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Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, I wish to take a few minutes to speak about another sad situation in the State of Maryland. Today we got the terrible, sad news that it looks as though Bethlehem Steel, our biggest, largest, most famous steelyard, is going to close, and it is going to close forever.
Throughout the entire 19th and 20th centuries and through to today, Bethlehem Steel hired people, making it one of our largest employers, to build steel for our great iconic projects and to help build America. In its heyday in 1957, 30,000 steelworkers were there. They thought they had lifelong jobs in helping build steel. It was the largest single employer in Baltimore for decades. It made steel for everything from Campbell Soup cans to National beer cans. It built steel for refrigerators, toasters, and thousands of other products. During the war, Bethlehem Steel was part of the arsenal of democracy in which it built Liberty ships.
I am very close to the people at Bethlehem Steel. Members of my own family worked in this steel mill and they worked very hard. People who came into my father's grocery store worked at Bethlehem Steel. They thought they had a job that would last forever because America would need steel. It doesn't look that way, because even though those workers thought America would always want American steel, we looked the other way when foreign imports began to drive down our prices and drive down our steel mills.
We have to begin to rethink what we are doing in this area. America's steel and steelworkers protected the United States and our freedom.
At Sparrows Point they rolled gun barrels, made steel for grenades, shells and landing craft for airplanes and ships. We have to remember whose steel it was that truly built America. But do my colleagues know who the last owner was; not the most recent but the ones before that? The Russians. I am not against Russia, but I am against Russia owning America's tools of production.
What will happen to America if we need more steel to go to war? What about needing steel when we build our infrastructure? When American steelworkers built the great new Golden Gate Bridge with American taxpayers' dollars, the steel came from China. What are we doing to America and what are we doing to our manufacturing?
I think we need a wakeup call. We are busy holding up the entire Congress protecting tax breaks for billionaires. When are we going to start looking out for American jobs? When we are talking about this fiscal cliff, we are not talking about having the jobs component in it. When are we going to start talking about tax breaks so we can have an infrastructure bank, so we can rebuild America using American products? Why is it when we say we want it made in America, some call us protectionists? I welcome the label of ``protectionist.'' I am going to protect American jobs. I don't want them on a slow boat to China or a fast track to Mexico.
I might not ever get my steel mill back and Baltimore might not ever have those jobs back, but we have to get serious in our country. What are our priorities? We have to start rewarding those industries that make products in this country. Right now, our whole code is oriented to protecting people who make money off money. Let me tell my colleagues, we are already getting a big wakeup call in America.
I have fought for more than 25 years to reverse this tide against American manufacturing and for American steel and I am going to keep on fighting. But right now, as we go on debating this fiscal cliff, we have to make sure we protect the safety net. If my colleagues went with me to Dundalk and to Sparrows Point, people would tell us they want their job, and if they can't have their job, could they please have a safety net that protects them in terms of unemployment insurance and health care benefits so they have a bridge to get their family over this very hard time. I worry that during this fiscal cliff debate we are going to lose those benefits, but I will tell my colleagues that I will fight to not go over the fiscal cliff.
In the meantime, I say to the men and women at Bethlehem Steel: Thank you for what you did. You built America. You helped save America. You helped save Western civilization. We are going to try right now to save your safety net benefits. Go to that hall where you can apply for those benefits. They are still there. We still want to make sure you are eligible, but we want not only a safety net to get you over the hard times, we believe the best safety net is jobs in American manufacturing.
I am going to yield the floor, but I will not yield the fight for American jobs.
I note the absence of a quorum.
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