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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today voted to proceed with a vote on final passage of the fiscal year 2004 Omnibus spending bill. The bill, which failed to move forward today, contains over $370 million in federal funding for Washington state. These dollars mean jobs for Washington state workers and critical infrastructure to help fuel future growth. Senator Murray will continue to work to shepherd this critical funding through the Senate.



Murray released the following statement:



"Today, many of my colleagues expressed their anger and disappointment with the real life consequences of the Administration's politics on the issues of overtime, food safety and quality public education, by voting to delay the Omnibus spending bill. I share the outrage of my colleagues on these issues, but I know what's at stake in this bill.



This bill contains $245 million in transportation funding that I secured for Washington state. These critical federal dollars will help create thousands of good-paying jobs today and lay the groundwork for our state's future economic growth. This is just one example of the priorities that could be derailed by delayed funding.



This fight is not over. I will continue to work with Senators from both sides of the aisle to make sure that we don't further destabilize our state's economy, schools and health care with the uncertainty of delayed funding. We will come together and move this bill forward.



And I will continue to fight, as I always have, for worker protections. I am particularly angered that the Majority has turned this bill into a choice between putting people back to work today and protecting those workers over the long haul. This is the wrong message to send to our nation's workers and I won't give up fighting for all the hard-working Americans – like our police, nurses and firefighters – who sacrifice for all of us.



I will also work to quickly enact strong legislation to protect our consumers and producers from unanswered questions over food safety standards. Country of origin labeling is an important way to protect our consumers and increase agriculture jobs. We must also work to support more rigorous monitoring and testing systems to speed up the identification of potentially dangerous products.



I will continue to stand up for Washington state residents and fight for the issues that are important to our state – worker rights, accessible health care and education, job creation and a healthy economy. We need to pass the Omnibus bill and fund our federal responsibility to infrastructure, health care, job training and education."

Senator Murray's full statement in the Congressional Record:

Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, today I am voting to help Washington state restart our economy, create new jobs, and invest in our future by voting to move this Omnibus Appropriations bill forward.

I am deeply angry that the White House and the Congressional Majority are trying to use this must-pass bill to sneak through some atrocious policies that the Senate has already rejected, but I know that this bill is not the last word.

Since the first days of this Administration, I have fought attempts to threaten workers, undermine our environment and weaken consumer protections, and I'm not going to stop now.

While I continue my fight against the bad things that are in this bill, I will not let my state lose out on the many good things I worked to include. In fact, my experiences over the past few weeks have shown me just how big a difference these investments will make throughout my state.

I've spent the past month meeting with people in every corner of Washington – from teachers and students in Pasco, to farmers in the Skagit Valley, veterans in North Central Washington, and seniors in Aberdeen and Ballard. I sat down with the people who grow our produce, run our ports and operate our public utility districts. Together we celebrated our victory in landing the Boeing 7E7 and in opening new centers for research and tourism.

No matter where I went or with whom I met, one thing was clear. In every corner of Washington, neighbors are coming together to create jobs, rebuild our economy and create a better future. They are working to help our children, assist our seniors, and support our veterans and military families. They are working hard to turn things around, and they need the investments this bill will make in our schools, our infrastructure, our economy, and our people.

Washington State is Focused on Moving Forward

Washington state is talking about moving forward. We've been hit hard by the recession and lost 75,000 jobs over the last three years, but we are making progress. We had some great news in December when Boeing decided that Washington workers would build the 7E7, the next generation airliner. We're moving forward on transportation investments that will create jobs and improve our productivity, economy and quality of life. And we're moving forward with new growth industries from biotechnology to wine.

All across my state, I heard the message loud and clear. Washingtonians want to get our economy moving again and create new jobs. They're concerned about our men and women serving in the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and throughout the world, and want to make sure we provide for our veterans and military families. So, as we begin the second session of the 108th Congress, I'm working here in the Senate to help us move forward, and it starts with our economy.

Moving Our Economy Forward

I'm not satisfied with the economy and particularly job creation in my state. I'm disappointed that this Administration's economic policy created just 1,000 jobs in the month of December while hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers abandoned job searches altogether.

I'm outraged that the majority in Congress and the Administration allowed 85,000 unemployed workers, including 7,500 in Washington state, to lose unemployment compensation just before the holidays. Over the next few weeks, an additional 37,000 unemployed workers in Washington state will lose their extended unemployment benefits.

I'm not satisfied with the Omnibus Appropriations measure now before the Senate. The fiscal year started more than three months ago, and we still haven't finished the important business of passing appropriations bills to fund some of the most important functions of our government.

We are unanimous in support of our troops fighting the War on Terrorism, yet we haven't passed the VA-HUD bill with its critical increase in funding for veterans health care.

The President travels the country celebrating the second anniversary of the No Child Left Behind legislation, but the funding we fought so hard to secure is still not at work on behalf of our kids. The money contained in this bill is not nearly enough to allow schools to make the reforms needed for our students to succeed.

Important transportation projects are stuck in neutral -- jeopardizing their ability to move forward and create construction jobs now and to support long-term economic recovery. We should be talking about reauthorizing the six-year highway bill rather than finally approving the long overdue funding measure for one fiscal year.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am outraged that the hard work of the committee has been delayed and compromised by the Majority and the Administration who are jamming Senators to force through bad policies.

Mr. President, I want to commend Chairman Stevens and Senator Byrd for their hard work to pass the appropriations bill. We are here to debate an omnibus appropriations bill that the Appropriations Committee worked so hard to avoid.

On Balance, Washington Needs These Investments

I understand why many of my Democratic colleagues have chosen to oppose this bill. I share their anger at the Administration's role in this process and our Republican colleagues' willingness to abandon issues like overtime protections that they voted for right here on the Senate floor. I seriously considered voting against this measure.

But I am a realist, and I am passionate about the needs of Washington state. People need jobs, transportation improvements need to move forward, veterans need healthcare, our students need support, and that's what I'm voting for today.

As awful as some of the Administration-backed provisions in this bill are, defeating the Omnibus appropriations bill will put our economy, our schools and our healthcare system at even greater risk.

It's a horrible choice the Majority is forcing us to make. But today, I am voting for the jobs, security and growth that this bill will bring to the people of Washington state. I will vote for cloture and final passage of the Omnibus because I know my state needs the investments in this bill, and I do not want to deny or delay important federal assistance to my state.

Fighting Harmful Provisions

Before I close, I want to talk about some of the harmful and hurtful provisions that Republicans have inserted into this bill - particularly those targeting workers and consumers.

The only reason they attached them to this must-pass bill is because they know these horrible policies cannot stand on their own. In fact, with my support the Senate has defeated the Administration's plans to erode overtime pay for workers and to increase media concentration. And we led the fight in the last Farm Bill to give consumers important country of origin information about our food supply. Despite the Republicans' maneuvers, this bill is not the last word on these policies. The fight is not over.

Overtime Provision

I'm particularly outraged that the Administration and the Republican leadership ignored the will of the majority of Members in both chambers by removing the Harkin Overtime amendment from the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill.

The Harkin amendment would have protected hard-working Americans who rely on overtime pay, like our first responders – our police, firefighters and nurses. One international police association estimates that 200,000 midlevel police officers will lose about $150 million in overtime pay if the new draft overtime regulations are implemented. The Bush Administration will also prevent more than 230,000 licensed practical nurses from getting overtime pay.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the Bush overtime rule will mean a pay cut for up to ten million working Americans.

Even more astounding, the Bush Administration had the gall to actually give employers detailed suggestions on how they could cut workers' pay. To me it's unbelievable that our government would pro-actively look for ways to hurt American workers.

These families are working hard, they're playing by the rules, they're trying to make ends meet, but the Bush Administration and the Republican majority in this Congress are squeezing them once again.

Apparently, it wasn't enough for this Administration to preside over a dramatic loss of manufacturing jobs. It wasn't enough for this Administration to let out-of-work Americans lose their unemployment benefits before the holidays. Now this White House is attacking the take-home pay of those Americans who are lucky enough to even have jobs. It's appalling, it's wrong, and I'm going to keep fighting this Administration's attacks on working families.

Vouchers

I am deeply disappointed that this bill diverts taxpayer dollars away from struggling public schools and spends them on a vouchers scheme in the District of Columbia. I will continue my fight against vouchers and my efforts to give our public schools the resources our students need.

In the end, I'm confident that we will win because these awful Republican policies cannot stand up to public scrutiny. We will have more votes on the overtime issue. We will have more votes on the country of origin labeling and important food safety issues, and we will have more votes on vouchers and media concentration.

Mr. President, I vote for this bill today because of the many programs funded in this Omnibus bill. Throughout my state, people are working hard to get our economy moving, and I'm voting for this bill to give them the federal support they deserve.