Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for inviting me to speak today. I also want to say thank you to the Federal employees, who whether through snow, shut-down, melt-down, gridlock, or deadlock, were on the job.
As a United States Senator, I have the honor to represent many flagship Federal agencies located both in the state of Maryland and in the District of Columbia, and I know how hard the employees work. I am confident that each and every one of you made enormous sacrifices to stay on the job during the snow storms and presidential politicking that kept many government agencies closed. We were locked in a budget battle and you weren't sure if you were going to get your next paycheck or when you were going to be paid. You still had your mortgage, you still had your home and family requirements, you still had day care, but you also had a commitment to the American people. I think we should learn from professional civil servants like yourselves. You have shown what it takes to serve the American people and it is up to us to follow your lead by getting out there and doing the job when the job needs to be done.
I also want to congratulate you on having this marvelous organization. Those of you who are acquainted with me know that I am enormously proud of my own Polish-American heritage. I come from the school of thought that America is not a melting pot. I don't think that you have to melt in order to be an American. I don't think you have to give up your identity, your history, or your heritage.
I believe that America is a mosaic. Each one of us is part of a great mosaic where, in our own respective heritage, is culture, language, pride, and identity. I believe the more pieces of the mosaic we have, the richer the country is, and, if any part is missing, there is something lacking in the quality of the mosaic. So, I congratulate you for organizing FAPAC. Members of the organization come together with their own identity, mutual need, mutual respect, and mutual devotion to perform at the highest professional standards. That code of conduct, sense of unity and sense of respect is an example for the rest of the United States of America. I salute you and congratulate you for your dedication to getting the job done.
The way I want to say thank you is not with words, but with deeds. I say to you, as a member of the United States Senate, that I am concerned about three issues that effect you. I am concerned about paycheck security. I am concerned about health security. And, I am concerned about retirement security.
I think we're finished downsizing. We've been re-invented and we've been re-engineered. Am I right? Although the Federal government has undergone downsizing, we want to be sure that there is no downgrading of the Federal civil service. We're going to keep fighting through the appropriations process. When I came to the United States Senate from the House of Representatives, I really worked to get on the Appropriations Committee because I knew we could operationalize our good intentions to help the American people. I made sure that I was on the Treasury Postal Committee so that I could look out for the Federal employees that I represent in the state of Maryland and for those who live in the District of Columbia.
Now, what are we doing? We in Maryland are working on a bipartisan basis. We are working to ensure that as we move ahead on a legislative agenda that we stay centered on the Federal retirement system. We think the system should be intact for Federal employees when they retire. We don't want to change the rules about when a person can retire or when a person can take advantage of the program.
We also want to keep the Federal health insurance program affordable. We want to look out for Federal retirees so they won't have to pay a 20 percent co-payment to get prescription medication. We want Federal employees to have health security while working to keep Medicare available and solvent.
One of the issues I am working on is raising the minimum wage for those who are less fortunate. But, I don't want the minimum wage to be a maximum wage, and I don't want to cap opportunity in the United States of America. You and I know that one of the most important ladders to opportunity and access to the American dream is higher education. That's why I'm fighting now for a $10,000 tax deduction for families so they can send their children to college.
So, I look forward to working with you on issues of foreign policy, health insurance, pension security, educational opportunity, and employment security. I look forward to your input. Thank you.