Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement in recognition of Women’s History Month:
March is National Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is “Generations of Women Moving History Forward.” This theme seems quite appropriate as 2007 marks a momentous year for women in politics. Sixteen women now serve in the United States Senate, and seventy-one serve in the House of Representatives. In addition, California’s own Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House for the 110th Congress.
The entry of women into politics has had a major impact on the agenda of the country. Women leaders have challenged our government to focus on education, health care, our children and our seniors. At the same time, women have demonstrated their strength on national security, crime, and defense of our nation.
Today, with 16 women Senators, 71 women Representatives, five women holding Cabinet level positions, and 76 women in executive level positions in statewide elective office, it has become clear that was once thought of as “women’s issues” are, in fact, America’s issues.
First, we must confront the economic disparities based on gender that exist today. We can no longer afford to delay action when working class Americans, 59 percent of whom are women, continue to be hindered by a minimum wage that prevents them from rising above the poverty line. For nearly a decade, the federal minimum wage has been kept at a stagnant rate of $5.15 per hour. Someone working full time at this rate earns less than $11,000 a year – well below the poverty line for families.
That’s why I have co-sponsored the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, which would boost the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour. This would increase the financial independence of many women, and greatly help the families that they support.
We must also do more to protect the health of our nation, and in doing so we must take action to eliminate death and suffering from cancer. Cancer is a devastating disease that tears families apart, and knows no distinction of gender, race, or age. But there is hope to be found, and I have worked tirelessly to combat this disease.
Former President George Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush and I co-chair C-Change. This group brings together the public, private and nonprofit sectors to address cancer as a societal problem. In 2005, we decided to move from dialogue into action as we made the goal to prevent an additional 1 million new cancer cases and 500,000 cancer deaths by 2010. We are steadily working toward that goal, due to the many advances made in cancer research and treatment.
Yet about 3 million women in the United States are living with breast cancer, one million of whom have yet to be diagnosed. In 1998, I introduced the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, the first stamp of its kind to raise funds for a special cause. Since its implementation, the stamp has raised $54 million for breast cancer research. I am proud to say that California constituents are one of the leading contributors to its success, purchasing over 47 million stamps.
I re-introduced legislation this year to extend the sale of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, and it is my hope it will be passed through the Congress quickly so it can continue to raise funds to fight this disease.
Another issue I am fighting for is protection of our environment, so that our families, children, and grandchildren can appreciate the natural beauty of our earth and grow up in a world free of dangers from smog, pollution, and global warming.
During my tenure in the Senate I have protected over 7 million acres of California desert, preserved our beautiful natural resource of Lake Tahoe by authorizing $300 million in matching federal funds over ten years towards restoration, and helped to save our Headwaters Forest, a 7,500 acre national treasure of uncut old-growth redwoods.
Global Warming is the one issue that affects our future more than any other. Decisive scientific evidence concludes that increasing carbon emissions are leading to global rises in temperature. In California, carbon emissions have increased 6 percent since 1990. We cannot let this trend continue.
That is why I have called for immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including national cap-and-trade programs, increased fuel economy standards for cars, and a national energy efficiency program. To fight the drastic effects of global warming it is going to take a united, bipartisan effort to produce sound, effective policy.
Finally, the war in Iraq. This war affects every one of us, as each of the more than 3,000 soldiers we have lost so far leaves behind a mother grieving at home, a child who will never know his or her parent, and a family left to deal with unbearable pain.
I do not believe the present troop surge can stop the hundreds of years of hatred between Sunni and Shia that has led to what is effectively a civil war. That is why I support legislation in the Senate calling for a timetable to draw down combat forces in Iraq and change the American mission. This resolution sets a March 31, 2008 goal for removing combat forces from Iraq, and would begin drawing down combat forces in Iraq within 120 days of the resolution’s passage. It would further allow for a smaller U.S. force to remain in Iraq for a limited mission to include force protection, training and equipping the Iraqi army, and targeted counter-terrorism operations.
As a United States Senator and a proud representative of California, I have seen first-hand some of the millions of outstanding women who achieve greatness. We have fought together on so many issues that affect women, families, and all Americans. During this month of celebration, let us pledge to continue this fight and never relent on these important issues.