Thanksgiving is a holiday I remember in blinks of memory.
My grandmother with her head bowed, leading the blessing.
My Aunt Bee proudly presenting her special green Jell-O molded salad for everyone to admire.
Our son Alex, racing through the house as a three-year-old, making monster noises and holding out his hands with pitted olives stuck on the end of each finger.
Seven-year-old Amelia and her eight-year-old cousin Michelle decorating place cards and deciding where each relative should sit (and arguing loudly over whether Aunt Nancy's name was spelled "Ant Nancy" or "Ante Nancy").
Nephew Dan coming in just before dinner, still muddy from playing in the traditional high school rivalry game between Plymouth North and Plymouth South.
Baking pies with my granddaughters.
Holding a tiny grandbaby and eating my dinner with one hand.
Somewhere, we probably have photographs from every Thanksgiving – but even if we don't, I have them all in my heart.
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday – a chance for all of us to give thanks for all the things that previous generations have given to us. But it is also a chance to think about the world we are leaving to the generations that will follow us.
I'm deeply grateful for every blessing in my life. I'm also deeply grateful to have the chance to fight for a world that includes opportunities for all our children and a real chance for hard-working people to build some security.
I realize that the changes we need to make will be hard, and I know that we won't win every fight – but I know that if we fight, we have a chance to build something better.
Thanksgiving is a time for us to be grateful, and I'm grateful to have you by my side. Your stories, your hopes and wishes are with me today and every day.
From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is a holiday I remember in blinks of memory.
I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on families – people who worked hard, played by the rules, but still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails to a place in the middle class.
A generation ago, middle class families could put away enough money during their working years to make it through their later years with dignity. But since that time, the retirement landscape has shifted dramatically against our families.
A third of working families on the verge of retirement have no savings of any kind. Another third have total savings less than their annual income. Just as people need to rely more than ever on pensions, employers have replaced guaranteed retirement income with 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the market. And 44 million workers don't even have access to that sort of plan.
Add all of this up, and we're left with a retirement crisis – a crisis that is as real and as frightening as any policy problem facing the United States today.
Social Security is incredibly effective, it is incredibly popular, and the calls for strengthening it are growing louder every day. Will you join our national pledge to protect Social Security?
Today, there is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under 65 are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their current standard of living when they hit retirement.
Two-thirds of seniors rely on Social Security for the majority of their income in retirement, and for 14 million seniors – 14 million – this is the safety net that keeps them out of poverty. God bless Social Security.
And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.
Let's look at the facts: Social Security will be safe for the next 20 years and even after that will continue to pay most benefits. With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years – and could even increase benefits.
The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors to keep their heads above water -- is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.
If we want a real middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country, then we must take the Retirement Crisis seriously. Sign our national pledge to protect Social Security for America's seniors.
The conversation about retirement and Social Security benefits is not just a conversation about math. At its core, this is a conversation about our values.
I believe we honor our promises, we make good on a system that millions of people paid into faithfully throughout their working years, and we support the right of every person to retire with dignity.
Let's make sure my colleagues in Washington know that our values are America's values. Sign our pledge now.
It hasn't been even a month since the Republicans shut down the government, and they're already trying to paralyze the government again.
There are vacancies on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and Republicans now hold the dubious distinction of filibustering all three women that President Obama nominated to fill those vacancies.
They all have extraordinary legal resumes and have received bipartisan support from top litigators around the country. They are among the top legal minds of a generation.
So why have these women been filibustered? To keep this President from doing his job.
With your help, we made enough noise to finally give Rich Cordray an up-or-down vote to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We need the same sort of pressure for our judicial nominees.
Tell the Senate: It's the President's job to nominate highly qualified people to court vacancies. It's the Senate's job to confirm them. Give our judicial nominees an up-or-down vote.
Every day in Congress, we deal with the influence of powerful groups and their armies of lobbyists. But in our democracy, when we write laws, we can push back on their power. That's how we got a strong consumer agency to level the playing field for working families after the financial crisis.
But the story doesn't end when Congress passes a law. Powerful interests don't just give up – they shift their fight to the courts. They know if they can weaken or overturn a law in court – and rig the system with sympathetic judges in lifetime positions – they turn defeat into victory.
In the next few years, the DC Circuit will decide some of the most important cases of our time – including cases that will decide whether Wall Street Reform will have real bite or whether it will just be toothless.
Swaps dealers, the securities industry, the Business Roundtable, and the Chamber of Commerce are all lining up to challenge the new rules that agencies have written to try to put some teeth in Wall Street Reform and other laws. These big industry players want business-friendly judges to help them out.
Republicans may not like Wall Street Reform. They may not like Obamacare. But Congress passed those laws, and President Obama signed those laws. It is not up to judges to overturn those laws or their associated regulations just because they don't fit the judges' policy preferences.
We need to call out these filibusters for what they are: naked attempts to nullify the results of the last Presidential election – to force us to govern as though President Obama hadn't won the 2012 election.
Tell the Senate to give President Obama's court nominees an up-or-down vote.
We are caught in a fight over the future of our courts – a fight over whether the courts will be a neutral forum that decides every dispute fairly, or whether the courts will be stacked in favor of the wealthy and the powerful.
I'm in this fight, and I hope you are too.
A year ago last night, I made a promise to you. I stood on the stage at our election night party and I said:
"I won't just be your Senator, I will also be your champion."
Every day that I'm in the United States Senate, I think about those words from my election night speech.
Yesterday, I gave a speech on the floor of the Senate about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – legislation that would finally protect LGBT Americans from discrimination in the workplace.
Equal marriage is now the law in 14 states. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have put in place laws to protect against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the Supreme Court has rejected the Defense of Marriage Act.
For many years, Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman Barney Frank led the fight in Congress to pass ENDA. I thought of them, and thought about how many of my friends and neighbors, how many people across this country, had worked so hard for this moment.
I felt a deep joy to be on the floor of the Senate today to hear the roll call and the bill finally pass. I thought to myself: We're one step closer to a country where equal means equal.
Now we turn to the House Republicans. They seem ready to stop the bill in its tracks – to continue their fight against the promises of equality that define our country, to resist the will of the American people. If they resist, I'm ready to fight. We are not going back.
When I said I wanted to be your champion a year ago, I meant a champion for ALL of us. Students trying to get an education without going broke. Seniors trying to live with dignity on their Social Security benefits. Parents trying to make ends meet on a level playing field. And every American trying to work without fear of losing their job over who they are and who they love.
To everyone who shared your hopes and dreams with me during the campaign and put your faith in my ability to fight for you, know this: it's been a year, but I'm still ready to fight.
Whether that means standing up to extreme Republicans in the House or demanding accountability for big banks that break the rules, I'm still ready to fight.
I'm still ready to fight because I believe as strongly as ever that when we fight, we can win.
Thank you for continuing to be a part of this. You have always had my back, and I will always have yours.
Congratulations Red Sox Nation!
I was thrilled to recognize the Red Sox for their outstanding, historic season on the floor of the United States Senate this morning.
The Red Sox mean so much to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- and this year, they have been a special symbol of Boston's strength and resilience.
From their historic worst-to-first turnaround, to their first win in front of the Fenway Faithful since 1918, to their scruffy beards, this Sox team will be remembered forever for its heart as much as it will for its success.
Like all of us in Massachusetts, they have shown what it means to be Boston Strong.
I am honored every day to represent the people of Massachusetts and the values that we stand for, and I'm especially proud to congratulate our team today.
I'm glad that the government shutdown has ended, and I'm relieved that we didn't default on our debt.
But I want to be clear: I am NOT celebrating tonight.
Yes, we prevented an economic catastrophe that would have put a huge hole in our fragile economic recovery. But the reason we were in this mess in the first place is that a reckless faction in Congress took the government and the economy hostage for no good purpose and to no productive end.
According to the S&P index, the government shutdown had delivered a powerful blow to the U.S. economy. By their estimates, $24 billion has been flushed down the drain for a completely unnecessary political stunt.
$24 billion dollars. How many children could have been back in Head Start classes? How many seniors could have had a hot lunch through Meals on Wheels? How many scientists could have gotten their research funded? How many bridges could have been repaired and trains upgraded?
The Republicans keep saying, "Leave the sequester in place and cut all those budgets." They keep trying to cut funding for the things that would help us build a future. But they are ready to flush away $24 billion on a political stunt.
So I'm relieved, but I'm also pretty angry.
We have serious problems that need to be fixed, and we have hard choices to make about taxes and spending. I hope we never see our country flush money away like this again. Not ever.
It's time for the hostage taking to end. It's time for every one of us to say, "No more."
The United States Treasury says that in exactly one week, it won't have enough money to pay the government's bills.
We're not in this position because President Obama or the Secretary of the Treasury spent more than they were supposed to. And we're not in this position because investors refuse to buy our bonds.
We're in this position for one reason, and one reason only: because Congress told the government to spend more money than we have, and now Congress is threatening to run out on the bill. This isn't about new spending. This is about paying for the bills we've already run up.
The idea that we can renege on our debts without paying a high price is a fantasy – a very dangerous fantasy.
We must raise the debt ceiling – and we must do it now. Tell Congress to do its job, pay our bills, and prevent the first default in the history of the United States.
Consider what happened in 2011, the last time the government came to the edge of a voluntary default.
Even the possibility that the government would not make good on its debts spooked investors and pushed up interest rates. According to experts, even talking about default cost the government $19 billion over ten years.
And consumers and businesses got spooked too. The S&P index dropped by 17 percent. $800 billion dollars in retirement assets vanished. Mortgage rates went up nearly three-quarters of a point. The result was less consumer spending, fewer business investments, lower home ownership rates, and slower job growth.
That's what happened the last time Congress came to the edge of a voluntary default. What happens if we actually default?
Some economists estimate that the rise in interest rates will cost us $75 billion a year. Social Security checks and Medicare reimbursements will be delayed. People won't be able to pay their mortgages or small business loans. Interest rates will spike, and the credit market could freeze.
If we default on our debt, we could bring on a worldwide recession – a recession that would pummel hard-working middle class people, people who lost homes and jobs and retirement savings and who are barely getting back on their feet.
I don't always see eye-to-eye with Wall Street CEOs, but on this one we agree: We can't run out on the bill and cause financial calamity for working families.
Tell Congress to stop playing with the lives of every American and start doing what the American people sent us here to do. Raise the debt ceiling and pay our bills now.
This fight is about financial responsibility. I can think of a lot of things we could do with $75 billion dollars. We could ramp up Meals on Wheels and Head Start. We could give students some relief on their loans. We could invest in more medical and scientific research. We could pay down the debt. But if we default on our loans, we've just flushed money down the drain. That's about as irresponsible as it gets.
For many things that we do in Congress, we can make a mistake, and then back up and fix it. A default on our national debt is not one of those things. If we default, this country will pay.
We are the United States of America. We always pay our debts – in full and on time. That's who we are.
If you watch the anarchist tirades coming from extremist Republicans in the House, you'd think they believe that the government that governs best is a government that doesn't exist at all.
But behind all the slogans of the Tea Party – and all the thinly veiled calls for anarchy in Washington – is a reality: The American people don't want a future without government.
When was the last time the anarchy gang called for regulators to go easier on companies that put lead in children's toys? Or for inspectors to stop checking whether the meat in our grocery stores is crawling with deadly bacteria? Or for the FDA to ignore whether morning sickness drugs will cause horrible deformities in our babies?
When? Never. In fact, whenever the anarchists make any headway in their quest and cause damage to our government, the opposite happens.
After the sequester kicked in, Republicans immediately turned around and called on us to protect funding for our national defense and to keep our air traffic controllers on the job.
And now that the House Republicans have shut down the government – holding the country hostage because of some imaginary government "health care boogeyman" – Republicans almost immediately turned around and called on us to start reopening parts of our government.
Why do they do this? Because the boogeyman government in the alternate universe of their fiery political speeches isn't real. It doesn't exist.
Government is real, and it has three basic functions:
- Provide for the national defense.
- Put rules in place rules, like traffic lights and bank regulations, that are fair and transparent.
- Build the things together that none of us can build alone – roads, schools, power grids – the things that give everyone a chance to succeed.
These things did not appear by magic. In each instance, we made a choice as a people to come together. We made that choice because we wanted to be a country with a foundation that would allow anyone to have a chance to succeed.
The Food and Drug Administration makes sure that the white pills we take are antibiotics and not baking soda. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees crash tests to make sure our new cars have functioning brakes. The Consumer Product Safety Commission makes sure that babies' car seats don't collapse in a crash and that toasters don't explode.
We are alive, we are healthier, we are stronger because of government. Alive, healthier, stronger because of what we did together.
We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is, "I've got mine, the rest of you are on your own." We are not a country that tolerates dangerous drugs, unsafe meat, dirty air, or toxic mortgages.
We are not that nation. We have never been that nation. And we never will be that nation.
The political minority in the House that condemns government and begged for this shutdown has its day. But like all the reckless and extremist factions that have come before it, its day will pass – and the government will get back to the work we have chosen to do together.
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to solve a real, honest-to-God problem.
Our health care system was broken. 48 million people in this country had no health insurance. Women couldn't get access to cancer screenings. People with diabetes were denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. People with cancer hit the caps on their health insurance spending. And health spending in this country was growing far too fast.
So we worked hard, we compromised, and we came up with a solution. A solution that will substantially improve the lives of millions of Americans – because that's the way a democracy works.
It's time to end the debate about whether the Affordable Care Act should exist and whether it should be funded.
Congress voted for this law. President Obama signed this law. The Supreme Court upheld this law. The President ran for reelection on this law. His opponent said he would repeal it – and his opponent lost by five million votes.
Right now, Republicans are taking the government and the economy hostage, threatening serious damage to both unless the President agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act. For days, they even tried to change the law so that employers can deny women access to birth control coverage.
I am the mother of a daughter and the grandmother of granddaughters. I will never vote to let a group of backward-looking ideologues cut women's access to birth control. We have lived in that world, and we are not going back. Not ever.
I see things like this and I wonder what alternate reality some of my colleagues are living in.
So let me be very clear about what is happening in the real world: The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Millions of people are counting on it – people who need health care coverage, people who need insurance policies that don't disappear just when they are sickest.
The law is here to stay, and it will stay.
Now the government is shut down. We haven't fixed the sequester because of all the obstruction. We haven't finished a budget because of all the obstruction. We haven't even passed a single appropriations bill because of all the obstruction.
The least we can do – the bare minimum we can do – would be to pass a "continuing resolution" to open the doors back up and turn the lights back on. We could ensure that over a million federal workers aren't staying home for no reason. We could end the government shutdown.
But the Republicans have refused to do even that. They have continued to shutter the government unless the President agreed to de-fund the Affordable Care Act.
The threats may continue, but they are not working and they never will. In a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can't win their fights through elections, can't win their fights in Congress, can't win their fights for the Presidency, and can't win their fights in Courts.
For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left – a last gasp of those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy.
The time has come for those legislators who cannot cope with the reality of our democracy to get out of the way – so that those of us in BOTH parties can get back to working on solving the real problems faced by the American people.
We have real work to do.
We all remember the darkest days of the financial crisis five years ago.
Credit dried up. The stock market cratered. Millions of people lost their jobs. Billions of dollars in retirement savings disappeared.
There were legitimate fears that the dominos of our financial system would never stop falling, and we were heading into another Great Depression.
On many of these fronts, we've made real progress. The Dodd-Frank Act was the strongest financial reform law in three generations. If I had been in the Senate three years ago, I would have voted for it proudly.
Dodd-Frank put in place the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has made serious strides toward leveling the playing field for families and increasing transparency in the marketplace. Thanks to the CFPB, I don't think there will ever again be so many lousy mortgages to threaten our families and our economy.
But no law is perfect -- and our work isn't done.
Most importantly, where are we now on the "Too Big to Fail" problem?" Where are we on making sure the giant financial institutions on Wall Street can't bring down the whole economy with a wild gamble?
After the 2008 crisis, we widely recognized that Too Big to Fail had distorted the marketplace. The largest financial institutions have lower borrowing costs and competitive advantages because of their free, unwritten, government-guaranteed insurance policy.
There was a lot of talk, but look what happened: The four biggest banks are 30% larger today than they were five years ago. Too Big to Fail status is giving the 10 biggest US banks an annual taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion.
So what are we doing about it? More delays. Many say Congress should wait to act further because the agencies still have to issue many of the rules required by Dodd-Frank.
It's true many rules are not yet written, but that's because the agencies have missed more than 60% of Dodd-Frank's deadlines.
When Congress sets deadlines and regulators miss most of them, it's time for Congress to step in. Congress is responsible for oversight -- and that's what oversight means.
For that reason, I partnered with Senators John McCain, Maria Cantwell, and Angus King to offer up one potential way to address the Too Big to Fail problem: the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. It's time to separate boring commercial banking from risky investment banking once again.
There are many other approaches for ending Too Big to Fail, and there is no single answer for preventing future crisis.
But we should not accept a financial system that allows the biggest banks to emerge from a crisis in record-setting shape while ordinary Americans continue to struggle.
We should not accept a regulatory system that is so besieged by lobbyists for the big banks that it takes years to deliver rules that are too often watered-down and ineffective.
We should never forget the consequences of letting financial behemoths hold our economy hostage. We managed to avoid that grim fate, but our economy still suffered a staggering body-blow.
There were many powerful interests that that have fought against financial reform, and they will fight future reform efforts too.
But David beat Goliath with the passage of Dodd-Frank. David beat Goliath when we fought for and established a strong consumer agency.
I am confident David can also beat Goliath on Too Big to Fail. Five years after the financial crisis, we just have to pick up the slingshot again.