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Public Statements

American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, will my friend be willing to yield for a question?

Ms. CANTWELL. Yes, I will.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Michigan is recognized.

Ms. STABENOW. Thank you.

Madam President, I want to ask a question of the Senator from Washington State. But I first want to thank her for her vision. She has been the person who has understood this is more than just about research and development, that this is about actually putting assets in America, in jobs here in America through manufacturing. I thank her for her vision. It has been my honor and pleasure to work with you on this issue.

But I am wondering if the Senator is aware, in fact, of other countries such as South Korea which certainly has been investing in this. But Germany, last summer, developed what they call the Great Battery Alliance. Japan created the first batteries. Ford Motor Company, in doing their first Ford Escape Hybrid, their first Escape HUV, while we are proud that was done in America, in fact, the battery came from Japan. So China, Japan, South Korea, Germany--India now has announced a manufacturing strategy.

So I ask, as you look at this, if she has looked at those other countries as well?

Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Michigan, and I thank her for her leadership on this issue as well, because she has been vocal in saying the United States needs to create manufacturing incentives in the plug-in area and to lead the future of the automobile industry here in the United States. So I thank her for her question. She is absolutely right.

The United States has fallen behind. We have no battery production facilities in the United States. So we can pat ourselves on the back all we want about how we are leading in R&D in battery technology, but that is not translating into manufacturing leadership and homegrown jobs. The time has come when Americans and people around the globe believe we have to get off of fossil fuel and that the electricity grid holds great promise. The advent of these new battery technologies is allowing consumers to go an average of 100 miles per gallon. As my colleague mentioned, Europeans are already boost to their economies by promoting that kind of manufacturing. And I want to emphasize that our amendment does not say which companies would produce this battery technology. We are simply saying we should have some of this manufacturing in the United States.

Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I wonder if my colleague will yield for one more question.


Ms. STABENOW. I just came from a very large conference called the Blue Green Conference with about 2,500 people who are in town from environmental groups, labor organizations, business organizations, focused on exactly what the Senator is talking about. I wonder if the Senator is aware we have had people on the Hill actually supporting this wonderful amendment and arguing that, in fact, there are jobs, good-paying jobs, available from doing exactly what she is talking about? I wonder if my colleague is aware of the extent to which there is such a broad coalition of people across this country now supporting exactly what she is talking about?

Ms. CANTWELL. I think the electrification of automobiles as an energy source is gaining a lot of attention. There is a growing understanding that building a smart grid and allowing plug-ins to fill up when electricity prices are cheapest and when there is a lot of unused electricity capacity, turning our cars into additional storage capacity makes a lot of sense. People believe we could create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the near future and that we would be able to benefit from that as a basis of an infrastructure.

I look at China and think of the 250,000 jobs they have already created just in battery manufacturing. And that 120 companies are focusing just on manufacturing lithium-ion batteries. They have already created an economic opportunity, an edge for Asia in this marketplace that will continue to sustain them for the future in the automobile manufacturing industry.

We are at a totally new day, where we should pause and reassess all new opportunities to strengthen our country, and yet we are not capitalizing on the economic opportunity that is going to fundamentally reshape automobile transportation for the better.

I thank my colleague from Michigan for pointing those facts out and raising those questions because, again, she has been steadfast in this and understands this is about a manufacturing opportunity for the future of the United States as a manufacturing base. Whether those are foreign competitors, whether those are new domestic companies that have never been on the radar screen, whether they are the domestic manufacturers that are working hard to make the transition to this new opportunity, this amendment would address all of those.

In conclusion, today the United States is home to about 35,000 less factories than in the year 2000. In that short period of time we have lost around 4 million manufacturing jobs. Clean energy technologies, and particularly electric vehicle manufacturing, is a keystone strategic opportunity that could help change that around. That is why I am offering this amendment with my colleague, Senator Hatch, and others, because it can be effective stimulus today, but pay long-term dividends for the future of the U.S. economy.

I thank the Presiding Officer and yield the floor.


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, before talking about a very important amendment introduced by Senators Cantwell and Hatch--and I commend them for their leadership on this very important amendment about jobs in the future--I believe we are at a critical point. We have seen job loss within the last 8 years like we have never seen before. In fact, in the last year, we lost 2.589 million jobs. It is accelerating every month--500,000 last month, 500,000 the month before. We are seeing new numbers that show acceleration of job loss. Unfortunately, that has come as a result of action and inaction in the last 8 years.

We are at a pivotal point. Do we use the same policies of the last 8 years or similar ones or do we do something new? Do we focus on a different strategy of investment, focusing on the demand side of supply and demand, creating jobs, putting money in people's pockets to pay the bills, and grow the middle class of this country? That is what this package is about. It is a change.

I understand there is a disagreement and an honest debate of philosophies that occurs in the Senate. I totally understand that colleagues who have been promoting an approach for 8 years with President Bush would come forward with the same kinds of proposals on tax cuts and other approaches, most of those around tax cuts that are very supply-side oriented. I understand that is their philosophy, that is their approach. They believe that is what should happen. With all due respect, that has not worked. We are talking about over 2.5 million jobs lost last year. Critically important to me in Michigan, we have lost over 4.1 million manufacturing jobs in the last 8 years. We have had no manufacturing strategy, no focus on good-paying middle-class manufacturing jobs.

In this package, we are going to change that. One of the important ways--and there are multiple items in the bill I will mention--relates to an amendment that will be coming before the body, hopefully today. It was offered by Senators Cantwell and Hatch, and it speaks to the future. I am proud to be a cosponsor. It focuses on manufacturing the vehicles, the plug-in electric vehicles that we know we need to get us off our dependence on foreign oil, to address global warming, and to create jobs.

We have done a great job on R&D. We are investing in this package as it relates to battery development and research and development. We are doing a better job all the time on demonstration projects. We have passed tax incentives for consumers. The question is, Where will the vehicles be made? Where will the battery technology be made? That is the piece that has not been happening.

I am proud that the first hybrid SUV was made by an American company, Ford Motor Company. They made the Ford Escape hybrid. But they had to buy the battery from Japan. Now we see batteries coming from Korea. We want the jobs making those batteries in America. That is what this amendment is about.

A123, which is a leading battery company, asserts that an investment of $4.6 billion over the next 5 years in batteries and electric vehicles will create 29,000 direct jobs and 14 million square feet of new U.S. plant capacity. Of the newly created jobs, it is estimated that about 80 percent would be in the advanced battery industry or in the supply chain.

I am extremely supportive and pleased to be involved in this particular amendment. I also appreciate the fact that it does something incredibly important. In this horrible economy we find ourselves, where capital is not available for startups or for mature manufacturing companies that are turning to a green economy, this makes sure that companies in a loss position, that we need to grow the economy and create jobs, will also participate in creating the new electric vehicles. This is the future. Shame on us if we do not make these investments now and we go from dependence on foreign oil to dependence on foreign technology, which is, frankly, where we have been headed in the last 8 years. This recovery package changes that. The Cantwell-Hatch-Stabenow amendment is a very important addition to it.

More broadly, let me say that we know we need a change, and we need action now from the policies that have put us where we are. We have over 11 million people who want to work and who are out of work. Right now, we have more people out of work than there are jobs available. We are in a situation where we have to focus on creating jobs. That is what this recovery package does.

What we are talking about is making sure we are rebuilding the middle class. That is not a slogan; that is a reality. We have been losing the middle class because we have been losing good-paying jobs. Too many families find themselves in the middle of this economic tsunami, and they are asking us to focus on jobs and those things that will allow them to pick themselves up, to work, pay the mortgage, put food on the table, send the kids to college, and have the American dream we all want for ourselves and our children. That is what this is about.

This package is about jobs rebuilding America, jobs that leave something behind for the taxpayer--a safer bridge, better roads, better water and sewer systems, the ability for small businesses to connect with high-speed Internet so they can sell their products around the world, the ability for hospitals to cut the cost of health care by new technology and to move ahead for the future. Jobs rebuilding America are essential to this package.

Secondly, it is jobs and a new green economy. We know that one of the next things we will have to tackle is what we do about the incredibly serious threat of global warming. There is a way to do that that creates good-paying jobs in America by focusing on the new green economy. That is the new green revolution.

It was 101 years ago when the Model T Ford rolled off the line. At that time, we created a revolution, people being able to move, to be more mobile with vehicles. We started a revolution that created the middle class. This is now a time for that next revolution.

When Henry Ford created the Model T, he also started another revolution, which was paying his workers enough so they could buy the vehicle. He knew that good-paying jobs were part of the equation. You could build automobiles, but if nobody could buy them, it wouldn't matter. He understood the demand side of supply and demand. He doubled wages to $5 a day so his workers could buy the vehicles.

This package focuses on workers having money in their pockets so they can buy things to get this economy going again.

In the green economy, it is exciting to see what we have been able to do. Last year on the floor we passed in our budget resolution a green-collar jobs initiative which I was proud to author. Other than the retooling loans, we were not able to fund the rest of it. This package funds the green-collar jobs initiative with $2 billion for grants for advanced batteries. It focuses on green-collar job training.

It focuses on weatherization and energy efficiency for buildings, which we know create 40 percent of energy usage.

It focuses on creating a smart grid to improve the security and reliability of the electricity grid. If everybody in the United States had an electric vehicle made in America and they plugged it in, we would totally destroy the electric grid. We don't have the capacity. In this bill, we look to the future and say: We want the vehicles. We want the fuel efficiency. We want to stop those carbon emissions. And we better make sure we have a grid that allows that to work.

So that is in here as well. So it is about right now, and it is about where we want to go in terms of jobs in so many different areas.

We are talking about loan guarantees and grant programs and tax incentives that combine to create a picture of a future that is based on a green economy and is based on good-paying jobs in America.

I wish to make sure the 8,000 component parts that go into a wind turbine--somebody told me it was 1,200 parts, and then somebody said, no, it is 8,000 actually--8,000 different parts in one wind turbine. I wish to make sure those are manufactured in this country, not just that we use the wind energy, which is important, but 70 percent of the economic activity in using wind energy comes from manufacturing the parts. We do that pretty well in Michigan, as well as, I know, around the country. But we are pretty proud of our skilled workforce which knows how to make things, manufacture things, develop things, engineer things. The green economy and the incentives in this recovery bill focus on creating those kinds of jobs, and it is very exciting to see where we can go.

We also know there are people who right now we need to be focusing on to make sure we have support for our States and communities so they can keep police officers on the beat, schoolteachers in the classroom, and keep jobs--very important jobs--in public service we all benefit from every day. That is in this package.

There are a tremendous number of people who are hurt, and certainly I speak for people in our great State who work hard every day and have been caught in the middle of this economic crisis. We have not seen much in the last 8 years to recognize the hurt families are going through and to help them through what we hope will be a temporary situation.

Unemployment compensation benefits are increasing as well. Help for families to be able to keep their health insurance is in this bill. Job training and help for people who have lost their jobs because of unfair trade practices is in this bill. Help to put food on the table for families is in this bill.

This is a very important economic recovery package that focuses ultimately on making sure we are creating jobs in America. That is what this is about. It is all kinds of jobs, that is for sure. There is not one silver bullet. It is all kinds of jobs. But it is about creating jobs, creating opportunities, looking to the future, disregarding the policies that have not worked, saying: Do you know what. We are not going to do that anymore. The same things that have been proposed that relate to what has happened in the last 8 years, we are not going to do that anymore. We cannot afford to do that.

We are in a crisis. We need to act boldly, smartly, and now. This bill does that. This is about creating jobs in America. I hope we will join together in a strong bipartisan vote to get it done.

I thank the Chair.


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, as you know, H.R. 1 provides critical incentives for the adoption of meaningful EMR technology. Adoption of this technology is essential to improving care and reducing costs.

Michigan hospitals have been at the forefront of critical advances in health information technology such as e-prescribing and developing an Electronic Medical Record. In fact, its ambulatory sites have been paperless for almost 5 years. Many of my hospitals are spending significant resources in this difficult economic environment to convert their hospital records to electronic format and upgrade EMRs to contain Clinical Practice Guidelines.

Section 4201 (a)(1)(C) of the bill seeks to prevent double payments by excluding certain physicians who practice substantially in hospital settings and use hospital-owned EMR equipment. To clarify the intent of this section, the bill lists specific examples of hospital-based professionals to be excluded. This makes sense.

But I am concerned that this language may also inadvertently exclude many physician group practices associated with hospitals may not qualify for EMR incentives under H.R. 1. The way the provision is drafted may many outstanding medical groups such as the Billings Clinic in your great state from receiving incentive payments because they are classified as ``provider-based'' entities. Because of this designation, I am concerned that HHS may consider such professionals as ``Hospital-Based Eligible Professionals'' who are prohibited from receiving incentive payments under this section of the bill.

I am sure it is not our intent to exclude such physician group practices from incentives. I hope the Chairman will work with me and my staff to ensure that Congressional intent will be carried out and early champions of HIT are eligible for EMR incentives in the H.R. 1.


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