I rise to address the Republican filibuster attacking the American worker and the Republican filibuster attacking America’s small businesses.
I had the chance to go home this weekend, to start my trip home in Central Oregon, Deschutes County, 14 percent unemployment. Next door to Deschutes, Crook County, 16.8 percent unemployment. That is only counting workers that are officially unemployed as opposed to those who have given up on finding jobs. I went down to Klamath County in the south of Oregon, 12.6 percent unemployment. I went to Hood River and the Columbia Gorge, I went to Washington County, and Portland metropolitan area. And everywhere I went in Oregon, whether it be Eastern or Western or North or South–because I was in every quarter this weekend–citizens wanted to know: “Why are the Republicans attacking the American worker and American small business?”
Because, you see, across this country, our working families are in trouble. And they are looking to this body right here for help. They want to know when are we going to get it done. And by “it,” they mean extension of unemployment benefits. They want to know when are we going to get extended the COBRA health benefits. They want to know when we are going to fix the Medicare rates that changed today and dropped more than 20 percent so that it is that much harder to get into the door of a doctor if you are a senior in this country. They want to know why transportation projects are grinding to a halt across this country even though we need those jobs.
And the answer lies in this chamber.
So this attack on the American worker by the Republican filibuster, it is unacceptable. This attack on the American senior is unacceptable. This attack on the American small business is unacceptable.
Not only does this directly impact working Americans and retired Americans, but it also affects the economy. Unemployment insurance, COBRA extensions are good for the economy. They help put food on the table. They help pay the rent checks. All of that money stays in our economy. All of it goes for most families, because they have bills to pay to our businesses in the communities. And those businesses can then pay their workers and pay their contractors. So, one of the best bangs for the buck in terms of economic growth is right before us in unemployment insurance and COBRA extension.
Now I have puzzled over this challenge. Because what I have observed is this: When it comes to giving away money out of the Treasury to the wealthiest Americans, my colleagues across the aisle are delivering it on a silver platter. A silver platter to the wealthiest and best off. But when it comes to a plan to assist working Americans and seniors and small businesses, my colleagues across the aisle, through this Republican filibuster, are taking the hatchet to it. They are saying: “Working Americans don’t count, we only want to have benefits on the silver platter for the wealthiest.”
I have to tell you, it is working Americans that made this nation great. It is the American middle class that created the strongest economy in the world. It is the American public school system and our working families that have come up with the industriousness and the ingenuity to take this nation forward.
Now, when I am talking about the silver platter that the Republicans have for the wealthiest in America, let’s examine the details. Unfunded Republican program, 2001 tax cuts, $1.35 trillion giveaway, borrowed from the next generation, from our children. That is quite a gift. That is quite a silver platter. The 2003 tax cuts, $350 billion delivered on the silver platter for the wealthiest Americans.
Medicare Part D, unfunded program, $400 billion on a silver platter. Iraq and Afghanistan wars, almost $1 trillion – $944 billion – through June of 2009. The total this year will exceed $1 trillion, unpaid for, unfunded, borrowed from our children.
Now there have been some colleagues rising to say how this is a matter of being consistent on paying for American programs. But when you check the record, they voted time and time again for unfunded giveaways to the wealthiest Americans – the 2001 tax cuts, the 2003 tax cuts. And they voted for other programs that I like, but they were not funded, and I would include in that Medicare Part D.
You know, it made me think, when I heard a colleague talking about fiscal responsibility, it is a little like listening to Bernie Madoff talking about tough accounting rules; it is a little bit like talking or hearing from Brett Favre about promising he will retire; it is a little bit like listening to Simon Cowell delivering a lecture that people should not utilize sarcasm. Because after these trillion dollars of unfunded giveaways, my colleagues have put together a Republican filibuster to attack the American worker in a completely inconsistent manner.
So, I would say I have a different outlook. I think many of my colleagues here have a different outlook. That we should be here to make America work for working Americans. And that means that when they are hurting, we are going to assist them with unemployment insurance, we are going to help with the COBRA extension, we are going to help with these loans to small business, and we are going to help our seniors by fixing that Medicare provision. We are not going to take the hammer to those programs. We are going to assist our working families.
Because of this Republican filibuster, nearly 1.2 million Americans will lose their benefits, and by June this number will grow to 5 million unemployed workers who will be left without vital benefits if Congress does not act.
Now, let’s talk about that small business provision. Small business owners have been hurt because the Small Business Administration’s general business loan program expired yesterday, making it more difficult for our small businesses to access loans in an already difficult business climate.
My colleague from South Dakota was just up speaking on the floor about the importance of helping small businesses. Then I say to him: “End your Republican filibuster attacking small business in America. Come to this floor and say enough is enough; I am going to stand with our workers and our seniors and our small businesses.”
So it is time to end the political posturing, take our eyes off November and put our eyes on the challenge of American families, and pass this legislation right away.