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(Washington, D.C.) – In a speech today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) told her colleagues that American families can’t wait until January for an economic stimulus effort. 

With unemployment rising, and millions of Americans hurting, Murray said Senators must unite behind a proposal that would invest in transportation and green technology, create jobs and help families by expanding unemployment and housing.

“As the latest jobless reports show, we can’t afford to wait – even until January – to start providing the help Americans need,” Senator Murray said.  “We need to take action that will create jobs, diversify and modernize our economy, and help families cope with the economic downturn.

“This week, Senator Byrd and our Majority Leader, Senator Reid, proposed an economic stimulus bill that would do just that.  Their bill is targeted at the biggest needs in our country.  It would create more than 635,000 jobs by investing in infrastructure and green energy development.  And it would help our most vulnerable citizens put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads,” Murray continued.  “I hope my colleagues will join together, work across party lines, pass this stimulus bill, and offer hope this year to millions of struggling families across the country.”

The following is the full text of Senator Murray’s speech as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, next week Americans across the country will celebrate Thanksgiving.  It’s a time to reflect and give thanks for our families, friends, and all that we have.  But far too many working families across my state – and across this country – have far less than they did just one year ago. 

They have lost their homes, their cars, their health care, their 401(k)s, and their jobs.  And just this month, we learned that this country has lost a total of 1.2 million jobs this year.  Over half of that decrease came in the last three months alone.  Across this country, people are hurting. 

Some of the hardest hit have been our veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Thousands of veterans are still recovering from physical or psychological injuries that make it hard to pay the bills and find a job.  And too many have found themselves sliding quickly into bankruptcy or foreclosure.  Yesterday, the New York Times reported that advocacy groups have seen a huge increase in the number of veterans asking for financial help over the last year.

Mr. President, Americans made it clear on Election Day that they want a new direction in this country.  They want action that will help us pull ourselves out of this economic crisis.  President-elect Obama has already announced that his first priority will be an economic recovery plan that invests in our country’s infrastructure.  As Chair of the Transportation and Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, I stand ready to help.

But as the latest jobless reports show, we can’t afford to wait – even until January – to start providing the help Americans need.  And that’s why I’ve come to the floor today.  We need to take action that will create jobs, diversify and modernize our economy, and help families cope with the economic downturn.

Mr. President, this week, Senator Byrd and our Majority Leader, Senator Reid, proposed an economic stimulus bill that would do just that.  Their bill is targeted at the biggest needs in our country.  It would create more than 635,000 jobs by investing in infrastructure and green energy development.  And it would help our most vulnerable citizens put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

Mr. President, Congress can make a real difference for millions of families across the country.  If there was a mandate given on November 4th, it was for government to work for the people once again.  America’s working families want a government that will turn our economy around and end this war.  And they want true progress on health care and education. 

So that’s our mandate.  We’ve got a lot of work to do – and we need a bipartisan effort to do it.  But we can’t wait just sit around and wait until we have a new Administration and Congress.  Americans are hurting now.

We have the ability today to come together across party lines and pass a bill that will put Americans back to work, and stabilize communities across this country.

So I want to take a few minutes to outline how this package will help get our economy moving again and help those most in need.

Helping Americans Who Have Lost Their Jobs and Homes

First, it’s critically important that we help families who have already lost their jobs and are drawing unemployment.  Especially with employers cutting jobs each month, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who need help paying for basic needs while they look for work.

This package reaches out to those families by extending unemployment benefits by seven weeks across the country – and 13 weeks in states where the jobless rate is highest.  It also brings some relief to communities since every dollar of unemployment benefits generates $1.64 in additional economic activity.

Mr. President, this bill also provides help for the millions of families struggling to find safe, secure housing.

Across this country, public housing is badly in need of repairs and improvement.  With this bill, communities would be able to rehabilitate vacant public housing units, improve energy efficiency, and jumpstart construction of new projects that will serve needy tenants.

It also would help address a growing problem in our communities – renters who have lost their homes because their landlords were foreclosed on.  This bill would help the innocent victims of the foreclosure crisis find immediate shelter and long-term housing.  

This Bill Creates 635,000 Jobs

So, Mr. President, one reason we need this bill is because it offers help to those who need it most – those who have lost their jobs and are struggling to find housing.  But this bill would also help our communities and jumpstart our economy by creating more than 635,000 jobs, investing in new technology, and repairing infrastructure. 

For example, Mr. President, this package would make investments in highway and bridge construction in all 50 states by providing $10 billion to help fund projects that are already ready to go.  For every billion dollars we spend on highways, we create more than 34,500 good jobs.  This package would create more than 345,000 jobs. 

Additionally, Mr. President, there are no earmarks – no special projects – as part of the highway funding in this bill.  All highway dollars would be spent according to the formula established for the Surface Transportation Program in our SAFETEA-LU highway law.  And states would have to put this money to work within 180 days. 

But Mr. President, we all know that roads aren’t the only area where our communities need transportation dollars.  Cities across the country are also struggling to repair and expand their bus and rail systems as demand for mass transit and public transportation skyrockets.   

So this bill would improve and expand mass transit systems so that millions of commuters can get to work smoothly and on-time.  And it would help repair and improve our nation’s airports, make needed investments in our nation’s ferry transportation systems, and modernize our nation’s shipyards to make them competitive and efficient.

Providing Workers Training and Investing in New Jobs

Now, Mr. President, while creating jobs can help get our economy going again, we also need to make sure our workers are prepared to compete for the jobs of the future.  This package does that by helping 160,000 dislocated workers and youth get education, training, counseling and job assistance. 

Mr. President, this is particularly important for young people who are disengaged from school and for disadvantaged teenagers, who are often hurt the most when unemployment is high.  It’s critical that we enable these young people to get work experience now.  If they lose out, they are less likely to move successfully into a career later. 

Teens without a job are more likely to turn to crime or join gangs, which cost our communities millions in law enforcement and lost productivity.  Not only will the programs this bill supports pay off as the economy picks up over time – they will help stimulate the economy in the short term too because teens spend almost all of the money they make immediately.

But, Mr. President, this package also recognizes that we need to start investing in new and healthy industries that will create new, good-paying jobs and help strengthen our economy for the long-term.   

I think one of the most promising fields is green technology.  That’s why this package would invest almost $7 billion in research and development that could help us create new energy sources and improved energy efficiency. 

Not only is the research and development absolutely vital in order to create the technology and the new jobs that come with it.  But research and development in clean technologies is also critical if we are going to become energy independent. 

Auto Industry

So Mr. President, those are just a few of the programs in this package, which I believe will be a shot in the arm that will help our economy for many years to come.  But before I finish, I want to address the provisions in this bill that would help this country’s struggling auto industry.

Mr. President, I want the auto industry to remain viable and continue to support the millions of jobs across the country, which depend on its success.  But I can’t support any more funds without concrete assurances that the automakers have a strategy to restructure and become viable, competitive companies. 

The auto industry cannot continue to follow a failed business model and then come asking for help.  I’ve already supported $25 billion with strong restructuring language for the auto industry in the continuing resolution we passed a month ago.

I will need to be convinced that added funding will not only save jobs, but that industry leaders will take restructuring seriously, and work to reinvigorate an industry that continues to teeter on the brink of failure. 

I’m also concerned about the blame being laid at the feet of the hard-working men and women in this industry.  The auto industry’s current financial crisis is the result of many factors – not just the result of the costs of employee healthcare and negotiated contract benefits that numerous working families and retirees depend on. 

If the federal government – funded by working and taxpaying families – is expected to explore financial aid to ailing corporations, then I expect to hear about sacrifices that industry management will make during these tough times.  I am hopeful that we can do that.

We Can Start Solving This Crisis Now

Mr. President, a month ago, this Congress came together and passed bill to help restore stability in our financial markets.  Well, we need this bill to provide stability for our communities and our working families back home.

We need it to help the most vulnerable among us keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.  We need it to help unemployed workers pay the bills while they start another job search.  And we need it so we can create jobs, invest in our communities, and support new developments in sustainable and emerging industries.

We can start solving this economic crisis now.  We can provide our families with the help they need before the holidays – and before our economic situation gets worse.

So I hope my colleagues will join together, work across party lines, pass this stimulus bill, and offer hope this year to millions of struggling families across the country.