Senator Blumenthal Delivers Maiden Floor Speech

(Washington, DC) – Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) delivered his maiden floor speech from the well of the U.S. Senate today, focusing on how he will continue to fight for the people of Connecticut and stand up for their interests in Washington. Blumenthal relayed personal stories he has heard traveling the state, and presented ideas on how to foster economic growth and create jobs.

“We have to make ‘Made in Connecticut’ and ‘Made in America’ mean something again,” said Blumenthal. “We must invest more; we must make more; and we must invent more – right here in the United States… we must invest in infrastructure and education – in roads, transmission lines and airports, in everything from our grade schools to our community colleges to our job training programs.”

Additionally, Blumenthal announced that in the coming weeks, he will introduce legislation to help small businesses set aside money to invest and reinvest in their business, as well as “a bill to help secure job opportunities for our Veterans, and provide training, healthcare, higher education, and more.”

“The people of Connecticut want bipartisan efforts to achieve job creation and economic growth,” Blumenthal continued. “They want partnerships among business, labor and education. And they want bipartisan efforts to help our veterans – so that after they serve our country, they return to a paycheck instead of an unemployment line.”

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Mr./Madame President:

The people of Connecticut sent me here to fight for their interests. Today, I rise to amplify their voices and share their concerns in my first remarks from the Senate floor.

I know these voices firsthand – from listening – day after day, year after year, traveling the state to be with people where they live and work, and recently on a two-week listening tour as one of my first actions as a United States Senator.

And what I’m hearing is that people are still hurting and struggling – trying to find jobs, make ends meet, stay in their homes, and keep their families together.

And they feel – rightly – that Washington isn’t listening, Washington isn’t heeding their voices, or responding with the right action or results.

The people of Connecticut are clear about their priorities: they want to be back at work, with good jobs in a growing economy and responsible, smart cuts in government spending to reduce our debt and deficit. And they want to know that Washington is listening to them and that their leaders are fighting for them – standing up and speaking out against powerful special interests and predatory wrongdoing. And that is the kind of leader and listener they sent me here to be.

In the northeast corner of my state, known as the “quiet corner,” the President of Nutmeg Container Corporation, Charlie Pious, tells me he’s hoping to hire more workers, but he has difficulty finding people with the skills he needs.

Not far away, in Putnam, at a meeting at the Putnam Bank with Chairman Thomas Borner, one after another small business leaders tell me they could create more jobs with more certainty and consistency in government action.

In Hartford, our state’s capital, we celebrate a Jobs Corps graduating class – kids who dropped out and came back through training and determination. 

And in Bridgeport, unemployed, older workers are crowding the WorkPlace, a highly successful job training center. There and all around the state, people simply want work.

At the Fuel Cell Energy Corporation in Torrington, R. Daniel Brdar, the president of this cutting edge green energy manufacturer, plans to expand his workforce, but he needs to know he can continue to count on the renewable energy tax credit – and workers with the right skills.

And in Waterbury at a meeting hosted by Joe Vrabley, president of Atlantic Steel, small business manufacturers describe again and again how they are facing unfair competition from companies in countries breaking the rules. At Crescent Manufacturing in Burlington, Steve Wilson demonstrates the destructive consequences of Chinese currency manipulation, when they effectively devalue their money and subsidize their exports so the prices of their products undercut Connecticut-made goods and jobs. 

The people of Connecticut don’t need Washington to tell them what’s wrong. They need help making it right. They want job creation to be the priority in Washington -- just like it is in Connecticut. They’re frustrated because Washington seems beholden not to them but to some of the financial gamblers who made the economy their own personal casino and put millions of Americans out of work and out of their homes.

And on Main Street, small businesses struggle to get started, ongoing businesses face roadblocks when they try to grow. They can’t get capital, credit, or loans; they can’t find workers with the skills they need. They face unfair trade practices from foreign governments promoting the products of their manufacturers.

Taxpayers are angry for good reason – not just for themselves but for their children and the growing danger to the American Dream – the great fear that they will be the first generation to leave the next a lesser America and trillions in unpaid bills.

A new report from the Government Accounting office documents what we instinctively have known: waste and duplication in government bureaucracies costs taxpayers billions of dollars a year – early estimates say between $100 billion and $200 billion. And experts say we could save tens of billions of dollars by aggressively prosecuting health care waste and abuse – just as we saved millions by going after health care fraud when I was Attorney General.

The people of Connecticut – indeed, of America – will not tolerate and should not tolerate billions in waste and duplication. It must be cut. That’s where we should focus, not on the thoughtless slashing of essential services that provide a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens. 

When we cut, let’s be smart about it.

The people of Connecticut are sick of the special breaks and tax loopholes that have been protected for too long – tax breaks to companies that send jobs overseas, subsidies to huge oil and gas interests – some of them the most profitable companies in the history of the planet – and giveaways to giant agribusiness, many given tax dollars not to grow anything.

Shutting down those loopholes and special breaks and sweetheart deals will take a fight. But the people of Connecticut and the country are ready for that fight, and so am I, and we must fight. And that fight requires support for the enforcers who prevent and prosecute abuse, waste and lawbreaking. Cutting enforcement funds may make appealing political sound bites until we realize that real world lawlessness has real world consequences. Consistent, vigorous enforcement is critical. Good cops on the beat make a difference.

These steps – responsible cuts in spending, clear rules and consistent, rigorous enforcement – are absolutely necessary to help our economy grow again. But they are not alone enough to create jobs.

Washington must provide tools and remove obstacles to the people and small businesses who are the real job creators.

We have to make “Made in Connecticut” and “Made in America” mean something again.

We must invest more; we must make more; and we must invent more – right here in the United States.

Step number one – we must invest more. We must invest in infrastructure and education – in roads, transmission lines and airports, in everything from our grade schools to our community colleges to our job training programs.

In New Haven, as just one example, cutting edge bio technologies are taking root and growing – thanks to the Downtown Crossing project, where a new building, and road rebuilding, are necessary for dynamic growth. Instead of thoughtless threats to slash Downtown Crossing transportation grants, we should be encouraging this development.

In the coming weeks, I will introduce new legislation that will help small businesses to set aside money to invest and reinvest in their business.

Step two – making more – means more manufacturing and fair trade, and strengthening “Buy American” requirements to ensure that our tax dollars are creating jobs here, not abroad. Chinese currency manipulation – costing us jobs and undermining our businesses – must be stopped.  And we need stronger enforcement of laws that prevent foreign export subsidies and intellectual property theft.

Third, to invent more, the renewable energy tax credits and other incentives, which encourage businesses to create and produce green energy solutions, should be made permanent.

The R&D Tax Credit, which creates incentives for businesses investing in research, should be extended indefinitely and expanded.

The people of Connecticut want bipartisan efforts to achieve job creation and economic growth. They want partnerships among business, labor and education. And they want bipartisan efforts to help our veterans – so that after they serve our country, they return to a paycheck instead of an unemployment line. And that is why in coming weeks, I will introduce a bill to help secure job opportunities for our Veterans, and provide training, higher education, and more.

As I continue to travel across Connecticut, I listen to people like the Squatritos of Carla’s Pasta, their business in South Windsor.  An immigrant from Italy, Carla Squatrito started making pasta in her kitchen and grew it into a successful small business. This year, thanks to smart targeted tax incentives, Carla's financial recipe includes investing in a fuel cell from the Fuel Cell Energy Corporation in Torrington to provide a low-cost source for most of their electricity needs. This cleaner, greener energy source will lower their energy bills and allow them to hire more workers and create more Connecticut jobs.

The people of Connecticut sent me here to fight for them – to fight for jobs and justice, to fight against a capitol that caters to powerful special interests. The best moments of my career have been when we fought and won battles for ordinary people. For Skylar Austin and others when their health insurance companies wrongly denied them medically necessary, sometimes life-saving treatment; for business people, like Kathy Platt, when General Motors sought wrongfully and unfairly to shut down her car dealership, Alderman Motors; or Terry, a Marine like many veterans who return from Iraq or other military service only to be denied proper treatment from our own government. I am here because the people of Connecticut know me as a fighter. And in the challenging time ahead, I will fulfill that trust by listening to them and working for them.

Finally, as we gather today, young Americans are sacrificing and serving at home and abroad. Like all of you, I am grateful to them every day, and to all the veterans who have served and sacrificed before them, for giving us the freedoms that we enjoy every day, including the extraordinary opportunity to speak today in this historic chamber and participate in the greatest democracy in the greatest nation the world has ever known.