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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 4, 2014 12:00pm-2:01pm EST

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represents a direct affront to the constitutional separation of powers, even if you agree on the substance of what did he, which itself is controversial, how he did it was a direct affront to our constitution and the separation of powers. and you know what, it's unsustainable. what happened is it provokes a response from congress when it feels left out and, in fact, the president is going to need congress to work with him to fix our broken immigration system because congress remains the poes isor of the purse. and then the senator from main put it this way. "the framers knew what they were doing. it's not as if the president gets to do what he wants and act, as if he knows what's good for the country on his own." so this is not an entirely
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partisan issue. plenty of democrats understand that the president's action has made it significantly harder for us to get off on the right foot in the new year on a number of issues that we already agree on, by and large. the junior senator from north dakota said the immigration order -- quote -- "could poison any hope of compromise or bipartisanship in the new senate before it's even started." well, i agree with the sentiment. i hope she's wrong and i hope we can prove that wrong by saying that we're not going to give up and we're not going to let what the president does determine what we do. we have to do our job and we have to function and then we're going to have to work with the president hopefully to try to move the country forward in a number of these areas. so i hope we can find a way to stop the president from acting on his own and to recommit ourselves to the rule of law and the particularl particularly the
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constitution and get about the job of addressing our country's biggest challenges. and those are, as we've seen from the comments from the senior senator from new york, senator schumer, who gave a very noteworthy speech at the national press club recently, he mentioned things like that we should be focused on, like the needs of the middle class, stagnant wages, mass underemployment, widespread pessimism about the future of the american dream. the last thing we need is a protracted constitutional crisis and that is really sort of a distraction, unfortunate distraction from what we ought to be doing together. if we recognize these as the challenges and the message that was sent on november the 4th, we ought to be working together to address them. but because of this crisis, it will be more difficult but we can't give up. we need to work together to overhaul our job-training programs and give americans
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relief from the burdens of government that does not work in their best interest. it will be more difficult for us to pass pro-growth tax and regulatory reforms and it will be more difficult for us to do what we need to do to shore up and sustain social security and medicare before they go bankrupt. but we've reached this point because of yet another manufactured crisis, a crisis that was completely and totally unnecessary. i can only hope that the president will decide to reverse his desire to do everything unilaterally and to work on a more sensible course, one that will -- where he appreciates the possibilities of divided government and based on the examples that i gave earlier, there certainly is reason for hope and that divided government can work and address some of our urgent needs. unfortunately, given his record, it's hard to be optimistic but i'm an optimist by nature and hope springs eternal.
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madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. a senator: madam president, i have five unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and that these requests printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coons: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to enter into a colloquy with my colleague, the senator from new hampshire. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coons: madam president, i come to the floor this morning with my colleague from new hampshire, senator kelly ayotte, to talk about what we can do together to invest in america's 21st century manufacturing work force. and as the presiding officer well knows, manufacturing is one of the great areas of opportunity for meaningful
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bipartisan cooperation that will move our country, our economy and our working families forward. although so many issues here these days seem to fall on partisan lines, senator ayotte and i are here today because we've come together on a bipartisan bill called "the manufacturing stills act." the bill has one simple goal which we share -- to spur reforms in manufacturing skills training across our country. that's it. our bill would create a competitive grant program to help local and state governments design and implement manufacturing job-training reforms that fit their own unique local economic needs. once proposals come in, a federal interagency partnership would award the five strongest state proposals and the five strongest local government proposals with funding for three years to implement their targeted reforms. to improve their manufacturing skills training. the funding doesn't all come from the federal government either. something senator ayotte and i share enthusiasm for is getting
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investment for investment. the federal investment must match one-for-one. the funding plays a vital role for building communities and strengthening communities. last year in fact, manufacturing contributed $2 billion to our nation's economy. manufacturing jobs, as we know, are high-quality jobs. they pay more in wages and in benefits. manufacturing is highly innovative. it's the area that invests the most in r&d of any private sector component. and over the last three years, manufacturing has started coming back steadily and, in fact, rapidly, with more than 700,000 new manufacturing jobs created in our country in the last three years. this is all good news. and i'm convinced the united states is poised to really compete in the manufacturing economy of this century. but we still face key challenges in the job market for manufacturing. there are manufacturers i visited with up and down my state and that we've heard from from across the country who are ready to hire but can't fill
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open positions. and the problem is only expected to get worse. by 2020, by some estimates, there may be more than 875,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs. yet there remains no focused, targeted federal work force development program specifically designed to strengthen manufacturing skills. i think part of the reason is we often have an outdated view of manufacturing. it conjures up outdated images of dirty factories and unsafe working conditions and lower-skilled labor. that's not the manufacturing workplace of today at all. so i'd be curious to hear my colleague from new hampshire's thoughts about how manufacturing has changed and how we can work together to strengthen the skills of manufacturing workers in delaware, in new hampshire and across our country. ms. ayotte: well, i want to thank my colleague from delaware. it's really been an honor to work with him on the manufacturing skills act. and we share the goal to ensure that manufacturing remains
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vibrant and a vibrant source of jobs in our economy. and, in fact, training our work force to have the right skills to address today's 21st century manufacturing, which is quite different from yesteryear, because today, as we look at manufacturing, the skills that our workers need -- critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, math and writing and an ability to communicate, an understanding of the manufacturing process, and an ability to engage workers in improving that process -- this wasn't necessarily the case 20 or 30 years ago. but the united states of america is poised -- poised and has an opportunity to really be the leader in advanced manufacturing. and we have such a talented work force, but our workers, they need the type of training that is going to address this new type of manufacturing that is so
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focused on having the right skills and technology, use of technology and problem-solving skills that we know that workers both in new hampshire and delaware are quite capable of if we give them the tools that they need. a reality of today's world is that although our economy is bigger, we're more interconnected than ever before. and job training needs to be customized to the particular business, to the area, the city, the state, the local economy. there is no one-size-fits-all model, and this is especially true in manufacturing, as i visited many manufacturers in our state. where different companies in different places need workers with varying skills. that's one of the reasons that i'm so enthusiastic about the manufacturing skills act that senator coons and i have introduced together. rather than proscribe
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job-training standards or dictate reforms from washington, our bill allows local officials, business leaders and workers to come together in local communities to build training plans that fit their needs, to help grow jobs in the community. because wilmington and newark, delaware, have very different work force challenges perhaps than some of the areas of new hampshire, whether it's nashua or concord or berlin. and we need to ensure that those local officials, that the local employers and that the people of our states are really using the grants that we're able to provide under this legislation to design these training programs for those localities to really allow those workers to be trained for 21st century
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manufacturing skills. by both targeting manufacturing and giving localities the flexibility and discretion to design reforms that fit their needs, we've come together on a bill that can help our country meet some of its most critical economic challenges and opportunities. senator coons, i know that you have a strong background in manufacturing and have worked very closely with employers in delaware to hear from them and workers about what are the needs they have for job training to ensure that delaware can have that 21st century work force. i would love to hear more about some of the challenges you've heard about from employers and workers in delaware. mr. coons: thank you, madam chair. i'd like to thank my colleague from new hampshire. we are both from small states that are not nationally thought of as being leaders in manufacturing, but both new hampshire and delaware have deep and rich and broad manufacturing histories. manufacturing is often in the
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common mind in america associated with ohio or wisconsin, michigan or indiana. but there are dozens and dozens of companies i have visited in delaware that are small or medium-sized manufactures, 50 or 100 or 150 employees. many family owned, many working in particular niches of processing or manufacturing. profitable, growing and looking to hire. and i know, having visited new hampshire as well, that it also has a proud and strong history in manufacturing. and it's my hope that we can, given the regional experience and the base and the expertise of members of this body, come together with other bipartisan cosponsors to strengthen and build this bill going forward. before i got into public servi service, i spent eight years working for a manufacturing company in delaware, a materials-based science company that manufactures over a thousand different products, all off the same chemical platform. and one of the things i did in my work was there to visit the dozens and dozens of manufacturing facilities that either the company for which i
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worked directly operated or many of our partner companies that were licensees or distributors or a part of our supply chain. and the planted of today -- and the plant of today, the shop floor of today bears very little resemblance to that of previous generations. they're a location of rich generation, an amazing collaboration of imagination and teamwork. where world-class quality control and continuation innovation are expected, needed from our work force and, thus, investment in wages and in skills is also a critical part of our continuing to be globally competitive, as senators ayotte has explained. and as the skills we need our workers to have vary depending on the product and the market session plant and the region, we also need to have training programs that are flexible and that meet exactly what the local needs are. i'll give two quick examples, if i might. i have visited from the southern end of my state, s.p.i. pharma in lewis, delaware, which manufactures the key component of malox and many other antacids to basf in newport which
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manufactures pigments. and i hear similar challenges even though they're in quite different areas of manufacturing. their specific needs are for process operators who are skilled at working in a factory where large amounts of complex suspensions, liquids are being mixed, moved around and fashioned into finished products. this hthey need workers who undd programmable logic control systems and can ensure quality control and continuous improvement in quality control is in place. and they know if they're going to keep growing and they're going to keep exporting and going to be globally competitive, they need to stay at the absolute top of their game, which means investing in workers and their skills. they're struggling to find young people who replace those who are aging out of their work force. our community college, delaware and technical community college, a national leader, is helping and is actively engaged. but as the equipment and processes of today's manufacturing plant become more advanced and more computerized, they'll need help keeping up with changing technologies so that the skills they train for today are the actual skills that companies like s.p.i. pharma and
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basf in delaware need in this century. so the manufacturing skills act could be a real help in delaware to lots of manufactures i visited -- manufacturers i visited and it will allow state and local officials partnering with our schools and chamber leadership and manufacturers to build a system that fits our real needs at our local level. i think that's exciting, whether you're from new hampshire, from wisconsin, from delaware, from indiana. knowing that we are willing to come together in a strong and bipartisan way to lay a pathway forward for america's manufacturing work force gives me some reason for optimism, as we begin to conclude this session of congress and as we look forward. and i want to close by specifically thanking senator ayotte for being such a positive, forward-looking partner, not just in this bill but on many other issues we've worked on together in the years that we've served so far in this body together. and i'd love to hear more from my colleague from new hampshire about the manufacturing challenges faced in new hampshire, how this bill might address them, and what our path forward is for this piece of legislation.
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ms. ayotte: well, i want to thank my colleague from delaware. this -- as i look at the new congress coming in, i really view our bill, this manufacturing skills act, as an opportunity where we can all work together to help workers and employers across the country meet the challenges of ensuring that manufacturing continues to thrive and grow in this country, and these are good-paying jobs where the workers who are excellent and want the opportunity and just need the skills, need the type of technology training, need the understanding of process like the lien process and how we can improve our manufacturing, and this bill that we worked on together really is one that will allow those local decisionmakers to put together the best training that is going to help
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create good-paying jobs, not only in delaware and new hampshire and wisconsin but across this country, and so i think this is a bill that i hope we can take up very early on in the next session and get behind. in new hampshire, there are 66,000 jobs that are directly connected and related to manufacturing, and as i travel to visit employers, manufacturing employers throughout our state, i have been hearing the same things that my colleague from delaware has heard, and that is that they are challenged in actually finding the right work force for excellent-paying jobs and for opportunities that really would be very good opportunities, and what they need is some partnerships and help to get that trained work force in place. and like delaware, new hampshire has had some strong partnerships among the private sector and community colleges in my state, and we need to do more of that, and i think our bill will allow
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those local education institutions to partner with private employers, that -- to partner with state and local officials, to ensure that the training is valuable and that everyone has a stake in ensuring that we have the right work force going forward. i want to thank some of the businesses i have had the privilege of visiting in our state and so many have told me this, whether it's berndi in littleton or velcro in manchester or hypothermia in the upper valley, our private sector is really focusing on this issue and our manufacturing skills act can help move forward ensuring that our workers have the right skills and that we can grow jobs in this country. i want to thank senator coons for his leadership on this issue, and really the work that he has done every single day in this body to ensure that the
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people of delaware have good-paying jobs and the right work force training. this is a goal that i share with the senator from delaware. i also want to thank him for his leadership on other issues, including the protection of this nation and many issues that he has become an expert on in this body. and i would hope, madam president, that we could all get behind bipartisan solutions like that offered by my colleague from delaware and that i hope many of our colleagues will think about joining us on this manufacturing skills act, and that as we go into the new congress, this will be a priority of our leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote right away. i want to thank you, madam president. i want to thank my colleague from delaware for his leadership and work on this important issue, and i -- i look forward to continuing to work on this until we get this passed.
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. tester: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are not. mr. tester: thank you, madam president. madam president, i want to address the challenges we have with the postal service today. madam president, there is no saying that when you're in a hole, stop -- there is an old saying when you're in a hole, stop digging. don't make things worse. don't shoot yourself in the foot. it's actually quite simple advice that all of us need to follow. here in congress, we could apply it to a lot of different issues we deal with. our budget and immigration system come to mind. but that hole grows faster when two parties are digging, when you have two shovels. the walls become higher. the climb out becomes more difficult.
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and that's what's happening right now with the postal service. on one side you have the postmaster general and the postal service leadership actively cutting services and mail delivery standards. they think they can cut their way to fiscal solvency, and quite frankly in this case they are wrong. the answer is not more cuts. in fact, if it wasn't for the prefunding requirement for retiree health benefits, the postal service would have made nearly $1 billion in 2012. clearly, the postal service doesn't need to keep shutting down facilities and slowing down delivery. what the postal service does need is responsible reform legislation. that's why i'm here this afternoon. all the postal service is doing with its shortsighted cuts is weakening trust in the postal service. essentially, postal service leadership is cutting the legs out from underneath themselves. they're digging the hole deeper.
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but congress is in the hole with the postmaster general. there are a lot of folks in congress who would love to see the postal service go out of business, but the postal service, whether in urban america or rural america, delivers the goods that america needs, delivers medicine, newspapers, delivers equipment, letters and even election ballots. it's a critical part of our daily lives. but the postal service is preparing to end overnight delivery in all but a few american cities and close 82 mail processing facilities starting in january. these facilities route mail from new york to california, from seattle to sarasota, from a grandmother to her grandson. when these facilities close or consolidate, it costs thousands of jobs, and more importantly it means that mail goes to the remaining facilities and it means that packages have to travel longer to get to where
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they're going. and when that happens, more folks won't get the mail when they need it. it means more delayed credit card payments. it means more needed medicine sitting on a truck for another day. come election, it might even mean lost ballots. the postal service has already stopped overnight delivery in large parts of rural america. even two-day delivery is now hard to come by. and if the postal service implements its new plan in january, that will be the case almost nationwide. congress has the power to stop these closures, and it would make sense to keep these facilities open while we work to reform the postal service in a way that treats its employees and its customers and the general public fairly. but here in the senate and in the house, too many folks have the shovels out. the proposals coming out of this
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congress so far fall far short of what is needed to put the postal service on sound financial if thing. so we're here today to urge the house of representatives and this body, the senate, to include a provision in the government funding bill that would keep the processing facilities open. madam president, there is no point in closing mail processing facilities while congress works on a comprehensive postal reform bill. i know we have trouble passing responsible legislation around here. i do get that, but there is a painstaking -- and i do mean painstaking work going on around here to pass the postal service reform bill. the bill that passed the senate governmental affairs committee earlier this year needs work, serious work. it does not preserve strong rural mail standards. it is opposed by folks in rural america, by postal unions, by mailers. under the bill, except in the big cities, you can kiss one-day
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delivery goodbye. and with the cuts that it proposes, the bill fundamentally prevents the postal service from performing its constitutional duty of keeping this nation stitched together. but along with other members of the committee and some like-minded folks in the house, we're trying to find a way forward. we're trying to reform the postal service without putting the burden on rural america. a proposal i am working on will give the postal service the flexibility to raise new revenue while reducing the costly mandate to prefunding retirement benefits. that requirement is swamping the agency's books. other members of congress are pushing to allow the postal service to continue its crusade against rural america. my effort, on the other hand, is a balanced solution that preserves strong rural mail standards while putting the postal service on the path of fiscal solvency. madam president, we have been here long enough to know that there is no magic bullet. congress is full of too many interests and too many
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constituencies, but the least we can do is to stop making things worse. there is no reason to keep digging the hole. we have evidence behind our case. the g.a.o. and its analysis of the past closures of processing facilities said the postal service is already unable to meet its reduced service standards. already unable to meet the standards that have already been reduced. the congressional budget office, looking at potential savings from facility closures, didn't take into account the loss of mail volume resulting in reducing the quality of service. there are simply way, way too many unanswered questions about how these closures would affect mail service, and that's why a bipartisan majority of senators, including myself, have called to stave off the closures of these processing facilities. over 160 house members have done the same. a moratorium on mail processing facilities is the way to go. madam president, it will stop the bleeding. it will stop the digging that
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congress and the postal service are doing right now. and it will send a message to the american people that the american people's representatives won't sit by as opponents work to privatize the postal service. this is the busiest season of the year for the postal service. folks send presents and cards through the mail. we hear from old friends and families that we haven't heard from for a long time. it's a busy and important time. but no more critical than any other time of the postal service's year. mail processing facilities don't -- don't just get used for mailing christmas cards or presents, nor do the post offices. and reduced post office hours will affect americans' lives as well. madam president, westby, montana, is in the far northeastern corner of montana, along the border of north dakota. it's a beautiful little city -- little town. but it is the westby post office where kent kelson, a veteran in
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his ninth decade, goes to pick up his prescription medicine. the mail takes a little longer to guest to westby these days because the processing plant was closed last year, and the post office is open for a few less hours each day. ken wrote my office and told me that the reduced hours make it harder for him, this veteran in northeastern montana, in his 90's, it makes it harder for him to get his medication. here's what it comes down to. we need a reform bill that keeps the postal service financially viable while maintaining strong mail service standards for people like ken. it's not an easy proposition. we have been working on it for quite a while now. but the calls and the need for reform are stronger than ever. there is no reason to keep digging. there is still time for congress to stop the mail processing facility closures scheduled to start in january. that will give us more time to pass good legislation that sets the postal service straight.
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i urge my colleagues in this body to do just that, because this cuban needs a viable postal service, one that the american people can trust. madam president, it's more than just holiday cards and packages. it's about making sure that payments arrive on time. it's about making sure that lease agreements get to the proper people. but it's not just about these things. it's also about having faith as a nation that we as a body, as a senate, as a house, as a congress, can make responsible decisions to preserve what's important in this country. there has been a lot of talk about working together and getting things done. since the election. i wish it could have happened before the election, but we are where we are. we've got a great opportunity to work together to get something done to keep the postal service
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solvent and keep those standards high for not only urban america but rural america also. we need to do that today. this is an important effort. with that, i would love to hear from the senator from vermont, senator sanders. mr. sanders: let me begin by thanking senator tester, not only for being on the floor here today, but for working on the issue of making sure that in 50 states of this country, in rural america and urban america, we continue to have a postal service that the american people are proud of. and i want to acknowledge senator baldwin for her strong work on this issue as well. i represent one of the most rural states in america, i don't know if it's more rural than montana, but it is very, very rural. most of our people live in very small towns. and the post office, the local post office is not just the
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place to pick up your mail or to mail your letters. it is a symbol of what the town is about. it is something that identifies the town, it is a very important part of rural america. we have been battling on this issue now for a number of years. as senator tester will remember, it wasn't so many years ago where the postmaster general came up with the proposal that would have led to the ending, the shutting down of 15,000 mostly rural post offices all over america. and to my mind that was a disastrous -- a disastrous proposal and many of us stood up, we fought back, we worked out something and while the compromise was not all that i wanted, at least it prevented the shutdown of 15,000 post offices all over this country. right now -- and i think
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senator tester made this point -- the postal service has announced that beginning next month it will be shutting down up to 82 mail processing plants. and those are the plants that move the mail along, get it out into areas all over the country. they also want to abolish overnight delivery standards for first-class mail and in the process at a time when we need to create decent-paying jobs, this proposal would eliminate up to 15,000 good-paying middle-class jobs at the postal service. the reason that senator tester and i and hopefully others have come to the floor today is to send a very loud and clear message to the postmaster general, to the colleagues -- to our colleagues here in the senate, to our colleagues in the house and to the president of the united states. and that is at a time when the middle class is disappearing and
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the number of americans living in poverty is almost at an all-time high, do not destroy decent-paying jobs at the postal service. at a time when the postal service is competing with the instantaneous communication of email and high-speed internet, do not slow down mail delivery service. speed it up. do not dismantle the proposals by shutting down up to a quarter of the mail processing plants that are left in this country. on august 14 i was delighted to work with senator tester and others on a letter to the appropriations committee urging them to include language in the omnibus appropriations bill or the continuing resolution to prevent the postal service from making these devastating cuts and protecting these 15,000 jobs, protecting these 82
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processing plants. and i'm happy to say that a majority of the members of the united states senate, 51 of them, including majority leader reid, senator durbin, senator schumer, and six republicans -- senator hatch, senator inhofe, senator blunt, senator thune and senator collins, they all signed on to this letter. they understand, many of them coming from rural america, not a republican issue or a democratic issue. this is an issue to protect mail delivery all over this country and especially in rural areas. shortly after we sent our letter, 160 members of the house signed on to a similar letter calling for a one-year moratorium to stop these mail processing plants from closing, and there were 23 republicans signing that letter. so you're seeing bipartisan support in the house and the
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senate saying loudly and clearly, do not shut down 82 processing plants, do not slow down mail delivery service, do not eliminate 15,000 decent-paying jobs. and i know that senator mikulski, the chair of the appropriations committee, wants to see this happen, but make -- to make it happen she needs republican support and i very much urge my republican colleagues, stand up for rural america, stand up for 15,000 jobs, let's protect these 82 processing plants. madam president, as senator tester has made clear, the beauty of the postal service is that it provides universal service six days a week to every corner of america no matter how small or how remote. it supports millions of jobs in virtually every other sector of our economy.
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it provides decent-paying union jobs to some 500,000 americans, and, in fact, -- and i say this as the chairman of the senate veterans committee -- it is the largest single employer of veterans. whether you are a low-income elderly woman living at the end of a dirt road in pennsylvania or vermont, or you're a wealthy c.e.o. on wall street, you will get your mail six days a week, and the american people, by the way, pay for this service at a cost far, far less than anywhere else in the industrialized world. but if congress doesn't stop the postmaster general from making these devastating cuts, it will drive more americans away from the postal service and will lead to what we call a death spiral. the quality of service deteriorates, fewer people use the postal service, less revenue comes in, less revenue
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comes in, the process continues to deteriorate. madam president, despite what some in this country have been hearing in the media and despite what some in the postal service have been saying, the postal service is not going broke. we hear that every -- every three months. people telling us the postal service is going broke but it's not true. the major reason that the postal service is in bad financial shape today is because of a mandate signed into law by george w. bush in december of 2006 during a lame-duck session of congress that forces the postal service to prefund 75 years of future retiree health benefits over a ten year period. this burden is unprecedented in any other government agency or
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any private sector company in the united states of america. it is a burden that every single year costs the postal service $5.5 billion, and that one provision, that one provision is responsible for all of the financial losses posted by the postal service since october, 2012. just that one provision. over the past two years, the postal service has made an operating profit of nearly $1 billion. let me repeat that. over the past two years, the postal service has made an operating profit of nearly $1 billion excluding this prefunding mandate that must be gotten rid of. further, madam president --, mr. president, before this mandate was signed into law the postal service was profitable.
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in fact, from 2003 to 2006, the postal service made a combined profit of more than $9 billion. so when you hear that the postal service is troubling -- is in financial difficulty, the key reason, the overwhelming reason is this onerous, unprecedented burden of coming up with $5.5 billion every year to pay for future health retiree ms. -- retirees. mr. president, given the improved financial condition of the postal service, it makes no sense to me to close down mail plants, destroy jobs, and slow mail delivery. our job right now is to make the postal service an agency that functions efficiently in the 21st century. we've got to give them the tools to effectively compete. but the way you do that is not by cutting, cutting, and cutting.
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that is a path toward disaster. so, mr. president, i would hope that the members of the u.s. senate, the members of the house will stand together, prevent these 82 processing plants from shutting down, and come up with some legislation which expands the capability of the postal service to compete and protects the american people who want high-quality postal service. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor and yield to the senator from wisconsin, senator baldwin. ms. baldwin: i'm delighted to join the senior senator from montana and senior senator from vermont on this important topic. the topic of postal service disclosures impacts my state of wisconsin, greatly impacts
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states across the country i must say. since 2012 the postal service has closed or consolidated 141 processing facilities throughout the united states. and in june the postmaster general announced plans to consolidate up to 82 mail processing facilities and eliminate 15,000 jobs in 2015. four of these facilities are in the state of wisconsin, in eau claire, lacrosse, madison, and rothschild in the wasau region of the state of wisconsin. when postal processing facilities close, it impacts service standards, which really boils down to the time it takes for a piece of mail to get from point a to point b. and at this moment i can't tell you -- i can't tell my
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constituents, wisconsinites, how long these delays will be, because the postal service has yet to study this impact. these closures are set to begin within a month. so for small businesses who rely on the postal service to get their goods to market and for seniors like the veteran who was described earlier by the senior senator from montana who gets his medicine through the mail, there's really no way for them to know at this moment how these closures are going to affect them. and sometimes what's in the mail is a life line for them. in fact, the inspector general found that the postal service failed to follow its own rules which require the postal service to study the impacts these consolidations will have on their service standards.
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again, the time it takes for a piece of mail to get from point a to point b. they're also supposed to inform the public of these impacts and additionally to allow affected communities to provide input before a final decision is made. however, this simply didn't happen. and that's why i was proud to join senator mccaskill in a bipartisan letter to the postmaster general requesting that the postal service delay these proposed closures and consolidations until they have a fair and a complete and a transparent process in place. but the postal service exists to serve all americans, and my constituents and the consumers who fund the postal service deserve to have their voices heard in this process.
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they are stakeholders in this process. and while there are certainly process and transparency problems with these closures, another issue that concerns me is the fact that these shortsighted cuts are harming the very thing that makes the postal service unique. the major strength of the united states postal service is its significant network that can reach every community in america. whether you're in an urban city like milwaukee, wisconsin, or a rural town like prentiss, the postal service reaches these wisconsin communities. but by continually chipping away at the substantial service network, the postal service is developing into an urban package delivery system at the expense of rural americans and rural
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wisconsinites. you know, the preponderance of this idea of closures and consolidations say it's counterproductive to delay these closures because they should happen as soon as possible. they say that congress has failed to act and that the postal service has been left with no alternative but to close more processing facilities. well, i agree on one point, and that is that congress has indeed failed to act. and we must. congress has failed to act, and i don't know how many have sort of heard this in relation to bills to try to fix problems. have you ever seen somebody presented an idea and they say, well, look, everybody who's a stakeholder hates this so it must be a good bill? well, i kind of disagree with that proposition that it has to be that way. i can tell you that there is another way forward and that path involves working with, not
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against, postal service employees and customers. it relieves the postal service of congressionally mandated overpayments. it maintains service standards for all communities. and it provides postal service customers with certainty on postal rates. i am going to continue to fight on this issue. i'm delighted and proud to be joining my colleagues here today on the floor to raise this immediate issue of postal process facility closures, this impending issue, but also to renew our commitment to longer-range broader postal reform that gives our constituents, whether rural, suburban or urban the confidence and service that they deserve. i yield back.
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and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. ms. baldwin: i ask that we vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. baldwin: i ask unanimous consent that theresa harrison, a fellow in the office of senator schumer, be granted floor privileges for the remainder of the 113th congress. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. baldwin: and i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: i request consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. nelson: madam president, i wanted to share with the senate the fact that we are about to do the first flight test of the new nasa human spacecraft called orion. as a matter of fact, it was attempted earlier this morning. there was a launch window between 7:05 and 9:44 eastern
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time. in fact, a combination of some weather concerns plus some questions of valves opening on some of the fuel lines in the rocket and trying to rework those valves ultimately led to the decision to scrub the mission today. the spacecraft looks like a capsule. if you recall the apollo capsule that took us to the moon, it carried three astronauts. it was 12 feet in diameter. orion is 16.5-feet in diameter
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and is being designed to carry four astronauts. but it is the forerunner to the space systems that will eventually in 20 years carry us to the planet mars. it will be launched today on an existing workhorse. we have two major workhorses in our stable -- the dealt, the dealt 4 and this configured with additional boosters called the delta 4 heavy. and the other workhorse in the stable of getting so many of our payloads into space, including our military satellites, is the atlas 5. both of them are proven workhorses and have been almost flawless. this particular spacecraft for its first flight test is going
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up on a delta 4 heavy, and as such, what it will do is first put it into low earth orbit, and from there it will be projected out 3,600 miles out from the earth and come back as if it were on a mission to the moon or to an asteroid or coming back from mars in a trajectory, coming through the earth's atmosphere, creating quite a few g's and creating at about 20,000 miles an hour as it is coming back into the earth's atmosphere about 4,000 degrees fahrenheit on the heat shield. so the flight test today is to
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test the structural integrity of the spacecraft as to test the viability of the heat shield. that has now been postponed until tomorrow. it is my expectation -- i was hoping senator thune would be able to go. as it turns out, he's got to go back to south dakota. i will be there at the cape and will report on the launch later on to the senate next week, but this -- it will all be done in one day, and it will splashdown in the pacific, somewhere in the region of the state of the presiding senator, and they are actually going to have coverage, television coverage of the splashdown because we have a predator that will be out over the atlantic, and that's why you have got to have the weather there as well as the weather at the cape to be exactly right so
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that we can record the splashdown because this is a flight test. we are developing a new spacecraft to take humans onto missions far beyond low earth orbit. so, madam president, a lot of people think that the human space program was shut down after the space shuttle. no. we are just going into the new design of new spacecraft that can take us on a mission way out of the earth's orbit as we explore the heavens. i will give a report to the senate next week. madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you very much, madam president. this is a picture of wike brothers farm in sharon, connecticut. sharon is located in the very northwest portion of the great
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state of connecticut. it has been an active farm held by the same family, the wike brothers, for 150 years. it's about 144 acres. it's a pasture now for free range chickens, pigs and cattle. the farm's roadside store, which is used by people from connecticut and massachusetts and new york, given that it sits right at the crux of those three states. it sells beef and pork, sausages, eggs, apple-smoked bacon, maple syrup, to name a few. we are able to know confidently that this piece of iconic farmland that is producing for the neighboring towns and states is going to be able to continue as a farm because of something that congress did. congress passed, enacted in 2006, a land conservation incentive in our tax code that gives a small tax incentive to
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farmers who decide to put a conservation easement on their land to make sure that it doesn't fall into the hands of developers. further, we provide a slightly smaller discount, a slightly smaller tax incentive to private nonfarm, nonagricultural landowners who want to donate their land, want to put a conservation easement on their land to make sure it doesn't get developed. this has been of enormous benefit in the state of connecticut. we have preserved 11,000 acres of land in connecticut just since this tax incentive went on the books. that's a 45% increase over the previous period of time before we put that tax incentive on the books. it's a wonderful bipartisan policy because we are able by discounting people's taxes to be able to keep land as open space.
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without it, frankly, going into the hands of public landowners, which is often met with resistance from a lot of members from our western states. land stays in the hands of the private landowner or in this case in the hands of the wike brothers who have been farming it for a century and a half. but we know that because of that conservation easement, it will be maintained as open space. and as bipartisan as that idea is, the entire genesis of land conservation is a bipartisan idea. maybe even to the extent it's partisan, a republican idea. it was teddy roosevelt who quadrupled the acreage in our national forests, who invented the national wildlife refuge system, proclaimed 18 national monuments. he said in 1910 that conservation is a great moral issue for it involves the patriotic duty of ensuring the safety and continuance of the nation. it was richard nixon that
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created the e.p.a., that signed into law the clean water act. he said this in 1970. clean air, clean water, open spaces. these should once again be the birthright of every american. and while there aren't a lot of democrats coming down to the floor and quoting ronald reagan, he had some pretty impressive things to say about this country's commitment and his movement's commitment to conservation as well. this is what ronald reagan said. he said -- "what is a conservative, after all, but one who conserves, one who is committed to protecting and holding close the things by which we live, and we want to protect and conserve the land on which we live, our countryside, our rivers, our mountains, our plains, our meadows, our forests. this is our patrimony. this is what we leave to our children." ronald reagan said -- "our great moral responsibility is to leave it to them either as we found it or better than we found it." and so, madam president, i'm
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here today to speak in favor of the continuance of the land conservation tax incentive program that we hope will be in whatever tax extension deal gets passed by the congress, as many proponents -- provisions in that extension weaj would like. it would be much better if this was permanent. it's very difficult to do long-term planning for owners and operators of big farms like wike brothers if they don't know that the tax incentive is going to be there for them. it's very difficult to do this retroactively, but important nonetheless to get this extended. because this isn't the only piece of property in our state that has been protected. towner hill farm in sherman, connecticut, is an 80-acre property that would not have been protected if it weren't for the federal tax deduction which was available to the owner in 2008. he offered it to the town of sherman at less than the value that he might have gotten in a private land sale because he knew he was going to be able to
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get this tax incentive. and now it's home to one of the most popular hiking areas in all of that area in sherman, connecticut. vanishing geese farm in durham, connecticut, the center of the state has a 42-acre farm that's been in the scott family since the 1970's. they desperately want to continue farming, but the ability to have a conservation easement purchased from them put money in their pockets that was -- that allowed them to continue to farm but also gave them peace of mind, knowing that this piece of land that they love is going to be able to stay as open space. mr. scott said this in his own colloquial way. he said -- "having worked the land, cut my firewood from it and hayed it, i have developed a lot of affection for it." in regard to the donation of the easement, he said -- "i told my kids that my chest was puffed out a little more when i walked out there in the snow.
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it was nice to know that this land will never be developed. i feel like i kind of kept faith with the land and with the critters on it." this is a really important tax incentive that, as i said, has resulted in tens of thousands of acres being preserved in the state of connecticut. it's maybe the most important legacy that we leave, to recognize that part of the true greatness of this country is the land upon which we live, the open spaces that define what it is to be an american. i mean, the industrial revolution powered us to global greatness, but we maybe better than any other nation in the world have found this miraculous way to marry together development and conservation, to decide that there are going to be places that we are going to develop for their natural resources or for their industrial capacity, but then there are going to be these magical places like this beautiful farm in northwestern connecticut where agriculture is
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happening and which to many of us defines the character of the place in which we live. practical reasons why you should conserve a place like wike brothers farm, to continue agriculture, but i would almost argue spiritual reasons as well, reasons having to do with what it is to be a citizen, an inhabitant of this great nation. republicans and democrats, over the course of our congressional history, have come together to protect open spaces, and since 2006, republicans and democrats have come together to protect this important tax incentive. 221 house members have cosponsored the legislation. 27 senators. and i'll leave with this. it's a bipartisan legacy for me as well. i ran a spirited race for the united states congress in 2006, beating a 24-year incumbent, republican nancy johnson. there were places where i depart
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interested her legacy and places where i inherited it. nancy johnson was one of the authors, one of the creators of this important conservation tax incentive. and so in my corner of the world, there's a legacy of standing up for it, which is why i come down to the floor today. i thank the body for their time. i yield back. and i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: madam president,
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it's already starting. the presiding officer: senator, we are in a quorum call. mr. sessions: madam president, i would ask consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: it's already starting. there is being rented today a building in crystal city, virginia, to house the announced 1,000 workers that will be needed to be hired to process the unlawful executive amnesty that the president has said he intends to execute. the president is already moving forward, he is rushing to impose his immigration views before the congress can contain it or restrain it, before the american people fully understand what's happening, and to make it so it can't be stopped. his executive orders violate the laws of congress, the laws that
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congress has passed, in order to implement laws he wishes congress had passed, but congress has refused to pass. it refused in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2014. the american people through their congressional representatives considered these kind of proposals, they evaluated them, the american people expressed their views on them, and congress said no. the people have been clear on this issue. for decades they have pleaded, demanded, really, that this congress create an immigration system that's lawful, that we end the lawlessness, that it be principled, that it serve the national interest, that it serve their interest and not the special interest. but congress and political leaders have just refused to do so.
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it's unfortunate to a degree i don't think i've seen in any other issue. and perhaps no other issue defines the gap between the elites in this country and middle americans who go to work every day who support our country, pay our taxes and fight our wars. our people want our laws that are on the books now enforced. and if new laws are needed, they want us to pass new laws to end this lawlessness. but this president reejects the will of the people. his policies nullify the laws that we have, shockingly direct federal agents to ignore the law, ignore their oaths and not enforce it, creating this lawlessness that stains our legal system and our country today and it's causing so much angst out there. people aren't opposed to immigration.
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people are frustrated that their government refuses to create a lawful system that will work and serve them. but what i want to say to you is, colleagues, that the president has gone even further than that. he's gone further than just saying i'm not going to enforce the laws, which he as a president, the chief executive officer, is required to do, to execute the laws of the united states faithfully, which he is absolutely failing to do, but he's moving forward with his immigration agenda. rejected by congress and the american people. and he's moving forward in a lot of different ways. this was an issue in the campaign. the people heard about it just a few weeks ago, and they cast their ballots. there are nine new senators elected to this senate. not one of them said they supported president obama's scheme.
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not one of them, they steadfastly opposed it. so in this lame-duck congress the attempt is being made to move this new lawless gend forward out of fear it might not be so popularly received next year. so is congress hopeless, helpless, ineffectual, is it unable to stop this? absolutely not. congress has the power to control what the president does. it has the power to control what he spends money on. the president, the executive branch, cannot spend one dime that has not been approved by the united states congress. he can't spend more on roads, highways, schools, defense, education, health care, that congress has not appropriated and not approved. so congress has a responsibility
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and a duty here. congress should fund no program, should allow no presidential expenditure that is spent on programs it deems are unworthy. and it absolutely has a responsibility to ensure that this president spends no money to execute policies that are in violation of existing law, plainly. it has a constitutional duty, no matter what members may feel about the substance of the issue -- and i have opinions on that. i opposed the president's substantive position, but as a matter of law, separation of powers, and constitutional duty, thunder and lightning this congress should stop the expenditure of federal funds for projects that they don't -- that congress has rejected and is not worthy of funding.
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so congress has deliberated these issues. it's not something that it has not considered before, and rejected this policy. but special interests, they've spent according to one independent group, $1.5 billion to try to ram through congress an immigration plan that the american people reject, and congress has refused to pass. the president hasn't given up, and these special interests haven't given up. despite the election, despite the wishes of the american people, they want their policies, and they're going to ram it through this congress if they possibly can, no matter what we think, no matter what the people think. and that is a threat to representative democracy. it is a threat to the laws of this country. and the congress needs to say no.
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so let's be specific now. people think, well, you may not expend money if you don't prosecute somebody, so how are we going to complain about that, senator sessions? well, look at this. this is from the united states citizenship and immigration service broadcast monday, december 1, just this week, subject, today's email news. uscis -- citizenship and immigration service who is charged with processing people who make application to enter the country lawfully -- is taking steps to open a new operational center in crystal city, a neighborhood in arlington, virginia, to accommodate about 1,000 -- 1,000 -- full-time permanent federal and contract employees in a variety of positions and grade levels.
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the initial workload will include cases filed as a result of the executive actions on immigration announced on november 20, 2014. many job opportunities at the operational center will be announced in the coming days, and please continue to monitor usajobs if you're interested. in days. let's put this little chart up. i think that briefly it continues on what they've published. this is right off their email. current ebb vacancies include special assistant gs-12 -- boy, a lot of people in the country would like to be a gs- gs-12. arlington, virginia, today. special ait isn't, arlington, virginia, today. chief of staff, gs-15, arlington, virginia, today. goes on today, today, today,
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today, exclamation point. they are rushing this through. they're determined to get this done before the american people can find out what's happening to raise their voice, to communicate with their members of congress and the united states senate and stop it. and it's not good for this country. so you say surely the president hasn't overreached in these matters. but congress has stated, you cannot enter the country unlawfully. that's a fundamental principle of our american immigration law. it's been on the books for many, many years. and if you enter unlawfully, you're not entitled to work in america. and if you enter unlawfully and attempt to work and someone hires you, if the person knowingly hires you and knows that you're illegally here, the
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employer is subject to criminal penalties. and other penalties. that's the basic law. it's been on the books for years. the president is just wiping that off the books, colleagues. are we going to accept this? are week going to allow the president to wipe out duly passed laws to create an entirely new system of immigration that congress refused to establish? our laws are on the books today. he has no power to reduce and erase those laws. what about our -- how serious is this? well, last night former speaker of the house newt gingrich, ph.d. in history, a student of american government, authored quite a number of books, made some dramatic statements about the meaning of this presidential action. and we should hear it, colleagues. this is the former speaker of
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the house. a student of american history and government. this is what he says about what's happening today. we cannot be oblivious to this, because what happens today will set trends and policies for tomorrow. he said "obama funding new staff and offices without congressional approval is a step toward kingship or dictatorship. he must be stopped now." how much clearer can it be than that? he goes on to say, another tweet here, "congress should only approve very short spending bill to set up fight in january on obama unconstitutional power grab. no long-term c.r." third last night, "our entire constitutional structure is at stake. the new obama power grab is the
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greatest threat to freedom since king george iii." close quote. newt gingrich. i'm telling you, this is not a little bitty matter, and we have to fully understand the nature of what's happening here. congress refused to pass what the president is enacting right now by executive order, and he has no power to do it. he should not be doing it, he may well be stopped by lawsuits in years to come, but congress has the power to stop it now. we don't have to allow money to be spent in arlington, crystal city, virginia. to hire a thousand people to process these applications. now, how are things going in our immigration system today? i wish i could report better circumstances than we have. the situation is grave, even before this action.
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may 20, last year, national citizenship and immigration services council president representing thousands of uscis workers issued this statement. colleagues, we need to know what's happening. it's unbelievable really, but this is the person that's directly engaged with it and the people who work do the work every day. the law officers who go out there and try to adjudicate these immigration cases. quote -- "uscis adjudications officers are pressured to rubber stamp applications instead of conducting diligent case review and investigation. the culture at uscis encourages all applications to be approved, discouraging proper investigation into red flags and discouraging the denial of any applications.
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uscis has been turned into an 'approval machine'." this is an absolute abdication of the responsibility that the united states congress and the american people have given to the president as the chief executive officer and given all the way down to the lowest uscis officer. they are not to be a rubber stamp machine. they are not to be an approval machine. they're to serve the interests of the american people, and they are to evaluate applications to lawful status in the united states and do so carefully and fairly and consistently, and to investigate red flags. what he's talking about when he says "red flags," he's talking about threats, criminals, terrorists. they don't -- and, colleagues, even secretary johnson,
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secretary of homeland security, testifying a few days ago acknowledged that of these four, five million people who are going to be applying for legal status in america through the president's program, there's no way their applications are going to be evaluated. if they say they came to the country in 1999, nobody is going to check on that. they're not going to see if they graduated from some school or had some job somewhere and investigate it. they're simply going to act on the paperwork they've been giv given. and in many cases -- and the bill that president obama supported earlier last year -- there would not be any face-to-face meetings. you wouldn't even go into an office and actually see the person. it would all be submitted by e-mail and documents, which is highly risky, as the experts
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told us. you really need to see the person because it may not be the person they say they are. you can just submit paperwork, get citizenship status and nobody would have any idea whether you were worthy of being in the united states or not. so, colleagues, i just want to say to us, the situation is graver than a lot of people think. it's our duty to legitimately represent the people in our country who believe that this system is supposed to work. they sent us here. we say we've got an immigration law in america. well, good. and they're beginning to hear it's not so good, i. not working at all. well, what are we supposed to do? oh, we're sorry, constituents.
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we told you we wanted to make this system better and we're going to end all this. but we'll worry about that tomorrow, and we're going to do something. for 40 years congress and presidents have been promising to fix this system. the problem is, the special interests have won every time. the special interests have blocked the kind of reforms that creates a system that we know will serve our national interest or be fair to immigrants who apply and help the american people live better lives. just to make a couple more points, here, october 28 of this year mr. -- the citizenship officer, mr. kenneth polenkis, the president of the association of 12,000 officers, this is what he issued in a statement.
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"we are still the world's rubber stamp for entry into the united states, regardless of the ramifications of constant violations to the immigration and nationality act. whether it is the failure to uphold the public charge laws, the abuse of our asylum procedures, the admission of islamic radicals or visas for health risk, the taxpayers are being fleeced and public safety being endangered on a daily basis." close quote. that's what mr. polenkis said. has anybody ever called him to testify and lay out these dangers? certainly not in the united states senate. president obama, when he has his secret meetings with businesses and activist groups, they met all summer, people with their big money and their contributions. he met with them. did he meet with mr. polenkis?
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no. did he he had meet with the head of the i.c.e. officers association? no. he asked to be admitted, so he could lay out the problems they face on daily basis and it was rejected. mr. polenkis says, "i write today to warn the general public that this situation is going to get exponentially worse and even more dangerous. america dodge add bullet when s. 744 was blocked in the house. the legislation would have been a financial security catastrop catastrophe, but news reports have leaked information to the public of a uscis measurement contract bid for a surge of printing of 34 million green cards and employment authorization documents to be provided to foreign nationals, a bid that predicts the
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administration's promise of executive amnesty." think about that, what this officer is telling us. and it's true. he goes on to say, "that is why this statement is intended for the public. if you care about your immigration security and your neighborhood security, you must act now to ensthiewr congress stops -- to ensure that congress stops this unilateral amnesty. let your voice be heard and spread the word to your neighbors. immigration agencies are pleading for your help. don't let this happen. express your concern to your senators and congressmen before it is too late." october 14 of this year. he also issued this statement on may 20 of last year, that the u iuscis officers who identify
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illegal aliens, that in accordance with the law should be placed in immigration removal proceedings before a federal judge or prevented from exercising their authority and responsibility to issue notices to appear." it goes on to say, "the attitude of uscis management" -- that's the political appointeesate pointed by the president to execute his views of immigration, at least they are following that attitude. "uscis management -- quote -- "is not that the agency serve the american public or the laws of the united states or public safety and national security but instead that the agency serves illegal aliens and the attorneys which represent them." close quote. what a statement.
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who is the government supposed to represent? we represent the people of the united states who are lawfully here. while we believe in treating all people with respect, we are concerned that this agency tasked with such a vital security mission is too greatly influenced by special interest groups" -- close quote. boy, that's the truth. so we had in one day mr. microsoft and a great, great, great company demanding that more workers be allowed to come into the country so that they could work, and the same work they announced they're laying off 18,000 -- laying off 18,000. madam president, there are other documents here -- in september of this year, mr. polenkis
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issued this statement. "many millions come legally to the united states through our wide-open immigration policy every year, whether it's temporary visitors, lifetime immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, foreign students or recipients of our visa waiver program which allows people to come and go freely. yet our government cannot effectively track these foreign visitors and immigrants and those that defraud authorities will face no consequences in almost all cases. our caseworkers cannot even do in-person interviews." cannot even do in-person interviews." "-- for people seeking citizen. and they even lack the basic office space to function properly. applications for entry are rubber-stamped. the result of grading agents by speed rather than did i
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discretion. we've become a clearinghouse for the world." close quote. now, that's the truth. and anybody who knows what's going on in our system knows it, and the president's action will beget even more lawlessness in the future. it is statement to the world, no matter what the law says, you come to america, you get to stay. you'll not be deported. this is a recipe for disaster. it cannot work. what we need in this country, can achieve if congress and the president will act, is to create a lawful system, enforce the law, to make it a system that we can be proud of, that's fairly applied, a system that ends the ability of people to defraud our country and come in unlawfully and to serve the interest of working americans. that's what it's all about. are we serving their interests or are we listening to special interests, political groups and
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activist groups, politicians who think they gain political advantage and certain businesses who want more cheaper labor? don't we represent the vast majority of the people? isn't there a national interest, an interest of the american people? somebody needs to defend that interest. i.t. beeit's been lost in this . i thank the chair and would yield the floor.
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quorum call: the presiding officer: the senate will resume executive session. is there further debate? hearing none, the question occurs on the stivers nomination. all those in favor say aye.
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all those opposed, nay. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, there will be two minutes of debate prior to the vote on the leeson nomination. without objection, all time is yielded back. the question occurs on the leeson nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. there is. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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