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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 19, 2013 11:00am-1:01pm EST

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this roller coaster of extenders and have some real predictability for the important innovative work that needs to be done. those kinds of of incentives should take into account important policy goals of domestic energy security and reducing this country's carbon footprint while getting the tax code more out of the way and letting the free market decide which technologies break through and ultimately succeed. it is my view that what chairman baucus released yesterday -- and he consulted with us extensively extensively -- certainly has some promising ideas in that regard. now, with respect to where this debate is now, i think it's important to be clear about the challenge. it looks more and more like the
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other body has in effect decided to, if not slow-walk tax reform, certainly take its time. last month, the news here in washington was full of headlines about various discussions among the house leaders, and you got a sense all of them speak for themselves that the tax reform issues they were apparently going to take their foot off the gas. so, mr. president, it does not seem that the other body is poised to move forward any time soon on comprehensive tax reform, so because there is little indication that the other body is going to move on this, my view is letting the incentives for the renewable energy resources in particular, solar and wind and other
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renewables and energy efficiency in effect get thrown overboard, in effect sacrificed on this altar of inaction, that would be a huge mistake. if you do that, you're talking about putting at risk thousands and thousands of american jobs and jobs that are critical to our country's energy and environmental and economic security. my view is having these employers and having these innovative, cutting edge technologies fall off the cliff would be a mistake. that's why it's critical that congress address and extend these key energy tax benefits as soon as possible. until the congress takes the prudent step of broad-based reform of our tax system, the
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american people should not be left hanging. we ought to minimize the roller coaster of uncertainty that has been a drag on growth in recent years. passing the tax extenders act of 2013, extending these important expiring provisions delivers a measure of confidence and continuity, and it builds a bridge between the current tax system and where all members of congress ought to hope that we end up, and that's with a modern pro-growth tax code worthy of the american economy and ready for the 21st century. i have been interested in that subject, mr. president, for a number of years. i can just briefly recount some of the history. rahm emmanuel, now mayor of chicago, and i introduced the
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first comprehensive reform effort when he was still in the other body. we weren't even able to get a republican to join us in that effort. then-senator judd gregg, our colleague -- former colleague from name, sat across from me on a sofa every week for two years, and we were able to come together with a tax reform proposal, much of which i continue to believe is valid today. then our current colleague, senator dan coats, was willing to work with myself, senator begich and others, and he made important contributions. so we very much need a modern, pro-growth, pro-entrepreneur tax code that really is up to the challenges of the 21st century. that is my first choice, mr. president. that is not what is in front of us today. clearly, when the house made the
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decision to pull back for various reasons, we were faced with the question of whether we were just going to sit by and as a result of the inaction see these important renewable energy industries and the jobs they represent sacrificed, and i hope the congress on a bipartisan basis will say that is not acceptable, pass the tax extenders act of 2013 on a bipartisan basis. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. portman: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. portman: i rise along with my other senator, senator shaheen, to talk about the industrial competitiveness act. this is good for the country. it's bipartisan. it's part of an energy plan for america that can help bring the jobs back, help fix our trade deficit, help make our manufacturers more competitive, help save taxpayers money and actually to clean the environment. that all sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
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and it does so without a single mandate. it does so without any new spending. it's fully offset. in fact, i would make the strong argument it's going to save taxpayers a lot of money. why? because by putting energy efficiency in base in the federal government, the biggest user of energy in the world, we're going to see a lot of savings to all of us as taxpayers. over the past several months, we have been working to clear a few last hurdles that stand in the way of passing this piece of legislation. i am pleased to say that i believe from what i'm hearing from the other side of the aisle -- and senator shaheen can talk more about this -- that it looks like we will have a good shot to finally move this early next year. so before we leave for the holidays, i wanted to have a chance to talk about it a little bit as senator shaheen did. i know senator wyden who is here with us and senator murkowski, the ranking member of energy, are all highly supportive of this legislation. after all, it got out of the energy and natural resources committee with a strong bipartisan vote 19-3.
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this doesn't often happen with regard to energy policy around this place. this is one of those things where republicans and democrats alike can come together to do something good for our country. it's also important that we do it now because it gives the economy a shot in the arm at a time when we need it. there is a lot of talk in this place about all the above energy strategy. to me this fits perfectly with an all of the above energy strategy. on this side of the aisle, we talk a little more about the production side. in other words, we ought to be using more of the energy that's in the ground in america right now, and i think we should. we should be producing more energy. at the same time, that energy we produce, we should use more efficiently, and it has all those benefits we talked about earlier if you do that. we still import a lot of oil. in combination with china, it contributes to our trade deficit. in fact, the entire trade deficit you can say is due to both energy imports and trade with china alone, so by doing away with some of those energy imports because we're using
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energy we have more efficiently here, we're going to see lower trade deficits. the bill creates jobs, and that's why it's supported by over 260 trade associations and companies, including the chamber of commerce, national association of manufacturers and others, but it's also good for the environment, which is why the coalition also includes the alliance to save energy, the sierra club and others. again, a big reason why this passed the energy and natural resources committee with a bipartisan vote of 19-3. simply put, the legislation that the senior senator from new hampshire and i have worked on now for what? two and a half years makes good environmental sense, it makes good energy sense, it makes good economic sense, it makes sense to help move this economy forward. i have visited with businesses and job creators all over my state of ohio, and they tell me the same thing. energy efficiency is critical to their ability to compete. you think about it, we do live
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in a global economy. we live in an economy where we're competing in ohio, not just with indiana but with india, and as a result, we have got to look at our cost of doing business, and one cost of doing business, of course, is labor. we don't want to compete with developing countries on labor rates. we want our labor rates to be good, we want benefits to be good. another thing we could look at, of course, is the quality of our goods. we don't want to cut corners with the quality of manufactured products we produce in this country. in fact, we want to be sure we're producing the best in the world. but energy, energy is an area where we can cut costs. by making our manufacturers more competitive, by reducing their costs, we're going to be able to compete globally, add more jobs in this country and again be able to help on our trade deficit. that's why this legislation is so important, because what the federal government can do is help the private sector take advantage of the best resources that's out there, the best practices that are out there, so that our companies can reduce
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their costs, putting those savings toward expanding companies, plant equipment, hiring more workers. the proposals contained in this bill i think are very commonsense reforms and have been needed for a long time. again, no mandates on the private sector, none. in fact, many of our proposals come as a direct result in conversations we have had with people in the private sector as to what they actually want and need. that's how we put this thing together. it's also about how the federal government can become more energy efficient. we talked earlier about the fact the federal government is the largest user of energy in the world. think about that. and our bill basically says the federal government, why don't you start practicing what you preach. there is a lot of talk about green energy, green technology and so on at the federal government level, but actually it turns out the federal government itself is inefficient, and we have got lots of studies that show that. more importantly, we have got ideas to make the federal government more efficient, less wasteful. it directs the department of energy to issue recommendations that employ energy efficiency on
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everything from computer hardware to operations and maintenance processes, energy efficiency software, power management tools. it also takes the commonsense step of allowing the general services administration, that's the group that controls all the many federal buildings, offices and so on, it allows them to update the building designs they have got right now in the works to meet new efficiency standards that have been developed since those designs were finalized. they can't do that now. that makes no sense. so look, the federal government has been looking for place toss tighten its belt. energy efficiency is a really good place to start. it will save taxpayer money and help the environment in the process. all this adds up to a piece of legislation that americans across the spectrum, the political spectrum should be able to support. again, fully offset, no mandates, requires the federal government to become more efficient. all this makes sense. what will the impact be? well, there was a recent study of our legislation that says that by 2025, the shaheen-portman legislation is estimated to aid in the creation
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of $136,000 new jobs -- 136,000 new jobs while saving consumers $13.7 billion a year in reduced energy costs by the year 2030. it's equivalent of taking millions of homes off the grid. it's equivalent of the entire entering use of the state of oklahoma, for instance, if we put some of these commonsense efficiency standards in place. this legislation is not everything everybody would have wanted. some of the business groups probably would like to see some other stuff that would help them. but this is legislation that is sensible, that will make a difference. it is bipartisan. it can pass in the united states senate significantly. it can also be legislation that will be mirrored in the house of representatives and passed. there is a bicameral interest in this. a number of house democrats and republicans are on board. they're interested in us moving this legislation in part so that they can then move that legislation in the house, we can get it to the president's desk for his signature.
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the secretary of energy has made efficiency one of his new priorities. so this is something that we should and can do. we often lament the fact that there's not much bipartisanship around this place and not much is getting done, and it's true. it's true. the budget agreement was good this week. we had to do something. far from perfect, as i've said, even though at the end i voted for it because i do think we need to move forward on this issue and have a budget for the first time in four years in this place. but this is an example of legislation that's actually something bipartisan, positive to help move the country forward. any true, all of the above energy strategy has to include energy and using that energy more efficiently. produce more, use less. that's good for jobs, good for taxpayers, good for the environment. mr. president, i now yield back my time and i hope that we heard from the senator from new hampshire who's been my partner in this for the past two and a half years. mrs. shaheen: mr. president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: thank you, mr. president. i'm really pleased to be here on the floor today, he put it so well, senator portman, my partner in developing this energy efficiency legislation, the energy efficiency industrial and competitiveness act also known as shaheen-portman. it's a long name, but as he pointed out it really goes a long way to address some of the energy challenges we face in this country. it is a win-win-win. we heard earlier today discussion about the importance of renewable energy as a way to create jobs. well, this is one of the most important things, i think, about our legislation is that it does promote job creation. as the american council for an energy efficient economy said, 136,000 new jobs would be created by 2025 if we pass the legislation. by 2030 it would net an annual savings of almost $14 billion, $13.7 billion for consumers.
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and it would lower co2 emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road. so as senator portman said so well, this is a win for job creation. it is a win for the environment. it is a win for national security. and it is a win for saving costs. now senator portman talked about the importance of continuing the bipartisan efforts that we saw this week with passing a budget. like senator portman, i supported that budget as well despite some of the misgivings i had about it. but i think it was important to work together to move forward on addressing the issues that we face in this country. and that's exactly what the energy savings and industrial competitiveness act would do. it's a bill that will create jobs, lower pollution and save
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taxpayers money. and we had a great opportunity to pass this legislation back in september. unfortunately we saw some people come to the floor and object because of nonrelevant amendments. but we have an opportunity to come back to it in the new year and to try and pass it again. and i'm hoping that we can do that. and one reason we're here on the floor today is to talk about that second opportunity that we're going to have. as senator portman and i have been working on some of the bipartisan amendments that have been offered for the bill, and we're hopeful that some of our colleagues who support those bipartisan amendments who have authored them will come on board with this legislation and will help us get this passed in the new year. now, as senator portman said, to date this legislation has more
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than 260 endorsements from groups that include business, the environment, think tanks, trade associations, supporters include everybody from the u.s. chamber of commerce, the national association of manufacturers, the natural resources defense council, and the international union of painters and allied trades. i think any time you can get the sierra club and the american chemistry council supporting a piece of legislation, you know you've got a good bill that can attract a lot of support. and that's where we are in this legislation. but as we know, passage. bill was delayed by a small group of senators back in september. but there still remains a real interest i think in debating energy efficiency policy on the floor of the senate.
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we've also heard from the house, representative fred upton and ed whitfield, with jurisdiction over energy efficiency, have expressed interest in shaheen-portman and said they will move energy efficiency legislation if the senate passes a bill. since the bill was taken off the floor, senator portman and i have continued to work with chairman wyden. he was here a few minutes ago and plans to come back, hopefully, to speak to the legislation. we've been working with ranking member murkowski to incorporate some of those relevant bipartisan amendments that have been cleared by the committee that i talked about a few minutes ago. this -- if we can do that, if we can include those amendments, it would make the legislation even better. it would secure additional support that are necessary to ensure passage. and it would allow us, i hope, assuming the leadership agrees to, bring this bill back to the floor.
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i'm confident that we can pass this legislation if we can get it back to the floor. it has bipartisan, bicameral support. it's exactly the kind of smart, affordable energy and jobs bill that congress needs to pass, that the president needs to sign in order to spur private-sector growth, in order to save on costs of energy, and in order to address some of the environmental issues that we're facing. so i want to thank senator portman. i want to thank chairman wyden and ranking member murkowski for all of their help in working with us to promote this legislation and advance the bill. and i really look forward to working with those 260 groups which also include the alliance to save energy which i think it's important to recognize them for their support. but to be able to bring this bill back, to get it through and to really for the first time since 2007 get some energy policy done in this senate. so thank you very much,
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mr. president. i yield the floor and thanks to my colleague, senator portman, we will be back after january. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i know we are waiting the arrival of senator johnson, and i just want to take a moment to express my appreciation to the majority leader for including in the items that we will be handling before we adjourn for christmas the fact that he put on the agenda the confirmation of judge brian davis to the u.s. district court for the middle district of florida. judge davis has been waiting for two years. this is a good example of how
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things have gone very slowly for a very deserving judge. 658 days. he has the support of senator rubio and me, the american bar association has found him to be unanimously well qualified to serve on the federal district court. and it is his -- it is the a.b.a.'s highest rating. he's a native floridian who, mr. president, grew up as an african-american in segregated jacksonville, florida, and despite those circumstances was accepted to princeton for his college education, returned later to the university of florida law school and then
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became a top prosecutor in jacksonville, and 20 years ago went on the bench as a state circuit judge. and he has an impeccable record. he is in a huge bipartisan way embraced by the lawyers who have practiced in front of him. and yet, it's taken us 658 days. and i just want to thank the majority leader. i want to thank the senate. i want to thank senator grassley who initially had concerns, but when senator grassley looked at the record, he had an open mind. and then he saw the character, the quality, the excellence of judge davis. there are 37 judicial
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emergencies around the country, and two of them are in the middle district of florida where judge davis is, and three of them are in the southern district of florida. the courts are overburdened, and we need to fill these vacancies and so i just want to thank the senate in advance for giving this good man, this excellent jurist the opportunity to serve in a greater capacity, to serve his country. i want you to know this is a great christmas present for me, but it's nothing like the christmas present that it's going to be for judge brian davis and his family. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota.
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mr. johnson: mr. president, i rise to speak in support of dr. janet yellen to be chair of the board of governors of the federal reserve system. as we continue to recover from the worst economic crisis since the great depression, we need a strong and thoughtful chairman of the federal reserve. we need a chair who has learned from our economic successes and mistakes over the past several decades. we need a chair who understands how monetary policy affects the everyday lives of americans. and we need a chair who understands the importance of implementing wall street reform to promote financial stability. dr. yellen has all these
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qualities, and she is ideally suited to be the next fed chair. dr. yellen's experience is unmatched. she currently serves as a member and vice chair of the board of governors. she previously served as a member of the board of governors in the 1990's. she was chair of president clinton's council of economic advisors, and she serves six years as president of the san francisco fed. dr. yellen also has an impressive economic record. she is a professor at berkeley's school of business and was previously a professor at harvard university as well as a faculty member at the london school of economics. dr. yellen graduated summa cum
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laude and received her ph.d. in economics from yale. dr. yellen has written numerous research papers, and the labor market unemployment monetary policy and the economy. her expertise in these areas calendar number her understanding of the relationship tpwaoepb -- between the fed policy and labor market would be valuable as we chart the course back to full employment. but you don't have to take my word for it. dr. yellen's economic expertise is borne out by the facts. "the new york times" recently noted that she was -- quote -- "the first fed official in 2005 to describe the rise in housing prices as a bubble that might damage the economy. she was also the first in 2008
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to say that the economy had fallen into a recession." and the "wall street journal" recently analyzed 700 predictions made between 2009 and 2012 in speeches and congressional testimony by 14 fed reserve policy-makers and found dr. yellen was the most accurate. at her confirmation hearing, dr. yellen displayed her impressive understanding of our complex, 21st century economy. she showed that she understands the complexities of fed policy making and that monetary policy has ripple effects that affect the everyday lives of workers,
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savers, small businesses and job seekers. dr. yellen has proven through her extensive and impressive record in public service that academia -- in academia that she is most qualified to be the next chair of the federal reserve. we need her expertise at the helm of the fed as our nation continues to recover from a great recession, and continues to enhance the stability of our financial sector. i'm excited to cast my vote to confirm her as the first woman to serve as the chair of the federal reserve, and i urge my colleagues to do the same. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: mr. president? mr. president, before my
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colleague leaves the floor, i want to just thank him for his leadership of the banking committee in the senate for now several years and his commitment to try to find the right regulatory framework for the largest banks in our country, as well as our community banks, and i think the chairman has had a lot of challenges, as we all have, and i just want to thank him and for his strong advocacy of this particular nominee and for his help on so many issues, one of which i am going to speak about now with colleagues from florida and from new york. mr. president, many of us on both sides of the aisle from all parts of the country have been working very hard for the last year, and some of us even longer than that, to try to present good, solid information to the senate and to congress about how
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important the national flood insurance program is in many different dimensions. first of all, for those that live along the coast, which is 60% of our population in the united states and those that live on inland waterways, whether it's in your state of new jersey, in states like pennsylvania, in states like new mexico, north dakota, not near any ocean or whether it's states like florida, louisiana that do sit on both the -- in florida's case the atlantic and our case the gulf of mexico. this is a very important issue because our businesses and our families have to have a -- a system of very strong levees, smart building codes and ways of building and expanding our
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communities with a good flood adjourns safety net, if you will, or security net, along with levees that don't break like they did in new orleans in 52 places and 3/4 of a great international city of a half a million people in a region of almost 1.2 million virtually went under water. now, we have to do better than that because we're the greatest nation in the world, we're the greatest economy, and this is an important issue for the nation. and so some of us in places like this spend a lot of time thinking about levee infrastructure, flood protection, all of the different pieces. and it's not just one piece. insurance is a very important piece, as my colleague from florida will explain in just a minute. he was a former insurance commissioner and knows this as well as anyone in this body, but flood insurance is one piece for
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americans that live, some in low-lying areas, some in flood-prone areas, but they have been there a long time, like 300 years in our case. i mean, they just didn't move down here in the 1980's. we have been here since the 1780's and the 1680's, so we have been here a long time as a country. we have built up a -- a protection, if you will, of good, solid, affordable flood insurance since the last 40 years. we have been building levees a long time. thank goodness we're building more of them and building them better because our people need them and we could all use more of those. i try to provide funding for that every chance i can as a member of that appropriations committee. and we are promoting, mr. president, contrary to some of our critics, we are promoting very good policies in this country about smart growth, how to build stronger, higher, more
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resiliently. we're not blind to the challenges, but we have right now before this body a flood insurance bill that will fix the most pernicious parts of a -- quote -- reform bill that was passed two years ago called biggert-waters, with all the best intentions but it had disastrous, disastrous consequences for people in new jersey, florida, new york, louisiana, texas. there are five million policies. i want to just put up one chart, then i'm going to turn it over to the senators that want to join me. but just so that critics say this is just a louisiana issue or this is just a florida issue or this really is not about anything other than coastal states, let me put that to rest. that is not factual. it is a damaging myth.
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you can see here all of the flood maps that are in effect are in purple. these are mardi gras colors in honor of our season coming up after christmas, but this is flood maps in purple that exist as of july 12. these are proposed flood maps in green, and new flood maps in yellow. literally there will not be a state in the union, not one state in the union, not one that is exempt from the requirements of biggert-waters to produce new flood maps, some of which have not been produced for decades, putting communities that have never been in a flood zone in a flood zone, and then having these pernicious pieces of biggert-waters say okay, you have never flooded, you have never been in a flood zone, but let me tell you that when you put your house up for sale, your rates are going to go up 10%. it's like stealing, taking, whatever word you want to call
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it the equity right out of someone's home. it is unconscionable and it must be fixed now. not a year from now. now. these rates have gone up in october, in january. so i'm just here to say a couple of things. this is a national issue, number one. number two, we put a great coalition, very proud of putting a coalition and the leaders of this coalition are senator menendez from new jersey, your senior senator, mr. president, who has worked so hard and a republican leader who everyone has a lot of respect for, johnny isakson from georgia, who is an expert and is recognized as an expert in the real estate markets of this country. that's his expertise. we should listen to him when he says real estate markets are going to take a terrible hit if we can't fix this. and the final point is this is
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not just to help homeowners and businesses. it's also to save the program, because as chuck schumer has said, the senator from new york many times, if we don't fix this, not only will people not be able to afford the insurance to buy it, but because they can't -- the program will collapse under its own weight of inaccessibility and unaffordability and then the taxpayer is going to pick up a bigger tab. we couldn't make any clearer, more stronger arguments. a coalition has come together. we have 60 votes. i see my colleagues from florida, from new york. i don't know what their schedules are in terms of time. the senator from florida is well versed. again, as through the chair, the senator from florida served before as a senator, as an insurance commissioner, and i'd like for him to add a word because our goal today is to acknowledge that unfortunately because of the difficulties we're having on process, we're
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not able to get a vote it looks like before we leave, but we are under the understanding, and i want to ask the senator, that leader reid has agreed to call this bill up for a vote, for a cloture vote in which we have accepted the 60-vote threshold. we believe we have actually more than 60 votes. we just need to get it up when we come back in early january. is that, senator, through the chair your understanding? mr. nelson: it is my understanding, but in the newfound felicity and spirit of the season, wouldn't you think that since the real estate market along the coast has dried up -- why, mr. president? because if you can't get flood insurance because you can't afford it, you can't get a mortgage, and if you can't get a mortgage, there are a lot of folks that can't buy a house.
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and by the way, those who need to sell their houses, they can't get the buyers. and so what happens to the real estate market in places like the tampa region of florida as chronicled by the tampa bay times, an example that a homeowner's present flood insurance premium is $4,000. the new bill, $44,000. that's unaffordable. so what we are merely asking for is that fema do an affordability study while this thing is delayed for a few years to determine what is the affordability. now, if this thing is supposed to be actuarially sound, then that came as a result of huge
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losses to the program because of an unusual thing. not a hurricane called katrina, but because the waters rose, it put pressure on the dikes and it breached the levees that flooded the bowl called new orleans, and that caused lots of economic loss, and they are figuring all of that in the flood insurance premiums. and oh, by the way, 40% of all those flood insurance policies are in my state of florida. now, i -- before we hear back from the senator from new york, i just want to say this. floods come from many sources. obviously, floods come from hurricanes. people used to think that hurricanes were florida's problem. well, now we know, because of
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the experience on the gulf coast, they can do an awful lot of damage in many different ways, but oh, by the way, people up in the northeast suddenly realize that hurricanes are a problem. now why? because the ocean temperature is rising, and when the water gets warmer, the frequency of the storms is more and the ferocity of the storms is greater. and thus, in a time when it's normally cool water, cold air temperature, all of a sudden we have got a major storm that comes to a part of the country that is completely unprepared, and now not only all the damage from the water and the wind and think what happened all the way up into new england, all the way
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up into vermont. you heard about all those rivers that suddenly completely overran and inundated that little town with a bunch of water, and they are calling this a thousand-year storm, but the thousand-year storm happened a year ago. now, i'm not here to speak about climate change, which i certainly think we better get our heads out of the sand. i'm here to talk about an immediate problem for the people all up and down the coast of the united states, and that is the affordability of health insurance. so why wouldn't our colleagues give us a little christmas present, since we have got over 60 votes in the senate, and let's give some hope to those homeowners back home who now cannot afford flood insurance.
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i -- i want to hear from the senator from new york who has been a leader on this, and his state has suffered, and fortunately, it's -- unfortunately, it's going to take folks like him and the great senator from louisiana to keep beating this drum, to bring some relief to our people that are desperate. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, before i get into the substance of the remarks, i have a unanimous consent request for a committee to meet during today's session of the senate. it has the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent this request be agreed to, the request be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without exception. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. i want to echo the outstanding words of my colleagues from florida and louisiana and they echo the views of many. you know, mr. president,
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everyone says the public is exasperated with the congress. our approval ratings are low. they are. why? it's simply because when huge problems occur that affect ordinary people, we seem paralyzed. and what's happening with flood insurance embodies just what i'm talking about. average homeowners who purchase flood insurance through the years for $800, 1,000 are now being hit with bills that are $4,000, $5,000. if you're rich, that's nothing. but the vast majority of people who have flood insurance whether they live on the ocean in my state or the senator from florida's state or on the gulf, the senator from louisiana's state or on the bodies of water like the missouri and mississippi rivers, they are not wealthy people. and you tell them all of a sudden out of the clear blue they've got to pay $4,000, $5,000, $6,000 for flood
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insurance, they don't know what to do. it's a crisis for them. and they say to us, congress, fix this. this is what we're supposed to do. and so in their wisdom. the senator from new jersey, the senator from louisiana, the senator from georgia, the senator from florida, myself, many others have come up with a proposal that says we know flood insurance is broken, but we don't want it to be broken on the backs of average homeowners. we have a plan that will delay these increases until 2017 while fema studies affordability and while congress reexamines this issue. there was an affordability study in biggert-waters. somehow fema ignored it. and we're not letting that happen. and so that's why we have to act here. there are three types of people who are in danger. the first are those who know or
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are about to know they're going to be hit. they have flood insurance already, and their costs are going to go way up. the vast majority, middle class people. the second are those who will be told your insurance won't go up, but when you sell your home it's going to go way up. and any bureaucrat who tells us that doesn't affect the average person, it affects the value of their home immediately. but it also says they can't sell their home. if my area if flood insurance is going to be $8,000, $10,000 or $20,000 a year, who is going to buy the home except at a greatly reduced value? but my colleagues, there is a third group and they don't know who they are. fema is changing flood maps throughout the country, and they will get to your state unless maybe, you know, utah or a state like that doesn't have any flood insurance. i don't know. but the vast majority of our
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states that either bound the great lakes, the pacific ocean, the atlantic ocean, the gulf, great rivers, the mississippi, missouri, the ohio, the platt are all going to be affected. you're from there. your constituents are going to come to you and say stop this. so this will affect the overwhelming majority of states and senators, even if they don't know it now. and so our solution is not an ideological solution. it's not a solution that picks one side or the other. it says just put a moratorium on this stuff until we can figure this out in a right way that doesn't put the burden of flood insurance solely on the backs of people who can't afford it. average folks. my state, my good friend from florida mentioned it. we have people who struggle to fix up their homes in sandy,
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spending tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. and then all of a sudden they're hit with a huge flood insurance bill. they're already in debt. that's not fair. just when they moved back in, finally into their homes, fema comes in and tells them in a year or two they can't afford to live in those homes that they have fixed up. that's intolerable. so, the bottom line is simple. we have a good piece of legislation. we would hope we could pass it by unanimous consent as my colleague from florida and l.a. have said, it's a nice christmas, not present, because it's not a present. these people deserve to have this. but it's a nice christmas thought. but if not, we will come back in
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january -- that is my expectation, that is what the leader has told us -- and we are willing to go through a cloture vote and bring this legislation to the floor. and we expect and hope that we'll get the same kind of bipartisan that has helped us put this bill together with senators from every part of the country. so i would say to homeowners, it is my hope and prayer and indeed expectation, although around here expectations sometimes are not met, that we will have this bill on the floor and then passed so that homeowners, millions of homeowners across america can breathe a sigh of relief. they can stay in their homes and flood insurance will be mended in the right way. ms. landrieu: would the senator yield for a question? mr. schumer: be happy to yield for a question. ms. landrieu: through the chair, would the senator yield? could you explain just a little bit more clearly for so many people that are listening to what we're saying this morning,
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because you've been around here and in the leadership, when the leader, harry reid, rule 14 is a piece of legislation, how sure are we that we're going to get a vote? what is required? and can we be -- because i've been saying i'm very confident that this vote will occur sometime in the week or two when we get back. what is your understanding, senator? mr. schumer: my understanding is just that that even possibly in the first week we get back that the leader having rule 14'd this, which means he can bring it to the floor right away, can put it on the floor and then of course people can demand -- those opposed can demand that we vote cloture so we can proceed to the bill and then vote on the bill. but if we have 60 votes we will be able to meet that cloture barrier. and so it is my understanding that the plan is to actually do it as soon in january as the
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first week we get back which i believe is the 6th. if we can't do it then, we will be pushing very hard to do it shortly thereafter. ms. landrieu: is the senator aware of a comparable effort going on in the house? he's been at a couple of news conferences with us. could you maybe give a minute to explain? do you think there's pretty good support building in the house of representatives from your delegation in new york as well as other delegations that you might be aware of? mr. schumer: mr. president, i thank my colleague for that question. and exactly, since this is affecting so many people in so many parts of the country, and it doesn't affect just democrat or just republicans, just conservatives, moderates, independents and liberals, the support is building daily and senators and kopbgs -- congress members are getting calling from their constituents whraoegd with them to do something and senior senator my understanding the house is understapbg a very
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standing the house is taking up a similar piece of legislation. in my delegation it has bipartisan support. as i understand it, in most delegations it has bipartisan support. ms. landrieu: thank you. the senator from florida through the chair, what is your understanding of the florida delegation? you're one of the largest states in the union and has one of the largest delegations. is it something you're sensing people are becoming more and more aware of not on the coastal counties but throughout all parts of florida? mr. nelson: phr-bs, in response -- mr. president, in response -- the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: in response to the senator, the florida delegation is clearly united in recognizing that if you can't sell your home because you can't get a mortgage because the bank requires flood insurance and you can't afford the flood insurance, the real estate market starts to drive
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up, and in a state like florida, the real estate market is one of the main economic engines that fuels the ability of people to have work and to be able to support their families. and as a result, we are seeing in places along the coast with taking examples, that was a tenfold increase, from $4,000 to $44,000, a flood insurance premium told by the tampa bay times, it is not only ridiculous, it is stunning to the point that people can't believe that something is facing them in their personal lives with their homes that could be so easily taken care of if we
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could get the approvals to get the legislation that we already have 60 votes or more for. they just can't believe that people are opposing bringing up this legislation to fix something that is so obviously in need of fixing. ms. landrieu: i thank the senator from florida. i'd like to ask unanimous consent if we want to extend our colloquy, but i think i'm going to just wrap up with a few remarks for about five minutes. i see the senator from texas on the floor, and he may want to speak. but let me just put a couple of, i think, really startling facts -- thank you, senator -- in the record. there are over 450 counties, parishes and boroughs located directly on open ocean, the great lakes, major estuaries or
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on coastal floodplains. we will know from our geography that there are over 3,000, to be exact 3,144 counties, parishes in our case, boroughs in some, in the country. but this is the important fact here. in 2010, these coastal counties contributed more than 8.3 trillion, which is 55% of the national economy. and i want to underscore that and highlight it just for the importance of this. 3,100 counties, but there is a subset of those counties which are mostly affected by this particular issue: flood control and flood protection that produce 55% of the g.d.p. for this country. so, yes, this is a homeowners issue.
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it's a middle-class issue. it's a they're suffering, let's relieve the pain. but it's also a "we better wake up and realize the economic impact that this is going to have on the entire country if this is not fixed." this is not about millionaires on a beach. it's about the future of the economic strength of america. and i cannot be more emphatic about that. and it is not overstating our challenge. this is not about millionaires. it's about the middle class. it's about the middle class who need affordable insurance so that they can live where they need to work. let me say that. live where they need to work. not rest where they need to vacation. there is a big myth here that
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flood insurance is about resting on vacation. flood insurance is about working hard where you need to work to keep this economy moving forward. nothing could be more clear than in the state of louisiana, but this is true in texas, this is true in new jersey. this is true in many places; in california, in our country. people live near the water to harvest seafood, to produce domestic energy, to manufacture and transport the goods necessary to keep this economy moving. if you shut down these communities because of a capricious law like this that was not well thought through, that was not fully debated the way that it should have throughout this congress, you're jeopardizing not only the dreams of these particular homeowners and business owners but --
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you're going to hear this from me -- you're jeopardizing the future of the economy in the united states. now, we cannot let this get any further than it has gone, or you will start feeling the ramifications. again, this is not flood insurance for people resting on vacation. this is flood insurance for people working every day because they need to work where they live to do the jobs that our economy requires. and so this graph up here -- i showed this flood map graph just a few minutes ago, which is where all the flood maps are going to be. no state is exempt, not one. blustered in some areas more than others, but not one state exempt. edz up to oregon, washington, california, pennsylvania, michigan, of course the east coast, the gulf coast and everywhere in between, but this is where levees are. i know a lot about levees.
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unfortunately, i have to know a lot about them because we have got a lot of them and they break too often and breach too often, and i'm trying to figure out ways to build them higher and better with nickels and dimes and trying to piece it together. i was surprised that there are so many levees in other parts of the country that i was not aware of. and so this is a big issue. flood protection, particularly with our sea levels rising, the weather patterns getting more erratic, flash floods happening in deserts. colorado, look here. this is not even around an ocean. how could you have millionaires on a beach when there is no beach? i mean, there are millionaires in colorado, but there is no ocean. so this visual that some critics have painted is so wrong, it's so distorted. but what colorado does have -- and look at arizona. they have these flash floods,
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these important flood controls for people even that live in dry parts of our country. so i have to just say that we just have to fix this, and the great news is we have a bill that is broadly supported, both republicans and democrats. i'm sorry that there is seemingly one objection from the other side. the republican senator from idaho, many colleagues are talking with him about lifting his objections. if he's got suggestions for amendments, we are flexible. we are open to hear any reasonable suggestions. but we have got more than 60 votes, and around here, in the old days when you had 60 votes, you could do a lot. but unfortunately, there are some people that think that you have got to have 100 votes to do anything, and that's a big problem. it's a big problem for our democracy because that's not the way it was structured to be. however, we're going to continue to work.
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i thank the coalition, and i just want to read one -- a couple of things into the record, and i will turn the floor over in a minute. i have been on my web site and i have encouraged senators to have my home, my story. there are literally hundreds every day that come into my office with a picture of the house and their individual stories, and i think it's worth reading one or two into this record just briefly. this is from the new orleans area where there are 303, -- 303,000 policies. this particular is from jefferson parish which has the most insurance policies, which is the suburb of new orleans than any parish in our state. richard writes -- "my wife and i purchased this as our first and so far only house in the fall of 1997. we put down roots, befriended
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our neighbors, hosted family gatherings, celebrated the birth of our daughter. if the rate increases we're hearing about go forward, you will have succeeded in doing what katrina didn't -- break the back of southeast louisiana. homes will be unsellable, businesses will be shut, banks will fail from the doubtless tens of thousands of defaults that will occur as people simply walk away from their now-worthless homes." i don't know how clearer we could be, and this is not an exaggeration. the data shows it, the coalition has proved it. we are building tremendous support, and i can only hope that we vote as soon as possible within the first week of coming back. wendy of metterie, another person of jefferson parish -- "i built my house three feet above the required flood elevation in
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1998. now the elimination of the grandfather clause, i will be paying $28,000 a year for flood insurance. why should we be penalized for building our houses in compliance with the law?" now, that is a very good question, and i don't have an answer for her other than to say we hear you and we're changing the law. it was poorly designed and it can be fixed and it should be fixed. and finally, let me just give from baton rouge, which is our capital city now because so many people were literally flooded out of the new orleans, southeastern part of our state. baton rouge is now the largest city, almost 500,000 people. ken writes -- "my wife and i live on social security and a small annuity from my work." we have lived in this house for
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37 years. all of our bills take almost of the income. we constantly look at our finances to see if there is anything we can cut or reduce. any increase in flood insurance may be an increase to my house beyond our capacity to pay for it." brian of baton rouge -- "my house was built in 1969, before there were flood maps. i accepted a job in tennessee, thought my house would sell. i have a neighbor that wants to buy my house. they have withdrawn their offer since they found out how much flood insurance will be. flood insurance rates hike on the single property affects three families -- my family, the family i want to buy from and the family that wants to buy my house." i want to underscore this and i will end with this. i want people to get a picture of the five million people caught in this web. think well, we have a lot of people in america, 350 million.
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this is five million. let's say two per house. that's only ten million. this is a very small number compared to 350 million. maybe we don't need to pay attention to those 10 million people. but every home has a buyer and a seller, and most every home has a bank. most every home has a worker or two or sometimes three in that house. it's affecting so many businesses. if this gentleman can't get his finances straight, he will leave his job in tennessee. the business in tennessee that's not anywhere near an ocean will be affected by that. madam president, i know i sound a little bit like a broken record here and i don't mean to, but this is serious for the whole country. so i want to end by thanking harry reid for understanding this, for hearing us amidst all of the yelling and screaming that's going on around here about this and that. he has been able to focus and understand that this is an
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important bill for the country, and he has agreed to use his power, which he has only. only the leader has this power to pull a bill from the calendar, and he has promised us that he will do that the first week he gets back, and it's our job to deliver the 60 votes to pass it. if we don't get 60 votes, the bill will fail and it will be a terrible shame. but i don't think this bill will fail because i know how important this issue is for every single member of this -- of this senate. and i know they are hearing from their middle-class homeowners and lower income homeowners and businesses and bankers and realtors, and all i can say is we will just have to work over the holidays. unfortunately, we would like to rest, but no rest for the weary here, and we're going to have to work hard to convince as many people so we have this vote successfully when we get back. i'm going to submit the rest of my statement for the record. hundreds, hundreds of personal
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requests that i have received. i know senator vitter has received the same, and i thank him for his help on this as well. again, this was a democrat and republican working together to get the job done, and i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: madam president, as we all learned in civics class in high school, the purpose of the united states senate was to ensure that every state in the nation had at least two votes on important matters that might affect not only the country generally but also our states. some of us represent small states, and some of us represent large states. i'm privileged to represent one
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that has 26 million people in it, and we're growing by roughly a thousand or more people a day, moving to texas because that's where the jobs are. our economy is prospering relative to the rest of the country, because as i like to tell my friends in this chamber from time to time we still believe in the free enterprise system in texas and the private sector that creates jobs and opportunities where people can move and to pursue their american dream. but regardless of which party we come from or which part of the country we come from or who controls this chamber, the united states senate has historically recognized two fundamental rights. the right to debate legislation and the right to offer amendments to legislation. when those rights are denied, our constituents, particularly those of us who were serving in the minority, our constituents'
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rights are essentially severed. they lose their voice. they lose their opportunity to have their views represented in the amendment process, the shaping of legislation that could be improved and -- or not. but we know that the -- when the minority's voice is quashed, as this majority leader has done time and time again, then when minority rights are trampled, that the senate becomes a very different place indeed. we become a place where mistakes get made, where purely partisan legislation is passed. the most obvious current example is obamacare which was jammed through this body on a party-line vote in the house and in the senate. and you know what? people are finding out that if you like what you have, you can't keep it.
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families of four won't see their premiums go down by $2,500. that's the kind of thing that happens when the majority succumbs to the temptation to jam things through without giving the back-and-forth opportunity, the deliberation that national legislation, legislation that will affect all 300-plus million americans should have. but when the majority leader denies those rights and those opportunities for those sort of checks and balances and the natural correction that comes from building consensus in the senate and instead resorts to a partisan power play, mistakes get made and people get hurt. since the majority leader has taken that role, senator reid, the senior senator from nevada, he has filled the amendment tree more than 70 times. now, for those who get bored at the concept of senate procedure and how the senate's rules
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actually work, let me just say that what that means is effectively the majority leader has denied the opportunity to offer any amendments to legislation by -- quote -- filling the amendment tree. that's the way he actually accomplishes that. by comparison to this majority leader who has done it more than 70 times since he has been majority leader, the previous majority leader, senator bill frist of tennessee did it 12 times in four years. before him, majority leader tom daschle only did it once in a year and a half. majority leader trent lott of mississippi did it ten times in his five-year tenure as majority leader of the united states senate. majority leader george mitchell did it only three times in six years, and majority leader robert c. byrd did it only three times in two years.
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in other words, this used to be an extraordinarily rare use of the tool that the majority leader has to block amendments to legislation. by the way, majority leader bob dole did it seven times in three and a half years, about once every six months. by contrast, majority leader reid has done it 70 times, 70 times. and what recourse does the minority have when they are blocked out of the legislative process on the senate floor? well, the only tool we have available to us is to block cloture because it still takes 41 votes -- excuse me, it takes 60 votes to get to a final passage of legislation. but when the minority exercises its rights, then we're called obstructionists. because the majority leader has blocked any amendments and
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denied us an opportunity to have a voice and shape legislation, and the only recourse we have is to say 41 republicans stick together and block the legislation, hopefully to set up a negotiation. but what happens more often than not, it's a political posturing exercise, and the majority leader will just pull the bill down and rail against the minority as obstructionists. well, this is a manufactured crisis. this place did not always work the way it does now. last month this resulted in an unprecedented power grab by our friends across the aisle when they violated the senate rules in order to further weaken the rights of the minority and to help president obama turn the second most important court in the nation into a liberal rubber stamp. and i'm talking about the d.c. circuit court of appeals, tpho
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tpho -- not withstanding the fact that this court has the lightest caseload of any of the intermediate courts in the nation. it literally doesn't have enough work to do. while there are other judicial emergencies both at the district court and at the appeals court level that need additional judges, because this court is the one that reviews many of the administrative regulations issued by the department of labor, the environmental protection agency, they are the ones that will do the review of obamacare regulations or dodd-frank regulations, the president and his allies saw this as an essential way to stack the court in a way that will rubber stamp his agenda. and so what happened is the majority leader decided to further erode or basically deny the minority any right in the process for executive
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nominations and judicial nominations and said, you know what, with 51 democratic votes we can do anything we want. anything when it comes to nominations. well, by using the so-called nuclear option, as it's been called, the majority leader and his allies went against the advice of some pretty wise members who have been in the senate for a long time. and i'm thinking particularly about the senator from michigan, senator levin, who served for six terms in the united states senate and who is going to be retiring at the end of this next term. prior to that vote, senator levin warned his fellow democrats not to take up the nuclear option, but leave it on the table and to walk away. because he said pursuing the nuclear option in this manner removes an important check of
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majority overreach which is central to our system of government. it's the checks and balances that are so important that senator levin was talking about. well, i know most people get bored at talking about the processes by which things happen here or don't happen or the senate rules. but they happen to be pretty important to our democracy and demonstrating respect for minority rights. and you know what? when minority rights aren't respected, we make some pretty bad mistakes. and i'm thinking about two of them right now. we're currently debating the defense authorization bill, which is a very important piece of legislation because this is the authorization given to our national security agencies, particularly the department of defense, to be able to function, to be able to keep our country safe. and yet, once again, the
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majority leader is refusing any amendments to this underlying piece of legislation, including an amendment which would address the military pension cuts that were part of the recent budget agreement that passed yesterday. you know, it was amazing to hear the mock horror of people in this chamber when they found out that our military, active-duty military were being discriminated against and punished by the budget agreement that was passed yesterday to the tune of roughly $6 billion over ten years. in other words, among everybody else in the federal government, they were singled out for worse treatment and they were not grandfathered in to the pension reforms that were part of this deal for other federal
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government officials, other federal employees. this is one of the things that happens when things get jammed through. mistakes are made and people get hurt. in this instance, the people who happened to get hurt are those who wear the uniform of the united states military and have served with great hardship in places like afghanistan and iraq, some of whom have suffered the wounds of war, lost a leg, lost an arm, suffered traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress syndrome. what is the majority leader's answer to our attempt to fix that mistake in that legislation? you're out of luck. not just those of us who are trying to fix it. he's telling those wounded warriors, you're out of luck. so when power plays get -- take place in the united states
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senate, when minority rights are denied and an opportunity to amend and improve and fix mistakes in legislation is denied because of this power play by the majority leader and the majority party that supports him, people get hurt. these pension cuts will impact veterans across the country. as i said, they'll even impact combat-wounded veterans who have been medically retired, a provision that my colleague from washington state, the senate budget committee chair, she called it a technical error. well, as i said, not surprisingly members of both parties have come to the floor since this was highlighted and they called either for resinged those cuts -- rescinding those cuts to the pension benefits of our active duty members or those who have been medically retired
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or they have proposed to come up with alternative measures to reduce the deficit by a commensurate amount. at the very least, the military retirees who have already sacrificed so much for our country should have been exempted. well, they weren't. i'm encouraged that there has been some talk across the aisle about acknowledging the problem and the mistake. yet, instead of taking action today or yesterday when we passed the budget deal, that discriminated against our active duty military, they were told just wait until next month. we'll take care of it then. it reminds me why the most feared words in the english language are sometimes said to
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be, don't worry, we're from the government, we're here to help. well, these wounded warriors, they need more than our rhetoric . they need our action. and they are the ones that are being punished by the strong-arm tactics of the majority leader and the majority party. why should they have to wait? we know things don't always happen on schedule around here. there's time, as the world knows it thrapbd's senate too -- as the world knows it and there's senate time. and those are very different. shouldn't we do everything possible now, today, to make sure these folks have peace of mind, particularly during this season of the year. if it was a technical error to include military retirees in the pension cuts why are we not fixing the problem today?
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well, there's no good reason. there's zero good reason. and these kind of strong-arm tactics need to be called out because while some people may think these are technical rules of the senate and they're bored by them, the press doesn't want to write any stories about them, what i'm here to say is people get hurt by hyperpartisanship and strong-arm tactics in the united states senate. people get hurt. well, let me tell you about some other folks that are being shown disrespect as a result of the strong-arm tactics by the majority leader. i've introduced legislation that would allow for medals to be awarded to members of the armed
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services and civilian employees of the department of defense who were killed or wounded in an attack perpetrated by a homegrown violent extremist who was inspired and motivated by a foreign terrorist organization. and of course what i'm talking about is what happened four years ago at fort hood texas when major nidal hasan who had become radicalized by a muslim cleric who the president subsequently put on his kill list and who was killed with a drone attack in yemen, anwar alawaki, nidal had communicated with him over the years by e-mail and had shown increasing tendencies to blame the united states for what was happening in the middle east and basically
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ended up declaring war against his own country even while wearing uniform of the united states army. well, he killed 12 people in fort hood, texas, killeen, texas, while standing up and yelling allah akbar, a cry often used by suicide bombers and other terrorists in the middle east and elsewhere. clearly this was not a case of workplace violence. that's what the government called it. workplace violence. this was a terrorist attack, pure and simple. no more, no less than what happened that killed 3,000 americans on september 11, 2001. now you know what the united states government did in 2001, quite appropriately, in my view? the secretary of defense
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exercised his discretion to award purple hearts and the appropriate and commensurate benefits that go along with being casualties of war. that was war being declared against the united states. and the united states congress issued an authorization for the use of military force recognizing it as a act of war. but when i tried to offer this amendment to recognize the loss of life in the line of duty of 11 military members and a department of defense contractor being awarded the medal for the defense of freedom, which is the civilian equivalent to a purple heart, when we sought to make sure that the 30 other people
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who were shot but who survived, but would be recognized and also given the appropriate benefits, what's the response of the majority leader of the united states senate? well, it's about the same as it was for those military pensioners, the people who are wearing the uniform today and who are hoping to accrue a retirement they can live on when they leave the military service. the majority leader's response to both the victims at fort hood and to active duty military with regard to their pensions that are now being cut back as a result of the vote yesterday, the response is exactly the same thing. tough luck. tough luck. i don't care.
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madam president, as i said earlier, while people may not care about the senate rules and the traditions of the senate, while they may not recognize this power grab that resulted in an unprecedented trampling of minority rights in the united states senate, when these sort of partisan power grabs happen, people get hurt. again, the one that most people feel today is the broken promises of obamacare which passed on a party-line vote in the united states congress. mistakes get made. people get hurt. but today the people who are getting hurt the worst are the people we ought to be most concerned about, and those are those who lost their lives in the line of duty in the war on terror, those who have been injured and survived those
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wounds, and those who keep us safe by fighting our nation's wars. those are the people being hurt today. so, madam president, i will support the underlying defense authorization bill, but i did vote against closing off debate yesterday. because i felt like the denial of the opportunity to offer amendments and the opportunity to vote on important corrections to the bill that i skraeubd here a moment -- that i described here a moment ago was a terrible mistake, but those cries for rationality and reason were simply ignored. so i will vote for the underlying defense authorization bill because it does contain some good work, but i'm absolutely outraged on behalf of the people i represent in my state, some of whom i have described by the majority
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leader's refusal to allow consideration of any amendments to the bill and its blatant disregard for the rights of my constituents. i just want to close by reminding the majority leader what he said himself, words out of his own mouth seven years ago, shortly before his party took control of the chamber, and it's amazing to me to see how people change around here when they get in the majority, and sometimes they forget that you will not always be in the majority. i have been here in the majority, i have been here in the minority. can i tell you i enjoyed being in the majority more. but we need to respect minority rights in the united states senate because eventually if you serve here long enough, you will find yourself in the minority, and what goes around comes around. but here's what the majority
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leader said before his party took control of this chamber. he said -- "as majority leader, i intend to run the senate with respect for the rules and for minority rights the rules protect." the senate was established to make sure that minorities are protected. majorities can always protect themselves, but minorities cannot. that's what the senate is all about. back in 2006, i found those words inexpiring. today, they are a bad joke. madam president, i yield the floor.
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: madam president, i ask unanimous consent the senate recess from 12. a 45:00 p.m. until 2:15 p.m., that the time in recess count postcloture. further, that the time until 2:15 p.m. until 2:35 p.m. be controlled by the majority leader or his designee, the time from 2:35 p.m. until 3:15 p.m. be controlled by the republican leader or his designee. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: thank you, madam president. my voice is a little weaker than usual, thanks to a winter cold, but i come to the floor today nevertheless because there is an issue on which it is important not to remain silent, and that
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is just a few days from today, more than a million people across america are going to lose their unemployment benefits. those benefits are a bridge to the next job. those benefits are a foundation for a family during a rough time while searching for that next job. those benefits ensure that the stability of the family, provides a solid foundation for the children during those weeks and months. but instead of maintaining this important bridge for more than a million american families, we are going to allow it to be dismantled on december this year, three days after christmas. i'm going to put up a chart.
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this chart gives a little bit of a feeling for how unemployment is working. we have the total number of those searching for work in oregon who cannot find a job and we can see how it rose dramatically in 2008 when the economy collapsed and how it's gradually improved, and yet unemployment remains quite high in oregon. not as high as it was but still quite high and it remains quite high across this nation. so we have a structure in place so every state provides 26 weeks of unemployment and then depending upon the unemployment level in different states, states take advantage of a federal program for emergency unemployment, and that works a little bit like this.
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if your unemployment rate is below 6%, you would be eligible for 14 additional weeks of unemployment for families, so the total goes from 26 weeks to 40 weeks. if your unemployment rate is between 6% and 7%, the state is eligible for 28 weeks, for a total of 54 weeks, still less than a year of unemployment insurance. if it's between 7% to 9%, as it is in oregon, the total goes to 37 additional weeks, which means with the 26 underlying weeks with the state, 63 weeks. and if your unemployment is over 9%, then the amount is 10 weeks more, for a total of 73. now, on december 28, just days from today, there will be about
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17,000 oregonians who will be completely put off from their unemployment. not tapered, not fewer time. all those who have more than 26 weeks right now will instantly be cut off. so that's 17,000 families or at an average of three individuals per family, 50,000 oregonians who are going to get a big lump of coal from the republicans in this chamber in their stocking, because their argument is we shouldn't keep in place this program because those folks should just go out and get jobs. well, i would remind them this program was set up under a republican administration and it was set up to balance the fact
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that in states where jobs are more readily available, the number of weeks of provided unemployment assistance are fewer, and in states with higher level of unemployment where it's virtually impossible to find a job because there are so many applicants for any one job, that the number of unemployment weeks is greater. now, this was a bipartisan plan, and this plan was implemented when the national unemployment rate was 5.6%. the unemployment rate today is 7.3%. the bipartisan emergency unemployment program that provided more than 26 weeks was implemented when there were 137.3 million americans working. more americans who were working
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than today. so if what was good enough under a republican administration under bipartisan support, they created a careful balance between unemployment that is the challenge of getting a job and the bridge to the next job, if it worked then, why not now? why throw 17,000 families in oregon out in the cold? i hear silence in this chamber. i don't hear a reply why it is justified to terminate this program when unemployment is still high. now, my colleagues here, some, they want to keep all the special tax breaks for the oil companies and all the special tax breaks for the coal
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companies, but what do they want to give to the families who were looking for work in high unemployment areas where it's virtually impossible to find a job? they want to give them a lump of coal. it is just wrong. moreover, not only does this program help those families directly, but it helps the entire economy improve gradually, because those benefits are immediately spent by these families. these benefits help families get through a hard time. they help them pay the mortgage, which solidifies not just this family but by preventing a foreclosure solidifies the
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street and the community from the impact of foreclosures, of empty homes. it helps the family between getting to the next job and ending up homeless. so i call upon my colleagues to come to this chamber and pass immediately the extension of this carefully balanced program that not only directly benefits families that are doing the hard work of finding the next job but provides a sal i.d. foundation for our economy. this is no time to try to deflate our economy and throw more people out of work, but that's what happens when you cut this program. so i encourage my colleagues to
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think carefully about that fact that this program was neither a amendment program nor a republican program. think carefully about the fact that it was developed during a republican administration, that it was designed to carefully pull itself back in as employment improved, but what isn't right is for it to be cut off completely at this period of ongoing high unemployment. and i can tell you while the average in oregon is between 7% and 8% of unemployment, we have communities with far greater than 10% or 12% unemployment. so many families, they are wanting that next job. there is nothing better than a job in terms of any type of
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social program. it creates a sense of self-worth, it creates a sense of structure, it creates a sense of satisfaction. the families in oregon want jobs and they are applying but there are not enough jobs to go around. which brings me to my next point. this chamber should, in fact, be considering program after program to invest in infrastructure and invest in manufacturing to create jobs, but there are those here who have sought to paralyze this chamber in every possible way to prevent any improvements in terms of trying to sustain partisan campaign warfare rather than problem solving. this is simply an abdication of responsibilities as a u.s. senator. the responsibility is to be here, working hard to solve the problems for families across this nation, not continuing the
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partisan politics of the last campaign. the american people see this partisan campaigning, and they don't like it. they want to see problem solving. they want to see us coming together to fix things. now, a few moments ago, a colleague from texas was on this floor and he was saying some things that were extraordinarily misleading. he said basically that all of the paralyzing strategies that his party has employed stem from a lack of amendments. well, we have seen those paralyzing tactics in every possible responsibility that this body has. we have seen them on executive
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nominees. there are no amendments on executive nominees. you either approve them or you don't. we have seen this paralyzing strategy on judicial nominees, but there is no tree. the tree he referred to, the amendment tree on judicial nominees. we have seen this on conference committees, unparalleled blockade of letting the house and senate meet together to resolve differences in their bills. the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. mr. merkley: thank you very much, madam president. i know we are closing down this body, according to the unanimous consent agreement. and i thank very much the opportunity to address this important issue about the fact that it is wrong to put lumps of coal in the stockings of working americans rather than extending the emergency unemployment insurance provisions. and with that, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the
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senate stands in recess until senate stands in recess until
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>> everybody thought they knew are much. and they did pretty much because she laid her life out for everybody to see. she told us about what life was like in suburbia for women in the 1960s through the 1990s, and one of the wonderful things about her, she wrote mainly humor, and it was humor that was accessible to everyone. because it was humor that happened in everybody's lives, but it might not recognize it until they saw it written on the page or in the newspaper column.
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because funny things happen to us all the time that we have to be out on the look out for them, and she was the one that focused our attention on the funny things that happen in a family, things that at the moment seem like craziness and driving you nuts. but when you look back at them you think that was really funny. is a real gift. that's a literary gift. >> the life and times of erma bombeck this weekend as booktv and american history tv look at the history and literary life of dayton, ohio. saturday at noon on c-span2 in sunday at 5 p.m. on c-span3. >> you are watching c-span2 with politics and public affairs. weekdays featuring live coverage of the u.s. senate. on weeknights watch key public policy events. and we can do latest nonfiction authors and books on booktv. you can see past programs and get our schedules at our website and you can join in the conversation on social media
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sites. >> u.s. senate back at 2:15 eastern. we will have a live here on c-span2. a conversation this week from politico's political breakfast with afl-cio president richard trumka. [applause] >> good morning, thank you all for being here, the last playbook breakfast of the year. fantastic year. we have at the convention here in d.c. up in new york. welcome to all of you in live stream land. want to involve you in the conversation but i have my twitter make -- machine here, and if you tweak your questions #playbookbreakfast it will pop up right here and i will ask our guest. people get started i like to thank the bank of america for making the conversations possible. like a year a dozen playbook breakfast and we really appreciate their support of
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these conversations and we are excited to kick off in january. now for the last playbook breakfast of your we are honored to have with the somebody who started working in the coal mines in pennsylvania for $2.96 in our when he was 18. now he is president of the afl-cio, president richard trumka. mr. president. [applause] >> thank you so much for coming in. thank you for being here for our last playbook breakfast it would really appreciate it. what does a temperaments help reduce? >> normally underground should put up with supports that are -- you put crossbars across and we had to put those up as you advance the mining system. we would put those up. that timmerman, as i told you,
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made a half decent hour more than i did i was a helper spent an amazing story. when we first reached out to you for this playbook breakfast, you weren't in town. you were dear hunting. how did you do? >> did well. it was a tough season. we hunted hard and ended up taking a couple of nice box. >> one was really nice spent yes, a 10-point. very nice. >> what i going to make with that? >> sausage, some jerky, some roast, some states, tenderloin, butterfly. >> you told me backstage that there is one meet that is a tastier than dear. >> elk. best meet in the world. >> you have taken a few elk in your time. >> i have. >> the big issue of our time, something we hear everyone from elizabeth warren to pope francis
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talking about, that is the increasing income inequality of the country. you represent 11 and a half million working men and women. what can you do to help? >> first of all there's a number of things that we can do. you have the wage stagnation that could be held if we restored the right in this country to collective bargaining to more people. if you look back over the years from 1946-1973, order to be in this country doubled and so did wages. and it is something about that point in time was the bottom to quartiles, wages are rising faster than the people at the top. during that period of time organized labor represent about 35-40% of the workforce so we were -- >> what is the feeding of? >> about 12. so we were driving wages in an entire in just. nonunion workers would get a raise because we negotiated wages.
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from 73 to date productivity is continued up but wages stagnated and the differences, the difference between those two figures, it's all gone to the top one or 2% because we represent as i said about 12% of the workforce. the other thing is he push for full employment. asphalt when it comes it will have a tug on wages, create more demand for the middle class, allow them to do purchasing and create more jobs. >> tell us what you mean by full employment. >> you're looking at 4%. that would be the goal to shoot for. >> what about all the people who are underemployed? like that's what i really, like it's been one of read the stories, people are either are trying to live on the kind of job today once would've thought they had right when they get out of school or people's ambitions have been curtailed. >> they are the underreported about people because they don't consider them unemployed but in
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all essence they are unemployed because they don't work 40 hours, they don't make enough wages. more and more and more, that's becoming young people, people under 30. or in more and more its women. so those two groups of americans are really taking the price for it. it's coming more of the trend rather than less of the trend. hard time -- part-time jobs. some people of two, three part-time jobs to try to get by. so they really should be focus on what the unemployment. we sort of ignore them because when we talk about the unemployment rate we don't talk about underemployed people, although we do in the labor movement. >> you have i think vice president biden use of the instruction -- the fingertip feel for labor issues. you get the bureaucratic side of the. working on a big building here in d.c. you talk to the hilt all the time but you're also politician. you would just be elected as
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president. what is the biggest story -- >> my grandfather would not be happy with that, you calling me a politician. >> or a bureaucrat. >> worse yet like president trumka, both of their grandfathers were coal miners. miners. >> correct. my dad, both of his brothers, most of my uncles and many of my cousins were all coal miners. we mined coal in southwest pennsylvania. >> your son became a lawyer. what happened to him? >> he saw the heirs of my way? no. you know, it was a different world. the mindset that time weren't hiring, and quite frankly like my dad i wanted to make sure he had a good education and had options open to them. had he chosen to go into the minds, or to go into an efficient program i would've been very, very proud and happy. he decided he wanted to go into law. he practices law. he's a litigation department of
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the law firm here, represents workers in some instances sticks about your const -- consolation? >> my consolation is whatever he does makes them happy would be okay by me. he can't live in my shadow and he can't do what i wanted to do. he has to do what he wants to do. i enlarge i can tell you he does what he thinks he wants to do. >> and has for sometime. >> yes, he he has. since about this big. >> he was born to be a litigator though, i can tell you that. he is a talker. >> i can tell you one great story. he was about two years old at the time, and he done something and i was about to discipline him. he stood with his hand on his hip, and he had this little fat fingers and he pointed at me and he goes, you can't scare me, i'm in the union. [laughter] i thought i'd gotten through at least. [laughter] >> a good way to escape your
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discipline. i got sidetracked. i was going to ask you, what is the biggest element or story of working conditions in this country are regular everyday americans beyond the beltway that the media miss? >> every day is really, really a challenge to just get by. because those without a job are struggling, and we just did a quote budget deal that didn't include an extension of ui. so you're going to -- >> that's the number one thing you want to talk about when you came out. that was the one thing they wanted you to talk about. why is that so important? >> because you have 123 million people who were going to have no benefits as of december 31. and in the first six months of 2014, another 1.9 million americans will be without any kind of income or support. these are long-term unemployed people, and it becomes more than
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just -- it's not about a campaign issue, quite frankly. it's about feeding them. and i can tell you this, when it comes to ui, when it comes to helping those workers, those unemployed workers, said the is not no one is going to be making a list this time of year. we are making our own list as well to make sure that they don't get left behind. look what happens. they get left behind, we lose gdp. we lose jobs, we lose buying power, everybody ultimately suffers. these are not people who are lazy. these are people who have bad luck, their plants shut down, they were laid off or whatever and they don't have an opportunity to go back to work. we really want them to make sure they do. but your question is, what's out there? so they challenge us. people without a job are struggling to find a job. those with a job are worried about losing a job or losing
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benefits. those that are a little older are struggling and figure out how are going to get by in retirement, because the 401(k) generation has sure been a colossal bust for most americans. it's been great for investment bankers on wall street but it hasn't done so well -- >> what's the number one thing the media, speaking broadly, print, television what's the number one thing that we could do to better cover allies and realities of working people? >> talk about stagnant wages, ma talk about inequality in the real since -- >> those are i distract. >> no, when you the real faces to them. you talk about somebody who struggle. talk about a 55 year-old man who just got laid off and doesn't know where he's going to go. talk about a 22 year-old woman that came out of school at the top of her class and can't find a job in her chosen field. but showed those faces, and then
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talk about the policies that could make a difference. because if you talk to people up on the hill, they'll say yes, we have a big problem. and you say, okay, we have a wage stagnation problem, what are you going to do about it? that's when they get real abstract. you know, there's a number of policies that we could do. instead of talking about cutting social security, for instance, we got to be talking about expanding social security so that the under 30 generation doesn't hit a train wreck because they are the lowest percentage of them are employed right now, and their wages are lower than they've been in the past. past. >> how could the u.s. possibly afford to expand -- >> oh, that's nonsense. with the richest nation on the face of the earth, mike. how can we afford it? we can afford to do everything we decide to do. just make it a priority and we will be able to pay for it. look, deficits are the cause of


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