanced manufacturing, we are not only growing and for the first time since 1999 the American companies are making a profit, but we are winning the awards. We are winning all the awards for top quality, the great vehicles of the future.
I suggest that would be a good model for us: Come together on what we need to do, push the reset button, come together and get our arms around spending, balance the budget, tackle the deficit, and then invest like crazy in the future, in innovation and education and rebuilding America.
Where we are today is extremely concerning to me because instead of talking about how we compete in a global economy, instead of talking about the United States vs. China, which is what we should be talking about, or Germany, India, or Korea, we are at a place where we are talking about whether the Federal budget and middle-class families will be held hostage in order to stop cancer screenings and research for women in this country.
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