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Ms. STABENOW. Before I speak about a very critical piece of legislation, I wish to join the Senator from Virginia in recognizing our friend and colleague from Delaware who has done such an extraordinary job in the time he has been here. I wish to associate myself with the comments of the Senator from Virginia.
There is no one who brings more intelligence, passion, commitment or generosity of heart than the Senator from Delaware, and the fact that he has given his life to public service is something we all thank you for. You will be greatly missed.
UNANIMOUS-CONSENT REQUEST--S. 3706
Mr. President, I rise this afternoon and join with my friend from Rhode Island as well, a cosponsor, to speak about a critical issue affecting millions of Americans around the country. That is the question of lack of jobs and the need to help those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without a job, trying to hold things together for their family, trying to keep moving, looking for work at a time that is incredibly difficult for our country.
So I rise to speak and to offer S. 3706, the Americans Want to Work Act, and to ask that our body act on this today--now. Americans want to work. That is a fact. That is a fact. People want to work. But this is the worst recession in our lifetime, the worst since the Great Depression.
Millions of people are out of work through no fault of their own and they need our help. Things are beginning to turn, but it is painfully slow, and too many families are caught in the middle. Nationally, we know the unemployment rate stands at 9.6 percent, much higher in my home State of Michigan. Of those, 42 percent who have been out of work have been out of work for more than 27 weeks and many of them, too many of them, much longer.
The reality is, as much as people want to work, there are, frankly, not enough jobs. When people say: Well why don't folks get out and get a job, go out and get a minimum wage job, the reality is there are five people are out of work for every one job that is available. That is a fact.
Now it is better than it was. At one time, it was six for one job opening. So we are creeping along. But the reality is we still have five people out of work for every one job. It is not their fault that they cannot find a job in this circumstance. We know there are about 3 million jobs available nationally, and there are more than 15 million people who need a job. We cannot just walk away from them, from this circumstance, caused by an economic tsunami between the crisis on Wall Street, between our lack of focus over the last decade on fair trade laws.
We have seen too many jobs being shipped overseas, which we tried to address yesterday and could not get any of our Republican colleagues to support us on to be able to get past that. There are multiple things that have happened but none of them caused by the people who have lost their jobs.
This is a moral issue as well as an economic issue. That is why I have authored the Americans Want to Work Act. I wish to thank all the cosponsors. First, I wish to thank our majority leader, Senator Reid, who has given us the opportunity today to make the case and who understands the incredible urgency of this issue, and to Senator Schumer as well, who has been a great partner in this effort in combining an extension of unemployment benefits with his very successful HIRE Act, to be able to give a one-two punch.
I also wish to thank Senator Brown of Ohio, Senators Casey, Dodd, Levin, Reed, Gillibrand, Lautenberg, and Senator Whitehouse. Our bill does two things to help people who have been out of work the longest. It creates a new tier of unemployment insurance that extends benefits for an additional 20 weeks, and it extends and expands Senator Schumer's HIRE Act tax credits to encourage companies to hire those workers who have been looking for work the longest.
I realize this is the longest extension of unemployment benefits ever. I understand that. But this is also the worst recession in our lifetime, and we also need to understand that. I have received so many phone calls and letters from people all across my State who are trying so hard to get work. They are out every single day pounding the pavement or checking the Internet. They are filling out applications. They are sending out resumes. They are making phone calls, trying so hard to find a job so they can put food on the table for their family and, frankly, keep their head above water, try to keep their house above water, to be able to have a roof over their head while they are looking for work.
They want to work. They do not want to be getting unemployment benefits. They do not want to be in this situation. They want the dignity of having a good-paying job so they can provide for themselves and their families.
I wish to share just one of the thousands of stories I received over the last month. It comes from Janice in Sterling Heights, MI.
At the age of 54--
I have already worked 35 years of my life. Back when I was young, there was always talk of 30 and out. Never once did I dream at my age that I would be unemployed for over a year. That even though I apply for any job I am qualified for, I never hear back. Now, all I have to look forward to is working until the day I die, wondering where my health care is going to come from, and how I am going to be able to continue to pay my bills. I do not know how long I can hang on until my current unemployment benefits run out. I have nothing, nowhere to go, if evicted. I am so angry because I was brought up that working hard all your life is what you are supposed to do to have a home and a family and a retirement.
That is exactly what we are talking about--people who do nothing but work hard and play by the rules and are found in a situation they did not create.
She goes on to say:
I am angry and disappointed in the government because they are taking away benefits I have expected to be there after working for 35 years and paying into this system.
There are millions of stories like Janice's, not only in Michigan but in every State. We have been working hard to create jobs, to get the economy back on track. We have passed, according to Business Week, four major jobs bills, including the small business jobs bill passed a couple of weeks ago and the President signed on Monday. That is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. The reality is we are in a situation where the majority of our Republican colleagues voted no on the small business jobs bill. Yesterday they blocked our ability to bring up a bill to close loopholes, to stop jobs being shipped overseas. We now stand asking that they not block again help for people who can't find work because this economy is not moving fast enough.
I hope today my colleagues will join me in passing the Americans Want to Work Act. We should not walk away from so many Americans who are looking for work and need our help. I urge my colleagues to join us in saying yes on something, yes to the millions of Americans who want to work.
I will offer a unanimous consent request in a moment. I yield the floor to my friend, the Senator from Rhode Island. Then I wish to return to make my unanimous consent request.
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Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Rhode Island. He is correct. The folks at the top got bailed out, and middle-class families are stuck on the hook. Five people looking for every one job. It is critical that we act. I am hopeful that instead of hearing another round of no, we will hear yes and that people will come together. There are millions of people out of work who have hit this wall. They are in every State. They are in red States, blue States, purple States. They are in every State. This should not be a partisan issue.
On behalf of millions, at least 2 to 3 million people who find themselves in this particular situation, who are asking us to understand, who are asking us for help, asking us to give a lifeline to them so they can care for their families and get back to work, I ask unanimous consent that the Finance Committee be discharged from S. 3706, the Americans Want to Work Act; that the Senate then proceed to its immediate consideration; that the bill be read three times, passed, and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table; that any statement relating to the measure be printed in the Record.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection?
Mr. LeMIEUX. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, may I ask of my colleague from Michigan a couple of questions.
Ms. STABENOW. Yes.
Mr. LeMIEUX. We have just been handed this. I wonder if my colleague could let us know what the cost of this bill is and how it is paid for.
Ms. STABENOW. The bill is designated, as other unemployment extensions have been designated, as emergency spending, just as we would do for
any other catastrophe. If 15 million people out of work isn't an economic disaster, I don't know what is. For the millions involved, this is viewed as disaster assistance. We intend to move forward with a sense of urgency to put people back to work so in fact we will turn this economy around.
Mr. LeMIEUX. Respectfully, without knowing how much it is going to cost and how we will pay for it, while we are all certainly sympathetic and want to work to make people go back to work--my home State of Florida is certainly suffering with very high unemployment--we need to know what it is going to cost and how we will pay for it so we don't put the debt on our children and grandchildren.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Objection is heard.
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, the reality for us in America is that we will never get out of debt. We will never get out of debt with more than 15 million people out of work. We know it is substantially more than 15 million. We know there are millions of others who have exhausted their benefits. When folks talk about the deficit and leaving the deficit for our children, we will never get out of debt in this country until people get back to work, until they have good-paying jobs. And in between time, we will not move this economy forward until we are helping people to keep going in this recession.
We know from the economists that for every $1 we put into the kinds of benefits we are talking about in this bill, we are stimulating more than $1.40 into the economy. So it more than pays for itself by the economic activity, and it is viewed as one of the top two best ways to stimulate the economy in a recession: to put money in the pocket of people who have to spend it because they do not have a job.
I deeply regret that one more time it is ``object'' and it is ``no'' under the false argument that somehow we cannot afford to stimulate the economy, to understand that this is about Americans who want us to understand what they are going through, and to give some temporary assistance that does stimulate the economy, while we are focusing on putting people back to work.
Unfortunately, this is the end of a week that demonstrates tremendous frustration, after we were able to get the small business jobs bill done, and then we hear ``no'' on efforts to stop jobs from going overseas, and ``no'' on helping the people caught because their jobs went overseas. So I am deeply disappointed. We will continue to bring the case of these millions of people to the floor of the Senate.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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