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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  March 17, 2015 2:30am-4:31am EDT

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're talking about national spending on health care all stop -- on health care. as far as how it affects us in our wallets, that remains to be seen. you should meet with a navigator in person to see if there is a way they can help you unin role. i'm not sure if you were able to meet the deadline on time or not, but going back in there and making sure everything aligns. host: independent caller named russ calling from michigan four kimberly leonard. caller: thank you, c-span. host: you bet. caller: i am 60 years old and i'm on disabilityk, and my life last year -- she works part-time for walgreens two days a week. she made $6,000. without income together it is about $24,000. --with our income together it is about $24,000. she tried signing up for obamacare and obamacare picture over to the state.
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-- kicked her over to the state could the state said she made too much money. obamacare sent her back up with some insurance company, and she got something in the mail a card with a doctor's name on it that is not from our area -- i cannot find it in the phone book. there was a deductible for an office visit on the card. and so they sent her the bill. well, she makes $6,000 and they sent her a bill for $439 a month. she got back and told him that she couldn't afford this. it would come out to $5,300 a year paying for the obamacare that they set her up with. they gave her something at the end of the year for the taxes and exemption. she went through this this year again, and obamacare sent her back to the state, she told him
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that the state said she made the same much money as she did the year before. they sent her back to the obamacare, and obamacare supposed to be sending her some kind of exemption. now, what is this exemption for? they told her that if she would have made more money she would have got subsidies and made less money she would've got subsidies. i don't know. i guess they consider us the new middle class or something. i'm just wondering if you could help us out with some kind of deal where she could get on some kind of insurance. host: all right, thanks for calling. guest: certainly. it is something i'm hearing a lot from readers, too, in terms of not being able to access doctors in your area. one of the ways insurance companies are spending less on premiums every year is by nailing the networks. they end up seeing a doctor that does not fall in your network
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and pay a lot more than you thought you would. host: our guest has been kimberly leonard, health care reporter at "u.s. news & world report." is the website. thanks a lot for your timemr. cotton:
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i speak today for the first time from the senate floor with a simple message. the world is growing ever more dangerous and our defense spending is wholly inadequate to confront the danger. to be exact during the last four or five years the world has grown gravely darker. we have steadily disarmed partly with the sincere desire to give a lead to other countries and partly through the severe financial pressure of the time. but a change must now be made. we must not continue longer on a course in which we alone are growing weaker while every other nation is growing stronger. i wish i could take credit for those eloquent and ominous words but i cannot. winston churchill sounded that warning in 1933 as adolf hitler
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had taken power in germany. tragically, great britain and the west didn't heed this warning when they might have strangled that monster in his crib. rather, they let the locusts continue to eat away at the common defense. the axis power grew stronger and the west worker, conciliating with and appeasing them, hoping their appetite for conquest and death might be sated. as we all know, however that appetite only grew until it launched the most terrible war in human history. today, perhaps more tragically because we ought to benefit from these lessons of history the united states is again engaged in something of a grand experiment of the kind we saw in the 1930's. as then, military strength is seen in many quarters as the cause of military adventurism. strength and confidence in the defense of our interests alliances and liberty does not seem to deter aggression but to provoke it. rather than confront our adversaries our president
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apologizes for our supposed transgressions. the administration is harsh and unyielding to our friends soothing and supplicating to our enemies. president minimizes the threats we confront in the face of territory seas, weapons of mass destruction used and proliferated and innocence murdered. the concrete expression of this experiment is our collapsing defense budget. for years we have systematically underfunded our military marrying this philosophy of retreat with a misplaced understanding of our larger budgetary burdens. we have strained our fighting forces today to the breaking point even as we have eaten away at our investments in our future forces. creating our own locust years as churchill would have put it. meanwhile, our long-term debt crisis looks hardly any better, even as we ask our troops to shoulder the burden of deficit reduction rather than shoulder the arms necessary to keep the peace. the results of this experiment
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should come as no surprise are little different from the results of the same experiment in the 1930's. american weakness and leading from behind have produced nothing but a more dangerous world. when we take stock of that world and our position in it there can be no doubt a change must now be made. mr. president, an alarm should be sounding in our ears. our enemies sensing weakness and, hence opportunity have become steadily more aggressive. our allies, uncertain of our commitment and capabilities, have begun to conclude that they must look out for themselves even where it's unhelpful to civilian order. our military, suffering from years of neglect has seen its relative strength decline to historic levels. let's start with the enemy who attacked us on september 11th radical islamists. during his last campaign, the president was fond of saying al qaeda was on the run. in a fashion i suppose this was true. al qaeda was and is running wild around the world now in control
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of more territory than ever before. this global network of islamic jihadists continue to plot attacks against america and the west. they sow seeds of conflict and failed states and maintain affiliates throughout africa, the greater middle east and south asia. further, al qaeda in iraq was let off the mat when the president disregarded his commanders' best military judgment and withdrew all troops from iraq in 2011. given a chance to regroup, it morphed into the islamic state which now controls much of syria and iraq. the islamic state cuts the heads off of americans burns alive hostages from allied countries executes christians and enslaves women and girls. the islamic state aspires and actively flotsactively plolts to attack us here at home whether by a foreign plot or by recruiting a lone wolf in our midst. the president's suggestions, in other words, that the war on terror is over or ending, are far from true. indeed, the director of national intelligence recently testified
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that when the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been come has been compiled yet the president won't even speak our enemy's name. the threat of islamic terrorism brings us to iran, the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism. my objections to the ongoing nuclear negotiations are well-known and need be be rehearsed at length here. i'll simply note that the deal foreshadowed by the president allowing iran to have uranium enrichment capabilities and accepting an inspiration date on any agreement -- expiration date on any agreement to quote prime minister benjamin netanyahu doesn't block iran's path to the bomb, it paves iran's path to the bomb. if you think as i do, the islamic state is dangerous a nuclear-armed islamic republic is even more so. recall, after all what iran already does without the bomb. iran is an outlaw regime that
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has been killing americans for 35 years from lebanon to saudi arabia to iraq. unsurprisingly iran is only growing bolder and more aggressive as america retreats from the middle east. ayatollah ham any continues to call for israel's elimination. iranian-backed shiite militias now control much of iraq, led by sulamanaih the commander of the kurds force a man with blood of hundreds of american soldiers on his hands. america continues prop up bashir al-assad in syria. militants recent seized the capital of yemen. hezbollah remains iran's atzpah. they drive five capitals in its drive for regional hodge hegemony. and they have increased its size of their nuclear missile arsenal. just two weeks ago iran blew up a mock naval aircraft carrier in exercises and publicized it with great fan fire. iran does all these things
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without the bomb. just imagine what it will do with the bomb. and imagine the united states further down the rows of appeasement -- road of appeasement largely defensive against this tyranny. you don't have to imagine much, though. simply look to north korea. because of a naive and failed nuclear agreement that outlaw state acquired nuclear weapons. now america's largely handcuffed watching as this rogue regime builds more bombs and missiles capable of striking the u.s. homeland and endangering our allies. but perhaps an even more obvious result of this experiment with retreat is the resurgence of russia. the president aspired with a reset with russia and made one-sided concessions like withdrawing missile defenses from poland and the czech republic. so vladimir putin saw thighs consensus as weakness and continues to violate the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty. the west refused to assist the new ukrainian government so putin invaded and stole crimea.
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the western response was modest sanctions to russian-supplied rebels shot a civilian airliner out of the heart of the sky in the heart of europe. the president dithers in supplying weapons to ukraine so putin reignites the war. when bomentz and bombs and bullets were called for blankets were rushed to the frontlines. and that's u.s. in ukraine. putin is testing nato's result. they have tested a ballistic missile with multiple warheads designed to threaten our european allies. russian bombers recently flew over the english channel disrupting british civilian aviation. estonia asserts that russia kidnapped an estonian security officer on its border and they continue to harass sweden moldova and georgia. finally, russia's able ability to continue its aggression will only ago because its defense spending has more than quadrupled over the last 15
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years. moreover, the russian military today is qualitatively better than the old soviet military despite its smaller size, as admiral bill gortony commander of norad testified just last week. some say that falling oil prices will restrain putin and in fact russia's finance minister recently announced 10% across-the-board defense budget cuts to all departments of their government except defense. this should give us some insights into putin's intentions and ambitions. among major nation-state competitors, russia's military buildup is exceeded only by china's. over the same period of the last 15 years china's military spending has increased by 600%. moreover the bulk of this spending is directed quite clearly against the united states as china pursues its antiaccess and aerial -- area denial strategy. this strategy is designed to keep american forces outside the so-called first island chain and give china regional hegemony from the korean peninsula to the
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indonesian archipelago. thus china is on a spending spree for more submarines, aircraft carriers, antiship ballistic missiles and other air and naval systems. the impact of china's rapid military expansion is clear. china has challenged japan's control of the islands and purported to establish an exclusive air defense zone over the east china sea. by expanding its activities in the spratleys klein is precipitating a confrontation with the philippines vietnam malaysia and taiwan. further, china's repressive actions against protesters in hong kong only serve to undermine taiwanese support of reunification which itself could spark further chinese aggression. and all of this is to say nothing of china's cyber theft and economic espionage against america's interests or its atrocious record on human rights. mr. president, while america has retreated not only have our enemies been on the march our allies anxious for years about american resolve now worry
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increasingly about american capabilities. with the enemy on their borders many have begun to conclude they have no choice but to take matters into their own hands. sometimes in ways unhelpful to our interests. even our core nato allies appear unsettled by our recent experiment with retreat. the french intervened in mali to confront islamic insurgents. but without advanced coordination they quickly found themselves in need of emergency logistical support from our air force. turkey just announced a new missile defense system that won't be interoperable with nato systems. greece has a new governing coalition that is hinting at greater cooperation with russia. the picture is no better outside nato. japan has significantly increased its defense budget because of a rising china and may feel compelled to reinterpret its post-war constitutional ban on overseas collective defense. saudi arabia just entered a nuclear pact with south korea likely a response to iran's nuclear program. similarly the persian gulf
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states have increased defense spending by 44% in the last two years. while we should encourage our partners to carry their share of the defense load the sunni states are building up their defenses not to help us but because they fear we won't help them against iran. we should never take our allies for granted but we also shouldn't take for granted the vast influence our security guarantees give us with our allies' behavior. germany and japan are not nuclear powers today because of our nuclear umbrella. israel didn't retaliate against saddam hussein's scud missile attacks in the gulf war and thus we preserved the war coalition because we asked them for restraint and committed significant resources to hunting down this scud launchers. this kind of influence has been essential for american security throughout the postwar period, yet it has begun to wane as our allies doubt our commitment and capabilities. mr. president, make no mistake -- our military capabilities have declined. in recent years, we have
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dramatically underfunded our military to the detriment of our security. to fully understand the military aspect of our experiment with retreat, some historical perspective is needed here. defense spending reached its peak in 2008 when the base budget and wartime spending combined were $760 billion. incredibly the total defense budget has plummeted by $200 billion in the last year. today, defense spending is only 16% of all the federal spending, an historic low rivaled only by the post-cold war period. to give some context during the cold war defense spending regularly accounted for 60% of federal spending, but if we don't end the experiment with retreat, this president will leave office with a mere 12% of all federal dollars spent on defense. the picture is no prettier when cast in the light of our economy. in the early cold war defense spending was approximately 9% of
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our gross domestic product. today it sits at a paltry 3.5%. but our defense budget isn't just about numbers and arithmetic. it's about our ability to accomplish the mission of defending our country from all threats. the consequences of these cuts are real, concrete and immediate as former secretary of dweans leon panetta explained these cuts in defense spending have put us on the path to the smallest army since before world war ii the smallest navy since world war i and the smallest air force ever. let's look more closely at each service. our army has shrunk by nearly 100,000 troops. the army has lost 13 combat brigades and only a third of the remaining brigades are fully ready to meet america's threats. further, investments in modernization have fallen by 25%. if we continue on the current path the army will lose another 70,000 soldiers and every
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modernization program designed to preserve the army's technological advantage will be eviscerated. the navy meanwhile has had to cancel five ship deployments and significantly delay the deployment of the carrier strike group. the navy's mission requires it keep three carrier strike groups and amphibious groups prepared to respond to a crisis within 30 days but the navy can only fulfill a third of its mission because of cuts to maintenance and training. similarly, the air force is less than a third of its size 25 years ago. moreover the air force depends on modernization to preserve its technological edge, perhaps more than any other service. the current funding levels could require cancellation of airborne refueling tankers and surveillance aircraft. set back fighter and nuclear weapons modernization and shorten the life of tact airlift and weapons recovery programs. nor are these impacts just immediate. they will be felt long into the future. key programs once divested will be difficult to restart.
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manufacturing competencies will be lost, the skilled labor pool will shrink and defense manufacturing will atrophy. today's weapons systems and equipment will age and begin to break down. our troops won't be able to train. their weapons and equipment won't be ready to fight. in short, we will have a hollow force incapable of defending our national security. what is to be done now? our experiment with retreat must end. this congress must again recognize that our national security is the first priority of this government. our national security strategy must drive our military budget rather than the budget setting our strategy. the military budget must reflect the threats we face rather than the budget defining those threats. in the face of these threats and after years of improvident defense cuts, we must significantly increase our defense spending. after hundreds of millions of dollars of these cuts, the base defense budget next year is set to be only $498 billion. that is wholly inadequate.
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as secretary of defense ash carter recently testified i want to be clear about this. parts of our nation's defense strategy cannot be executed under sequestration. all four of the military service chiefs in addition have testified that these cuts put american lives at risk. the president has proposed a modest increase of $534 billion, which is better than nothing. senators john mccain and jack reed have called for the full repeal of sequestration which would raise the base of defense budget to $577 billion. i applaud and thank these veterans of both the senate and our military for this correct and clear-eyed recommendation. yet i also want to highlight their support for the recommendation of the national defense panel which estimated that base defense spending for fiscal year 2016 should be $611 billion at a minimum. the national defense panel was a bipartisan group of imminent national security experts convened by congress to analyze the quadrennial defense review.
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they unanimously concluded that then-secretary of defense bob gates' fiscal year 2012 budget was the proper starting point to analyze our current defense needs for at least two reasons. first, secretary gates had already initiated significant defense cuts and reforms totaling $478 billion. it's hard to say given those efforts, that his 2012 budget had left much fat in the department of defense. secretary, secretary gates and the department submitted this budget in late 2010 and early 2011 or just months before the budget control act with its draconian defense cuts became law. that budget, therefore was the last time the department was able to submit a threat and strategy-based budget instead of the budget-based strategies we've seen over the last four years. this logic is compelling even unassailable. thus i agree that we should spend not merely $611 billion on the base defense budget next year but substantially more than
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that. after all as we have seen earlier and as the national defense panel noted the world has gotten much more dangerous since 2011. islamic terrorism iranian aggression russian revisionism and chinese adventurism have all worsened to say nothing of other challenges. $611 billion is necessary but it's not sufficient. mr. president, what then should our defense budget be next year? i will readily admit we can't be sure how much is needed above $611 billion. as the national defense panel explained, because of the highly constrained and unstable budget environment under which the department has been working the quadrennial review is not adequate as a comprehensive long-term planning document. thus the panel recommends that congress should ask the department for such a plan which should be developed without undue emphasis on current budgetary constraints. i endorse this recommendation. in the meantime, though, even if
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we can't specify a precise dollar amount, we can identify the critical needs upon which to spend the additional money. first, our military faces a readiness crisis from budget cuts and a decade of war. our young soldiers, sailors airmen and marines are the greatest weapon systems our country could ever have, but they need training, exercises flight time and so forth. their weapons and equipment and vehicles need maintenance. if we faced a major crisis today, our troops would no doubt suffer more casualties and greater likelihood of mission failure. of course, they know all this and morale suffers because of it. second and related our military is shrinking rapidly to historically small levels. this decline must be reversed. our navy probably needs 350-plus ships not a budget-dictated 260 ships. the army needs to maintain its pre-9/11 end strength to 490,000 active duty soldiers, as the marine corps needs 182,000 marines.
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the air force needs more aircraft of virtually every type -- bomber, fighter airlift and surveillance. it's the deepest folly to reduce our military below its 1990 size as the world has grown considerably more dangerous since that quiet decade. third, we should increase research development and procurement funds to ensure our military retains its historic technological advantage particularly as our adversaries gain more access to advanced low-cost technologies. this should start with the essential tools of command and control, cyberspace, space intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance. the air force needs to modernize its bomber and mobility aircraft in particular. the navy needs to continue to improve its surface ship and especially its submarine capabilities. these critical priorities will no doubt be expensive. probably tens of billions of dollars more than the $611 billion baseline suggested by the national defense panel. because of the massive cuts to our defense budget resulted in
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part from record deficits, the question arises, however can we afford all this. the answer is yes. without question and without doubt, yes. the facts here, as we have seen, are indisputable. the defense budget has been slashed by hundreds of billions of dollars over the last six years. the defense budget is only 16% of all federal spending, an historic low and heading much lower if we don't act. and using the broadest measure of affordability and national priorities defense spending as a percentage of our economy last year we spent only 3.5% of our national income on defense which is approaching historic lows and may surpass them by 2019. let us assume for the sake of argument that our military needs $700 billion in the coming year, an immediateocracy of $200 billion. to some, that may sound staggering and unrealistic yet it would still be barely 4% of
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our economy a full percent lower than the 5% in which president reagan started his buildup. if we increase spending merely to that level which both president reagan and a democratic house considered dangerously low we would spend $885 billion on defense next year. furthermore, trying to balance the budget through defense cuts is both counterproductive and impossible. first, the threats we face will eventually catch up with us. as they did on 9/11. and we will have no choice but to increase our defense budget. when we do, it will cost more to achieve the same end state of readiness and modernization that it would have without the intervening cuts. this was the lesson we learned in the 1980's after the spare cuts to defense in the 1970's. second we need a healthy growing economy to generate the government revenue necessary to fund our military and balance the budget, and our globalized world, our domestic prosperity
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depends heavily on the world economy, which, of course, requires stability and order. who provides that stability and order? the united states military. finally, in the short term, ee phenomenon really -- ephemeral gains in deficit reductions and defense cuts merely masks the genuine driver of our crisis. the budget control act ultimately failed to control these programs, a failure not only of promises made to our citizens but also because the deficit reduction default became annual discretionary spending, particularly the defense budget. in the four years since relative deficits have declined. alleviating the political imperative to reform these programs yet doing nothing to solve their long-term insolvency and our debt crisis. a better question to ask is can we afford to continue our experiment in retreat? i suggest we cannot. imagine a world in which we continue our current trajectory,
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where america remains in retreat and our military loses even more of its edge. what would such a world look like? it's not a pretty picture. russia might soon possess the entire north shore of the black sea and embolden putin sensing western weakness for what it is, could be tempted to replay his ukrainian play book in estonia and latvia, forcing nato into war or object sal essence. -- obsolescence. with china denying american forces access to the seas, countries as diverse as south korea, japan taiwan and the philippines will feel compelled to conciliate or confront, neither helping regional stability. while north korea already possesses nuclear weapons iran appears to be on the path to a nuclear bomb, whether it breaksor it holds a potential nuclear agreement. not only might iran use its weapon but its nuclear umbrella would also embolden its drive for regional hygemony.
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does anyone doubt that saudi arabia and other sunni states will follow iran down this path? nuclear trip wires may soon wring the world's most volume industrial region, increasing the possibility that islamic insurgents may seize materials if they can topple the right government. islamic terrorists will continue to rampage throughout syria and iraq inspiring more attacks upon europe and american soil. emboldened by their own battlefield assesses, they will continue to attract thousands of hateful fighters from around the world, all eager for the chance to kill americans. all these are nightmare scenarios, but sadly not unrealistic ones. the alternative however is not war. no leader, whether a president a general or a platoon leader, wishes to put his troops in harm's way. war is an awful thing and it
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takes an unimaginable toll on the men and women who fight it and their families. but the best way to avoid war is to be willing and prepared to fight a war in the first place. that's the alternative. military strength and moral confidence in the defense of america's national security. our enemies and allies alike must know that aggressors will pay an unspeakable price for challenging the united states. the best way to impose that price is global military dominance. when it comes to war narrow margins are not enough. for they are nothing more than an invitation to war. we must have such strength that no sane adversary would ever imagine challenging the united states. good enough is not and will never be good enough. we can look to a very recent historic example to prove this point. just 25 years ago a dominant american military ended the cold war without firing a shot. if we return to the dominance of
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that ear rising powers like china and state sponsors of terrorism will think long and harped before crossing us. and while we may not deter terrorist groups like the islamic state and hezbollah we will kill their adherents more effectively and sending a needed lesson to their sympathizers. join and you too will die. being prepared for war will no doubt take a lot of money biwhat could be a higher priority than a safe and prosperous america leading a stable and orderly world? what better use of precious taxpayer dollars what more lessons from history do we need? i began with churchill's prescient words from 1933. alas the weapons did not take his advice, did not rearm and prepare to deter nazi germany. the predictable result was the
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german remilitarization of the rhineland and the long march to war. let me close with his regretful words from 1936. the era ofshot soothing and half measures is coming to a close. in its place we are entering a period of consequences. churchill later called world war ii the unnecessary war because it could have been stopped so easily with western strength and confidence in the 1930's. i know many of you in this chamber stand with me and i humbly urge you all democrat and republican alike to join in rebuilding our common defense so that we will not face our own unnecessary war. our own period of consequences. i will now yield the floor but i will never yield in the defense of america's national security on else thinking maybe
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we didn't need to do that. madam president, i rise to discuss what many believe is "the" most dangerous threat to our national security and that is a nuclear iran. over the past few weeks there have been a lot of discussions about the obama administration's ongoing negotiations with iran and what the role of congress should be. i believe the debate this past week in congress over how to best achieve and address this issue has distracted us from what i believe are the two key objectives in our effort to prevent iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.
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first, iran must be prevented from getting the bomb. and, second, we in the senate must decide the best way to guarantee that result. for the past 10 years i've been working hard to find the most acceptable and best way to prevent iran from developing nuclear weapons capability -- note that word "capability." for me, it has long been not enough to just announce that we must not allow iran to get a nuclear weapon, i am determined that iran must not get the technical capability to manufacture such a weapon. because a nuclear weapons-capable iran is as dangerous as a nuclear-armed iran, all because it throws up a cloud of am big ambiguity about its former intentions. there are many in the policy communities who find some mistaken sense of comfort from the intelligence agency's
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current view that iran has not yet made a former decision to develop a nuclear weapon. this is a delusion. iran's industrial strength uranium enrichment enterprise has gone from 600 centrifuges six years ago when the international community first expressed alarm to 19,000 today. and we know the ayatollah is on a quest for 190,000 centrifuges as soon as international constraints are removed. let's state the obvious here. the iranian pursuit of uranium enrichment is not being created to manufacture medical isotopes or reactor fuel for producing electricity. its purpose is to produce nuclear bombs. throughout my many years of involvement on this issue some as cochair of a task force at
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the bipartisan policy center, along with former senator chuck robb and a distinguished panel of experts, in the last four years here in the senate, i have called for using the full range of tools to prevent iran from reaching its nuclear goal. these include negotiations coupled with ever-increasing sanctions pressure and the credible threat of the use of military force if the negotiations and sanctions fail to lead to iran's commitment to cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons capability and this continues to be my view. i do believe in diplomacy. i would very much like to see the effective negotiations take place led by insightful diplomats, focused on the right results. i would like to see that lead to a settlement that brings security and continence. but we have every reason to fear
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that this is not now happening. i don't want to destroy the negotiations track but i do want to refocus it with a firm backing that it requires to achieve the goal that we need to reach. i don't want to demand everything from the iranians, but i do want to require enough to guarantee that they give up on their nuclear weapons ambitions. i don't want to torpedo the administration's diplomatic efforts, but i do want to require that congress have a final say on whether the results of the negotiations are acceptable and achieve the goals of preventing iran nuclear weapons capability. for me and i trust for the senate, this is our most important task of the moment, to force the president to accept a commonly role. he has said repeatedly that he will deny us that role when it comes to approving any
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agreement. we must not let that happen. the reason i did not sign the open letter to iran is not because i disagreed with the goals of the letter. all senate republicans and i believe many senate democrats are in agreement on the overall objective of avoiding a bad deal with iran, but the strategy we need to accomplish this essential goal is now in question and we are divided now in a way that makes this goal harder to achieve. there are two bills pending that would require the president to present any iran deal for us for review and action, and this is the course i believe we should take. one, which i have cosponsored has been introduced by both senators kirk and menendez, a bipartisan effort. the other co-authored by senators corker and menendez,
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also a bipartisan effort, i also support. the latter bill, which would require congress to approve any deal with iran, is very close to achieving the support of 67 or more senators needed to overturn president obama's promise to veto any legislation on this topic. lack of bipartisan consensus at this moment on this issue is likely to lead to a fatally flawed deal that destroys more than a decade of effort to bring iran to cease its goal of nuclear weapons capability. we all know now that the obama administration abandoned the core objectives at the very outset even before these talks began. four u.n. security council resolutions, frequent and constant demands coming from this chamber four presidents, two republicans and two democrats, saying a
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nuclear-capable iran is unacceptable. the firm position of apac and other friends of israel all stated, all stated the necessity that iran guff up and shut down all its uranium-en riffing -- enriching centrifuges. yet this goal was jettisoned before the talks even started. the obama administration spokesman, including secretary kerry himself have explained repeatedly that it was just too hard to achieve. we must be more realistic we were told. the iranians, we are told, can never be expected to agree to the demands laid down years ago by the security council. that was then, they said. this is now. everything's changed. we have to set that goal aside and we have to reach some reasonable agreement with a reasonable process, with a reasonable country. the word we need to question
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there is reasonable. madam president, it appears that my time is running out but i notice that no other member is here to speak so i would ask unanimous consent to speak for just three more minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coats: madam president, i thank you. but even leaving that shocking capitulation aside that we can never expect that the ierns would negotiate under those -- that the iranians would negotiate under those conditions the now focus the focus that we should put now on our thoughts, in our thoughts on the key fatal flaw of this agreement, there is a key fatal flaw that now having done this, having gotten to this point we need to focus on. it's been simmering for months, but it's now boiled over onto the front pages of our national attention, and that, thanks to
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the presentation by the prime minister of israel, is the sunset clause. we now see that. even if iran is constrained by this agreement and even if, in the most unlikely of worlds, iran fully complies with the agreement, at the end of a decade or so iran will be fully liberated to pursue nuclear capabilities with no limitations or constraints whatsoever. a free hand a blank check. go forward in an iran that will have wealth, the technical expertise, industrial infrastructure the will and if given a sunset provision the international acquiescence to do whatever they like will pursue their goal without any ability of ours to stop them. they can do whatever they like. ten years. oh that's a long time out. ten years is tomorrow afternoon. it's a blink of the eye. such a sunset clause makes this
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entire enterprise unacceptable. any agreement that contains a sunset clause must be rejected, and any agreement with iran that does not impose permanent restraints on their nuclear ambitions is no agreement at all. we in the senate have it within our ability and the mandate to guarantee that happens but to do so, we need to reach consensus across this aisle. we need to work together as republicans and as democrats for the future security of our nation and for that matter all nations. yes, there are a number of issues here which we don't agree on. there are a number of things that we just have different thoughts about how to proceed but this is an issue of such historic consequence and such potential harm that we must find
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a way to work together to ensure our ability to undo what looks like it's coming our way. and so i plead with and i urge my colleagues, all my colleagues republicans and democrats, to rise above any political considerations and work together to ensure that this senate can prevent iran from getting the bomb. history and future generations and our children and our grandchildren will judge what we do here now and may that judgment be the right judgment for not just the future of our nation but for the future of the world. i
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ask unanimous consent the call of the quorum are dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. leahy: last week the majority leader announced we finally schedule a vote this week for the nomination of loretta lynch to be our next attorney general. but today -- as of today there's no date that has been set. instead the majority leader is now saying may further delay a vote on this highly qualified nominee until after the senate is -- concludes its debate on the human trafficking bill. there's really no good reason for senate republicans to continue dragging their feet on scheduling a vote on ms. lynch's nomination. i've been here long enough to know we can debate legislation and vote on nominations at the
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same time. otherwise urges last thursday we voted on four other executive nominations while we were on the human trafficking bill we're telling going to vote on two more executive nominations this evening while we're on the human trafficking bill. it all serves to agree -- it's important to confirm loretta lynch as our nation's top law enforcement officer. she has a proven track record of prosecuting human trafficking and child rape crimes. this is not somebody who just talks about it, how much they are opposed to human trafficking, as though anybody's in favor of human trafficking. this is not someone who just says she's opposed to child rape cases, as though anybody here is going to say they're in favor of it. she has actually prosecuted them. over if course of the last --
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the course of the last decade the u.s. attorney's office ms. lynch leads has indicted over 55 defendants in sex trafficking cases and risked over 110 victims of sex trafficking. we say here -- stand here talking about these issues, she actually does it. so i think she and the american people have waited long enough. president obama announced the nomination of ms. lynch four months ago. the judiciary committee reported her nomination with bipartisan support 18 days ago. by tomorrow, we talk about whether we move fast enough, by tomorrow her nomination will be -- have been pending on the senate floor longer than all of the past five attorneys general combined. take a look at this. here's loretta lynch.
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here's loretta lynch. she's been pending on the floor now for 18 days. this is -- the months she had to wait before that. now, attorney general holder, mukasey, gonzalez, ashcroft, and reno, had to wait a total of 18 days pending after their nomination came out so five of them one of her. she's had to wait as long as five of them had to wait for her to go. we also pointed out the amount of time -- i look at the amount of time it took for the -- well for the four men who proceeded her. all four of those men wept through so much faster than she has. they were he voted out of committee, janet reno took one day. john ash report who i helped get
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through the committee though i did not support him took two days. alberto gonzalez took eight days. michael mukasey took two days. eric holder five days. so this delay is an embarrassment for the united states senate. her qualifications are beyond reproach. but the senate republican leadership continues to delay a vote on her confirmation despite her impeccable credentials. now when she is confirmed we know that loretta lynch will be the first african-american woman to serve our country as attorney general. but instead of moving forward with this historic nomination, senate republicans appear intent on making history for all the wrong reasons. david hawk innings wrote in a -- hawkins wrote in "roll
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call" lynch is waiting to be confirmed after the longest wait ever -- ever -- to be nominated by a attorney general, likely by the closest vote to put a new person in charge of the justice department. we want to send a signal we're tough on crime that we want to get these traffickers that people will commit crimes, whether democrats or republicans should go to jail, yet we refuse to confirm the person who has actually done all those things. it appears that some want to simply refuse to allow a vote on her nomination, effectively circumstancing the -- shirking the duty of the senate to advise and consent. one republican senator tweeted about the need to block this historic nominee and then if you overlook why he was doing that, included a link to a political
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fundraising web site. we've always kept our law enforcement, the f.b.i. director, attorney general anybody in law enforcement out of politics. to send for a senator to tweet we have to block this person -- oh, by the way here's where you can contribute to a political campaign, that's wrong. seems like the senate will have to file a cloture to vote to overcome the filibuster of her nomination. that's unprecedented it's unwarranted. no other attorney general nomination in our history has ever been met with a filibuster. we have never needed to have a cloture vote on attorney general nomination. again, it seems that republican leadership wants to make history for all the wrong reasons. i mention this, madam president,, i'll give you an idea.
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president george bush last two years of his term, now a lame duck president, he nominated michael mukasey for attorney general. now, michael mukasey who -- the last attorney general had done a disastrous job even though he had been voted for i think by all republicans people will accept the fact now he politicized the prosecutors' office and finally the bush administration had to get rid of him. i had just become chairman again as the democrats had taken back over the senate. and i moved attorney general mukasey through even though i did not support him i felt the president should have a vote on his attorney general and i moved him through in record time.
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she has waited so many more times multiple times longer than mukasey. two weekends ago ms. lynch traveled to summit to honor the -- to selma to honor the 50th anniversary of the march across the edmund edmund pet us bridge. it was a weekend when both republicans and democrats came together. president obama stood there with president obama george w. bush, who had signed the last voting rights act and they honored the voting rights act of 50 years ago. i also felt it was a time to reaffirm our shared commitment to americans as americans and the ideals of justice and equality that so many of our predecessors have fought and bled for from our founding fathers to the foot soldiers for
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justice on that bridge in selma. loretta lynch embodies these ideals. she's devoted her career to making them a reality. it's time for republicans and democrats to come together to confirm this woman tube to be the next attorney general. it's time to stop delay and making excuses for how she is being treated. it's time to vote. this -- this is reflecting badly on all law enforcement. i hear from so many in law enforcement, why are you politicizing this nomination, republicans and democrats. they've usually kept law enforcement out of politics. why is this? i mean, it's been on the subject before us. earlier this month two florida
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members were charged with human trafficking. they drugged a runaway 16-year-old girl and forced her to have sex with up to ten men a day. the presiding officer: the senator's time has expired. senators are limited to ten minutesminutes each. lay are we on themr. leahy: are we on the trafficking act? the presiding officer: no, we are in morning business, sir. mr. leahy: when do we go to the trafficking act? the presiding officer: morning business has expired. mr. leahy:en this i seek recognition. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order the senate will resume consideration of senate -- s. 178, which the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 26, s. 178 a bill to provide justice for the victims of trafficking.
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mr. leahy: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: if we're on this bill on victims of trafficking let kneel you as i started to say, earlier this month two florida men were charged with human trafficking. they drugged a runaway 16-year-old girl. then they forced her to have sex with up to ten men a day. they sold her to men in a gas station bathroom. they sold her on the street out of the back of a car. she is 16 years old. she had run away from home, was terribly vulinerm. they promised her food, then they beat herks drugged her and raped her. when she escaped they tracked her down, beat her and sold her again. all of us -- i think we should have agreement that republicans and democrats did we've been working for almost a year on bipartisan proposals to protect
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these vulnerable children, to help the sutervivors and then punish those who put them through this hell. the fight against human trafficking should not be made into a partisan issue to score political points. that's where we are today. everyone expected this legislation to move through the senate. i know i did just as it did through the house. instead senate republicans have turnedway from a comprehensive solution. i am deeply saddened by this partisan fight. it is destructive and unnecessary. it is destructive because it threatens to derail important legislation that makes a difference in the lives of
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survivors, like the 16-year-old girl in florida. this partisan fight is unnecessary because abortion politics have no place in this debate. congress as has a long history of passing legislation to address human trafficking. we've consistently done so without abortion politics being injected in the discussion. i know we've passed the violence against women act we included a trafficking amendment of mine in that. while i was disappointed that a number of my republican colleagues voted against the violence against women act which had the sex trafficking amendment in it, we still passed it by a bipartisan majority, as did the house of representatives, and the president signed it into law. so i was glad that we were able to get that significant piece of
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legislation passed, even though many in this body who say why aren't we passing this? votes against the violence against women act with the sexual trafficking amendment. i want to make clear to everyone that this partisan provision that's now popped up is nowing that survivors of human trafficking are asking for. it is not something the experts in the field who work with them every day are asking for. we should look at the experts who know what's going on in this ask them what it is they want. they do not want this. in fact, those who are closest to the damage wreaked by this terrible crime are asking us, always of us, democrats and republicans, to take a position now. they're asking us to put politics aside focus on the needs of those who have lived through a hell we'll never understand.
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holly austin smirnlings a surviervetion a girl of the age of 14 who was bought and sold for sex. she put it this way when she testified before our committee. "politics should not govern the options available to victims of sex trafficking especially when such victims often have had their basic human rights taken away by criminals who had only their own agendas in mind." so i think we have to stand with these human trafficking survivors and we have to put aside our agendas. they're taking us to take out this unnecessary -- they're asking us to take out this unnecessary provision and move forward with the bill to address their needs. i support the rest of senator cornyn's bill. that's why i included in the comprehensive substitute amendment i filed last week. also included in my substitute is a vital component to prevent human trafficking by focusing on runaway and human youth. if we're serious about helping
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thoseend this heinous crime, we should expand the protections for sex trafficking victims. we should come together and protect these vulnerable kids. that's why we're here. i'm confident if we remember these children, democrats and republicans will move forward return to the bipartisan path we've always walked on this issue. one of the reasons i have that amendment i talk about prefght is one thing -- and we should prosecute those people that do this but wouldn't it be that much better for the victims if we could prevent it from happening in the first place? madam president%, i've talked about of the nightmares i still have about some of the cases i prosecuted.
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i was 26 and the chief prosecutor for a quarter of our state. and i look at these victims, the age of my own children. all i wanted to do was to get -- and did -- the people who perpetrated and prosecute and convict them. i also thought how much better it would have been if we'd had programs that would have given these people somewhere to turn to before they became victims some way to protect them so we wouldn't see it afterward. i said on the floor the other night that i actually in preparing for these trials of the people i prosecuted i wouldn't bring paperwork home in the evening to do it. i'd stay in my office and prepare it. i didn't want to take the chance that one of my then-young children might see the
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photographs i was going to introduce in evidence. but i also didn't want to them to see their father crying and wonder why. because i always try to tell them the truth. i was not about to tell these young children the truth of what i was seeing. instead, i would tell the truth -- i would tell the truth to the jury and the jury would convict. but even the jury wishes that it never happened in the first place. the national network for youth they sent me a letter. they said. "the national network for youth is writing this letter with the hope that the u.s. senate will remove the partisan piece of the justice for victims of trafficking act. this legislation is desperately needed and we cannot let this moment pass us by because of the addition of partisan and divisive provisions." the national network for youth
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is saying, let's go back to why both republicans and democrats wanted this legislation: to stop traffic, to help the victims of trafficking, and not to score political points. just as a majority of this body voted for the leahy-crapo bill, the violence against women act which had a provision on sexual trafficking a majority voted for it, republicans and democrats, i wish that others -- i wish that everybody here in this body voted for it. i understand that some will now strongly support the partisan part of the trafficking bill
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voted against the violence against women act. each senator has the right to vote as he or she wants but i find it strange that they say let's go forward with this partisan provision when just a year or so ago those same senators who are now saying we should go forward with this voted against the violence against women act -- the very same senators voted against it. let's get out of politics. that was a good act. it had a very strong sex trafficking provision in it, which fortunately was also accepted by the house of representatives and signed into law by the president. senator crapo and i set aside politics so we could pass that bill. that's what we should do today.
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madam president i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. sessions: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: madam president i appreciate the work our colleagues have done -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. sessions: i would ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: i appreciate the work that my colleagues have done on this trafficking bill and it's an important issue that deserves debate and a vote. madam president i'll tell you why i believe the lynch nomination should not go
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forward. i think it is a very important reason and unfortunately it's one that i think congress has got to address. in their wisdom, our founders gave congress certain powers as a coequal branch of government, and one of those powers was the power to confirm our not confirm nominees. long before ms. lynch's nomination was announced i said that i couldn't vote to confirm any candidate for attorney general who supported the president's unlawful executive amnesty. it's a big constitutional issue that we have to talk about and understand and it relates directly to the powers of the executive branch versus the legislative branch. the attorney general is a top law enforcement officer in this country, the senior person. and anyone who occupies that
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office must have fidelity to the laws of the united states duly passed and to the constitution of the united states. it's just that simple. the senate cannot confirm any individual must never confirm an individual to such an office as this the one most responsible for maintaining fidelity to law, who would support and advance a scheme that violates our constitution, eviscerates congressional authority. no person should be confirmed who would do that. congress makes the laws, not the president. in that regard, congress has repeatedly rejected legislation to provide amnesty work permits and difs -- benefits to those who entered our country unlawfully. if you want benefits of the united states, you should come lawfully wait your return. we rejected such proposals in
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2006 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2014. president obama's unlawful and unconstitutional executive actions nullify the immigration laws that we do have that are on the books. that's the immigration and nationality act. and replaces them with the very measures congress refused to enact. that's just where we are. even king george lacked the power to legislate without parliament. president obama's executive action provides illegal immigrants -- those who come into our country contrary to the immigration laws of the united states, which are generous indeed allowing a million people a year to come to our country -- and provides them, those who violated the law work
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authorization, photo i.d.'s, trillions in social security and medicare benefits and tax credits of up to $35,000 a year according to the congressional research service. and i think the i.r.s. commissioner has admitted that also. and even the possibility under the president's action of chain migration and citizenship, which the president says he couldn't do and wouldn't do, but indeed it provides that under certain circumstance, it appears. again, all of these measures were rejected by congress. so i discussed these issues with mrs. lynch. i asked her plainly whether she supported the president's unilateral decision to make his own immigration rules and laws. here is the relevant portion of that hearing transcript. because i wanted to be clear about it. this was in the judiciary committee. and i asked her this as she was
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there during her confirmation process. quote, "i have to have a clear answer to this question. ms. lynch, do you believe the executive action announced by president obama on november 20 is legal and constitutional? yes or no? ms. lynch: i was read the office of legal counsel opinion. i do believe it is, senator." close quote. well first we need to understand something. i served 15 years as a federal prosecutor in the department of justice. this is the way it works the office of legal counsel is a part of the department of justice. the office of legal counsel is the one that's been credited with writing this pathetic memorandum that justified the president's actions. but the office of legal counsel works directly for the attorney general, and the attorney
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general is really the one responsible for forwarding to the president a memorandum that says the president can do what he said he wanted to do. so he said for 20 different times over a period of years, i am not an emperor i do not have the power to do this, this would be unconstitutional, and like statements 20 times. then he changed his mind as we got close to an election, for reasons that i don't fully intend to speculate about at this time and he asked that he be given the power to do this. this put great pressure on the office of legal counsel but that's one of the historic roles they fulfill, is to analyze these things. and they take an oath to the constitution and they're required to say no if the president is asking for something he's not entitled to do. they're supposed to say no, and
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the attorney general is supposed to say "no." but the attorney general could review the office of legal counsel, could take it upon himself or herself to write an opinion and submit it as the position of the department of justice and say the president can do this if they desire. so that's the way the system works. so i-- so what i want to say colleagues is the attorney general played a key role in this presidential overreach. it was the attorney general's office that approved this overreach. and so this nominee says she believes this was correct. she indicated and i'm sure will defend it in every court around the country and advocate for it. some say well, she works for the president. she works for the people of the united states of america. her salary comes from the taxpayers of this country. her duty on occasion is to say
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no to the president, to try to help him accomplish his goals like a good corporate lawyer would. but at some point you have to say, mr. corporate c.e.o., mr. president of the united states this goes too far. you can't do this. so she's indicated she's unwilling to do that. so one of the most stunning features of the president's action is the mass grant of work permits for up to five million illegal immigrants. these immigrants will take jobs directly from american citizens and directly from legal p immigrants who have come into the country. the united states civil rights commission member peter kersonow has discussed this issue and written about how a liewg illegal immigrants -- how allowing illegal immigrants to take jobs undermines the legal u.s. workers especially
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african-american workers and hispanic workers suffering from unemployment today. at her confirmation hearing i therefore asked ms. lynch about what she might do to protect the lawful rights of u.s. workers. here is the simple question i placed to the person who would be the next top law enforcement officer for america. i asked this question in me preamble tow question i noted that attorney general holder had said that people who came to our country unlawfully, that are in our country unlawfully today have a civil right and human right to citizenship in america. contrary to all law. so i asked her what do you think about this? session: who has more right to a job in this country? a lawful immigrant who is here or a citizen? or a person who entered the
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country unlawfully? ms. lynch:i believe that the right -- the right and the obligation to work is one that is shared by everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here. and certainly if someone is here regardless of status, i would prefer that they would be participating in the workplace and not -- than not participating in the workplace. what a stunning and breath taking statement that is for the top law enforcement officer in america to say that a person had a right to work in this country regardless of how they came here. so people who enter don't have to follow the steps that are required? they don't have to establish that they have a lawful justification to enter the united states or work into the united states anymore? if you can just get into the country unlawfully, then you
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have a right to work? and former attorney general -- still attorney general eric holder said they have a civil right to citizenship. what? so this is not law. i don't know what this is, but it's so far from law, i don't know how to express my concern about it effectively. so it's unprecedented that for someone who is seeking the highest law enforcement office in america to declare that someone in this country illegally has a right to this kind of job. make no mistake, we are at a dangerous time in our nation's history, particularly for our republic legal system and our constitution. and i would like to quote now from professor jonathan turley. this is a professor of public interest law at george washington university law school a nationally recognized
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constitutional scholar a self-described supporter of president obama and most of his policies and who has been called by senator leahy and others over the years as expert witness on issues as a democratic witness. he described the current state of affairs as -- quote -- "a constitutional tipping point." he's referring to the presidential overreach. and i'd like to take a moment to read from the testimony he delivered before the house of representatives in february of last year, nine months before the president even announced this amnesty but after the first daca amnesty. and this is what he said -- quote -- "the current passiveivity of congress represents a crisis of faith for members willing to see a
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president assume legislative powers in exchange for insular policy gains. the short-term insular victories achieved by this president will come at a prohibitive cost if the current imbalance is not corrected. constitutional authority is easy to lose in the transient shifts of politics. it is far more difficult to regain if a passion for the constitution does not motivate members of congress, perhaps a sense of self-preservation will be enough to unify members. president obama will not be our last president. however, these acquired powers will be passed to his successors. when that occurs, members may loathe the day that they remain silent as the power of government shifted so radically to the chief executive. the powerful personality that engendered this loyalty will be
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gone but the powers will remain. we are now at the constitutional tipping point for our system. if balance is to be reestablished, it must begin before this president leaves office and that will likely require every possible means to reassert legislative authority." now that's professor turley a fine constitutional scholar that's warning the united states congress of the dangers to its powers that have been eroded in recent months. so stop it. he says this: that will require congress to use -- quote -- "every possible means to reassert its legislative authority." so stopping an attorney
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general's nominee not voting to confirm an attorney general's nominee, is that a legitimate power of congress? well, of course it is. and should we feel obligated and required because the president nominates someone who has announced that they intend to pursue and advance legally through the powers of their office an unconstitutional overreach, should we confirm that person? is that our duty? doesn't congress have a right to say oh no, mr. president we understand how this system works. you get to nominate, but you've overreached here, and we're not going to ratify, we're not going to approve somebody who is going to continue to promote these kind of unlawful activities. so one glaring result of congress's passivity is that the
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executive branch nominees no longer feel the need to be responsible to congressional oversight. we're not getting sufficient answers from them; that's for sure. and congress has too often, i think, been quiet slept on its rights. so in the the past, members could perform their constitutional duty of advice and consent, for example by withholding consent until a nominee provided information to which congress was entitled. that is how coequal branches of government are supposed to function. congress has a duty to demand accurate information from the executive branch before it funds and provides funds to that branch. and they have a right to insist on it. they don't have to fund any branches of government they believe is unworthy. so when ms. lynch came before the committee it quickly became apparent that she had no intention of being frank and providing real answers.
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so that was a problem i think that we have to confront. but i -- i think the most telling example of concern i had at the hearing was an answer given to a straight guard question i asked which goes to the very core of this debate that we're having in america about the president's powers and what we should do about establishing a lawful system of immigration one that we can be proud of, one that systematically and fairly applied day after day. we don't have that. so the question i asked her was simply this -- quote -- "do you believe that president obama has exceeded his executive authority in any way? if so, how?" and she answered that, "as
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united states attorney, i have been charged with determining when and whether the president has exceeded his authority," but that was really not a good-faith answer or attempt to answer the question. i have one more quote madam president, here that i want to get to. i think i've overlooked in this trying to move along so my good friend from florida could --
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mr. sessions: so, madam president, i'll wrap up and just say in conclusion that we're dealing with huge constitutional issues. i wish it weren't so. it's not anything personal i would have to complain about this nominee. but in truth we need to use the means that this congress has to defend its legitimate constitutional rights, its powers its been given to legislate. and the president is the chief law -- executive officer of the country. his duties are to execute the laws passed by congress. and one of the key players on his team is the attorney general general. and the attorney general in this situation has taken a position that's contrary to deep fundamental principles.
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as professor turley has delineated with force and clarity. that being the case, i think congress has a duty to this institution, to the laws and constitution of this country and to the american people to not confirm someone who is not committed to those principles and, indeed, has asserted boldly that she intends to continue chairs
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the committee committee. >> the meeting comes to order. first of all, i want to welcome all of the witnesses here. appreciate your thoughtful testimony. the hearing is called the title is examining proper payment and errors in the death master file. in particularly we have a very interesting witness who has truly been the victim of in
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inaccuracy and i have to say when i read your testimony and i would really recommend everybody reading the full testimony, it is quite the story, but i was struck by you made the statements it has been said washington, d.c. is the capital of unintended conscious consequences and we will see that here today. we will start off with ms. rivers testifying and i will offer every senator a chance to offer one question. no statements because we have to move on and we are time constraint. we want to hear ms. rivers' story. i have a written statement i will enter to the record without objection. and i will turn it over to tom carper, our ranking member who is doing the work on this particular issue for -- i will not say how many years, but you
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have been dedicated to trying to correct the problem of improper payments in the federal government. so you probably a have a few words to say and i will turn it over to you. >> thanks for pulling this together and for the witnesses joining us today. the work i did on improper payments i did with tom coburn whose birthday was this weekend. he is retired but i know he is here in spirit. he used to say the banks are where the money is. and there is a whole ton of as we know. well, our fiscal situation is improving but we have a big budget deficit. it is about 1/3 of what it was 5-6 years ago. we have a debt of $18 trillion. and agencies are struggling with tight budgets and facing su
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sequestration we cannot afford to make the mistakes. the proper estimate represents almost $19 billion increase over the previous year after going down for a number of years an increase of $19 billion. the payments come from 70 programs and more than 20 agencies. medicare and medicaid to the department of defense. if we get a handle on the debt we can show how we care for the money and we need to sharpen our pencils and stop avoiding mistakes and make the agencies and programs vulnerable to fraud and abuse. congress has taken steps to help agencies address this challenge. first they were addressed through legislation that started in the house in 200. improper payments act required agencies to estimate the level of improper payments made each year. 2010, we followed up with the
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proper payment recovery act that expanded the requirements for agencies to identify prevent and recover improper payments. 2012 senator collins, scott brown and i went further with the recovery and improvement act. building off a good initiative of the administration the law made the president's donot pay program that is designed to screen all payment and double check basic eligibility requirements. it allows a government agency to check whether someone should be paid before the government pays them. that is common sense. i hope to have a discussion with the witnesses especially the ones who are here to talk about how the edge legislative issues are or are not working. and we will discuss the specific problems of people making payment do is people who are deceased.
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the inspector general reported $600 million in improper payments were made to federal retire retire retirees who were found to be dead. the payments to dead people are not unique to this one program. they -- by collecting data on individual whose died may curb hundreds of bill millions maybe billons, in funds. i am happy to tackle the improper payment do is dead people but unfortunately we have more work ahead. the social security inspector general released a report saying 6.5 million people have active social security numbers who based on their own records would be more than 112 years old. i think maybe in our country we have had just a handful of people actually live that long.
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we are told 56.5 million. i am not sure where they are. they are out there or maybe not. in 2000 the records seemed to show living individuals with activity social security numbers born before the civil war. only 35 people are 112 or older in the real world. we will hear about insuring accurate information about who is alive or dead and what should be concerning to us is that inaccurate death data may lead to improper payments by many other agencies across the government and also creates greater vulnerability for fraud. we will hear more about this from today's witnesses. the administration deserves a lot of credit for making initiatives to curb waste and fraud. the office of management budget will describe this and we need to move more and must use every
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tool able to put the house back in order and give the american people the government they deserve. it is the right thing to do. i think of the constitution and it speaks in order to form a perfect union in this area but we should strive for perfection because everything we do we know we can do better. i look forward to continue to with the administration the chairman the colleagues and outside of the committee to make progress in reducing the improper payments. >> is the tradition of the committee we swear in witnessess. so if you stand and raise your right hand. did you swear the testimony you will give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? thank you. our first witness this afternoon will be ms. judy rivers. she is a private citizen from alabama. she has been mistakingly listed
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as deceased by the federal government twice. she will tell the story and the impacts the errors have on innocent taxpayers. i have to commend you for going public with your trials and trib hopefully your testimony helps other americans. we look forward to your testimony. >> would you turn on the microphone, please? thank you so much. >> thank you. i was told to do that. first of all, good afternoon, chairman johnson, ranking member carper and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak about my experience with the death master file. my name is judy rivers and i have twice been listed on the death master file. the first incident occurred in 2001 and it was actually fairly
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painless because i had no idea it actually happened. i had a couple of identify theft situations. someone forced money from my bank but i never heard of the death master file. those were cleared up and i continued on. the second occurrence happened during the worst period of my life. i spent 17 months taking care of two terminally ill parent and was at the lowest point of my life. this situation didn't help. i could never imagine missing hopelessness, homelessness, loss of reputation and credibility, up able to find a job apartment, student loan or even buy a cellphone. without a social security you
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can do nothing in the united states. being suspected as an identify thief was a way of life. every hr person i interviewed with police who have pulled me over for perhaps going a little too fast -- the first thing they do is go through your records, push you through a file and when you come up as deceased the insurance actually doesn't know if it belongs to you then a lot of questions start. and it becomes uncomfortable. i would like to make it clear all of the problems i have had during the past fives year are not only as a result of the death master file. however the death master file has been like a proprogating under the problems i had. so the fact i didn't have an identity made everything worse.
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it started when i was providing full-time care to my parents as i said. when my parents passed away their home was sold and i had to relocate very, very quickly. my entire life since the age of 17 i have supported byself put myself -- myself -- through school and i have never not had a job or not work on my own firm for 30-something years and been blessed in that area. when i start looking for a job and apartment and i am not able to get one it is like wait a minute? what is going on here? everywhere i searched everywhere i applied i was turned down. finally i had to leave my parent's home quickly and i contacted an old friend asking if i could barrow a spare room for a few month -- weeks and that turned into a few months.
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unfortunately the landlord asked he to leave because i was not on the lease. i went apartment searching and the question of my creditability and the fact my social security number didn't check out i was unable to find an apartment. after searching for three weeks and with no choice and thought was something only happened on television i had to move into my car. i got basic information on how to do that and the best place do is stop like truck stop for protection. so my two puppies and i lived in a car for two and a half months. i was searching for an apartment or room and kept going further out in alabama in order to find someone who probably didn't check closely but was still unsuccessful.
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my situation improved after i ran into an old friend named mary kate. she had a business building and at the top she had converted to an apartment. knowing my parents very well and being sympathetic to my situation she offered the apartment to me. where was in the apartment two hours later after the approval. -- i -- it was huge and empty and i felt like i was living in a castle at the moment. no bed, chair, sofa or anything because my furniture was still where my family had been ill. she brought me towels and a couple items and i was one very happy person. during that period of time while i lived there i continued my search for a job. i continued my search for a
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student loan. i had reviewed what was available on the internet and decided i needed to increase skills in the area of project management management. so i applied to 20 online schools and three physical schools in for a student line. everyone turned me down. -- loan -- the information where received when i asked why i was being turned down included comments look your information cannot be verified your social security number did not match or we cannot find your records. finally, becoming concerned i went to the local fsa office and asked them to check my records to see if i was in the files and everything was fine. they did is very fast check and said the records are in order, everything is fine and you are alive. and i said well could there be a
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mistake in the past? i was informed at that time we cannot check the past. if you have been listed at some time when the new files are created on a weekly bases and sent out your name would have been removed and we don't retain those. so there was no way for them to tell me if i had been or not been listed but since everything was in order it was fine. i thought i was fine. my situation at that point went from bad to worse. the apartment building i lived in, and this was approximately a year and a half later, a fire code made it necessary for me to leave. as an office building it only had one enterance and exit which wasn't acceptable in the walker county area at the time. i went on apartment search, no luck, so unfortunately, one more time i had to move back into the car again. it was becoming a habit.
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the next thing that happened to me in march of 2010 i had a -- i was involved in a car accident. a lady hit and rear ended me while i was sitting at a red light. i didn't feel or hear anything. but i woke up in the hospital and was told i had seven vertebrae in bad shape. they kept asking me all of the these question and there was a lot of confusion about my insurance, whether i owned the car i was in whether i really was who i said i was. so i called an attorney turned everything over to a legal form and said whatever is happening, please get me out of this. i went home -- excuse me when i say home i mean car. i went back to the car and started researching and trying
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to find anything who can help me. during that time i contacted the irs, the social security administration fcra everyone that i could thing of and every name that came up in my search for any information or hope. no agencies could offer me any help. the first person i spoke to that offered me any time of insight was pam dixon and nina olsen. they were both a great help in providing the information to me. nothing to do no apartment, still no job still unable to find any kind of job, a couple at my church found out my situation and offered me a camper they had on their property in which to live. i graciousiously and humblely
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accepted the invitation saying i am only going to be there a few months but unfortunately i am still there. the good thing is these people are very close to me and taken me into their family. i have really enjoyed knowing them. i will tell you that living in a camper and especially with two puppies is not a lot of fun. the only work i have actually been able to obtain is work such as cleaning houses and caregiving. and coming from an ex executive position with a six figure imine imine -- six-figure income is not something you like to do. this takes away from med cal from fraud the living and
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decease and united states government. it seldom goes away when it hits you is my experience. the problem is when you get one area cleared up such as one credit reporting agencies or one banking institution report the problem is someone calls them for report and when they are on the phone and i have listened to this happen they say well this woman has applied for 23 credit cards in a period of four years. no one needs that many credit cards. she can not be that honest and you are right back on the list and nothing goes forward. it is a matter of every time you get one spot solved it pops up somewhere else. you get one school to approve a loan, two weeks later you get a notice because they contacted other people and they have denied the loan. so from a stand point of trying to handle the entire situation i
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really have not figured out a way to control the traffic. and i would like to say this: i had contacted all three cra's, the major one -- banking, financial institutions that provide information -- and only one company in a period of three years every responded to me. they didn't answer a phone call or a letter. so i had no idea of what was going on and where. finally, i contacted mr. ron pearl hope who started the dmf. ron and his brother, robert made several conference calls with me and checked their database and they told me i was listed in january of 2001. and finally check system contacted me and sent me a letter telling me yes, they had reported me as deceased and the
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information they received was from the social security administration and i was listed as dead in 2008. they did not provide the month however. so i found out where the information was coming from but i didn't find any way to stop it even though i have been removed from the death master files. what i am hoping and what i don't understand is that just in the research i have done i have had over 20 hearings in the senate and congress on the death master file and so far i have seen nothing come out of the hearings. what i am hoping is you will provide a program that will provide help for victims because we have nowhere to go. secondly, you will either stop distributing the database or find a way to toss it out, start over rebuild and do it
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correctly and have a zero mistake. and thank you very much for having me here. i appreciate it. and please, do something for the government and do something for the victims. >> thank you, ms. rivers. very powerful testimony and obviously that is the gel goal of this committee is to work toward solutions so it doesn't happen to another american. so my question is you have been removed from the death master file? do you know when that occurred? was it prompted by your action? did you find out it just happened? >> actually and you will find this a bit funny i only found it happened in the last couple of weeks that i was listed on the death master file in 2008. check system the one person that answered my letter sent me a letter dated august 27th the
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reality was i was spending them correspondence in october and later. it stated they had reported me as deceased upon information received from social security administration and that i had died in 2008. >> there wasn't a process you were working with the social security administration where you fill out forms and you knew your name is removed from the death master file? >> yes, sir. >> you did go through that process? >> several times. >> but you only found out you have been removed? >> i had the letter but unfortunately since it said send us all of the your information and we will do an investigation. ...
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i once asked a friend of mine, tell me about this death master file. what is it? he said to me, with tongue in cheek, it's a file in which you don't want you name to appear because if it does you're dead. turns out not always. not always. you're living proof that doesn't always happen that way. if you had 0 do this again, what would you do differently and what would you suggest we do? every one of us have cop city
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opportunity service teams and we're called every day. and one of the issues we deal with a lot is social security and if you had been a citizen of delware, you call our offices we would have been all over this on your behalf. so keep that in mind. what would you do differently, what should we do differently? >> right at this moment i really -- other than flying out to washington and sitting in a social security administration's office until i found some answers, i don't know what i would have done differently. having been in the marketing and communications and business development area for 35 years when i found out what was happening, i sat down and created a marketing plan for myself. and i'm very thorough in that area and a letter campaign to companies all over the united
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states. i contacted everyone in the system that i could think of. i searched for companies and i found that one thing is, if i had experienced a major identity theft right at the beginning, i would have been much better off because at that point i would have been alerted, i could have filed a police report and somebody would have started investigating. but at the point i was, no identity theft, very candidly no one took it seriously and no one believed me. >> the second half of my question is, what should we do differently? >> regarding the dmf totally -- >> just to try to make sure this thing doesn't happen again to other folks in our country, given what you have learned. >> as i maybe mentioned i think the database needs to be cleansed thoroughly. i think an agency should be put in charge that can control it.
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the sources from which the information is obtain she'd be clarified. i think very strong regulation some be placed on the agencies that are distributing this information because one of the regulations is verify the information before it's used. i was listed twice. no one ever contacted me. and of all the people i've talked to, no one ever contacted them. the first thing i would do immediately is, i would develop a complete communications program for people both living people that have been listed as -- mistakenly and additionally individuals of families that have been deceased and the desealsed person has been used for tax fraud, identity theft draining the bank account, et cetera. these people have nowhere to go, either, and they hurt just as badly as i do. but there is not one web site, there's not one place to call,
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there's no one that knows anything. i visited 18 separate social security offices. out of those 18, 12 new what the death master file was so even within the social security system the word is not going through. this people need to be trainedded to provide information. >> senator langford. >> just a point of interest for me. how did you prove you're alive? what documents did you have to bring in, the final shift on it when you finally had the opportunity to explain to someone, this is really me, i'm still alive. what were you asked to show to verify that? >> social security administration asked for your birth certificate, if you have it driver's license, with photograph or photographic i.d., they would like to have copies of invoices and correspondence you have received either at your place of business or your home copies of check stubs, everything
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single thing you have that would identify you as you and prove that it is you. and they're very thorough going through the material and all of the same material i included in every package i sent out to every company that i contacted. >> okay. thank you. >> senator peters, one question. >> thank you, mr. chairman. quite compelling testimony, miss rivers itch also feel bad for you and apologize you have bon through all of this. we have to get to the bottom of this. this is not the first time i've heard of this case. we had a case in michigan with a marine who was listed as dead twice and lost veterans benefits and had the treasury department close his account a whole host of difficulties. so unfortunately there are others in this situation not just yourself. a question as far as the timeline of your mentioned in 2008 is where you learned you were listed as dead.
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but you also mentioned you went to the social secured administration and they said everything was okay. where was that in the sequence of events and when did the record actually get cleared or is this something you constantly are put back on the list. if you could clarify that for me. >> let me step back and clarify one thing. i didn't learn that i was deceased until 2008. in 2008 is when the problem started happening that i was not aware of really what was causing them. that's what caused me to go to social security office. the actual first tomb i found out that it had been listed as deceased is after my accident the insurance company settled went to a new bank and opened an account, and they were happy to open an account, take my money. when i went back three days later, to open a savings account, they ran me through the system. the bank manager came over and ran me through the system.
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said we can't help you today. and i said, why not? and she said, because information we have reports you as deceased. and i demanded to know who was reporting the information. and also where it was coming from, into supposedly what date i died. they absolutely refused to tell me anything. by law and under fcra i thought i was entitled to that information. however, the bank refused to give it to me, and later when i found out check systems was the one that supplied that information. they still refused to provide me with anything. so april of 2010 is when i actually found out i was in the file. >> is that when you went to the social security administration? >> again issue had already been. >> several times. >> yes sir. >> and they told you repeatedly you're okay. >> each time. >> but it was clear you were not okay as every time you turned out you were being given inaccurate


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