tv U.S. Senate CSPAN June 15, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT
i ask unanimous consent for the quorum call to be vaishted. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. franken: thank you. madam president, i have six unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. franken: thank you. madam president, i rise today to discuss what i think is one of
the clearest threats to americans' digital privacy and to introduce legislation that i think will go a long way toward addressing this problem. madam president, americans have valued and sought to protect their right to privacy for a long, long time, and so have the representatives that they have elected to be a part of this chamber. but in the past few decades there has been a fundamental shift in the nature of our right to privacy and the privacy threats that we face. because when i was young, when people talked about their right to privacy, they talked about protecting themselves from the government, from government intrusion. they asked, is the government keeping tabs on my political beliefs? is it staying out of my family business?
today we still need to worry about protecting our privacy from the government, but we also need to worry about protecting our privacy from private entities, from corporations that are obtaining and aggregating increasingly large amounts of our personal information. nowhere is that need clearer and more urgent than on the intern internet. and within the internet ecosystem, i would argue that some of the most sensitive information out there comes from our phones. smartphones are the future of the internet and can actually be more powerful than desktop computers from a decade ago. there will be more smartphones sold in 2012 than laptops and desktops combined. and there is a reason for that. these are incredible devices. using a smartphone, a mother or
a father can see his or her child and wish him or her a good night, even if that child is half a world away. a smartphone can give a driver directions and can tell that driver where the nearest gas station is. smartphones also enable emergency responders to find and visa spond to an -- and respond to an accident in a matter of seconds. but the same technology that allows these wonderful, wonderful benefits also raises very clear privacy concerns. our smartphones know where we are all the time. and, unfortunately, the last six months have shown that our legal framework just hasn't kept up with technology and isn't protecting our privacy when we use these devices. last december an investigation
by the "wall street journal" revealed that of 101 top applications for apple iphones and google android devices, 47 disclosed information about a user's location to third parties without asking consent from the user. in april, security researchers discovered that for almost a year, apple iphone devices have been creating a detailed lag of the different places a user had visited and stored that log on both the phone and every computer user synced his or her device to and did it in an uncrypted manner. that month, americans used that both iphones and androids were automatically transmitting location information back to apple and google. in the case of the iphones,
users had no clear way of knowing that this was happening. and in many cases, they actually had no way to stop it. in february, i became chairman of the judiciary committee's new subcommittee on privacy technology and the law. i decided to use my new role to dig down and find out more about smartphone privacy. when i learned of the events in april, i wrote apple to ask what was going on, and in mi i held our -- and in may i held our first subcommittee hearing on the issue. we took testimony from the department of justice, the federal trade commission, privacy advocates, technologists, representatives from app developers and we took testimony from apple and from google. and i'll tell you, the more i learned about this problem, the
gaps and loopholes, and that in many cases our current federal laws explicitly allow wireless companies and companies like apple and google to disclose our location information to whomever they want. let me give you an example. if i use my smartphone to make a phone call, my wireless company can't go out and give me location to third parties without getting my express consent. but if i use that same smartphone to search the internet, my wireless company can disclose my information to almost anyone they want. here's another example: if i use a mapping application on my smartphone to find out where i am or to find the nearest supermarket, apple and google would have to ask my consent before telling third parties where i am. but if my same phone
automatically transmits my location to one of these companies without my knowing it, then arguably, under current federal law, again, these companies would likely be free to disclose my information to almost anyone they want. and you don't have to take my word for it. over the past several months i have asked privacy experts and officials from the department of justice and the department of commerce about these issues, and they have confirmed that this is in fact the case. this doesn't make sense. in fact, it's kind of a problem. but the most alarming thing i heard is that there are real-life consequences when we don't do enough to protect location tph-fbgs on our smart -- location information on our smartphones. the very first group that contacted me after i wrote my letter to apple in april was the minnesota battered women's
coalition. they told me that they have seen time and time again how smartphone location technology can be abused by batterers and stalkers. i asked the minnesota battered women's coalition to submit testimony for my hearing. two stories from their testimony jumped out at me. one was of a woman from st. louis county, minnesota, the presiding officer knows st. louis county very well. it extends kind of from duluth all the way up to the canadian border. it's a huge county actually. so recently this woman had gone to a domestic violence program located in a county building. within five minutes of entering the building, her abuser sent her a text message and asked
her, why are you in the county building? soon after that an advocate helped her get an order of protection against her abuser. to get that, she needed to go to the local courthouse. and soon after she filed the order of protection, the abuser texted her again. this time he asked, why did you go to the courthouse? did you file for an order of protection against me? advocates later concluded this woman's abuser was tracking her via a location tracking service on her phone. another woman in minnesota had a similar experience when she secretly entered a domestic violence shelter, her abuser started sending her text messages asking her, why are you at a shelter? in fact, he started calling taxi cabs to wait for her outside of the shelter at all hours of the
day. again, in this case, advocates realized that this woman's abuser was tracking her through an app on her phone. madam president, my goal with the privacy subcommittee is to try to find a balance between the wonderful benefits of modern technology and our need to protect our privacy. and right now when it comes to smartphone location technology, we have an imbalance, because we're getting all the wonderful benefits but we aren't keeping our privacy. and i think -- i think we can get both. this problem isn't going to fix itself, and let me tell you why i say that. after the hearing with apple and google, i asked representatives from each of those companies a simple question: will you require that the apps you sell have privacy policies?
in fact, i also asked them this: even if you don't require that all the apps you sell have privacy policies, will you at least require privacy policies for just the apps that can get your location? well, by last week both companies had answered my questions. let me summarize their answers. no. madam president, i think congress needs to act, and so is that's why today i'm introducing the location privacy protection act of 2011. this piece of legislation is founded on a seufrp principle -- on a simple principle that consumers have a right to know what information is being collected about them and how it is being used. and that they have a right to decide who will get that information and whom they can share it with.
this bill will fill gaps and loopholes in current federal law to give consumers four simple protections. first, the bill says that any time your wireless company or a company like google or apple or an app developer wants to get your location from your smartphone, they need to get your permission first. second, if they want to give your information to a third party, they also need to get your permission. this doesn't mean that our smartphones are going to be clogged with permission screens. no. this can be done with one simple screen. my bill doesn't require new permission screen from every subsequent company that gets your location. that would be impractical and it just wouldn't be smart. so the third thing it does is require companies that collect and aggregate the location information from thousands of consumers, it would require them to take reasonable measures to
protect that information from forseeable threats. finally, if a consumer writes one of these companies and asks, hey, do you have my location information, that company has to answer that user, yes or no. if the user asks for his or her information to be deleted, the company has to honor that request. when i wrote the bill, i looked at the way other current digital privacy laws were being enforced. most of them have what's called a private right of action that allows a consumer to get their day in court if their rights are violated. i know that many entrepreneurs find these burdensome, so i wrote the private right of action clause such that it would only kick in if no federal or state authority decides to act.
i also included exceptions in the bill to make it easier for parents to keep track of their children, for companies to protect against fraud and use location information that's an tphous must -- anonymous, and for emergency responders to get to the scene of an accident without any red tape. in fact, this bill doesn't cover law enforcement at all. it governs only what private companies do with our information and what companies they share it with. i'm proud to introduce this bill with my friend from connecticut, senator blumenthal. i'm equally proud that the bill has the support for the center for democracy and technology, consumers union, consumer action, the national association of consumer advocates, the national consumers league, the national women's law center, the national center for victims of crime, the national network to end domestic violence, and the
minnesota public interest research group. and i ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be included in the record. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. franken: thank you. this bill will bring us back to a better balance between the benefits of smartphone technology -- and they are wonderful -- and our right to privacy, which is basic. it was written with input from consumer advocates and industry alike. but even after today, i will continue to work with these groups to make sure that our bill is getting that balance right. i look forward to those conversations. i thank the presiding officer, madam president, and i yield the floor and would suggest the
ms. landrieu: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana is recognize he had. ms. landrieu: thank you, madam president. i ask unanimous consent to dispense with the roll call. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. ms. landrieu: and i also ask unanimous consent that the period of morning business be extended until 3:30 with senators permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. ms. landrieu: thank you, madam president. i rise to come to the floor today to bring to the senate's attention and to the congress's attention a great challenge that we have before us relative to the budget of the department of homeland security and, frankly, it is a challenge facing the entire budget of the united states, and that challenge, madam president, is to make sure that we have enough funding in the disaster emergency account to cover the multitude of disasters that have taken place this year, just since january, as well as those that we are
still recovering from some years in the past. i'd like to put up a chart, if i could, just to show in dramatic fashion the really unprecedented situation that we're facing, and that is, madam president, that since january of this year, 36 states have had disasters declared. this may be the largest number of states in the shortest period of tiernlg at least in recent memory, and could potentially be in history. and this is a challenge to the budget because, as you know, under our larks the federal government is, by law -- it attempts to be every day -- a reliable and trustworthy partner for cities and towns and states that have been devastated by either tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, et cetera. most recently our -- you know, our minds and our eyes and our
hearts have been focused on missouri, with the terrible devastation to several of their cities -- most notably joplin, mississippi -- i'm sorry, mississippi, just recently. but we remember just a few weeks ago the tornadoes that ripped through the southern part of the united states, in alabama particularly, georgia, some parts of arkansas and flooding in other parts of the country as well. now, this is what mother nature has brought to us, and we can't control that, but what we can control is how we respond to it. and that's what i want to speak to today. i'd like to begin with a quote from david maxwell, from the arkansas department of emergency management. he said in "the washington post" on april 30 -- he was recorded as saying, "anything that we've asked for, they've gotten us." and he was referring to femme
mavment greg flynn, a spoarksman with the mississippi emergency management agency said of fugate, "fema is extraordinarily proactive for the states. by the time the storm is out of the way, they want to know what we need." madam president, this is very good testimony, because we worked hard. many of us -- you worked hard on this, i did, and others -- to make a stronger fema, a more proactive fema and i think this big measure we've accomplished that. but the biggest challenge right now is, unless the senate and the house and the president do something differently, we are not going to have the money we need to take care of these disasters. and so for people on the ground like david maxwell in arkansas and greg flynn in mississippi
and whether it's paul rainwater, who is the c.e.o. of my state and still struggling in the aftermath of katrina and rita, which was six years ago, but a disaster that's still open, we literally are going to run out of money in the disaster emergency relief fund january of this year. so let me put up a chart to show the challenge that's before us. we have -- the president has requested $1.8 billion, which is a reasonable request based on past averages of disasters, which we're prepared to budget in the base budget of homeland security. but, unfortunately, the estimate of the low end of these disasters -- again, 36 since
january 1 and disasters open in all 50 states -- the low estimate is that we need $3.8 billion at the low end, and the high end is $6.6 billion. so somewhere between $3.5 billion ands 6.5 billion -- and $6.5 billion is required. but we have budgeted only $1.8 billion in the base of homeland security. as chair of this committee, i can tell you that our committee cannot absorb in its base the entire weight and cost of these disasters. the homeland security budget has never in its history since it was created absorbed 100%. we do a rough and good-faith estimate of what it might be, but these are exceeding even our expectations of what the disasters would be. and, of course, no one is in a position to be able to foretell the future.
our secretary of homeland security has brought a great deal of skill and expertise -- a former governor, an excellent manager, all but prerequisite academic credentials. but she didn't show up in this job with a magic wand and a foreteller's globe. she doesn't have those tools available to her to be able to see in the future every disaster and what kind of disaster is going to happen to the country. all we can come forward with in our budget is a good-faith estimate, which we did at $1.8 billion. so the reason i come to the senate today is to say that there is a gap that must be filled. i'm strongly recommending that this congress fund this off-budget in an emergency line-item, which is what we'd done 95% of the time in the last 40 years.
$110 billion of emergencies out of $130 billion have been dealt with as true emergencies. this is -- it's unpredictable. you can't plan for t we must respond by law, and if we don't, then projects all over this country will shut down, and i might remind everyone that it's projects that create jobs, that not only restore hope, not only rebuild communities, but projects that create jobs. to list a few of them, the repairs for two very important roads in hawaii could potentially be stopped. sewer line repairs and a pump station in garry, indiana, could be stopped. the town hacialg the village of gulfport, which hasn't been rebuilt for six years since the storm, which is under construction, could be halted. a dozen or more jobs in that small town of gulfport, not big numbers nationally but important to that city. there's an elementary saferoom
being built right now in kansas. that, again, is a few jobs there, important to the couple of hundred schoolchildren that are terrorized now by those tornadoes that have swept through their area. that project -- and i could go on and on. you can imagine, in missouri, there was a bridge that was collapsed, very inconvenient of course for the people having to cross that bridge every day. i'm not personally familiar with it but i can imagine the difficulty that families are going through that were used to having access to cross that requirement and i could list hundreds of projects that literally will be stopped in their tracks if we don't figure this out. my strong recommendation is that we do what we've always done, which is appropriate in funding real emergencies. now, it is not appropriate to do off-budget on things that you can budget for, you should have budgeted forks you just failed -- you should have budgeted for, you just failed to budget for.
that's bad planning. i think i am a pretty good chairman of this committee. i know secretary napolitano is an excellent administrator of homeland security. there's nothing we could give her humanly possible where she can predict in the future what kinds of disasters are going to take place and the magnitude of their destruction. it's impossible. so, again, we have to figure out a way to budget for this that's responsible, and i say put a good-faith effort or average in your budget and then anything that occurs, do it -- in addition to that -- off-budget in emergency. or, another suggestion which has met with resistance -- and i can understand why, but another reasonable alternative -- would be to take a percentage decrease. again, all the budgets of the federal government -- and just say, we wanted to spend this money, but we've had these disasters and absorb it, you
know, government-wide. i can promise you, the last and worst thing and one that can hangars because i will oppose t vigorously, and so will many others, is take the entire amount of the dirth, the disaster emergency fund, out of the homeland security budget because then you put the country in a position that you're underfunding planning for the future, lowering your defenses against real terrorist attacks that could potentially happen to the country because you're funding for disaster levels that were completely un-- we were unable to plan for them, for obvious reasons. so we cannot undermine the security of our nation. we cannot undermine and weaken the entire homeland department -- department's budget, because of an unusual natural occurrence of which we have no control over
and no foreknowledge of. now there may be other solutions that i haven't thought of. another would be very helpful if the president himself, knowing these numbers -- they come from his own executive agencie agenco are tabulating these numbers -- for him to send an emergency supplemental. i have sent him several letters requesting that he send to the congress an emergency supplemental to cover this gap. if he doesn't or does not do that, congress itself has the power to act, and i will be making a recommendation to -- in appropriations committee to fill this gap. but what is not acceptable is to try to absorb this entire gap in the homeland security budget, which will leave our country in a very weakened position in terms of preparing for future disasters and potential terrorist attacks. might i remind everyone that hurricane season just started
june 1. it's now june 15. we're 15 days into hurricane season. we don't know what the season will bring. and there may be other alternatives to closing this gap. but it is very, very important. i'm going to start work on this vigorously with my ranking member, senator coats, to see what we can recommend potentially jointly together.s and if not, i would hope that every senator -- and again i would like to put this chart up. this would be just about every senator, senators from washington to texas to nebraska to north carolina to florida to georgia, arizona. montana will be green shortly and so will vermont because there are disasters underway. if you put your thinking caps on, because we need to come up with a way to fund these disasters, and it's going to be a big challenge as we start our appropriations process. i'm going to submit more
technical information to the record. but again, we don't have magic wands and crystal balls in the department of homeland security. we have a lot of tools there to protect our country and to build after disasters. but magic wands and crystal balls are not available. so we have to come up with a way to close this gap that makes sense, and i trust over the next couple of weeks and months we'll be able to do that. mr. president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll of thee
quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection, the senator is recognized. mr. durbin: mr. president, two weeks ago there was an economic disclosure about the number of people gaining jobs in america. the good news, it was on the positive side of the ledger. more jobs being created.
the bad news is not nearly enough and not fast enough, and even though these jobs are being created in the private sector, we still know too many americans are out of work. 13.9 million americans are unemployed. that's 9%, a little over 9% of all the americans who are actively seeking work. worse, nearly 25 million americans are underemployed, people working part time when they want to work full time or taking a job that pays a fraction of what they earned in a previous employment. that's 15.8% of all americans who would like to work full time but can't do it. that's not a problem for these families. it's a crisis. and every minute we ignore it is a minute not spent well by this body. a year ago it became increasingly clear that there was little appetite in washington for moving toward job creation. when the president was elected, he was greeted on the day he was sworn in by news that that month
and the following month we'd lost some 700,000 jobs in america. what we had had eight years ago before with a surplus and booming economy had hit the skids and people were losing jobs, businesses were failing, and people felt it in their savings accounts and ira's all across america. the president tackled that, and i joined him with many others to try to infuse into this economy the kind of spending that would build things, create jobs and turn this economy around. we believe it was successful but only partially successful. and then at the end of last year the president joined on a bipartisan basis with members of congress to extend the tax cuts in an effort to try to infuse that money into the economy so that people would have more to spend. now, many of us took exception with the menu of tax cuts because they included tax cuts for the wealthiest people in america at a time we're facing
record deficits. it's hard to understand, let alone justify, a tax cut for a wealthy person as necessary for economic growth. most of the people who receive those tax cuts would not turn around and spend them on goods and services. they might invest or bank them or invest overseas, for that matter. but that was the recipe. we went through spending and economic stimulus. then last year into tax cuts as a stimulus. and still we are not moving forward as quickly or as wholesomely as we would like. i spent the past year focusing on one aspect of this, and that's our nation's deficit. i was appointed to the president's commission, the bowles and simpson commission which took a look at this deficit and for ten months we studied it. it's a daunting challenge. it reflects patterns of spending and taxing which now have us in a terrible state with a lot of
red ink. roughly 14% of our gross domestic product is generated each year at the federal level in revenue, taxes. we spend 24% of the gross domestic product of our country in federal spending. that difference, 14% on revenue, 24% on spending, 10% difference represents the annual deficit we face in the united states of america. the commission sat down and said there is only one way to tackle this, and i agree with their premise. we need to do it together, democrats and republicans, which reflects the political reality of congress, but we need to do something that isn't altogether politically popular. we need to put everything on the table. so we did. the bowles-simpson commission suggested that every aspect of government spending be brought to the table. it's a much more balanced approach than the debate we went through a few months ago over the continuing resolution, that short-term spending bill. that debate focused on 12% of
our budget. you know, there is only so far you can take that conversation. you can't balance our budget in a tiny slice of it. you have to look at the entire budget. the bowles-simpson commission did that. it brought to the table all spending, domestic discretionary spending both on the defense and nondefense side, and i might add entitlement programs. now, that's an area where a lot of people get nervous because we're talking about social security, medicare and medicaid, to mention major elements of entitlement programs. the reason why many americans have concerns over this debate is that many of them are very couple. they know they have worked hard, and if they still have a job, they realize that even working hard they are falling behind. wages aren't keeping up with the cost of living. so even hard-working families look at their bank accounts and their future and say no matter how hard we work, it doesn't
seem like we're able to keep up with the increased cost of living. and they realize their vulnerabilities, we all do, when it comes to health insurance. if you don't have good health insurance, you could be one diagnosis or one accident away from having all of your savings wiped out or being denied the quality care that every one of us wants for ourselves and members of our family, particularly the seniors, those who are retiring before medicare and those even on medicare want to make sure that they have adequate health care coverage. when politicians of washington start talking about the future of medicare, many people get nervous. they wonder if it's going to be there when they need it. now, the house republican budget that was proposed by congressman paul ryan a few weeks back tackled the medicare issue. i respect paul ryan but i respectfully disagree with paul ryan when it comes to his conclusion. at the end of the day, the house republican budget would have doubled the out-of-pocket
expenditures of senior citizens for medicare. currently, that is estimated to be in the range of $500 a month. and now what the ryan budget proposed was to double that. an additional $6,000 in premiums that individuals would have to pay once qualifying for medicare. these are people by and large who are retired, and to have an additional $6,000 in out-of-pocket expenditures naturally raises an alarm. they are alarmed at the prospect that they won't have the money to pay for medicare. and he took the program from where it's been for the last almost 50 years and turned it into a basic private insurance program. i would think that most people in america who are honest will tell you that putting your health fate in the -- in the hands of the tender mercies of health insurance companies doesn't give people a lot of confidence. and so the house republican budget proposal met with an icy
reception if not angry reception across america. that's not to say that we can ignore medicare. medicare, if not attended to, will not meet its obligations indefinitely. we have to look to ways to make it fiscally solvent. and i think we can. i think we can do it without endangering the basic promise of medicare, without increasing the costs beyond the reach of seniors, and that's what we need to do. same thing holds true for social security. many people are skeptical about social security, but here's the fact. untouched without congress doing a thing, social security will make every payment that has been promised with a cost of living adjustment every single year for the next 25 years. you can't say that about many federal programs. you can say it about social security. but the reality is in the 26th year, it falls off the cliff. you would have to cut benefits
by over 20% if you didn't do something between now and then. i believe and the bowles-simpson commission believed that changes we make today, 25 years in front, small changes, can really play out to buy longer solvency for social security. and haven't we all been forewarned by what's happened over the last decade, that you shouldn't privatize social security, you shouldn't jeopardize social security? in the end, you don't know if that pension that you worked for life for at a corporation is going to be there or whether the corporation is going to be there, and you don't know if your savings will be of the same value when you want to retire that they are today. social security is the one constant. hardly enough to live on, but a good, solid bedrock for many people to build their retirement. so we owe it to social security to make sure that it is solvent for years to come. so here we stand in a situation where we are facing a crisis, and the crisis is one with a
deadline and the deadline is august 2, and here is what it is. each year as the deficit on our budget increases, we need to borrow more money as a nation. in other words, the mortgage of the united states goes up by the amount of the deficit. so each year we have to negotiate a new mortgage. we call it extending the debt ceiling of the united states. we need to do it this year. the treasury secretary said we have to do it by august 2. that's the deadline. failing to do that, we will be in a default position. in other words, the full faith and credit of the united states, which has never been questioned, will be questioned. people will say if the united states is not borrowing the money it needs to meet its current expenditures, then we can't trust them to make payments in the future, so what's likely to occur? if the congress fails to extend the debt ceiling before august
august 2, if we get into a political debate and that becomes the major element of debate and discussion, if we fail to extend it, what will happen instantly is that interest rates will start going up, interest rates that affect families, individuals and businesses across america will start to go up. in the midst of recession, that's exactly the wrong thing. interest rates going up at that moment in time will discourage people from buying cars and homes and businesses from borrowing so that they can expand their payrolls and put more people to work. so it would be reckless for us not to extend the debt ceiling. now, i know it's a political football. people like to say -- and i probably have made these speeches in my own political career. oh, this debt ceiling is a reflection that the united states doesn't have its act together. we're not dealing with the deficit honestly. there's truth to that. but at the end of the day, we have the responsibility to
extend this debt ceiling. if we end up watching interest rates going up and this recession getting worse, let me tell you there are no political winners in the house or senate if that occurs. what we need to do, clearly what we need to do is to extend the debt ceiling and also have an honest, comprehensive approach to deal with our deficit. it will involve spending cuts, make no mistake, that has to be done. it will also involve taking a look at entitlement programs and making sure that we have found all the health care savings that we can so we don't have these programs going bankrupt, and it will include revenue. there are people who can afford to pay, people who are well off in america, blessed to live in this country who have done quite well. asking sacrifice from them at this moment in time is not unfair. i think it's the right thing to do. bringing those together, we can come up with a bipartisan agreement, and i hope we can do it and do it soon, but let's not make the mistake of defaulting
on america's debt. let's not make the mistake of jeopardizing the full faith and credit of this country. let's not run up interest rates at a time when we need to recover from this recession and put americans back to work. let's not create a new burden on small businesses when they try to borrow to continue expanding their operations and employment. let's make sure we're doing the responsible thing here in washington. i think we can. i have been meeting with a group group -- it was originally a group of 6. then it became a group of 5. then it kind of expanded to 10, 15, 20. it's kind of a moving card game here. but i will tell you that i'm encouraged by the people who come in the room, democrats and republicans on the senate side who listened to the basic outline of what we have been talking about. although they may not agree with it and its particulars, certainly agree with this premise. what we need to do must be bipartisan. what we need to do must include
everything, put everything on the table, and what we must do is come up with a credible, honest plan that will reduce our deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next ten years. that amount doesn't solve our problem. we'll still have a national debt, but it will finally turn the corner. it will finally bring that cost curve down and it will show to the world at a time when people are skeptical about the economies of greece and portugal and ireland and other countries that the united states can stand up and work together in responsible fashion to deal with the deficit. i think it's time to move forward in this bipartisan manner. i hope my colleagues in the senate who are aware of this effort, who feel that this is the right thing to do will join in putting together something. it's going to be tough. it won't be easy. there will be compromise needed on both sides, but if that compromise is forthcoming, we could meet our obligation. i don't know who will win politically if we do this.
i don't think most people in america care who wins politically. they do care about having a job tomorrow, making enough money so that they can have a nice home and a future for their children and the belief that america's best days are still ahead. we can do that. it's going to be hard politically, but it's something that is absolutely essential. mr. president, if i could just make one request and then i will, of course, defer to my colleague. i ask unanimous consent the period for morning business be extended until 5:00 p.m. with senators permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. durbin: i don't know if the senator is asking for the floor or a question. a senator: i am now. mr. durbin: mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. corker: i am actually glad to have come to the floor after my colleague from illinois has spoken. i was in illinois this week, talking with a number of people there in the business community as part of what i do on the banking committee. i want to say that in talking to many of the great civic and
business leaders that exist in illinois, one of the biggest concerns they have is, in fact, this debt ceiling issue and the reduction of debt. i appreciate the senator's work in trying to reach a -- a compromise. as a matter of fact, i salute anybody who is trying to work to solve this problem. i do want to say from my standpoint i -- i know the debt ceiling is a major issue. for me to be able to support it, we need to have dramatic changes in the way spending is taking place in this country. i think there are numbers of people on both sides of the aisle that feel that way. i have offered the only, to my knowledge, concrete proposal that has bipartisan support in both the senate and the house, and i did -- i do want to mention that there is numbers of discussions about the medicare proposal that paul ryan has put forth, and certainly it's not perfect. i would love to see a proposal maybe from the other side since everyone knows medicare is going to be insolvent in the year
2024, and the worst thing we can do, of course, is just not to pay attention. i hope at some point in the near future, we'll actually hear a concrete proposal from the other side of the aisle regarding medicare. but let me go back to the state of illinois and just the state of our country and certainly the people in tennessee. tremendous uncertainty out there in the business community. as a matter of fact, in talking to one of our leading economists last night, corporate balance sheets today are flush are cash but companies are unwilling to invest that cash in long-term assets because they're concerned about here in washington what we're going to do. they are concerned about whether we as a country are going to actually deal with our debt ceiling, deal with our indebtedness in a way that makes progress. so there is question uncertainty out there. that is, in my opinion, one of the leading causes of the economic issues we're dealing with, the high unemployment. it has been 777 days since this
body even passed a budget, and if you can imagine having a country like ours with 535 people in the house and senate spending money without a budget for that long, obviously it's a display of incredible lack of discipline and certainly sends the wrong signal to the business community. so i do think that our country is suffering, suffering economically. every person that i talk to is concerned em the uncertainty of whether we, as a country, are going to be able to deal with our indebtedness, the tremendous amount of debt that th country is piling up, because we're spending money that we don't v i do look at this august 2 deadline as a line in the sand for us as a country. there's plenty of time for us between now, jun 15, and august 2 to actually come to an agreement on these big issues. and, mr. president, one of the things that i hope will be a
part of anything we do is something like the fiscal straitjacket that the "cap" act outlines. i don't think there's anybody in this body that disagrees with the fact that we as a body are spending money that we don't have and more than we should. as a country we have spent about 26.6% of our country's gross domestic product for the last 40 years. that's the post-entitlement period. today as a country we're spending almost 25% of our country's economic output on the federal government. and that number is rising geometrically. so we've put forth a bill. it's called the "cap" act. it has bipartisan support in the senate, bipartisan support? th-- bipartisan support in the house that would save our country about $7.6 trillion over what's called the alternative fiscal scenario as printed by c.b.o. mr. president, there is no doubt in my mind -- and i don't think
there's anybody in this body that would disagree with this -- that the signals that we're sending to the country and the world about our inability to come to a conclusion around our spending is affecting the economy. i can't imagine there's anybody that would disagree with that. i mean, we've had people come in, economists telling us what will happen if we don't raise the debt ceiling, what'll happen if we do and we don't do those things that are necessary to lower the amount of spending that that's take place here in wawrchlt i've offered something that's practical. people on both sides of the aisle have joined in. i know there are discussions that are taking place -- they're called the blair house negotiations -- between the vice president and members of this body. and i am aide understanding that a fiscal straitjacket is part of that discussion. in other words, making sure that over the next 10 years, whatever cost that we cut are actually
locked in and more cuts are gotten through the imposition, if you will, of a declining fiscal straitjacket where we in essence get back to the norm as it relates to spending and our economy in this country. so, mr. president, i want to say that i think one of the greatest things we can do to actually spur the economy i, as much as people care about spending in this country today -- and there are a lot of people that do -- believe it or not, they care as they should, even more right now about the economy and their own family situation. and i think these two are intertwined. and i think that if we age as ay work to show fiscal discipline, show some certainty into the future, so the business community and the world community that we have the ability to have discipline, to act responsibly, i believe it would unleash tremendous amounts of investment in this country. again, leading economists nye
says he's never seen a situation where this much cash resides on balance sheets but corporations are unwilling to invest them in long-term assets -- what that means, what that translates into is they're not building plants, they're not expanding, because they are concerned about policiepolicies in washington, f which is can we control our spending? i do think that august 2 is a seminal moment in our country's history. there's nothing happening in the senate. we're voting on judges that we don't even need to vote on. we could pass them out of here by unanimous consent. we have bills on the floor that mean nothing, that are never going to become law just to fill up time. we know that. it's got to be the most boring time in the world for a presiding officer. the oxygen is taken out of this room over this dead issue and -- this debt issue and we're debating things that are never going to lax it is almost a farce in many ways. so there's plenty of time --
it's june 15 -- for us to gocialt something that's -- for us to gsht something that's meaningful as it relates to cuts and certainly plenty of time to act to put something in place like the "cap" act toss part of the overall need to reform our entitlements and make sure they're here for future generations. let me just state one more time, i feel like what we're reading about these negotiations is almost a walking down of expectations. in other words, most of us really want to see something big happen for this country. we see this as a true seminal moment for our country. but what i read as the various snippets that are coming out of these discussions, it's almost intended to just each day sort of tamp down what our expectations r i just want to say to everybody in this body, unless i see dramatic changes in spending as a result of these negotiations, i absolutely will not vote for this debt ceiling increase.
if we're going to have a calamity in this country and there's economist whose say we're going to have a calamity either way -- in other words, if we don't act responsible blands pass a debt ceiling, we're going to send a signal to the world markets that we don't have the ability to control spending. if we don't raise the debt ceiling, there are those who will say, there's going to be a clam tivment i'm 58 years old. came to this body because i wanted to solve our country's problems, or be a part of that working with others. i want to say, mr. president, i want to go on the record that i'd rather us have a calamity this summer on my watch while ema here so i can deal with -- while i'm here so i can deal with it than i would to pass a debt ceiling and not do something that dramatically alters our fiscal situation in the country and pass it along to someone else who may come behind me. i think there's a lot of sentment in that regard. i hope there's a lot of sentment in that regard that all of us -- all of us would rather bear the
brunt of irresponsibility while we're here than pass it on down the road. so, mr. president, i'm here to talk about a component of a solution, which is the "cap" act. there may be some variation of this that makes more sense. certainly i have no monopoly on wisdom. but i hope that something like this, if it is not exactly the "cap" act, as written is a component of the negotiations. i know we're actually during these negotiations, this is actually being discussed, meaning how we cap spending and actually put congress in a fiscal straitjacket for lack of a better word. but, mr. president, this is a seminal moment. i hope that we will not water down expectations. i hope we will rise to the occasion and, as the senator from illinois mentioned, deal with this in a responsible way. and i hope very, very soon we'll actually have a debate on this floor about what it is that's
actually been arrived at, what the deal is, so we can actually talk about it in a responsible way and do those things that we all know are very important to our country, very important to our country's solvency and certainly very important to all those americans out there who are uncertain as to whether the heads of households who provide such great opportunities for those people coming under them have the opportunity for good-paying jobs. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. enzi: mr. president, i want to thank the senator from tennessee for his comments and for the way that he devils into any issue -- delves into any issue that we work on and comes up with some unique idea ideas m his past business experience. and i hope that people will look at his reserve makers the
information in his biography, to see the fantastic things that he's done that show that he has the capability to solve problems like this. and i particularly appreciate the solution that you've come up with. some people say that it doesn't go far enough. you could make it go further than that. but it's timing that's important and actually getting a debate that's important, and i appreciate the way that you put it out in a reasonable way that we ought to be able to do it. and we need to do it right now, so we don't keep passing this debt right on down, so that we get in a responsible position. i'm going to talk about something very similar today. we're in a jobs crisis in this country. i came to the floor this afternoon to talk about jobs and there isn't any more important issue for american families today than jobs. for three long years we've been waiting for the economy to get back in year and start creating the -- to get back in gear and start creating the economy that keeps jobs strong. i'm afraid this administration has not done its part to foster the job-creating economy we
need. we've heard plenty of talk about job creation, but the rhetoric simply does not match up with any action. so today i'll speak about the head winds that we face as we wl as some of the simple solutions to help spur job creation. this week the president's council on jobs and competitiveness presented president obama with five steps to create job growth. i agree with most of the suggestions. some of them are steps that i've been urging for sometime, like streamlining job-training programs and speeding up the government permitting processes. but, unfortunately, for the most part, these are just baby steps. the truth is the most significant step the federal government could take to allow greater job growth is even easier than a baby step. washington government just needs to get out of the way. key keep putting up roadblocks. last month's dismal job numbers paint a very clear picture.
unemployment rose to 9.1%, far above the 8% level promised by the administration at the time of the passage of the stimulus bill. nearly 14 million americans remain unemployed and actively looking for work, and more than half of them are long-term unemployment. with only 54,000 jobs created last month and 3 million job openings, the problem is clear. these numbers also reveal some solutions that could go into effect if government would step out of the way. for example, 7,000 of the jobs created last month were in the mining industry. those of us from mining states know that mining and domestic energy production industries offer good jobs with good pay and good benefits. yet the administration has made it incredibly difficult for this industry to continue creating jobs. it slowed the permitting process for the extension of existing
mine plans, let alone new mining and drilling activities. it has slowed the permitting process to a crawl and directed e.p.a. to regulate greenhouse gases under the clean air act. now, simple snraited, the president's policies are making things worse. how bad is this permitting process? 13 different mines have asked for an extension so that their mine plan could anyone a logical way. a big announcement six weeks ago. the administration is going to allow 798 tons of coal to come up for bid. that's two of 13 applications. 798 tons. in my county alone, there's a million tons of coal shipped a day. a million tons a day. the amount permitted for bid is a two-year supply.
and it's going to take six years to permit it. and we can't get the other 11 of them to be put out for bid. and to go through that same delayed process. that's causing jobs, and it's also causing resources to be left on the ground that could be effectively used in our economy. which raises the cost. the broadest result of this misguided energy policy will be increased prices for americans. i guess that's what we have. and it will only dig our economic hole deeper. american families are already coping with the terrible job market and the struggling housing market. increasing reliance on foreign energy sources and ignoring the sources we could harvest here at home makes no sense. in certain regions of the country, the result of this misguided energy policy is lost jobs and bankrupted american companies. on the gulf coast, many of the
thousands of jobs that were supported by the offshore drilling industry are simply gone due to the moratorium due to the permitting process in the gulf, also trained people. when trained people rout of a job, they go somewhere else to get a job. they go to other countries to get a job. it reduces the amount of people that could dot work here. -- do the work here. it is another way of sayin sendg jobs overseas. some of the production has moved to brazil and other countries that are not impeding their domestic energy production. and we're their customers. we're the ones buying it at extra-high prices. ironically, one of the largest discoveries of oil in the gulf of mexico was just announced last week. this discovery proves that there are still massive amounts of domestic energy available to help alleviate the higher prices, if the government would simply get out of the way.
unfortunately, the slowdown in exploratory drilling vuflts last year's moratorium is expecting to lead it a 20% production decline this year. and things don't happen overnight. permitting and that take up to six years as well. and i don't know if we're aware, but there is a middle east cartel that helps set the price of gas. years ago they used to be able to do that much easier. they could cut back the supply and increase the costs, or they could increase the supply and decrease the cost. twice i watched them get the price of a barrel of oil down to $8 and put the american oil industry out of business. and they just put it out of business long enough that the people that were qualified to do the work got jobs other places. when they brought it back, it took years for us to bring the production back up. now, they've said that saudi
arabia has run out of energy, that they're just about to use up their supplies. well, last week they announced that they're going to have this huge increase in production. how'd that happen? well, there are new techniques, there are new technologies that are being used on drilling and it's helping to bring up more oil. we ought to be doing that right here in the united states. we ought to be increasing our supply of oil. there are fields where only 20% of the oil was producible at the time that they were drilled. new technologies, one of which is to put carbon dioxide, co2, down the hole and force the oil up. that's good for another 10% 20r% of the oil. -- another 10% or 20% of the oil. and it captures the carbon. aren't we talking about capturing carbon? we ought to be encouraging that, not discouraging that. we also have a company that would like to convert
low-sulfur, no-sulfur coal to diesel fuel. no-sulfur diesel, it's one of the things that we really want. now with these fluctuationness prices that we've seen over the years, they said we've got the money to build this $2 billion plant and to get it to operate, but what happens if saudi arabia and the middle east cartel decide to drive the price down again? what if that price got down to $50 a barrel and made our production unproductive? if they put us out of business, if they bankrupted us. well, congress several years ago said we can take care of that. we're going to do loan guarantees. we'll provide loan guarantees for you. we're not going to give you the money, but if that price were to fall below the $50 a barrel, then we would have some responsibility in the situation. of course the chances of it ever going to $50 a barrel are pretty negligible. but we allocated, i think, about
$4.8 billion to put loan guarantees -- that's no cost to the federal government -- out there for these, this company to go ahead and make low-sulfur diesel and even jet fuel. our military needs jet fuel. but out of that $4.8 billion, none of it's been allocated. none of it. at the same time we did grants for solar and wind in the amount of $54 billion. which do you think can produce the most energy? a loan guarantee that costs nothing or a cost of $54 billion at a time when we don't have money? but it's okay with me that we have the solar and the wind. i think it's a good idea, and we're developing a lot of that in wyoming too. but how come we can't turn loose of a loan guarantee so that we can change coal into diesel with
carbon sequestration? it's because there's just this adverse opinion on coal which creates a lot of problems. so, it isn't just a problem in that area. this slowing down of the process, this is also affecting things like medical devices. we're interested in health care of the american people. and we have an agency that watches out for our safety and should watch out for our safety. and we help ensure that time after time. we did a food safety bill, which is a part of that f.d.a. plan. but in 2003, it was obvious to the companies that make the medical devices that the agency didn't have enough people, enough resources to kpe indict, to get -- to expedite, to get their evaluation done in a timely manner. and the industry agreed to put up money, not to have any
benefit to their particular one but for the whole industry to get things streamlined with more people looking at it so they could get the approval, so they could get these health devices out to people so they could be used. well, since 2003, when they put in the first amount, the resources for that department have doubled and the fees have tripled, and the production has been cut in half. it's taken too long in the processes. how do i gauge too long in the processes? well, europe does the safety process too. europe approves these medical devices two years before we do. two years before people in the united states are able to use these things, they're using them in europe. and you're not hearing about any calamities with the medical devices in europe. they're doing an adequate job of checking the safety and making
sure that what they're putting out produces the desired result. but not in the united states. we're slowing that process down. put more money in, slowing the process down. there are things out there that people could really use. before i came here, i had a heart valve tear. at that time they had to do open-heart surgery and go in and stitch it up and put a special ring on there which fortunately for me has worked real well and has preserved my heart and it is in good or better shape than it was before that time. but there is a medical device where they can go in like they can in with a stint, put that in on that part of the heart, pop this little umbrella open and i'd be fixed. wouldn't have to have that basic heart surgery. that's already been available in europe for two years. it still hasn't been approved in this country. that's a process that's bogged down that's causing jobs. so what do the companies do about it? they say well, let's see, why
don't we build our stuff over in europe. now, if you build a plant, you're probably looking at 10, 20, 30 years of production before you're in a position to move that plant somewhere else like back to the united states. so we've got to cure that problem now before we drive all of that overseas and all of those jobs overseas. the people who do the manufacturing on those things get good pay. they have skilled jobs. but, they do them in the country where the plant is. they don't do them in the united states. just one more example. i've got another one. right now, in the process of doing a rule and regulation about how long you can drive a truck, how can you can idle a truck, what kind of medical inspection or -- of the drivers you have to have. and one of the groups that brought that to my attention are
the owners, owner-operators of trucking companies. and they say that the people that are making this rule haven't driven a truck. that's one of the problems with a lot of these rules and regulations that we're having. the people that are making the rules have never done it. and, there's this tendency in government to be afraid that at some point something might go wrong and it might come back. they've never had anybody come back on them for saying no or for slowing something down. actually, they never had anybody come back on them for saying yes. i wish they'd realize that. the -- with the -- the upshot with the liability on this thing is the company, not the one that approves the process. they just need a good process they can move through and we can have a lot more jobs in this country. another way we can assist the jobs, as i've been saying, is by
simply getting out of the way and by reducing the regulatory burden that the federal government places on employers. the first step here would be to repeal the health care law that's already driving up costs and paralyzing employers who are uncertain of their future obligations. unfortunately, the president and his supporters in congress are fighting this effort every step of the way. although the president issued an executive order on january 19 of this year directing agencies to reevaluate the regulatory requirements that kpwoefted -- imposed to be sure they are tailored to impose the least burden and justified cost-benefit analysis, we have yet to see any regulatory relief from any agency. speeches won't save america. action will. the president can say he wants things done, and if nobody does them, we're in worse shape than we were before.
not better shape. i had hoped that the entire administration would take this directive on looking at all the regulations seriously, particularly because regulatory burden falls most heavily on small businesses whose hiring will pull us out of this ongoing recession. small businesses represent 99.7% of all employer firms. they employ over half of all private-sector employees. they pay 44% of the u.s. total private payroll, and they generated 64% of the net new jobs in this country over the past 15 years. i owned and operated a small business, and i can tell you that if i had thousands of pages of regulations from health care law hanging over my head, i would hesitate before creating any new positions that increased my exposure.
the key is to stay under 50. there's less -- there's still regulation. less regulation under 50. i know of some companies already that were at 52, 54, 56, and they said you know what we're going to do? we're going to reorganize so that we're under 50. i think that's a good idea, although reorganization is always good, we should take a little dose of that here in the federal government. but we don't. everything is based on what we had before plus inflation. no reinventing, no doing things differently. i'm seeing that in the post offices in wyoming are trying to close down some of the small post offices with new ideas for them, without trying to cover the cost. but that's another story and i'll tell but that later. as the senator from tennessee said earlier, we're here and we're not getting anything done. now, that's part of the strategy. there wasn't any budget, 777 days with no budget.
and bills left undone. we get to this process here where to keep us from doing amendments on this side, we just keep the floor open like this for days, and then we have a cloture vote. and because we haven't had an opportunity to put any of our amendments in, we vote against the cloture vote and that keeps the cloture from happening. then the leader pulls the bill down, and that ends the process. we go to another bill that we're also going to do the same thing on. some of these are good ideas and ought to be passed. but we don't make it to that point. and i'm sure that's for the next election, those darned republicans held everything up. not how we ought to be operating. reducing the regulatory burden that's imposed by the federal government would be an important step, but we also need to make sure that the administration's independent boards and agencies get the message. so far it's clear that they have not. and extraordinary effort is
underway in the national labor relations board to deter boeing from expanding into a right-to-work state where it would create work for over 1,000 employees. those 1,000 employees have already reject add union, but they have -- rejected a union, but they have that right to do that. this would be 1,000 more people employed, and in a $1 billion investment facility. so what's happened in washington state that might have the people here upset? i'm not sure, they've hired 2,000 additional people out there. it obviously hasn't hurt employment. there will be seven planes built in washington state and three of them built in north carolina. but the case has drawn a great deal of attention not because boeing is a big company but because the agency's publicity seeking reveals a strongly biased agenda. mr. president, our economy cannot recover when the
administration is more interested in airplanes. not stepping in to limit employees' ability to exercise their right not to form or join a union. at the national mediation board, we have seen rule making to change the way election results are counted in order to favor organized labor. when did that not work? well, it didn't work in one instance, and a majority of the employees still voted against the union. the agency launched multiple investigations then trying to smear the employer. these government-sponsored efforts to increase union density have done nothing to create jobs. in some cases, the federal government has been counterproductive to that goal and should get out of the way. pending before the senate and being held hostage under political pressure are three free trade agreements: south
korea, colombia, and panama. these pacts have been negotiated for years, and they'll open markets to our producers. yet, this administration's blocking them from passage and refusing to consider a reasonable compromise. that's wrong and it's hurting the economy and job growth. korea alone would import import $1 billion of u.s. beef, and that would also open the door with china who has an even bigger population than korea, and that's just one product. in the committee on which i now serve as ranking member, the majority has scheduled three hearings on the middle class and job growth. i'm concerned about the middle class, but the first one asks the question of whether the american dream is slipping out of reach. i made the point then that i'm repeating today. the american dream starts with a job. the focus on pay, benefits and organizing does nothing to
create a job. we're going to have another one of those hearings next week. i'm not sure where it's going. we haven't proposed any legislation yet. we're just getting press. it doesn't get jobs. and stalling the growth of domestic energy production industry or increasing the regulatory burden on american businesses doesn't increase jobs either. an unelected, unconfirmed general counsel at a small agency is getting in the way of a business management decision that does create jobs, and neither does blocking free trade agreements with our partners around the globe. the american dream is not out of reach, but it is suffering from needless hand-slapping threats. those could be changed to hand-clapping progress, but this administration has to stop
getting in the way of job creation so that americans have jobs. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: mr. president, last month, the medicare trustees warned that medicare will go bankrupt in 13 years, which is five years earlier than they had previously calculated. you heard me right. one of the most important programs that the government actually runs, the medicare program, designed to provide health care to seniors, is going to run out of money in 13 years, five years earlier than projected just last year. medicare trustees noted that medicare's unfunded liabilities -- that is, the number of -- what it's responsible for, there is a a $24 trillion shortfall, but
that that is also growing. so stated another way, this is a a $24 trillion gap between medicare's future benefit costs and the future taxes and premiums that are expected to be collected to pay for it. today, mr. president, i am, along with nearly all of my republican colleagues, sending a letter to the president of the united states insisting that he comply with the law. what law would that be? well, the law that was passed in 2003 that under these circumstances requires the president to propose a plan to deal with this funding crisis for medicare. president obama has said he's willing to make some tough decisions, but yet he refuses to provide concrete and constructive and meaningful proposals to deal with this
impending insolvency on one of our most important government programs. medicare trustees have issued a medicare funding warning in their annual report every year since 2006. they're required to do so under the medicare prescription drug improvement and modernization act of 2003. in response to this warning, as i said, the president is required by federal law to submit to congress proposed legislation that would address this funding crisis. president bush in 2008, in response to the 2007 medicare trustees' warning, did exactly what the law requires. he submitted legislation to address this funding crisis. both the house and senate in compliance with the law introduced legislation, but unfortunately it never went anywhere.
kicking the can down the road once again. the medicare trustees have, in fact, issued a funding warning every year since 2006, as i mentioned a moment ago, including all three years that president obama has been in office. however, for three years now, president obama and his administration have failed to comply with the mandatory requirement of the law. congress has never received a proposal from president obama's administration to address this funding crisis. this failure, i wish i could tell you, was the result of an oversight, but apparently not. on tuesday, an email to "the hill" newspaper said on behalf of the administration that they believe that this law was -- quote -- "advisory and not binding." mr. president, the law itself
states, passed by both houses, signed into law, the law of the land, says the president -- quote -- "shall, shall submit legislation to congress," not that he might or if it's convenient or if he finds time or if it advances his political posture leading up to the next election. it says he shall submit legislation. thank goodness we live in a country where no one is above the law. we are a nation of laws. where the law applies to the president of the united states, it applies to among the most humble members of our society. but, mr. president, medicare is going bankrupt. unfortunately, the voices of reform, people stepping forward to try to solve this problem to make meaningful suggestions so we can actually do what we're supposed to do in congress, which is to debate ideas and come up with solutions where we can have a vote, we can send
legislation to the president, he can sign it or not sign it. that's the way the process is designed to work, but so far the voices missing from the reform debate are those of our friends on the other side of the aisle. there is no house democrat plan to save medicare. there is no senate democrat plan to save medicare. there is no plan for president obama to save medicare. unfortunately, their plan appears to be not to step up and do what the law requires, to offer a proposal to save medicare, but rather to try to take cynical political advantage leading up to the next election by attacking the very people who are making constructive proposals. now, no one suggests that any single proposal is perfect.
the ryan plan is not perfect, the domenici-rivlin plan offers a different approach. the president's own fiscal commission entitled "moment of truth" that reported back in december of 2010, a bipartisan commission appointed by the president himself makes constructive suggestions on how to solve our spending crisis and to address the unsustainability of our entitlement programs. but it appears that rather than embrace any of these constructive ideas, rather than do his duty as the law requires, that the president seems content to scare seniors into opposing responsible reforms while watching the program go bankrupt over the next few years. by refusing to propose needed
reforms to this important program, president obama is not only be a did i gating his responsibility -- not only abdicating his responsibility to lead as the president of the united states, he is violating federal law. mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent that following my remarks, a copy of the letter i referred to in my remarks be made part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: i thank the chair and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: mr. president, last night, between 6:00 and 7:00, i did a telephone town hall meeting back to georgia. we had a little over 3,000 people on the call and i was able to handle 16 questions. as i listened to the answers that i was giving to the questions, i was struck by what a real problem we have in washington. washington is making things
worse. georgians are frightened for their jobs, the value of their home, the education of their children. they are uncertain about everything, and as you give them answers about what's happening in washington, you realize washington is making it worse, and i want to give a couple of examples based on my experience. first of all, let's talk about legislation for a second. you know, we have high unemployment, 9.1%, high unemployment. we have people without jobs or underemployed. we have a law in the united states called the work force investment act. i'm on the subcommittee that overseas it in the education committee. we have basically had an agreement on the expansion and reauthorization of the work force act for months, but it languishes in committees because there are arguments that want to be added to it. here we are with 9.4% unemployment, a nation that's in trouble and we can't pass the work force investment act that's intended to help the very problem that we have. secondly, i'm on the labor and pension committee that does the
reauthorization of the elementary and secondary education act. the fundamental foundation of training and improving our kids for the jobs of the 21st century. it's gone four years without reauthorization and languishes in committee today because of inattention or a lack of a willingness to bring it forward, so our children remain educated and taught and motivated under a law that's now been expired for almost five years. that's just not right. at a time we should be educating our children, at a time we should be training workers, we in washington are doing nothing. on the commerce committee that i serve on, we are over the f.a.a. committee, the reauthorization of the federal aviation administration, critical to economic development. that conference committee continues to languish. what are the arguments about? more often than not about changes in labor laws. we need to get the job done in washington, d.c. we need to go to work. we need to understand the american people are in trouble, they're hurting, and our job is to provide answers, not to make it worse. i want to talk about a second feature. i want to talk about regulation
for just a second, or stragulation, if you will. i've told this story once on the floor. i want to tell it again. january 3, this year, i was at the okay cafe in buckhead for breakfast to meet a couple of businessmen. i walked in the front door and steve hennessey of hennessey cadillac and land rover called my name out and came running over the restaurant floor. i thought he was going to give me a bear hug. instead he put his index finger on my chest and said johnny, yesterday i fired a sales officer and hired two compliance officers. this bill is strangling my productivity and raising the cost of doing business. i think we do have to recognize that regulation has consequences. it's not our job to eliminate risk in the marketplace. it is our job to mitigate risks so people will take risks in terms of seeking reward, which is what the capitalistic system is based on. talk about a few other regulations that are causing significant problems in our recovery. the qualified residential
mortgage rule that's being promulgated now by the six regulators will, if it goes into effect on august 1 -- they have now put the effective date off -- probably constrict the real estate market, which is already expressed by 70% by another 40%, because it's basically going to take capital and risk capital and credit away from the very americans who are, in fact, buying homes today. in fact, in order to mitigate risk and try and eliminate it, it requires lenders hold 5% risk retention until a loan matures. it says you can't loan anybody less than 80%, more than 80%, and if you have more than 80%, you can't have a private insurance policy to guarantee the money. so you're going to flood every buyer left to where? to f.h.a., which is exempt from the dodd-fang bill or freddie mac or fannie mae which is going out of business which means you are shifting more and more of the burden of mortgage financing on people that are already
stressed. my farmers, my dairy farmers in georgia are looking at a rule now where milk is being categorized as a hazardous substance. where it is going to have to be contained in tanks and reservoirs that now meets the standards of petroleum. higher investment with no additional profit from the company. that's protracted. water, the e.p.a. wants to take navigable out in front of the word water in terms of the clean water act so the government doesn't just regulate navigable waters but it regulates every water. and credit, credit is becoming nonexistent for main street. i'm a small business guy. i was in small business in georgia for 33 years. a lot of small business people use their credit cards to manage their cash flow over time. because of the credit bill that was passed a couple of years ago, they don't have the flexibility to do that any more. bank credit is suspended primarily because a lot of banks are, in fact, being run by the fdic under cease and desist orders. or if they are extending credit alone, they are only extending credit to the extent a borrower can put that much money in the bank.
when you restrict credit, you suppress small business. when you express small business, you suppress 72% of the employment in the united states of america. but now last -- and i want to commend senator corker for his remarks about an hour ago on the floor because he focused on the big problem that we have, and that's debt and deficit. it's kind of disappointing to me that we spend more time on the s.b.a. act which has been pulled now -- it was on the floor at the beginning of last month -- than we spent on all the appropriations acts in the last three years in congress. we debated amendments, protracted the debate, but nothing happened. we ought to be talking about debt, reduction, deficit reduction and a long-term plan over time to amortize the debt of this country to a reasonable level. we have a debt ceiling vote that's confronting us, and i've heard the political statements made by people in both parties where there's a game of chicken being played. some say we're going to pitch it up to august 2, force a vote. if we don't get it we'll run the
risk of america's credit going up in cost and uncertainty happening. others saying we're not going to do anything on the debt increase period until the last minute and we have to. that's not the way to run a business. that's not the way to run a country. we ought to be sitting around the kitchen table of washington, d.c. in the united states senate reprioritizing the way we spend money to begin to rein in our expenditures, lower our deficit and lower our debt. mr. president -- madam president, i'll bet you every family in north carolina, like every family in georgia, has had in the last couple of years to sit around their kitchen table, reprioritize their expenditures. things have changed. their nest egg may have shrunk, their job may be in trouble. i've had to do it. almost everybody in america -- why doesn't the american government do it? why don't we at a crisis moment of $14 trillion in debt, with no ceiling above it, why don't we with a deficit of $1.5 trillion, $300 billion more than
discretionary spending, why don't we sit around that kitchen table? when i answered questions last night in a teletown hall meeting it became clear to me that washington is making things worse. the american people want confidence that we will address the debt problem and the deficit problem and that we're working on it, not that we're putting it off to a drop-dead date and going to play chicken politics in the united states senate. people want -- they don't mind regulation that's fair, but they mind regulation that's suppressive and actually suppresses jobs. they don't mind having acts in washington being debated on the floor one way or another depending on your position. but to leave them to languish in committee and not even bring them up, that's just not right. so my challenge for me, for every member of the senate, tpo this administration and for the president is time for us to lead. we have a clock that's winding down on a debt ceiling increase that's going to be important for this country. but without substantial reform of the way we do our business, without a game plan for our debt and deficit, without an
indication that we're going to work together and have shared sacrifice, there's nothing at all that we can do in this government except cause things to be worse. and i don't want to be a part of that. my last comment is this, i was 39 years old in 1983. a report was put out by the board of the social security administration saying it was going broke in 2004. president reagan and tip o'neill got together and said we can't let that happen. president reagan said i don't want it to go broke but i'm not going to raise the tax. tip o'neill said i don't want it to go broke but i'm not going to cut the benefit. they went to the actuaries and they said what do we do? the actuaries said put out the eligibility. and so they changed the law and said if you're an american born after 1943, you can't get social security at 65. you've got to wait until you're 66. i'm 66. they put my social security off a year. i didn't miss it. they also made social security actuarially sound until 2050 and only in the last two years has that date come down and it's
come down because of unemployed americans at age 62 taking discounted social security and putting more pressure on the system. we could fix social security tomorrow just like they did in 1983 and not take a penny away from anybody but move the eligibility up to be more reflective of life expect an seufplt i know medicare is the big political football and everybody would like to say republicans are trying to kill it and the democrats are trying to say they want to protect it. i want to protect it. i want to see to it my grandchildren is a country that is free, as productive and safe and the benefits there are for them as they have been there for me. it is important that we save medicare but we can't it by looking the other way. we can't save it by taking it off the table. we can't demonize a democrat or republican for making a constructive decision to save medicare. instead of trying to make it a political issue of the 2012 election, we ought to make it the personal issue of each united states senator, sit around that kitchen table, work together and try to find a
meaningful solution to a problem that saves medicare for our future generations and also doesn't cause an escalation in our debt and our deficit. we are capable of doing it but we have not demonstrated a will to do it. i challenge my colleagues to do the same thing. and i challenge my colleagues to do one other thing. hold a telephone town hall sometime in the next couple of weeks. talk to 3,500 of your citizens in your state. listen to the questions they're asking. they're scared, they're worried and they're threatened. and washington is making it worse. and i yield the floor, madam president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
mrs. hutchison: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mrs. hutchison: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to lift the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. hutchison: madam president, i rise today to voice concern about the current state of the north atlantic treaty organization. in 1949, more than 60 years ago, the united states joined with 11 other nations to create the north atlantic treaty organization, nato, in order to ensure the mutual security of the member nations. from the beginning, the united states has served as nato's
backbone and provided a major share of the cost and manpower and resources. we have consistently answered the call of our nato allies when they needed us. even when there was no clear united states interest involved. for example, in 1993, the united states military answered the call to participate in the nato air action to enforce a u.n. ban on all unauthorized military flights over bosnia-herzegovina. after the dayton peace accords in 1995, the united states stationed over 10,000 personnel in support of peacekeeping missions in bosnia. for the following nine years, we continued to retain a large number of forces there. in 1999, the united states again stepped up and provided a major share of the military resources for operations in kosovo. at that time, i argued that we
were assuming too many commitments in areas of the world where our own interests were vague. when president clinton announced that he intended to send 4,000 u.s. troops for peacekeeping in kosovo, i said if we think the united states has the responsibility to go into all these civil conflicts, we are going to dissipate our resources, and it is going to place a heavy burden on our taxpayers. today, after years of involvement with nato-led operations in the balkans, our forces are still a major component of the nato-kosovo force, and we are still contributeing approximately 800 troops to that effort. in fact, of the 22 nations now in nato, contributing troops in kosovo, the united states military makes up approximately 13% of the total force. as far as cost is concerned, the
united states taxpayer is still footing a very large bill for our presence in kosovo. in fiscal year 2010, the president asked for $252 million to pay for operations in kosovo. in f.y. 2011, it was was $312 million. now as part of the fiscal year 2012 overseas contingency operations transfer fund, the president is asking for for $254 million. with this example in mind, i am now deeply concerned that we appear to be in the same position again, this time with nato and libya. on march 31, nato assumed command and control of operation unified protector and was thereafter responsible for enforcing the no-fly zone over libya. with this transfer of authority and responsibility from the united states to nato, there was
also an implicit understanding that all of nato member states would be expected to dedicate the necessary resources to adequately enforce u.n. resolutions 1970 and 1973. however, almost immediately after taking command, nato requested a 48-hour extension of support from american fighter aircraft. this request for continued support from american air assets seemed to be at odds with the president's statement that coalition forces would be able to keep up the pressure on qadhafi's forces, and so once again our nation is called upon to provide the bulk of the resources and funding for another nato mission that is not in the vital security interests of the united states. indeed, secretary of defense robert gates stated on april 21 at a d.o.d. press conference
that while it is not a vital interest for us, our allies considered it is a vital interest, and just as they have helped us in afghanistan, we thought it important, the president thought it was important to help them in libya. we are now on track to spend more than $800 million of u.s. taxpayer money this fiscal year on operations involving libya. i ask with significant concern how are these operations going to be paid for? where is d.o.d. planning to get the extra almost billion dollars to spend on this operation? what programs will need to be cut to fund this third operation in which we are now involved? iraq, afghanistan and libya. will the president be submitting a supplemental appropriations bill on libya?
now with the example of libya in our minds, let us be clear as to exactly what our allies are contributing to the efforts in afghanistan. as part of the international security assistance force, which is the command in charge of operations in afghanistan, the united states is contributing 70% of the total force. with 46 nations contributing the remaining 30%. and so as we review the landscape of american military commitments overseas, let me emphasize, with u.s. forces deployed in iraq and afghanistan, we should not also be participating in open-ended conflict in libya where we have no clear vital national security interest. moreover, i believe our nato allies who do have a vital interest in libya should be willing to play a lead role in terms of funding as well as
military resources. the fact is nato and the arab league should be shouldering the brunt of the military and financial burdens associated with operation unified protector, just as we are doing in afghanistan and have been doing in iraq. if we had all members of nato contributing proportionately to the mission in libya and also had the arab league providing comparable financial and military assistance, the overwhelming commitment of our own u.s. forces would be lessened to a manageable degree. madam president, i am frustrated that our nato allies continue to contribute such a small amount of resources for operations that are in the vital interest of many nato member states. in libya, i believe that if the united states military were to stop providing to our allies our
unique military capabilities, nato operations for both the no-fly zone as well as the civilian protection mission would be seriously degraded and could terminate. how have we arrived at this unfortunate state of affairs? why is it that nato nations are willing, unable to effectively operate against a weak and isolated nation like libya without significant military contributions from the united states? one reason we are in this position is because many nato members are not contributing enough of their gross domestic product to defense. instead, many nato members simply look to the united states and the american taxpayer to pay for any gaps in defense capabilities, and because many nato nations do not invest strategically in their military
capabilities, they are heavily dependent on the united states to pay for advanced equipment such as intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance platforms to support their nato operations. i agree with secretary gates' recent assessment, that nato is turning into a two-tiered alliance in which very few members, except for the united states, take on the hard-power combat assignments. instead, the majority of nato partners limit themselves to soft-power work, such as delivering humanitarian aid. indeed, of the 28 nato members, only five -- the united states, the united kingdom, france, greece and albania -- exceed the agreed upon ratio of 2% of gross domestic product to be spent on defense. two decades after the collapse of the berlin wall, the u.s.
share of nato defense spending has now risen astoundingly to more than 75%. secretary gates put all of our efforts under nato alliance operations together, 75%. we are all aware that the united states is facing very hard and real serious fiscal constraints. hence, it is clear that we can no longer continue to pay for the vast majority of nato operations that are not in the vital security interest of our nation. it is time for the united states to ask our allies to step up and keep the agreement they made when they became part of nato, or for the united states to consider reducing our spending level that we now provide to nato and also move to redeploy a
large portion of our military presence in europe back to the united states. i have spoken on the floor many times about my concerns for maintaining such a large military presence in europe, and i will continue to fight for spending cuts to a largely unnecessary and expensive united states military presence on the european continent. it was decided in the last administration to cut back to two brigade combat teams in europe, in germany. we have now had the two be expanded to four. the other two are now in limbo, so there are now four brigade combat teams in europe, and two were supposed to move back to the united states and the military construction to house at least one of those has been done at a cost of over
over $400 million taxpayer dollars. so we have the capability to bring home troops. temporaries have spent spent $400 million in pursuit of that. the barracks sit empty, and we still have four brigade combat teams in europe, in germany. unfortunately, here is the message that we are sending to our european allies by that military presence and by our operations in support of nato, that american taxpayers are willing and able to shoulder the burden for their defense, and that there are apparently no consequences if the europeans fail to do their fair share. madam president, we need to change that message. we need to give our nation's current financial difficulties a priority. our message should be that nato has been a valuable alliance, a
valuable alliance for 60 years, and it can be in the future with an effort to share the burden. that means truly sharing. the u.s. to lead when our capabilities are essential. we do have vast capabilities. when they are essential, we have shown we will always be there. but others can lead where they have the capability to do so. and they need to do it. with personnel and with the pay-force. -- and with the pay-fors. it is increasingly a threat to our security that the complacency of our allies are so great that we are shouldering more and more of the burden, even if it is not in the direct interest of the united states. the american taxpayer can no longer afford to write endless
checks for nato operations. it is fipple for our allies to shoulder their responsibilities and reduce their dependence on united states military forces. madam president, we want to keep our military strength. we have the greatest military in the world. there is no doubt about that. but to keep our military strong, we cannot overdeploy our forces. we have had -- and i have talked to people who have been to afghanistan six times on rotations six times. most of our people who have gone to afghanistan have gone more than once, and that is following all of the times they have been into iraq as well. we must keep our military strong by not overburdening them
because our allies are not supplying the troops that they agreed to provide when they became members of nato. for us to keep the strength that we have for the big operations where we have the unique capabilities, we must be smart about allocating and sharing the responsibilities. we can take the biggest share but not 75% of the share and remain strong, especially with the financial constraints that we have today. we are in the midst of negotiating how we can lower our deficits so that we don't hit that $14 trillion debt ceiling without a plan for bringing down the deficit so we will never have to lift that debt ceiling again. so it is in everyone's interest for our allies to step up to the
plate. they made agreements. it used to be a 3% gross domestic product commitment that was required for nato. now we're talking 2%, and only five countries -- only five countries meet that test. that is not a sustainable alliance. if we drag down our strongest member, it will not be in the interest of anyone if something big happens that needs an immediate and robust response. so i appreciate that secretary gates, in his final three weeks one month in office has talked very straight to our nato allies. and i hope that they are listening, and i hope they are prepared to act. yes, they have financial
constraints, too. we understand that. but it is time that the sharing be shared. it is time that we have a real alliance in which we remain strong so that we have the strength to respond in the big emergencies where we are called. but being dragged down by smaller emergencies that can be handled by others, whether it is kosovo or even iraq, or certainly libya and certainly people are concerned about the situation in syria and yemen, we can let others handle and be in the lead in those areas so that when the big things such as afghanistan will continue to be, can be handled by the united
states with our unique capabilities and our commitment. our fighters are the best in the world. our equipment is the best in the world. our training is the best in the world. we need to maintain that strength with an alliance that has a burden-sharing where we are the lead but we are not in such a lead that we are dragging down the capabilities for the future. so, madam president, i applaud secretary gates for starting this dialogue in earnest. we've talked about it for a long time -- for years actually. we have talked to our nato allies about stepping up to the plate, even in the good "financial times" that didn't happen. but for a few and i will say that great britain has always been there and we have had other strong alliances -- australia,
not in nato, but sarin a strong ally; canada, a strong ally. but it is time for us to reassess our contributions in nato to preserve our strength so that we are there for the big ones, which is in all of our interests. thank you, madam president, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: