Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  June 29, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT

12:00 pm
12:01 pm
12:02 pm
12:03 pm
12:04 pm
12:05 pm
12:06 pm
12:07 pm
12:08 pm
12:09 pm
12:10 pm
the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber who wish to vote or who wish to change his or her vote? then on this vote, the yeas are 79, the nays are 20. under the previous order requiring 60 votes for the passage of this bill, the bill is passed. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. a senator: i move that we reconsider and that it be laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the
12:11 pm
senate will proceed to the consideration of senate resolution 116, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 45, senate resolution 116, to provide for expedited senate consideration of certain nominations subject to advice and consent. a senator: mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
12:12 pm
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: i ask consent the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, i have nine unanimous consents 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 these requests be agreed to and these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
12:13 pm
12:14 pm
12:15 pm
quorum call:
12:16 pm
12:17 pm
12:18 pm
12:19 pm
12:20 pm
12:21 pm
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. isakson: mr. president, i rise for a moment and i'll be joined by my colleague, the senior senator from georgia to pay tribute to a great american poo passed this earth 30 years ago today. his name was richard brevard us are sell jr. he was a great georgian, with an interesting past. he was elected to the state legislature in the 1920's and rose to be speaker of the house of representatives? the state of georgia. he then was governor of the state of georgia. during that time he served as governor the same time another governor was serving in new york, frankli franklin delano r. they became good friends and president row vellet even became a constituent of senator
12:22 pm
russell's because georgia was a place that president roosevelt would come to heal. it was that relationship that brought russell to be one of the first to endorse franklin roosevelt for president of the united states. richard russell served with roosevelt, harry truman, eight years side by side with harry true man, he served under president dwight eisenhower and in just a minute i'll explain why he made lyndon johnson who he was and finally passed away under the term of richard nixon's first term as president of the united states. back to richard russell and lyndon johnson. johnson became president of the senate and later president of the united states. in his own works, lyndon johnson credits richard russell as the strength of his career as a senator. so great was senator russell's
12:23 pm
control of the united states senate that in a quote by powell moore, his press seact few year, he said, "when president kennedy gave advice to newly elected senators, he said the following: 'if you want to become an effective senator, you should start by going to see dick russell'." that's exactly what lyndon johnson did. so good a friend was he with him, that every sunday night, lady bird would have richard russell over to the house to thank him. as lyndon johnson grew in power, he kept beside him richard brevard us are elt. he is the greatest senator who ever served from our state and senator chambliss and i will be the first to tell you that we're ewe're in the back of the line when you compare our records. when i was elected to the snatd and asked to pick an office, i said the only requirement i had it woul be in the russell senate
12:24 pm
office because i wanted to serve in the building named after the greatest senator ever to serve our state. so on this anniversary, i want to leave this senate floor by reminding america we had a great senator from georgia whose lasting contribution to our country is indelible in the hearts minds of our people. richard brie vard russell, a great american and georgian and one to whom all of us owe a great deal of thanks and credit. i yield back and -- i yield back my time. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i thank senator isakson and appreciate his eloquent remarks about one of the great american public leaders, richard russell, and i am honored to be in the russell office building myself. mr. president, i'm deeply concerned about where we stand now with the budget crisis that
12:25 pm
we're facing. we have no budget action that's been undertaken in the senate. we haven't done our bit. the house has passed a budget, a ten-year budget, that's historic, it's honest, it'll actually change the debt trajectory of america, but the senate has not done anything. secret meltings are occurring. we are not told what's going on in those meetings. the deficit is clearly the largest issue facing our country at this time, i believe, except for matters of war that it is the biggest issue clearly in the 14 years i've been here. we are on an unsustainable path. it cannot continue. every expert has told us that. but we remain not focused in any public way on how to solve it. just meetings and leaks that are
12:26 pm
occurring. admiral mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs, said it is the greatest threat to our national security -- the debt. so, this extraordinary fiscal crisis is facing you yet the chamber has done -- this chamber has done nothing about it. we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend. in three months our gross debt will be larger than our entire economy. our nation's staggering debt is already costing millions of jobs, because when you have a debt that's equivalent to 90% of your economy, it reduces growth by 1%. we're now at 95%, going to 100% before the year is out. more than 22 million americans are out of work. a majority of americans now fear the next generation will be worse off than theirs has been. and in just five weeks we're told we'll reach the firm
12:27 pm
deadline on our nation's $14.3 trillion debt, which has doubled in the last few years. then major reduction reductionsr unless action is taken. the republican house has set forth their plan but the democratic senate has not done so. this year the senate hasn't produced a budget, hasn't met to work on a budget, it hasn't passed a budget in 791 days. we haven't had a budget in 791 days. during that time, we have increased the deficit -- the debt of the united states by $3.2 trillion and have spent over $7 trillion. on the floor we spend week after week on bills that have little or nothing to do with this increasing danger to our economy. we name courthouses and post offices, but we don't deal with
12:28 pm
the gathering financial storm. now the senate is scheduled to take a week off, to go into recess to celebrate the 4th of july, independence day. we unite as a nation on that day to celebrate our heritage and way of life, a way that has been earned through hard work, responsibility, and sacrifice. before the memorial day recess, i presented to the majority leader a letter signed by 46 republican senators stating that we should not meet -- we should not recess on the memorial day week but remain to do the work we need to do on our budget and financial plan. rather than face a vote on adjournment, the leader opted for a series of pro forma sessions where the senate gavels in only to gavel out moments later. having once again not done any work.
12:29 pm
rather than vote on it, that's what they decided stood -- decided to do. so i reknew my request that that letter. we also owe the american people an honest, open debate on the debt limit, the debt ceiling that we have. this shouldn't be talks behind closed doors by only a few senators and congressmen, maybe the speaker, vice president, or now maybe the president. are they the ones to decide this? aren't we all elected to do so? and then should we be faced with a situation in which this small group, having produced what they consider the perfect deal, bring it to the congress and demand in a period of panic and fear that it must be passed without any significant amendment, or the country would have a crisis. we've seen that before. is that good business?
12:30 pm
i don't think so. it remains astonishing that we're so close now to a deadline, we've been given without the nation's president, our chief executive, having set forth a proposal. -- on what he thinks we should do and should be included in a debt limit bill. shouldn't the president tell us that? he presides over the executive branch. all the cabinet people work for him. he has got a 500-person office of management and budget. we have a little staff on the budget committee where our ranking -- where i am ranking member. shouldn't he be providing some leadership like governor christie, governor cuomo, governor brown, governor bentley in alabama? shouldn't we expect that? the only concrete fiscal plan we have from the president is his february budget which proved to be the emptiest promise of all,
12:31 pm
the most disappointing document. we were told by the president that his plan would not add more to the debt. in reality, it would grow the debt, if passed, by by $13 trillion, doubling the entire debt of the united states again in the next ten years. it would spend more than current projections are for spending. it would tax more and run up the debt more than current expected expenditures. it is an irresponsible budget. so it's this kind of rhetoric that we -- that makes those of us in the senate who are working on these issues makes us concerned. we need to see what the proposal is, have time to evaluate it. so i'm calling on the president
12:32 pm
and the vice president to make public the proposal they discussed during these secret meetings, including the tax hikes they have proposed. if they believe in these tax hikes, let's let the american people see them, let's count up what it really means and let's evaluate them. maybe there will be enough votes to pass that. i don't know. i doubt it. let the congressional budget office provide an estimate of what the spending alterations will be and the tax alterations. let the budget committee meet to address the impact of these proposals. it's time to remove the blindfold. since the election in november with congress divided between a democrat senate and republican house, we have seen an increasing reliance on closed door meetings to resolve our greatest public challenges. in so doing, congress has once again, i think, ignored the
12:33 pm
public will. ultimately, our challenges can only be solved through the democratic process. let's hold votes, dozens, if necessary. let's hold hearings, let's have an open debate. democracy may be messy, it may be contentious, but it's the best system we have and the only system that works. the house republican budget cuts $6 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years. $6 trillion. let's hold votes to see whether the democratic senate is willing to reduce spending that much. if not $6 trillion, then what about $5 trillion or or $4 trillion? the simple reality is that the american people expect us to reduce spending, like their cities, counties and states are doing. this very minute. they don't expect us to raise taxes to bail out washington for reckless spending by raising
12:34 pm
taxes on the american people. the evidence shows again and again that spending cuts, not tax hikes, economic studies show the spending cuts will result in greater growth and more successful debt reduction, to make america competitive in the 21st century, we need a smaller, leaner efficient government, not a heavy, more burdensome tax code. so let's have the debate. let's have it out here in the open and let's allow the american people to participate and help decide. but until we work on a budget, until we work on the debt limit, until we work on the people's business, we don't have a right to go home and adjourn, with a looming deadline supposedly august 2 in which decisions have to be made. to do so would be to fail the public, i believe.
12:35 pm
it's the largest challenge of our generation this debt. we have to meet that challenge. i don't believe it can be met b a small group of people meeting in secret. we need a national discussion about the threats we face, and if we do so, i've seen the numbers, i've seen the studies in canada, new zealand. new zealand had 22 years of deficits. they have had 16 years of surpluses since they made a national decision to get their finances in order, and the economy has grown far above the world average. that's what we need to be doing here. that's what our states, cities and counties are doing. i appreciate the opportunity, madam chairman, to chair these remarks. we have got to rise to the occasion and face the defining issue of our time and put our nation on a path to growth and prosperity and job creation, not a path to decline. i thank the chair and would
12:36 pm
yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. chambliss: mr. president, i rise today to honor the life and commitment of senator richard b. russell to the state of georgia and to our nation. it was 40 years ago this year that senator russell passed away. senator russell devoted 50 years of his life to public service as a state legislator, as governor of georgia and as a united states senator. i take great pride in recalling before this body the lasting imprint on the history of georgia, the united states senate and our nation that senator russell left behind. he was a natural-born leader who had this persuasive ability to unite men, a quality which aided in his rapid rise to positions of political power. he will be remembered as the most prominent of politicians in his time. he began service in public office early in his life, serving in the georgia house of
12:37 pm
representatives at the age of 24. that was in 1921. his composed misdemeanor and civil nature quickly led to his nomination for speaker of the georgia house a few years later. he was the youngest speaker ever elected in the georgia house. under russell's guidance, the state of georgia saw dramatic improvements in the organization of state government. he went on to win the largest majority in the state's history for the election of governor in 1931. it was in the midst of our nation's most devastateing economic downturn, and then he was only 33 years of age. despite all this, he succeeded in guiding georgia out of the great depression. through his tremendous efforts to promote economic development, he was ultimately able to create a balanced budget for our state. his time in office is recognized as being one of the most significant eras in georgia history, creating economic
12:38 pm
relief for the state after only 18 months in office. the powerful economic impact left behind by senator russell is still felt in georgia today through many of the federal facilities he brought to our state, as well as through the piece of legislation closest to senator russell's heart and to my own, the school lunch program. he was then sent to washington by georgians to serve in the united states senate in 1933, making him the youngest member ever to serve in the senate at that point in time. senator russell came to be one of this body's most respected members ever. he was looked upon by his colleagues for his leadership, integrity, equality and intellect. his colleague from mississippi, senator john stennis, was once approached by tourists who told him he would like to see the senate and asked him how to go about it. at that moment, stennis spotted senator russell walking down the
12:39 pm
other end of the hall. stennis told the tourist that he could go to the capitol and see the senate chamber, but if he really wanted to see the senate, he should take a look at the man walking down the hall because he represents the living embodiment of the united states senate. during his time in office, his powerful position as chairman of the senate armed services committee aptly rendered him the label of mr. defense, a role for which he continues to be remembered. he was known as one of the nation's leading experts on military and defense policy, acting as advisor to six presidents. valued for his knowledge and judgment, he was called a great patriot who never failed to facilitate the united states when its security was an issue by then-president richard nixon. in a dedication speech given on this very floor 15 years ago, my good friend senator sam nunn recalls senator russell's strong belief in independence and
12:40 pm
co-equal role of the congress of the united states. and his insistence that he had not served under six presidents but rather senator russell served with six presidents, and there is a real difference. senator russell later served as this body's senior senator, becoming president pro tempore of the senate, putting him fourth in line to the succession of the presidency. but beyond all of his accomplishments, what truly set senator russell apart from other men was his commitment to civility. he demonstrated his fair and conscientious nature on many occasions, most notably as he presided over the 1951 dismissal hearings of general douglas macarthur, a time in which his judicious handling of such a volatile event did much to difficult fuse a very -- to defuse a very explosive
12:41 pm
situation. he had unrelenting civility and trust worthiness and of course his humor. once when he was in need of a tailor, he asked his good friend, then-president johnson, for a recommendation. johnson gave him one, so russell sent his suits over to the tailor recommended by president johnson. when the bill arrived, senator russell just stared at it dumfounded. he is quoted as saying no wonder this country is going to hell if the president is willing to spend this much money just to get his suits fixed. when i was first elected to the senate in 2002, the dean of the senate at that time was senator robert byrd who sat right on the aisle across the way, and i'll never forget the first day that i was -- as i was sworn in, i went over and introduced myself to senator byrd who was so well respected by everybody on both sides of the aisle and is without question the greatest historian within the senate that
12:42 pm
the senate has ever had, and he looked up at me and he said you hold senator russell's seat. i said yes, sir, that's right. he said my favorite senator was senator richard russell. and from then on, every time i would walk by senator byrd's seat when he was there, he would stop me and he would give me another anecdote about senator russell, about their close relationship and about what a huge impact senator russell had on our nation and on this institution during his 32 years of service. senator russell devoted his life to public service with only one desire: to be remembered as an honorable man, and we can all agree that his legacy more than fulfills that objective. his name lives on in our onerous he will senate office building, as well as throughout the state of georgia, giving evidence to the amount of honor deservedly bestowed upon this great man. his leadership skills, his
12:43 pm
honest dealings and his fairness to both sides in an argument created a remarkable representative for the people he served. he was an unfailing champion in washington and revered statesman of georgia for more than 38 years. the epitaph on his too manystone at his home place in winder, georgia, is a simple carving. it says "richard b. russell jr., senator from georgia 1933-1971." mr. president, i think that says it all. there is only one member of our body today that served with senator russell and that's senator inouye. senator inouye again just like senator byrd has given me many fond memories of senator russell. it's a pleasure to serve with senator inouye, and i wish i had had the opportunity to serve with senator russell because he truly was a great patriot, a great american and a great champion for this institution. i believe all of us here today
12:44 pm
can learn from the life of one of the greatest senators in this body's 200-year history. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor and i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
12:45 pm
quorum call:
12:46 pm
12:47 pm
12:48 pm
12:49 pm
12:50 pm
12:51 pm
12:52 pm
12:53 pm
12:54 pm
12:55 pm
12:56 pm
12:57 pm
12:58 pm
12:59 pm
1:00 pm
quorum call: proceedings under
1:01 pm
1:02 pm
1:03 pm
1:04 pm
1:05 pm
1:06 pm
1:07 pm
1:08 pm
1:09 pm
1:10 pm
1:11 pm
1:12 pm
1:13 pm
1:14 pm
1:15 pm
1:16 pm
1:17 pm
1:18 pm
1:19 pm
1:20 pm
1:21 pm
1:22 pm
1:23 pm
1:24 pm
1:25 pm
1:26 pm
the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. baucus: john wooden, the legendary uyla basketball coach who won more division one ncaa championships than anyone else once said -- quote -- "do not let what you can not do interfere with what you can do." end quote. it takes team work to win ten championships. i rise today to recognize the
1:27 pm
remarkable teamwork, championship-level teamwork we're seeing back home in montana. this is the third time i've come to the senate floor to share stories about the remarkable actions taken by regular folks across montana. their teamwork is making a huge difference. john wooden would have been proud to coach this team. this is a championship team. and we need this kind of teamwork. flooding continues to damage property and destruct lives across montana. the president has issued a major disaster declaration. warm weather threat tons unlock water stored at record levels. i've never seen anything like this. the old timers at home have never seen anything like this, so much snow yet melting so quickly. the chart to my left is part of anyway, wolf point, montana.
1:28 pm
it sits along the mighty missouri river. flood waters hit hard, hit fast, forcing 40 families from their homes. many still unable to return. darrin falcon, pictured here, is the director of the roads department. he has used his expertise as an engineer to help his neighbors on projects of every scale. he constructed dikes to prevent flood waters from damaging more homes. he delivered sandbags to tkrepbts to protect may -- residents to protect public infrastructure. in one instance an he elderly neighbor was stranded. falcon got right to work and helped build a new road so his neighbor could spend that night at home. falcon's work ethic makes him a real montana hero. the malk river has been dumping water into gasglove for weeks.
1:29 pm
the county roads supervisor worked endless hours to keep roads open after the river burst its banks. in a crisis like this roads are lifelines. roads mean access to a doctor. roads mean groceries, fresh water, and rick and wayne teaming up with the valley county road crew went above and beyond to keep these vital lifelines open. meanwhile across town, tonya francis, meteorologist for the national weather service, has taken extraordinary steps to help her friends and her neighbors. this is tonya. she never abandoned her post. she served as the voice of national weather service across northeastern montana. tonya knew her neighbors. she knew they depended on her for the latest weather reports. and beyond that, of all things,
1:30 pm
tonya, despite a broken leg in a cast, spent hours filling sandbags to protect homes along cherry creek. tonya went beyond the call for duty to mike sure her neighbors were safe throughout the disaster. ton yarks i might say to you, take some time out. let that broken leg heal. tonya asked that the entire team at the national weather service be recognized. that's just how generous she is. she doesn't want it for her. it is her team. working together, they helped glasglasco weather this. in norm at weeks, jeff rosenberg helps. he makes sure students have a safe and comfortable place to stay during the school year. this month jeff had extra work,
1:31 pm
work he very much enjoyed doing. he converted a residence hall into a hall for displaced families. i saw it. i was very impressed. jeff working 15-hour days to make sure everyone felt welcome, he delivered food, water to hungry families, also made sure everyone had the latest information about the floods. ask anyone on the team helping these families, they'll tell you jeff was the team captain. his genera generosity will longe remembered. the teamwork between our local emergency coordinators and crews has been extraordinary. the coordinators are the go-to leaders to help their communities respond to and recover from floods. they are the first to be called to help and the last to leave. montana's disaster emergency services teams have been working nonstop.
1:32 pm
they are a model of public service, and i hope montanans everywhere will reach out and shake their hand, e-mail, write thrower thank these heroes for their service. these remarkable montanans remind us that sometimes it's all about teamwork. we're the strong wheft we work together, and i am proud of these stories and ask montanans share their stories are ordinary folks doing extraordinary things for their friends and neighbors, whether using facebook, calling my office, whatever works. we want to help bring montanans even closer together showing that we're working together. someone once observed, mr. president, in montana it is a big state, big geography, not a lot of people. montana is really one small town. we know each other. we're there to help each other out, spread out in space, but together in spirit. in closing, i want to share a
1:33 pm
humble thank you for all of montana's heroes back home. i don't know what we'd do without you. thank you so, so much for your service. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: missouri.
1:34 pm
1:35 pm
1:36 pm
1:37 pm
1:38 pm
1:39 pm
a senator: i move to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. a senator: thank you. i'm here to talk about the work we should be doing. we are discussing who we're going to be as a country. are we going to continue to be a country that believes that we need to help create opportunity? are we going to be a country that believes that the government needs to accept more and more of the challenges of life? our debt is over $14 trillion and apparently that's not enough. so every discussion in washington, including some at your end, are focusing on the idea of how do we get even more ability to borrow more money so we can pay off the money we've already borrowed. mr. blunt: there are 13 million americans oust work today loorking for a job, and we
1:40 pm
continue during that process to spend money we don't have for things we don't have to have. i think we ought to be focused totally on two things com domestically right now. at the top of every list should be what do we do to create more private-sector jobs, and how do we get federal spending under control? now, the federal government doesn't create private-sector jobs, and in very many instances there are occasions where the public works project -- by the way, if we're going to have something that we're paying for for 30 years, i hope we're investing in something that would last for 30 years. but most of what the federal government could do that impacts jobs is create an atmosphere that takes all the uncertainty out of that decision-making process that government can. there are enough risks in creating jobs without having the additional risk of how fast can the utility bill go up, how high are the taxes go to be, what new
1:41 pm
unknown regulations are going to have to deal with? and frankly those are the wrong messages in all three of those areas right now, if you hope to be focused on that idea of how do we create jobs for those 13 million americans that are looking for jobs and better jobs for the americans that have jobs. what are we doing to encourage private-sector job creation for the future? in spending, we're now spend at the federal level almost $1 out of $4, right at $1 out of $4 that the economy can create in goods and services. the number for 40 years ending in 2008 was $1 out of $5. there is a lot of difference in an economy -- who competes for that dollar that the federal government is now spending that for 40 years was available for somebody else to get their hands on and use to create opportunity for somebody else? we've got to ghat under control. -- we've got to tbheat under
1:42 pm
control. the cochairs of the president's own fiscal commission say that we're looking at the most predictable economic crisis in the history of the country. there is a train moving down a track to a destination that nobody wants to go, and it continues to move at that same speed. it is totally predictable. it is something we have to do something about. and we can't continue to spend somewhere between $3.7 trillion and $3.8 trillion in this spending year and collect $2.2 trillion. and i've said on this floor before that, you know, i'm not sure anybody really has a good grasp of what $3.8 trillion is, but we do know if you're making $22,000, and you're spending $38,000, awrchedz a already borrowed all -- and you've already borrowed all the money anybody should have loaned you, you've got a problem that you can't deal with for very long without changing behavior.
1:43 pm
i think that behavior has to change. it has to change in ways that look at the programs that wipe until now have just been able to define who benefits from the program without any real controls over how that money is spent. we've got this year the $2.2 trillion that i mentioned that the federal government collected. that all was spent by the programs that we normally don't even appropriate money for because we've defined who gets that money. and for the first time ever, those programs exceeded all the money that came in. most of those programs are of course the big programs that we want to be sure are there as safety nets for people who have been told they need to rely on them. i think 80% of that side of the budget is medicare and medicaid and social security. we need to see what we do so those programs can continue to
1:44 pm
work, but if all of that side of the budget spent autumn of the money d. -- spent all of the money, that means every othery the federal government spent for an air traffic controller, for somebody to open the gates to a national park, sadly for somebody to put on a military uniform, or to put a gallon of jet fuel in a plane or to buy a gallon of paint for a ship, that was all done with borrowed money. we are defending the country on borrowed money. the number-one obligation of the federal government is just that. and we've got to figure out what we do that structurally begins to define how we spend the money that comes in and we don't spend more money that comes in. that's why, mr. president, i'm supporting the balanced budget amendment. i think we need to spend a lot of july talking about what we do to get this budget back in balance, how long it takes, and i look forward to that the debate being the principal
1:45 pm
debate of the next month. and i would yield the floor my time back. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i've been listening very carefully to my friend's remarks about what we have to do, what is in front of us. and his push, as he is speaking for the republican party, for a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. well, let me say this: i want a balanced budget. that's what i want. and i don't need an amendment to the constitution to get me to vote for a balanced budget. what i want to do is for all the sides to come together, that's what i want, and write a balanced budget.
1:46 pm
and do it in a way that is responsible and do it in a way that is fair and do it in a way that protects our middle class, protects our kids, and stimulates economic growth by making smart investments and cutting out spending in areas where we really don't need it. so all this yak about a balanced budget amendment -- and i call it that and i apologize if it sounds like it's a derogatory term -- is just so much talk. let's get to it. and i think what we ought to do is go back to the people and the party that was the only party and the only people to balance the budget in 40 years. and i hate to break it to my republican friends, but it's the democratic party. we're the ones who did it. we did it when bill clinton came into office, we did it after
1:47 pm
hard work, we did it after painful cuts, we did it with smart investments, we did it with everybody paying their fair share, and we didn't need a balanced budget amendment to the constitution to do it. it's a gimmick. we need a balanced budget, not a balanced budget amendment. so let's go and look at what we did the last time this country ever had a balanced budget, and lucky for us it wasn't that long ago, and lucky for us a lot of us are still here who made that faithful vote. we didn't have one republican voting for that budget. and when they came to the floor, i have all the quotes, chapter and verse. they said this is horrible, it will never balance the budget. this is going to lead to a depression.
1:48 pm
this is the worse thing in history. do you know what happened? we not only balanced the budget but we had a surplus. we not only had a surplus but the debt was going down so fast that we thought we would never have to have treasury bonds again. and on top of that, we created 23 million jobs. so when you -- i hope the public understands. when they hear republican colleague after republican colleague come down to the floor and say we need to stay in all through july, fine with me, i'll stay here through august, i will spend the night in the cloakroom, i don't care. let's not talk about a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. let's talk about doing the hard work of balancing the budget. and the way you do it again is to follow the lead of -- of the
1:49 pm
plan that was laid out by president clinton and worked in the most amazing way beyond our greatest expectations. what did we do? we looked at this deficit and we said this is unacceptable. and we went after programs that made no sense and we cut them. we either eliminated them or we cut them back. then we said what are some investments we could make that would actually stimulate growth in the private sector? and my friend, senator blunt, i thought was right, that's what we need to do. we need to stimulate growth in the private sector, and at that time the investments were in the high tech side, high tech, biotech. today, clearly it's clean energy. that's what the whole world wants, that's where we ought to be leading, that's what our president knows. so you cut out programs that don't make sense, you invest where it makes sense to create
1:50 pm
jobs, and then guess what you do. you make sure you have enough revenues coming in to pay for your priorities. and i got news for my republican friends, it's not that hard. go after the billionaires. you can't get yourself to do it, can you? the billionaires and the millionaires, the people who aren't paying what they should be paying. but when the house had its chance, madam president, what did it do? it allowed the biggest tax breaks ever to continue for the billionaires and the millionaires, and they killed medicare. medicare is gone. it's becoming some kind of a voucher program or you can imagine some 90-year-old woman suffering from a disease has to now go out and try to find out where she can buy an insurance plan, tell me who is going to cover her, a, and b, tell me if she has the strength to do that.
1:51 pm
and c, her medicare benefit no longer goes to her. it goes right to the insurance company. that's the plan the republicans passed in the house. and they cut everything that's near and dear to the hearts of the american people. in addition to medicare, they cut education, they cut funding for clean air, clean water. highways, they cut by a third and here they talk about jobs on the other side, private sector jobs. the highway bill creates thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs in the private sector. they cut that bill by 36%. so when you hear my republican friends talk about the importance of balancing the budget -- and there is talk for a balanced budget amendment to the constitution -- why don't you ask them show us your balanced budget, because the one
1:52 pm
they showed us from the house was such a disaster that they lost a congressional seat they had held for eternity. it's easy to talk about a balanced budget amendment. it's harder to balance the budget in a fair way, and that's what we have to do. now, my friend, senator blunt, also talked about the importance of jobs. he is so right. i just ran for re-election. jobs, jobs, jobs, the top three issues. guess what? my republican friends have filibustered every single jobs bill we brought to the floor. the last one, really, i'm very familiar with because it was a bill that came out of my committee. the whole committee voted with one dissenting vote for the economic development administration to give seed money to areas in the country that need job creation. it attracts $7 of funds for every dollar of federal money. it would have created a million jobs over five years. oh, they filibustered it.
1:53 pm
they added amendments like about the prairie chicken. they added amendments about things that had nothing to do with it just to bring it down. they didn't even have -- what is the word i'm looking for? they didn't even have -- speak against it when they voted against it at the end of the day. they didn't even come to the floor because they have nothing to say because it's a jobs bill, because it's passed every congress since the 1960's, because the last time it passed, it passed without a dissenting vote in the senate in 2004, because the last president who signed it was george w. bush. it's a jobs bill. they said no. why? i go back to what their leader said here. his top priority, beating president barack obama. so you have to figure they're bringing every jobs bill down so
1:54 pm
that this economy gets worse. well, let me tell you, it's not going to go down easy at home. it's not going to go down easy at home. they killed a bill that march landrieu brought, was brought out of her committee unanimously. small business, small business bill. it would have created thousands of small businesses. they voted it down. that bill was written by warren rudman, a republican senator. they voted it down. they filibustered it and voted it down. why? they say jobs are their top priority. why would they vote down a bill that was written by a republican, that is passed without objection year after year after year? why would they vote down another bill that was last signed by george w. bush without a dissenting vote in the senate? why? two jobs bills.
1:55 pm
why? you have to ask yourself why. maybe they really are willing to sacrifice jobs for political reasons. that's all i can come up with. i put that together with what mitch mcconnell said. now their big push is a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. a lot of talk. balance the budget, folks. we know how to do it. end the wars. that's a trillion dollars over ten years. go after the millionaires and the billionaires who don't pay their fair share. that's another trillion dollars over ten years. there is $2 trillion right there. go after the people who never pay their taxes. go after the oil companies who are ripping us off at the pump and taking the highest profits ever. it's not hard to do. and yes, we're willing to cut some things that don't make
1:56 pm
sense. you get a $4 trillion package pretty easily if you're willing to really look at it in a fair way. i heard our president today speaking to the nation through a press conference, and he was just very sweet about this issue. he was -- i was saying to senator durbin as i watched him, he just -- he is explaining it to the people. everybody has to give up something. you want bipartisanship, that doesn't mean you get what you want and i get nothing. it means i give up some of the things i want and you give up some of the things you want. but we have dlairgz by the -- declarations by the republicans. we will never, ever, ever agree to any new revenues. why? you just voted to eliminate the ethanol subsidy. that brings revenues.
1:57 pm
so why would you not take that to the table? how can you believe it is fair that billionaires sometimes pay less in terms of effective tax rate than a secretary or a teacher or a nurse? come on. come to the table. don't come to the table with a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. that doesn't do anything to balance the budget. it's a lot of talk. balance the budget. put a little faith in the people who know how to do it who did it before. i was proud to vote to balance the budget. i was proud to vote for a fair budget. i was proud to be here when we saw 23 million jobs come. that didn't happen because we just said cut, cut, cut, cut, end medicare as we know it. it came because we're willing to look at what was working, what
1:58 pm
wasn't working, where to make the investments, where to make the cuts. you have got to come to the table with everything on it, you have got to say that you're willing to listen to the other side. and we need a fair plan and we have that as democrats. we're not going to end medicare. we're not going to hurt working people. we're going to do this in a fair way. so i hope the american people will put together and connect all the dots. you have a republican leader who has said on more than one occasion the most important thing is to defeat barack obama. you have a republican party that says it's for jobs and filibusters every single jobs bill that in the past they have
1:59 pm
broadly supported. you have republicans walking out on the vice president, taking their little teddy bear and their blankie and walking out of the negotiations because they didn't like the way the discussions were going. they walked out. and then my friends from the other side -- and i thought senator blunt was very eloquent on the point. he says two things we need. we need to work on job creation in the private sector, and i just showed that despite the language, they vote everything down. and then we have to take uncertainty out of the equation. that was his big point. he's so right. how do you take uncertainty out of the situation? don't play politics with the debt ceiling. don't play politics with it. because i have read economists say it will -- if we don't do this right and we don't agree
2:00 pm
and the debt ceiling becomes a victim of this partisanship, treasury bonds for the united states of america will be junk bonds, will be junk bonds. so you wan -- so you want to play games? go home, go on the corps of engineers and i'll play you a game. but don't bring it in here. it's too serious. this is the greatest country there ever was. my parents, one of whom was born outside of this country, told me that i should kiss the ground of america. and how proud i am that i am here. but i will tell you, if i see people who are willing to turn united states treasury bonds into junk bonds, i'm going to do everything i can in my life to
2:01 pm
make sure those who have done this will not be nameless or faceless. it is too important. the fact that we're even playing these games is ridiculous. the fact that we can't come together and shake hands and say, this budget deficit is terrible, we're going to deal with it, we're going to deal with the debt, we're going to do what we did under bill clinton, we're going to balance the budget, create a surplus, we can do this. you smac shake hands on t you he the parameters of a deal. you pass a debt ceiling that's cleefnlt you send a message to the market -- i used to be a stockbroker. when the president would sneeze, the market would go down 200 points. that's how the market responds to these things. we don't have to be playing with the stock market, with the full faith and credit of the united states of america. it's pretty simple if everything is on the table.
2:02 pm
if all you want to do is destroy social security and medicare, it isn't simple. but if you're willing to talk to us, to have a fair taxation system, where the warren buffets of the world are at least paying as much in an effective tax rate as a nurse, there's something to talk about here. but don't go walking out of discussions and going home because you didn't get 100% of what you want. life doesn't work that way. i speak as a mother, a grandmother, a united states senator from the largest state in the union when i say this: you don't get everything you want. you don't get everything you want in a negotiation. the republicans control the house. the democrats control the senate. the democrats control the white house.
2:03 pm
correct me if i'm wrong, two-thirds democratic. in a fair world, we get two-thirds of what we want. but we're going to give up more. it ought to be a 50-50 deal. that's how you negotiato negoti. so this is a tough time, and if the other side thinks that a balanced budget amendment to the constitution balances the budg budget, it doesn't. you've got to do the hard work of balancing the budget. you've got to sit down in this tough time in a tough, fragile economic recovery -- remember, when president obama took over, we were bleedin bleeding 800,00a month mons.
2:04 pm
he had to handle two wars, unpaid for by george w. and his friends; a tax cut unpaid for to the richest people in america; he had to deal with a banking system that was frozen solid; he had to deal with an automobile industry that was going out of business; and we had to work, and a few brave souls from the other side of the aisle worked with us -- thank god, or who knows where we'd be today. and now when we're finally, you know, moving out of this nightmarish economy, not quick enough, we've got republicans filibustering jobs bills, then coming down here and saying how important jobs are and saying how important it is there's
2:05 pm
certainty when they're playing games with the debt ceiling. i'm an optimist. that's why i stay in this world i'm in. and i thank the people of california for giving me the chance so many times. but there is a saying back home, are y'all on the level? are you really on the level when you're in negotiations? do you really want to have a deal? do you really want to gism it? do you really want to work with us? and i just don't know, when i see them filibustering jobs bills, when i see them walking out on the vice president, when i see them saying, oh, that's off the table, and this is off the table, and that's off the table, when they don't run this country; they run the house.
2:06 pm
i wonder, where are we going? and when i hear people saying, what's the big deal if we don't pay our bills, if we don't lift the debt ceiling and we can't pay our bills? you know what people have to understand, mr. president, is lifting up the debt ceiling is not about the future payments, it's about payments due. i said, we had a balanced budget under bill clinton had a splaws -- this a surplus. we went into deficit mode when george bush took over and did the tax cuts to the wealthiest among us and didn't pay for it and did a prescription drug benefit and never paid for it, did two wars and never paid for them, and we got into big trouble, and what's the solution of my friends on the other side? we're walking out of the negotiations because we can't talk about taxing billionaires
2:07 pm
or taking away corporate welfare from oil companies, god forbid. it's just -- it makes me wonder who's lyl really on the level. we can do this. we did it before. it's not that hard. you just need people of good will. and i would just say to my friends oner owed side, forget the reelection of barack obama. forget the next presidential race. you'll have your candidate and we'll have ours. and that's for another day. right now we're in this chamber. we're talking about how to have a credible plan to get this deficit down to get this debt down, to strengthen our economy, to strengthen job creation, to
2:08 pm
keep the middle class vibrant. i hear some republicans now on the presidential trail talking about doing away with the minimum wage. can you imagine, mr. president? we go back to the days of the minimum wage, $4 an hour. i remember when it was 50 cents an hour. it dates me a bit. that's what we hear from the other side. their vision is not a good vision for the young people of this country. who are looking forward to a life at least as good as that of their parents. so, in conclusion, this isn't a time to play games or reach for political advantage. this isn't a time to hold the future of this country hostage to some ideological agenda or some pledge that somebody signed
2:09 pm
to some, you know, political person outside of this chamber. pledges signed. it's not about that. it's about putting america first. it's about putting our families first. it's not about amending the constitution. with a balanced budget amendment. it is about balling the budget in a fair way. -- it's about balancing the budget in a fair way. the republican plan that passeed the house that started with paul ryan, that passed the house, that didn't balance the budget in 40 years. that's not a plan. we got to do better. but when you are willing, as they are, to say to millionaires and billionaires and trillionaires, you don't have to pay your fair share, the revenues just don't come in. and what happens as a result, they have to kill medicare, which they did in the house
2:10 pm
budget; they have to hurt education, make the environmental protection agency a shadow of its former self. you know, i go outer and look at polls. 80% of the people want the e.p.a. to stay out there and clean umthe air and make sure we have safe draining water. they want food inspections. they want air traffic controllers on the job. they want a next-generation air system. this is the greatest country in the world. we don't have to walk away from our dreams. we just have to have everybody pay their fair share. if that happens, we can do this. and we need to end those wars that are so costly in so many ways. we do those two things, we're on our way to a balanced budget. we're on our way to surpluses. we can do this.
2:11 pm
and the only thing stands in our way is politics. that's what it seems to me. if people think that more important than fixing this budget crisis is bringing down a president politically, we got a problem. you know, we take the oath of office and we raise our right hand, we put our hand on the bible to be loyal to this country, to do right by this country. and that's what we should be doing now. and people want to stay in july, august, september, october, through christmas -- that's fine with me. but we got to have a plan. a plan that's fair. if we've we have a plan that's fair, we just balance the budget, we do it over time, we don't it wisely, we create jobs, interest rates remain low, we can do it because we did it before. the only people that ever
2:12 pm
balanced the budget in the last 40 years have been the democrats. that's a fact. a fact in evidence. so, mr. president, we have the pathlights lighting the way. it's fairness on spending, cut the things that don't work, fairness on taxation, make sure the billionaires pay their fair share, we follow that path, we bring home our troops, we're golden. and i think that's a pathway that i would like to support. thank you very much, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. a senator: mr. president, i rise today to speak in favorite balanced budget amendment. mr. johanns: let me offer a thought or two ace get started here today. i had the privilege at one point in my political life to serve as
2:13 pm
governor of a great state, the state of nebraska, served in that capacity for six years. in that capacity, like virtually every other state, we had at provision in our constitution -- and it wasn't a gimmick at all; it was a very, very serious statement, and it said in a very straightforward way, thou shalt have a balanced budget. and it was as simple and as straightforward as that. now, the other interesting thing about my state of nebraska is that in addition to having that constitutional provision -- and, keep in mind, part of my oath of office as governor was to uphold that constitution -- but part of
2:14 pm
that was a requirement, a mandate that we could not borrow money. in fact, i think the limitation, if i'm not missustain, was $50,000 or $100,000. and i would say to people back home when i was governor, i would say, that probably was a pretty handsome sum of money, more than a century ago when that constitution was passed. but in effect today what that meant was that when we got down to the business of balancing our budget, as required by the constitution, i did not have the ability, as governor, to issue bonded indebtedness, to go out and borrow against the full faith and credit of my state to balance that budget. in fact, i will tell you today, i'm not even certain that the state of nebraska has a bond
2:15 pm
rating. because it's not necessary. very simply, we followed a philosophy that we would not spend money that we did not have. and so we didn't issue bonds to build highways, if we didn't have the money in the bank, and plan for where the money would come from in the years ahead, if it was a multiyear project, we didn't do t we didn't build it. now, many are maybe listening to this and say well, my goodness, how would that work? here in this country, we have have $14 trillion worth of debt. where would we be without all that borrowing? well, let me tell you in this last economic recession, the unemployment rate of nebraska never rose over 5%. today i will tell you that the unemployment rate in our state
2:16 pm
is 4.1%. and you know it never occurred to me that i should ever argue to the people of that great state that if you were successful, you should be punished for that success. very, very much the opposite. i said i want you to come to nebraska, i want you to creator creator -- create your jobs here and we're going to do everything we can to be your partner in that effort. and the current governor has followed that same philosophy. we often hear about those governors who are doing a great job, and i tell you, i know of one. his name is dave heineman. he is the governor of the state of nebraska. he has balanced his budget, he has not borrowed money, and he has kept the unemployment rate during one of the toughest economic times since the depression under 5%, and it is
2:17 pm
4.1% today. he was my lieutenant governor, mr. president. but at the national level, we didn't follow that philosophy, and i believe we are now at a crossroads. because for decade after decade, washington has promised too much. it has said over and over again we can be all things to all people, but the real truth of it is they never said how they planned to pay for it. now the result is that we face a financial crisis unlike any financial crisis that maybe our nation has ever seen. now, don't believe my words. this is being studied by the hour, by the minute, by the second. a recent congressional budget office report confirms the assertion. last week, the c.b.o. released
2:18 pm
its latest economic forecast. it's kind of a report of where we're headed as a nation. and it's grim by even the most liberal economic point of view. the congressional budget office now predicts that debt held by the public will exceed 100% of our gross domestic product by 2021 if we continue, just continue the current policies. 12 months ago when they released this report, it was equally as grim. well, i shouldn't say equally. because the number i just cited got worse by 10% in just 12 months. our debt is rising exponentially exceeding 200% by 2037, and at that point you might as well
2:19 pm
just stop making the projections. just think about this. our great nation in 25 years, our great nation in just 25 years will have so much debt that the congressional budget office can't compute it. erskine bowles has said many times before that this is a crisis that's predictable. he was one of the chairs of the president's own deficit commission, and he said this. growing debt also would increase the -- or c.b.o. went on to say this. growing debt also would increase the probability of a sudden fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose confidence in the government's ability to manage its budget and the government would thereby lose its ability to borrow at
2:20 pm
affordable rates. it is erskine bowles who has said this crisis is so predictable. c.b.o. also found that in the next 25 years, federal health spending will increase by 50% as a share of g.d.p. while social security spending will increase by 20%. what's happening? it's predictable. my generation, i'm right in the middle of the baby boomers, is starting to access all of the promises that have been made. it is no longer an option for us to just simply say a little nip and a little tuck here and we all give a little and it all works out. this is a mountain of debt clearly ahead of us, and we can either do course corrections or, believe me, we will perish.
2:21 pm
now, i have no qualms saying that both parties have made mistakes over the years. this is a bipartisan problem. but for some to advocate even more stimulus spending which we heard in the last couple of weeks, repeating the misguided policies of the last two years, adding more debt on more debt on more debt defies logic and common sense. if stimulus spending were the answer, our economy would be firing on all cylinders today, but unfortunately even with that massive spending plan, that stimulus plan of a trillion dollars when you add the interest, it just hasn't yielded the results. remember the president's promise
2:22 pm
we'll keep unemployment under 8%. we just have to bite the bullet, spend all of this money. and here we are today with unemployment almost locked down at 9.1%. just look at where our country was two years ago. in january, 2009, the debt was was $10.6 trillion. i would argue that was far too much. two years ago. today, it's over $14.3 trillion and growing exponentially. we're talking about a 35% increase in our nation's debt in two short years. now, to put these numbers into perspective today, each united states citizen would have to pay pay $46,000 to pay off our national debt. that's $11,000 more than two
2:23 pm
years ago. and each american family -- and i hope you're sitting down when you're listening to this. each american family would need to write a check for $127,000 just to square up the books, just to get the debt paid off. that's not even addressing the spending that is out of control today. looking at unemployment in january, 2009, the unemployment -- the unemployment rate was absolutely unacceptable at 7.8%. today, after almost a trillion dollars of stimulus spending, unemployment has grown 17% with almost two million americans who can't find work, notwithstanding
2:24 pm
their best efforts. now, maybe somebody is going to come down here and say but there is other news you should be looking at. well, i looked at some other news. regarding health care costs, career to the proponents of the health care overhaul, health insurance premiums for the average family have gone up 19% since 2009. put it simply, doubling down on deficit spending has failed our economy, it has failed our american people, and in fact the president's plans have made it worse. so why would we want to repeat the same mistake? i thought raising the the $14 trillion debt limit was actually about reducing spending. why would you be arguing for a stimulus plan in order to raise
2:25 pm
the limit? why would you be arguing for larding it up with more stimulus spending? when will we learn that this hole we dug for this great country requires us to quit digging? there is no doubt that our debt problem is the defining issue of our time, and i see two paths. we can continue to run up trillion-dollar deficits, operate the government with no budget, which has been standard fare for the last 790 days, double down on failed policy objectives that didn't make any sense two years ago and haven't improved with time, or we can be frank and candid and honest that we have promised more than our economy can afford to generate.
2:26 pm
i've heard the arguments just tax those rich people some more. in fact, i spoke about that soon after i had come to the senate. you know, there was this idea that if you made over $250,000 a year, then you should be taxed more. so i said okay, if that's going to be the new mantra around here, just to balance the budget for a year, what would the effective tax rate have to be for everybody making over over $250,000? just to balance the budget. i'm not talking about paying off the deficit. just to do what nebraska has done for years and years, balance the budget without borrowing money. and i spoke about that on the senate floor. the rate would have to be 90%, and that was two years ago. it's probably worse now. does that make any sense?
2:27 pm
is that the kind of encouragement that our nation was founded upon? that's not a pathway to solvency. that's a pathway to destroying a great nation. only one path will provide future generations what i grew up with, which was a land of opportunity, an america that my parents believe that if you just worked hard and stayed out of trouble, you could do just about anything. two dairy farmers who caused their kids to believe that they could experience greatness in this great country. well, let's be up-front and honest about the road that we need to travel as a nation. we can get there. our nation has such a proud history, it has faced so many
2:28 pm
challenges, it has looked adversity in the eye and it has forced it down, and each and every time our great nation has risen to the challenge. so as we reflect and pay homage to the history of this great country in the days ahead, let's use this as an opportunity to work toward a solution to this challenge of our time, our debt crisis. as the c.b.o. report noted -- and again i'm quoting -- "wait to go address the long-term budgetary imbalance and allowing debt to mount in the meantime would make future generations worse off." that's your children and your grandchildren. although they go on to say some current generations could receive a benefit from that delay.
2:29 pm
so am i to tell my children and grandchildren that so i can benefit from just pushing this down the road, kicking this can down the road, that my kids and grandkids will pay the price for this? they will have their own wars to fight. i wish they weren't going to, but they will. their own flu pandemics to deal with, and on and on and on. but you see, i started my adult life with our nation owing owing $380 billion. in five years, our nation will owe $20 trillion. and it won't be canceled at my death. it will be owed by those next generations. my hope is that we can come down here, that we can be honest about the overpromises that have
2:30 pm
occurred, we can speak candidly about the need to put in place forever a requirement that says to every senator who follows me, as hard as it is, you must balance the budget. and the only way we can do that is by doing what our states have historically done, including my great state, and that is to simply say it in the constitution. it is not accidental, mr. president, that this proposal gets so much support in our country. because to the average family it's what they do every day and we in washington must come to grips with this and do the same. mr. president, thank you. i yield the floor.
2:31 pm
mr. coburn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: can i confine o inqe chair what the status is of the bill and are there pending amendments? the presiding officer: currently there are no amendments pending. mr. coburn: i would ask unanimous consent to call up amendment 521. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from oklahoma, mr. coburn, proposes an amendment numbered 521. mr. coburn: i ask unanimous consent that it be considered as read. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator is recognized. mr. coburn: mr. president, thank
2:32 pm
you for the recognition. about three months ago one of the results of the last time we raised the debt limit was a report by the government accounting office. 97 senators in this body voted to put that in the last debt limit extension. and what was that? that was a requirement for the government accounting office over the next three years to list every program for us in every area so we knew what we were doing. and the purpose for that amendment, that happened to have been my amendment, was because when i went to the congressional research service and i went to the government accounting office, i said i want to know every program in education, i want to know every program. i want to know every program. and what they told me is it's
2:33 pm
impossible. we cannot do it. we cannot give it to you. so we collectively as colleagues said you will do this. it's been a big job. they have done a fantastic job on it thus far and i can't wait to get the second third of that. but one of the results of that was the first report that the government accounting office reported to us showed close t to $200 billion worth of duplications. that is not the c.b.o.'s number. that's my number in terms of looking at it. let's say it's $100 billion. the fact is what we have found in the first third of looking at the federal government that we have multiple sets of duplicative programs that do exactly the same thing. they are just in a different agency or they are cross agencies. and in a moment i will talk about what those are. but the response to that report was the greatest response that g.a.o. has ever had to any
2:34 pm
report they have ever listed. the curious thing about that is 95% of what they reported on was a culmination of reports i had asked for over the last six years put together, which means we he had the information as members of congress, we just wouldn't use it. in other words, it didn't get out to -- up to the level of being recognized that here is this, and here is this. only when we saw it together did all of a sudden did we start seeing the magnitude of the problem of duplication. the purpose of this amendment, and it is very straightforward, is that on average the senate considers in a session of congress, in a congress, over two years, about 700 pieces of legislation. the congressional research service now writes a report on each one of those and advises us about the legislation, what it does, what it doesn't do, what
2:35 pm
is out there. but the one thing that they do not do is they don't tell us where it duplicates things. and so the purpose of this amendment is that with each of those bills that we would have the knowledge that the g.a.o. has put out there that the c.r.s. will then go and get and say, here is what's out there now and you need to consider that as you consider why do we need another program to do something that we are already doing. what is wrong with the programs that we have now that are not accomplishing it? what it will do is create transparency not just for us, but for the american people. because we have duplicative programs every year. and what is really raises the question of, where is the oversight to see when we go to solve a problem? and the motivations here are wonderful. the motivations are to try to solve problems. but too often we lack the
2:36 pm
information, the knowledge with which to make a great decision, and the reason we lack that is because we fail on our duty to do oversight. so this information that would be provided becomes powerful. but more importantly, it creates tremendous transparency for the american public in saying, for example, if we are going to create another job training program, we have 47 of them right now funded by the federal government across nine different government agencies. none of them are coordinated and all but three overlap each other. well, if we create another job training program, maybe we ought to know what all these others are and why we need to create another one rather than to make the ones that we have now work. i would actually question why we have 49 job training programs.
2:37 pm
but the problem is big. and let me spend a moment to put into the record just some highlights. and these are just the highlights. it represents less than a 10% of what the findings were of the last g.a.o. report. we have 101 programs for surface transportation. they are run across four different agencies. we have 82 teacher quality improvement programs. 82 separate programs across 10 different -- they are not in the department of education. there are 10 different agencies. nine of which are outside the department of education that have teacher training programs. we have 88 economic programs run by four agencies costin costing $6.5 billion a year. 88 separate economic development programs? we had 80 programs to provide
2:38 pm
transportation for the disadvantaged across eight different agencies. we spend $314 million on. that's a good cause. that is something that we can do. but 80 different programs? we don't know what we are doing. so the purpose of this amendment, and it will require a rules change to have it, is to ask c.r.s. to show, what are we doing and what is there already? just like they analyze every other aspect of a bill before it comes to the floor. this won't be required on emergency legislation. it won't be required on committee reports. it won't be replied on filing a bill. it will only be mandated if a bill comes to the floor. -- floor for consideration by my colleagues. let me finish up. we have 56 programs for financial literacy from 21 different agencies. i would -- based on the talk we just heard from the last two
2:39 pm
senators, we are the last people that ought to be teaching anybody about financial literacy when we are running the kind of deficits and have the kind of debt we have and have the kind of duplication we have. nobody who knows financial literacy would run 88 separate economic development programs and pay for the overhead of all of those through all these different agencies, rather they would have two or three, have a concentrated overhead, and direct the emphasis of whatever that economic development program would be. we have 21 programs for homeless assistance. we spend $62 billion on 18 different food and nutrition assistance programs. we don't need 18. we need two or three. and we need to have metrics on them to find are we helpful to feeding people with food and nutrition. we have bureaucracy after bureaucracy that another bureaucracy is doing in a different agency. they don't know what the other agency's doing. there's no coordination and
2:40 pm
there's no measurement of the effectiveness of what we are doing. c.r.s. claims that they do not have the manpower to do this. they have 350 analysts that do nothing but analyze legislation. this would require one analyst one time a year to look at the duplication on a bill coming to the floor. one analyst over a period of a year one time looking at it. c.r.s. is a great resource to me. and i want them to have the resources that they need because the only way we get out of the bigger problems that the senator from nebraska was talking about is having the knowledge of what we are doing today. so my hope is that my colleagues will consider this, not as a partisan amendment, but to give us information which gives us the power to make the best decisions for our country. and we need to be making better decisions.
2:41 pm
the other final thing this will do will help us not create a duplication again. it will help us know what we need to do and that is before we pass it into legislation. i -- i am so concerned as i look in bringing forward some options for my colleagues to look at in terms of solving our financial -- everywhere i go as we dig deeper and deeper into this, we see the duplication, the inefficiency, the lack of direction, the lack of pointed purpose to get an end result in program after program of the federal government. some of those are truly are on a roll. for those on a role that we are truly responsible for, constitutionally it is a responsibility of the u.s.
2:42 pm
congress and u.s. government, we ought know what we are doing and we ought to know what is being done out there already. and we operate in a vacuum when we don't have this information. so it is my hope that my colleagues will support this in a way to give us information. there is nothing political about it. it is how do we make better decisions and how do we do this in a way that will cause us not to create more duplication in thinthe future, cause us to aske smart questions about legislation. you see, those questions don't get asked unless somebody goes and does the digging now. and what my hope would be is we would all be empowered by having greater knowledge over what we are doing. it is very simple. it is very straightforward. and it would be my hope that we could accomplish that. and i would yield the floor.
2:43 pm
mr. alexander: mr. mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: i want to con gracongratulate the senator from oklahoma on his remarks in this debate. i would say before long, we should have, whenever the majority leader decides, we should have a vote on the coburn amendment. we are at a -- we're in a position on this rule that -- or resolution that relevance amendments are in order. at the moment we don't have any others. if we don't have any others, we will proceed to the final bill later this afternoon as the majority leader decides that we should do that. we passed the bill this morning with 79 votes, and i will have more to say about this resolution in a moment. but i wanted to saying is that is directly relevant to what the senator from oklahoma talked
2:44 pm
about. we keep talking about duplication, which is an important part of our oversight responsibility, but another -- sometimes that leads to the elimination of government bureaucracies, which is a rare event. ronald reagan once said a government bureau is the nearest thing to internal life that we will ever see on this earth. and i have an example of that. i would say to the senator from oklahoma this morning in a rules committee hearing. the purpose of the hearing was to review the qualifications of three excellent men and women who were nominated by the president to serve on the election assistance commission. but what i said at the hearing and what i would like to say on the floor today, with all due respect to those excellent nominees, instead of considering nominees, we should abolish the
2:45 pm
commission, it has finished its work. the election assistance commission was commissioned in 2003. since then, the rules committee didn't have one single oversight hearing on the commission. my predecessor in my position had asked for an oversight hearing. we didn't have one. i asked for one earlier this spring. we didn't have one. at a time when we're borrowing 40 cents oust every dollar -- out of every dollar that washington spends, we should not have been there this morning considering new appointments to a commission that's out of work. we should have been there considering recommending to this body that the commission cease to exist. and here is why. it was created by the help america vote act of 2002, authorized for three years, given certain tasks. primary task was to distribute federal payments to the states to help them upgrade their
2:46 pm
voting systems. $3.2 billion was appropriated for these payments. it's been distributed. given our current financial situation, it's very unlikely that any more federal payments will be forthcoming. we don't have anymore money for that purpose. and president obama seems to agree with this, since in his last two budgets he's requested no funds for this purpose. now, the commission was also directed to develop voluntary voting system guidelines in a testing and certification program for voting machines. the actual work involved in this process is performed by another agency. the national institute of standards and technology, which develops the guidelines and the independent laboratories that conduct that testing. so in the spirit of senator coburn's comments, we don't need two agencies assigned the same responsibility. finally, the commission was to
2:47 pm
act as a clearinghouse to collect and distribute information on best practices in election administrations. yet the intended beneficiaries of this service don't seem to have much use for t the national association of secretaries of state -- every state has one -- a bipartisan organization made up of our counties' chief state elections officers, has twice voted in favor of a resolution calling for abolition of the election -- of this agency, the election assistance commissions. so we have a classic example of, i'm the government, i'm here to give you help that you don't want. now, as a former state official myself -- i was governor of tennessee -- i have a little bit of bias here. but i don't see the need for a federal clear spg house of best practices for secretaries of state. i don't know why the secretaries of state themselves can't do that. when i was a governor, i didn't need a clearing -- a federal
2:48 pm
agency telling me the best practices of the governor of oklahoma so i could use them in tennessee. we had regular governors' conferences. we got to know each other pretty well. if governor graham of florida had a good idea, i'd borrower it. that worked very well. we didn't have to fly to washington to have a clearinghouse. the tasks of this commission have now been completed or can be performed by more appropriate entities. this is in the spirit of senator coburn's amendment. the commission did its job. we should thank the commission and the staff for their service. but if the completion of their appointed task isn't enough reason to close it darning the commission also appears to have a serious management problem or two. though its mission has dwindled, its staff has grown. it has less to do but has more people doing it. the commission had a staff of 20 in 2004. last year it had three times that many it had 64 people.
2:49 pm
more staff needed for less work. and i'm sure there's some very good people there. there must be because the average salary, according to congressman greg harper of the house of representatives, for all the members of the election assistance commission is over $100,000 a year. this year's budget submission from the commission proposals spending $5.4 million to manage $3.4 million worth of programs. does that make any sense, when the cost of overhead and staff salaries he can seed the programs they have to -- exceed the programs they have to administer? clearly something is wrong. and that's precisely the kind of small thing in the big picture that we deal with here that adds up and up and up and up and creates an environment in which we're -- we seem to be content in spending more and more and borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend.
2:50 pm
finally, the commission has an unfortunate history of hiring discrimination. the office of special counsel found that they engaged in illegal discrimination when during the search for a general counsel, an employment offer was made an then withdrawn, when the democratic commissioners discovered that the applicant was a republican. this resorted in a substantial financial settlement being awarded to the applicant, thereby forcing taxpayers to bear the cost of the illegal acts of the commissioners. and amazingly, it's been reported that in a subsequent interview with another applicant for the same position, one of these commissioners again tainted the hiring process by asking the applicant what the department of labor has termed -- quote -- "inappropriate questions about his military service" -- unquote. apparently, this commissioner didn't want republicans or members of the military working at the commission. the department of labor has reportedly found the applicant's claim of discrimination to be
2:51 pm
meritorious. in quotes. and if not resolved this case may also be referred to the special general counsel office. i said this morning that the three men and women who president obama had nominated seemed to have exceptional backgrounds. and they're not to blame for any of these incidents. what i also said was, since they seem to be exceptionally good nominees, maybe we ought to find a commission where there's something for them to do. instefdz a commission that's finished -- instead of a commission that's finished its job and we're just perpetuating a job where employees average $100,000 a year in salary, according to congressman hall. even if we were to assume that these nominees before us could right the ship and correct the problems, the question remains: where would the ship sail and why would they make the trip? do we need the commission? with its main job completed,
2:52 pm
couldn't any remaining duties be better-performed somewhere else? can a government program ever be terminated? mr. president ronald reagan once said, a government bureau isn't the nearest thing to eternal life. it is the nearest thing to eternal life that we should ever see. shouldn't we try to use this opportunity to prove that ronald reagan was in that case wrong? so i congratulate the senator from oklahoma for his work on duplication. this isn't the first time. this is one of many times that he's spoken and acted on the subject. and i offer this example of the election assistance commission, just one small step we can take in the right direction why -- in the appropriate way canceling the commission instead of confirming three new nominees to it. i thank the chair and i yield the floor. mr. coburn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: i just wanted to
2:53 pm
-- i failed to mention the cosponsors. senator udall of colorado, senator collins, senator mccaskill, senator burr, senator paul, senator brown of massachusetts, and senator mccain. i yield the floor. mr. nelson: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: i ask consent that the toomey amendment number 514 be considered as having been adopted before the managers' amendment to s. 679. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. nelson: mr. president, i ask consent that be allowed to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection, the senator is recognized. mr. nelson: mr. president, thank you.
2:54 pm
mr. president, i want to give you a quote from a publication. "days after working at guantanamo naval base prison in cuba, a u.s. navy veteran found himself behind bars where he could remain for a decade for alleged passport fraud." end of quote. mr. president, i had to read that article from cnn's web site -- i had to read it twice. i couldn't believe it. but that's what it said. former u.s. army specialist, now navy reservist, u.s. petty officer second class elijah
2:55 pm
dawkins, 26-year resident of florida, was arrested in april, and he spent now more than two months behind bars in federal detention center in miami. and a federal indictment says that the serviceman failed to acknowledge he had once applied for a passport when filling out a new application, something that the prosecutors call "passport fraud," something his public defender calls "an innocent oversight." and petty officer second class dawkins now faces up to ten years in prison if he's convicted. now, do you remember john dill injeer? he was sentenced not to ten years but 8 1/2 years. and that was hon a conviction
2:56 pm
for assault and battery with the attempt to rob and consmircy to commit a fell -- and conspiracy to commit a felony. well, mr. president, we all recognize that falsifying information on a passport has grave implications for our national security, and we want our government to be vigilant and to crack down hard on those who would attempt to sneak in here and do us harm. zero tolerance, zero. but, according to petty officer dawkins s' guantanamo naval base work evaluations, his superiors praised his work ethni ethic and performance. he was a military photographer who, because of what he was photographing, had to have a secret clearance.
2:57 pm
he, by the way, had that secret clearance when he was an army photographer in iraq. and when he went into the naval reserves, they through -- and this is according to the u.s. navy -- they gave reciprocity for the secret clearance for him to go into the naval reserves. and as "the miami herald" reports in today's edition, he took 7,500 photos during his service in guantanamo, the seven months that he was there. this is after his eight years in the army of which he was in iraq. his evaluation, right before this unexpected arrest by the u.s. navy, says that dawkins -- quote -- "always lived up to the
2:58 pm
core navy values of honor, courage, and commitment." honor and courage and commitme commitment, and he had that secret clearance while he was at guantanamo, and this morning's "miami herald" chronicles the sensitive photos that he took of detainees there at guantanamo. and in one evaluation report that was obtained by cnn, a superior lauds dawkins as a team player with a strong work ethic and a desire to learn and recommends him for promotion. and it goes on to say, "dawkins is eager to tell the military story and to further the image and success of u.s. service members," and that was written by fellow petty officer first
2:59 pm
class sally hendricks. so let's see, honor, courage, commitment, a team player ... mr. president, i have sought explanations. i have been on the phone. i have talked to government high-ups in person. i've talked to the highest levels in the u.s. navy. the army, homeland security. i've just been on the phone with very high levels of the u.s. state department, and i want to know, does the military stand by the evaluations that they made of this fellow? is petty officer dawkins, is he suspected of other misdeeds? if so, they better get it out. how did they give him a secret clearance while he was named in
3:00 pm
an old deportation order? was this case part of an ongoing state department diplomatic service crackdown on passport fraud? does the state department have any additional information that they're not telling us? from time to time they have intd that there's something more but they're not saying. well, did the u.s. military believe him to be a citizen during all those years of service in the army in iraq and now in the navy in guantanamo? well, this case raises a lot of questions, and we need to get to the bottom of it. and i have taken an interest in this case because when i traoed these stories on -- when i read these stories on cnn, "the miami herald," "new york times" and
3:01 pm
now it's gone all over the country on associated press, there seems to be a disconnect in government agency coordination. one hand doesn't seem to know what the other hand's doing. and a floridian with honorable service in two services of the united states military has been in jail being held on a $10,000 -- on a $100,000 bond, he would have to produce a $10,000 bail, which he obviously doesn't have. and he's been there for over two months. now, mr. president, i didn't call the u.s. attorney's office because i respect the independence of the prosecutorial role. but let me just quote for you,
3:02 pm
this morning's miami herald, carol rosenberg, the reporter, she disclosed that a federal judge has now said that the u.s. attorney's office has made a secret offer to resolve this passport prosecution. the judge revealed the offer 0 of a pretrial diversion in a conference that set a july 12 trial date for petty officer dawkins. the idea, according to to "the herald" is to give someone facing charges an opportunity to avoid prosecution through a program such as doing community service or perhaps taking a civics class. and the judge was so taken back by hearing this secret offer
3:03 pm
that the judge said she was left speechless, and she was quoted in this morning's "herald" story by saying "it appeared to reflect a kinder, gentler approach to prosecution." so whether the petty officer is released from jail tomorrow or whenever it is, we'll have to see are there further things. and if it has to do with his immigration status, according to his public defender, which we have talked to, he came to this country from the bahamas with his mother when he was a kid. he still is not a citizen, but he has served this country for years and years. and so i want to conclude,
3:04 pm
mr. president, by saying this, if the facts of this case are as we have been told in the scratching and scraping with some reluctance on the part of agencies to talk, if it is as it has been reported to us, wouldn't it be interesting if the dream act were in fact law, because the dream act would have prevented something like this from happening in the first place. because the dream act says that if a kid had been brought here illegally as a child but that child grows up and wants to go into the u.s. military as dawkins has for almost a decade
3:05 pm
already served, then that legislation would grant legal status through a green card to that undocumented young person who wanted to serve the country. so, mr. president, we ought to pass the dream act. every day we have examples of children that came here through no fault of their own but who are unjustifiably having the law come down on their head. so i want to close by reading a letter to the editor in "the herald" from sandra wallace of miami. this is what she writes: "elisha dawkins serves seven years in the military in both iraq and
3:06 pm
guantanamo where he was awarded for his behavior yet he's being held in federal lockup awaiting deportation. this man thought he was a u.s. citizen because his relatives told him he was when he came here as a young child. our military was certainly glad to consider him a citizen. mr. president, the dream act would allow the u.s. government to consider as a citizen someone who like elisha dawkins was brought here as a child and who wanted to serve this country." mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that sean mills be given floor privileges through the rest of the day. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wyden: mr. president, millions of americans are hurting economically. yet, so much of the debate here on the senate floor seems to be
3:07 pm
democrats and republicans fighting with each other or rehashing old arguments. it seems almost as if there is a default strategy. either pound on the other party or recycle some of the stale positions that have been repeated again and again. senator coats and i believe that none of this really does anything to help the millions of americans who are out of work and get the economy moving again, and the two of us have been coming to the floor of the senate and will to in do so in the days ahead to talk about what really works. what really works to get the american economy moving again. and an example would be tax reform. tax reform, like the sort of tax
3:08 pm
reform that was passed when democrats and ronald reagan teamed up, and that tax reform effort helped to create 6.3 million new jobs in the two years after it was enacted. now, no one can say that there's any one factor that alone creates millions of new jobs. it certainly didn't hurt. certainly it helped to set the economic climate democrats and republicans coming together, and according to the bureau of labor and statistics, in the two years after that kind of bipartisan effort, the country created 6.3 million new jobs, according to the bureau of labor statistics. now it's not going to be possible, of course, to pass comprehensive tax reform between now and august 2.
3:09 pm
but senator coats and i have said that as part of these budget negotiations, as part of the effort to deal with the budget in a comprehensive way and to deal with the debt ceiling issue, it ought to be possible to lock in for consideration in the fall and in the remainder of this congress the kind of bipartisan effort that we saw a quarter of a century ago that represents an idea that really works, an idea with a proven track record of working to boost the economy that has been bipartisan, where democrats and republicans instead of spending their time pounding on each other, say let's come together and eliminate some of these ridiculous special interest tax breaks which are limiting our ability to grow and create family-wage jobs. so, senator coats and i are
3:10 pm
going to spend a few minutes this afternoon talking about the impact of real tax reform on jobs and economic growth. and i'd just like to start by thanking my friend from indiana. he's been a pleasure to work with. his reaction to that kind of approach where we focus on really what works and especially between now and august 2, in these budget negotiations. democrats and republicans have an opportunity to look at spending and look at growth to make sure that out of those negotiations by august 2 there's a way to lock in for the fall and the remainder of the congress the effort to promote bipartisan tax reform and get our economy growing again. i'd be interested in my colleague's reaction to that. the presiding officer: the senator from indiana.
3:11 pm
mr. coats: i thank my ao -- my colleague from oregon. we have worked together to fashion a comprehensive package that we think makes sense. just about every analyst or economist that i have talked to or list topbd or read their writings over the past couple of months have said we're not going to successfully address our current debt situation unless comprehensive tax reform is part of the package. senator wyden and i have had the opportunity to sit down and talk about this. we obviously have been encouraging for several months that the congress go forward and address this. we realize that such an effort cannot successfully take place before the, we reach the point in august, early august where we have to make a decision on raising the debt limit and whatever package is brought before us relative to what kind
3:12 pm
of changes we can make in our financial structure to put us in a better fiscal situation. nevertheless, knowing the importance of comprehensive tax reform to the success, to creating success for ultimately what we want to achieve, we would like to encourage all those negotiating these packages and all those members and our colleagues to look carefully at the proposal to lock, as my colleague said, to lock in to whatever package is before us, a commitment, a hard commitment, an enforceable commitment to tack up comprehensive -- to take up comprehensive tax reform, not wait until after the next election but take it up this fall as one of the follow-ons that we'll have to address, debate and vote on coming up here in the next several weeks.
3:13 pm
i couldn't agree with my friend more that doing so now can be a very important component of our going forward and addressing this serious fiscal situation which is facing our country and which is one of our biggest challenges. mr. wyden: mr. president, i thank my friend. we're going to talk through some of the specifics of why this is important as a way to boost the economy. and in the beginning what i'd like to just lay out is that as we have seen these discussions go forward over the last couple of months about boosting the economy, invariably the fight comes down to the question of whether you ought to spend more. you ought to spend more in order, particularly in a consumer-driven economy to create jobs and put our folks back to work. what senator coats and i have described is an opportunity and a way that is deficit neutral.
3:14 pm
deficit neutral. and as my friend from inn knows -- this has been demonstrated by an analysis from the joint committee on taxation -- this is a deficit-neutral strategy for putting our people back to work because by eliminating some of these special interest tax breaks, and thousands and thousands of them have gotten into the tax code over the last quarter century, we can take those foolish tax breaks off the revenue rolls and use those very same dollars to create what we call red, white and blue jobs to put people back to work in the manufacturing sector in indiana. of course, the president and i know how deep the hurt is in our home state. i wanted to begin this by way of making sure that folks really saw last month's job report as a
3:15 pm
wakeup call that would indicate that current economic policies aren't creating the jobs our citizens and our economy needs and would specifically be willing to look at new approaches, new approaches in the sense that they be genuinely bipartisan but proven in the sense that they have a track record. the bureau of statistics -- knows we have parts of rural oregon with unemployment that probably if you were to calculate the real rate of unemployment is over 20% so the economic hurt is enormous. and the bureau of labor statistics found that almost 14 million americans who want to work but can't find jobs, almost half of them have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. of the employed 8.5 million have to settle for part-time jobs and
3:16 pm
among the hardest hit are young people, the people who are trying to get in the workforce are anxious to show that they have good work habits and discipline, but cannot find work. we lost 8.5 million jobs between the worst of the fiscal crisis and the end of 2010 and only a small portion of those jobs have been created. moreover many of the new jobs that have been created don't pay as much as the jobs that were loss. in particular, the loss of manufacturing, you know, jobs and so many of our citizens when they can get alternative employment end up with wages far less than what they made in manufacturing. in addition income inequality is growing because high school graduates have a jobless rate twice that of college graduates. so with millions of americans struggling to find jobs, senator coats and i would like to spend just a few minutes to talk about how we can come together and
3:17 pm
talk about ways to grow the economy. i've mentioned that there is a proven track record in terms of tax reform helping. 1986, the historic tax reform between democrats -- populous democrats like a former congressman dick gephardt and the late president reagan, 6.3 million new nonfarm jobs in the two years after that law was passed. and i believe it can happen again. the manufacturers alliance forecast that senator coats and i, with our legislation, might have the opportunity to key ate nearly two million new jobs. the heritage foundation came in with the same sort of analysis. so you can never lose sight of the need to create jobs in an economy like this and i would like to bring my colleague into the discussion at this point because he has done so much
3:18 pm
work, not just in indiana, where they have, to their credit, focused on a manufacturing strategy for our country, but as part of this bipartisan effort and get his sense of why the approach we are advocating today could be an economic boost for our country. mr. coats: well, mr. president, i can't help but agree with my friend. it's a sad situation that we have in this country as our economy is just kind of limping along that so many young people graduating from school just recently are unable to find a meaningful job and work that so many middle-aged americans, trying send their children to school are out of work, cannot find employment not only at the level that they were previously used to, but even at a lower level. it is a situation that requires
3:19 pm
our enacting policies that will do everything we can to stimulate this economy and get america back to work. as i said earlier, comprehensive tax reform has been described as just about everyone who has looked at this situation as an essential component of the kinds of reforms necessary to get us back to fiscal health. as the senator from oregon said, one of the components of the tax reform plan, the wyden-coats plan, is that we want to maintain revenue neutrality, but at the same time, we want to go after those tax exclusions and exemptions and subsidies that favor a few, but don't have broad application. they have been added over the years, particularly since 1986 when we had our last comprehensive tax reform. over these 25 years, a number of special breaks, special
3:20 pm
subsidies, special exemptions have been added and it totals hundreds of millions of dollars -- hundreds of billions of dollars. and so what we are trying to do here is look at those in a comprehensive way, reduce or eliminate many of them, and then use the money saved from that to lower tax rates. let's just look at the corp. rate rate. the united states -- corporate rate. the united states out of the 96 countries that we compete most directly with, the united states ranks 35. we would be 36 except the japanese lowered their rate after the tsunmai because they had already had in place plans to lower their rate so we literally are at the highest corporate rate of any major industrialized competitive country in the world. senator wyden and i in our bill agreed that we would take the money that was saved from eliminating a lot of those
3:21 pm
special breaks for special interests an lowering the corporate tax rate to make the united states more competitive, to bring that rate down to the mid-20's or perhaps even lower. and in doing so, it will stimulate our industries here, stimulate our exports, and put our companies in a much better position to expand and grow and compete across the world and ultimately that translates itself into jobs. if we look at small businesses alone, the real job creators, we allow under our plan those -- most all small businesses to expense their equipment and inventory costs in a single year. we also incorporate a provision for reciprocity so that those companies that do have overseas sales and entities producing and selling their products that the earnings gained there can be brought back to the united states without being taxed on a
3:22 pm
double taxation, can be brought back over a one-year reciprocity period, at a very low rate, again, to encourage investment and plan equipment. so at a time when consumer consumption is very weak, consumers don't have money to spend, we believe comprehensive tax reform and particularly some of the things outlined in our plan will help stimulate the economy, will help bring about growth, and ultimately put people back to work. and so i would kick this ball back to my colleague, senator wyden, from oregon, for his further thoughts on that as we continue this colloquy. mr. wyden: mr. president, i'm glad that senator coats made that last point especially because it is getting hardly any discussion here in the senate and that is the point senator coats made with respect to the weak consumption that we are
3:23 pm
seeing in our country, particularly, you know, middle class folks who have the sense that there really isn't going to be economic security right now. they don't have as much money in their pockets as they would like. they have suffered, you know, huge shocks that have caused them to pull back from some of the purchases they would otherwise make. the president of the senate has done outstanding work with respect to trying to protect middle class people who have lost all this equity in their homes. that usually serves as some kind of collateral for folks with a need to get a loan. that hasn't been there. we have had folks underemployed in much of the workforce. what we see in our economy, which has always been consumer driven, as senator coats has
3:24 pm
pointed out, we are just not seeing the kind of demand from middle class folks for goods and services are not going out and buying the refrigerator that they might like to have for their family. they can't get a computer for their chiesmed they are just -- child. they are just not able to make the purchases that are so important in a consumer-driven economy. and so what senator coats and i are saying is that, as democrats, like dick gephardt and former president ronald reagan said a quarter century ago, they want to come together and put money into people's pockets. they want to make sure the middle class folks who are just getting clobbered, as we have seen for months now would be in a position to get back into the economy and start demanding some of those goods and services that are so important for long-term economic well-being. so senator coats and i have
3:25 pm
sought to put more money into people's pockets by repealing the alternative minimum tax. we had an excellent hearing in chairman baucus' committee yesterday on simplification. get this, the middle class person has essentially gone through bureaucratic water torture on this alternative minimum tax. they have to fill out their taxes twice on two separate systems. so what senator coats and said said is -- have said is let's repeal it. that will put some of the money back into the coats of middle class folks. as senator coats pointed out, middle class folks won't have to spend all that money paying out accountants and all other kinds of people paying the alternative minimum tax forms. so it will put some money into the pockets of the middle class that way and senator coats and i advocate nearly trimming the -- tripling the standard deduction for all of our taxpayers, which
3:26 pm
would be a boon for the middle class consumers and with it a job creation. so i'm very glad that senator coats zeroed in on the consequences of underconsumption by consumers and i think i would next probably like to have my friend go through some of the benefits that we would like to provide to small business. because we all know that small business is the creation of the job engine of our economy and senator coats, if you could just outline some of the benefits that on a bipartisan basis we ought to be zeroing in on with respect to small business, i think that would be very helpful. mr. coats: as the senator from oregon said, small business is hit particularly hard these days because many choose not to incorporate. there is a pass through -- a pass through of taxation rates as if these small businesses were individuals.
3:27 pm
they're taxed at that rate. as my friend from oregon knows, at the end of 2012, that tax rate is scheduled under current law to rise from 35% to 39.6%. small businesses, which currently are having trouble getting credit, currently having problems making ends meet, are faced within a relatively short period of prime, a year and -- time, a year and a half, to tax increase. that is relative to expanding the business, relative to hiring new people because they know that they're -- that the taxes that they have to pay off of their earnings flow through directly to them and are going to have to be paid at the highest rate. and so, again, the coats-wide enbill prevents that from -- widen bill prevents that from happening. as my friend from oregon said, simplification is a major underlying principle of the
3:28 pm
wyden-coats tax reform bill. it is a nightmare for individuals, as the senator from oregon said, to try to figure out how to do this. in fact, about $6 billion is spent each year by individuals to hire professionals to fill out their tax forms because it's virtually impossible for them to figure out and work their way through this, as my friend said, the water torture -- bureaucratic water torture of a process. and the thousands of hours and hundreds and millions of hours spent filling out the -- out your tax returns based on the complexity of the current tax code, is a detriment to small business men who don't have the privilege of having an accountant in the backroom or hiring somebody who is an expert in taxes like big businesses can can do. they either have to go outside and hire it or spend a great deal of their own time or they -- where they ought to be on the floor selling their product or running their
3:29 pm
business just complying with the tax code. whether it's tax rates or simplification, or incentives for small businesses who provide the bulk of the hiring in the united states. in fact, between 1995 and 2005, 660% to 80% of new jobs were those hired by small businesses. we are cognizant of that and we want to make sure that not only individuals, but small business people can rest with assurance that on passage of this bill, that not only we'll have a simpler, easier way of reporting their taxes and complying with the tax code, but they will have -- they will not be facing with a tax increase that, as i said under current law, is due to expire at the end of 2012. i want to once again kick it back to my friend to wrap this up. i do agree with him that
3:30 pm
together in 1986 ronald reagan and congressional democrats, senator bill bradley, congressman dick gephardt, congressman jack kemp, wocd on a bipartisan -- worked on a bipartisan basis to pass comprehensive tax reform. it did many good things. it stimulated the economy. it brought about a lot of new jobs. it has been 25 years since that code has become ever more complex, and i think we do need to go ahead and as i said at the beginning of all of this, fundamental tax reform is one of the best tools in the economic tool shed and it is time we use it. we know it won't be easy. we know it won't be -- it has done before and we can do it again. we can take on the special interest that benefit from the tax code and create a much more business friendly tax system. i can conclude at that point. i would like my colleague to wrap-up. i thank him for his inspiration an leadership on this effort.
3:31 pm
he started this more than 2 1/2 years ago with senator gregg in a bipartisan way. senator gregg retired at the end of the last congress. i am not only a friend of senator gregg and admire his depth and knowledge of financial issues, but inheriting all the work that he and senator wyden did together to bring this comprehensive tax bill to fruition. we have made some discussions and debates between the two of us. we know it can be the primary vehicle for moving forward. are we locked in stone? are we open? no -- are we open to discussions to make it better? yes. but clearly if there is an agreement between the two of us that's unbreakable, that is this is an essential part of dealing with our current fiscal crisis. and without this, welcome up short. just about everybody that's looked that the situation has come to this cliewrks and we're
3:32 pm
hoping that we can in this next few weeks get a commitment from our colleagues, and all those engaged in the process of trying to put together the package that can put us back on the right fiscal track and get our fiscal situation in order, that they will incorporate into this plan, incorporate into what is brought before you a commitment locked in to go forward with comprehensive tax reform and we believe the wyden-coats plan is the place to stamplet i thank my colleague for his efforts and i'll turn it back to him to conclude this colloquy. mr. wyden: mr. president? i thank my friend from indiana. he makes a number of important points that we want to make sure are considered as the discussion about taxes goes forward. for example, senator coats pointed out on this question of changing just the corporate alone -- what are essentially
3:33 pm
c-corporations -- the reality is that the vast majority of businesses in this ar country ae not "c" corporations. they are partnerships, limited liability corporations, sole proprietorships. they are about 80% of the businesses in this country. so senator coats has made the important point that, to really bring about tax reform, you can't just go with corporate taxation. you've got to get at the needs of millions and millions of these small businesses, and i would just note that chairman bernanke was asked about this in the budget committee, and he said specifically that it was important to do comprehensive reform in order to generate the best opportunity for economic growth and job creation, rather than corporate reform alone. senator coats also makes an important point as we wrap up about the temporary nature of
3:34 pm
our tax code and how frustrating that is to american business that needs to have some capacity to predict what's ahead to generate jobs. the "wall street journal" rorlted the other day -- reported the other day that the only thing permanent about the american tax code is that it's temporary. and we have more than quadrupled the number of temporary provisions in the tax code in just the last few years. and that uncertainty discourages businesses from investing in growth and hiring, as senator coats has noted. and that's why it's going to be important to look at the tax code in a comprehensive way, both for individuals and corporations, so that going forward all our taxpayers have some sense of predictability and certainty about what their tax treatment will entail. my last point is, i recently had
3:35 pm
a chance to talk to one of the veterans of the 1986 tax reform debate, and we visited about some of the circumstances involved in that historic reform and some of the challenges ahead. and when he was done, he said, what in the world is holding people up from getting going? -- from getting going on this? what's really holding everybody up? we know what we need to do. there have been commissions, a whole host of them -- president obama had an excellent one that agreed wch of what we've talked about -- agreed with much of what we've talked about this afternoon. i thought president bush's -- president george bush's commission was chaired by cephal our former colleagues. i thought much of their proposal was on point. and that's why what one of the veterans of that 1986 reform
3:36 pm
legislation had to say to me, what's holding people up, is so important. as senator coats noted, you're not going to do comprehensive tax reform between now and august 2. everybody understands that. but there is absolutely no reason, mr. president, in order to come together in the united states senate with an approach that doesn't add to the federal deficit, with a proven track record of helping to advance economic security, that between now and august 2, as part of these budget negotiations, there's no reason why in that agreement we shouldn't lock in a strategy for getting on to tax reform in the fall and in the remainder of this congress. so i thank senator coats. he mentioned senator gregg. i feel so fortunate to have had
3:37 pm
two colleagues -- we were in the house together, we're having an opportunity, senator coats and i, to work together on this in the senate, and i think we have always, you know, felt that you ought to focus on what really works rather than the default strategy of rehashing old arguments and just having these partisan fights. so i thank senator coats. we'll have our eye on the effort between now and august 2 to make sure that tax reform gets the place it deserves for the fall and remainder of the congress. i thank my friend from indiana. mr. president, with that, i'd yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, last night s. 185, a resolution that was cosponsored by about 90% of the senate, passed the senate by unanimous consent. and i'm very grateful to my colleagues for their help in
3:38 pm
developing this resolution. this resolution expresses the strong support for the united states, through our closest ally in the middle east, israel. i was joined in this effort by my good friend, senator sue son collins from maine. the two of us worked together to draft this resolution, and we are grateful that so many members, so many of our colleagues joined us in the processes and that it's now passed the united states senate by a unanimous vote. this resolution first and foremost expresses our strong support for israel, recognizing these are extremely challenging times, expression our support for peace between the palestinians and the israelis, and recognizes that the only way that we're going to be able to move forward on the peace process is through direct negotiations between the israelis and the palestinians. and that's the only way that we
3:39 pm
can resolve these long-standing issues in order to achieve peace in that region. the resolution also reaffirms our opposition to the inclusion of hamas in any unilaterally government unless it is willing to accept peace with israel and renounce violence. you cannot negotiate with someone swrn to bring about your -- sworn to bring about your destruction. therefore, hamas' hamas's inclun any government is a no-starter. any attempt by the united nations to establish a palestinian state is detrimental to any final peace agreement. a permanent and peaceful settlement of the israeli-palestinian conflict can only be achieved through direct israeli-palestinian negotiations. any palestinian effort to gain
3:40 pm
recognition of a state outside of direct negotiations demonstrate their lack of good faith, commitment to a peace negotiation. the senate is now firmly on record that this kind of action would be directly counterproductive to peace, and if the palestinians pursue this, it may well have implications for the continued u.s. participation within the palestinians. israel has always been willing to come to the peace table for direct negotiations. frankly, it's been the palestinians which have been dragging their feet for many months, refusing to have the direct negotiations between the parties, which is the only way that that can be accomplished. lasting peace can only come through that direct negotiation, to settle all outstanding issues to the satisfaction of both sides. obviously there's going to be give-and-take. there has to be give an take. there's got to be mutual respect and security.
3:41 pm
and that requires active participation and peace talks. the two sides can achieve a peace agreement only when they acknowledge each other's right to exist. that's pretty fundamental. this is particularly critical now for the palestinians and their unity government that includes hamas. unless hamas fully renounces violence and acknowledges israel's right to exist, it cannot be a partner in peace, and their inclusion in the palestinian unity government is a major obstacle. as prime minister netanyahu stated so well in his speech before the joint session of congress in may, and i quote the prime minister of israel, "i will accept a palestinian state. it is time for president abbas" -- the head of the palestinians -- "to stand before his people and say, 'i will accept a jewish
3:42 pm
state.' it is clear that it is in the interest of all parts that there be two states, the jewish state of israel and an independent palestinian state living side by side with secure borders and peace." so, let me just again acknowledge what i think prime minister netanyahu said. israel is prepared to acknowledge a palestinian state. it's time for the palestinians to acknowledge a jewish staivmenjewish state.difficult o take place. there are critical issues such as security, power, and water concerns, as well as larger issues of historical, religious, and territorial matters still must be decided. that must take place through direct negotiations between the israelis and the palestinians. this is precisely why it's so important to discuss, negotiate, and ultimately resolve these issues rather than taking unilateral action that would lead them unsettled and
3:43 pm
unsustainable. the real lasting peace will only occur at the peace table, and i'm grateful that the senate has strongly and unanimously gone on record to affirm this approach. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to join again in the debate occurring here in washington on bringing our federal budget into balance and facing up to our looming debt limit. our nation right now is like an overburdened ship, wallowing in the seas.
3:44 pm
we are in danger as a nation of fandering if we don't -- of foundering if we don't sort this out. as the former com comptroller dd walker testified to us in the budget committee history of a year ago, we face -- and i quote -- "large, known, and growing structural deficits that could swamp our ship of state." to get the ship in trim, we need to make adjustments. we need to reduce the deficits and ultimately reduce the debt. we agree on a lot. we need to cut spending. democrats and republicans agree on that. we need to protect ordinary families who enjoy ordinary levels of income from tax increases. democrats and republicans agree on that. the disagreement here in
3:45 pm
washington is whether we also need to raise some revenues for our nation in other areas to help balance our national budget. areas like oil and gas and ethanol subsidies that we could close and contribute to fixing our budget deficit. closing cork like holes, bringing to an end high-income tax-dodge schemes. the republicans are threatening that they would rather sink the boat than raise revenues in those areas. just this week senate republican leader mitch mcconnell called on president obama to take any revenue raisers off the table and to focus only on spending
3:46 pm
cuts. in an opinion piece on, republican leader mcconnell claimed tax hikes can't -- when leader mcconnell is talking about tax hikes, he's talking about the rates that the wealthiest americans pay in taxes, often lower than ordinary american families, believe it or not, gas and oil and other subsidies that go to big industries, and tax loopholes that generations of corporate lobbyists have wangled into the tax code. that's what they're talking about when they talk about tax hikes in this context. let's take a specific look at what the republicans are
3:47 pm
fighting so hard to protect. last month republicans filibustered a measure that would have ended $21 billion in unnecessary tax subsidies for the largest oil companies in the nation, companies that have been enjoying record multibillion-dollar profits and do not need continued support from the american taxpayer. when we tried to break the republican filibuster, republicans voted to protect those big oil subsidies even though they add to the deficit. that happened right here on the senate floor just a short time ago. to keep our american ship of state afloat, the republicans are demanding that we cut early childhood education while at the same time they fight to protect big oil subsidies. here is a building in the cayman islands. it's called ugland house.
3:48 pm
this nondescript building really doesn't look like much, but over 18,000 corporations claim that this building is their place of business. 18,000 corporations claim that this building is their place of business. it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "small business" to imagine 18,000 corporations fitting into that little building. as budget committee chairman conrad has pointed out, the only business going on down there in the cayman islands is funny business, monkey business with the corporation tax code. it is corporations getting out of their responsibility of paying taxes to this country by hiding behind phony shell corporations down in the cayman islands. it's estimated to cost us as much as $100 billion each year to put up with this offshoring
3:49 pm
tax shelter of income. to keep our ship of state afloat, the republicans are asking us to cut investments in science and technology that will cure disease for americans and for mankind. and at the same time they're fighting to protect corporations that hide in offshore tax havens so the honest american taxpayer has to carry the burden in their place. here's another building with a story to tell. this is the helmsley building on park avenue in new york city. we remember lee -- leona helmsley who said taxes are for the little people to pay. we know something about the helmsley building and its taxes because this building is large enough to have its own zip code. and the i.r.s. compiles tax information by zip code. so we know from i.r.s. actual
3:50 pm
information what the wealthy and successful individuals and corporations that call this building home pay in federal tax each year. and guess what we know? we know that in the last year that is reported for which this has been pulled out, which was 2007, the occupants together of this building, the helmsley building, paid a $14.7% total federal tax rate. actually paid 14.7%. mr. president, the average american taxpayer, the average middle-class american pays far higher than that. we hear a lot of talk about how high the cooperate, the tax rates are for wealthy americans. in real life, when you go to actual examples, 14.7%. how does that compare, for instance, to the people who work in that building, the average new york city janitor or door
3:51 pm
man or security guard? well, far, far lower. they all pay tax rates in the 20% to 25% range; even higher in some cases on average. far higher than the high-income occupants of the building. and it's not just because this is the helmsley building that this is true. this is not some anomaly. each year the internal revenue service publishes a report that details the taxes paid by the highest-earning 400 americans. i spoke earlier this year on last year's report which was based on that same year status, 2007. in that year these super-high income earners, nearly a third of a billion dollars -- with a "b" -- third of a billion dollars earned in one year, 2007. on average, all 400 of them. in that year these super-high income earners paid a lower tax rate than an average hospital
3:52 pm
orderly who is a single filer pushing the cart down the hallways at midnight of rhode island hospital. they paid a lower tax rate on their incomes than that hospital orderly. in may, the i.r.s. published data on the top 400 taxpayers for 2008. let's take a look at what happened in this most recent year that they have categorized. in 2008 the top 400 took home an average of $270 million each, more than a quarter of a billion dollars each. we can and do applaud the success of these individuals. it is really the american dream to make more than $225 million in a single year. on average they paid an average federal tax rate of just 18.2%. we spend a lot of time around here debating whether the top
3:53 pm
income tax rate should be 35% or 39.6%. folks, that's not what they paid. the tax code is filled with special provisions, that tend to exclusively or disproportionately benefit the wealthy, so the top 400 income earners paid an average of 18.2%. a single filer at $39,000 -- $39,350 pays the same tax rate. that's where you match the people making $225 million make. and those of us who are in between the truck driver and those uber billionaires pay far, far higher rates. the average truck driver in rhode island, according to the bureau of labor statistics, is paid $40,200, which means that
3:54 pm
the average truck driver is paying an as high or higher rate than these top 400 income earners earning over a quarter of a billion dollars. to keep our ship of state afloat, the republicans are asking us to cut employment and training support aot a time of record joblessness while they continue to fight to make sure that people making $225 million a year pay lower federal tax rates than middle-class american families. when all is said and done, everyone agrees that there needs to be cuts and everyone agrees that there should be no tax increases on middle-class american families making up to $250,000 a year. that's already agreed to. those concerns are not an issue. what's at issue is that the republicans are willing to sink the ship of state to defend tax rates for billionaires that are lower than those paid by regular
3:55 pm
hardworking americans. the republicans are willing to sink the ship of state to defend special interest loopholes in the tax code won by big corporate lobbyists. in effect, earmarks. earmarks that just happen to be in the tax side of the budget rather than in the spending side of the budget. the republicans are willing to sink the ship of state to defend offshore havens for corporations and high-income earners to dodge taxes. that's where they've chosen to stand and fight. that is where the agreement -- this agreement is. not for the middle class that is the backbone of our nation but for the special interests, the big corporations and the ultra rich. when you say that revenues cannot be on the table, that is who you are protecting. that is just a fact. they say that it's tax increases
3:56 pm
that they're protecting against. the question americans should ask when they hear that is: tax increases for whom? for the corporate lobbyists that drove down corporate taxes to the point where significant numbers of american corporations don't pay a dollar in taxes? yeah, there should be tax increases there. we should close those loopholes. tax increases for people making more than a quarter of a billion who pay less than the average working-class family on a rate, yeah, there should be tax increases there. but that's just in the spirit of fairness. mr. president, it's simply inexcusable that our tax system permits billionaires to pay lower tax rates than truck drivers and allows sph*ft most profitable companies in the world to pay little or no taxes to support our nation. even if we had no budget deficits, fairness and equality would demand we address these inexcusable discrepancies. our budget crisis, however,
3:57 pm
brings new urgency to the problem as we continue to debate ways to close the budget gap, i hope the republican leadership and the republican conference will revisit the potential to significantly cut the deficit by addressing the tax loopholes, tax gimmicks and, frankly, outright injustice to the ordinary taxpayer that they are now defending. i thank the chair, and i yield the floor. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. mcconnell: i ask, i ask unanimous consent to proceed for a few moments as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: if this week
3:58 pm
has shown us anything at all, it's that the american people can't wait on democrats to do the right thing when it comes to spending and debt and putting us on a path to balance. so today republicans are beginning the rule 14 process on a balanced budget constitutional amendment. a balanced budget amendment would require that lawmakers stop spending money we don't have. and when we return from the july 4 break, we'll fight on an opportunity -- we'll fight for an opportunity to vote for it. we've had a chance this week to see how democrats in washington want to deal with the fiscal mess they've helped create by forcing the taxpayers and the job creators to actually bear the burden. well, republicans think it's about time washington bears the burden for a change. let washington find a way to balance the books on its own. the american people have paid enough of a price over the past
3:59 pm
few years for washington's recklessness. republicans aren't going to allow democrats to make them pay even more. speaker boehner commited to a balanced budget vote in july, so the speaker and i are united in this effort. americans can expect all 47 republicans in the senate to support this amendment. it's time to put the american people back at the helm of our ship of state. and if that's what this vote achieves, then the debate we're having will have been well worth it. if washington is forced to finally reform its waste, we'll all look back and say the american people indeed won this debate and we'll say the balanced budget amendment was just the thing we needed to get our house in order. broke or balanced, that's the choice. now, mr. president, i am going
4:00 pm
to rule 14, the proposal. i don't think you have it yet. you should have it momentarily. it has miraculously appeared. i understand there is a joint resolution at the desk and i ask its first reading. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title of the bill for the first time. the clerk: senate joint resolution 23, proposing an amendment to the constitution of the united states relative to balancing the budget. mr. mcconnell: i now ask for a second reading, and in order to place the joint resolution on the calendar under the provisions of rule 14, i object to my own request. the presiding officer: objection is heard.
4:01 pm
the bill will be read for the second time on the next legislative day. mr. mcconnell: i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: i ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 15 minutes as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come here today to compliment the minority leader, senator mcconnell, for his resolution in our effort to put a balanced budget amendment onto the constitution of the united states, and i -- i come here today just to tell you a little story about a friend of mine from douglas, wyoming. i was in douglas on memorial day. every year, memorial day in douglas, they have a sunrise
4:02 pm
ceremony, services in the cemetery where they raise the flag, go through the names of all of the veterans from converse county who have passed in the last year, the flag back at half staff, 21-gun salute, and a time for people to come together and think about this great nation and honor those who have given their lives. after the -- after the ceremony this year, we're leaving the cemetery, my friend bernie sebalm stopped by me, and said, you know, senator -- we have known each other a long time. he is on medicare, social security, lived a long life, contributed to the community. he said i don't care if you do a number of things, raise taxes, cut medicare, take away social security, as long as you use it to pay off this debt, this this $14 trillion debt. i said bernie, the problem is if
4:03 pm
congress ever does something like that, they're going to get the money and they're just going to spend it. and the first thing we need to do is amend the constitution so that we actually balance the budget. then you can start talking about ways to pay off this incredible debt that we have, but in wyoming we live within our means, balance the budget every year, and it has paid huge dividends for our state. you know, you think about the constitution and our founding fathers produced that greatest governing document, in my opinion, ever conceived. it was written at a time when our country's future was in serious doubt, when our country faced countless threats from abroad, threats that were becoming increasingly difficult to confront. and when the federal government lacked both the structure and the foundation to do anything about it, but there we had the
4:04 pm
constitution, written in part as a response to those challenges of the day, and it has endured until this day. so amending the constitution is not something to be undertaken lightly. the constitution is the highest law of this great land. it has been amended but infrequently, and almost always at a time of crisis. i support a balanced budget amendment to our constitution because now is just such a time. and when the constitution was written, you know, you have to decide what the future would bear, so when it was written, as that time came, we now have to decide what sort of future we want for our country. do we want a future where our children and grandchildren are overburdened by debt, where the u.s. dollar is backed by nothing more than worthless promises, or do we want a future where the only things that we can afford to spend money on, what we're
4:05 pm
facing right now, entitlements and interest on our debt. do we want a future where our country goes broke and a future where washington lacks the political will to do anything about it? or, or, mr. president, do we want a future with less spending, lower taxes and more accountability. you know, facts are stubborn things, and the numbers do not lie. this month, the congressional budget office released a report saying that the outlook of america's debt is growing grimmer. the hill newspaper put it best when it said that the new c.b.o. report numbers are -- quote -- "much worse than last year's outlook. to anyone who does the math, this is not a surprise. every day, washington borrows borrows $4.1 billion more. borrowed over $4 billion
4:06 pm
yesterday, $4 billion today. we will do it again tomorrow. it's over $2 million a minute, every minute. washington did that yesterday, it's doing it today, and we'll do it tomorrow. of every dollar that washington spends, 41 cents of it is borrowed. much of it is borrowed from china. every american child born today and tomorrow and the next day is born with an incredible debt of over $45,000. next year, of every dollar washington spends, 68 cents will go for social security, medicare, medicaid and interest on the debt. if we as a nation continue down this path, washington will spend all of what it takes in on these items alone. everything else, from defense to education, will be paid for on a
4:07 pm
budget of borrowed money. so you may ask where is the money going to come from, and how will we ever pay it back? well, a lot of it is going to come from other countries, countries who do not always have our interests, america's best interests at heart. you know, john kennedy stood outside this building in 1961. 50 years ago he said ask not what your country can do for you. he said ask what you can do for your country. well, a few years from now, that may change, madam president. it may change to ask not what your country can do for you. ask what your country must do for china. so consider this. when john kennedy was president, america's total debt was just over $300 billion, and we only owed 4% of our debt to foreign
4:08 pm
countries. today, our total debt is over over $14 trillion. and, you know, debt isn't just a disaster for the distant future. our debt, our current debt is irresponsible and it's unsustainable, and, you know, even our military leaders have condemned it. the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, admiral mike mullen, has said -- quote -- "the biggest threat to our national security is our debt." the debt is the threat. we do not and we should not take the biggest threat to our national security lightly. the amount of debt that we owe right now today is so high that it is hurting our employment at home. experts tell us that our current debt is costing us a million jobs in america. well, spending like this makes it harder for the private sector
4:09 pm
to create new jobs. because of this, it's harder for american families to buy gas, to buy groceries, to buy cars, homes, pay tuition for the kids to go to college, and it is harder, it is harder to create jobs for those kids who will be graduating this year and next year and every year until we get the spending under control. now, everyone claims from this -- in this body claims to understand that the situation is irresponsible and is unsustainable. you know, back in february of 2009, the president called experts to the white house for what he called a -- quote -- "fiscal responsibility summit." in his opening remarks, this is what the president had to say. he said -- "contrary to the prevailing wisdom in washington these past few years, we can't simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next
4:10 pm
administration or the next generation." well, i agreed with the president. he was right. so my question is to the president what have you done about it? well, one thing he has done is he has called together a debt commission. late last year, the debt commission released the report on america's fiscal situation, and the findings, the findings were sobering. according to the report, they said -- quote -- "the real problem -- the problem is real, the solution will be painful, there is no easy way out, everything must be on the table." do you know what else they said? they also said washington must lead. washington has not led. instead, this administration has offered nothing but empty promises. as the white house makes promise after promise and speech after speech with no action, no action to back it up, it is clearer than ever that in washington,
4:11 pm
spoken promises have become broken promises. this persistent push to put our fiscal crisis off until tomorrow is unacceptable and must end now. the first step, the first step toward doing that would be to pass an amendment to our constitution requiring washington to balance its budget. a balanced budget amendment would require washington to spend no more money than it takes in each and every year. such an amendment would force washington to live within its means. we cannot afford to continue to mortgage our children's future to pay for washington's fiscal failures. such an amendment would transform the kind of irresponsible spending that goes on today in this very body into an impeachable violation of every legislator's constitutional oath of office.
4:12 pm
the american people have overwhelmingly spoken on the wisdom of this approach. a recent poll conducted by sachs mason-dixon show that 65% of americans support a balanced budget amendment to our constitution. and 45% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who did so. now, of those, 68% of them were independents, but there is support for this among republicans, among independents and among democrats. when the american people call for washington to lead in numbers this big, it is time for washington to listen. every single member of my party on this side of the aisle agrees. that's why all 47 republican members of this body have cosponsored the balanced budget amendment. the american people are behind us, and they want us to act.
4:13 pm
meanwhile, the administration and its allies on the other side of the aisle have offered nothing but more empty rhetoric, more of the same tax-and-spend policies that made this economic situation worse. you take a look at where we are and where we have been. they have made it worse. i'm reminded of a quote from ronald reagan. he said if the big spenders get their way, they will charge everything to your taxpayers' express card, he said, and believe me, they will never leave home without it. the big spenders can get away with charging everything to the american people's taxpayer express card because no one, no one is forcing them to look at the bills. now those bills are coming due, and this administration and its liberal allies want a new taxpayers' express card and a blank check. they want a blank check to spend as they desire, and they are not
4:14 pm
going to get it from me, not without specific reforms that will introduce accountability into this broken washington process. a balanced budget amendment will not solve every problem, but it is a critical step in the right direction. it would ensure that washington is constitutionally obligated to avoid the reckless overspending of the past. our debt crisis didn't surface overnight, and it certainly won't be solved without a great deal of additional work. before any of that work can be done, madam president, washington has to learn to live within its means the way families all across this great country do. it is time we show the american people that they can trust their government with their money again. it is time we lead today instead of deferring leadership until
4:15 pm
tomorrow. it is time we show the same courage that our founding fathers did when this country was on the verge of financial collapse. it is time for a balanced budget constitutional amendment. and then, madam president, i can go back to my friend bernie and his wife sally in douglas, wyoming, and say bernie, finally in washington, they got it right. they realize like we do here in wyoming, you have to live within your means, you have to balance your budget every year, every year, and then start working on paying off this incredible debt. thank you, madam president. and i yield the floor. mr. alexander: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: should senator harkin come in the next few minutes, i'll step aside and let him speak, but in the meantime, i thought i'd sum up where we have come this week on the legislation that's been before the body since late last week
4:16 pm
and that was to reduce the number of senate confirmations of presidential nominations so that the senate can exercise its constitutional duty of advise and consent more effectively. this all goes back to our -- our constitution, the united states constitution, article 2, section 2, which says that one of the most important duties of the united states senate is -- quote -- "its advice and consent responsibility." that's one of the well-known functions of the senate. a famous book was written about advise and consent. and the constitution says that the president shall nominate, with the advice and consent of the senate, ambassadors, ministers, judges, other officers of the united states. and today, there are about 1,400 of those -- of those officers. when president kennedy was
4:17 pm
president, there were about 280, more or less. and under president clinton, there were about 1,100, more or less. it continually goes up. and this includes a large number of part-time advisory positions, such as the library advisory board and a variety of other boards, which is why the founders put into the constitution another provision which says that congress may by law invest the appointment of such inferior officers as they think proper and the president alone and the courts of law or in the heads of departments. so it's up to us to make sure we don't trivialize the constitutional responsibility we have so we define the number of men and women whom the president nominates, who require advise and consent, and we define the ones who don't. we've not done a very good job
4:18 pm
of deciding which ones did not. over the last few days, the senate has decided to remove 169 of the 1,400 nominations from the advise and consent requirement. it is debating right now removing another 233 full or part-time positions and putting them in an expedited process so that we will have affected 450 or so of the 1,400 nominations, either by removing them from advise and consent or speeding up the process. this will permit us to focus more attention on the job that we're sent here to do, which is to do a good job of evaluating the most important offices. just one indication of how we've been trivializing the responsibility to decide who
4:19 pm
does deserve advise and consent and who doesn't is that only about 3% of all of the presidential nominations in the last congress actually were deemed important enough to have a roll call vote here on the floor of the senate. 97% were deemed not important enough. and, of course, they were not. they were valuable people but they were part-time advisory board members who were part of a board where an executive director, for example, already reported to someone who was confirmed by the senate. we had examples of -- of positions being confirmed by the senate, who reported to someone who reported to someone who reported to someone, who reported to someone else, all of them confirmed by advise and consent. so we've made a modest step in the direction of helping us execute, exercise our constitutional duty under article 2, section 2 in a more
4:20 pm
effective way. now, this resolution that we're debating today, unlike the bill this morning, does not remove one single person from the righ of advise and consent. it expedites it, expedites it in the following way. the president's nomination would come to the desk here. this is after the president has done all of its vetting. then the relevant committee -- let's say it's the finance committee or the judiciary committee -- would go through its usual exercise of asking the nominee to answer questions and -- and provide all that information. when that nomination first comes here, that's -- that information is listed on the daily reports that we senators and staff read. then when the information is all gathered by the relevant committee, that's indicated. then there's a full ten days for all of us to look at that.
4:21 pm
and if a single senator says, i'd like for this nominee to go on to the committee for a hearing and then for the traditional markup, that happens. but if all 100 senators say, i've looked at the information and it's not necessary to go to that extra time and expense and delay, then it moves to the executive calendar, the majority leader can bring it up whenever he or she wishes. so what we've done is, in 450 cases, approximately, we have affected the 1,400 nominations that are subject to advise and consent. we've either eliminated the requirement or we've expedited the process and made it possible for us to focus more attention on those deserving the most important attention. one other thing -- and i see the senator from oregon here.
4:22 pm
perhaps he wishes to speak so i'll conclude my remarks with these. there's one other important aspect that we deal with here and it may be the most important thing we can do and that is to deal with -- i mean, the first one i discussed was slowing down the trivialization of the senate's advise and consent constitutional duty. that's what the first part of what we're doing does. the bill did that, that we've already passed. the resolution does that that we're now debating. but the second aspect -- and that was dealt with in the bill this morning -- is dealing with the phenomenon of what i call innocent until nominated. we have quopped a -- we have developed a practice in this time of making it -- of having the president select an otherwise unsuspecting distinguished citizen from sioux city or nashville or banger or sacramento -- or bangor or
4:23 pm
sacramento, and after going through an f.b.i. check and other things, nominating that person for some position deserving advise and consent, by the time that person makes his or her way through all of the executive vetting process, by the time people pour over the tax returns and you answer multiple questions, often the same question asked in different ways, you've likely got an inaccuracy in there somewhere. then your name is sent up here and the committee investigates you and asks you many of the same questions. you might have an inconsistency there. then you show up for a publicized hearing with your family and you're sitting there and all a sudden you're made out to be a common criminal because you made a mistake trying to decipher all those multiple forms. i've cited on this floor before that former majority leader of the united states senate, howard bake, and his wife, former senator nancy kassebaum, went to japan a few years ago as president george h.w. bush's nominee to -- to -- as
4:24 pm
ambassador to japan, senator baker was. now, all of us knew senator baker. he was voted by the senate the most admired senator by the democrats as well as the republicans when he was here. all the senators who were here at the time knew senator kassebaum, his wife, yet senator baker told me he had to spend $250,000 in legal and accounting fees just to make his way carefully through the nomination process, all the executive vetting and all of the vetting that the committees did, just so he would not make a mistake and he wouldn't be -- he -- just so he wouldn't be subject to this innocent until nominated syndrome. what the bill we passed this morning does is very simple, very straigh straightforward. it simply establishes a process. if the resolution and the bill should pass the house -- if the bill should pass the house and
4:25 pm
be signed by the president, then we would have a working group o people appointed by the senate, people appointed by the executive branch. we have work together to try to simplify the executive forms and -- and the congressional forms that we use. see if we could have a -- a smart form, a simple form that perhaps we could all use. and then at least for the most part, a nominee, when asked to be nominated by the president, could fill out a single form which could then be used by all of us who need to know basic information, such as what was your income last year. and we can ask the question, do we really need to know every single residence address that you ever had in your life if you're going to be on an advisory board, for example, for the united states? so that practice will have to be done with respect to the
4:26 pm
constitution and separation of powers. the executive branch will have to create its own documents. the senate will have to create its own. but if we work together and we create a smart form, senator collins and senator lieberman have made important contributions to that -- to that process, about how candidates are vetted, what kind of forms they fill out. we will not only have slowed down the trivialization of the senate's duty of advise and consent by doing a better job of deciding who not to confirm, we'll also reduce the phenomenon of innocent until nominated, which has not only made it difficult for presidents to staff the government, delayed their ability to form a government but unnecessarily harassed otherwise honorable men and women who are asked to serve their government. i thank the president. i yield the floor.
4:27 pm
the presiding officer: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon mr. merkley: madam president, i ask unanimous consent i be recognized for ten minutes, senator collins be recognized following my remarks. and further, that following senator collins' remarks, the senate recess until 5:30 p.m. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: thank you, madam president. and i also ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: we have a lot of discussion on the floor of this chamber about the challenge of our deficit and our debt, and these are, indeed, very important issues. and it's important to remember exactly how we got here because
4:28 pm
it was only a decade ago that we were running large surpluses at the conclusion of the clinton administration. in fact, these surpluses were so large that economists were starting to argue over just what would you do if we paid off our entire debt? didn't there need to be instruments of last resort, of great security, like treasury bonds, and didn't we need to preserve some deficit or debt in order to have that instrument available as a stabilizing society -- stabilizer in society? well, wouldn't it be great to have that debate now? i remember being absolutely thrilled that we were going to turn over a debt-free america to our children. but what ensued? well, president bush had a different view. he said, you know what? let's spend these surpluses
4:29 pm
we're generating and let's do breaks for the best-off in our society. let's take and establish a new, major program -- medicare part-d -- and not pay for it. let's embark on wars around this nation -- around this planet and not raise funds to pay for them. and the result was those tremendous surpluses were reduced to huge deficits in short order. indeed, the ten-year projection went from a $5 trillion surpluses flows a $5 tril -- surplus to a $5 trillion shortfall. it's why some folks call president bush the 10 trillion-dollar man, because he managed to do $10 trillion worth of damage to our economy. but that was only the beginning. because then deregulation of the mortgage industry resulted in
4:30 pm
predatory lending, liar loans, teaser rates that exploded after two years, kickbacks allowed to the originators so that they didn't even have any sort of fair presentation to families negotiating the most important financial instrument in their life, their home mortgage. andan the meltdown that came frm that extraordinary regulatory abuse resulted in another $5 trillion in debt. so that's how we got here. and now we have a certain pattern that we see on this floor in which members of this chamber, many of the members across the aisle, they stand up and say, we want to protect the programs for the best off, but we want to cut the basic programs that serve working americans in our nation. and, quite frankly, i think they
4:31 pm
have it exactly backwards. and if you think that i'm making this up, let's just review recent history. the december deal on the continuing resolution this. increased our debt half a trillion dollars and virtually every member across this aisle voted for it. i voted against it, a half trillion-dollar increase and a big chunk of that half trillion-dollar increase in our debt was there because of the insistence on providing the continuation of the president bush breaks for the best off in our society. now, i don't know how one can rise and talk about cutting our investment in infrastructure in america, i don't know how one can rise and talk about putting -- cutting support for those who are needing to get food from
4:32 pm
food banks and at the same time be defending bonus breaks for the very best off in our society. the december deal was an anomaly because it's happened repeatedly. we had just a vote on oil an gas subsidies for the most powerful five companies in our economy, five very large oil and gas companies, and instead of getting rid of anachron onistic provision that was put there when the costs or the value of a barrel of oil was very low and the oil industry said it needed to have some support, instead of cutting that, many in this chamber voted to continue it, continue this break for the most powerful corporation -- a break that was designed for a very different period of time when oil wasn't $100 a barrel but was a fraction of that, $20 a
4:33 pm
barrel. and, no, these are the only two recent cases. we have the attack on medicare. indeed, we have the plan that has been widely supported by my colleagues across the aisle, both i in this chamber and acros the building, in which they say, let's end medicare as we know it because we need to save money and we're going to do it on the backs of seniors. but we're not going to take a look at the breaks we voted in over the last quarter century for the best off in our society. well, this systematic plan works like this: because these breaks for the best off have been done through the tax code, and every american understands that whether you give $5,000 in tax code or ads 5,000 grant, it is exactly the same thing; we had that debate
4:34 pm
over the ethanol subsidies just recently. everyone understands it is exactly the same thing. but by putting these programs for the wealthy and well-connected in the tax code, now my colleagues are rising to say, we will not touch those programs because they're in the tax code. now, if they were in the appropriations bill, then we had be willing to talk about it -- we'd be willing to talk about t but because we were clever enough to put them in the tax code, no, they're off-limits. no, this is a sophisticated way of saying, the programs for the wealthy and well-connected in america are off limits, but the programs for working families, those are the ones we are going to cut. it's those programs for the hungry, it's those programs for the unemployed, it's that health care program for our seniors, it's the investment in infrastructure that will build america. those are the ones we will cut. my colleagues and our citizens
4:35 pm
of the united states, we must have a national debate, a debate that doesn't employ this type of smoke and mirrors to try and protect the programs written for the wealthy and well-connected while way tacking the programs for working families -- while attack the programs for working families. that's unacceptable. and i and others will rise up on this floor and point it out time and time again that using that simple ruse by saying only the appropriations bills on the table but not the tax bill, that is unacceptable. i'm going to tell you that it must not be that we make our kids' education more expensive by diminishing pell grants that we make our parents' health care more expensive by obliterating medicare as we know it, that we impoverish the future of this nation by not investing in our
4:36 pm
infrastructure while continuing to defend the programs that were developed for the best off, the wealthy and we will-connected over the -- the well-connected over the last 25 years and say those are off the table. they must be on the table. we must fight for an america that works for working americans. thank you, madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from maine. ms. collins: thank you, madam president. madam president, i ask unanimous consent that i be permitted to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. collins: thank you, madam president. madam president, last night the senate unanimously approved senate resolution 185, a resolution which i introduced with my colleague from maryland, senator cardin. our resolution sends a clear message to the palestinian
4:37 pm
authority that any effort to seek unanimous recognition at the united nations will have serious consequences for future american aid to the palestinians. madam president, the united states provides nearly $550 million each year in bilateral assistance to the palestinians. this aid is not an entitlement, particularly at a time when we have an unsustainable debt of some $14 trillion. rather, this aid is predicated on a good-faith commitment from the palestinians to the peace process. by unanimously passing our resolution last evening, the
4:38 pm
senate has sent an unmistakable message that efforts by the palestinians to seek independent statehood, outside of direct negotiations with israel, do not reflect good-faith actions toward peace. negotiations had been a fundamental principle of the peace process. it was in september of 1993 when yasser arafat committed to israeli rabin that outstanding issues would be resolved through negotiations. this principle has also underpinned the oslo accords, the road map for peace and other middle east peace efforts. we want to see a true and
4:39 pm
lasting peace between two states, a democratic, jewish state of israel and a viable democratic palestinian state. since 2002, it has been the policy of our country to support a two-state solution to the palestinian-israeli conflict. but, madam president, the road to peace is through negotiations, not by subverting them and making a unilateral case before the united nations. unfortunately, the united nations has a well-documented record of being hijacked to chastise israel, one of america's closest allies. in total, the united states,
4:40 pm
under presidents of both political parties, has been forced to veto 11 different u.n. security council resolutions regarding the palestinian-israeli conflict. madam president, i'm pleased to note that the current u.s. ambassador to the u.n., susan rice, has vetoed the latest u.n. resolution regarding settlements, which, like palestinian statehood, is the key issue in the peace process. the resolution passed by the senate urges the president to maintain this strong position and to announce his unwavering intent to veto any resolution that is not the result of direct negotiations between israel and
4:41 pm
the palestinians. i want to thank senator cardin for working with me in drafting this resolution. when senator cardin and i first discussed introducing this measure, the palestinian authority had not yet agreed to establish a unity government with hamas, a truly disastrous decision. that action has made it all that much more critical that the senate be firmly on record that aid to the palestinians is now in jeopardy. if hamas continues to reject negotiations or peace with israel, we must suspend this assistance.
4:42 pm
during his address before a joint session of congress in march, israeli prime minister binyamin netanyahu succinctly described the heart of the matter. he said -- and i quote -- "this conflict has never been about the establishment of a palestinian state. it has always been about the existence of the jewish state." end quote. madam president, we must remember those words, and we must also never forget that hamas is responsible for the death of more than 500 innocent civilians, including two dozen american citizens. it has been designated by our
4:43 pm
government as a foreign terrorist organization and as a specially designated terrorist organization. secretary of state hillary clinton has made it clear that the united states will not fund a palestinian government that includes hamas unless and until hamas renounces violence, recognizes israel, and agrees to abide by the previous obligations of the palestinian authority. i urge the administration to suspend aid until such time as hamas demonstrates a clear commitment to following these principles.
4:44 pm
madam president, let me also thank the chairman and ranking member of the foreign relations committee, senator kerry and senator lugar, for discharging this resolution so that it could be considered and passed by the full senate before our 4th of july recess. the passage of this resolution could not have been more timely. according to press reports, the palestinian delegation has made the rounds with nearly a dozen delegations in new york this week to build support for their bid to have a united nations-recognized state. palestinian ambassadors from around the world are meeting in july to discuss their plans in madrid. they have been instructed to cancel vacations because of the
4:45 pm
importance of this coming period. madam president, i would submit that if the palestinians were only willing to invest as much energy into the peace process with israel as they have into this ill-advised rush to the united nations, we could see the beginnings of a genuine and lasting peace in the region. i do not know if the palestinians will have the support among the 192 members of the u.n. general assembly. however, the palestinians must understand that the cost of seeking such a vote will seriously jeopardize u.s.
4:46 pm
financial assistance, and that is evident from the 87 members of the senate who cosponsored the important resolution that was unanimously passed last evening. thank you, madam president. i would yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate host: we are back with former
4:47 pm
4:48 pm
democratic senator, byronrmer dorgan, who served in north dakota for 30 years.
4:49 pm
1992 to 2011 in the senate. and now you are part-time policy adviser at a law firm here in d.c.. let's talk about that. tell us what your doing. guest: i am doing a lot of things. i have created a new organization. organization. i have donated $1 million of excess campaign funds, and we're doing suicide prevention, substance abuse with indian children in this country. i work on a lot of different issues. we're going to save lives and improve lives working with indian tribesn parents >> i'm also a visiting profession at two universities. i'm writing two more books. just doing a lot -- i'm serving on a couple of boards of directors and doing a lot of things. i'm pretty excited about it. >> as part of the leadership when you served in the senate for 16 years and as a member of the appropriations committee, i want to talk to you about the debt talks.
4:50 pm
stalled right now. here's a question put forth in the "washington post" today on leadership. it says "why political leaders can't solve debt debacle." why do you think that is? >> guest: there's been -- in congress there's two approaches. stand by your principal or compromise. compromise is the way of democracy. it's the way people make decisions. i feel very differently than someone else. we sit down and try to reconcile that and meet somewhere in the middle. more recently, compromise has been scene as caving in on your principals and being willing to abandon your principals. it make it is very hard for the sides to come together in the best interest of the country in my judgment. >> host: your democratic colleagues said they are principal on the debt talk because you are not going to touch medicare. do you think that was a mistake?
4:51 pm
>> guest: at the end of the day, there's not going to be anything that's untouchable. we need to fix a lot of things. the country is off course, we have serious problems. that is not like ordinary things that i've watched in the last 30 years. we're on the precipice of some serious problems that have potential to damage the country for decades. we have to resolve this and we have to have an extension of the debt ceiling. wouldn't it be great if we default and don't extend the debt ceils. that's nuts. that's just irresponsible. we have to fix what's wrong in the country, for sure. you don't do that starting by saying let's default on august 2nd. it would have significant consequences for the country for decades. >> host: should medicare be on the table? >> guest: i think it will be on the table. there will be cuts to medicare spending. in fact, there have been proposals on both sides for certain cuts in medicare spending, as you know. >> host: the latest put out
4:52 pm
yesterday by senators joseph lieberman and tom coburn. they want to increase eligibility from 65 to 67 over 12 years, wealthier american pay 100% of -- >> host: good ideas? >> guest: let me make a point about medicare, it's the same problems of family and businesses. exploding, escalating costs of health care. it's not just medicare. let me also see if i can start at the bottom here. we have this huge problem because ten years ago we dramatically cut the revenue. i didn't vote for it. dramatically cut the revenue for federal government. very big tax cuts in
4:53 pm
anticipation of having big surpluses which didn't exist. >> host: bush tax cuts? >> guest: bush tax cuts. very large tax cuts. the government has less revenue, that's $4 trillion issue. then second we went to war halfway around the world, fought two wars, didn't pay a cent of that war. charged it all. you can't reduce your revenue and then go to war and not pay for it. then the third issue and very big issue is the decision which i vehemently oppose of taking apass glass-steagall and the departments put in place for protection. and wholesale gambling just tanked the economy. which meant costs go up, revenues go down. those are the biggest issues. then the fourth issue is the escalating exploding cost of health care. but there are a lot of people that want us to look over here. you know, the magic trick, watch this hand over here. we've got to address the issue
4:54 pm
of too little revenue, we have to cut spending in every area. we have to begin to decide if you are going to go to war, you must pay for it. you can't send kids to war with ceramic body armour, get shot at, we wouldn't pay the cost. we'll charge it, you can pay for it when you come back. all of those things. >> host: on the lieberman proposal, do you see it reducing the cost over time? >> guest: it will. i think those discussions will be much larger discussion on entitlements. we have to deal with the question of how do you reconcile over a long period of time. first let's reconcile to the missteps that have been made. dramatic cut and escalation in spending and there needs to be a tightening of spending and going to war and not paying for it. you can't continue to do that. > reporter: -- >> host: immediately after they put out their proposal, the speaker and
4:55 pm
leader nancy pelosi said unacceptable, harry reid said bad idea. immediately after it was put out. >> guest: listen, both of those leaders supported health care reform that did have cuts in medicare. it's not as if the democratic leaders said there will not be cuts in medicare. they have proposed some in some existed in the health care bill passed last year. i think the point they are making is let's address the other issues first. we're going to have to cut virtually every -- have spending restraint in virtually every area. there are areas -- let me just mention one, 22 hearings that i chaired on defense spending, particularly the issue of contractors and waste, fraud, and abuse in iraq and afghanistan. it is unbelievable, the american people can go to the internet and see the results of those hearings. it's just unbelievable the amount of waste, fraud, and abuse. let's cut some of that out of the defense budget, just as an example. bailiff we have callers lining up to talk to you.
4:56 pm
before we get there, i want to -- you mention at the top, part time senior policy advisory at the law enforcement. do you have any clients that have something at stake? >> guest: i don't. i'm not lobbying. i'm working an a wide range of things, including business consulting here and other parts of the world. i don't have any clients dealing with these issues. >> host: what issues are you dealing with for clients? what are your focuses? >> guest: as i said, a lot of issues working with businesses that are doing business in china and, you know, just a wide range of issues. >> host: all right. stephen, democratic caller in texas. >> caller: thank you for having me on. this is an honor, senator. you are a really great statesman. thank you for everything that you've done. i guess i have two comments and kind of questions built in there. but i'm an independent insurance agent here in texas and having for 20 years. seven years ago, i quit selling
4:57 pm
group health. it was a big portion of my business, but my conscious wouldn't allow me to do it anymore. i can tell you why, the cost to my clients went up so much every year and i spent at least 20% of my working hours fighting claims that the customers paid their premiums for that the insurance companies denied or only paid a portion of. so i just had to quit doing it. i don't understand myself why a nation as great as the united states of america cannot invoke some type even if it's done at the state level, but some type of single payor health care. for my employers, these were mostly small, the largest employer that i had had 200 employees. this was his third biggest expense that he paid every month. after a while, i couldn't do it anymore. also one the largest expenditures they had was workers compensation. that was in some cases the third largest, third or fourth largest
4:58 pm
expense they had. if you paid the health care or a single payor system was invoked, it wouldn't matter if you got hurt at home or if you got hurt on the job. which many times there was fraud. people said they were hurt at home, and they turn it in on workers' comp. that would be eliminated. >> host: okay. senator? stephen, thanks. >> guest: that's significant. we passed a health care bill last year. more needs to be done. i mentioned the exploding costs of health care which is the case too often health care has become a function of profit and loss. probably shouldn't be. when you build brick buildings to create an orthopedic center, cancer center, you know, all of these new centers, then the business proposition it's going to drive utilization to the centers. i think ganda wrote a piece in the public about that, comparing
4:59 pm
two cities in friends -- in texas. look, we pay far more for health care than any other country in the world by far. and we rank somewhere in the 40s in life expectancy. we're just not getting the results. we do need to find a way to put some restraint on these exploding health care costs. it's just breaking the back. not just of government and medicare, but of -- business costs and individual family costs and so on. >> host: also, i want to let you know, president obama is going to be talking probably about the debt talks in a news conference he's holding this morning. 11:30 a.m. live coverage on c-span and c-span radio and xm channel 119 as well. if you are listening there you can hear what he has to say. he's likely to face questions. on the debt talks, here's washington post. senator ron johnson, freshman senator from wisconsin, threatened tuesday to delay further senate actions unless the talks are conducted mo


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on