A picture of Senator Maria Cantwell
Maria C.
Democrat WA

About Sen. Maria
  • Nomination of Vivek Hallegere Murthy to Be Medical Director in the Regular Corps of the Public Health Service, Subject to Qualifications Therefor as Provided By Law and Regulations, and to Be…

    by Senator Maria Cantwell

    Posted on 2014-12-15

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    Read More about Nomination of Vivek Hallegere Murthy to Be Medical Director in the Regular Corps of the Public Health Service, Subject to Qualifications Therefor as Provided By Law and Regulations, and to Be...

    CANTWELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Markey). Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Small Business Legislation Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I know that so many of my colleagues are looking forward to wrapping up this year's business and hopefully getting home soon for the holidays.

    [[Page S6847]] I wish to take a few minutes to speak about a couple of issues. First I wish to give some remarks about my colleague, the Senator from Louisiana, on her retirement, and to mention a few things that have been going on in the small business committee which will be wrapping up business. The small business committee and Senator Landrieu are kind of synonymous in my mind because my colleague Senator Landrieu has been, for the better part of the last couple of years, the Chair of that committee and has done some incredible work. As legislation is moving through the final days in the U.S. Senate, we have been very successful in getting some important legislation passed for small business.

    One piece of legislation we were able to make a part of the Defense authorization bill is sole-source contracting for women entrepreneurs so they can more easily get contracting with the Federal Government. That is going to help us have their great products and services more easily contracted and get access to those contracts.

    There is also money for microlending programs. My colleague from Michigan, Senator Levin, has pioneered an idea that is so important to women entrepreneurs and that involves the kind of lending they would like to see from the Small Business Administration, which is microlending, and for women to be able to get access to microloans. They also want an intermediate loan level of $200,000 or less. That helps them target some of the business interests they have, because we definitely need more women entrepreneurs in our country.

    The third item is the STEP program, which is a small business export assistance program that works with States. The Federal Government and the Small Business Administration work with States to help them target businesses within their States that can use export assistance to become exporters. This is such an important issue for our country, because we, with a growing middle class around the globe, have a great opportunity to sell new products and services around the globe. But many of our small businesses are challenged by the risk of making those kinds of attempts to sell in those markets. So this export assistance program, which had been a pilot, is now going to be a funded permanent program. So we are excited about that and excited it is moving through.

    Tribute To Mary Landrieu I also didn't get a chance last week to speak about my colleague Senator Landrieu on the floor, so I wanted to take a few minutes now to remind my colleagues that as someone who has served with her on the energy committee and served with her on the small business committee, I have been so impressed with the accomplishments she has achieved in her career here in the U.S. Senate. For much of the time she was talking the other day--rightfully so--she shared a lot of moments of her career and a lot of personal moments. I wanted to remind my colleagues of some of the very big challenges she faced as a Senator and how impressed I am with what she was able to actually overcome.

    Many people know that obviously being hit by Katrina was one of the biggest economic challenges not just in Louisiana but to our country, and her impassioned leadership and calls to hasten the efforts to make sure we were doing everything we could for those individuals to receive medical aid and shelter and help find loved ones was nonstop for many days. She successfully, as she mentioned on the floor, urged OMB to fully fund the repairs of the levee system in southeast Louisiana and continues that work. She succeeded in passing legislation that directed the Army Corps of Engineers to analyze, design, and strengthen the storm mitigation systems against category 5 hurricanes.

    Now if any of my colleagues in the U.S. Senate have ever worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, say no more. You know how challenging it is. We don't control them. They base all of their work on science. They have a budget. It is never enough money. It can seem as though we are fighting them for ever and ever to get something we think is essential to protect the people in our State to move forward. So she did all of that and moved the focus to make sure we establish a defense against category 5 hurricanes.

    Also, if any of my colleagues ever had a flood or a storm in their State post-Katrina, they know the first person they were going to hear from was Mary Landrieu. She didn't stop her efforts in Louisiana. She wanted to take everything she learned from that emergency and call you up and tell you these are the things you need to do immediately and this is how you should get prepared. I know she did that for many of my colleagues and we so appreciated it.

    Then another catastrophe happened--the Deepwater Horizon oilspill. As a member of the Commerce Committee, I can tell my colleagues I spoke to her many times about issues as they related to the Clean Water Act and what was eventually passed, the RESTORE Act, which was a bipartisan effort. Basically, the bill made sure that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act fines from BPA went directly into the Gulf States, making this the biggest individual investment in environmental conservation and restoration in our country's history. That was no easy task. There were a lot of people at the time who wanted to focus on many different aspects of that disaster, and so many events have taken place since then. But I can remember clearly the catastrophe and what it meant for the fishing community, the individuals, the States' economies--all of the questions. A lot of people were looking backwards about what happened, but the Senator from Louisiana was looking forward to make sure those funds were invested right there in the gulf. That was a big challenge that she was successful in meeting.

    Obviously, she used her voice for many issues related to Louisiana, but I wish to emphasize to my colleagues how much she also used her voice for many other people who didn't seem to be here in the Halls of Washington and made sure that those issues were at the top of the agenda.

    We had the 2009 economic crisis in our country and many people remember because it had such a huge economic impact to individual families. The Senator from Louisiana made sure she was standing up for small businesses during that time period. There were millions of Americans who lost their jobs during that time period, and as everybody was here talking about what to do to help these big banks--and we all know that they got a bailout--many small businesses across the country actually had performing lines of credit cut out right from under them. So they didn't have anybody knocking on the door to make sure they were being helped. But the Senator from Louisiana got very vocal here about the prioritization of making sure that we did something about conventional lending and tried to tackle this issue.

    From 2007 to 2009, the number of SBA borrowers dropped by more than half and the amount of loans dropped by more than one-third. Many of these small businesses were paying the price. So Senator Landrieu got busy fighting for what was the Small Business Jobs Act. If my colleagues remember that debate, there were many times that some people on the other side of the aisle didn't want to support that legislation or even moments when Treasury didn't know if they wanted to support that legislation. She was successful in the end in getting that legislation passed 61 to 38. The Small Business Jobs Act leveraged more than $42 billion in loans to more than 90,000 businesses throughout the SBA. The bill, along with other measures, helped target about $12 billion in tax cuts for small business. So while the big banks had immediate relief, they had someone here in DC fighting for small businesses, and that was Senator Landrieu.

    That legislation also saw a small business lending fund increase so that there was more capital on Main Street for small business. As a result of the legislation, 2011 and 2012 were the two biggest years on record for the 7(a) and the 504 program, which are kind of the premier programs for the Small Business Administration. That went a long way to helping small businesses begin to recover. Also, the small business credit initiative helped small businesses get access to capital.

    So all of these things were what my colleague from Louisiana fought for to help small businesses. I think it is a perfect example, along with those [[Page S6848]] other things about how she used her voice to try to bring clarity to the challenges we were facing and stand up for those who weren't being heard.

    She also, though, lent her voice to another group that is often--we don't necessarily always understand all of the issues surrounding it. I kind of think that she took over for Senator Byrd who was a great advocate on behalf of animals and spoke a lot about his dog, and many of the stories he shared warmed everybody's heart. Senator Landrieu last year was the Humane Society's Legislator of the Year for her consistent work to prevent the cruel practices of horse slaughter, to protect wild animals, and strengthen provisions against animal fighting. So she clearly deserved that title and we certainly appreciate her efforts there. She was also a voice for the District of Columbia. People get committee assignments, and, yes, she had that committee assignment, but the thing about Senator Landrieu is that once she took an assignment, she was tough on making sure those issues were addressed. She did that for the District of Columbia.

    I want to add my sincere thanks to the Senator from Louisiana for all of her work and public service here in the Senate. She will be missed. I know she and I share a passion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It is an issue that is near and dear to my heart and something she has tried in her time in the Senate to get fully funded. We are going to continue that work on her behalf in the energy committee.

    Again, I thank my colleague and dear friend for her incredible passion and for fighting for those whose voices were not always heard. There is no mistake her voice was heard here in the Senate.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.

    Murthy Nomination Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am very pleased to be here today to speak on behalf of President Obama's eminently qualified nominee to be Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

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