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Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Madam Speaker, we all anticipate and await the presentation from an international hero. Hearing from President Zelensky tomorrow is exactly what this Congress and what the Nation needs to hear. I believe that we will come out united. Certainly, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine and the bravery of President Zelensky.
Madam Speaker, I am here to also talk about another urgency here at home. The fierce urgency of now, as Martin Luther King said, would apply to seniors all across our country. We are all painfully aware of the results of the pandemic with more than 900,000 Americans having perished and over 660,000 of them over the age of 65.
Madam Speaker, you know firsthand as well because you led Chairman Neal's racial equity initiative that also underscored this very group of people--seniors and especially people of color--who have been impacted the most.
As John Lewis said: This is the next major civil rights issue. And if Black Lives Matter and is more than just a slogan, it is long overdue for the Congress of the United States to take action.
I commend you, Madam Speaker, for your efforts in making sure that we bring to the American public's attention this inequity that exists. Imagine more than 5 million Americans in the wealthiest nation on the face of the Earth living in poverty, millions of whom have paid all their lives into a Social Security system that gives them a below poverty-level check.
The last time Congress did anything to enhance Social Security was in 1971. Richard Nixon was the President, and a gallon of milk cost 72 cents.
A lot has transpired since then, especially as it relates to our seniors. The people who are impacted the most, along with COVID, are the people who are on fixed incomes. They are impacted by inflation as well. That is why it is so vitally important, with more than 10,000 baby boomers a day becoming eligible for Social Security, that Congress finally acts.
Help is on the way. Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust will do just that and make sure that it provides across-the-board relief and makes sure that no one can retire into poverty and raises the new floor for those who are in desperate need now. We can no longer afford to kick the can down the road. The pandemic has only further underscored the problem that our seniors face.
Madam Speaker, as you know, it is not just our seniors. When we look at veterans, more veterans rely on Social Security disability than they do on the VA. When we look at spousal and dependent coverage and the need for children to stay on their policies and be able to be eligible as Social Security recipients, how we have treated widows and widowers, all needs to be addressed.
Who is impacted the most by this? Women. And specifically women of color that are most in need, because of the jobs they held in society and because they were primarily caregivers and spent more time at home. It is they who are living longer and also need assistance from the United States Congress.
It is long overdue for us to act. It has been more than 50 years since Congress has done anything. This is not something the President can do with an executive order or that is going to be adjudicated by the courts. This can only happen if Congress takes action.
I am proud of the efforts of Chairman Neal and the Ways and Means Committee as we move toward a markup of Social Security and to bring this to the floor and then to vote on it in the Senate.
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