Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  June 18, 2014 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT

4:00 pm
4:01 pm
4:02 pm
4:03 pm
4:04 pm
4:05 pm
4:06 pm
4:07 pm
4:08 pm
4:09 pm
4:10 pm
4:11 pm
4:12 pm
4:13 pm
4:14 pm
4:15 pm
quorum call:
4:16 pm
4:17 pm
mr. coons: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware is recognized. mr. coons: i ask unanimous consent that the proceedings under the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. coons: mr. president, i come to the floor this afternoon because this week, the senate has a chance to take another crucial step away from the political cliffs and
4:18 pm
manufactured crises of previous years and to get back to the regular order, to get back to the considered, measured, orderly process on this floor that for so long was characteristic of this body, in past considered the greatest deliberative body on earth, but in recent years, it has ground to a halt. it is critical that we return to regular order and that we return to the steady consideration of appropriation bills in a way that will move not just the senate, this congress, but this country forward. i'd like to thank the chair and ranking members of the appropriation committee, senators mikulski and shelby, for their leadership and their steadfast determination to work in a bipartisan manner and bring us back to regular order. we are considering today a collection or what is called here a mini bus instead of an omnibus of three appropriation bills -- agriculture, rural development and food and drug
4:19 pm
administration. commerce, justice and science, and transportation and housing and urban development, an unbelievable scope across these three appropriation bills that could in combination make a real and significant difference for our communities, our states and our country. this is an opportunity for this congress to carry out its duties to provide oversight and direction and to help all the different agencies i just named to move forward and address some of our most important priorities. as a member myself of the appropriation committee, i have advocated for some of what are our nation's top priorities embedded in these three important bills, so i'd like to speak for a few minutes about how these bills will first help my home state of delaware, second, help our country, and then third about the important obligation we have as senators to return to regular order and to use the appropriation process for oversight and for management of this whole federal project.
4:20 pm
for delaware, these three bills invest in a number of areas. i could talk about literally dozens of things that are critical to my home state but let me focus on two -- public safety and infrastructure. when you think about it at the local level, which is where i served for a decade in county government, these really are part of the foundation of what government does and does well -- keep our people, our homes, our communities, our families safe and provide for the sewer, water, the drinking water, the highways and the tollways and the bridges and the ports that are critical to moving commerce and our country forward. this bill extends children's advocacy centers. let me talk for a few minutes about what children's advocacy centers are and why it's so vital to public safety in our country. children's advocacy centers allow communities to bring child abusers to justice without retraumatizing their victims. children's advocacy centers are unique because it's a model that brings together under one roof
4:21 pm
in one place law enforcement, prosecutors, counselors and child service professionals, all focusing on how to best care for and move forward with a child who has been a victim of abuse. in delaware, we have three senators, one in each of our three counties. although i wish we didn't need them, the fact is that they are indispensable. in my experience, in a decade of local government, i was exposed over and over again to the critical role that they play in helping law enforcement secure critical evidence and move forward to conviction against the monsters who commit abuse against our children. since the creation of these centers, they have transformed our nation's response to child abuse, giving families hope and guidance in their darkest moments and delivering justice to those who have endured the worst. so as we work together to continue to try our best to keep our children safe, this bill allows us to continue to fund child advocacy centers so that
4:22 pm
we have a more efficient, more effective, more federally sponsored and coordinated way to deliver at a very modest cost this vital resource for our children. second, as we work to keep our children safe, this bill also allows us to protect those who protect us. every day, more than a million law enforcement officers across this country accept risks to their personal safety as they leave their families at dawn and head off to their jobs, they know that what they accept as part of their mission is the risk they may not come home at night. that's why it's so important that this bill also funds the bulletproof vest partnership. in delaware, we know its value all too well. last february, the newcastle county courthouse in my hometown of wilmington, delaware, a gunman unleashed a hail of bullets into a courthouse lobby, tragically killing two. on what was a difficult morning in wilmington, two lives were also saved, those of sergeant michael manley and corporal
4:23 pm
steve reinhart, members of the capitol police, officers who were wearing bulletproof vests funded by the federal bulletproof vest partnership. this was a partnership launched by my predecessor, now-vice president bidden. -- vice president biden. but without its participation, this vital law enforcement partnership would grind to a halt. vests work. they save lives. they save officers' lives. with this bill, we will be able to ensure even more officers all across this country have life-saving bulletproof vests. so those are two areas where in law enforcement and in public safety, this bill continues critical investments in partnership for the federal government to state and local governments. in recent weeks in delaware, we have also been reminded of just how critical our infrastructure is, our bridges and our roads and our highways. there is a bridge on i-495 that goes across the christina river, and this is a vital highway for
4:24 pm
wilmington and for the whole mid-atlantic region. it carries 90,000 drivers a day. two weeks ago, it was closed indefinitely when workers nearby noticed four of its pillars were off plumb, were slanted and upon further investigation discovered there were cracks in this very foundation, holding it 50 feet in the air. its closure is holding families and commuters and is one of a string of emergencies all across our country that demonstrate a need for investment in fixing america's roads and bridges. the funding we're considering this week in this bill recognizes that and takes steps to address some of our most urgent needs across this country. it continues to invest in two innovative funding vehicles, one tawld tiger grants and -- called tiger grants and another called tifia loans. these are acronyms, but they are inventive ways to mobilize private capital, in partnership with the states and the federal government to get us moving
4:25 pm
again in repairing and upgrading the roads and bridges of america. they help state and local governments pay for new highways and bridges, public transit projects, railways and ports. in delaware, the port of wilmington, a critical economic engine for our state and region, secured a $10 million tiger grant last year to renovate facilities built in 1922. and on u.s. 301, a little south and west of wilmington but still in delaware, tifia grants are helping us do critical work to relieve congestion. in southernmost delaware at georgetown in the sussex county airport, we have also seen the vital role and the value of federal investment. since 2012, the sussex county airport has received $4 million in airport improvements grants to improve runway and improve safety and to help grow manufacturing jobs at that georgetown airport, and with this week's bill, we will be able to continue making these kinds of critical improvements at airports in delaware and
4:26 pm
across our country. now, i relatively rarely get to fly, but i commute virtually every day back and forth from wilmington, delaware, to washington, and i ride on amtrak when i do so. today, ridership levels are at a record high, and delaware's region in the northeast corridor brings in $300 million in profits alone, so it's good that this bill maintains amtrak's national operations and investments in its capital needs, but i believe we need to do more. we need to step up and do more federally to invest if we want to keep these results, not just in the northeast but across the country. we have a more than $6 billion backlog to reach a state of good repair for amtrak, and as our bridges and tunnels and rail lines get older and older, fixing them will only become more expensive. that's why i intend to offer an amendment to this bill to further increase our investment in the capital needs of amtrak. this is critical, it's something we need, and we need to start chipping away at this long overdue debt we have, this
4:27 pm
unaddressed infrastructure debt if we're going to continue to serve our communities. now, there are many other great things in these incredibly broad bills that are of national and international importance, and let me just briefly reference a few. at home, conserving continues to be critical to our economy and our future and biomanufacturing plays an increasingly important role. the manufacturing of products and materials from renewable sources, from plant-based sources rather than petrochemicals, and for the first time in this bill, we'll dedicate $15 million to the national science foundation's budget for new biomanufacturing initiatives that will allow us to deploy in the marketplace new invexes and innovations. our competitors aren't holding back on doing so. countries from the united kingdom to china are ramping up their investments in new biomanufacturing. in my view, it's time for the united states to refocus our research, to reprioritize our investments and stay competitive in this vital field. finally, i'm proud these
4:28 pm
appropriation bills also support in the housing area funding for community development block grants or cdbg programs. we used them when i was in county government in delaware to help rehabilitate homes, to help provide for affordable homes and to help strengthen and sustain jobs in our community. in 2013, so-called cdbg or community development block grants helped 225 families. some in this body have tried to cut cdbg, but i am thrilled we have been able to successfulfully move forward and sustain its support in this bill. while we invest at home, these appropriation bills also make important investments abroad, and one i'd like to briefly highlight is in our international food programs where we feed millions but can do more. this bill provides for flexibility of our food aid that will allow it to be delivered more efficiently, more quickly and to feed more to hunger around the world. as businesses also look abroad here for the united states, we're doing more to open new markets for them. one of the investments that i most value that's in this bill
4:29 pm
in this regard is through an expansion of the foreign commercial service at the department of commerce. in particular, its expansion in africa where seven out of ten of the fastest growing economies in the world are currently growing but where the united states isn't doing enough to take advantage of these burgeoning export markets for our products. as chair of the african affairs subcommittee, i have had a chance to see up close the great opportunities for growth and partnership that africa offers. there will be four new foreign commercial service offices, in angola, tanzania, ethiopia, and mozambique, as well as expansion of offices in kenya, morocco and libya, and now we can make investments in thome jointly so our growing partnerships in the sub-saharan partnerships that i listed can thrive. as i close, mr. president, i'd also like to make one brief point about why this whole process is important, why we need to pass these appropriation bills rather than just continuing resolution which is go on from year after year that sustain funding but do not
4:30 pm
engage the minds and the skills of the members of this body in doing oversight of the federal government. as the federal government changes, as our nation's needs change, we need to be able to ensure that our spending, that our focus adapts as well. a great example from this particular minibus bill that's on the floor today is the so-called crude by rail safety initiative. within the last year, there have been a number of accidents on our rail networks that demand action. america is moving more and more hazardous products by rail so we're putting in place a new approach to do it more same. the department of transportation and transportation secretary fox have gone -- delivered a great job, responding with the resources and tools they have but congress needs to do more. that's why this bill adds 20 new rail and hazardous materials inspectors, three million to ensure oil routes are safe and sound, creates a short line safety institute, improves
4:31 pm
classifications and extends training for first responders. without this bill and regular order, new and timely investments like that that are responsive to the conditions in the world wouldn't happen. thus if i might say in closing while our economy changes we need to change and we need regular order and regular appropriations appropriation bills in order to do that. i thank the chair and the vice chair of the appropriations committee, senators mikulski and shelby for their leadership and their effort to shepherd a bipartisan process straightforward. it's critical to our economy and our future. thank you and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from utah is recognized. mr. hatch: i ask unanimous consent i be permitted to deliver my remarks in full. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: i ask unanimous consent the distinguished senator brown be permitted to speak immediately following my remarks for at least ten
4:32 pm
minutes. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. hatch: thank you, mr. president. i rise today out of serious concern about the release of the five senior taliban commanders detained at guantanamo and the way in which the obama administration accomplished it. these individuals of the taliban successfully demanded the release in exchange for sergeant bowe bergdahl were some of the most dangerous in our custody. some who had close operational ties to al qaeda. others perpetrated horrifying war crimes. all were senior leaders in the taliban, a group we remain at war with. these former detainees the taliban five are only subject to a one-year international travel ban. it seems shockingly unrealistic to expect that they will not seek to undo everything our brave men and women in uniform have fought and died for in afghanistan. mr. president, however foolish, the prospect that we might release the most dangerous
4:33 pm
guantanamo detainees has been a matter of national debate for some time. president obama and his subordinates have long espoused a singular devotion to closing the detention facility at guantanamo. many of us in congress have remained decidedly less sanguine about this longtime left-wing fantasy. we're wary of the dangers, inappropriateness and oftentimes the impossibility of prosecuting them as if they were common criminals. we we're frustrated by the procedural roadblocks. before all else we're alarmed by the more than one in four released detainees that have apparently rejoined the fight. and unlike the administration, we have long been disabused of the notion that our enemies and perennial critics would fall in love with america if we simply close guantanamo. with these concerns in mind, we
4:34 pm
exercised our rightful legislative authority under the constitution to prevent the transfer of any further detainees out of government shutdown. -- guantanamo. nevertheless the obama administration bitterly opposed any release restrictions facing incessant and intense pressure from the administration to repeal our ban, congress acted on a bipartisan basis to reach a compromise. a compromise that was extraordinarily generous to the administration's position. under the new law in effect, section 1035 of last year's national defense authorization act, congress must be notified 30 days before any detainee transfer. the notification must contain a detailed statement of the basis of transfer, an explanation of why the transfer is in the national security interests of the united states, and a description of the actions taken to mitigate the risks of detainees returning to the fight.
4:35 pm
our subsequent funding legislation also banned the obama administration from using any of the appropriated money to transfer detainees except in accordance with those -- these agreed-upon procedures. and despite this good-faith effort on the part of congress to find common ground with the president, he chose to simply disregard his statutory obligation to inform congress of this highly controversial release of the taliban five. and while we should celebrate the return of any american from taliban captivity, the president's actions carry very troubling consequences. mr. president, when a lawmaker animatedly denounces the provision the president's, some wonky, many americans might
4:36 pm
understandably dismiss such a concern as a petty turf war. if there eyes don't glaze over first. though perhaps intuitive, such an impression couldn't be more wrong. first, notification requirements like this one have proven critically beneficial to national security decisionmaking particularly in the national security context. the most prominent example is our oversight of the intelligence community. for more than 30 years, prior congressional consultation has been a key foundation of ensuring effective policymaking on intelligence gathering activities and covert operations. on these incredibly sensitive and weighty issues, the executive branch is required to brief certain members of the legislative branch on all such proposed activities before they
4:37 pm
happen. the discussion of such highly classified information necessitates a strict observance of secrecy which congress has a long tradition of respecting. discussions behind these closed doors provide the benefits of deliberation outside of the fish bowl of the ordinary policy process. in this setting, concern about national security and the wisdom of the contemplated action dominate. politics takes a back seat. the administration can modify or cancel proposed actions without the costs that attach to public policy pronouncements. and by assuaging our concerns before execution, the administration gets the congressional buy-in that's so necessary when these sorts of difficult decisions are taken. though the system certainly has its critics on all sides, i remain a passionate believer in its overall effectiveness. i should know.
4:38 pm
i served on the senate select committee on intelligence longer than any other republican ever has. for years i was intimately involved in this process and witnessed up close just how well it works to produce good policy. and in the context of national security, an area in which our nation regularly faces critical and difficult decisions, we need a well-functioning congressional oversight process to ensure our safety and security now more than ever. but even beyond improving an administration's national security decisionmaking, we should genuinely concern ourselves as a nation that formal restraints on power be observed by the coordinate branches of our government. whether the administration agrees with the restrictions on its power to release guantanamo detainees, these restrictions
4:39 pm
remain enshrined in a duly enacted federal statute and the president remains obligated to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. to ignore the law and the president's constitutional obligation to see that the law is enforced may seem enticing in an instance of apparent pressing need. but our constitution provides no such authority. consider the wisdom of justice jackson in his seminal ciewrns in the steel seizure case. -- quote --quote -- "the appealt of necessity to meet an emergency as such to do what many think would be wise although it is something that the forefathers omitted. they knew what emergencies were. they made no express provisions for exercise of extraordinary authority because of a crisis. i do not think we rightfully may so amend their work and if we could, i am not convinced it would be wise to do so" --
4:40 pm
unquote. indeed the central organizing principal of the federal government is the division of powers and authorities between the different branches. as a 21st century american, it is far too easy to treat the separation of powers as a cliche confined to the civics classroom rather than a meaningful conversation of our liberty. or a meaningful cornerstone of our liberty. we should recall madison's warning in federalist 47 that -- quote -- "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands whether of one, a few or many and whether hereditary, self-appointed or elective may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny" -- unquote. to disregard the central precepts of constitutional government, is to vitiate the barriers protecting us from
4:41 pm
arbitrary government action and to undermine the rule of law. we in the congress should make no apology for zealously guarding the legal prerogatives of the body in which we serve. for as madison also warned in federalist 51 -- quote -- "the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists of giving those to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachment of the others" -- unquote. nevertheless out of respect for a coordinate branch of government, the obama administration's arguments excusing its action in releasing these five dangerous taliban detainees merit thoughtful consideration and analysis. i've never been shy about defending the powers of the president when exercised lawfully no matter how unpopular.
4:42 pm
nevertheless, such an examination of the obama administration's speculations reveals --ing legislations reveals attitudes and priorities that guided the administration's action. the obama administration has advanced multiple, distinct arguments about the legal quit of its move to releez -- release these taliban leaders. now advancing laudable, sometimes contradictory arguments does not exactly instill confidence in the administration's commitment to its legal obligations. some have been patently absurd such as the suggestion from the white house press secretary that briefing members of congress more than two years ago about the potential for the detainee exchange cons executed sufficient compliance with the detailed requirements for an actual decision to transfer.
4:43 pm
i want to examine the two more sophisticated ration unless because it's in the details of these arguments that my gravest concerns arise. first, i want to consider the national security council spokeswoman's written statement to the press asserting that -- quote -- "congress did not intend that the administration would be barred from taking the action it did in these circumstances" -- unquote. by trying to read congress' mind when interpreting the law as the administration purports to do has always struck me as absolutely absurd. article 1 of our constitution creates a legislative process that today includes 536 different individuals. to assume the existence of a single intent among so many different minds all with different interests, different purposes, different philosophies and different methods runs counter to basic
4:44 pm
logic, not to mention the theory of representative government at the foundation of our constitution. this notion that we should be governed by easily manipulated arguments about congress supposedly would have wanted long justified the hijacking of the law to undermine the clear meaning of the text. fighting this abuse of the law and the constitution has animated so much of my work over the past 38 years and we have made enormous progress in reestablishing the bedrock principle that if we are governed not by vague claims about intent, but rather by the words themselves, words that have a fixed and discernible meaning with the power to bind us all, including the president, i will don't fight for this principle as long as i have the honor to serve our people in this country. in this light, the proper reading of the detainee transfer
4:45 pm
and release notification requirements includes no such exception that the obama administration imagines exists. we should always be skeptical of arguments assuming unwritten exceptions to laws, and here the relevant factors counsel strongly against assuming such an exception into existence. the statute uses strong universally applicable language. quote -- "the secretary of defense shall notify" -- "each notification shall include at a minimum" -- quote -- "the secretary of defense may transfer only if" and the like. the text of the provision is particularly detailed. this detail, especially when read in conjunction with numerous other incredibly detailed provisions in the national defense authorization act and its many predecessors,
4:46 pm
many of which contain detailed exceptions, demonstrates that congress is quite capable of creating exceptions to a provision like this one but instead actively chose not to include one here. finally, as has been clearly established, lawmakers were aware of the administration's desire to conduct exactly this sort of a transaction before the beginning of the legislative process. to assume such an exception when the congress was aware of the administration's desire and proffered need to force such a provision but chose not to provide one would completely undermine the notion that congress has the power to choose its preferred policies by legislation. put another way, how could congress have been clearer that no detainee transfers could be accomplished outside its established process?
4:47 pm
and if congress's bright-line rule can be wished away by the obama administration in many thithiscase, when can the congrt to establish a policy which the administration cannot carve out exceptions, exceptions that destroy the very core of the law? in this rather ridiculous attempt to transfer the notification release requirements, the obama administration is simply avoiding making more controversial argument explicit. this argument centers on the contention that -- quote -- "in certain circumstances" the transfer and release notification requirements -- quote -- "would violate separation of powers principles." other senior administration officials have made statements, albeit hesitantly, invoking the president's authority under the constitution to disregard the statute.
4:48 pm
so though the administration attempts to cloak it in the complex obscurity of statutory construction, this is the real issue at hand. as the threshold matter, the rule of law and the separation of powers both depend on the long-standing notion that an unconstitutional statute is no law at all. and we should take the obama administration's arguments about the constitutionality of the notification requirement as applied to the taliban five trade very seriously. when appropriate, i have defended the president's authority to act in contravention of certain statutes and i absolutely stand by the positions i have taken before, no matter how unpopular they have sometimes been. but i feel it incumbent upon me to lay out my case about why i am so disturbed about the administration's actions here, not to deflect any charge of hypocrisy for personal benefit, but because i care so
4:49 pm
passionately about checking the obama administration's overreach in this and so many other cases. to risk having these arguments dismissed without serious consideration of their merits would be unbearable, so i feel compelled to lay out my case in some detail. here the obama administration arguments fail fail on the administration's own terms and in so doing demonstrate some disturbing trends at work within this administration. now, the obama administration has not advanced the notion that the transfer and release notification requirements are always unconstitutional. instead, the administration's been very careful to suggest that the notification requirements unconstitutionally encumbered the executive branch because of the specific circumstance at issue in the taliban five trade. and the general terms of the obama administration's rationale initially seemed potentially reasonable, that it feared sergeant bergdahl would be
4:50 pm
endangered unless the administration moved quickly or swiftly and secretly to make the trade, which compliance of with the notification requirement would have prevented the president from exercising his lawful authority to order the detainee swap. however, the logic of the administration's rationale falls apart under closer inspection of these two factors that it has citing as creating the special circumstances that justified disregarding the statute -- the need for swiftness and the need for secrecy. first, the need for swift acti action. the obama administration has at various times suggested that sergeant bergdahl's health was in rapid and accelerating decline to the point of necessitating immediate rescue and that the taliban would refuse to agree to bergdahl's release unless the administration executed the trade quickly. after examining what evidence the administration has provided
4:51 pm
us, a number of my colleagues from both sides and from both parties, including the senior senator from california, the chair of the senate select committee on intelligence, have expressed significant doubt about these claims. but even if we accept the obama administration's claims that there existed a need for swift action, that when faced with this realization, compliance with the 30-day notification requirement would have endangered the potential for recovering sergeant bergdahl and that these are the sort of circumstances where the constitution authorizes the executive branch to act in defiance of a notification requirement, even if we accept everything the administration suggests, their argument doesn't totally nullify the administration's obligations under the statutory notification requirement. under the administration's own logic, that the notification requirement is not unconstitutional -- is not unconstitutional per se but,
4:52 pm
rather, only under certain circumstances, the executive branch still has a duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. thus, even if it is authorized to order a transfer or release of detainees in less than the 30 days mandated by the statute, the president remains obligated to comply as substantially and faithfully as possible, mitigating any anticipated breach by keeping congress abreast of negotiations and complying with the notification requirements as soon as any transfer decision is made or undertaken. but that clearly is not the case here. instead, we know from the statements of senior administration officials that the administration deliberately withheld notification from congress until after the trade occurred, months after negotiations to make this trade resumed and intensified, weeks after the detainee transfer agreement with qatar was signed, and days after the final
4:53 pm
decision was taken. given that the administration accepts the constitutionality of the legality of the notification requirement generally, its actions represent a direct effort to undermine the obvious core purpose of the law -- giving congress the opportunity to raise its objections and lobby against an ill-advised release or transfer before it happens. mr. president, this isn't maximally faithful compliance. this is outright flouting of the statute. the administration, though, has also claimed a need for secrecy; specifically, that informing congress would endanger the prospects for sergeant bergdahl's safe return. i take this concern for secrecy extraordinarily seriously and i know every one of my colleagues does as well. preserving secrecy as not to endanger ongoing operations remains an absolutely vital
4:54 pm
cornerstone of congressional oversight of national security issues. in my long service on the intelligence committee engendered in me a particular appreciation for how necessary it is. but administrations have for decades briefed congress on extraordinarily sensitive matters. take the bin laden raid. it's hard to think of an operation more sensitive than that in both the taliban five top and the bin laden operation, the mission objectives as well as the safety of our troops would have both been completely unattainable if detailed had leaked. yet even befor before the bin ln operation, the administration kept congress appropriately and regularly briefed, as required by law, which is, to me, testament to the extraordinary resiliency of our oversight structure. mr. president, even those of us who have long defended robust executive powers in the national security context, have long asserted that -- quote -- "the
4:55 pm
constitutional basis for withholding notification can only be invoked credibly by its own terms. in very rare circumstances, a generalized fear that congress might leak would not by itself suffice because the same fear could be invoked equally for all secret operations. in the case of hand, the obama administration accepts the constitutionality of congressional notification requirements in most circumstances. it has also failed to articulate any particular reason why notifying could would pose a particular problem when compared to other sensitive operations. but the implication that it did not notify gression just because of a generalized fear of -- congress just because of a generalized fear of leaks, not e have decades of oversight of separations and covert operations, but it also makes an exceedingly radical argument
4:56 pm
that would give the president essentially arbitrary power to ignore what he acknowledges is a valid law. in this case, though, the administration's actions wholly undermine the notion that there was an unusual secrecy concern at issue here. first, consider that the administration itself estimated that between 80 and 90 executive branch officials were told of the decision to release the taliban five ahead of time, in an administration that leaks sensitive national security information like a sieve, but zero -- zero -- members of congress were informed. secretary of defense and his general counsel even admitted that justice department lawyers were told of the upcoming trade for the very purpose of keeping even a few key members of congress in the dark. in light of the statutory requirement to notify just a key handful of members of congress,
4:57 pm
this situation appears flatly absurd and certainly inconsistent with maximally faithful compliance with the statute. but furthermore, the administration had already discussed with congress the potential for such a deal. they ran into bipartisan opposition, as expressed in the bipartisan letter of early 2012 signed by "the" top democrat and top republican on both the house and senate intelligence committees. in response to that letter, media reports indicate that then-secretary of state and former senator from new york, promised that the administration would pursue further congressional consultations before making the exchange. and in 2013, the white house press secretary responded to a question about trading sergeant bergdahl's -- sergeant bergdahl for taliban detainees in stark terms, promising -- quote -- "we
4:58 pm
would not make any decisions about transfer of any detainees without consulting congress." so, mr. president, why the more than two years of radio silence from the obama administration? why the disregard of a federal statute when the administration's arguments for doing so in this case are so disturbingly unconvincing? why wait until after the decision could not be challenged before telling congress? after reviewing these events, the answer seems obvious -- president obama and his subordinates illegitimately chose not to inform congress until after the decision was irrevocable because they knew that congress would object. two administration officials told bloomberg news as much that -- quote -- "the failure to notify key members of congress in advance was a deliberate move to skirt opposition to releasing the five taliban prisoners." now, the vigor of the obama
4:59 pm
administration's defense of the deal has shocked many. it has not shocked me. to this president, this deal represents the apex of the responsible winding down of the conflict in afghanistan, not only in returning sergeant bergdahl but also in releasing the taliban five, whom the administration has eager thely sought to release before. just take it from the majority leader, who said he was -- quote -- "glad to get rid of these five people." and for a president and administration that has demonstrated endless reservoirs of faith in the goodwill of hostile forces abroad, there is also surely hope, no matter how ridiculous, that giving in to the taliban's demands will somehow inspire renewed interest on the part of the taliban in peace talks, as if that did
5:00 pm
anything but demonstrate how the taliban's current tactics will get them concessions from the obama administration. president obama has on many occasions annunciated very clear beliefs of our detention operations at guantanamo, articulating a nearly religious conviction that detention of taliban, al qaeda and associated forces under the law of armed conflict is a beacon of this nation's evils to the world. and though the administration has faced immense political pressure to reconsider from many of us, i have absolutely no doubt that president obama intends on following through with his longtime recently repeated promise to make every effort to close guantanamo during his remaining time in office. many of my cheetion an colleagui share a diametrically opposed view from the president's, own
5:01 pm
more focused on securing the stability of the afghan government that our men and women in uniform have fought so hard to establish. but in our honest disagreement, president obama sees all reflexive intransigence. on guantanamo and on so many other matters, president obama has proven himself unable to accept good-faith differences with those of us elected to a coordinate and coequal branch of government. this frustration is motivated in -- has motivated the president to enact his agenda unilaterally. he not only poisons the well of national security matters, as troubling as that is, but also by ai arrogating power with disregard to the constitution, he stretches our laws past the breaking point. my allegiances to constitutional government and the rule of law
5:02 pm
compels me to stiewndz this overreach by president obama and the executive branch. i will continue to speak out against what i strongly believe are serious instances of overreach by this administration, as i have already on immigration sentencing, education, benghazi, and, of course, obamacare. i urge all of my colleagues to join me for what's at stake is not just our rightful authority to get done what our constituents isn't the us here to do but also the very precepts at the core of our constitution. that's why i've joined my colleague, the junior senator from ohio, to cosponsor a resolution declaring that the obama administration violated the statute in callin and callin investigation into the matter. with all that's at stake, registering our objection in this way could not be more important. additionally, in light of these troubling events, which also involve the justice department,
5:03 pm
which should hold the separation of powers in the highest regard, should i note that i found myself now unable to support the nomination of peter kadzik to be assistant attorney general for legislative affairs. my deference to the administration's choice of appointees can only go so far. and i could not support a nominee who has so persistently re-phossed to share the department's -- refused to share the department's membe departmee release of the taliban 5. i felt compelled to oppose his nomination. mr. president, on their own terms, the obama administration violated the law by releasing the taliban 5, dangerous men who are sure to return to the fight. in doing so, he not only endangered the lives of our men and women in uniform but also jeopardized everything they fought and died for in afghanistan. my commitment is to them and to
5:04 pm
the constitution's division of powers and authorities amongst the coordinate and coequal branches of government which they fight to protect. these loyalties would compel me to stand up to the obama administration, and i urge all of my colleagues, regardless of party, to join me in this fight. too much is at stake to let petty partisan concerns and blind political loyalty to the president take precedence over the weighty matters of constitutional authority and tht are here at stake. and especially when one considers how much this branch of government is being ignored on almost a daily basis by this out-of-control white house. mr. president, democrats and republicans have got to put a stop to this, and we've got to start standing up on these issues or we're in danger of losing the constitution itself.
5:05 pm
mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from ohio e. mr. brown: yesterday i chaired the congressional executive committee on china. at this hearing, terry sophranic, a clevelander, submitted written testimony. the hearing was to address the concerns that american consumers, that pet owners and farmers and parents have about the safety of pet food, of pet treats, of processed chicken, of animal feed from china. mr. sophranic joined me today on a call to the national press to talk about this issue. i want to share briefly the actual words of ms. sophranic. "my little sampson was showing
5:06 pm
signs he wasn't well. he seemed withdrawn, his appetite was decreasing. all he wanted was to drink water and urinate. his health rapidly decreased. we took him to the veteran three times in the next two weeks. finally blood tests re-vealed horrible results. sampson was in acute renal failure. the doctor gave him intravenous fluids for six long, tormenting days. then the most heartbreaking decision. with my husband and children, i held my little buddy in my arms for the last time as he was euthanized. one day during this time, ms. sophranic continues to write, "i saw a local family on the news holding up a bag of wagon train chicken jerky treats. their dog had eaten them and died of renal failure few weeks later. their little puppy was fed leftovers and became ill right away. as soon as th they stopped the treats, the dog recovered. it was the same exact treats my
5:07 pm
dog had eaten. unquote. 62 million households in this country have a pet. americans raise 83 million dogs, 96 million cats whom, as the case of my dog and my wife and i franklin -- our dog franklin and beehive and i treat our pets in many ways like members of the family. that's why it's alarming that since 2007, the f.d.a. has been aware of the death and illnesses of thousands of pelts pelt petst we still don't know what's causing it. last month the f.d.a. said the reports of ill nighs increased to 5,600 pets, including 1,000 dog deaths, and now three hugh man illnesses. when we go to a pet story and go to a grocery store and by pet food, we shouldn't have to worry that that pet food could actually endanger that dog, that cat's health.
5:08 pm
while no cause has been iervetiond the illnesses many think are linked to pet treats from china, which raises questions. if something says it's made in china, can we be assured that it's safe? if it says "made in the u.s.a." what exactly disco that mean? is everything being done to keep these pet treats safe? last year the usda declared that china can export processed, cooked chicken in the united states. this paves the way for chicken sourced in the u.s. to be shipped to china for processing, then sold back to american consumers. while no such chicken i -- has t entered our shores, it is very possible that very soon this processed chicken could end up on our dinner tables and in our school lunch rooms. researchers are exploring a possible link also between animal feed from china and the p.e.d. orb the pedv that has
5:09 pm
wiped out 10% of our young pig population. it has been only a year -- ilts been a year already and no definitive cause has been identified. americans want and require better answers, want and require clearer labels and the peace of mind that the foods we import from the people's republic of china are safe. that's why i'm introducing an amendment to the agricultural appropriations bill to ask the food and drug administration and the united states department of agriculture about the status of inspectors' visits to china and how many are currently inspecting there. we heard in testimony yesterday an uncertainty from f.d.a. and usda about our ability to get the number of inspectors we need into china to inspect the processing of chickens in china. i urge the f.d.a. and usda to determine the cause of these pet illnesses and pedv and the companies to ensure the highest safety standards. mr. president, i -- you know,
5:10 pm
when we buy something that says "made in the united states of america," whether it is food for human consumption or whether it is processed food for human consumption or processed food for our pets, we should be confident that that food is actually made, processed, and put together in the united states of america. in our testimony yesterday, we couldn't quite be 100% sure that that's the case. but when we -- a couple things go on there. one, the packaging, the labeling needs to be believable, credible, it needs to be true. second, those companies that import, it used to be that companies would produce these in the united states through food safety rules we have in the united states -- drug safety, food safety; customers, buyers in supermarkets buying this food with "made in the u.s.a." labels knew that because we have a good
5:11 pm
usda, we have a good u.s. department of arks we've good food safety rules in our country, wii knew that "made in the u.s.a." was a label we could trust. then companies in this country began to do something? the last 20 year, especially since congress pass the permanent normal trade relations with china. companies began to shut down production in places like rocky river and maple heights and garfield heights and in brooklyn heights, ohio, and moved that production to wuhan or she xi'a, china. if companies can are going to do that costing our communities far too many jocks, hurting families and workers who lose those jobs, if companies are going to do that they need to be responsible for the production in those countries. they need to be responsible when pharmaceuticals are made in china by u.s. companies and shipped back to the united
5:12 pm
states. those pharmaceuticals need to be safe. we know of a case of a drug called help principl heprin, thf people died from it. all over the country people took this drug, a blood thinner, made in china by a company that frankly didn't know -- wouldn't reach back and determine and find out where all the ingredients to these drugs are made. so the point, mr. president, there is a couple of things. one is whether it is dog treats, whether it is food that museums consume is it our country or -- that humans consume in our country, or pharmaceuticals, that our regulatory structure needs to make sure these are safe. if they're made in the united states, we're much more confident that they're safe because government rules and regulations in the united states, in spite of what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle always like to say about government regulation, we know our food supply is pretty darn good in this country. but if companies are going to outsource that production, move it to china, and sell is it back that the united states, we need
5:13 pm
these rules in plashings we need these -- in place, we need these companies to be liable and reliable for what they are doing. if a company is going to bring a drug into the united states, an american company, producing in china, bring it back into the united states, they're responsible for the contents, they're responsible to the safety of those drugs. thetheir executives of those companies should be liable if they're producing that food whether for human consumption, for pets, whether a pharmaceutical. awful that matters sms americans in the end should not have to worry about the safety of the food they put on the dinner table nor the safety of the petted into they -- of the pet food that they give to their dogs or cats. mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
5:14 pm
5:15 pm
quorum call:
5:16 pm
5:17 pm
5:18 pm
5:19 pm
5:20 pm
5:21 pm
5:22 pm
5:23 pm
5:24 pm
5:25 pm
5:26 pm
5:27 pm
5:28 pm
5:29 pm
quorum call:
5:30 pm
5:31 pm
5:32 pm
5:33 pm
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: thank you, mr. president. i ask consent to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: thank you, mr. president. i rise to speak about children's health insurance, an issue that we hear about periodically but not nearly enough and an issue that will fast become a critically important question before both bodies, the senate especially because of what could happen to the children's health insurance program which we call at the state level the chip
5:34 pm
program, c-h-i-p, known more commonly here in washington as s-chip, one of the great advancements in health care in recent american history. you could go back 25 or 50 years, and other than medicare and medicaid and maybe a few other examples, v.a. health care, children's health insurance has been a great success. and i would -- i would say forthrightly a bipartisan success, but we need to keep it that way. i have particular interest in this program because of the experience we have in pennsylvania. tens of thousands of families have been -- have benefited from the children's health insurance program that was signed into law. it just happened to be signed into law and advocated strongly by my father when he served as the governor of pennsylvania. at the time, pennsylvania was a model for the country. this is the early 1990's i'm talking about when he signed that bill into law, pennsylvania
5:35 pm
became one of the leaders, one of the largest states with a new children's health insurance program which then became a model for the nation, and here's how that happened. in 1997, congress passed the bipartisan children's health insurance program signed into law in august of 1997 by president clinton. the original bill was cosponsored by the late senator ted kennedy from massachusetts, of course, and the senator from utah still serving, senator orrin hatch. they worked together along with many others in a bipartisan fashion to produce important legislation for our children. since that time, this program has worked as a remarkable public-private partnership to deliver critical health care to children, so in addition to being bipartisan, it was public and private together. care such as well child visits,
5:36 pm
immunizations, physical and occupational therapies, home health care, medical equipment and more were all available for the first time for many, many families. so it helps children not only have health insurance and health coverage, but it helps them be well and to stay well over a long period of time, providing them the care that they need and giving their parents something that government doesn't do enough -- peace of mind. it provides a measure of peace of mind to parents and to families. in 2009, the president signed into law a bipartisan reauthorization of the children's health insurance program. the most recent year of data indicates that chip covered over 8.1 million children over the course of a year. just consider that. with this program, more than 8.1 million children have health care that would not have it any
5:37 pm
other way in the absence of this -- of this program. even with the progress we have made in providing new health insurance options in the last couple of years as a result of the affordable care act, the rate of uninsured americans overall is still over 13%, the lowest rate since 2008 but still too high. the -- the rate of uninsured children is 9%, a much lower rate, obviously, than the overall rate but still too high. and chip has played an important role in increasing access to insurance for children. the web site for the pennsylvania program, which is www.chipcoverpakids.com, includes several stories from pennsylvania families, parents about how the children's health insurance program in the commonwealth of pennsylvania has helped one particular family in
5:38 pm
this case and many others as you read the stories. here is one story, and i will just sum it up briefly -- quote -- "the chip program has been great." so said one family member. "we know that this is quality insurance and we are finally able to sleep at night knowing that our kids can be seen by excellent pediatricians. i do not know what we would have done without the children's health insurance program. now my children can play sports and go away to camp like other kids, and if they get hurt, chip is there for them." unquote. so said a parent. probably the best summation or the best recitation of all the reasons why it is so important to make sure that we preserve the children's health insurance program. and preserve the funding for it and preserve any strategy that will ensure that children have the health care that they need. so chip is always going to be there for those kids.
5:39 pm
that's what we need to make sure that we hold onto. and i have, like so many here and many in both parties, have consistently advocated for the children's health insurance program, and i am pleased that it's been authorized through fiscal year 2019. however, -- this is why i'm standing here today. however, we weren't -- we were able only to secure funding through 2015, so the program is reauthorized at 2019, but funded only through fiscal year 2015. and that deadline is approaching. now is the time to act. again, again, in the right bipartisan way to preserve the children's health insurance program. it's time to make sure that we ensure that chip will continue to be funded through the authorization, at a minimum through fiscal year 2019. senator rockefeller, one of the
5:40 pm
great champions of this program over many, many years now, decades literally, introduced legislation last week that i wholeheartedly support, and that's an understatement. there is not a senator in this chamber that should not support his legislation. the chip extension act of 2014, it's senate bill 2461, the legislation extends funding for chip through fiscal year 2019, bridging the funding in line with the authorization. i cannot stress enough the need to pass this legislation this year, pass it in 2014 legislation for -- that deals with this 2015 problem. state budget cycles are such that if we wait until next year when the funding is about to expire, we will be jeopardizing health insurance for millions of american children. states need time to plan their budgets and cannot operate under the uncertainty of a funding
5:41 pm
cliff for such an important program. so i want to thank senator rockefeller for his tireless commitment to the children's health insurance program over many years, and i said even over several decades now, and i want to thank him for his work in introducing this legislation. so i urge all of my colleagues in both parties to support senator rockefeller's bill, the chip extension act of 2014, senate bill 2461, to make sure that the children's health insurance will always be there for the children who are covered by that program. and i think in conclusion, mr. president, this is very simple. we have people in both parties who have spent a lot of their careers saying how much they care about children. they give speeches, they campaign, they talk about kids. we all talk about kids in very positive ways. that's wonderful. but the test is how you -- how you act and what actions you
5:42 pm
take, and that usually means how you vote. so if you vote for this -- this bill, you can stand up and say that i have taken a substantial step in the direction of ensuring that children will have the health care that they need. if you don't and you vote against it, i don't think you can say that, and if you vote against it, i think you have to have a substitute for it. some measure that will provide the same coverage for the same number of children by a different method. and if you can't come up with that, you can't stand up and say you're for kids. you can't stand up and say that you care about our children and our future. so, mr. president, with that, i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
5:43 pm
5:44 pm
5:45 pm
quorum call:
5:46 pm
5:47 pm
5:48 pm
5:49 pm
5:50 pm
5:51 pm
5:52 pm
5:53 pm
5:54 pm
5:55 pm
5:56 pm
5:57 pm
5:58 pm
5:59 pm
6:00 pm

18 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on