Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  January 14, 2014 10:00am-12:01pm EST

10:00 am
when they return at 2:30 a round of votes is scheduled including one on a democratic amendment to extend benefits through november. a group of republican senators offered a similar proposal but currently extends benefits only three months rather than 11 months democrats are seeking. live now to the u.s. senate on c-span2. . the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal spirit, today teach our lawmakers to do things your way, embracing your precepts and walking in your path. remind them that the narrow and
10:01 am
difficult road less traveled leads to life and few find it. as our senators receive guidance from you and follow your leading, replace anxiety with calm, confusion with clarity, and despair with hope. may your peace become the hallmark of your labors as you keep them focused on the priorities that reflect your kingdom. we pray in your wonderful name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the
10:02 am
pledge of allegiance. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the president pro tempore: the majority leader. mr. reid: i move to proceed to calendar number 266. the president pro tempore: the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 266, s. 1846 a bill to provide implementation of certain provisions of the biggert waters flood insurance act of 2012 and other purposes. mr. reid: so there is further discussion on the matter today, on our side we've cleared the bill.
10:03 am
we could complete it quickly and we're waiting to hear from the republicans. this is one of the bills that we need to do some amendments on this. we can do some amendments on it. so the point is i think we should try to get this done. we have been waiting for a long time to get this done. this is truly a bipartisan bill. as i explained to the republican leader yesterday, i've had a number of republicans come to me to see if there is a way this bill could be moved quickly. it's become a desperate situation with so many problems. construction has been in some areas brought to a halt. hopefully we'll work something out on this in the immediate future. mr. president, following leader remarks and those of the republican leader the senate will resume consideration of the
10:04 am
unemployment insurance stupbgs. the time until 12:30 will be divided. the senate will recess from 12:30 until 2:15 as we do every tuesday for our caucus meetings. at 2:30 there will be up to two roll call votes, first a cloture vote on the reed of rhode island substitute amendment. if cloture is not invoked there will be a srebgt cloture -- secd cloture vote on the underlying bill. mr. president, we've had some good discussions. and i'm going to, as i know the republican leader will discuss, if there is a way to move forward on unemployment insurance. i hope there is. at 2:30 today, after our caucuses, we'll come out and see if there is some agreement that we can -- consent agreement that we can present to the senate and move forward with the legislation. if that's possible, we're
10:05 am
certainly trying. mr. president, each day bloomberg releases a list of the 300 richest individuals in the world. the bloomberg billionaires index. the list includes 67 fortunate and fabulously wealthy americans, more than any other country in the world, we have 67 of the 300. last year the index added $524 billion in new wealth to their net worth. listen to that, mr. president. last year the billionaires index, these 67 people, added $524 billion of new wealth. not million. billion. $2 billion per person last year
10:06 am
mr. president, these 300 fortunate individuals flooded with their already flush coffers with another $2 billion each while millions of american families struggle to pay their rent. i don't begrudge these people at all that they are making a lot of money. their good fortune is something that speaks well of our country. we are truly a land of opportunity. but i do believe it's time for average americans to share in that prosperity, particularly as the economy recovers. mr. president, if this were just a quirk in the indexes of how rich people are, that would be one thing. but, mr. president, the last 30 years the same top 1%, their
10:07 am
incomes have increased and their wealth has increased triple while the middle class has gone down 10% in the same 30 years. it's time for average americans -- because i believe this so sincerely -- to share in that prosperity in some way, especially as the economy is now recovering. for most americans, hard work isn't paying off the way it does for the top 1%. and for many, it's been impossible to even find steady full-time work since the recession began. that's why we must not abandon the 1.4 million americans who are out there struggling. unemployed people who have been cut off from these crucial benefits now for the last two weeks, and they are looking forward to maybe being cut off
10:08 am
forever. this small stipend averaging $300 a week has helped them keep food on the tables and literally a roof over their heads as they look from work. i read here on the floor, someone from nevada, a woman who said she doesn't know where she's going to go, what she's going to do. she, as many people, have looked for work so very, very hard. part of the unemployment compensation, you have to be fired or laid off through no fault of your own and then you have to look for work every week. americans want to go back to work. they don't want to set a bad example for their kids. they don't want to live off the system, whatever that means. but there's still only one job for every three people searching all over america. some places worse than others.
10:09 am
a nevada man wrote to me, he's one of the almost 20,000 nevadans who lost unemployment benefits last month. he wrote to me and said he applied for 700 jobs in the last month. not 70, not 7. 700. and he's been able to get a dozen interviews. still can't find work. he hasn't given up hope, hasn't given up hope of finding a good-paying job and that congress will restore emergency unemployment benefits until he does find a job. neither have the 200 nevada veterans who attended a job fair last week that i put on. it was held in nevada over the weekend. it's shameful tens of thousands of veterans of the armed forces lost their unemployment benefits last year. hardworking americans won't give up the search until they find a job.
10:10 am
i hope senators consider the stories of these brave individuals as they continue to seek a compromise here in this body to restore emergency unemployment benefits to 1.4 million americans. mr. president, this says it all. 67 of the richest people in the world live in america, and they got a $2 billion tip last year. the 1.4 million americans, they lost $300 on average per week. that's not fair. this is america, land of opportunity. people who work hard are supposed to be rewarded. not during the last 30 years; the middle class has lost 10% of their income. and this doesn't take into consideration the poor, mr. president. there's more poor than ever in america.
10:11 am
the middle class, we know, is being squeezed out of existence. it's really -- the time is for us to take care of these people, these people who are desperate for help. that's what the government is all about. i don't -- i don't -- i feel, looking back at my own life, government's been good, good for the people that live in my little town of searchlight. there are lots of people. it's a town mostly of old people, mr. president. many of them get military pensions -- i'm sorry. they get pensions from where they work. they get social security. government has done so many good things. let's not denigrate government. this is a time when people have no opportunity. they need government help. they are desperate. one job -- all they want is one job, but they know that there's
10:12 am
a vacancy over here, there will be scores -- we've seen in the news accounts, job opportunities, thousands of people show up sometimes. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: on the unemployment insurance bill, there have been productive conversations between the majority leader and several members on this side, republicans have offered numerous commonsense proposals to get to a conclusion here. ideally, we have spent the past week voting on those proposals so there's really no good reason for us to be in the position that we're in right now.
10:13 am
and let me just underscore some of the things on my side that we'd like to see in the final product. first, the senate should actually be paying for whatever it passes and not with spending cuts 11 years from now that we know aren't going to happen. it's also reasonable to expect practical progrowth job-creation measures so we can actually get people back to work. and for a solution to be reasonable, it should also respect the right of our constituents to be heard on this issue through a more open amendment process. we've got to get away from an attitude that essentially says that the views of half the american people don't matter here in the senate. and these days it's gotten even worse than that. ideas on both sides are often completely ignored. that's just not how the senate is supposed to work.
10:14 am
and so we've got an opportunity to begin to start fixing the problem on the bill that's before us. it's the right thing to do. i'm hopeful common sense will prevail. now, mr. president, on another matter, i've spoken often on the floor about the challenges and opportunities for the future that the people of eastern kentucky and rural parts of the commonwealth face. many of these challenges stem from this administration's regulatory overreach, whether it's a war on coal, obamacare, or dodd-frank. too many people are out of work which has place add drastic burden on the coal mining industry and harshly, harshly cut the number of jobs available in the coal mining industry and related industries. in spite of the challenges the people of eastern kentucky face, i have great confidence that we can overcome them and succeed. i was pleased to be able to
10:15 am
assist the kentucky highlands investment corporation in receiving a promise zone designation which was awarded just last week. that's why i wrote the administration in support of this designation last year. this economic initiative is just one way to help jump-start the region's journey out of economic distress. but we need more than that. my friend and colleague in the other chamber, representative hal rogers, is leading an effort to identify ways to lead appalachia out of the cycle of poverty and unemployment through the "soar" initiative and i applaud his efforts. to offer yet another possibility for eastern kentucky, my friend and colleague, senator rand paul, and i introduced the economic freedom zones act to further enable eastern kentucky to lift the burdens of some of the poorest families in the country. our legislation would roll back government regulations and tax
10:16 am
barriers to spur job creation and reform failed educational systems to aid disadvantaged children. so continuing my efforts to find ways to assist these rural counties and to give these communities a voice, i'm pleased to introduce today, along with senator paul, the helping expand lending practices in rural communities act, or simply the help rural communities act. my friend and colleague over in the house, representative andy barr, introduced this legislation in that body and i applaud his efforts to see it pass. the help rural communities act would give rural counties in kentucky a voice when the consumer financial protection bureau, or cfpb, has incorrectly labeled them as -- quote -- "nonrural," just another example of this administration's one-size-fits-all, we-know-best approach to governing. several counties in kentucky,
10:17 am
such as baath county, has been labeled as nonrural and are, therefore, barred from certain rural lending practices that are helpful to farmers and to small businesses. if you've ever been to these counties, as i have, you would most certainly disagree with the cfpb's ruling. but current law provides literally no opportunity to challenge the cfpb's decision. my bill would allow counties that have been improperly designated as "nonrural" to petition the cfpb with additional local information to reconsider their status in order to ensure that rural communities such as those in eastern kentucky have the access to credit that they need to grow their economy. this is an important step in an effort to renew hope for the future in rural kentucky, especially eastern kentucky. given the bipartisan interest shown in recent weeks to get government out of the way and let people of the region work, congress and the president can come together to pass this
10:18 am
legislation on behalf of eastern kentuckians and rural communities. so i look forward to working with my colleagues, representative paul, and representative -- representative barr and senator paul to see that we get this passed. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of s. 1845, which the clerk will report. the senator from vermont. oh, excuse me. the clerk has to report first. the clerk: calendar number 265, s. 1845, a bill to provide for the extension of certain unemployment benefits and for other purposes. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 12:30 p.m. will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. with the majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the republicans controlling the second 30 minutes. now the senator from vermont.
10:19 am
mr. leahy: mr. president, first i should note i'm pleased to see the acting president pro tempo tempore. it was a pleasure to serve -- to share the podium with him today. i would ask unanimous consent that upon the completion of my remarks that the chair recognize the senior senator from illinois, mr. durbin. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: mr. president, after many long days and nights of party negotiations across a dozen subcommittees over the past month, on sunday night the appropriations committee completed work on the fiscal year 2014 consolidated appropriations act. i want to commend chairwoman mikulski, without whom this would not have been possible. it was, above all, her relentless pursuit of this goal and her unmatched ability to rally her subcommittee troops to get us to this point. but also i'd note that she was helped by some of the most
10:20 am
hardworking members of the senate staff that one can imagine. i'd especially like to commend tim reecer of my staff and others who worked with him. again, keep track of the number of times i was getting calls or e-mails at midnight or 1:00 a.m. from tim on this as we worked through all the difficult parts. but it helped that we had the cooperation of my friend from alabama, senator shelby, the committee's ranking member, who knew how important it was to pass appropriations bills rather than put the government on autopilot. so this means there will be no sequester in fiscal year 2014. there will not be another disastrous government shutdown. you know, this government shutdown some tout, "look what we've done." what you did was you cost the taxpayer some $24 billion and private industry tens of billions of dollars more.
10:21 am
but also as chairman of the department of state and foreign operations subcommittee, i want to thank senator lindsey graham, who brings a level of energy and knowledge to our subcommittee that few could match. and he and i agree an awful lot more than we disagree. i value his support. let me mention a few things in our bill. for the first -- the big picture. the department of state and foreign operations, the bill provides $49 billion in discretionary budget authority to protect a wide array of united states security, humanitarian and economic interests around the world. this total was $2.2 billion below the fiscal year 2013 enacted post-sequester level. now, $6.5 billion is for overseas contingency operations in afghanistan, pakistan and iraq. other areas in political transition, including the middle east and north africa, and to
10:22 am
respond to humanitarian emergencies, particularly in syria, the middle east and central africa. few question why these funds are important. look what's happening today in syria and lebanon and jordan and turkey. 2 million syrians have fled. in south sue darng the central african -- sudan, the central african republic, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced because of explosions of ethnic and tribal violence. bill provides significant increases in funding for refugees and humanitarian programs. it provides funding above the president's request for security at u.s. embassies and other diplomatic facilities. it fully funds our commitments to key allies like israel and jordan nomination darntion and substantially funds -- jordan, and substantially funds peacekeeping. and it fully funds the u.s. contribution to the global aids
10:23 am
fund. many senators care about global health for good reasons, hiv-aids, other infectious diseases threaten millions of americans who travel, live, study, serve in the armed forces overseas as well as here at home. many of the diseases we've worked to eradicate are only an airplane trip away from our own shores. and billions of people in the poorest countries, especially children, die or suffer from illnesses that can be easily prevented or treated, that we know our children or our grandchildren will be immunized from here in the united states but not available there. we provide a total of $6 billion, the highest amount in history, for programs to combat hiv-aids, including $1.65 billion for the global fund. we have historic levels to combat polio, malaria, tuberculosis and neglected
10:24 am
tropical diseases. we provide $175 million for the gavi alliance which provides lifesaving vaccines to children in the poorest countries. for egypt, which many have been asking about, the bill provides up to the amounts requested for fiscal year 2014, $250 million for economic aid, $1.3 billion for military aid. but -- and this seems to have been overlooked by many who have reported about this, so i hope they'll get it correct this time -- the military aid is only available to pay current defense contracts and the proceeds may not be delivered to egypt unless the secretary of state certifies there's a national referendum and the government has taken steps to support the democratic transition and there are democratic elections and a newly elected government is taking steps to govern democratically. these are the same commitments the government of egypt made to the egyptian people and contrary
10:25 am
to some highly inaccurate press reports, there is no waiver if the egyptian government reneges on these commitments. these are the toughest conditions the congress has ever imposed on aid to the egyptian military. without trying to spell it out in case any of the press are listening so we can make sure they have it correct. we want to see the restoration of democracy and respect for fundamental freedoms in egypt, including the rights of women, civil society and religious minorities. if the military continues its repressive tactics, arresting democracy activists, and does not hold free and fair elections, the certification will not be possible and u.s. aid will be cut off. the bill cuts aid for
10:26 am
afghanistan by 50% from the current level. it has become abundantly clear as u.s. troops withdraw the security environment is worsening. the reality coupled with a refusal of the karzai government to sign a bilateral security agreement and the widespread corruption in that government and the diminishing ability to monitor how our u.s. funds are spent compel a more targeted, sustainable approach. amounts requested for the clean technology fund, the strategic climate fund. there's some things i wish were not in here, particularly a house provision that would weaken limits on carbon emissions from projects financed by the export-import bank and the overseas private investment corporation. we should be using public funds to support exports of clean, renewable technology, not to fund projects that worsen global warming. and i'm also very disappointed
10:27 am
that a senate provision to bring the united states into compliance with the vienna convention on consular relations was rejected and refused by the house of representatives. by not including this provision, we jeopardize the essential rights of consular assistance for americans arrested in foreign countries and we also weaken the credibility we might have as claiming that we're a nation that respects the rule of law. and i point out, the next time some congressman has a person from their state or their district who's arrested overseas and they say, why weren't they given the ability to speak to our embassy immediately? ask them, well, why did you block our involvement and our compliance with the rules that allow for consular -- consular
10:28 am
assistance? you know, it puts us in a kind of an awkward position as the united states, saying we want -- we want consular assistance of americans who are arrested abroad but, i'm sorry, we can't do that for your country. you know, sometimes there's action which may make somebody feel good in the other body, doesn't really do much to help the united states. so i do appreciate, however, the way the house, particularly chairwoman granger and ranking member lowey and their staffs worked with me and senator graham and others. and i'd ask consent my full statement be placed in the record because i see my colleague and friend, the distinguished deputy majority leader, who allowed me to go ahead of him, waiting to speak. the presiding officer: without objection. the deputy majority leader. mr. durbin: mr. president, how much time is remaining? the presiding officer: about 20 minutes. mr. durbin: mr. president, i ask that i be given 10 minutes and i
10:29 am
believe senator schumer is coming to the floor. i ask he be given the remaining 10 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: thank you. mr. president, pending before the congress now is debate on unemployment benefits. 1.3 million americans got a notice january 1st that they were not going to receive anymore unemployment benefit checks. these are people out of work through no fault of their own, who are required under law to be actively pursuing additional employment and regularly reporting to the government. and for that they receive unemployment benefits of -- average of about $300 a week. $300 a week is not a generous amount in this day and age. it's very difficult for any family to get by. they're going to have to dip into their savings to make rent payments, utility payments, put gas in the car to go look for a job, pay for that telephone, cell telephone that you need in order to go looking for work. so we are now debating as to whether or not we should extend those unemployment benefits that were cut off on january 1st. i think we should.
10:30 am
historically we have. even with lower unemployment rates in the past, we have extended unemployment benefits. think about this for a second. the average person unemployed in america takes 38 weeks to find a job. shoufr, we're -- however we're cutting off unemployment benefits in 27 weeks in most places. people will have 10 or 11 weeks on average without any support. what happens to a family under those circumstances? awful things happen. they can't make their rent payments or their mortgage payments or the utility payments or their health payments and they find themselves facing, literally facing bankruptcy. losing a job is bad enough. making it worse by cutting off unemployment checks is unacceptable. so we're debating it. historically we have extended these unemployment benefits on an emergency basis which means we don't pay for them because we understand this is an unusual time in our economy when we need to give a helping hand.
10:31 am
we also understand the money that we give to these families is frequently spent immediately. they have to spend it to get by. and as they put money back in the economy it helps other people go to work. so it's a bit of an accelerant, a catalyst for more economic growth. it's good for the overall economy. however we've run into something new. the republican side of the aisle has now said if you want to give unemployment benefits to americans, you've got to pay for them. in other words, you have to cut spending in other areas to pay for them. listen to what the republicans have suggested we should do in order to provide unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people who were cut off january 1. mitch mcconnell, the senior senator from kentucky, came to the floor, the republican leader, and suggested last week that the way to pay for the unemployment benefits was to eliminate that section of the affordable care act which creates a personal responsibility for people to buy
10:32 am
their own health insurance and a tax to be paid if they don't. about $95 a person per year. he says eliminate that. well, the problem with eliminating it, you do raise some revenue, but on the other hand, you cut off the pool of uninsured people who are now buying insurance, and by doing this you eliminate the protection that we built into the law for every american family that has someone in the household with a preexisting condition. you can't say to insurance companies and others, cover everyone, even those with preexisting conditions, unless you expand the pool of people insured. senator mcconnell wants to cut that off. senator mcconnell's proposal would in fact eliminate this protection in our bill against discrimination because your child has asthma, your child has diabetes, your wife is a cancer survivor. that is the reality of insurance before this bill.
10:33 am
republicans believe eliminating that protection is the way to play for unemployment benefits. they would penalize 300 million americans and their families in order to take care of 1.3 million unemployed on a temporary basis. that's a terrible trade-off. then comes senator portman from ohio. he has a little different approach. he suggests that if you are disabled in america, judged disabled in america, you should never draw unemployment benefits. double dipping is what they call it. wait a minute, you're getting a government check that says you're disabled and you're getting another government check that says you're unemployed. what's wrong with this picture? i would invite him, and i'm sure the presiding officer, to the sheltered workshops in his state. if you have ever visited a sheltered workshop, here's what you will find and i found it in decatur, illinois. profoundly retarded and people with serious mental challenges were given a chance to work a
10:34 am
little bit. they can make only about $1,000 a month maximum. what kind of work do they get? much of it is very simple manual labor. in my state they make license plates at this facility in decatur. they told me the story about a person who was brought in here who had suffered from serious mental illnesses entire life and was nonfunctional. he just stood there. they brought him in and put him on the line with the license plates and they showed him a simple task. he blossomed. his life opened. he became a different person. he started accepting more and more responsibilities. it got to the point, they said, when there was a blizzard in decatur, illinois, and they closed the sheltered workshop, he wasn't going to miss a day of work. he walked in the snow and staot outside ready to go to work. paoeplt working -- the people working there are only paid a few dollars an hour but for him it is the most important part of
10:35 am
his life while he's being paid unemployment benefits or building up to protect him. the day may come when the sheltered workshop can't find a job for him. he would then be eligible for unemployment benefits. senator portman of ohio says no, we should cut off his unemployment benefits to pay for the temporary unemployment benefits of others. i invite senator portman to go to a sheltered workshop in a state and meet these people and i'll bet he changes his mind on that republican pay-for. then comes senator ayotte of new hampshire and she says we have a terrible situation with the child tax credit. the child tax credit is available for wage earners who can claim a credit on the taxes they owe and a refundable credit as well in some circumstances for their children. in other words, if you are low-income in america, we reduce your tax burden based on the number of children you have. the obvious reason? to give you $1,000 more a year for your child, $20 a week for
10:36 am
your child. that, to me, is not an unreasonable thing to do. it a alleviates poverty for literally millions of americans. senator ayotte says for those who are filing a so-called i-10, that is those who don't have a social security number but work in america and pay taxes as they are required to do, she would cut them off so that they couldn't claim this child tax credit for their children even if their child is a u.s. citizen. and that's the requirement under the law. so she would cut off child benefits for citizen children to pay for temporary unemployment benefits. you know, we can clean up the child tax credit situation, and i think there are ways to do it in a reasonable fashion. but to cut off millions of children who are legally here in the united states eligible for this child tax credit, is that what we've come to? cut off a child tax credit? eliminate the help for those who are working in sheltered
10:37 am
workshops, disabled people across america, eliminate the protection under the affordable care act for discrimination against families for children with preexisting conditions. those are the republican alternatives to pay for unemployment benefits. does that define the difference between parties? i'm afraid it does. it kind of tells you from our point of view, helping folks who need a helping hand in this country is part of who we are. there's a compassion gap here when ublt only way -- you believe the only way you can help some is by hurting so many others who are struggling to get by in life and that's all we've heard from the other side of the aisle. i commend those who want to work on a bipartisan basis to solve this, but let's get it done. let's extend these unemployment benefits. do it as we did five different times without paying for it under previous republican presidents. let's do it in a fashion that speaks well of our country. let's give those folks who are searching for jobs a helping hand so their families can stay together during these winter months, these challenging
10:38 am
months, and they can find work, get back to work, pay their taxes and be right where they want to be. part of the american workforce in the future. mr. president, i see my colleague on the floor and i yield the floor to senator schumer. mr. schumer: thank you. mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: first i'd like to thank my colleague and friend and roommate from illinois. we are going to miss our landlord equally for his articulate enunciation of where we're at here. we've always extended unemployment benefits, and we've done it in most instances in a bipartisan way and not paid for. george bush 2007, unemployment was only 5.6%. now it's a little bit -- it hovers around 7%. and he had bipartisan support. well, things have evolved. i guess we don't have that bipartisan support. as senator tkur pwoeupb outlined
10:39 am
-- as senator durbin outlined a lot of amendments to pay for this, sort of rob peter to pay paul, i've heard republicans talk about let's talk about how we deal with poverty, these measures that we've heard talked about are punitive and don't really deal with the issue. but i'd like to address another issue, and that is how we come to agreement here and get this place working again. on both sides of the aisle there is a great deal of consternation that we're not legislating. we've had this problem for awhile, and thursday it came to ahead. there were some harsh words that were issued by some. and the question is how do we get things working again? first, i would remind my colleagues there are instances when this place, the senate in particular, is still working. we had a farm bill, an immigration bill, a wrda bill. they all had one thing in common, mr. president, and that
10:40 am
is the chairman and ranking member agreed on a proposal. when the chair and the ranking member agree on a proposal, or a large group of democrats and republicans agree on a bipartisan proposal -- and immigration would be a great help from the chairman but senator mccain and i, neither chairman nor ranking member of judiciary came to an agreement with the help of senators menendez, durbin, bennet, graham, flake and rubio. but we can get something done and we can shepherd even the most controversial and difficult pieces of legislation through the floor. but there are many instances, these days more than ever, because the parties are farther apart than they used to be, less overlap, there are instances where the chair and ranking member, or there doesn't seem to be a bipartisan agreement. what do we do in those instances? well, i've discussed this with many on the other side of the aisle and there's been a tradition around here. i'm here sort of a middle level amount of time, about 14 years.
10:41 am
and the general theory has been whichever party is in the majority, whichever is in the minority, that the majority gets to set the agenda and the minority gets to offer amendments. and there's a lot of discussion as to why that is not happening anymore. and there are different explanations on each side of the aisle. and there will be a discussion in our caucus and i think in the republican caucus as to how to try to break that logjam. and that's a good thing. that's a good thing. i would just make one point here that has been largely forgotten, and that is this. there are two parts to this sort of agreement, deal, arrangement. the first part is the ability to offer amendments. should it be unlimited amendments? should it be all nongermane amendments? that has to be discussed and worked out. but certainly the minority
10:42 am
should get to offer amendments as a general theoretical agreement among everybody about that. but the other side is that the majority should be able, once the amendments are disposed of, to get an up-or-down vote on the final passage of the bill. that the bill not be filibustered. not just the motion to proceed, but once we go through the amendatory process, the bill itself. now if friends on the other side of the aisle say i want to offer my amendment, but unless it passes, i am going to vote to block the bill from coming up for an up-or-down vote, that doesn't seem right. so my purpose for a brief few moments in coming to the floor is to remind both sides of the aisle, but particularly my republican colleagues, that to get this place moving again requires two things. one, an ability to offer
10:43 am
amendments. but second, an ability to vote on final passage, up-or-down vote on final passage once those amendments are disposed of one way or the other. we know that our colleagues will offer tough amendments sometimes. that's the nature of things. many times the amendments are just offered with an idea to improve the bill or have a different idea. sometimes they are amendments that just make it very difficult to vote against. but so be it, that's how this place has always been run. and i think most of my colleagues on this side of the aisle are willing to accept that. but at the same time we don't want to go through an amendatory process and then because we're 55, not 60, never be able to get an up-or-down vote on final passage of the legislation. so there are two sides to this story.
10:44 am
there are two sides to an agreement to get the floor of the senate working again, particularly when the majority and minority cannot agree on an overall bill. one side, an ability to offer amendments. the other side, an ability for an up-or-down vote once those amendments are disposed of. and i don't think you can have one without the other. just as we couldn't ask our republican colleagues for an up-or-down vote if they weren't able to offer amendments, i don't think it is fair for our republican colleagues to ask us to go through the amendatory process so some of which may noe difficult and then not go to final passage. that is the little piece i have here. the greatest effectiveness i've had in this place is when i've worked in a bipartisan way on bill after bill after bill, and
10:45 am
it happens less frequently now. although as i say, the immigration bill is an exception to that. other bills are exceptions to that. but maybe we can get things working back together if each side tries to understand the grievances and the gravamen of the argument of the other and i'm hoping we can resolve that both on this bill and many other bills in the future. mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:46 am
10:47 am
10:48 am
10:49 am
10:50 am
10:51 am
10:52 am
10:53 am
the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, it's no secret that every republican -- the presiding officer: excuse me, the senate's in a quorum call. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, it's no secret that every republican in this chamber, every senator on this side of the aisle voted against the president's health care law. we said it would do great harm to the american people. we're finding out that that's true. it's also no secret that every democrat in the senate voted in favor of the health care law. it was partisan, it was a bad idea, and it has failed the country in many ways. people know about the health care web site but the web site,
10:54 am
of course it was the most spectacular, the most public failure but it was just the tip of the iceberg. under the iceberg, people are being hit with higher premiums, canceled coverage -- 5 million people lost their coverage around the country -- people aren't able to keep the doctor that they had and liked in spite of the president's promise that if you like your doctor, you could keep your doctor. there are concerns about higher co-pays and higher deductibles. but also fraud and identity theft is an issue that is plaguing all of america and the -- and the health care web site is really a spot where i believe we're going to see more problems in -- in that area. americans know that fraud and identity theft are big concerns. it's been clear from the start that the health care exchange was vulnerable to con artists, to hackers and actually information went out from the government saying, be careful with your information because of the concerns of con artists and hackers. so it's a problem and it's something that i think washington and this body needs
10:55 am
to take seriously. now, whenever president obama talks about the health care law, he says, if republicans have good ideas, please bring them forward, share them. and then he says he will support them. well, republicans have offered a lot of ideas on how to give the american people the health care reform that they wanted all along. we passed bills in the house of representatives. we've tried to bring up bills here in the senate. democrats won't even allow us to vote on those bills in the senate. you know, as a doctor, i could tell you what people were looking for with health care reform. they wanted access to quality, affordable health care, the care they need from a doctor that they choose at lower costs. they didn't get that with the health care law that the president and the democrats shoved down the throats of the american people. and every time the majority leader at that desk blocks reform, i believe he's making things worse for millions of americans. so we're trying again to take the president at his word and that he will support good republican ideas. so senator johanns of nebraska
10:56 am
and i have introduced a commonsense bill that will help protect americans who use the government insurance exchange. our bill, called the health exchange security and transparency act, well, it requires the secretary of health health and human services to notify americans within two business days if their personal information has been stolen due to security breaches on the exchanges. not saying it's going to happen but it sure could happen, and if it does, people need to be informed. now, the house passed a version of this bill just last friday and they did it, it was clearly a bipartisan bill. 67 democrats joined republicans to support this good idea. now i believe it's our turn here in the senate. you know, there shouldn't be anything controversial about this at all. this should be the kind of a bill that we can just pass by unanimous consent. but after forcing so many americans to buy insurance through this program, i believe it's the government's responsibility to safeguard americans' private information.
10:57 am
you know, even senators who voted for the president's health care law should agree with this. that should be the minimum that we require from washington -- keep americans' private information private. then if government fails to keep that information safe, we should have to admit it and tell people what happened. so all this bill says -- it's a single page -- americans are concerned about their safety on-line, about having their identity stolen and this bill would give people at least the reassurance that they would be informed that if there are issues with their identity theft, that they would know about it. well, look at what just happened to the target stores. it now looks like 70 million people had their personal data compromised. now, they ran a full -- target ran a full-page ad, took out in "the washington post," talking about what happened with -- with their 70 million customers.
10:58 am
they apologized for it. the same ad that ran here in the "the washington post" ran in "the new york times," the "wall street journal," other papers around the country. target told people about the security breach so they can take appropriate steps and watch for signs of identity theft. i think target's also said they would do free credit ratings for a year, made a number of -- of concerns the american people have, addressed those concerns and said, this is how we would take care of it. all the bill that we are offering today says, mr. president, is that something happens like happened here and happens on the government's health exchange web site, that washington should do the same thing, should tell people that someone has gotten access to their personal information so people can protect themselves. the health care law was completely inadequate in how it dealt with personal security issues. the web site's been a debacle, we know that. it's a hacker's dream. but even before the web site was launched last march, it has been
10:59 am
a mess. cbs news reported that deadlines for the site's final security plans were delayed three times over the summer, so we saw that problem. final end-to-end security tests were never finished before the web site was launched. in november, after the web site was launched, four experts testified before the house about web site problems. they were asked, would any of you -- would any of you -- advise an american citizen to use this web site as the security systems now exist? not one of them -- not one of the four said that they would. none. well, by december, one of those same industry experts said that the situation was even worse. the so-called fixes caused new security patterns and problems. remember, that's after the white house was claiming that it had fixed the web site. what they had fixed was just the tip of the iceberg and these
11:00 am
problems under the tip continue today. so the house passed a bill on friday overwhelming, bipartisan majority. president still says he opposes it. but why, why would the president oppose this bill? why would he oppose being honest with the american people and helping them protect themselves from identity theft? president obama has dug in his heels so deep on his health care law that he won't even consider good bipartisan ideas that will help the american people. senator johanns and i are going to continue to push for a vote and to call on the president to support this bill. the president needs to keep his promise to support good republican ideas and to protect the american people from identity theft. as i say, mr. president, this is just the tip of the iceberg with the web site. all you have to do is go to this morning's newspapers, whether it's "the washington post" above the fold front page, "insurance signups by young adults lag: key
11:01 am
measure for health care law. premiums could jump if more don't enroll. higher premiums." that's what i'm hearing about from home in wyoming. today's "wall street journal," "health signups skew older, raising fears of higher costs." that is not what the president promised. the president came to the floor of the house of representatives joint session of congress, said if you like your coverage, you can keep your coverage. if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. said insurance premiums would drop for people. he made statements that over the past years under his plan, insurance policies would drop $2,500 per family. then why is the "new york times" saying premiums could jump? the president says one thing. the rest of the world sees another. and then "the new york times" today, again, front page above the fold, "older people leave signups for insurance. patterns could result in higher
11:02 am
premiums. questions about the law's financial viability." put together a program that those of us who actually read the bill ahead of time had great concerns about its success, its viability, its ability to deliver what it promised. the president's promises, one of which has now been called the lie of the year, continue -- called that by a group that looks at statements and is somewhat of a referee as political statements are made, to get that kind of an accomplishment for the president just shows how misleading the efforts have been on the american people. the american people see what they're getting in their mail. cancellation notices. they see what happens when they go to the web site. pryer premiums, sticker -- higher premiums, sticker shock and now this threat of ongoing security concerns especially in light of what's happening elsewhere around the country. i think it's time for the president to actually keep his
11:03 am
word that he does want to work with republicans for good ideas and he could do so by adopting this measure passed by the house on friday that senator johanns and i have presented to the senate for their approval today. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: i rise to congratulate my colleagues on the introduction of legislation to renew trade production authority. increasing free trade levels the playing field for u.s. companies. it increases competition. we know that too. it also increases access to foreign markets with all of the intended benefits. u.s. businesses stand the best chance to see gains in accessing foreign markets through bilateral and regional free trade agreements. given the complexity of these agreements, the consultation process and the expedited
11:04 am
consideration provided by t.p.a. is really the only way to go. according to the office of the u.s. trade representative, the united states is -- quote -- "the world's largest economy and the largest exporter and importer of goods and services. we export more than $2.2 trillion in goods and services, or we did so just last year." for those of us who represent border states, the issue hits very close to home. in recent years mexico has become america's third largest trading partner and our second largest export market. according to the arizona-mexico commission, arizona's pores of entry -- ports of entry save as gateways as $6.2 million in u.s. mexican trade annually and arizona benefits in more than $13 billion in bilateral trade with mexico every year. given the benefits of vibrant export markets and access to low-cost imports, it's difficult to overstate the importance of
11:05 am
getting trade agreements in place. a u.s. chamber official recently noted in "roll call" nearly half of u.s. exports go to our free trade agreement partners and that these countries make up just one-tenth of the world economy. let me repeat that. half of our exports go to those countries with whom we have free trade agreements. yet those countries represent just one-tenth of the world's economy. that tells you the importance of getting these free trade agreements in place. in a recent opinion piece in the "wall street journal," former u.s. trade representative noted that -- quote -- "on average in the past five years of a new free trade agreement, u.s. exports grew nearly three to four times as rapidly as summit exports to others -- as u.s. exports to others. this is great news given that negotiations on the transpacific partnership or t.p.p. or ongoing. its successful approval would yield the largest regional free
11:06 am
trade agreement the u.s. has ever been a part of. approval of the t.p.p. agreement would provide increased access to critical asia pacific markets to u.s. businesses at a critical time. it's difficult to see how this agreement will be concluded without t.p.a.. given that a 2010 study prepared by the business round table found that 38 million jobs, one in five jobs in the united states, are supported by trade, the introduction of t.p.a. renewal legislation couldn't be more timely. again, i congratulate my colleagues for the introduction of this legislation. i look forward to its consideration. i yield back my time. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. mr. johanns: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come to the floor today to acknowledge my colleagues in the senate for standing up for family farms. i'm also here to issue a very straightforward warning to osha.
11:07 am
the senate makes crystal clear in the new appropriations bill that osha policies and inspectors better get in line with the law. since 1976, congress has included specific language in appropriations bills very specifically prohibiting osha -- prohibiting osha from enforcement action on farms with ten or fewer employees. however, mr. president, this did not stop the agency from distorting the definitions of farming practices in sending inspectors to small family-owned farming operations anyway. in my home state of nebraska, osha targeted a family farm that grows corn, soybeans, and has just one nonfamily employee. it is clearly within the scope
11:08 am
of the congressional exemption. like most american farms, this farming operation includes grain bins for crop storage after harvest. but according to osha's absurd logic, grain storage, they say is not part of farming operations, so it's not exempt from the regulations. mr. president, i can't make this stuff up. while osha made no claim that anyone on the farm had been injured, the agency said the grain bins failed to comply with osha regulations and -- get this -- they slapped the farm with fines totaling $132,000. now this is not an issue that is confined to one farm in nebraska. a 2011 memo from osha's enforcement chief to regional
11:09 am
administrators acknowledged that the law prevents the agency from regulating small farms. they got that right. however, the memo proceeds to recategorize farming operations that happened after harvest and osha said those are nonexempt. under this recategorizeation, osha claimed its inspectors had the authority to regulate small family-owned farms and their grain storage facilities. this is a blatant overreach and yet another example of this administration's back door rule making. whenever i meet with farmers and ranchers in nebraska, they oftentimes raise concern about federal regulatory overreach. it is absolutely no wonder that farmers and ranchers feel like
11:10 am
they have a target on their backs. osha's twisting of the law serves as evidence that farmers' concerns are legitimate. now in response to osha's regulatory overreach, i wrote a letter to secretary perez joined by a bipartisan group of 42 of my senate colleagues. we requested that osha immediately stop their unlawful regulation of family farms. we also directed osha to issue updated guidance correcting their obvious misinterpretation of the law. i am pleased that the omnibus appropriations bill further reinforces our position through report language specifically addressing osha's overreach while continuing the long-standing small-farm exemption.
11:11 am
the report language calls on osha to work with usda before moving forward with any attempts to redefine and regulate post harvest activities like storage grain. it also makes it clear that the exemption applies to these activities that occur on the farm. that includes the entire farming operation. so i would like to thank my 42 colleagues who join me in signing the letter as well as my colleagues on the appropriations committee for sending a clear message that federal agencies are not above the law. as i stated earlier, small family-owned farms have been exempt from osha regulations for the past 35 years. this is not a new concept. simply put, this language reaffirms the commonsense ideas
11:12 am
that federal agencies cannot, should not bypass the law by redefining it to expand their jurisdiction. let me be clear that we all want farms and ranches to be safe. in fact, a safe working environment is especially important for small farmers and ranchers whose families are oftentimes the only ones who work the farm or the ranch. small family farms and ranches in my home state and across this country should be able to continue their work to feed and fuel the world without fear of being targeted by this administration in direct violation of the law. if the administration believes that the law should be changed, well, they should come to congress, make their case. they should not ignore the law
11:13 am
as if it does not exist. again, i thank my colleagues for affirming the law of the land and supporting our nation's farmers and ranchers. mr. president, i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
11:14 am
11:15 am
quorum call:
11:16 am
11:17 am
11:18 am
11:19 am
11:20 am
11:21 am
11:22 am
11:23 am
11:24 am
11:25 am
11:26 am
11:27 am
11:28 am
11:29 am
11:30 am
quorum call:
11:31 am
11:32 am
11:33 am
11:34 am
11:35 am
11:36 am
11:37 am
11:38 am
11:39 am
11:40 am
11:41 am
11:42 am
11:43 am
11:44 am
11:45 am
quorum call:
11:46 am
11:47 am
11:48 am
11:49 am
mr. warren: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. warren: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. warren: -- mr. warner: mr. president, i ask that the proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. warner: mr. president, today i rise to talk about the growing concern about washington inaction in behalf of our military families and veterans in virginia.
11:50 am
as we all know, the senate and house passed the bipartisan budget act last month which hopefully will be a first step towards getting us back on the right track towards a functioning congress. but that that legislation, i, and i know many of my colleagues, were disappointed that it included a reduction in military pension cost-of-living adjustments for retired and medically retired service members. our servicemen and women deserve much better than seeing their pensions arbitrarily cut by lawmakers in washington. what was particularly disappointing was that this action singled out our military families and veterans disproportionately. now, yesterday evening the appropriations committees released their 2014 budget. i was pleased that this omnibus budget proposal repeals the cola cuts for a portion of those
11:51 am
military families, for those disabled military retirees who are medically retired and for survivors of military retirees who elected to pay survivor benefit annuities to take care of their families after their deaths. this is progress and i hope we can finish the job, though, and pass an amendment that i've been working on with senator shaheen and senator kaine -- there are a series of other proposals -- to make sure that we fully roll back this unfair cut to our military families and veterans. we know over the last two decades our military has fought two wars. their families have made unprecedented sacrifices. unfortunately, this sacrifice was again brought home last week when a navy mh-53 echo helicopter crashed off the coast of virginia beach. our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the missing and fallen, lieutenant shawn
11:52 am
christopher snyder, lieutenant wesley viandorn, and navy air crewman brian andrew collins. virginia is home to one of the nation's largest concentration of active duty and retired military earn he wil personnel. i railroad it an honor and privilege to represent them here in congress. so while we're -- i consider it an honor and a privilege to represent them here in gressments so while we're shutting down government and using short-term c.r.'s, our military men and women are being inappropriately single out. this isn't right, this isn't fair and my hope is that today or in the next few days, we will fully correct the mistake we made in the budget act last month. in my time here in the senate working for our military families and their veterans has been one of my top priorities, and i'm proud that i've worked across the aisle on this issue
11:53 am
relentlessly. i'd like to point out one particular action where we've made dramatic progress. i've worked with the polar clinic at william & mary law school in hampton rhodes to develop a model for veterans' legal clinics to help some of the nation's backlog on veterans medical claims. to my mind, it's an embarrassment that our veterans sometimes have to wait for over a year to get their claims processed to receive the benefits they've already earned. working with the william & mary polar law clinic, we got the v.a. to accept this model and to be certified by the v.a. to become the first law school in the country to be able to complete fully developed claims. now 19 universities in virginia are committed to serving veterans and more than 15 law schools across the country have adopted the william & mary
11:54 am
model. the incredible thing about this project -- and we often use the term win-win-win -- well, this truly is a win-win-win. it's a win for the taxpayers because there are no taxpayer funds involved. it's a win for our veterans who are able to get their claims processed in a more rapid and expeditious manner. and it's a win for the law students who gain valuable experience in both dealing with a large federal agency, the v.a., but, more importantly, by having that ability to help one-on-one veterans who deserve to get their benefits. i've also worked with my friend and former virginia colleague, jim webb, to draft legislation for a complete comprehensive look at military compensation and retirement. this commission where we've worked with chairman levin as well will be reporting later this year. i look forward to the results of
11:55 am
that because we do have to recognize our overall compensation and benefits packages, need an overall revi review. i believe that this commission will make strong recommendations on how we can both modernize and achieve fiscal stability for our military. i'm proud of the work i've done on veterans in terms of the polar clinic, in temples the overall looking at the military compensation package as part of an effort to make sure that we honor our commitment to our military. but as we honor that commitment to our military, we have to recognize as well that the threats to our nation are not just those posed by outside forces but continue to be a threat of our increasing debt and deficit. i often like to cite former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, admiral mullen, who said the single largest threat to our nation was not the threat of terrorists but the threat of
11:56 am
that $17 trillion debt and deficit which goes up by over $4 billion a night. a debt burden that may weigh down our ability to compete in the future. now, i continue to come to the floor, not always successfully, to urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle that we cannot continue to punt on this issue, that ultimately both political parties are going to have to give. we're going to have to find ways to generate additional revenues through a comprehensive reform of our tax code. we're going to have to find a way to make sure that the promise of military pensions and benefits but also the promise of social security and medicare will be here for future generations. that will mean both political parties will have to be willing to give on their sacred cows. we've got to make sure as well if we put together this comprehensive approach on debt and deficit it will provide the kind of financial stability to our military families to make
11:57 am
sure that those pensions, benefits and compensation packages will be there for themselves and for future people who serve. but that's for a future battle. right now we've got to finish the work that the appropriations committee started on getting rid of this unfair attack on the military colas that was included in the budget act. so i hope my colleagues will join my friend, senator kaine, senator shaheen and others that would replace the cuts to the military colas. the approach that we've taken would do this by closing a tax loophole that allows some corporations to actually avoid paying their fair share of taxes. there may be other alternatives as well. i'll look at any that make sure that are fair and reasonable and make sure that our military families don't get singled out. virginians have served with honor in our military for
11:58 am
generations and i want to assure our servicemen and women that there is ample time to undo these changes before they take effect. i would remind those who are listening that this decrease in the cola doesn't actually take place until the next year so we still have time to rectify this. i promise to continue using every tool i can to fight these unfair pension cuts and to make sure that our military families, the promise we've made to our military families and these retirees gets honored. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence -- before i note the absence of a quorum, let me -- mr. president, i have five unanimous consents witconsentrequests for committet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. warner: with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk
11:59 am
will call the roll. quorum call:
12:00 pm
quorum call:

47 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on