tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 16, 2014 10:00am-12:01pm EDT
the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal spirit, the fountain of wisdom and strength. we praise you for the gift of this day. you sustain us with the strength we need to fulfill your purposes
for such a time as this. lead our lawmakers to new levels of wisdom, providing them with faith for their perplexities, insights for their decisions, and light for the path ahead. lord, use our senators this day as instruments of your powerful providence. replenish the wells of their spirit with your peace that passes understanding. hear our prayer, oh lord. incline your ears to us, and give us your peace.
we pray in your faithful name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington d.c, september 16,2014. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable john walsh, a senator from the state of montana, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the
leadership time is reserved. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i move to proceed to calendar number 409. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the motion. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 409, s. 2432, a bill to amend the higher education act of 1965, to provide for the refinancing of certain federal student loans, and for other purposes. mr. reid: mr. president, following my remarks and those of the republican leader, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 12:30 today. during that period of time senators will be permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. following that morning business, the senate will recess from 12:30 until 2:15 to allow for our weekly caucus meetings. at 2:15 the senate will proceed to two roll call votes on confirmation of baran and burns, followed by several voice votes on executive nominations.
i now ask unanimous consent that the time between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. today be under the control of the majority and the time from 4:00 until 5:00 under the control of the republicans. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, the 18th century french philosopher voltaire once declared -- quote -- "one day everything will be well." that is our hope. everything is fine today. that is our illusion. close quote. there is no better portrayal of the republican party's flawed approach to governorance than what voltaire said. senate republicans deceives themselves by thinking obstruction is good for our nation, the status quo is helping american families. meanwhile the scins are out stomping -- the republicans are out stomping, promising the american people if they put republicans in charge everything will be better. what are those promises based
on? not recent history. let's take a look at what the republicans have done for american families. blocked the paycheck fairness act not wubs, not twice, not even three times. four times. preventing american women from receiving fair wage for their work. remember, mr. president, simply having a situation where a woman who does the exact same work as a man gets paid the same amount of money. republicans blocked legislation that will prevent companies from denying their workers specific health benefits including birth control as required by federal law. republicans also blocked a bill allowing americans with student debt to refinance their loans at lower interest rates. student loan debt in america now stands at $1.3 trillion, higher than anything else. higher than credit card debt, higher than any other debt. republicans rejected an increase in the minimum wage, essentially relegating millions of hardworking americans to poverty. republicans refused to give
unemployment benefits to the very long-term unemployed. republicans rejected the bring jobs home act which would end the absurd practice of american workers bankrolling the outsourcing of their very own jobs. republicans even filibustered an extension of tax credits that helped american families. republicans have repeatedly refused to pass commonsense immigration reform that keeps families together, spurs the economy and reduces our national debt by $1 trillion. let's not forget, republicans in congress shut down the united states government. too often republicans have rebuffed democrats' attempts to give american families a fair shot. republicans must know their obstruction is hurting our country. the american people know the republican status quo is not working.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: a year ago today, just a few blocks from here, a lone gunman slipped into the navy yard and tragically took 12 lives. it was one of the deadliest such attacks on a u.s. military base in american history. we've not forgotten those who fell that day in building 197, and all of us here in the senate send our condolences to their families and everyone who loved them. they are not forgotten. on a different matter, the democrats who run washington have had almost six years to fix the economy. they've already tried just about everything their ideology will allow to fix it.
they raised taxes on everything from lifesaving medical devices to personal medical expenses. they piled up record debt and shoveled billions in subsidies to the well connected. and they've empowered bureaucrats to cancel health plans for the middle class, declared war on the jobs of vulnerable kentucky families, and through e.p.a.'s waters of the u.s. proposed rule, they're trying to regulate every last pond and ditch in our country. none of this has worked. according to a recent gallup survey, a solid majority of americans believe the economy is actually getting worse, not better. let's not forget, for several years democrats had supermajority control of washington, could have passed anything they wanted, and all too often they did. since then a republican-led house of representatives has
tried to advance solutions on its own by passing dozens of jobs bills, many with strong bipartisan support over in the house. but the democratic majority in the senate simply refuses to take them up. and it's hard to understand why. it's hard to know if today's washington democrat party is really that blinded by ideology or if they're just so obsessed with the never-ending campaign that they can't be bothered to govern. whatever the reason, the simple truth is this, washington democrats had a choice between helping the middle class and bowing to campaign pollsters and the left. it's obvious who they chose. the american people are worried about isil and the continuing threat of terrorism. they see a humanitarian crisis at the border. many struggle every month to pay the bills.
millions still can't find work. and how do democrats respond? they bring up a bill that would take an erairs to the first amendment. -- eraser to the first amendment. the hard left is clearly in the drivers seat on the other side. that is clear every time the democratic majority ignores the concerns of our constituents to turn to yet another one of their so-called messaging bills, like the recent one on eroding free speech. it's really a shame. that's not why the american people sent us here. it's long past time for democrats to drop all the designed to fail bills and turn to serious job creation ideas instead. there are dozens, literally dozens of house-passed jobs bills collecting dust on the majority leader's desk. why don't we pick some of them up and pass them? let's get them to the president. let's work together on serious energy policy. let's join hands to erase the strain on working moms and dads. let's work towards sensible health reform that doesn't hurt
the middle class like obamacare does. let's reach across the aisle to help college graduates find full-time work and start marching towards the careers they've always dreamed of. that's just a start. because if the democratic majority is truly interested in getting serious, they should take a look at the many commonsense policy ideas advocated by senators on my side of the aisle. my friend, the senior senator from tennessee, has always been a strong advocate for smart reform policies. he'll discuss another one of those in just a moment. it's a bill that would go a long way toward remedying a serious problem that's been caused by the politics at all costs mentality i have just described. here's the issue. everybody's familiar with the president's unconstitutional effort to pack the national labor relations board with liberal partisans back in early 2012. some people are also familiar
with the nlrb's more recent toaforts do things like undermine secret ballots for union elections, allow labor bosses access to sensitive employee information without their consent, and prevent companies from building factories in states with laws the president's picks don't like. now the nlrb is even trying to destroy the very franchise model that's allowed so many americans to own and operate their own businesses. they want to take away the independence from small businessmen and women like decisions on who to hire, how much to pay them, and how to run their businesses, and put it in the hands of corporate bosses. the so-called joint employer standard is all about politics and appeasing the left. big labor bosses want it because it helps them expand and acquire more dues at the expense of small business owners who employ so many americans. this is simply not right.
for many in the middle class franchising represents a ticket to the dream of opening their own business. for many, it may be their only chance to live that dream. here's how one single mom and second generation franchisee from kentucky put it -- to have my franchisor take over greater control of my daily operations would not only change my relationship with them, but it would ruin the dream of small business ownership for many hardworking americans. and this is what a hotel franchisee in lexington had to say -- my family came to the united states in search of the american dream. we found it as hoteliers and franchisees, he said. the franchise model has been instrumental in providing my family and me with opportunities for entrepreneurship and the ability to employ over 300 hardworking kentuckians. but this kentuckian warned that this action by the nlrb could
end his independence as a small business owner by ceding decisions to faroff corporate headquarters. the nlrb action could have devastating impacts on my ability to create jobs, grow my businesses and support my community, he said. extreme politically motivated proposals like these hurt our constituents, so it's time to restore the balance to the national labor relations board. let's take the politics out of it. that's just what my friend from tennessee's legislation seeks to do. i will let him explain it, but here's the key. it would restore the nlrb to a proper role as an umpire instead of an advocate for the right or the left. it's the kind of thing our constituents want to see us doing, standing up for reform and against entrenched political interests. so i'm asking our democratic friends to please shelf the
design to fail playbook and work with republicans on a design to succeed agenda instead. six years of failure is quite enough. now, on one final matter, mr. president. today president obama will visit the centers for disease control and prevention to announce new efforts to contain the ebola epidemic in west africa. the u.s.-africa command will stand up a joint force command in monrovia, liberia, to provide command and control of u.s. military activities and help coordinate international relief efforts. current estimates are that 3,000 military personnel will establish an intermediate staging base for supplies and equipment, set up a training site to prepare 500 health care workers per week to provide medical care to patients and stand up a -- set up a field defense department hospital to take care of, for any of our
health care workers who become ill. also contributeing to our reaction to this international epidemic are the international agency for economic development, the national institute of health has developed an investigational ebola vaccine. c.d.c. is also working with the customs and border patrol to identify travelers showing any signs of infectious disease. i support these efforts to contain the ebola epidemic and know that we'll monitor this humanitarian crisis in the weeks ahead. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business until 12:30 p.m. with senators permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. before discussing the legislation involving the
national labor relations board which the republican leader mentioned, i'd like to -- to align myself with his comments on the ebola epidemic. he is right, in my view, to support the president's effort to -- for a more urgent response to this epidemic. i'm not given to making overstatements. i think that would be a fair reputation in this body. but i believe that we should treat the ebola epidemic as seriously as we treat the danger of isis. now, why would i say that? because the head of the center for disease control and our united nations ambassador who is working with other countries to get them involved say this -- this is one of the most deadly, explosive epidemics in modern times. it moves rapidly. there is no vaccine and there is no cure.
one infected person can fairly quickly infect 20 other persons within a family in these west african countries where it's now a problem. one can see how quickly this could spread and become hundreds of thousands of cases or even millions of cases. this is a case where samantha powers said to me we should be running toward the burning flames with our fireproof suits on. in other words, we know how to control it. we know how to identify infected people and isolate them and treat them, even though half of them die. we know how to do that, but the rate of growth of this epidemic is so rapid that we need to have a response that is as urgent as the problem. so i congratulate the republican leader for supporting the president's effort today to put,
a, an important -- to call attention to this. so much is happening in the world that there is a possibility that we would -- we would treat the ebola epidemic as a -- as an important issue but not a major issue. as i said, mr. president, i believe that we must take the deadly, dangerous threat of ebola as seriously as we take the threat of isis. and i support the administration's recommendations to spend $30 million in the continuing resolution to upgrade the humanitarian efforts there. i support the reprogramming of $500 million to involve the military in a way to deal with this. and i support the effort to spend $86 million which would be to fast track an effort to find a vaccine and then to find --
and then to find a cure. now, on another matter, mr. president, the republican leader spoke about legislation which he and i are introducing today which we call the national labor relations board reform act. our legislation is very simple -- it will change the nlrb from an advocate to an umpire. that's the role the nlrb was always supposed to have. it was created 79 years ago, to act as an impartial umpire in labor disputes that threaten the free flow of commerce. the board's decisions affect millions of private sector workers, but over time the board has become an advocate for one interest group or the other changing positions with each new administration. there are three significant problems that the board faces today. number one -- the biggest problem is partisan advocacy. today the majority of the five-member board is made up of
appointees who follow president obama's political leanings. he's appointed three labor union lawyers to the board. number two, the board also has a free-wheeling advocate for its general counsel. the board's most recent general counsels have been exceeding their statutory authority and bringing questionable cases that threaten american jobs and threaten sending overseas manufacturing jobs that we need to keep here. number three, the national labor relations board has been slow to resolve disputes. last year, 109 cases -- that's 30% of the board's caseload -- were spending for more than a year. occasionally, someone will say to me well, if the republicans were to win the senate, what would republicans do? well, what we would do is try to come up with sensible proposals that lead us in the right direction, proposals that have so much common sense that they attract the support of enough democrats and the house of
representatives and the president to become law. this is one such proposal. our bill provides three solutions to the problems i identified. number one, it would end partisan advocacy on the national labor relations board. the board would almost a six-member board of three republicans and three democrats. a majority of four will require both sides to find a middle ground. number two, it reins in the general counsel. businesses and unions would be able to challenge complaints filed by general counsel by taking them to the federal district court and then will have greater transparency about the basis and legal reasoning for charges brought by the general counsel. number three, our legislation would encourage timely decisions. first, either party at a case before the board may appeal to a federal court of appeals if the board fails to reach a decision in one year. and second, funding for the
entire nlrb will be reduced by 20% if the board's not able to decide 90% of its cases within one year over the first two-year period following reform. our bill would offer these solutions without taking away one single right, one single remedy from any single employee, business or union. now, mr. president, with each new administration, the pendulum at the nlrb has swung further from the middle, further away from being an umpire. the result is that labor policy whipsaws back and forth, taking employees and employers for a wild ride. this has happened under most administrations but has been worse under the current administration. the minority leader mentioned several of those examples. under the partisan advocacy of today's national labor relations board, workers are losing their right to privacy. the board's embarking on a
regulatory effort to expand requirements that employers give names and addresses to union organizers so that more personal information about these employees may be given to the organizing union. these include your telephone number, your email address, the employee's work location, the employees shift and job classification. they propose doing everything but attaching a g.p.s. to the lapel of each employee. in my state of tennessee, for example, we have had an ongoing organizing effort in the volkswagen plant in chagging --n chattanooga. employees at the volkswagen plant said we don't want a union, we don't need a union. 712-626, they rejected the united auto workers bid to unionize the plant. imagine if you're someone of those 712 employees who voted against unionizing, now organizers can get your private young people address and all this other personal information. or here's another example. small factions of employees
within single stores now have a path to forming their own unions. in 2011, the board suddenly adopted a new way to define what makes a local union bargaining unit. the board changed the law so that any group of employees with an overwhelming community of interest could become a bargaining unit and therefore a union. at the same time, the board's moving a regulation to limit the employer's ability to question which employees should be in a bargaining union. this allows a union to cherry pick employees who will be most likely to support forming a union. how has this worked in the real world? here's an example. the board just approved a bargaining unit for cosmetic and fragrance employees in macy's department store. not the shoe salespeople, not the ladies fashion employees, not the juniors department. just cosmetic and fragrance. now, imagine if every department of the macy's decided to form a union. the employer would have dozens of different groups to negotiate
with, and the different unions would be fighting each other over who got the better raises, break rooms in terms of employment. during this administration, the nlrb has ruled that common employment practices, common employment policies are unfair labor practices, such as -- and senator scott brought this up at a hearing the other day. the nlrb has said that an employer may not have a policy that requires employees to be courteous to customers and fellow employees. an employer may not have a policy to require an employee to be courteous to customers and fellow employees. or prohibiting employees from making negative comments about the business that employs them on social media. or selecting arbitration for employment disputes. our solution -- senator mcconnell and i would solve this by requiring a six-member board of three republicans and three democrats like the federal
election commission. a majority of four will require both sides to find a middle ground. now, here's the second problem. the board's general counsel is acting like a free-wheeling advocate, stretching labor law to its limits sometimes beyond its limits. for example, in 2011, the general counsel moved to stop boeing from building new airplanes at a nonunion plant in south carolina. the general counsel to the nlrb jeopardized a $1 billion factory and hundreds of jobs with this move, but even worse he tried to make the case that a unionized american company can't expand its operations into one of the states like tennessee with right to work laws which protect a worker's right to join or not to join a union. the general counsel eventually withdrew this outrageous complaint against boeing, but if it had set a precedent, jobs would have fled overseas as manufacturers look to find a
competitive environment in which to make it sell cars around the world. we want to make sure that manufacturers like boeing, like nissan, like general motors can have a competitive environment in the united states in which they can make airplanes and cars and other goods and sell them around the world. we don't want them making in mexico and japan and europe or somewhere else because we undermine right-to-work laws. our solution would allow employers and unions to challenge complaints filed against them in federal court and give employers and unions new rights to learn the basis and legal reasoning of charges filed against them. finally, the nlrb is taking too long to resolve cases. for example, one case has been pending at the board for more than seven years. the case involves the question of whether employer has to allow labor union organizers access to private property. our solution?
senator mcconnell and i encourage a timely resolution of cases first by allowing either party to appeal to a federal court of appeals for a de novo or express review if the board fails to reach a decision on the case within one year. and to further incentivize timely resolution, we include the threat of a 20% budget cut from the board if 90% of its cases are not decided within a year. so, mr. president, in conclusion, while the increasing partisanship at the board has occurred in republican administrations as well as democratic administrations, it has reached a climax in this administration. three of this president's recent nominees came to the board from major labor union's leadership. one labor law professor at a major university recently said she can't even use the most recent lay law textbook. she has to resort to handing out
nlrb decisions. the decisions changing the law are coming out so rapidly that the nlrb is venturing into new territory with its efforts at rule making. this is no way to maintain a national labor law policy. our plan, the nlrb reform act, will first end partisan advocacy, second, rein in the general counsel, and third encourage timely decisions. our bill would offer these solutions without taking away one right or one remedy from one employee, one business or one union. i hope that my colleagues will carefully review this proposal in considering cosponsoring the nlrb reform act. i thank the president. i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: mr. president, i have great respect for the senator from tennessee. we work on many things together. and i mean that sincerely. politicians often throw those words around but i don't when it comes to my colleague from
tennessee. i mean it. he is a good senator and i enjoy working with him. i have to take exception to one thing though. yesterday we had a vote on a labor issue. this was a vote as to whether or not men and women in the workplace working the same job should get the same pay. most people would say isn't that the law already? yes. but unfortunately, the law as written in 1963, the equal pay act, isn't working very well. and a lot of workplaces, women are paid less. in the state of illinois, it's about 75 cents for every $1 paid to a man for most women, unless you happen to be african-american, and then it's 65 cents. or hispanic, it's 55 cents. so the actual working relationships in many businesses discriminate against women. so we offered a bill yesterday, the pay equity act. it was brought to the floor by senator mikulski of maryland,
senator boxer of california. and we asked if we could now revisit the equal pay act to make sure that it's enforceable and that it works so that literally if my son or my daughter ended up with the same job in the same workplace and the same work record, they'd get the same pay. not a radical idea by any measure. that was what we brought up for a vote yesterday. i took a look at the "congressional record" just to refresh my memory and talk to the staff. not one republican senator would vote for that bill. not one. there were 52 votes in favor of moving forward of this bill, all from the democratic side. so when i listen to these calls for reform when it comes to labor laws and bipartisanship when it comes to labor laws, my obvious question is, to my friends on the other side of the aisle, where were you yesterday?
we had a chance here on the floor of the senate to do something on a bipartisan basis for pay equity. equal pay for men and women in the workplace. not the first time we face this had issue. lilly ledbetter became somewhat legendary in america. this lady whom i've had the privilege to meet a few times had a tough job. she worked at a tire plant, a tire manufacturing facility in alabama. she worked hard for a long time. and as she was nearing retirement, someone went up to her and said, lilly, you've been manager around here for a lot of years but they're paying you a heck of a lot less than the men who have the same job in this plant. she didn't know it. they don't publish the wages of all coworkers so that you would know these things. and she was upset about it. she had spent all those years working there, and she was being discriminated against because
she was a woman. and she filed a lawsuit, as she was entitled to under the law, saying this was discriminatory and she was entitled to back pay for this discrimination. the supreme court, right across the street, threw out the lawsuit and said she didn't report this discrimination in a timely fashion. she didn't report that she was being paid less within a certain number of months. and her response was how would i even know that? i don't know what that man who is a manager next to me is being paid any more than he knows what i'm being paid. but that's what the supreme court decided. the first bill that was signed into law by president obama -- the lilly ledbetter act -- said that lilly ledbetter and people like her at a future time would be allowed to sue for back wages if they were discriminated against. very few, if any, republicans supported us on this.
so when we hear speeches on the floor about reforming labor laws and workplace laws in america, let's do it in a bipartisan fashion. when it got down to the real basics, senate 2199 yesterday, not a single republican would join us. not one. i would think they would feel as we do. it's only fair. it's only fair that if you're in the workplace doing the same job, you get the same pay. but unfortunately, not one of them would. so when they call for reforming the national labor relations board and they call for more bipartisanship, i think it should start right here when it comes to legislation that comes before the senate. i also listened to the republican senate leader come to the floor today and talk about the state of our economy. and i wonder sometimes if members of the senate who are
entitled to their own opinions should also be entitled to their own facts. because what the senator from kentucky failed to note was the economy, which president obama inherited when he took office in january 2009, it was in sad shape. what a contrast from eight years before. when president bill clinton left office in january of 2001, 14 years ago, we had gone through a period of four straight years of federal budget surplus. democratic president, four straight years of federal budget surplus, and he left -- president clinton left to new president george w. bush a surplus in the next year's budget of $120 billion, if my memory serves me. the last time it happened, four straight years of surplus, had been four years before. so here's a democratic
president -- clinton -- leaving office to president george w. bush, with a string of surpluses in the budget that we hadn't seen for four decades. but in addition to that, he was taking -- president clinton was taking the surplus and investing it in social security so that it was strong than it had been in years because of the surpluses. during that period of the clinton presidency, 23 million new jobs were created in this country. eight years, 23 million jobs, and government spending was still growing each year. and yet surpluses, job creation, economic growth in the eight-year period of time. when president clinton left office, the national debt that had been accumulated over the entire history of the united states totaled $5 trillion. $5 trillion. and that was january of 2001. he handed that economy and that budget to president george w.
bush. now fast forward eight years. what did president george w. bush hand to new president barack obama? one of the weakest economies america had seen since the great depression. the month that president obama took the oath of office, in january of 2009, when he put his hand on the same bible that abraham lincoln used when he was sworn in as president, that month we lost nearly 800,000 jobs in america. that previous year private employers had shed more than four million jobs. we know what happened to savings, retirement accounts. they were devastated by that recession. the economy was shrinking. in just eight years president george w. bush took one of the strongest, fastest-growing
economies in american history and, sadly, turned it into an economic recession. how did he do it? well, tax breaks for wealthy people, wars that were not paid for; those were the two things that drove us from a $5 trillion debt when president clinton left office, $5 trillion when president george w. bush left office handing it to president obama, that national debt had grown from $5 trillion to $12 trillion; more than doubled in that eight-year period of time. so president obama had a challenge. get the economy back on its feet. right now public television has a series on the roosevelts. i enjoy it because ken burns is one of the best, and he's telling the story of teddy roosevelt, franklin roosevelt, eleanor roosevelt. and we remember what happened when franklin roosevelt came to
office at the end of 1932, the beginning of 1933, facing the great depression in america. he said we've got to get america back to work. and that's what president obama said in the stimulus package. let's get back to work here. let's get people earning paychecks into a position where they can save their homes, keep their families together and rebuild this economy. and he got almost no help -- almost no help -- from the other side of the aisle. remember the automobile industry? remember what was happening in the automobile industry when president obama took over office from president bush? flat on its back, and two major companies -- chrysler and general motors -- facing bankruptcy and even the prospect of going out of business. president obama said we cannot let this happen. there are too many jobs associated, good-paying jobs across america. he stepped in and helped by loaning money to these automobile companies to get back on their feet. just last week, mr. president, i had some auto dealers from the chicago-land area came to see me
in my office. and one said you know what happened? we were selling about nine million cars when the recession hit. now we're back on our feet. we're up to 16 million a year. the automobile industry is coming back strong. and i look in illinois, and i can see it in bell very -- belvede re. i see it on the forward plant on the south side of chicago. they're working three shifts as well. president obama said let's get back to work. let's save the auto industry. and he did. he did. now they come to the floor and say, you know, it just hasn't been fast enough. when it came to the stimulus package, we had little or no support from the other side of the aisle. when it came to rebuilding my state of illinois and across the country, it was resistance. and then comes the issue of health insurance, and i want to say a word about that. i voted for the affordable care act, and it may be one of the most important votes ever cast. i did it for personal reasons.
because i personally experienced with my family a moment when we had no health insurance. my wife and i got married very young. i was still in law school. god sent us a baby, and she had some medical issues, and we had no health insurance. i was going to school here at georgetown law school, and i would leave class, pick up my wife and baby and go to children's hospital in washington, d.c. to the charity ward, sitting in there with a number in my hand waiting to see who would walk through that door to be the doctor to save my baby's life. and i had no health insurance. i have never felt more helpless as a husband and father than that moment. and i believe today, as i did then, that should never happen to any family. i believe that this great nation should provide basic health care for everyone living in this great nation, and that's why i
voted for the affordable care act. and what has happened since? eight million americans are now insured under the affordable care act. eight million. we've seen an 8% decline in the uninsured people in my home state and many states. one of the most successful states when it comes to the affordable care act, incidentally, happens to be the commonwealth of kentucky, which the republican senate leader represents. they signed up in substantial numbers hundreds of thousands of people in his state. they now have health insurance because of the affordable care act which some characterize in a friendly or derogatory way as obamacare. it's worked. what has it meant in illinois? i'll tell you. 640,000 people in illinois now have insurance because of the affordable care act. in a state of about 13 million people, that's a substantial number. 400,000 of them were low-wage workers who had no benefits in their job and now qualify for
medicaid. they have health insurance. i met one of them. roy romanovski. what a perfect chicago name, roy? he is a musician. he has done part-time work all his life, and he never had health insurance. now he's in his 60's. roy came to one of our press conferences and smacked his wallet and says i have a card in here that says i have health insurance for the first time in my life. he's not the only one. he's one of 400,000 in my state, which means when they get sick and go to the hospital, that their bills are not passed on to the rest of us, to all the people with insurance, to those who use medicare. they have their own insurance now. and it means they are going to be healthier. i think of judy. judy works down in southern, illinois. she works in one of the motels that i stay in down there. she is the -- kind of the hospitality lady. when you go down for breakfast, she is the one who is greeting you and showing you where to sit
down. judy is about 62 years old, a hardworking southern illinois lady and one of the sweetest people you would ever want to meet. and judy got health insurance for the first time because of the affordable care act, and it's a good thing she did because she just has been diagnosed with diabetes. she needs good care, because you know diabetes, if you don't treat it right, can lead to serious complications -- blindness, amputations. judy has that health insurance. remember when the government was shut down last year? senator cruz of texas came to the floor here and read dr. seuss books to us and things? i came to the floor and said to him you tell us you're shutting down the government to protest the affordable care act. well, what do you say about judy? judy who works down in southern illinois, has done it all her life, had no health insurance, now needs it and is going to get it under medicaid. you want to tell me we're going to do away with this law now, take away her health insurance?
what would you say to her? and senator cruz said on the record on the senate floor judy needs to get a better job. you know, i think many times folks in the senate need to get the heck out of the capitol and get out and meet the rest of america and come to understand they're working hard every day. they're not getting paid a whole lot of money, and basic health insurance is beyond their reach, beyond their grasp. well, the affordable care act changed that, and we are not going back. the house has voted over 50 times to repeal that law, and i'll tell you this -- as long as this man, barack obama, is president, that's not going to work. he's not going to let them do it. and i'm going to stand with him because i happen to be one of those persons who had a member of my family with a preexisting condition, the situation of my daughter. and i know the kind of discrimination that people with preexisting conditions used to face before the affordable care
act. we are not going back to those days. this senator, this president for sure, we're going to fight all the way to make sure that health insurance is there for those who are struggling in their work and there for families that would otherwise not have a chance. this afternoon, my colleague, senator warren, is coming to the floor, elizabeth warren of massachusetts, the new senator. what a terrific addition to the united states senate. she is the best. and i've known her for years, and i encouraged her to run because i knew she would bring something special to the senate. she has done it. you know what she came up with? a way for college students and their families to renegotiate student loans. you can renegotiate your auto loan. you can renegotiate your mortgage on your home. why shouldn't students, those who have graduated, and their families who face student loan debt be able to renegotiate to a lower interest rate? that's the warren bill. and i think she's right.
it's a big difference. it would bring down the interest rate on undergraduate loans i think to 3.8%. i run into students who are trying to pay off loans at 9%. ask anybody who owns a home the difference between 9% mortgages and 3.8% mortgages. they will tell you it's big. when you make a payment under 3.8% interest rate, a lot more goes to reduced principle and you finally put that loan to rest after so many years. and so senator warren is going to try again. we tried once before, couldn't get republican support. i think we had three, maybe three who voted with us on the republican side. under senate rules, you need 60. well, in my state of 13 million, there are about 1.7 million people carrying student loan debt around, and they all aren't young people. they include parents who signed up for plus loans. even grandparents who wanted to help a grandson or granddaughter get into college and go forward. they are carrying this debt, and if elizabeth warren's bill
passes to renegotiate college loans, it's going to save them on average $2,000 apiece and give them a chance to reduce and retire that loan at an earlier stage. there is an interesting phenomenon going on in chicago now. i talked to some friends of mine, younger friends of mine. they said if you have an apartment for rent in chicago and it's a good one, get there fast and sign up quickly. there is a land rush on to rent apartments. why? because younger people cannot even consider buying a condo or a little house. why? too much student debt. student debt in america cumulatively is greater than credit card debt in america cumulatively, and more of these students graduating with the debt, paying it off or making life decisions because of the debt. i run into them. studied to be a teacher.
ended up with so much debt, couldn't even consider it. had to take a better-paying job. we lost a good teacher there because of student debt. students who are putting off getting married, putting off going out on their own, buying a car. if married, starting a family. i've heard it all. that's what this student debt is all about. when my colleagues come to the floor and say why don't we do something on a bipartisan basis, i say here is something. this student debt isn't just a debt for democratic students. it's a debt for all students. so let's come together when elizabeth warren makes her unanimous consent request this afternoon and finally do something for a change. for middle-income and working families who want their kids to go to school but don't want them so deep in debt that their lives are changed or ruined. that's only reasonable. if we want to make sure that america cins to be a leader in the world, we need to graduate the very best with the education and training they need to lead our nation.
some of them are holding back, holding back because of a fear of college debt. one other thing i will mention to you. college loans are different than other loans. i studied many years ago back in law school bankruptcy law, and you learn in bankruptcy law that most of the loans you take out in life are dischargeable in bankruptcy, which means if everything fails, if you lose your job, you're in a situation where there is a serious pile of medical bills and you can't get back to work, in most cases, you can go to bankruptcy court and through a long process those debts will be wiped out and give you a second chance in life. it is not an easy process. it's not something people rush to, but many people have no choice. if you did that with a college loan, it wouldn't help you a bit. college loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. they are with you for a lifetime. and that is a sad reality, all the more reason to make sure those loans are affordable, all
the more reason to support elizabeth warren when she talks about renegotiating these interest rates. the last point i'll make. the senator from kentucky, senator mcconnell, today talked about the vote we had on a constitutional amendment. it was an amendment which didn't get the necessary votes. it needed 67. it didn't get the necessary votes on the senate floor. its sole purpose, offered by senator udall of new mexico, was to reverse the citizens united decision. that decision by the supreme court basically took off the caps and limits when it came to individuals and corporations putting as much money as they wanted to into the political process. one of my colleagues here, kay hagan of north carolina, by her latest estimate, has had more than $20 million in negative ads run against her in her home state, not by her opponent, not even by the north carolina republican party, but by these outside interests. like the koch brothers. the koch brothers in the last
election cycle spent over $250 million of their own money. they are a bigger deal than most political parties now, these two brothers who are billionaires, and they are putting more money into the system. sadly, many of the beneficiaries of the koch brothers are walking behind them on a leash. they are being led around by them because you don't want to cross the koch brothers. well, the udall amendment -- senator udall of new mexico's amendment would have finally given the states the authority to regulate the amount of money that can be spent on campaigns. i think it comes down to this. if we want mere mortals to run for public office as opposed to multimillionaires, we have got to get this playing field back under the control of normal people. maybe we won't have as many television ads to see, and i know how much people enjoy those, but at the end of the day, we could still get our message across.
i supported and actually introduced public financing laws. i still stand by them. we would be a better country if we had public financing, took the special interests out of the campaigns, shortened the campaigns, actual debates. those sorts of things would get us back to what the country is all about, maybe start to restore some confidence in congress, in our political system and in both political parties, and we're all pretty low at this moment. so public financing is the right step but not likely to happen soon. this approach by senator udall to basically reverse the citizens united decision, the other side argues inhibits freedom of speech. well, there is only so much speech that individuals can claim, and the koch brothers because of their multimillions -- and there are folks on the left, incidentally, spending a lot of money, too, left and right -- they don't deserve a bigger microphone or a bigger voice in our political process. so we have a lot of work to do. this week, we're going to get down to business ton a few
things that are essential. i'm sorry yesterday the republicans wouldn't help us when we wanted to pass pay equity and make sure that women were treated fairly in the workplace. we needed them, and they weren't there. that is disappointing, but it's an indication of where the two parties are today on that issue. they didn't support our efforts to increase the minimum wage. i support increasing the minimum wage. they haven't been there to help us when we have come up with legislation to deal with college loans, but this afternoon they will have a second chance. so i hope elizabeth warren's bill moves forward and that we end this week on a positive note, a positive note for working families and their kids who want to go to school but don't want to be burdened with a debt that's going to change their lives. mr. president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, as we continue with likely what will be the final legislative week before the elections, it's a good time to take a look back at the year and take stock of where we are and what congress has accomplished. the house of representatives, of course, has spent the past year legislating. members of the house have sent literally hundreds of bills over to the senate for consideration, including 40 jobs bills, many of which passed with bipartisan support in the house of
representatives. even now in the final week before recessing before election season, the house is taking up two legislative packages, one focused on creating jobs and another focused on lowering the price of gas and groceries. unfortunately, like so many other house bills, neither of these bills is likely to go anywhere in the democrat leader senate, because unlike the house the senate has not spent the past year taking up legislation to solve the many challenges facing american families. instead, senate democrats have spent the past year taking up political gimmicks and designed-to-fail messaging bills they hope will win a few votes for them in november. back in march, earlier this year, "the new york times" reported the democrats plan to spend the spring and summer on messaging votes timed, and i quote, to coincide with campaign-style trips by president obama, end quote. the "times" went on to say, and
i quote again, democrats can see that making new laws is not really the point. rather, they are trying to force republicans to vote against them, end quote. that's from the "new york times" earlier this year which was laying out and predicting what the democrat strategy was going to be for the balance of this year. mr. president, unfortunately, senate democrats have followed that playbook pretty exactly. again and again, senate democrats have bypassed serious legislation and chosen to bring up bills designed to win them votes with their far left base or to smear republicans in the november elections. i will take last week as an example. after an august recess beset by economic stagnation at home and crises abroad, including, i might add, the murder of two american journalists at the hands of ruthless terrorist group isis, you might think senate democrats would want to spend our first week back focused on the challenges our nation is facing.
well, mr. president, you would be wrong. instead of legislation to address some of these challenges, democrats chose to kick off this brief two-week session with a bill to erase many of the speech protections of the first amendment. that's right. faced with crises abroad and the sluggish economy here at home, democrats thought the most appropriate use of our time last week was legislation to erase parts of the first amendment. as with so many of the other bills that they brought up this year, democrats knew that this legislation didn't have a chance of passing in the senate, but they chose to bring it up anyway because they thought it might help get portions of their base out in november. and they swiftly followed it up with another designed-to-fail piece of legislation they hope to use to criticize republicans. in fact, the newspaper "roll call" reported earlier this week, and i quote -- this is
from a story written about the democrat strategy -- republicans should prepare to be criticized regardless of how they vote, end quote, on this particular bill. the article went on to quote an email that was sent to democrat communicators which outlined plans, and again i quote, to slam republicans for either blocking the bill once again or for letting us on the bill only to slow down the rest of the senate, end quote. so basically the message was to democrat communicators around here on capitol hill to slam republicans no matter how they voted. if they voted to get on the bill, slam them for slowing down the senate so we can't do other things. they voted against getting on the bill, obviously attack them for blocking the bill. so here is the strategy, mr. president, at this late hour of the game when we have so many big issues and challenges facing
the country. it's simply to put bills on the floor that are designed to help democrats in the fall elections and essentially to make republicans look bad. that's a quote, that's a direct quote from an email that was sent out by democrat communicators. slam republicans no matter how they vote, either way. take advantage of the situation, try and play politics with it. mr. president, there is certainly a place for campaigning, there is certainly a place for politics, but the place for campaigning isn't in the halls of congress. our job here in washington is to pass legislation to address the challenges facing our country, and that job doesn't change if one party controls the house and the other party controls the senate. the senate and the house still have a responsibility to work together to get serious legislation to the president,
and that, mr. president, is certainly what the house has tried to do. the house has sent bill after bill to the senate, many of them, as i mentioned earlier, bipartisan bills. they got strong bipartisan votes coming out of the house of representatives. but again and again, senate democrat leaders have said no, no to working together, no to bipartisan house legislation, no to developing bipartisan solutions. senate republicans' efforts have met a similar response. again and again, republicans here in the senate have put forward legislation to help create jobs, grow the economy and to provide help to working families struggling with the high price of everything from groceries to health care. several of our bills have even received support from rank and file democrats. bills like senator collins' 40 hours is full time act which would fix an obamacare provision that is reducing workers' hours and wages. or senator blunt's hire more
heroes act which would give employers an incentive to hire our nation's veterans. but the senate democrat leadership has refused to consider our proposals. senate republicans have even been prevented from offering amendments to bills that come before the senate. since july of 2013, senate republicans have been allowed just 14 amendment votes. less than one a month in the world's greatest deliberative body. known for unlimited debate and unlimited amendment. one amendment per month, less than one amendment per month. that's what senate republicans have been allowed in the last year. compare that to the house of representatives where the democrat minority has been allowed 194 amendment votes over the same period. mr. president, when the minority party is denied a voice in the senate, it's the american people, the people that we represent who are really being
denied a voice. democrats may not control the house, but through the amendment process, they have been able to make their constituents' voices heard. republicans in the senate, on the other hand, have been prevented from bringing their constituents' voices to the legislative process. mr. president, american families are struggling. the economy continues to stagnate. unemployment is still above 6%. way higher than that if you figure in the labor participation rate and the number of people actually giving up even looking for work. last month's job creation was the worst this year. and opportunities for advancement in this economy are few and far between. health care costs which were already high when the president took office have continued to increase. average health care deductibles have increased 50% and health care premiums have risen by an
average of $3,459 since the president took office, despite, despite the president's promise that his health care law would drive down premiums by $2,500. gas prices have increased by 87% over the course of the obama administration. mr. president, a politico poll released this week found that, and i quote, strong majorities now say that they lack the savings to grapple with an unforeseen job loss. 61% of them in the poll said that. and that the cost of basic household items like gas and groceries have strained their finances. 62% of the people polled have that response. it is not surprising that a recent george washington university battle ground poll found that 70% of americans think the country is on the wrong track. with these challenges facing the american people, our focus in the senate this year should have
been legislation to address our struggling economy and to repair the damage obamacare is doing to families and businesses. instead, senate democrats have chosen to focus the senate's efforts on politics. mr. president, the democrat-led senate has failed in its boast basic responsibility this year, that's to pass solutions for the american people. just a few days left in the session, it's a little late for democrats to do anything about that now. but i hope that when we return in november, things will be different. i hope democrats will spend less time trying to save their jobs and more time trying to create jobs for the american people. i hope they'll spend less time campaigning and more time legislating. i hope they'll be ready to work with republicans to deliver solutions for the american people. mr. president, that's what
we're here to do. that's what we ought to be focused on. all this using the floor of the united states senate to conduct campaigns doesn't serve any constructive purpose when it comes to solving problems and meeting challenges that are being faced by the american people every single day. chronic high unemployment, sluggish economy, reduced take-home pay, higher costs for health care and groceries and fuel, you go right down the list, college education. these are the real and present impacts of this economy on the american people and middle-class families. the united states congress can do better. the american people deserve better. and i hope when the dust settles and the smoke clears from november elections that we will come back here with a renewed sense of purpose and focus on what is really important to the people that we represent in this country.
mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. enzi: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. enzi: mr. president, as we consider this continuing resolution to fund the government in fiscal year 2015 which begins october 1, i rise to voice concern about our napes nation's spending and debt. at last count, our country was more than $17 trillion in debt, and that number increases every single day. now, my parents told me that you shouldn't just complain, you should have solutions, and i'm going to talk about two solutions today. one of them is the penny plan which would just cut one cent out of every dollar we currently spend and accordingly -- according to the congressional budget office balance the budget in just three years. if we continued another seven years we'd pay down the national debt by $76 trillion and the second to do biennial budget.
ing the. we do continue resolutions. we're supposed to do those through 12 separate bills that get debate not just in committee but on the floor of the senate with amendments. it's been a long time since we've done about country dunn that. biennial budgeting would allow us to get into this nerve center of spending and get something done. for fiscal year 2013 we expect to pay $241 billion in interest on the national debt according to the congressional budget office. and with our pattern of unsustainable spending, in ten years we could pay close to $800 billion in interest. now, that's not counting the interest rate going up much. say $231 billion this year, at 1%, that's about what we're paying now. imagine that went to 5%. that would put us over a trillion dollars. that's what we're talking about
spending in this continuing resolution. and if we're doing it all in interest, that eliminates defense and all of the other things we put our money into. so that's more than our creditors -- we spent on national defense. our future interest payments will be higher if the interest rates go up higher than the c.b.o. has predicted. the interest we pay doesn't buy anything. it pays other countries for loaning us money. the government consistently spends more than it takes in and the c.b.o. reported in august if current laws remain unchanged, growing budget deficits over the long term will push the debt even higher. yet today we're considering legislation to continue discretionary funding on autopilot. the continuing resolution funds federal programs from december 11 at the current rate of $1.012 trillion. we won't have any debate, we'll have an up-or-down vote and
spend another trillion dollars. outrage does nothing to -- the legislation does nothing do the fact that our gross domestic product will reach 74% by the end of this fiscal year, twice that of seven years ago and higher than any year since 1950. we're doing nothing to reverse c.b.o.'s projection that in 25 years, federal debt held by our constituents will exceed 100% of gross domestic product, everything that we produce in the united states in a year. the c.b.o. notes that this trend which i view as perilous cannot be sustained indefinitely. i asked my senate colleagues would what would happen if we adopted the same spending habits held by the government? i can tell you with little doubt over the long term we'd each face bankruptcy. and that's just the point. sometimes it seems we have our
heads buried in sand. are we in denial? sometimes we act as if there are different pets of principles for the federal budget and the outcome of excessive personal spending but i'm here to tell you the same potentially dire consequences face the government that face individuals if we do not put our fiscal house in order. our president frames issues in the context of how it would affect his daughters. like the president i'm up at night with concerns about how our country's fiscal path will affect the lives of my children and grandchildren. i worry how we will harm families and generations to come. sometimes as lawmakers we seem to act as if this problem is too big to solve but it's not. understanding how to reach and maintain financial health is not rocket science. it merely requires exercising common sense and commitment as individuals we learn to live
within our means, if we spend too much, we tighten our belts and we work hard to ease our financial situation. the government should and could do the same. we can't wait longer. it's time for us to act. i've introduced the penny plan as a simple and straightforward way to put our country back on the right fiscal path. it reduces discretionary and mandatory spending, lessening our interest payments by 1% or one penny from every dollar. foreign policy for each year of three years, until the total spending as reached approximately 18% of that gross domestic product. based on figures from the c.b.o., reducing spending this way would result in in a balanced budget within three years. total spending would then be capped at 18% of g.d.p. for subsequent years since that's the historic average level of government spending for the past several decades. importantly, the penny plan
steers us away from some of the controversy and political traps we've seen for spending reductions. at the onset, it doesn't -- does not identify the specific cuts necessary to achieve this 1% reduction in savings. instead, such decisions are left for us to make. its beauty is it puts a broad plan into action and gives flexibility. now, i've had a lot of grassroots interest in this. i've had a number of organizations that have done resolutions, i've got a lot of individuals that have signed up on my web site as cosponsors of this action that's needed to be taken, and i encourage people to go to my web site and become a part of this movement to show that there is interest in balancing the budget. and in paying down the debt. i would ask unanimous consent that a copy of one of those resolutions be put in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. enzi: another step we can take to stop the autopilot
spending path we're on, passing the c.r.'s year after year, is to enact my biennial appropriations act. this legislation illustrates why we need to pass my bill. in less than a month the new federal fiscal year begins. yet once again, we have not passed a single of the 12 appropriation bills for the year that starts october 1. our answer? another short-term continuing resolution. what will come after that? one big omnibus bill that will be put together by a couple of people in a back room and we'll get to vote yes or no on it. that's not responsible spending. you have to be able to look at the items in the bill. a short-term continuing resolution is not the way the government should operate. nor does it meet the expectations of those who sent
us to washington to represent them. it's no wonder our approval ratings sink per he pettually lower. congress should debate each individual spending bill. they should vote on amendments and pass all 12 separate spending bills. however, the last time we passed all the appropriations bills separately before the start of the fiscal year was 20 years ago in 1994. that's a pretty poor record. especially since that's the main thing that we're charged with, the spending for the united states. we ought to be starting on those spending bills april 15 right after the budget is required to be finished, which also doesn't get finished by then, and considering each of those until we have resolution on each of them and we could easily have that done before october 1. now, when we don't follow that regular order we can't adequately consider the details, including a line-by-line look at individual programs and an analysis of
appropriate funding levels, and duplication in government. inevitably we get the types of agreements reached in january in which congress is given one chance to vote on one and -- $1.1 trillion up or down, no amendments. it's time for this chronic and debilitating pattern to stop. we've got to start legislating and stop dealmaking. my biennial appropriations bill would allow for each of the appropriations bills to be taken up over a two-year period. that gives us a little more time to do it. it would also give the agencies two years' worth of time to utilize that money the best way possible instead of having to worry each year in not getting their money until late. so they'd take these bills up over a two-year period. the most controversial bills, the six that are the toughest, we'd take up right after an election, and the six that are a the easiest we'd take up just before the election. that way we could get through
both of them in some detail and not have to worry about the election. the defense appropriations bill, however, would be taken up each year. that's another one of our main charges, is to assure the defense of our country and this would allow us to scrutinize the spending details and eliminate duplication and waste there as well. but that's an idea that both parties have endorseed. in 2000, former o.m.b. director and now treasury secretaryry jack lew told the house rules committee the budget process took up so much time that there wasn't as much time to devote to making programs better. he said -- quote -- "i think biennial budgeting if it's properly designed could very much help alleviate these pressures." i think if anybody that's observed our appropriations process would agree that we need to do something different. if we keep on doing what we've
always been doing we're going to keep on getting what we've got which is an omnibus bill of $1.1 trillion with no scrutiny. we can't keep doing that. let's move our budget and appropriations process into the 21st century, providing the prudent oversight and judgment of our budget and appropriations. while at the same time guaranteeing a more secure future for the generations to come. we need to do the penny plan and biennial budgeting and get our spending under control, and get it to where we get to actually make decisions on how it's being spent. i've said before that one of the reasons that government expands is that we have this rule of riffing people, if you're the last person hired, you're the first person fired. so consequently as soon as you get a government job, it's very important for you to expand your workload because because if you can expand your workload you can
see you need an assistant. once you have an assistant on board, you're not the first one fired. and i attribute a lot of reports and things that are being put out there as ways to expand work so that somebody has something something to do to get an assistant. we can't keep doing that, that leads to the consume education that would make -- duplication that would make the process of the penny plan work with flexibility rather than a determination that we'll just have an up-or-down vote and we'll solve it and it doesn't matter if it drives up the debt some more. mr. president, i hope people will pay attention to the penny plan and the biennial budgeting process. i'll be giving more details on that as we go along. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
other state in america -- they will tell you that the most serious crisis facing this country is the lack of decent-paying jobs, particularly when it comes to young americans. this is an issue we do not talk enough about, and this is an issue we have got to focus on. yes, we are better off today than we were six years ago when we were hemorrhaging 700,000 jobs a month and the nation's financial system was on the verge of collapse. but the truth of the matter is that the economy for working families and lower-income families today remains in very, very difficult straits. the middle class of this country, the backbone of this country, continues to disappear, and more and more people are living in poverty. in fact, we have almost more people living in poverty today than at any time in the history
of this country, and all the while we are seeing more wealth and income inequality, such that 95% of all new income generated in america since the wall street crash is going to the top 1%. now, the fact of the matter is that real unemployment in this country is not the "official" 6.1% we see in the front pages of newspapers. the truth is that if you count those people who have given up looking for work because they live in high-un unemployment ars or those people -- and there are many of these -- who are working part-time when they want to work full-time -- real unemployment is 12%. that is a crisis situation. now, as bad as that is, the unemployment rate is far worse for young americans.
today the youth unemployment rate is 20% -- 20%. we all paid a lot of attention to the tragedy in ferguson, missouri, a few weeks ago and yet what was not discussed is that african-american youth unemployment is 33%. in many areas of the country, it is even higher than that. mr. president, today over 5.5 million young people have either dropped out of high school or graduated high school, and you know what they're doing? nothing. they have no jobs. and many of them in vermont and throughout this country are hanging out on street corners, and many of them are getting into trouble. maybe they're doing drugs, maybe they're involved in crime. but this i will tell you -- and the statistics are very clear on this -- if you leave school,
either you drop out or you graduate high school, and you don't get a job in your first year, you don't get a job in your second year, you don't rett -- you don't get a job in our third year, there is a strong likelihood that you will never get a job, never get a career, never make it to the middle class, never be part of mainstream america. youth unemployment, 20%, is clearly 1 o one of the reasons y in the united states of america we have more people in jail today than any other country on earth. a lot of people don't know that. china is a great, big country, communist, authoritarian country. doesn't china have more people in jail than we do? no, we have more people in jail than china. and, mr. president, i think the time long overdue for us to start investing in our young
people, helping them get the jobs they need, helping them get the education they need, helping them get the job training they need so they can be part of our economy, part of the middle class, and not end up in jail or dead from overdoses of drugs. mr. president, the situation is so dire that there are studies out there that tell us now that one out of every three african-american males born today, if we do not change this, one out of three will go to prpk in his lifetime -- one out -- will go to prison in his lifetime -- one out of three. this is a crisis situation and it cannot be ignored. mr. president, the legislation i along with congressman john conyers of michigan have introduced today -- legislation called the employ youth america
act. this will provide $5 billion in immediate funding to states and localities throughout the country to employ one million young americans between the ages of 16 and 24 and provide job training to hundreds of thousands of other young americans. under our bill, the u.s. department of labor would provide $4 billion in grants to states and local governments to provide summer jobs and year-round employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged youths with direct links to academic and occupational learning. there is another $1.5 billion in there to provide such services as transportation or child care, which would be necessary to enable young americans to participate in job opportuniti opportunities. i am very grateful that this legislation has already been endorsed by th the afl-cio, representing some 13 million
workers, the american federation of state, county, and municipal employees, united autoworkers, united steelworkers, the campaign for america's future, and the national employment law project. i want to thank senator debbie stabenow for her support of this legislation as well. mr. president, we cannot continue to ignore the crisis of youth unemployment in america. we're talking about the future of an entire generation. we're talking about the future of the united states of america. let's start focusing on this issue. let's give millions of young people the opportunity to earn a paycheck, to make it into the middle class. mr. president, thank you very much. 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: