tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN February 25, 2014 2:00pm-4:01pm EST
unconstitutional discrimination. and last summer supreme court issued a stark decision in united states v. windsor striking down the federal government's ban on recognizing gay and lesbian couples who are legally married. now, this marked a critical step forward and a resounding victory for equal treatment and equal protection under the law. more recently and partly in response to the windsor decision, a number of state attorneys general -- including those in pennsylvania, nevada, virginia and just last week in oregon -- have reached similar determine can nations after -- determinations after applying laws in their states to same-sex marriage. now, any decision at any level not to defend individual laws must be exceedingly rare. they must be reserved only for exception call, truly exceptional circumstances. and they must never stem merely from policy, hinging only instead on firm constitutional grounds. but in general, i believe that
we must be suspicious of legal classifications based solely on sexual orr orientation. and we must endeavor in all of our efforts to uphold and advance the values that once led our forbearers to declare unequivocally that all are created equal and entitled to equal opportunity. now, this bed bedrock principles immutable, timeless, and it goes to the very heart of a what this country has always stood for even though the cause of civil rights has shown our understanding of it evolves over time. as i suggest after the administration's decision on doma was announced, america's most treasured ideals were not put into action or given the full force of law in a single instant. on the contrary, our ideals are continually advanced as our justice systems and as our union are strengthened. and as social science, human experience, legislation and judicial decisions expand the
circle of those who are entitled to the protections and rights enumerated by the constitution. as we gather here in washington today, i believe that our highest ideals realized in the form of landmark supreme court rulings from brown, from roamer to lawrence to loving to windsor provide a clear path forward. they have compelled us, in some stances, to truly extraordinary action. and the progress that we have seen has been consistent with the finest traditions of our legal system, the central tenets of our constitution and the fundamental truth that as president obama once said, when all americans are treated as equal, we are all more prix. as we come together week to renew our commitment to the work that we share, to steel our resolve to combat crime and to pledge our continued fidelity to the values that divide us and the constitution that we're sworn to uphold, we must strive to move our country forward. we must keep fighting against
violence, safeguarding civil rights and working to bring our justice system in line with our highest ideals. we must keep refusing to accept a status e quo that falls short of that which our constitution demands and the american people deserve. and we must keep standing up and speaking out no matter the challenges we face to eradicate victimization and end injustice in all its forms. now, this won't always be easy. and occasionally our tactical path will i diverge. but as long as we're dedicated to working in common cause, determined to disagree with mutual respect and devoted to our shared pursuit of a more just and more percent union, i am confident -- perfect union, i am confident of where your stead fast leadership will take us. vigorous debate, indeed, need not be subsumed by partisanship. as attorneys general, we are called to serve. we're also expected to lead. so i want to thank you once
again for your work, for your partnership and for the opportunity to talk part many this important dialogue. i look forward to all that we will do and all that we will achieve in the critical days ahead. pleasure thanks very much. [applause] >> if everybody could just kind of stay in their positions, we are going to to just pause briefly to allow the media to get their things together and pack up, and then we will resume. [inaudible conversations]
>> the house and senate veterans affairs committees this afternoon are holding a joint hearing on disabled veterans, testifying from the disabled veterans organization. that hearing just got under way, we're carrying it live on our companion network, c-span3. and u.s. senate is back at 2:15 eastern. this afternoon they'll start consideration of a $24 billion bill expanding health care, job assistance and education benefits for veterans. a procedural vote on that measure set for 3:30 eastern and, as always, live coverage of the senate coming up here on c-span2. right now, though, the chair of the senate's european affairs subcommittee gives us the latest on developments in ukraine. >> host: joining us now is senator chris murphy, democrat of connecticut. he's a member of the foreign
relations european affairs subcommittee chairman. thank you for coming in. >> guest: good to be here. >> host: when it refers to ukraine: ukraine's upheaval leaves the u.s. and europe in a tight spot. would you yee with that headline? >> guest: no. i don't know why we'd be in a tight spot. this is, obviously, a very difficult that's unfolding right now in ukraine. they're in the middle of forming a new goth, the president has fled, they're filing charges against him. there's enormous upheaval. but this that uphe'll is opportunity for the ukrainian people, and this is really what it's about. they were sick and toured of a government that had become corrupt, divorced from the population on the streets and had made, ultimately, fateful discussion to reverse course instead of doing as yanukovych had promised, which was signing a negotiation agreement with the e.u. instead, very or credibilitied towards russia, something that the people of ukraine didn't want.
there is now an opportunity to set a right course in ukraine for the people of ukraine which is a new corruption-free government, true democratic reforms and an orientation towards a future with europe. now, this is a matter for the ukrainian people to decide. it really is up to them. so it doesn't put united states in a tight spot in the sense that our role here should simply be to support the wishes of the ukrainian people. and there's a variety of ways in which we can do that, but ultimately from the very beginning this has been a decision by the people of ukraine about the future be of ukraine, and the united states should be there to support them. so what is the best way the u.s. can help in this situation? >> guest: well, i think the united states' strong voice in support of the peaceful protest movement is a big part of the story as to why there is an opportunity now for the ukrainian people to get what they want. early on the united states said that peace should be observed in that square.
we came down hard on yanukovych when he violated that peace, when he sent his forces into the square repeatedly to clear it. ultimately, over the course of the last week, resulting in dozens of people killed. and i think it was our role including sanctions and threats of sanctions that forced, in part, yanukovych from office. now the question is what can we do to support this new government. there's going to be a lot of talk about an assistance package. the united states really can only play a limited role in that assistance package because of the amount of money that ukraine needed in order to coffer their budget deficit is -- >> host: 35 billion. >> guest: 35 billion, and it was $15 billion only about a month ago, and now it's $35 billion. the united states doesn't have the ability to do that. but we certainly can help lead a conversation within the imf to try and make that loan available to ukraine on the best terms possible. and then we can do some work with available money that we do have at state department to try
to seed the civil society movement in that country which really does need to become strengthened. so you don't have an opportunity for another crank slip to essentially tale the reins of goth from the people there. so the united states can continue to be a big and true friend to the ukraine yap people though, ultimately, we have to recognize that this is a decision that has to be made there. it's not going to be made by the united states, it's not going to be made by europe, certainly not going to be made by russia, but we can support the ukrainian people. >> host: u.s. policy decisions with our guest, senator chris murphy, democrat from connecticut. 202-585-3881 for republicans, 202-585-3880 for democrats. c-span wj is our twitter address and c-span.org. you were there recently, in ukraine? >> guest: yeah, in december. >> host: what did you see then, and how does it play into what's going on now? >> guest: it was an amazing
scene. i was there with john mccain, and we were there at the height of the early protest movement on main square in kiev. we spoke on, i guess it was a sunday afternoon maybe, to about 500,000 to a million people who were peacefully assembled trying to win back control of their government. we met with a lot of the student leadership that was driving that protest movement. one of interesting things about the square and the protest movement is that it really was and is fairly nonpolitical. this really wasn't generated by the political opposition to yanukovych. their beefs are, frankly, with the entirety of the political establishment there. and therein lies one of the challenges, and we saw it firsthand which was when we sat down with the leaders of the protest movement, they were not going to be satisfied simply by yanukovych leaving and his political opponents replacing him. they really wanted wholesale changes in the government. and that will be the challenge
over the next few days, is who is this new government? is it just the opposition parties? because, frankly, that's not going to satisfy the protesters, and that's one of things that we greened from our trip there. -- gleaned from our trip there. they're going to have to have nonpoliticians, experts in running bureaucracies, they're going to have some representatives of the protest movement in this new government. that's going to be a challenge because, as you know, the political opposition feels like they've been waiting in line for a long time to get a chance to run this country. but their simple replacement of the yanukovych regime is not going to satisfy the people on the square. >> host: let's hear from james calling from wisconsin this morning on our independent line for senator chris murphy. hello. >> caller: yes. i think it's pretty obvious that our country has backed street mobs to throw out elected presidents. you had egypt with morsi, he was elected president, we tried to get him -- did get him thrown out and thrown in jail. i think we all really see what's
happening. >> guest: i think the caller raises a really important point here which is that a yanukovych was elected. he was chosen in a relatively prix and fair election maybe not -- free and fair election. maybe not by u.s. standards, but we certainly recognized his legitimate right to govern. and when senator mccain and i went to the square, we were very careful about the words in which we used. we went there in the wake of yanukovych bringing the police forces onto the square to try to forcibly break up those protests. and one of the things that the united states has always stood for is the idea that people anywhere in the world suld have the right to peacefully protest against their government, and when those rights, those civil rights and those human rights are violated, the united states -- i acknowledge with some important and noticeable exceptions -- has stood up for those individuals who want to protest. and so that's why senator mccain and i went, in that spirit, to support the
protesters. we said that, ultimately, it's a decision for the people of ukraine to make, but our interest in this has always been making sure that there was the space to have this political debate rather than trying to dictate the terms. russia's played a very different role here. russia has threatened ukraine over and over again with economic, illegal economic sanctions if they didn't do what the russians wanted. the united states has not done that. we have played a very different and, i would argue, much more fair game here in which we're not dictating to the ukrainian people what the outcome should be, we're just saying that if people want to lodge complaints against a government, they shouldn't be run out of public spaces by police and the army. >> host: the russian prime minister responding to the latest saying it is clear to us what's going on in the country, and there is a real threat to our interests. strictly speaking today, there's no one to talk will. the legitimacy of a whole host of government bodies is raise aing huge doubts of whether people are considered a government. it will be difficult for us to
work with such a government. >> guest: well, again, the russians haven't made any secret of the fact that they do not want ukraine to sign an association agreement with europe. they maded that clear behind closed doors to the leadership in ukraine. we heard that when we were there. the russians said that they will shut the border down to stop trade going back and forth from russia. they would consider cutting off gas splice which would make for -- supplies which would make for a very cold winter and sprung in ukraine. so russia is going to consider a range of options, many of them illegal according to international norms and trade agreements, to try to stop ukraine from joining up. this is a -- europe. the is a legitimate government. the rada voted, albeit without members of yanukovych's government, to expel him from office and establish a new speaker with presidential powers. i would hope, ultimately, that this new government includes members from yanukovych's party, party of regions. that would certainly add to its
legitimacy, but there's no doubt that under the constitution of ukraine the parliament have the power to expel crank slip from office which they did. and let's be honest, yanukovych lost legitimacy as a president when he tried to forcibly break up these -- >> we'll leave this discussion here, see the rest of it at c-span.org. the u.s. senate is gaveling back in after their party runs of of. recess. coming up today, consideration of a $24 billion bill expanding health care, job assistance and education benefits for veterans. live now to the senate floor.
mr. sanders: that's easy. thank you. madam president, every veterans day and every memorial day many of us, regardless of our political views, go out into our communities and we speak about our respect and our admiration for the veterans of this count country. and as chairman of the senate committee on veterans' affairs for the last year, i have learned that regardless of political ideology, virtually all members of the united states congress in fact mean what they say and do understand and do appreciate the enormous sacrifices that veterans and their families -- and their families -- have made for our nation. everybody knows in this country that sadly we are living at a time when the congress is virtually dysfunctional and
partisanship runs rampant, but i have found on my committee and in the congress as a whole that members do understand the sacrifices made by men and women who put their lives on the line and do, although we have differences of opinion, do want to do the right thing to defend those who have defended us. now, the good news, madam president, is that president obama and the congress in a bipartisan way have made significant progress in addressing a number of the problems facing veterans in this country. the president's budgets have been generous and i think congress has acted in a responsible way. that is the good news. but the bad news is that we still have a very, very long way to go if we are to keep faith with those who have put their lives on the line to defend us. we have made progress but we
still have a long way to go and i hope very much that we will go down that road together, that we will tell the american people that in the midst of all of the partisanship, all of the politics, that at least on this one issue, we can stand together and protect the interests of those people who have sacrificed so much for our country. madam president, congress cannot bring back to their families those who died in battle. and as, you know, just in the recent wars in iraq and afghanistan, we have lost over 6,700 troops. madam president, congress cannot restore the legs and the arms and the eyesight that roadside explosions have taken away from
brave men and women. congress cannot simply snap its fingers and magically cure the hundreds of thousands who returned from iraq and afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury or those who suffer from the pain and humiliation of sexual assault. as a nation, however, while we cannot magically solve those problems, we can, in fact, and it is our responsibility, in fact, to do everything that we can to help ease and ameliorate the problems facing our veterans and their families. we can't solve it all, we know that, but we can go further in ameliorating some of the
problems facing veterans and their families today. let me just give you a few examples. congress can help the 2,300 men and women who are looking forward to having families but who suffered reproductive injuries in iraq and afghanistan. and i know senator murray i believe is going to be down here on the floor. she has long been a champion of this issue, as have been others. but let me give you just one case out of 2,300. army veteran matt kiel of colorado was wounded by sniper fire in iraq in 2007. the sniper's round struck matt's neck, causing severe damage to a vital artery and his spinal co cord. through sheer determination and with the love and resolve of his wife tracy, matt's condition improved. he and tracy began to consider having children.
doctors assured them that having children could be possible with the help of in vitro fertilization. the kyl family paid more than $30,000 for reproductive treatments. congress can help the kyl family and others to ease that financial burden. that is a cost of war. we should be there for that family and for the other families who want the opportunity to have children. madam president, congress can help the tens of thousands of family members who every single day provide loving care for those who were severely injured in world war ii, in korea, in vietnam and in other wars. let me give you another example.
in march of 1969, miles epling was on patrol in vietnam when a booby trap dead natured, killing -- debt natured, killing some of thinks fellow marines and leaving him without legs. he returned home to west virginia in a wheelchair from. that point on, he has required around-the-clock help from those around him. his family provided that help without receiving any training, any assistance, or any financial support. now, here is the very good news and we should be very proud of this in a bipartisan way as a congress. in 2010, four years ago, congress passed a very strong and excellent caregivers program for post-9/11 veterans. it is a program that is working well in providing significant help to caregivers of those
post-9/11 veterans. and i want everybody to put themselves in the place of a wife, a sister, a mother, a brother who is around the clock, around the clock, 24/7, 365 days a year providing care to folks who have suffered serious injuries in one war or another. what we did is we said that we will provide support for those caregivers post-9/11 -- iraq, afghanistan -- but we did not do that for the other wars. now is the time for us to expand the caregivers' program for the families of all disabled veterans who are in the same position that miles is. that is the fair thing to do. that is the right thing to do. and that is included in this
comprehensive piece of legislation. madam president, because we have the moral obligation to do the very best we can for veterans, the senate veterans' affairs committee has brought forth comprehensive legislation that is strongly supported by virtually every veterans and military organization in the country. and today i want to thank the american legion, the veterans of foreign wars, the disabled american veterans, the vietnam veterans of america, the military officers association of america, the iraq and afghanistan veterans of america, the paralyzed veterans of america, the gold star wives of america, and the dozens of other veterans' organizations who are strongly supporting this comprehensive piece of legislation.
madam president, in their statement of support, the d.a.v. writes -- quote -- "this massive omnibus bill" -- and that's the bill that's going to be on the floor in a short period of time. the d.a.v. writes that "this massive omnibus bill, unprecedented in our modern experience, would create, expand, advance and extend a number of v.a. benefits, services and programs that are important to d.a.v. and to our members. for example, responding -- responding to a call from d.a.v. as a leading veterans organization, it would create a comprehensive family caregiver support program for all generations of severely wounded, injured and ill veterans. also, the bill would authorize advance appropriations for v.a.'s mandatory funding accounts to ensure that in any
government shutdown environment in the future, veterans' benefit payments would not be delayed or put in jeopardy. this measure also would provide additional financial support to survivors of service members who die in the line of duty as well as expanded access for them to g.i. bill educational benefits. a two-plus year stalemate in v.a.'s authority to lease facilities by health care treatment and other purposes would be solved by this bill. these are but a few, a few of the myriad provisions of this bill that would improve the lives, health and prospects of veterans, especially the wounded, injured and ill and their loved ones, end of quote. that is from the disabled american veterans, so i thank them very much for their support. the truth is, madam president, we have letters of support that are very similar in nature from
dozens of other veterans' organizations, and we thank them again for their support. madam president, can i ask the time situation, how much time each side has and how much time is remaining? the presiding officer: the majority has 24 minutes remaining of the 35 originally granted. and the minority has 35 minutes. mr. sanders: very good. what i would like to do now is to yield to the former chairperson of the veterans committee and someone who has done an outstanding job for veterans, and she has focused on one issue that i feel very strongly about, and that is the need to help those veterans who would like to have children but as a result of war wounds are unable to do so, senator murray.
the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. cornyn: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to be recognized following the remarks from the senator from washington. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from washington. mrs. murray: thank you, madam president. i thank the chair of the veterans committee for putting together this very good piece of legislation we are about to consider. madam president, it is no secret that here in our nation's capital, we are sharply divided on any number of economic and political issues that are facing average americans right now, but i have come to the floor today to talk about one issue we are rarely divided on, and that is our duty to keep the promise that we have made to provide not only care but opportunity to all those who have honorably served in the nation's armed forces. it unites even the most unlikely partners because we all realize that we have all made a promise to those who have signed up to serve, and we all need to keep
it because there is so much on the line. when our brave men and women volunteered to protect our nation, we promised them that we would take care of them and their families when they return home. we need to ask ourselves are we doing enough for our nation's veterans? so, madam president, this comprehensive legislation before us today really is the test for a lot of members of congress. can we put politics aside now for the good of our nation's veterans? can we show these heroes, despite our differences, we will work as diligently towards getting them the benefits and care they have earned as they have worked for our nation? i hope we can, and i say that because the investments in this bill are a lot more than numbers on a page. they are life-changing programs for veterans who are looking to take the skills that they have learned from the battlefield to the board room. it's support for the countless
victims of military sexual assault who are desperate to come out of the shadows. it's providing the dream of having a family to those who are suffering from some of the most devastateing wounds of -- devastating wounds of war. it's timely investments in the very biggest priorities of our nation's heroes. so, madam president, i'd like to use the remainder of my time to highlight just a few of the investments that are included in this bill and how they translate into the lives of our veterans and their families. for those who have worn our nation's uniform, particularly for those young veterans who spent the last decade being shuttled back and forth to war zones half a world away, the road home isn't always smooth and the red tape is often long and the transition from battlefield to the workplace is never easy. madam president, this should not be the case. we shouldn't let the skills and training our nation's veterans have already attained go to waste. we can't afford to have our
nation's heroes unable to find a job to support their families without an income that provides the stability or without work that provides the pride and sense of purpose that is so critical to the transition home, and that's why i'm proud that in this legislation we're considering today we reauthorize and build on many of the provisions that were part of my vow to hire heroes act which was signed into law by president obama in 2011. double-digit unemployment rates for veterans used to be the norm, but since vow became law, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is now on par with nonveterans. while recent data from the bureau of labor statistics prove that these programs work, we still have more work to be done, and that's addressed in this legislation. madam president, i also believe that the great strength of our military is in the character and dedication of our men and women who wear the uniform. it is the courage of these
americans to volunteer to serve that is the pentagon's greatest asset. our service members volunteer to face danger, to put their lives on the line to protect our country and our people. it's no longer a secret that sexual assault continues to plague the ranks of our military services, which is another issue that this comprehensive legislation addresses. i think we all agree it's absolutely unconscionable that a fellow service member, the person that you rely on to have your back and be there for you, would commit such a terrible crime, and even worse is the prevalence of these crimes. it is appalling that they commit such a personal violation of their brother or sister in uniform. madam president, the national defense authorization act that we passed last year took some historic action to help service members access the resources they need to seek justice without fear, including a provision that i authored to
create a new category of legal advocates called special victims counsels who would be responsible for advocating on behalf of the interests of the victim. but we still have a long road ahead of us before we put an end to these shameful acts and meanwhile provide all the necessary resources to those who have unfortunately been impacted. thankfully, the chairman's legislation aims to do just that with provisions to improve the delivery of care and benefits to veterans who experience sexual trauma while serving in the military. when our best and brightest put on a uniform and join the united states armed forces, they do so with the understanding that they will sacrifice much in the name of defending our country and its people, but that sacrifice should not have to come in the form of unwanted sexual contact from within the ranks. finally, madam president, i want to talk today about a provision that has been one of my top priorities in the senate for a
while now. it is a provision that builds upon our effort to improve v.a.'s services for women veterans and veterans with families. as we all know, with the changing nature of our conflicts overseas, we have been seeing the brutal impact of improved explosive devices or i.e.d.'s which means we are now seeing more and more service members, both male and female, increasingly susceptible to reproductive spinal and traumatic brain injuries, due to the weapons of war. now thanks to modern medicine, many of these service members are being kept alive and they're returning home, and like so many of our veterans, these men and women come home looking to return to their lives, to find employment and often to start a family. yet, what they find when they go to the v.a. today is that the fertility services that are available don't meet their very
complex needs. in fact, madam president, veterans suffering from these injuries find the v.a. is today specifically barred from providing more advanced assisted reproduction techniques like i.v.f. they are told that despite the fact that they have made such an extreme sacrifice for our country, we cannot today provide them with the medical services they need to start a family. these are veterans like staff sergeant kyl and his wife tracy. staff sergeant kyl was shot in the neck while on patrol in iraq in 2007, six weeks after he married the love of his life, tracy. the bullet went through the right side of his neck. it hit a major artery. it went through his spinal cord, and it exited through his shoulder blade. staff sergeant kyl instantly
became a quadriplegic. doctors told tracy, his wife, that her husband would be on a ventilator for the rest of his life and would never move his arms or his legs. well, staff sergeant kyl eventually defied the odds and found himself off that ventilator and beginning the long journey of physical rehabilitation. in fact, tracy and her husband started talking and exploring the possibilities of having a family together. having children was all they could talk about once they started to adjust to their new normal, so it was staff sergeant kyl's injuries preventing him from having children naturally and tracy turned to the v.a. and began to explore her options for fertility treatments. but because of that v.a. ban, she was turned down. so tracy and staff sergeant kyl decided instead to pursue i.v.f. through the private sector. out of options, they decided
that this was important enough to them that they were willing to pay out of pocket to the tune of almost $32,000 per round of treatment. well, thankfully, on november 9, 2010, just after their first round of i.v.f., staff sergeant kyl and tracy welcomed their twins, matthew and faith, into the world. tracy told me, and i want to quote her, she said -- "the day we had our children, something changed in both of us. this is exactly what we had always wanted. our dreams had arrived." the v.a., congress and the american people have said countless times to us that they want to do everything they can to support my husband and make him feel whole again. this is your chance. having a family is exactly what we needed to feel whole again. please help us make these changes to the law so that other
families can share in this experience." unquote. well, madam president, tracy and matt aren't alone. there are many men out there who share this common thread of a desperate desire of their dream of starting a family only to find the catastrophic wounds they sustained while defending our country are now preventing them from seeing that dream through. as we all know, it should not be that way. our nation's heroes should not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the advanced reproductive treatment they need to start a family. they shouldn't have to watch their marriages dissolve because of the stress of infertility in combination with the stresses of readjusting to a new life after severe injuries, driving relationships to a breaking point. any service member who sustains this type of serious injury doifs a lot more.
and, madam president, we came very close to making this bill a reality last congress. in fact, with tracy kyl sitting up in the gallery, like so many of our heroes who have joined us today, with tracy watching, the senate unanimously passed this legislation. unfortunately, what happened was some republicans in the house of representatives refused to take this bill up and pass it, so time ran out last year and we were not able to get it to the president's desk. but, madam president, this effort is not over. this provision was the very first piece of legislation i introduced in this congress, and there is excellent momentum to get it done. this is about giving our veterans who sacrificed everything, every option we have to help them fulfill the simple dream of having a family. it says we are not turning our back on a cat strosk -- on the catastrophic reproductive wounds that have become a signature of these wars. it says to all those brave men and women that didn't ask questions when they were put in
harm's way that we won't let politics get in the way of our commitment to you. this provision in this bill will reverse this troubling barrier to care and will bring the v.a. in line finally with the military that does provide these services under tricare. madam president, our women veterans deserve this, our male veterans deserve this and our military families deserve this. so, madam president, i'm here today to urge my colleagues to support this bill, the comprehensive military retirement pay restoration act of 2014. our veterans don't ask for a lot. they shouldn't have to. they've done everything that has been asked of them. they've been separated from their families through repeat deployments, they have sacrificed life and limb in combat, they have done all this selflessly and with honor to our country. we can't allow our commitment to them to lapse or to get caught up in any k50eu7bd of -- kind of unrelated amendments or
political grandstanding. i thank the senator from vermont and his staff for their tireless work in putting this in the legislation and bringing this to the floor and i hope we do the right thing now, get this passed and get this legislation to the desk of the president. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: madam president? the presiding officer: the republican whip. mr. cornyn: i see the senator from north carolina here on the floor. i know he's likely here to respond to the senator from vermont, the senator from washington on the veterans bill that's on the floor. and what i feel like is a much better alternative for us in dealing with the the needs of our veterans in a way that's fiscally responsible. but what i'd like to do is i'd like to turn to another story that continues to unfold worse and worse news over time that, unfortunately, we tend to get distracted from because there's so many other things that are
happening. but when the president's signature health care bill, the affordable care act, was signed into law four years ago, we know that it didn't just create a brand-new health care entitlement. it actually weakened existing programs like medicare and medicaid, and for people who don't deal with these programs on a day in and day out basis, of course, medicare is for seniors, for health care for seniors, medicaid is a separate program which is shared by the states and the federal government to provide the safety net health care program for low-income texans in my state. but because of the massive new burdens that obamacare is placing on the health care safety net, which is already failing the neediest members in society, the share of physicians accepting new medicaid patients in texas has fallen from 67% in 2000 to only
32% in 2012. so in 2000 it was 67% of physicians would accept the new medicaid patient, and today it's roughly a third, one out of every three. of course, the reason for that is the federal government continues to pay less and less, now i think it's roughly 50 cents on the dollar compared to private insurance, to a physician who treats a medicaid patient. so we know that many texas physicians including a majority of established primary care physicians aren't accepting any new medicaid patients at all. because they're being asked essentially to work for 50 cents on the dollar, something they can't afford to do. and yet the architects of obamacare thought that it was a good idea to add millions more people to a broken program, one that already was not providing
access to quality health care. this, of course, will further reduce the quality of medicaid which is one reason why many state governors refused the federal government's request to actually expand the coverage of medicaid absent reforms to fix it and make sure that it would work more efficiently and better and more cost effectively. of course, the consequence of that is it will make it even harder for the poorest and most vulnerable americans to gain access to quality health care. as for the medicare program, of course, that's for seniors, obamacare created a new panel of unelected bureaucrats known as the independent payment advisory board. what an inknock twus qus bureaucratic sounding name. some call it the ipa bhnch bnch. these are unelected bureaucrats who decide whether your health care is worth a cost/benefit analysis and what they will end up doing is end up slashing
medicare payments to doctors so that many physicians can no longer afford to see new medicare patients and provide the treatment that those patients and their doctors believe they need and that they want. so it's become abundantly clear that the goal of obamacare is to make medicare more like medicaid, and we know what that means. we know it's not hard to predict. fewer and fewer doctors will treat medicare patients and some will leave the program altogether. why do we know that? well, we've just seen the experience with these new major cuts to medicare advantage. not to confuse things too much, but medicare advantage is actually a private insurance alternative to traditional medicare which pays doctors based on the services they provide. can medicare advantage is a remarkably successful program
that covers roughly 30% of all medicare beneficiaries. close to 16 million people. and their cuts, the cuts to these programs, to those 30 million -- that program that benefits 30 million beneficiaries, are being slashed by approximately $308 billion as a result of obamacare. this is another sort of one of these hidden problems with obamacare that it's now just coming to light. even though we talked about it a lot back in 2009 and 2010, now it's coming to fruition. the truth is these cuts in medicare advantage will force many seniors to pay higher premiums and further undermine their existing health care arrangements. you remember the president said if you like what have you, you can keep it. if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. well, we're now learning that's
absolutely not true in many, many cases. just to give you a sense, though, of medicare advantage's popularity, according to "the wall street journal," about one of two people newly eligible for medicare choose medicare advantage and enrollment is growing at a rate of roughly 10% per year. why is medicare advantage so popular medicare and medicaid to the traditional medicare fee for service? for all the reasons you might expect. the program offers a lot more flexibility and much more patient choice than traditional medicare. based on a number of different performance measures, it also delivers better results. than traditional medicare. and it has become the primary driver of innovation within the medicare system. and yet we know, we've known now for four years but we're now seeing the reality, is the administration is trying to undermine medicare advantage to
help pay for obamacare. and neither one are working the way that the beneficiaries of these programs expect and were promised that they would work. earlier this month i joined with 39 of my colleagues here in the senate to send a letter to c.m.s. administrator marilyn tavenner urging her to maintain payment lefts to allow beneficiaries to be protected through 2015. it describes medicare advantage as a success, noting one study published in the journal of managed care found hospital readmission rates are 13% to 20% lower than for medicare fee for service. in other words, it's more effective delivering quality care, keeping seniors healthy and reducing dramatically the need to have them readmitted to hospitals once they're discharged. now, the members who signed this letter are weren't just
folks who work on this side of the aisle. they included clud several prominent democrats such as my two colleagues from new york, the srnl minnesota --, the senior senator from minnesota, the junior senator from washington and washington state and from colorado who always happens to be the chairman of the democratic senatorial mccain committee -- campaign committee. they signed this letter saying please don't cut medicare advantage in a way that disadvantages current seniors. it's bad enough that obamacare is effectively taking money out of a successful program, medicare advantage, to fund a new entitlement. it's bad enough that seniors are being forced to pay higher premiums that deal -- and deal with enormous uncertainty in order to facilitate a government takeover of the health care system. what makes it even worse is that obamacare continues to be an
unmitigated disaster. every day you pick up the newspaper, every day you watch television, millions of americans have lost their preferred health insurance and millions more are paying higher premiums for coverage. many families have discovered that their new obamacare mandated coverage does not give their children access to their preferred doctors and hospitals. as one physician from washington state recently told cbs news, he said we're seeing denials of care, disruptions of care, we're seeing a great deal of confusion and at times anger and frustration on the part of these families who bought insurance thinking their children were going to be covered, and they found out now that that is a false promise. a false promise. well, that's obamacare in a nutshell. if you think about it. a program that was sold as a way to help the uninsured and the
economy has instead hurt the economy and forced millions of americans who lose their existing coverage. a false promise. the congressional become office, the latest bit of bad news, the congressional budget office now estimates that obamacare will reduce the size of the american labor force by 2.5 million full-time workers over the next decade and here's the latest news -- in addition, c.m.s. has projected the law could lead to higher insurance premiums for about 11 million employees at small businesses. as for the promise of universal coverage, you remember this was the whole basis for government mandated health care. everybody's going to be covered. well, when all is said and done, obamacare will according to the congressional budget office leave upwards of 30 million people without health care coverage in 2023. so after witnessing a tidal wave
of disruptions and hardships caused by a signature legislative accomplishment, what is president obama's response? well, his response is either to minimize the political damage, to kick the news past the november election, to clay a delay the employer mandate, to refuse to enforce other provisions of the law and to waive the law that has no clear means for waiver, to basically refuse to enforce the law. get it past the election, let's cut the bleeding, politically speaking. earlier this month for the second time since july, the administration allowed it would unilaterally delay enforcement of the employer mandate. of course, the president like so much of what he does these days has no clear legal authority to do that, but our colleagues across the aisle don't seem to care as long as they kick it past the election because they're worried about the accountability that comes with this false promise made to
sell obamacare. mr. president, americans want the same type of health care reforms that they wanted back in 2009. and there are plenty of alternatives. they want sensible patient-centered reforms that will actually bring down the cost -- if you want people to buy more of something, well, you reduce the cost. you don't raise the cost. that creates just the opposite problem. we also know that there are alternatives to expand quality insurance coverage and improve access to quality care. now, i might just add since i know the senator from north carolina has been sitting patiently to speak on a different topic that he and senator hatch and senator coburn have offered, a wildly heralded sensible approach to obamacare that avoids the problems and reduces the costs and doesn't interfere with patient choice.
we know obamacare promised these results but it failed to deliver. in response, we have many different alternative ideas that increase patient choice, increase transparency, increase provider competition, all of which are designed to produce for consumers lower costs, wider coverage, and better quality care. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. burr: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. burr: mr. president, could i inquire how much time exists on both the majority and minority sides? the presiding officer: 21 minutes remaining on the republican side, nine and a half minutes remaining on the democrat side. mr. burr: i thank the president
of the senate and my colleague for his comments on the affordable care act. mr. president, i'm actually excited to be here having a debate about veterans, about the promises that we've made, about those that are really reliant on not only the v.a. but on this institution to actually look at the programs and the services provided and we see deficiencies, as a body, reforming them, fixing them so our customer, who is that person who made that ultimate sacrifice of putting on a uniform and in many cases having a lifetime disability because of it, can count on that health care system to be there. i would have expected that we would be on the floor debating in a bipartisan way those fixes that were needed to make sure that disability claims didn't
have veterans that had to wait hundreds of days to determine whether they were going to have a disability that was signed off on, and if so, what the percentage was, and that percentage then provided them income. i thought we'd focus on the challenges that the senate should have to reform how the appeals process works. you see, when a veteran is denied a disability claim where he gets less than he thinks he should have been awarded, then he has the opportunity to appeal that to the court of appeals. and now the time for the appeals decisions has grown to years. it shouldn't be like this. this is absurd that the congress of the united states, much less
the veterans administration, is content with the deficiencies that we have in a broken system. instead of being here to look at fixes provided under the sanders bill, we're here at how we expand the population of coverage. we're here with programs that have had little to no hearings. we're here without understanding the intended or the unintended consequences. let me just share the knowledge i have of north carolina where we have the largest growing veterans population in america. i don't have the facilities today to handle that veterans population in the time frame that americans are used to being delivered health care. i could go out and start
construction tomorrow if my good friend, the president, would allocate me the money since he sits on the appropriations committee and build facilities, and i still couldn't meet the facility requirements that are needed to provide that level of care. as a matter of fact, we've got about $14 billion worth of construction currently underway in the country and on an annual basis, this body, the congress of the united states, allocates about $1 billion in facilities construction and maintenance money. we have 14 years of backlog right now, and we're not even anticipating what the effects are going to be of our current warriors who have come out of iraq, who will leave afghanistan or who might enter syria or who might be in the conflict around the road. but, no, we're here debating in the sanders bill a massive expansion in who's provided
benefits under v.a.. so who is that? it's veterans that have no service-connected disability. it's veterans that are above the means testing threshold. let me put it in layman's terms. these are not people that are low income and not people that have a service-connected disability. we're going to have days to debate this bill, and i will enter, introduce an alternative and i will openly confess up front that i don't get into fixes because to do fixes, there's got to be bipartisanship. to reform programs in the federal agencies, republicans and democrats have to come together. why we're here today is because there was no outreach to try to put together a compromise bill. if the conversation we had about a day before we left a week ago
where you said this is what i'm going to do, won't you sign on, but you weren't willing to talk about changes, if that was compromise, then you did it. i don't consider that to be compromise. i don't consider it to be good-faith negotiations. but that's behind us. we've got this bill to consider. and it is a massive expansion. and what's it do? it basically says to those warriors who have service-connected disabilities, those individuals who are low-income -- and this is where they get their service, their health care, you're going to have to wait in a bigger line. you're going to have to get behind more people. so what veterans expect, which is the most needy receive the services they need, is not what this bill does. it's not at all what it does. as a matter of fact, section 301
of the sanders bill would expand eligibility of the v.a. health care system. it would qualify to enroll in the v.a. health care as priority 8 veterans. again, if they do not have access to health insurance except through a health exchange and do not meet -- do not qualify for higher priority. now, before getting into my concerns about this affected section and what it would have on v.a., i'd like to comment on how this section has been drafted. the section says -- i want to quote -- "if a veteran qualifies as a priority 8 veteran and has no other option but the health exchange under the affordable care act, they could enroll in the v.a." let me read that again.
"if a veteran qualifies as a priority 8 veteran and has no other option but the health exchange under the affordable care act, they can enroll in the v.a." we just mandated to everybody in this country except when the president delays the mandate that they've got to be under the affordable care act, and they're part of the health exchange. and now we're saying to priority 8 veterans, if your only option is the health exchange, we'll let you opt into the v.a.. if the health exchange is that good, then why would we dare risk all other veterans who have service-connected disabilities or low income having to wait behind people who were void health care out of the health exchange? some priority 8 veterans may even qualify for a subsidy under the exchange, something that they would not receive if they would enroll in v.a. health
care. now, i don't know, are they concerned these veterans will be unable to find a plan that meets their needs? everybody else in america was shoved into it. why should we be concerned about them? my intention today isn't to open up a health care debate. i do have serious, serious concerns about this expansion. expanding eligibility could stress an already overburdened system. there's a reason why priority 8 veterans was halted. v.a. found they could not provide timely access to services while sustaining the high level of care. and judging by the well over 30 health care inspectors' reports issued by the office of inspector general, this congress
alone, v.a. is having trouble with the limited group that they currently serve. here's some skpapl pels of the -- examples of the i.g.'s health care inspections report released since january 2013. one, three deaths in atlanta because of delays in mental health care. two, two reports regarding delays in g.i. consults and issues with facilities operating services in colombia, south carolina. three, emergency department patient deaths at the memphis v.a. center. four, two reports on the inappropriate use of insulin pens at the v.a. western new york center and the salisbury v.a. medical center. five, two reports on legionnaires' disease at v.a. pittsburgh and a review of v.a. legionnaires' prevention at v.a. facilities. if we expand enrollment, if we
expand the coverage, it would surely require an increase in funding at the v.a.. when we increase the number of patients entering the system, we certainly need to hire additional staff and to provide more space to treat the new veterans. i've already talked about the 14-year backlog we've got on facilities now. without follow-through on secondary costs, we'll only frustrate veterans when their expectations aren't met. not satisfy them. i truly believe that if we expand government programs, we need to do it responsibly. we need to understand the intended consequences and plan for the unintended consequences. we should explore whether v.a. could manage the implementation of this expansion. and we should explore what impact this will have on the v.a.'s ability to treat combat
veterans and veterans with limited incomes and find out what needs, new needs both in staffing and space would be created by this expansion. unfortunately, we don't know the answers to these questions, because in preparation for this section, the majority didn't hold an oversight hearing looking specifically at the consequences, intended or unintended to expand enrollment in priority 8 veterans. in fact, the only hearing on this subject was a hearing on legislation pending before the committee on october 30, 2013. at that hearing we heard testimony on three dozen bills, clearly not enough time to examine the details of any of the 30 bills. from their testimony at the hearing, v.a. obviously agrees with me. dr. robert jesse, principal deputy under secretary for health, indicated that expanding enrollment of priority 8
veterans -- and i quote -- "presents many potentially, potential complications and uncertain effects on v.a.'s enrollment system. that comes from a guy pretty high up within the veterans administration that they're not necessarily for this. finally, mr. president, i want to address a comment my colleague from vermont said at a press conference a few weeks ago. he said -- and i quote -- "we're not going to bring one new person in without making absolutely certain that the v.a. has the resources to accommodate those people. as i read the bill, there's nothing in this provision or in the bill itself that would restrict implementation in that way. however, i would gladly support an amendment which would delay this provision until g.a.o. reports that the v.a. could manage this additional population of veterans.
now, mr. president, you might be thinking, as others who are listening, what's all this cost? how is it paid for? is the funding reoccurring or is it a onetime funding? is it permanent expansion? well, let me try to answer some of that for you. the way the sanders' bill is paid for, it's paid with money out of the overseas contingency operations. that's more money that we were going to spend that we haven't spent, that we never had because we were borrowing it. now we're going to use to expand this. it's onetime funding for a permanent program. say that again. onetime funding for a permanent program. it's not like we're going to
expand priority 8 and all of a sudden when o.k.o. money is gone we say we didn't mean it. we're going to pull it back. this is going to be in the system regardless of the impact, regardless of the consequences. who is adversely affected? today's warriors. the same warriors that are waiting in line to get health services are now going to compete for a limited number of slots to be seen by people who might have had private insurance, by people who might have been in the health care exchange, by individuals that are not low income, have no service-connected disability. who else? those veterans with disability claims that are waiting for determination. i mean, they're going to be impacted by this because you've got such an influx of people within the system.
those veterans who are waiting for disposition of their disability claims, their appeals. those that have gone back. they've waited. they've finally gone through hundreds of days for a claim to be determined only to find out they've got to appeal it and now they are going through hundreds of days of appeal. and now we're saying we're going to have to start using some of these people to administer these new services that far exceed outside of priority 8, which i focus on. but we'll talk about the entirety of this bill as the next several days go on. last one, and i'll stop for today, or at least for this afternoon, who's adversely affected? our kids. our grandchildren. the ones that sit at home today hoping that the decisions that we make about future obligations, taking into account
that they're paying the tab, that they're the ones that are going to be here years from now keeping the promises we made, and they're hoping we only make the ones that we can keep. i want to tell a personal story. mr. president, how much time do i have left on my side? the presiding officer: five minutes, sir. mr. burr: i would to tell a personal story, if i could, about a trip to one of our military cemeteries abroad, and i was there for a memorial day servicings and wservice, and wee country of belgium. as we got there for this memorial day service, there were probably 4,000 to 5,000 individuals there for this. and we got through with the for- formalities. as i wandered through the graves, i found this belgium
couple with their two young children at the headstone of an american soldier from world war ii. i went up and asked them one simple question: why are you here? and that belgium father, younger than i was, looked at me and he said, sir, i inherited this grave from my father. he said, my father took the responsibility for this grave to always make sure that it was just like it was the day he got it. and i have now inherited that from my father, and my children will inherit that responsibility from me. now, mr. president, i'm going to tell you, i know there are a lot of veterans organizations out there that really hope that senator sanders' bill becomes law, but i think there are a lot of veterans out there that are hoping that it doesn't.
they are eight veterans that need the -- they're the veterans that need the v.a. system. they county o count on it for tr mental health treatment, they count on it for their primary care, they count on it to stay alive and we promised it to them. i'm sure that future generations will look at the decisions we make this week, and they will belly up to the bar for whatever it costs. but i think it's also important for us to remember our obligations stretch long before our service here, long past our service here, and that though it seems somewhat easy to spend somebody else's money, our kidsd
want us to reform this, our veterans want us to reform this the v.a. wants us to reform this. once we reform it, we can talk about expansion. until then, it is irresponsible for the congress of the united states, for the senate of the united states to talk about dumping more people in a broken system, to talk about asking those who have already waited so long to wait longer because of our actions. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. sanders: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: thank you. i thank my colleague from north carolina, the ranking member of the veterans' committee, for his remarks, and i look afford, senator burr, to debating some of the issues that you raised, because i think it is important for not just the veterans of this country but the tens of
millions of people who support our veterans to understand what we are trying to do to improve lives for those people who put their lives on the line to defend this country. i did find it, i must say, interesting that the ranking member from north carolina suggested that, yes -- in so many words -- we do -- this bill does have the support of the american legion, the veterans of foreign washing wars, the disabd veterans, the military officers association of america, the iraq and afghanistan officers of america, gold star wives of america and dozens of other veterans organizations, but the implication was, yeah, they may be supporting this bill, but veterans back home do not. i doubt that very much, and in fact i happen to believe that these organizations do a damn good -- a very good job in representing the interests of their veterans, that they listen
to the veterans. and it is the minority -- i as e ranking member understands, this bill was put together not from my head or his head or any member of the senate's head. we listened to the veterans community, who came afford before the congress -- in fact there was a joint session that i had to miss because i was here from the d.a.v. we're going to hear from all of the veterans organizations, this bill represents what those veterans organizations said that the veterans community needs. and i had strongly disagree with the senator from north carolina suggesting that the certaintie s organizations do not do a sufficient job in representing their membership. anevery now and then it is a god idea to have a debate on real issues. but in terms of the suggestion
that this is not a bipartisan bill, yeah, i do understand, absolutely -- but not every word in here nor every source of funding is supported by republican colleagues. but this is what i do want to say. i want to say that this legislation, that as chairman of the veterans' committee, i have worked as hard as i could, and i believe that the ranking member knows this, to in fact develop as best i could a bipartisan piece of legislation. and i do want to remind all the members of the senate and the american people that this legislation contains a significant number of provions authored and supported by republican members of the veterans' committee, including my friend from north carolina. he knows that. in fact, to the best of my knowledge, there are some 26 separate provisions that
republican members have authored or cosponsored. that is not an insignificant number. further, perhaps two of the most prominent provisions are the omnibus bills. that is, when we collect a number of different bills and we put them into one pot. we did that on two occasions, mr. president, and as the ranking member knows, the vote on each of those omnibus bills was unanimous. every democrat voted for it. every republican voted. the independent chairman of the committee voted for them. in truth, other important provisions were passed, not unanimous of course, but they did pass in many cases with bipartisan support. furthermore, this bill contains two key bipartisan provisions that were passed overwhelmingly by the republican-controlled house of representatives. so let me acknowledge that not
every provision in this bill was brought before the committee. that is true. but the two major provisions that were not brought before this committee are really bipartisan and in fact have been passed overwhelmingly by the republican-controlled house. with almost unanimous votes, the house passed the same provision that is included in this bill, in the senate bill, that would solve a longstanding problem to authorize v.a. to enter into 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and puerto rico. my friend talks about the fact that we need more infrastructure for our veterans. he's right. this bill provides 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and puerto rico, and in an absolutely overwhelming bipartisan vote that whrangs pass -- that language was passed in the house. the second provision that was
not passed in our committee was also passed with very broad bipartisan support in the house. that deals with ensuring that veterans can take full advantage of the post-9/11 g.i. bill and get in-state tuition in the state in which they're currently living. and i suspect my friend from north carolina supports that provision. so it is fair to say that not every provision was debated in the committee. he is right. but the two major provisions that yoprovisionsthat were not h overwhelming support in the house and i believe with pass with overwhelming support in this body and are included in this legislation. my point, mr. president, is that i happen to believe that virtually every member of the senate, regardless of his or her ideology, cares about veterans, and i know that the senator from north carolina does. and that all of us want to do the very best that we can.
and that is why i have worked so hard with members of my committee, with republicans and democrats, to make this bill as bipartisan as it possibly could be. i'm not here to shea that it is 1 -- i'm not here to say that it is 100% bipartisan. it is not. but we worked hard. and there are significant provisions in this bill that come from my republican colleagues. they were good ideas. you don't reject an idea because somebody has an "r" next to their name. that's the way it should be. mr. president, may i ask the president how much time remains? the presiding officer: two and a half minutes, sir. mr. sanders: let me very briefly touch on some of the other provisions in the bill. we restore full cola for military retirees. as we all know, the house and the senate -- the president signed the bill to undo the provision in the budget afnlgt bu-- in the budget act.
but they did not include those members of the military who signed up after january 2014. they are still suffering from a cut in the cola. we address that. this bill provides dental care. i don't know about other states, but i can tell new my state -- and i suspect all over this country -- talking to veterans, they think that dental care is part of health care. right now except for service-connected situations, dental care is not provided. we have a major pilot project to say to veterans, yes, dental care is part of v.a. health care, and you can get that. advanced appropriations for the v.a. not everybody knows, but we were seven days to ten days away from disabled veterans not getting their checks when the government was shut down. this legislation ensures veterans receive consistent access to the benefits they've earned by establishing advanced appropriations for the mandatory
accounts at v.a. we move afford in a bipartisan way -- we move forward in a bipartisan way to end the benefits backlog. my colleague points out that it is a serious issue. everybody agrees it is a serious issue. i think the v.a. is make some progress. this -- i think the v.a. is make -- is making some progress. this has language to help the v.a. move forward in that area. this legislation would extend for five years to ten years unfettered access to v.a. health care for recently separated veterans to address their health care needs early. this legislation renews our sue to hire -- our vow to hire veterans, making sure that veterans get the employment opportunities that many of them are now lacking when they come back from iraq and afghanistan. this legislation deals in a significant way with the horrendous issue of sexual assault, making sure that those victims of sexual assault, women
and men, get the care that they need at the v.a. let me conclude, mr. president, by saying this: this is a serious bill that deals with a very serious issue. and my hope is that every member treats the needs of veterans with the respect that they deserve. and i look afford to the debate that i am confident we will have. clearly, this is not a perfect bill, and i know that there are members who have ideas as to how they can improve it, and that's what the legislative process is about. my sincere hope, however, is that the amendments that are brought forth are ones that deal with veterans issues and not amendments that are not relevant -- not germane to this discussion. the presiding officer: circumstance your timsir,your t. mr. sanders: i would ask for an additional 30 second. the presiding officer: without objection.
sand sand this is mmr. sanders:. let's debate the issues right here on the floor. but i would hope that we show our respect to the veterans by not getting off into issues that have nothing to do with veterans' needs. i hope we're not off debating iran or obamacare or gay marriage, whatever it may be. those are good political issues to some people. but i hope that people understand how significant and important this issue itself is, the needs of our veterans, and we stay focused as we bring forth amendments on those issues. with that, mr. president, i would yield. mr. burr: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. burr: mr. president, i thank my colleague, the chairman of the committee. he's right, we do have a lot of agreements. as a matter of fact, about 80% of the policy in his bill, he will find in my alternative
bill. but 20% i have big problems with. i have problems with the cost. i have problems with the unintended consequences, if we could figure out the intended consequences but we can't because there hasn't been much time to it. so i look forward to the couple of days. i think that the chair made a plea that this be limited to v.a. issues. you know, mr. chairman, that might be possible if the minority had the opportunity to amend legislation in this institution. i think we've had four votes on republican amendments since july. and to suggest that iran's not important is in fact a blind eye on the world. i have in my bill a piece of legislation that's cosponsored by 59 senators, bipartisan, the
iran sanctions bill. why? because it's the only way we can get this to the floor, because we're denied any other attempt to do it. this is something that's important to the american people. it's important to our friends and our allies around the world. and i'm sure it will dominate part of the debate. but make no mistake about it, the one thing that the chairman didn't point to was what we're fixing. we're adding a lot of stuff, but we're not fixing anything. ask any veteran whether the system needs reform. i ask for an additional 30 seconds. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. burr: ask any veteran if there is a need for reform, i think they'd tell chairman sanders like they would me, yeah, there are a lot of places that need reform. so to suggest that shouldn't be
part of this debate is ludicrous. i look forward to the next several days. i urge my colleagues to support getting on this bill and would urge them to vote "aye" when they come to this next vote. i thank the chair. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: we the undersigned senators in accordance with the provisions of rules 22 of the standing rules of the senate hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the motion to proceed to calendar number 301 s. 1982, the comprehensive veterans health benefits and military retirement pay restoration act signed by 17 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is is it the sense of the senate that debate on the motion to proceed to proceed to s. 1982, a bill to improve the medical services and benefits to veterans and for other purposes,