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Public Statements

The Debt Ceiling

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise during this very critical debate about the deficit crisis to talk for a few minutes about what this means for Michigan and for the families and the businesses I represent. I grew up in a small northern town of Clare, MI, where my family ran the automobile dealership, the Oldsmobile dealership, and my mom was a nurse at the local hospital.

My first job was washing the cars on the car lot. It was a time when people believed in America and the full faith and credit of America. I cannot imagine--I cannot imagine--my parents and my grandparents ever believing it would be possible for America to default on its obligations.

But here we are today, and that is a very real possibility. It is outrageous because it does not have to be this way. We have been through a lot in Michigan. I know you know that, Mr. President. We have had more people out of work than any other State in this recession. In fact, we have been hit harder, longer, deeper than any other State. We took the brunt of the recession, and people are now just starting to get back on their feet. They are the lucky ones.

When people in Washington talk about this deficit crisis as though it is just another political game, it is not a game. It is not a game to the families I represent. It is not a game to seniors I represent. It is not a game to the small businesses or to the manufacturers that have worked very hard to turn things around and move forward in our State. It is not a game to the people who are worried about what is going to happen on Tuesday if we cannot come together and create a solution, which we absolutely have to do.

There are nearly 2 million people in Michigan, senior citizens and people with disabilities, who have earned their Social Security benefits and might not receive them next week. We have 1.6 million seniors, people such as my mom, who may not be able to see their doctor and use their Medicare next week.

Michigan has 700,000 veterans, men and women who have bravely served our country, and they expect us to keep our promise to them as a country. Those are the people I am thinking about today as we are trying to find a bipartisan compromise.

We have to solve this problem and we need to get it done now and there is no reason that cannot happen. I am hearing from small business owners. I have been on the phone today talking to small business owners, the people whom we need in Michigan to turn the economy around. They are doing everything they can to grow their companies and to create jobs. But now they need customers, and they have customers who are saying they are afraid to make a purchase, they are holding onto their dollars, they are afraid to buy a house or furniture.

Today, I talked to friend of mine in northern Michigan, a prominent auto dealer, who indicated he has people who normally come in every 3 years and buy a new car, and they are just sitting because they do not know what is going to happen. They do not know what is going to happen in the economy. They do not know what is going to happen to them and their families and they are waiting. They are waiting for us. They are waiting for Washington to get its act together and to solve this problem and to move on to the other challenges in front of us, particularly to focus on jobs.

Our recovery has already taken hits. We saw that in the economic numbers that came out this morning. Families from Michigan have already taken the one-two punch of higher food prices, higher gas prices, and now we have people talking seriously about letting the country default which will lead to higher interest rates for people trying to raise their families, for small businesses trying to hire new employees.

The last thing they need--that anybody needs--is higher interest rates. A default would cripple the ability of our companies to create jobs, and it is the people who are already hurting the most, the middle-class working families, who will pay the biggest price, once again. That is wrong.

Worst of all, that scenario would be entirely self-inflicted by people on both ends of this building who are not willing to come together and work together on a bipartisan basis to resolve this. There is absolutely no reason why this country needs to default on its obligations. There is no reason.

I am hearing from seniors in Michigan who are scared that they might not get their Social Security checks next week. They are living check to check--benefits they have worked their whole lives to earn, and it is absolutely ridiculous they would have to worry about that in the greatest country in the world and all because people in Washington cannot seem to sit down and work this out.

For many seniors in Michigan, that is all they have to live on. That is all they have to pay their rent, to buy groceries, to pay for their medicine. They are worried about how they are going to live if this country goes into default.

I am hearing from veterans in Michigan, many of whom were left disabled after their service, who are angry, and rightly so, that the country they fought for might default on their payments for the first time.

I am hearing from young people who are worried about their future and the future of their generation if Congress allows the full faith and credit of the United States to come into question.

We all know it is critical to be able to cut the deficit. We also need to grow the economy. We need a full, balanced package. But we understand the critical nature and the importance of cutting this deficit that has been allowed to accumulate over the last decade. We have already cut spending. We will cut more.

The bipartisan plan that will soon come before us, and I wish to thank Senator Reid for his leadership in bringing this forward and working so diligently and our colleagues across the aisle who have been working in the Senate to create a bipartisan plan. But the plan that will be before us cuts spending by nearly $2.5 trillion, and it does even more. It creates a second step that is absolutely critical if we are going to tackle the rest of the story, the rest of the country's challenges so we can create a truly balanced approach to eliminating the deficit.

People in Michigan understand that to do that, that includes cutting the special subsidies and other special interest spending through the Tax Code and creating a fairer Tax Code, so that reducing our deficit is not, once again, put on the backs of middle-class families and senior citizens who have already paid a heavy price.

This has to be balanced, long term, fair, to solve the problem and allow us to grow the economy and create jobs. I so appreciate and have worked very hard to make sure the plan in front of us protects and maintains Medicare and Social Security. This has been a top priority for our majority.

The plan Senator Reid will be offering does that. Most important, the Senate plan creates certainty for the economy and the markets until 2012. People in Michigan do not want us having this debate every month. They certainly do not want us having this over and over and over again and we know because we have heard that the plan which will come to a vote in the House, unfortunately, will not have bipartisan support, does not solve the problem, does not stop us from being downgraded in our credit rating, does not put us in a situation for long-term problem solving.

It keeps us stuck in the mud for months over and over again by only addressing the debt ceiling for 4 months or 6 months. We will be right back here again stuck when we need to be able to solve this and move on and focus on growing our economy so businesses can create jobs. People in Michigan have had enough. I have had enough. They have had enough.

One man called my office earlier today. He said: I do not want to relive this nightmare in a few months. I could not agree with him more. We cannot be in a situation where we are not creating economic certainty, solving this problem, and then moving forward as a country in a global economy. We have a lot of work to do to be able to compete around the world and make sure our businesses are creating jobs here at home.

Families and small businesses in Michigan have been through enough. It is time to get this done. We have to do it together. It is about working together. It is about creating a bipartisan plan, and it is time to get that done. I know my colleagues in the Senate on both sides of the aisle know the seriousness of this situation. I certainly know our leader does, and I am grateful for his persistence and focus in bringing people together to solve this.

We have a serious debt crisis that we can and must solve, and the House must join us in a bipartisan solution. We also have a jobs crisis in our country. We need to resolve the current impasse and then focus like a laser on growing our economy so companies can create jobs, so we can get out of debt, and we can stay out of debt.

I would strongly urge my colleagues, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in this Chamber, to continue to work together to find a solution, to come together, to get this done in the Senate. I would urge my colleagues, on behalf of the hard-working men and women of the State of Michigan, it is time to come together to get this done. We know what needs to be done. We know it has to be bipartisan, and we know we have to work together. People in Michigan are saying enough is enough. It is time to get this done.

I yield the floor.


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