Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I want to speak for a few moments about what has been happening all week here in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
First of all, this year we have seen a terrible string of natural disasters that have shut down businesses and left families homeless across America. As chair of the Agriculture Committee, I am certainly very concerned about the flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and the record droughts that have devastated the livelihoods of men and women who grow our food across America.
In response to that, the Senate, on a strong bipartisan basis, responded to provide the funding for FEMA to help with communities across America, 48 States, to be able to respond and be able to do what we always do as Americans--to be able to step forward and work together and meet these kinds of natural disasters and the help that is needed.
We sent that to the House. The House decided, on the other hand, that they not only would lower the funding amount, even though we know that means multiple times now having to keep churning to work something out, but they have cut the amount. Then they added to it an effort to cut in half a public-private sector effort that is creating jobs.
I know people in Michigan and people across the country would be scratching their heads, saying, Wait a minute. Did I hear this right? We are stepping forward to help families who had their house wiped out or their business wiped out or their farm wiped out or some other horrendous challenge because of natural disasters. In order to help them, the House Republicans are saying we have to cut jobs. That makes absolutely no sense.
I would say that while Michigan was very fortunate that we were not one of the 48 States that has lost, because of weather disasters, homes or businesses or jobs or families, we have had a different kind of disaster that has been going on. It is an economic disaster, it is a jobs disaster.
I find it appalling that, on the one hand, we see strong support on the other side of the aisle to rebuild homes and businesses and roads and schools in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are not saying there, well, gosh, we need to take away an effort to fund jobs or education here at home to be able to fund what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when it comes to helping people in America, somehow we can't work together and get that done without having to pit one State which has a jobs crisis against another State which has a flood or a hurricane or a drought. I don't find that to be very American.
I think it is time to stop playing politics. When hundreds of thousands of families and businesses have been devastated by unprecedented strings of floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, we ought to be stepping up, doing what we did in the Senate and passing a bipartisan bill to help those families, those businesses, those farms, without playing politics and trying to hurt other States that have been hit by other kinds of economic disasters.
We have 14 million people out of work in this country, and that doesn't count people working part time two jobs, three jobs, or trying to piece it all together in some way. We know it is much higher than that when you count those individuals and families. For each and every one of them, their job search is an emergency. It is an emergency every time they think about how to put food on the table for their family. It is an emergency every month when they have to scrape together the money they need for rent or to pay the mortgage. It is an emergency every time these men and women are filling out applications, every day going to job fairs, going on the Internet, trying to fill out forms, getting in lines, to find the best way to be able to get back to work. It is an emergency.
So, to me, it is outrageous that the House of Representatives--the Republicans in the House--has included a job-killing offset to what is an important disaster assistance bill, to pull the rug out from businesses across the country and put up to 50,000 American jobs at risk.
Let me tell you about what this particular program is. I am proud to have championed this and initiated it in the Energy bill back in 2007, a bipartisan bill signed by President Bush. It was slow to get going initially to get the funding. I am proud that President Obama embraced it and moved forward to be able to put in place an alternative vehicle manufacturing loan program to help retool plants in America so we wouldn't be losing the production of new, small plug-in electric vehicles and other new technology vehicles to other countries. It is a loan program to retool plants in America, and it is working.
In Michigan, these retooling loans made it possible for Ford Motor Company to save 1,900 jobs at their Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, MI, so they could build the all-new Ford Focus electric and the battery-electric Focus in America. In the process of that, between the retooling loans and our partnership with industry to invest in advanced battery technology, we are now bringing jobs back from Mexico.
How many times have I heard colleagues on the floor talking about how we want to make sure we are exporting products, not jobs, and that we want to bring jobs back? What the House Republicans have done is to cut in half an initiative with the private sector that is actually bringing jobs back from other countries. So far, 41,000 jobs have been saved or created through this effort around the country. Obviously, I care deeply about Michigan and have fought for this, but we are talking about Indiana, Illinois; we are talking about Florida and Louisiana and California, and all across our country where we are seeing communities have the opportunity to retool plants that would be idle, empty, an eyesore, and be able to bring those back with new technologies that are going to get us off of foreign oil and are creating jobs--41,000 jobs so far.
The real insult to me, as I look at what is happening to people in my State and across the country, is that they are poised to be giving out up to 11 additional loans to partner with business in the next couple of months that will create somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 new jobs, saving or creating new jobs in the next few weeks. And right when this is about to happen, the House Republicans are saying: Oh, no, in order to help the folks in Joplin, MO, who are wiped out as a community, we want to make sure we are not creating jobs in Michigan; that we are not creating jobs in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Louisiana, California, Minnesota, wherever it is; that somehow we have to pit Americans against each other. That is not the America I know and love.
In Michigan we don't have a weather emergency. But we stand with every single State on this floor, every single Member who has had one. We stand as Americans together to support people across this country. But we say, Stop, when that means that somehow an effort to make things in America, manufacturing, the backbone of our economy, is somehow attacked one more time and partnerships taken away in order to make that happen.
It makes absolutely no sense. That is what this debate is about. I wish to share some comments because we received a lot of support. I wish to share a couple comments, if I might, on the floor.
The National Association of Manufacturers has sent a letter opposing the defunding of this particular partnership and they say: ``Defunding the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program will hurt manufacturers and their employees.''
Everybody is spending a whole lot of time talking about jobs around here. Unbelievably, we are talking about defunding this program in the middle of talking about jobs, how we need to create jobs, how we need to support employers, and how we can compete internationally with countries such as China that say: Come on over. We will build the plant for you. Forget a loan you are going to pay back with interest; we will just build it for you. Come on over, and, by the way, we will steal your patents and manipulate our currency and make sure you get the toughest deal possible to compete with us. But that is what they do.
So we put together something to say we are going to partner with the private sector to be able to keep the jobs in America and it is actually working. Jobs are coming back. We are rebuilding communities. We are rebuilding plants. We are helping to get off foreign oil because we are focused on new electric vehicles and an advanced battery technology industry where, because of our efforts, from producing 2 percent of the world's batteries, we are on our way to producing 40 percent, having the capacity to manufacture and create 40 percent of the world's batteries within the next 3 years. Why? Because we have been working together in partnerships with industry, which is what our industry is competing against around the world.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said: ``The ATVM loan program ..... promotes manufacturing in the U.S. and is an important component of America's energy security.''
We all want to get off foreign oil. We do not want to be buying oil from folks we do not like and they don't like us and we can't trust them. We have an opportunity, through the efforts we are focused on around alternative vehicles and battery initiatives, to get off foreign oil.
This makes absolutely no sense to me. We have multiple other letters--the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, the Blue/Green Alliance--we have others who have come back and shared that as well.
We are at a moment when we know we need to pass a continuing resolution on the regular budget. We have a new process for a supercommittee to look at how we take on and tackle the issues around our national debt and economic growth. During the process that set that up, there was an agreement on the budget numbers. We have the ability to pass that now. We have passed a bill to help our citizens across the country who have had weather disasters, natural disasters. We came together in the Senate to do that. The House has that.
There is one thing standing in the way: whether at this time we are going to say to people in Michigan and in other States where the economic disaster has been overwhelming that we are going to pit their need for jobs against somebody else's need to have their home or their street or their school rebuilt.
That is not who we are in America. I do not believe Americans support that strategy. I think it is outrageous that there is a proposal that passed. I thank my House Democratic colleagues and my House colleagues in Michigan and the Democratic leadership in the House for waging a fierce battle to protect those jobs.
This is about making products in America. It is about rejuvenating an advanced manufacturing sector that is critical. We are not going to have a middle class if we do not make products in America. We are not going to have a middle class. This particular partnership, which is nothing more than a loan, repaid with interest, but it is support for our communities to rebuild--rebuild not in Afghanistan, not in Iraq but in America; rebuild communities and create jobs. It is working. It is beginning to bring jobs back. It is outrageous that they have decided to take half the funding for this partnership away.
I wish to support our effort to send over the continuing resolution on the budget we need. I thank my caucus and our leadership for standing firm and standing up for American jobs. That is what we care about. That is what we have been fighting for. Along the way, we are going to make sure we are doing everything we can to help citizens who have been so devastated by the natural disasters across the country.
I suggest the absence of quorum.
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