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Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Rhode Island for his leadership in bringing us all together. We have to get this transportation bill done. This is a bill that passed the Senate with 74 votes. So we are here today to say to our colleagues over in the House and to ask our colleagues on the Republican side in the Senate to ask the Republicans in the House to get this bill done.
Cold-weather States, such as Minnesota, it is sometimes said, have two seasons: the winter season and the construction season. This kind of delay can be crippling. We have a much smaller window of time to get these projects done.
We have people waiting in traffic. We ask the House, why are we making them wait? We look at the cost when we delay construction projects--the cost to taxpayers. Everybody knows if you wait too long to work on a project, and you are doing something on your house and you wait years to get it done, the costs go up.
We ask our friends in the House, why are they allowing this to happen and making this delay? Look at contractors, construction workers, and engineering firms. They need consistency. Why is the House making them wait?
Look at Caterpillar, a business that employs 750 people in my State. They make road paving equipment and have a manufacturing facility. I was there addressing the employees. They gave me a pink hat. There are people working all over that company. They want more jobs, and they want to make things in America, and they want to export to the world. We are not going to be able to do that if we don't have the roads and bridges that can take our goods to market. We ask the House of Representatives, why are we making these private employers wait? The bill makes critical reforms to our transportation policy.
Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report announcing that 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or e-mailed while driving in the previous month, and 43 percent of high school juniors said they do the same thing. This bill includes provisions to help prevent texting while driving, and incentives--the two of us together, Madam President, worked on the graduated driver's license standards in this bill.
Why are we making the parents of America wait while their kids are texting while driving? It makes reforms in the bill to transportation policy, reduces the number of highway programs from over 100 to about 30. So the Republicans in the House--how can they explain that they are making America wait to reform and make these programs less duplicative? It defines clear national goals for transportation policy, and it streamlines environmental permitting.
Why would you make America wait? That is what we are asking the House of Representatives today. Nobody knows better than Minnesota what happens if you neglect roads and bridges: The 35 W bridge crashed down in the middle of a river 6 blocks from my house.
So we ask the House of Representatives, why are you making the people of America wait?
I yield the floor.
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Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today in opposition to an amendment that would eliminate the Sugar Program, and I urge my colleagues to table it at this time.
As we continue our work on the farm bill, as we debate these amendments, I think my colleagues should keep in mind at every moment that this proposal contains $23 billion in cuts that we have brought together on a bipartisan basis, and two-thirds of those cuts--$16 billion--is on only 14 percent of the bill; that is, the farm programs. Two-thirds of the cuts: $16 billion on the farm program.
This bill is supported by 630 conservation groups, nutrition groups--a number of them. Obviously, they would like to see changes. People want to make things better. But if we do not get this bill done, you can imagine what is going to happen to school hot lunches and the like.
Unfortunately, eliminating the Sugar Program would actually hurt jobs in America. I know Senator Conrad was here earlier putting the facts out, but people need to know the facts. This is a zero-cost program that supports 142,000 jobs and generates nearly $20 billion in economic activity. This is the kind of value we are looking for.
I believe we need to be doing everything we can to maintain programs that are working for our farmers in an efficient way--programs that are supporting jobs and putting dollars into our economy, especially those programs that do not cost money.
Most of us can appreciate the value of a strong farm safety net. During our discussions in the Agriculture Committee, I worked with Chairwoman Stabenow and other members of the committee to make sure the bill provided for that safety net so the livelihoods of our farmers cannot be swept away in the blink of an eye by natural disasters and market failures and because, you know what, we as a country do not want to be dependent on foreign food like we are dependent on foreign oil.
The Sugar Program has played its own key role in shielding farmers from risk--albeit it is a different and more predictable kind of risk they face. I am talking about the risk of competing against heavily subsidized sugar from foreign countries.
Let's put it this way: If you do not like being dependent on foreign oil, you are not going to love being dependent on foreign sugar. Past U.S. trade agreements have already opened our domestic market to foreign sugar. Over the last 3 years, the United States, on average, has been the world's largest sugar importer, supplying nearly one-third of our total sugar needs.
Since 1985 we have had 54 sugar factories close due to sustained low prices. Once these jobs are gone, they are gone forever. This is why we need to continue the Sugar Program in the 2012 farm bill--one that supports American sugar beet and sugar cane producers while ensuring an abundant supply of sugar for consumers and manufacturers.
We must continue this program. Look at what has happened. The average global retail price for sugar is 14 percent higher than it is in the United States. In other developed countries, the average price is 24 percent higher than it is in the United States.
Some people have blamed farmers for the high cost of sugar foods in the grocery store. But look at the numbers. For example, a $1 candy bar has about 2 cents' worth of sugar in it. A $3.50 carton of ice cream has about 10 cents' worth of sugar. So ending the Sugar Program is not the solution that will keep food prices competitive. It is the opposite.
This is an important program for our country. If changes are to be made to it, the answer should not be to eliminate it. That is why I ask my colleagues to join me in tabling this amendment as we work together in the future to make sure we preserve American jobs.
The sugar industry supplies American jobs. Just ask the people in the Red River Valley in Minnesota and North Dakota.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
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