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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate voted 80-17 to confirm Rep. Hilda Solis of California to serve as President Obama’s Secretary of Labor.  As Chairman of the HELP Committee’s Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, Senator Murray is at the forefront of Congressional efforts to protect and strengthen America’s workforce.

“Today, we learned that an estimated 303,570 Washington workers are now unemployed and looking for work – the largest number ever in our state.  Those families are wondering how they’ll be able to pay the bills, avoid foreclosure, afford health care, or save for retirement.  And they need an advocate in the new Administration who will make their voice heard as we work to repair our country’s economy. 

“Representative Hilda Solis a terrific choice for the job, and I am so pleased that the Senate has voted to confirm her.  She is a dedicated public servant, a champion for workers’ rights, and I know she will join me in fighting day and night for working families. 

“For the last eight years, workers have felt like they were an afterthought of the previous Administration.   I look forward to standing with Secretary Solis and President Obama to put working families first again.  By fighting for expanded worker training, improved job safety, family-friendly work policies and many other issues, we can help working families feel secure and get ahead.” 

Earlier in the day, Senator Murray delivered a speech on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to support Solis’ confirmation. 

The following is the full text of the speech as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I am very pleased to rise today in support of President Obama’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Labor – U.S. Representative Hilda Solis.  My colleagues on the Senate HELP Committee worked together to move forward on her confirmation.  And I have come to the floor today to urge the full Senate to join me in supporting her confirmation, so that we can fill this critically important Cabinet position as soon as possible. 

Mr. President, American families are facing incredible challenges today.  They’re struggling with record unemployment and a devastating economic crisis.  They need – and deserve – an advocate in the Administration who is passionate about public service, and committed to fighting for them. 

Representative Solis is that person.  And I want to share a part of her HELP Committee testimony with you today.  If confirmed – she wrote – we have her solemn commitment to “work hard every day to ensure that middle-class families do not lose hope.”

Mr. President, I want to thank Representative Solis for her willingness to answer President Obama’s call to serve.  She has been responsive to the questions submitted to her by the HELP Committee.  She has been a dedicated public servant.  And she has an extensive public record of supporting working families.

Moving forward on this nomination will send a crucial message to working families that we understand their needs – and that they are absolutely essential to our economic recovery efforts.  We can’t afford to wait.

Rep. Solis has Lived the American Dream

Now, Mr. President, for anyone who is unfamiliar with her background, I’d like to share with you a little bit about Representative Solis. 

She was born in California and grew up one of 7 children.  Her mother was an immigrant from Nicaragua.  Her father worked as a farmworker, a railroad worker, and a Teamsters shop steward in a battery recycling plant.  And he raised his family to understand that joining a union had helped them secure a place in America’s middle class.

Her parents stressed values like education, hard work, public service, and commitment to family.  Even though they couldn’t afford college themselves, her mother and father sacrificed to make sure their children could reach their potential.  With the support of her family and the help of Pell Grants and student loans, Hilda Solis became the first in her family to graduate from college.  Her sisters followed in her footsteps – one earned a Ph.D in public health and two others became engineers. 

Thanks to the values she grew up with, Hilda Solis has always worked to give back to her community.  She has served as the director of the California Student Opportunity and Access Program, and as a college trustee – because she wanted to ensure other students could have the same opportunity to get a college degree that she had.  In 1992, she expanded her service to the public arena.  She was elected to the California State Assembly.  And, in 1994, she became the first Latina State Senator in California. 

As a state lawmaker, she wrote a record 17 laws to protect victims of domestic violence, she championed worker rights, she helped small businesses, and she sought to strengthen the economy. 

Mr. President, Hilda Solis’ achievements and service to students, her state, and the U.S. House of Representatives are proof that anything is possible in America – no matter what your background is.  And she is an example of why we must ensure that every child and every family has a chance to succeed.

Her experience is also a quintessential example of the American Dream – and I should add that I feel a connection to her because her background is not too different from my own.  I also am one of 7 children of loving, committed parents who taught us that with hard work, anything is possible. 

My family faced tough times when I was young.  And when my dad developed multiple sclerosis, we depended on food stamps for awhile.  My brothers and sisters and I were able to go to college thanks to Pell grants and student loans. 

Like Hilda Solis, I grew up believing that everyone in America can succeed if we give them a fighting chance.  And that’s part of the reason I know that she will join me in fighting day and night for working families.

We Need to Fill This Position

Now, Mr. President, not only is Hilda Solis the right choice to serve as Labor Secretary – I want to emphasize how critical it is for us to move forward and fill this Cabinet position.  For the last eight years, working families have felt like an afterthought of the previous Administration.  And – as chair of the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee – I can say that it’s long past time for a change!

I’m hopeful that the Department of Labor will soon have a leader who stands ready to help the Department fulfill its core responsibilities to America’s working men and women.  For years, I’ve said that if we don’t invest in the growth and development of America’s workforce, our families, our communities, and our nation will suffer in the long run.

Now, with unemployment at 7.6 percent, with 3 million jobs lost over the last year – and literally thousands more pink slips going out every month, and with hundreds of thousands of new unemployment insurance claims being filed every week – workers need an advocate in the new Administration who will stand up for them. 

They need someone who believes – as I do – that investing in them is investing in our future.  They need someone who believes that their government should work for them during the good times – and help them succeed during the hard times.  And they need someone who will be their voice in every economic recovery discussion. 

Mr. President, as we work to help our economy recover and grow, I believe three things are clear.

First, we need to help create new jobs, and help Americans who are out-of-work or under-employed find employment that will ensure they can stay in the middle class.

Second, we need to help low-skill and low-earning workers get the skills they need to find family-wage jobs in healthy industries, so they can become part of the middle class.

And third, we need to make smart investments that will create jobs, increase worker training, and make us more productive and competitive in the global economy.

I’m confident that as Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis will join me in working to reach those goals.

Our working families deserve a workforce system that is innovative and modern – one that can meet the needs of the millions of un-employed and under-employed American workers.  And I’m confident that she is committed to making the reauthorization of our nation’s workforce system a top priority of her first year. 

I look forward to working with her to help ensure families can balance the competing needs of work and home by expanding job-protected leave and other family-friendly work policies.  To be fully productive, workers need to know that their employers and their government are doing everything possible to ensure they are safe and healthy on the job. 

And finally, I look forward to working with her to make OSHA and MSHA proactive agencies again – where the health and safety of workers is the first priority.

Mr. President, we have big challenges ahead in our country.  But we also have a big opportunity.  And I know that together we can help workers access training for 21st century careers, including emerging green jobs.  We can help workers balance the needs of home and careers, help keep them safe on the job, and protect their rights to organize and secure a better economic future for themselves.  And ultimately, we can help working families improve their quality of life. 

Workers Deserve a Leader Dedicated to their Success

Mr. President, now, more than ever, workers deserve a leader dedicated to seeing them succeed.  I look forward to working with Secretary Solis and the Department to do that.  And I encourage my colleagues to support Rep. Solis’ nomination.