Madame President, I rise today to speak about the importance of closing the pay gap for women. I’m a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, an extremely important bill, and I am so honored to be here with my colleagues, with the leader of the women of the Senate, Senator Mikulski. I will tell you that today is Equal Pay Day, but it also marks the week where things are finally warming up in my state. After a long deep freeze, we look like we are going to have 70 degrees. The snow will melt, the flowers will bloom, and I think the message we are all here to bring is that it is time to stop freezing the women of America out of this economy. The women of America want to be treated fairly, and right now all the work we are doing whether it is the unemployment bill for unemployment compensation, it is stuck in a deep freeze over in the House of Representatives somewhere between the frozen peas and the chocolate ice cream and it is time to thaw out the freezer in Washington D.C. and help the women of America. That is what this bill is about and that is what the minimum wage bill is about. People deserve a fair shot at the American dream. I’d like to thank again Senator Mikulski and I’d like to thank her for her leadership with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. In 2009, we passed that bill to make sure workers who faced pay discrimination based on gender, race, age, religion, disability or national origin have access to the courts. In doing so, we restored the original intent of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act. Now it is time to prevent that pay discrimination from happening in the first place. We all know women have made great strides in this economy; we have made great strides in this body. We now have 20 women in the United States Senate, but of course we are still only at 20%. The Fortune 500 now has 23 women CEOs but I still think that anyone who looks at this knows there are strides that have been made, but great progress ahead. Despite all this progress, women in this country still only earn close to 80 cents to every dollar made by men. This pay gap has real consequences for American families. Two-thirds of today’s families rely on a mother’s income either in part or in entirety, and in more than 1/3 of families the woman is the main breadwinner. As Senate Chair of Joint Economic Committee, we released a report this week that shows lower wages affect women all throughout their working lives. And I think that’s something people don’t think of, the fact that if you consistently make less money and then you retire, and you’re actually going to live longer than men, you have a lot less money to retire with in the first place. In fact, women who retire have about $11,000 less per year than men have. That is pretty significant when you look at the age range where women are in retirement. The other piece of this that we don’t always think about unless you are in the position is women in the sandwich generation, women who are taking care of aging parents at the same time they are taking care of their children. That is happening every single day in this country. Women have to take leave from work or leave their job to take care of an aging parent while they are still struggling to afford to send their kids to college, to send their kids to daycare. This legislation, Madame Chair, will build on the promises of the Fair Pay Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It will give women new tools and protections to guard against pay discrimination and will help reaffirm that basic principle that all women deserve equal pay for equal work. I’m hopeful that we can get this done for the people of this country. It was the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota Paul Wellstone who said “We all do better when we all do better.” I still believe that’s true and so do my colleagues who join me today. We need to focus on this bill, we need to unfreeze some old beliefs, and we need to bring a little spring into the United States Senate. Thank you.