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Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed--Resumed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, I come today to talk--as my colleagues have discussed--about the fact that Republicans in the House of Representatives seem ready to pack it in for the year.

Led by their majority leader and by the ``my way or the highway'' philosophy they have stuck to all year, they have signaled that they have given up on the work of the American people.

From our yearly responsibility to pass appropriations bills, to legislation that would create thousands of good-paying construction jobs, to efforts to stop an impending student loan hike, to a bill that would protect vulnerable American women from violence, House Republicans have now indicated they would rather kick the can down the road.

It is unfortunate that this is their attitude--not just for our college students or construction workers looking for jobs or women at risk, but it is statements such as the one the House majority leader made that make every American shake their head. That is because as American families come together around their kitchen table to make tough decisions about their mortgage or how to make tuition payments or even about how they are going to afford groceries, they want to see us coming together to make similarly tough decisions.

But as Leader Reid and my other colleagues have made clear: It is tough to legislate from only one side of Capitol Hill. It is tough to address the issues affecting everyday Americans when House Republicans are more interested in drawing dividing lines than coming to the middle. It is pretty tough to create jobs and help our economy rebound when House Republicans are more focused on next year than on the bills that are stuck in their Chamber today. And it is impossible to do anything about the looming fiscal cliff we face when House Republicans continue to show they do not get that it will take a balanced approach to fix.

The bottom line is we need a partner in legislating, and it appears from comments such as those that were made this week that hope is quickly fading.

What is particularly concerning about House Republicans wanting to shutter their Chamber for the year is the fact that bipartisan, commonsense Senate legislation is languishing there. Bills that have gotten support from overwhelming majorities, and that were carefully crafted over months of negotiations, are in limbo for no good reason.

In fact, what I would like to do today is highlight two important numbers to illustrate what I mean. The first number is 68. Madam President, 68--that is the number of Senators who voted to pass a bipartisan, inclusive bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It is a total that includes 15 Republican Senators who, like the vast majority of Americans, agreed with us that we not only need to reaffirm our commitment to protect those at risk from domestic violence but that we also need to improve and expand protections. Those are 68 Senators who came together to say that our commitment to saving the lives of victims of domestic violence should be above politics; 68 Senators who said we cannot allow partisan considerations to decide which victims we help and which we ignore;

68 Senators who sent a strong bipartisan message to the House that we can come together to strengthen protections for all victims, regardless of where they live or their race or their religion or gender or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, it is a message that Republicans in the House have ignored. True to form, instead of taking up our bipartisan bill, Republicans have passed a bill that leaves out both the additional protections for vulnerable women and the delicate compromises we achieved.

Men and women across our country see the headlines that Leader Reid pointed out earlier. They know their protections are at risk, and they are at risk not because the Senate cannot come together but because House Republicans refuse to join us.

The second number I wanted to highlight today is 74. That is the number of Senators who came together to send a bipartisan transportation jobs bill to the House; 74 Senators who voted for a bill that will create or save millions of jobs in the country today; 74 Senators who said that politics should not get in the way of our economic recovery or the need to fix our crumbling infrastructure; 74 Senators who got behind a bill that was the product of intense and long negotiation between Senators we know often did not see eye to eye but who did come together to pass a bill that could truly be called a compromise.

Yet here we are, months after this bill was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, and it, too, is now the subject of political games in the House. Another bill that should never be considered political has become part of their grandstanding routine. It does not have to be this way. If Republicans can set aside politics and stand up to their tea party base, we can protect victims of domestic violence. We can pass a transportation bill. We can stop those tuition hikes. We can pass our appropriations bills.

In fact, we can even come together on the big issues that House Republicans have indicated they believe can only be resolved after an election. If Republicans are ready to admit it will take a balanced and bipartisan deal to avoid that fiscal cliff, we can make a deal tomorrow. But on this issue, Republicans have not just refused to meet us in the middle. They will not even come out of their corner.

We all know a bipartisan deal is going to be required to include new revenue along with spending cuts. Unfortunately, Republicans are singularly focused on protecting the wealthiest Americans from paying a penny more in taxes. Democrats are ready. We are willing to compromise. We know it is difficult, but we have to have a partner to do that.

Republicans need to understand that the fiscal cliff is not simply going to disappear if they close their eyes and wish hard enough. We are going to have to act, and Republicans should not let politics stop them from working with us now on a balanced and bipartisan deal which middle-class families expect and deserve.

Statements such as the one made by the House majority leader only reaffirm what American families fear the most, that at a time when they deserve a government at their backs, they are being abandoned. In the Senate, we have shown we can come together around bipartisan solutions. But we cannot do it alone. House Republicans need to send the American people a clear message they are willing to be a partner in compromise.

It is time for them to take up our bipartisan legislation to protect women and put workers back on the job. It is time to work with us in the appropriations process and help our Nation too. It is time to realize that a solution to the impending fiscal cliff will require a balance. It is certainly not time to give up.

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