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On Day 4 of 27 Stop "Checklist for Change" Tour, Cantwell and Community Leaders Call for Change in the National Agenda to Help Working Families with..

Location: Seattle, WA

On Day 4 of 27 Stop "Checklist for Change" Tour, Cantwell and Community Leaders Call for Change in the National Agenda to Help Working Families with Rising Costs of Health Care, Education and Energy

Cantwell's Biodiesel Bus Tour Makes Stops in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Everett, Seattle, Puyallup, and Olympia - 1,124 miles in 4 Days

On Saturday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell continued her statewide "Checklist for Change" tour with stops in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Everett, Seattle, Puyallup, and Olympia, where she talked about the need to change the nation's agenda to make health care, education, and energy affordable for Washington families. Cantwell is traveling across the state this week on the biodiesel-powered "Cantwell's Checklist for Change" bus, making 27 stops, at least one in every Congressional district. By the end of day four, Cantwell will have traveled 1,124 miles of over 2,100 miles on the tour.

"The costs of health care, education, and energy are rising faster than many families can afford, and it's time we change that" said Cantwell. "We all know that insurance copays and drug costs keep going up, while access is going down. In fact, since the Medicare drug benefit was rolled out, drug prices have increased. Rather than making it harder for people to get access to affordable medications, we should be working to make it easier. But this Republican Congress failed to respond when I tried to fix their broken down Medicare drug benefit, they have failed to respond to rising tuition costs, and have failed to come up with an effective long-term plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Washington families deserve better than that. We need to change the national agenda to make health care affordable, bring down the costs of energy, and make sure the dream of a college education is open to everyone."

All day Saturday, Cantwell, Washington and local community leaders rallied with Washingtonians about the importance of standing up for Washington's families. Many families have been feeling squeezed under the Bush Administration's policies, and Cantwell believes we need more than a rubberstamp Congress to go along with the administration's agenda

"Maria Cantwell is fighting for the people of Washington state and is working to help small businesses provide more affordable health insurance to their employees," said State Representative Sam Hunt (D-22nd District). "That's why she's backing legislation to let small businesses join together to pool risk, increase their bargaining power, and secure better, more affordable health insurance options for more American families, and why she has worked successfully to free up extra dollars to cover more uninsured low-income children in here in our state through the State Children's Health Insurance Program."

Cantwell is also working for a prescription drug plan that works for seniors, not special interests. Unfortunately, the president and Congressional Republicans have chosen to put other priorities above the interests of Washington seniors. A study released this week announced that the average insurance plan providing meaningful coverage under the "doughnut hole" will be raising their monthly premiums by 87 percent. Cantwell believes we need to change the direction of the country to better reflect our Northwest values. To help keep costs down, believes that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate lower drug prices, as the Veterans Administration does, which would save taxpayers $332 billion. According to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, allowing Medicare to negotiate for better prices would save more than enough money to fill the doughnut hole, a coverage gap that will affect an estimated 7 million Americans by the end of the year.

In today's economy, a college education is more important than ever. With the help of a Pell Grant, Cantwell was the first in her family to graduate from college, and she knows how difficult it can be for families to pay the cost of tuition. Cantwell has fought to protect millions of students from cuts in federal Pell Grants and believes that funding for this program should be increased and extended to workers seeking new skills. She is also working to make college education tax deductible so more Americans can afford the dream of a college education.

"I'm a junior at Western Washington University, and that would not have been possible were it not for the Pell Grant I received my freshman year," said Aaron Hayman. "Senator Cantwell's work to protect Pell Grants really resonates with me because without that grant, I would not have been able to start school. Even though I later lost my grant, I was able to continue with school through federal student loans and a full time job. I've found funding to be the biggest obstacle of a higher education - the loans cover my tuition, but I had to work fifty hours a week last year to cover the rest. Senator Cantwell knows how tough it can be for people to pay their way through school, and I appreciate the work she's doing to make it more affordable."

"Education should be available to everyone, not just a privileged few," said Tana Hasart, President of Pierce County Puyallup. "Senator Cantwell shares these values. I know we can trust Senator Cantwell to work for our college and our students. I know Senator Cantwell will always make access to affordable education a top priority."

Because energy and gas prices are hurting Washington families, Cantwell's fighting for more transparency in the oil and gas industry to make sure Americans aren't paying too much at the pump. She has introduced a plan would boost our country's alternative fuels infrastructure, and increase our production of biofuel alternatives to help make America energy independent.

"I'm proud to sell biodiesel here in Skagit Valley, and I'm proud to have Maria Cantwell as my Senator," said Stuart Welch, owner of Rexville Grocery in Mount Vernon. "Maria understands just how important alternative fuels are to our economy, our country, and our future. It's something I hear people talk about everyday - how through-the-roof gas prices are breaking their budgets. Maria gets it - she's working to bring together farmers, businesses, experts, and investors to build a biofuels industry here in our state using local crops and agricultural waste. That's the kind of leadership we need if we want to make energy independence a reality."

Cantwell's Checklist for Change calls for a new agenda in Washington, DC to change the course in Iraq; cut health care and prescription drugs costs; protect Social Security from privatization; deliver energy independence with technology and alternative fuels; make college education affordable for everyone; secure our borders and ports; stand up for veterans, military and their families; protect our environment for our children; deliver tax fairness for our state; and put us first, and special interests last.

In this final week before Election Day, Cantwell is working hard to get out the vote for Democrats up and down the ticket to help change the agenda in Washington, D.C.

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