tv U.S. Senate CSPAN August 4, 2015 10:00am-12:01pm EDT
for a bill aimed at cybersecurity in the u.s. during its sharing about threats. majority leader mitch mcconnell filed cloture yesterday in. members will recess on 12:30 to 2:15 or their weekly party meetings. we take you now live to the senate. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god our king, let the earth rejoice and righteousness and justice strengthen the land we love. lord, we live in a fugitive
earthly scene, but it is permeated by your eternal presence. remind us that transiency will not have the last word in our universe. we're grateful that life's changefulness is underlain and penetrated by your unchanging purposes. guide our senators. in these days of upheaval, show them how to find the permanent amid the impermanent, the durable amid the fragile, and the truth amid the falsehood.
thank you for continuing to be the rock of our salvation, sustaining us in the best and worst of times. we pray in your strong name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i recently shared an a.p. news stories with my colleagues, and i think it's worth sharing again. here was the headline: "federal agencies are wide open to hackers and cyber spies." let me read just a little bit of what it says. "the federal government, which holds secrets and sensitive information ranging from nuclear blueprints to the tax returns of hundreds of millions of americans, has for years failed to take basic steps to protect its data from hackers and thieves. in the latest example, the office of personnel management is under fire for allowing its databases to be plundered by suspected chinese cyber spies in what is being called one of the worst breaches in u.s. history. o.p.m. repeatedly neglected to implement basic cybersecurity
protections it's internal watchdog reported to congress." that story should worry every one of us, democrats and republicans alike. a.p. referred to the massive cyber attack that recently struck the obama administration as -- quote -- "one of the worst breaches in u.s. history." while the massive breach may have been one of the worst, it certainly, unless the administration can be rescued from the cybersecurity dark ages, won't be the last. so the senate will be considering bipartisan cybersecurity legislation this week that would help the public and private sectors defeat cyber attacks. the modern tools it contains through the sharing of threat information would provide for the construction of stronger cyber defenses. the top democrat on the intelligence committee says this bipartisan bill would also protect individual privacy and
civil liberties. she's right. it constrains strong measures to limit the use, retention, and defusion of consumers' personal information. information sharing with the government would also be voluntary under this bipartisan legislation. no wonder my colleague from california joined virtually every other democrat and every other republican to endorse this bipartisan bill overwhelmingly in committee 14-1. no wonder this bipartisan bill is backed by a diverse coalition of supporters too, everyone from the chamber of commerce to farm supply stores to your local community bank. this is a strong bipartisan, transparent bill that's been meticulously vetted by both parties in committee and that's been available online for months, literally months, for anyone to read. my friend, the democratic leader, has also publicly declared that the senate could finish this bill -- quote -- "in a couple of days."
end quote. in a couple of days, he said, at the most. so with cooperation, we can pass the bipartisan bill this week. there will also be opportunity for members of both parties to offer amendments. i urge colleagues who wish to do so to begin working with the bill managers right now. this legislation is the work of many members. i mentioned ranking member feinstein earlier who has been a key player on this issue. i also want to thank chairman burr for his strong leadership and for his hard work across the aisle in developing this bipartisan bill. i urge the senate to allow us to act and to pass it this week. the house of representatives has already passed two similar white house-backed cybersecurity bills. the sooner we pass ours, the sooner we can conference with the house to finally get a good cybersecurity law on the books, and the sooner our country can be better protected from more of
these types of attacks. now, mr. president, on another matter, this september the senate will formally weigh in on the nuclear deal struck between the white house and iran. we'll take a vote and answer a simple but powerful question: will the agreement actually make america and its allies safer? when we do, the senate as an institution will be put to the test. the first test will come in which answer we arrive at. some might take the view that releasing billions of dollars to a state sponsor of terrorism while leaving the regime with thousands of nuclear centrifuges and advanced research and development program, and the means to improve its full spectrum war-fighting capability would represent an acceptable outcome. those senators will vote one way. others will say that ending
iran's nuclear program is worth the necessary exertion of political leadership, leadership to keep the coalition unified, to reveal iran's development of ballistic missiles and its support of terrorism and to resolve iaea concerns over tehran's refusal to allow access to nuclear scientists and facilities because doing so would be in the best interest of our country and in the best interest of our allies. those senators, mr. president, will vote a different way. in answering this fundamental question, every senator will reveal his or her view of america's standing, its leadership and its capabilities in the modern world. they will demonstrate whether they think these things can and should be brought to bear to defend our interests and to defend against iran's aggressive expansion and a threatening nuclear program. now, we know that the next
senate and the next president will continue to be faced with a threat posed by iran so we should conduct this debate with our eyes on the future. this is a critical test, but it's not the only one. the other test comes not in which answer we choose but in how, how we answer the question. can we join together to conduct a debate worthy of the importance of this agreement? can we call up the resolution and respectfully debate it without employing delay tactics designed specifically to impede the senate's review of such a weighty matter? are senators willing to focus on a matter of interest to the institution, defer committee activities and sit in their chairs to truly listen and
debate their colleagues on a matter of such significance? nearly every member of both parties voted to have this debate when they passed the iran nuclear agreement review act. surely senators wouldn't then turn around and block a proper debate from even proceeding. now, my hope, mr. president, is that the senate can reach agreement to call up the appropriate resolution, reach agreement to allow ample time for senators to express their views and then proceed to a thorough, thoughtful and respectful debate, because it's hard to overstate the importance of what we're about to consider -- our role in the world, our commitment to our allies, the kind of future we'll leave our children. it's all wrapped up in this issue. the debate we'll conduct deserves the appropriate and respectful deliberation that this body was designed to facilitate. every senator owes as much to this institution and every
senator owes as much to this country and to the people we serve. we may disagree on the first test, but we should all agree on the second one. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: i agree with the republican leader, we should work to come up with a way of proceeding in a dignified manner to this most important piece of legislation, and certainly i will lend my efforts to try to get that done. easier said than done. the feelings on both sides of the aisle on this issue and other issues. mr. president, yesterday president obama took a very important step in addressing climate change and promoting clean energy. his clean power plan is the strongest action ever taken by our government to fight climate change. the clean power plan will reduce the dangerous amounts of carbon
pollution being dumped into the atmosphere. by reducing pollution, the clean power plan will yield significant public health benefits for our entire nation. carbon pollution has many devastating effects on our environment, as well as the health and well-being of all of us. sadly, solution of burning fossil fuels disproportionately affects low-income people and families of color. exposure to air pollution can aggravate preexisting health problems, all respiratory maladies, including asthma. for millions of americans, carbon pollution affects their ability to breathe and exacerbates the problems they have with asthma. consider these facts -- minority and lower income americans are far more likely to live near coal-fired power plants. statistically, that's terribly accurate. african-americans are three times more likely to be hospitalized from asthma. african-american children have 80% higher rate of asthma and are roughly three times more
likely to die from asthma than their white peers. roughly half of the latinos live in areas that frequently violate clean air rules. hispanic children are 40% more likely to die from asthma than non-hispanic whites. mr. president, in nevada, just a short distance out of las vegas, about 35 miles, is a place -- there is an indian reservation. approximately 30 years ago, n.v. energy, nevada power, built this huge coal-fired generating plant. over the more than three decades it's been in existence, tens of millions of tons of coal have been burnt in that power plant. it's a football field away from the reservation. those native americans have been made really sick as a result of that. now, there has been a court settlement that gives them a little bit of economic strength
as a result of this, and to its credit n.v. energy with new ownership had -- they have decided they are going to phase out that plant very quickly, and that's good for the health of those native americans. today the plant is being decommissioned and solar is being built on the tribe's reservation. it's wonderful to see that. creating a lot of jobs and giving some economic viability in addition to the court settlement i just talked about. president obama put it best yesterday -- quote -- "if you care about low-income minority communities, try protecting the air they breathe." close quote. and that's exactly what the president's plan will do. it will clean the air we breathe, help curb health care costs, improve the quality of life for all americans. but that's not all, mr. president. as the plan is implemented, we'll even see more investment in clean renewable energy which is not only good for the plant
and our health, it's good for the economy. a clean power plant will redues renewable energy by 30% over 30 years. it will lower energy costs for all americans. president obama's plan encourages programs and incentives to make american homes more efficient. under the clean energy incentive program, jump-starting new jobs is expected with the construction of new energy and efficiency upgrades. this will incentivize new clean energy development and job development. it has been disappointing but not surprising to see republicans' knee-jerk opposition to addressing climate change. it has been all the more frustrating because they have no plan of their own. just to let the smoke keep billowing. instead, though, republicans are clamoring to show special
interests like the oil baron koch brothers how far they are willing to go to kill protections for air and public health because it might hurt the bottom line of the coal and energy barons. last month, house republicans passed legislation to rescind president obama's action on addressing air pollution and climate change. senate republicans, for their part, are trying the same thing with policy riders in the senate interior environmental appropriation bills. republicans would leave our children and grandchildren to pay the devastating costs of climate change. they have no solutions, these republicans. they are afraid to acknowledge that climate change is a problem. it is. president obama's clean power plan is good for this country. it is the strongest action we can take today to ensure a cleaner healthier tomorrow for our children and grandchildren. and he has to administratively. we can't get anything done legislatively. it's all opposed by the republicans. and it's undeniably good for my state, nevada, where investment in clean energy is $6 billion.
president obama's plan gives states further flexibility to tailor programs for reducing carbon emissions while protecting public health and keeping electricity affordable and reliable. already the plan has wide support in nevada. an article from the associated press yesterday, and i quote -- "several nevada government and business leaders plan to voice support to limit pollution from power plants around the nation in an effort to address climate change. in nevada, the energy chief paul thomas says nevada is well positioned to comply with the first national limits on carbon dioxide from existing power plants." close quote. nevada understands the benefit clean energy brings to communities, the lives that will be improved by the clean air we breathe. nevada is at the forefront of clean energy. over the past decade, our clean energy infrastructure has expanded substantially, giving good-paying jobs to our workers and new industries have been brought to nevada. there could be no better place
for president obama to begin a dialogue with the nation about clean power plant than nevada. i look forward to president obama's visit to nevada later this month to speak at a clean energy summit in las vegas on august 24. the eighth annual clean energy summit. on cybersecurity, mr. president, we all want to address cybersecurity. repeatedly in the last two congresses, i worked to con convenient the chairman and ranking members of the relevant committees, and we worked hard and came up with a number of bills, one of which we brought to the floor here, and it was killed by the republicans. what was good for our nation's security was bad for the tea party-prison republicans. so i repeat they have blocked the cybersecurity legislation. in this congress, we have not been been as uncooperative as the republicans when they were in the minority. democrats are willing to proceed to the cybersecurity bill if we get assurance that democrats can offer relevant amendments.
not -- that has to be done, mr. president. for the leader to say as he did here today well, on this massive bill we had, i stuck cybersecurity in there with a lot of other things. he knew it wouldn't work there. it was only to check it off his list that he tried to do it. realistically, we have already been on this legislation. we should have been on this legislation. the republican leader could have proceeded to cybersecurity instead of the politically motivated bill to take away access to health care for women. unlike republicans, we don't need all the poison pill political amendments on different subjects. but democrats have amendments relevant to the cybersecurity, and we must offer those. i received a letter from senators wyden, leahy, whitehouse and coons yesterday, and the letter said and i quote -- "we understand that the senate may soon consider the cybersecurity sharing act. we share the view that increasing the security of u.s. networks while protecting american privacy is an important goal, and while we have
different views on this legislation, we're all interested in offering relevant amendments that we believe would improve this bill in various ways." relevant amendments. not germane. relevant. "we look forward to working with you to ensure that there is an adequate process for considering a reasonable number of amendments." close quote. the way republican senators used to talk about an amendment process being open, our request to have a few relevant amendments should be readily accepted by the republicans. but then looking at how the republican leader has led the senate this year, there is plenty of reason for democrats to be concerned. just look at the bill the senate just considered last week. a major highway bill, more than a thousand pages. the republican leader filled the amendment tree twice. did not allow any amendments to be offered. accordingly, if you look at what the congressional research service says, the republican leader could potentially fill the amendment tree more times than any majority leader in the first year of a new congress. so far, he's done that more than
i ever did. nevada -- i'm sorry. nevertheless, mr. president, democrats will work with republicans to get a bill -- get on the bill, consider a reasonable number of important amendments. i hope that the republicans will cooperate with us on that. would the chair announce the business for the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business for one hour with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each, with the majority controlling the first half and the democrats controlling the final half. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota.
mr. thune: mr. president, when republicans were campaigning last fall, we promised the american people that if they put us in charge, we would get the senate working again. that wasn't a campaign slogan. that was a commitment. and i'm proud to report that we're delivering on that promise. the first seven months of the 114th congress have been some of the most productive the senate has had in a long time. we have passed more than 70 bills to help strengthen our economy, reform our government, protect some of the most vulnerable and strengthen our national security. we passed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize -- or i should say to authorize the keystone pipeline, a valuable infrastructure project that would support more than 42,000 jobs during construction and invest $5.3 billion in the u.s. economy, all without spending a dime of taxpayer money. we passed a bipartisan bill to strengthen our efforts to eradicate human trafficking in this country and to help its victims. this legislation which passed
the senate with unanimous support from democrats and republicans and was signed into law in may gives law enforcement new tools to target traffickers, including increased access to wiretaps and it significantly expands the resources available to trafficking victims as they seek to rebuild their lives. mr. president, as negotiations with iran over a nuclear agreement were repeatedly extended and as reports of significant compromises emerged, democrats and republicans alike grew concerned that the administration would fail to negotiate a deal that would be strong enough to prevent iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. to address these concerns, the senate passed the iran nuclear agreement review act. this legislation which passed the senate with overwhelming support from democrats and republicans and was signed into law by president obama, was designed to ensure that the american people, through their elected representatives, would have a voice in any deal with
iran. without the iran nuclear agreement review act, there would be no opportunity for a up-or-down vote on this deal in congress and no way to prevent the president from immediately waiving the sanctions that congress put in place. congress is currently reviewing the final agreement announced by the president, an agreement that has been greeted, i might add, with bipartisan skepticism and will be holding a vote on this deal in september. mr. president, increasing access to jobs and expanding opportunities for american workers is a priority of the republican-led congress. in may, with the support of 14 democrats, the republican-led senate passed legislation to reauthorize trade promotion authority which is key to securing trade deals that are favorable to american workers and businesses. since 2009, increasing exports have accounted for more than 1.6 million new jobs in the united
states. manufacturing jobs that depend on exports pay an average of 13% to 18% more than other jobs in the economy. thanks to the bipartisan trade promotion authority legislation the administration now has the key tool to negotiate trade agreements that will create more good-paying jobs for american workers and open new markets for products labeled "made in the u.s.a." mr. president, after taking up bipartisan legislation to protect our economy, the senate turned to another key republican priority, and that's supporting our military men and women. the national defense authorization act which we considered in june passed the senate with strong bipartisan support. in addition to authorizing the funding our military needs to defend our nation, in bill contains a number of reforms that will expand the resources available to our military men and women and strengthen our national security. among other things, this
legislation targets $10 billion in unnecessary spending and redirects those funds to military priorities like funding for aircraft and weapons systems and modernization of navy vessels. it implements sweeping reforms to the military's outdated acquisitions process by removing bureaucracy and expediteing decision making that will significantly improve the military's ability to assess -- i should say to access the technology and equipment that it needs. and it replaces the outdated military retirement system with a modern system that will extend retirement benefits to 75% of our service members. mr. president, during the month of july, the senate built on its bipartisan achievements with two important pieces of legislation. the every child achieves act and the drive act. the every child achieves act, which passed the senate by an overwhelming margin, reauthorizes federal k-12 education programs and revokes
problematic federal mabts like those -- mandates like those that resulted in overtesting. this legislation restores scroll scroll -- control to those who know students the best like parents, teachers and local school boards. the drive act which passed the senate by a strong bipartisan margin is notable because it is the first transportation bill in almost a decade to provide more than two years of funding for our nation's infrastructure needs. around the country hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of jobs depend on the funding contained in transportation bills. when congress fails to provide the necessary certainty about the way transportation funding will be allocated, states and local governments are left without the certainty that they need to authorize projects or make long-term plans for transportation infrastructure. that means that essential construction projects get
deferred. necessary repairs may not get made. and jobs that depend on transportation are put in jeopardy. the drive act will give states and local governments the certainty that they need to plan for and commit to key infrastructure projects. mr. president, every bill i've discussed today passed the senate with strong bipartisan support. and one major reason for that, the senate republicans' commitment to opening up the legislative process here in the senate. under democrat control, the legislative process in the senate had almost ground to a halt. instead of being developed and committee bills were frequently drafted behind closed doors, and not only the minority party but many rank-and-file democrats were shut out of the process. when republicans took control of the senate in january, we changed all that. we opened up the committee process and debate on the floor, and we made it a priority to ensure that every senator, every
senator, both democrat and republican, has an opportunity to make his or her voice heard. during 2014, the democratic leadershipship allowed -- the democratic leadership allowed 15 roll call votes the entire year, 2014. republicans allowed more than 15 roll call votes in our first month and so far this year we've allowed 165 amendment roll call votes, and we still have five months to go in the year. mr. president, if the republican-led senate has accomplished a lot in the past several months but we know, we know that we have a lot more to do. as the 114th congress continues, we will continue to fight for the american people's priorities, and we hope the democrats here in the united states senate will continue to join us. mr. president, i yield the floor, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. a senator: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. daines: as i like to say there are only two types of companies. those that have been hacked and those who know they have been hacked. this was recently seen at j.p. morgan chase. last summer the company suffered a cyber l attack that involved the they have the of information of 76,000 households. in the aftermath, j.p. morgan chase is expected to double its budget for cybersecurity efforts this year. but the case with j.p. morgan is not unique nor a simple
cautionary tale for other major companies. in the last few months we've seen one of the largest cyber attacks on our nation's technology infrastructure and other major cyber breaches affecting our financial and transportation sector. and i share these comments in the context of having worked as an executive for a cloud computing company for 12 years prior to serving in the u.s. senate. in the midst of these attacks, we see radical islamist terrorists infiltrating america's social media networks to recriewt americans to join them as jihadists overseas. we must work to address these challenges and our response must be thoughtful to the long-term effects on our national security and our constitutional freedoms. as we're seeing with the european union, after years of debate, the e.u. is currently
working on policies to ensure their citizens are notified of cyber breaches within 72 hours and the victims of these attacks are notified without undue delay. this is the type of response we need in the united states, and much like the notification reforms that i've worked for in congress, on a near daily basis we see headlines in our major newspapers that underscore the absolute importance of creating a concrete time line for implementing timely notification standards. having spent more than 12 years working in technology, i know firsthand the power that big data holds. i also understand the importance of setting standards and clear guidelines. as we said in 28 years of business, if you aim at nothing, you'll hit it. and it's important that we not only expect more but we also inspect. we want to be assured that guidelines are being followed.
it's unacceptable that any american is left in the dark when their personally identifiable information or p.i.i. may have been breached. that's why i've been fighting to strengthen notification requirements and assure the american people know when their personal information is compromised. when i was running customer service operations at right now technologies and looking out for our customers, when we had a problem, our policies that we notified our customers as soon as we were aware of the problem maybe not always understanding the magnitude at the time of the problem, but we believed we owed it to our customers to get back to them as soon as possible. the customers, the consumers of this country should be served in a similar way. but as the senate prepares to consider cybersecurity reforms, we need to strike the right balance between protecting our cybersecurity infrastructure and the personal information of americans while also protecting
the constitutional rights and the liberty of the american people. we must protect our nation's security while also preserving our civil liberties. we must remain vigilant. we must ensure that we have robust and transparent debate about cyber protections and what reforms must be implemented to protect the american civil liberties. we see some of these protections in the legislation i've cosponsored, spearheaded by senators mike lee and pat leahy. the electronic communications privacy amendment act of 2015 modernizes our nation's electronic privacy laws and brings protections against warrantless searches into harmony with the technological realities of the 21st century. the protections currently on the books may have been robust in 1986 when the ecpa was written, but they don't adequately defend our citizens against the mass
data storage that currently exists. nobody in 1986 would have ever envisioned where we are today in terms of the massive amount of data that is collected and stored today on the american people. this bill ensures that the federal government gives our law enforcement officials the tools they need while ensuring that montanans, the american people aren't subjected to invasive and unwarranted searches. privacy and security both matter. i believe we can find a balance that protects both. i urge my colleagues to join me in finding reforms that stop cyber criminals from infiltrating our security networks and also preserve the privacy, the civil liberties that montanans and americans hold dear. i'd like to shift gears for a moment and share some comments about president obama's news that he made yesterday with the e.p.a. yesterday president obama and
the employment prevention agency, the e.p.a., continued to wage their war on american energy, american families and american jobs. as president obama was announcing his plan to devastate montana's coal industry and the good-paying jobs it provides, yet another coal company filed for bankruptcy. at the same time the j.e. korette power plant in my home state in montana in billings is being dismanlted as we speak in the aftermath of president obama's previous anticoal regulations. in addition to supporting the 30 jobs, the korette power plant powers tens of thousands of montana homes and contributed several million dollars in tax revenue to montana and yellowstone county every year. over the past year, montanans have braced themselves for the
release of the obama administration's final regulations which were already set to wreak havoc on our coal industry and make construction of any new coal-fired plant virtually impossible. the proposed rule was bad. the final rule is even more devastating to montana jobs and to montana families. the final rule announced by the obama administration makes the retirement of existing coal-fired power plants inevitable within the next few decades. the rules move the goal post, and, i might add, the wrong end of the field. these rules will most likely lead to the shuttering of montana's coal strip power plant and countless others across the nation. it would be devastating for our economy and hardworking families across the state. energy rates will increase.
thousands of montana family wage jobs would be lost. critical tax revenue for schools and roads, for our teachers, our infrastructure will evaporate. and in the obama administration's final rule, they took an already bad rule and they made it worse. the so-called clean power plan forces montana to achieve even more aggressive standards than originally proposed. according to "politico," in 2012, montana produced 2,481 carbon pounds per megawatt hour. under the president's plan, by 2030, he wants montana to produce only 1,305 carbon pounds per megawatt hour. that is a 47.4% reduction in montana's carbon emissions. because, you know, in montana, more than half of our electricity comes from coal.
in fact, my mobile device here, it's powered by coal. coal also powers good-paying jobs for thousands of montanans, including montana tribal members and union workers and generates nearly $120 million in tax revenue every year. america is poised to lead the world's energy needs. but this will be done through american innovation, american ingenuity, not more regulations. the obama administration's regulations are completely out of touch for the global realities, and here's why -- global demand for coal-fired energy will not disappear if the united states shuts down every last coal mine and coal-fired power plant. nations like china, like korea, japan will continue using coal as it is reliable and it's affordable. these nations should be powered
by cleaner montana coal because the coal we produce in montana is cleaner than asian coal, in terms of the environmental picture for the world, we're better off using american coal, montana coal, not coal from asia. rather than dismissing this reality, the united states should be on the cutting edge of technological advances in energy development and leading the way in promoting the use of clean, affordable american energy. in fact, according to international energy 2013 data, the world consumes about six billion metric tons of coal for power generation. of that, the u.s. consumes 750 million metric tons. let's put that into apples and apples comparison. that means the u.s. consumes about 12% of the coal. the rest of the world consumes 88%. as the world sees an increased
demand for power, it's clear we need to be leading the way in clean coal and energy innovation. the u.s. should be leading here. let's be working towards clean coal, clean energy and leading the world as our 12% would have an influence on the other 88%. but in america, we can and should power the world, but we can only do it if the obama administration steps back from its out-of-touch regulations and allows american innovation to thrive once again, to not only lead america but to lead the world. i yield back my time. the presiding officer: will the senator withhold his request? mr. daines: yes. the presiding officer: the senator from indiana.
mr. coats: mr. president, last week i delivered my 19th waste of the week, and actually we reached our goal of $100 billion in savings for the taxpayer by identifying waste, fraud and abuse, money spent by the federal government, money collected from hardworking earners who paid their taxes, sent them to washington and expected that they would be used for essential purposes that the federal government was engaged in, such as providing for our national security, such as supporting research at n.i.h. for medical advances that would provide life-saving techniques and medicines to americans, such as funding rebuilding crumbling bridges and highways and any number of things that the federal government is involved
in that the american public essentially agrees these are essential functions that can only be performed by the federal government. what we want you to do, though, they're saying is be as efficient as you can, and if there is excess money that's wasted on programs that really have no place in the federal budget, let's identify those, let's eliminate those and either return our tax money, lower our tax rates or use it for something more essential. and so we reached our goal of $100 billion in waste, fraud and abuse, identified by nonpartisan agencies. not republican agencies, not democrat agencies or firms, but nonpartisan, simply look at the numbers, identify the projects, identify the spending and ask the question do we really need to do that. and particularly at a time when
the deficit clock keeps ticking, the debt clock keeps ticking, when we continue year after year after year to spend more than we take in, despite raising taxes, despite looking for more sources of income. it's clear that we need to take the necessary steps to not spend more than is absolutely necessary to function this federal government on behalf of the american people. so today i'm down here for number 20, because we reached a goal. it's just the beginning of august. the senate has many more weeks in front of it, but we're going to keep going, because it's amazing the amount of waste, fraud and abuse that has been identified by some of these nonpartisan groups looking at federal expenditures. if we can add to our chart, i think we're going to have to put an extension on that chart or
device another one, maybe perhaps put another gauge over here, because we're going to keep doing this every week that the senate is in session. so today we're looking, as i said, at number 20. i looked at two agencies that exist in the federal government, national institutes of humanity and national institute of -- endowment for the arts, n.e.a. and n.i.h. these two agencies are engaged in cultural projects, and some of these are people would deem somewhat essential, but we have looked at two things here that we think ought to be identified today. the public probably will remember just a few months ago the 87th academy awards, better known as the oscars that took place in hollywood. many americans tune into this, watch this high-profile event
featuring america's rich and famous, and as always, a parade of actors pull up in their stretch limousines, step into the bright lights of the entertainment industry's media, the flashing lights, glittering and glamour of all of this as the rich and famous step out of the car, march down the aisle, stop to have their picture taken. there in tailored tuxes and designer gowns, some of which cost amazingly over $100,000, everybody trying to outdo everybody else. bottom line is here hollywood is not short of money. and so americans watch this. they see the golden globes that are being offered. and then we looked at that and said what in the world is a
$25,000 check from the federal government to hollywood doing in this process? it's hard to understand the concept that hollywood needs support, needs a handout from the federal government, but they're developing an academy awards museum in hollywood. and somehow they have applied for a grant from the endowment for the arts of $25,000. now, that's not a major amount compared to our budget problems here and the money we deal with, but the american people ought to be saying why in the world are we giving a penny to hollywood to build a -- to support the building of a museum simply because the process is open for anybody to submit for a grant, but who is reviewing these things? who is looking at this and saying does hollywood really need taxpayer money to construct a museum of arts through the
national endowment for the arts? now, the national endowment for humanities also, we discovered, got engaged in one of these efforts, spending considerably more. $914,000 to support a conference that's tiled "what is love, romance fiction in the digital age." the conference was full of speakers networking with each other and even giving the opportunity for adults to design and color their own title page. again, i'm asking why. why, given our $18.5 trillion debt growing every day, do we have to give away nearly a million dollar grant to support a conference on how to, in the digital age, develop romantic books? now, while it might be fun to go deeper into this and examine
just exactly what goes on at this conference, that's not really why i'm here speaking on the floor today. i simply am here to say why? is this necessary? is this the kind of thing we need to be supporting and doing with taxpayer -- hard-earned taxpayer dollars that are sent to washington, not for these purposes? and so today the cumulative runs closely to a million dollars, $939,000 of taxpayer savings that would go onto our gauge, and we add yet another -- another increment here to the gauge in determining how tax dollars are spent. we're going to continue doing this. this is a small one today. as you see, we have had some major dysfunctions in the federal government, but it's important, i think, for every senator to be able to go home and talk to their people and say we're making every possible effort we can to be efficient
and effective with the money that you send to washington, and we are looking into every piece of -- every dollar that is spent to make sure it is spent on essential functions of the federal government. it's astounding how much is being sent and used and wasted, how much fraud is taking place and waste of those dollars that takes place, and we're going to continue to identify that each week. so that's our waste of the week. we'll be back after our august recess each week the senate is in session to continue to identify ways in which we can save the taxpayer money. mr. president, with that, i suggest the -- i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: i ask consent to speak in morning business. the presiding officer: the senate is in morning business. mr. durbin: thank you, mr. president. i've come to the floor many times to talk about for-profit colleges and universities. this is a problem and challenge that we face. what you need to know are three numbers to understand the for-profit college and university industry in america. by way of preface, this is the most heavily subsidized private business in the united states of america. what are we talking about? the largest, the university of phoenix, kaplan university, devry university, rasmussen, corinthian, you've heard all the names because they advertise constantly and the money they use to advertise comes from federal taxpayers. there are three numbers, if i were a college professor or law school professor, i'd say this is going to be on the final,
three numbers on for-profit colleges and universities. 10% of high school graduates attend for-profit colleges and universities. ten percent. 20% of all the federal aid to education goes to for-profit colleges and universities. why so much? they charge so much. their tuition is so high. ten percent of the students, 20% of the aid to education, 44. 44% of all the student loan defaults in america are at for-profit colleges and universities. 10 pect of the students -- ten percent of the students, 40% of the defaults. why? they charge so much that the students can't finish their education or end up with a worthless diploma. that is the reality. there is a second reality. this industry is in serious economic trouble. last week we got news of another federal investigation of a for-profit college. in a filing with the securities
and exchange commission, the university of phoenix, the largest for-profit college and university, revealed that its under investigation by the federal trade commission for unfair and deceptive practices. this news just comes weeks after the center for investigative reporting published a story about the university of phoenix 's thinly veiled, dubious marketing and recruiting efforts on military bases. exploitation of our men and women in uniform. over the past several years the university of phoenix has spent millions of dollars to sponsor events, including dances, parties, concerts, on military bases because they love our men and women in uniform? no. because they want to sign them up. to the university of phoenix, these sponsorships were simply advertising and marketing events to enroll more uniform. when you serve our country, we show our appreciation by saying there is a g.i. bill waiting for
you at the end of your service. in fact, in some cases while you're still serving, and for your family too, so that you will be prepared after you've served our country to have a good life with good education, training, job opportunities. these for-profit colleges and universities could smell an opportunity to make even more money. the university of phoenix is after these men and women in uniform. they're after tuition assistance dollars. t.a. is a program that provides up to $4,500 a year so service members can use it toward post secondary education and guess what? the money isn't counted in the federal 90-10 calculation that caps the amount of money these for-profit schools can receive from the federal government. did you hear that? 90% of their revenue comes from the federal government. that's why for-profit colleges and universities are the most heavily subsidized private for-profit businesses in
america. to for-profit colleges, the money from service members and veterans is unlimited money. all they have to do is sign them up. and that's what they're doing with these sponsorships. after the article was published, i wrote to secretary carter, ash carter, department of defense, to ask him to take action. the university of phoenix reportedly is in clear violation of executive orders limiting the access of these schools to our men and women in uniform. the department of defense has confirmed to me that they've opened an inquiry in the matter. during the senate's recent consideration, the national defense authorization act, i filed an amendment to require the department to post information on federal and state investigations and lawsuits against schools on its online education resources for service members. as part of the tuition assistance program, the department of defense has created what it calls t.a. decide. this allows service members to find information about specific
schools when deciding where to use their tuition assistance benefits. it includes information like graduation rates and default rates. and you know why? because once that service member has used up that g.i. bill, it is gone. and if they waste it on one of these for-profit colleges and universities, it gives them little or nothing for their g.i. bill. they don't get a second chance. now of course service members need access to this information. publicly traded companies like the university of phoenix have to disclose the information to the s.e.c. when they're under investigation. members of the military should know that as well as the general public. it only makes sense. my amendment wasn't taken up during the senate's debate, but last week 12 senators joined me in writing secretary carter. this commonsense step to ensure better information to service members about their education options is one the department of defense needs to make. i also want to say a word about
another for-profit college that is notorious for its exploitation of students. ashford university. ashford university first came to my attention when former senator tom harkin of iowa had an investigation. he took a look at this so-called university in his home state of iowa. you know what he found? he found that they had purchased a small catholic girls' college and purchased their accreditation and then reopened it under the name of ashford university. do you know how many faculty members there were at ashford? one faculty member for every 500 students. it wasn't a real university. it was an online scam. they announced last week they're closing down their campus in iowa. what a heartbreak that must be for the people of iowa to lose such a stalwart higher education
citizen. that's the reality. i've run into students in illinois who said just graduated from college. i said where did you go? they said ashford, and i thought oh my goodness, what a disappointment. you've wasted your time and money, you're deep in debt and that diploma, sadly, is worth very little. the tide is turning against for-profit colleges and universities and the question is whether this senate, this congress, this government will step up once and for all and defend those young men and women who are wasting their time and their money and taxpayers dollars and in many cases g.i. bill benefits on these worthless for-profit schools. it is time for us to wake up to this reality. i'm glad to see that this industry is finally facing its day of reckoning. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: thank you, mr. president. i come to the senate floor today to talk about a question that's been bothering me. who is this senate supposed to be working for?
for years now this economy has been great for those at the top. but for everyone else it's getting harder and harder to make it from paycheck to paycheck, harder and harder to build any real security. the world is changing and congress can make decisions that help working people stay in the game and help level the playing field or we can just turn our backs. so what have republicans done over the past six months to try to make families a little more secure, to give people a fighting chance? what have they done? they have turned their backs. in the past six months they have burned huge amounts of time as they try to shut down homeland security, tried to build a pipeline to help a canadian oil company, tried to turn a human trafficking bill into a referendum on abortion and now tried to defund planned parenthood. all this instead of working on the kind of issues that would help level the playing field for hardworking people. you know, there's a lot we can
do. for example, democrats have been fighting to raise the minimum wage, and i strongly agree. no one, no one should work full time and still live in poverty. i think that a $7.25 an hour minimum wage is disgraceful. i support the federal bill to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, and i applaud the fight for 15 that's springing up across this country. when i'm asked about whether or not we should raise the minimum wage, i have three answers: yes, yes, yes. but raising the minimum wage is only the beginning. half of low-wage workers have little or no say over when they work. and an estimated 20% to 30% are in jobs when they can be called in to work at the last minute. i just want you to think about what this means for someone who is busting her fanny trying to build some economic security. imagine trying to plan for anything, for child care, for
going back to school, for getting a second job, without knowing when you'll be working next week. imagine trying to plan a monthly budget when your work hours and your paycheck can fluctuate 70% in a single month. imagine trying to schedule a doctor's appointment or parent-teacher conference. imagine if you could get fired just for asking for a few hours off. this is the real world of millions of workers who struggle to make ends meet. now, this is something we can fix. a few weeks ago, i introduced the schedules that work act with 17 democrats here in the senate and more than 60 democrats in the house of representatives. the bill, it just commonsense, basic fairness. a single mom should know if her hours are being canceled before she arranges for daycare and drives halfway across town to
show up at work. a young man trying to put himself through school should be able to request a more predictable schedule without getting fired just for asking. and a worker who is told to wait around on call for hours with no guarantee of work should get something for her time. the schedules that work act does two simple things. first, it gives all workers the right to request a change in a schedule without getting fired just for asking. and second, it gives workers who face the worst scheduling practices, workers in retail, food service, and cleaning workers, two weeks' notice of their work schedules and some additional pay if they're required to work on -- to wait on call but don't get any work. now, look. this bill recognizes there are emergencies and when employers have unexpected needs, they can reschedule their workers. but we're asking for a little
basic fairness so that an ordinary -- in ordinary times, day by day, week by week, workers will have a stable schedule and a chance to build some real economic security. democrats want to get to work on changes in the law that would give working people a fighting chance. we want republicans to let us take up these proposals and let us vote on them. instead, republicans are pushing a different agenda focusing on defunding women's health care and protecting those at the top. people say that washington doesn't work, but that's wrong. washington works great for the right people. when the corporate lobbyists want to carve out a giveaway, when a giant oil company wants the keystone pipeline or citibank wants to blast a hole in dodd-frank, republicans fall all over themselves to make it happen. when the right wing wants to cut off access to health care,
republicans are ready to go. but when it comes to the things that will help families, they turn their backs. this has to stop. we are not here to work for the lobbyists. we're not here to make life easier for big oil companies or for big banks. we're here to make this country work for hardworking americans. that's our job, and it's time for this republican senate to start doing that job. let's take up and pass the schedules that work act. let's give working families a fighting chance to build a future. thank you, mr. president. i yield. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: yesterday a very important government accountability office report came out. i'm going to present my view of
that report in a little bit backward way by giving a summary before i speak about the fine points of that report. broken bookkeeping as plagued the pentagon for years. under deadline pressure, the marine corps claimed to be ready for a clean audit. an outside auditing firm produced working papers in support of an opinion of a clean audit that employees in the department of defense inspector general office found lacking. however, a manager in the inspector general's office overruled his lower-level colleagues. that resulted in the inspector general's release of a clean opinion on the audit of the
marine corps. meanwhile, work papers began to creep out of the bureaucracy showing the unsupported basis for such a clean opinion. the inspector general was then forced to withdraw that opinion. now the government accountability office is releasing a report that exposes the whole house of cards. one senior employee with an apparent bias towards the outside auditing firm led his agency down the wrong path. we need to get things back on track and prevent an embarrassing setback like this from ever happening again. now i'd like to go into those details. so as i often do, i come to the
floor to speak about the latest twist in the 25-year struggle to fix the defense department's broken accounting system. billions have been spent to fix it, and achieve audit readiness, but those goals remain illusive. defense dishes out over $500 billion a year, yet the department still can't tell the people where all the money is going. and now the drive to be audit-ready by 2017 -- that's what the law requires -- has taken a bad tour and become a fight for the truth. as overseers of the taxpayers' money, we in the congress need to get the audit readiness initiative back on track,
moving forward then in the right direction. i last spoke on this subject a long time ago, december 8, 2011. on that occasion, i commended the secretary of defense, leon panetta, for trying to get the ball rolling. he wanted to halt endless slippage in audit deadlines. he wanted to provide a regular accounting of money spent to comply with the constitutional requirements. and he turned up the pressure and in effect drew a line in the sand. he directed the department to, in his words, achieve partial audit readiness with limited statements by 2014 and in his words, full audit readiness with all up statements by
statutory deadline of 2017. mr. president, not one of the major d.o.d. components, including the army, navy, marine corps, and air force, reached leon panetta's 2014-milestone. none was or is audit ready today. that said, one component, the marine corps, stepped up to the plate and claimed to be ready for what leon panetta's goal was. to test that claim, the accounting firm grant thornton was awarded a contract to audit five marine corps financial statements, 2010-2014. the first two on 2010 and 2011
were unsuccessful. the marine corps was not ready. the third one, the 2012 audit which is finally finished. the 2012 audit was put under a microscope and subjected to intense review by the office of inspector general along with two independent watchdogs. the marine corps audit was a disaster. first, it took an ugly turn. it got twisted out of shape and turned upside down. and now it is getting turned right side-up thanks to the government accountability office. grant thornton was required to produce a conclusion memorandum. this happens to be what you might call a quasi-opinion. work was to be finished by december, 2012, but it took an
extra year, so right off the bat, it was running into trouble. the scaled-down financial statement did not meet contract specifications. so this was a show stopper that got glossed over. the contract was modified to accept a makeshift compilation that was cobbled together. it's called a schedule of budgetary activity. it covers only current-year appropriations and not vast sums of prior-year appropriations that are still lost in the statutory and money pipeline. of course, that is a far cry from a standard financial statement. even reducing the scope of the audit, then, wasn't enough to
overcome all of the other problems. the office of inspector general auditing was responsible for issuing the final opinion. after completing a review of grant thornton's work papers in early 2013, the team determined that the evidence presented did not meet audit standards. it concluded that an adverse opinion, or what they call a disclaimer, was warranted. the team's rejection of grant thornton's conclusions embroiled the opinion in controversy and foul play. the trouble began when deputy i.g. for audit mr. dan blair, intervened and reportedly overruled his team's conclusions. he issued a nonqualified or clean opinion that was not supported by the evidence in the
work papers. now, quite a showboat approaches now. despite the mounting evidence regarding the opinion, secretary of defense hagel rolled that opinion out on december 20, 2013, with trumpets ablast at a ceremony in the pentagon's hall of heroes, he gave the marine corps an award for being the first service to earn a clean opinion. the assistant commandant of the marine corps, general john patton accepted the award, did he so with quote -- " "reluctance, then bolted from the stage at frank speed" -- end of quote. why then would general paxon
take off like a scalded dog? was it because he sniffed a bad owed with the so-called clean report and all the colorful presentations that were made by secretary hagel? at that point, the word was already seeping out. the opinion was allegedly rigged. i heard rumblings about it and began asking inspector general rimer questions because of all the controversy we asked his independent audit quality watchdog assistant ashton coleman to review the audit. mr. coleman sent inspector general rimer reports in october, 2014, and may of this year. these reports ripped the fig leaf clean off mr. blair's charade.
they reinforced the audit team's disclaimer. after recommending -- quote -- "the o.i.g. rescind and reissue the audit report with a disclaimer of opinion" -- end of quote. mr. coleman zeroed right in on the root of the problem. that root cause was impaired independence. in other words, the people that were involved in this charade had an agenda that wasn't about good handling of the taxpayers' money. it was protecting somebody. mr. coleman concluded that mr. blair -- quote -- "had a potential impairment to independence" -- end of quote. he and a grant thornton partner, miss address porter-green had a long and undisclosed professional relationship going back to their service together at the
government accountability office in the early 1990's. according to coleman, that relationship by itself did not pose a problem. however, once it began to interfere with the team's ability to make critical decisions, he said it created an appearance of undue influence. coleman identified several actions that led him to this, in this direction. the appearance problem was framed by a four-page e-mail on august 2, 2013, from ms. green to mr. blair but seen by the team and others, including me. it was a stern warning. if the disclaimer was coming and ms. green knew it was, she wanted, in her words in the e-mail, some advance notice.
she needed time then, as she thought, to prepare the firm's leadership for the bad news. a disclaimer, she said, would pose -- quote -- "a risk to our reputation." end of quote. at the e-mail's end, she opened the door to private discussions to resolve the matter. the record clearly indicates that both blair and green ban holding private meetings without inviting contracting officers representative ball and the office of inspector general team to participate in those discussions. both believe that the contracting officer's representative and the team were, in the words of green and blair -- quote -- "biased towards a disclaimer rather than considering all the facts."
and i attributed those words to green and blair, but those were mr. blair's words. now, this shows how the independence of the audit was questionable and the review of the audit. to put these actions in perspective, i remind my colleagues that the inspector general was exercising oversight of the company's work. the inspector general needed to keep top company officials like ms. green at arm's length, and holding private meetings with green wasn't the way to do it. these meetings may have violated the contract. so why would the top i.g. audit official prefer to hold private meetings with ms. green? why would he seem so willing and eager to favor the firm over his
team, even when the evidence appeared to support the team's position? why would he favor the firm over the evidence and over the truth? why would he admit on the record that -- quote -- "the office of inspector general auditors were not independent of grant thornton"? why would he consider the team to give the work papers to the firm so they could be updated, -- quote -- "updated to reflect the truth." end of quote. the firm was not even supposed to have those documents. so we get back to impaired independence then. mr. coleman cited other indications of this impaired independence. contracting officer representative ball had rejected the firm's 2012 deliverables
because they were -- quote, unquote -- deficient. they did not meet quality and kindliness standards. the deliverables in question were the company's final work product, including the all-important quasi opinion called conclusion memorandum. this posed a real dilemma. until she accepted the 2012 deliverables, the follow-on 2013 contract would -- with grant thornton could not be awarded, and blair wanted it done yesterday. the impasse was broken with a crooked bureaucratic maneuver. a senior official, assistant inspector general, lauren veteran -- lauren venable provided certification that there were no major performance problems and grant thornton met
all contract requirements. just then with the stroke of a pen, that deceptive document cleared the way for accepting the disputed materials, paying the firm their, all their money and awarding them at the same time a follow-on contract. yet, the record shows that even mr. blair admitted that -- quote -- "we accepted deficient deliverables." end of quote. why would a senior office of inspector general official attempt to cover up a major audit failure by grant thornton in order to reward the poorly performing company with more money and a new contract? for a series of audit failures, the firm got paid $32 million. these actions appear to show how undue influence and bias trumped
objectivity and independence. alleged tampering with the opinion may be the most flagrant example of impaired independence. while the team identified major shortcomings with grant thornton's work and disagreed with its conclusions, the team was blocked from exercising its authority to issue the disclaimer. so where's the independence? instead, that team was forced to do additional work in a futile attempt to find evidence to match the firm's conclusions. but there were no such evidence. two weeks after ms. green's e-mail warning that a disclaimer could destroy the company's reputation, the front office resorted to direct action.
with the team's disclaimer staring him in the face and with complete disregard for evidence of standards, mr. blair gave the office of inspector general team a truly stunning set of instructions. these were, number one, the marine corps earned a clean audit. grant thornton has supported a clean opinion. and, three, do what it takes to reach the same conclusion as grant thornton. in the simplest of terms, this august 14 edict says -- quote -- "there will be a clean opinion. disregard the evidence and figure out how to do it and make it happen. these instructions provoked then an internal brawl. the team manager, ms. cecilia
ball balked. she stated flat-out -- quote -- "i cannot do that. our audit evidence does not support an unqualified clean opinion. we're at a disclaimer." end of quote. she wanted justification for mr. blair's decision to overturn the team's opinion. she asked -- quote -- "show me where my work is substandard and where my conclusions are incorrect, and i want to know what standards mr. blair used to reach his conclusions." end of quote. she never got a straight answer. from that point on it was all downhill. when the team ignored coaxing, they got steam rolled. mr. blair attacked her competence, professionalism and independence. he repeatedly accused them of being biased. the team's top manager, ms. cecilia ball, reacted to the
abusive treatment saying "i don't appreciate -- these are quotes. "i don't appreciate the conclusion of my professionalism and my team's. i don't think we're the right fit as our integrity are being questioned." end of quote. she later quit the team in disgust. in early december, just as a clean opinion was about to be wheeled out, ms. ball made one final request for explanation. why was -- quote -- "the team's disclaimer of opinion not the correct opinion?" end of quote. we reported -- we repeatedly documented and explained why grant thornton's conclusion was unsupportable. and i quote again -- "the vast knowledge of the front office could have provided us insight as to where the team's logic was flawed." end of quote.
in this case the front office was unwrilg to consider anything -- was unwilling to consider anything other than a clean opinion. these words are from the horse's mouth. the clean opinion was handed down from high. the front office was mr. blair's domain. all these actions when taken together appear to show a lack of independence and a flagrant disregard for audit ethics, audit standards, audit evidence and accepted practices. in his oversight role, blair had a responsibility to be independent, to be objective, and to be professionally skeptical. if the firm's work failed to meet standards as it did, then he had a responsibility to face the truth and tell it like it is. he needed to be a junkyard dog and issue the disclaimer. maybe he lost sight of his core
mission and turned into a grant thornton lap dog. it sure looks that way. mr. blair's words, deeds and prior association with grant thornton partner ms. green when coupled with their many e-mails that were widely distributed gave the appearance of undue influence by a grant thornton partner. the tone and the substance of the blair-green e-mails suggest a professional relationship that was just too cozy. a relationship that might have been wise to disclose according to audit standards and professional ethics. inspector general rymer disagrees with mr. cole's findings of impaired independence. however, mr. rymer's evidence does not square with evidence
presented by mr. coleman. for these reasons, senator johnson of wisconsin and i will be asking the comptroller general, the guardian of government audit standards, to review all relevant evidence. since independence is the cornerstone of audit integrity, we must be certain it has not been compromised. now, just yesterday another blockbuster report has been rolled out. the government accountability office has just issued a highly critical report. it was prepared at the request of senators johnson, mccaskill and carper. the government accountability office report is thorough and competent and tells the story as it happened. over the last two years the g.a.o. team hemmed endless meet -- held endless meetings with the office of inspector
general, including jon rymer and dan blair. so the i.g. has known for some time what was coming down the pike. they knew early on the g.a.o. report -- or the g.a.o. concluded that the evidence in the work papers did not support a clean opinion of the marine corps audit. echoing ms. ball's unanswered plea, the government accountability office states the o.i.g.'s management decision to overturn the disclaimer is, in their words, undocumented, unexplained, and unjustified by evidence in the work papers as required by professional standards. end of quote. this is the evidentiary gap identified by the government accountability office. there is no legitimate explanation for how the auditors got from point a -- the
disclaimer -- to point b -- the clean opinion. there is no crosswalk between the two poles. it is a bridge too far. despite mounting question about the opinion, the i.g. turned a blind eye to blair's charade. the i.g. allowed it to go on and on and on. countless man-hours and millions of dollars were wasted in cooking the books and of vicious in-fighting instead of productive problem solving the right the ship. mr. coleman and the g.a.o. got that done. on march 23, the day before the i.g.'s final exit briefing with the g.a.o. came a bolt of blue. the i.g. stepped forward with a brave, bold announcement.
the clean opinion was formally withdrawn. it was like a rush of fresh air in a very stuffy room. the inescapable truth finally dawned on inspector general rymer. so i want to thank mr. rymer for having the courage to do the right thing. an audit failure of this consequence should have consequences. it is especially egregious. at least one -- it leaves at least one secretary of defense with egg on his face, the head was removed but is still serving as of deputy, he is the chief architect of the so-called clean opinion, the one who sowed the seeds of destruction when he washed the audit disclaimer.
of course, those responsible for what happened ought to be held accountable. mr. blair wants us to believe that the muffed opinion was the result of a routine dispute between opposing auditors' judgments on evidence, a mere difference of opinion among auditors. true, it reflects an unresolved dispute among management team and yes, that happened. but calling it is a right way and a wrong way to resolve the conflict. the presiding officer: the senator's time is complete. mr. grassley: i ask to have time to complete this. a senator: rethe right to object, and i won't i want to make sure i have time after mr. grassley to make my remarks up to 15 minutes. is that okay, senator? mr. grassley: that's okay.
those accountable ought to be held accountable. mr. blair wants us to believe that the muffed opinion was the result of a dispute between auditors' judgments, a mere difference of opinion among auditors. true, it reflects an unresolved dispute between the auditing and management, and yes, that happened. however, there is a right way and a wrong way to resolve such conflicts. according to audit standards cited in the g.a.o. report, the dispute should have been addressed, resolved, and documented in work papers before the report was issued. it was not because the two opinions were irreconcilable. the team's disclaimer was based on evidence measured against standards documented in work papers. blair's so-called -- quote, unquote -- "preparers is none of
these. as the evidence gap suggests, mr. blair's opinion was hooked up to nothing. it was unsupported and it was rim proper. so plain old common sense should have caused senior managers to realize that issuing the report with the opinion hanging fire was a senseless blunder. doing it had one inevitable result. the opinion had no credibility, and that opinion had to go. true, the integrity of the office of inspector general audit process may be damaged, but the final outcome of this tangled mess may help clear the way for recovery. that recovery ought to lead us to being able to have clean audits, not only of the marine corps but all of the four services. the marine corps audit was the first big one out of the box. if inspector general rymer had not embraced the truth, we
might be staring at a bunch of worthless opinions awarded to the army, navy, and air force. they could have declared victory and buried the broken bookkeeping system for another 100 years. hopefully the defense department will begin anew with fresh respect for the truth, audit standards, and the need for reliable transaction data, reliable transaction data is the lifeblood of credible financial statements. unreliable transaction data doom the marine corps audit to failure from the get-go. without reliable transaction data, the probability of conducting a successful audit of a major component is near zero. with the right leadership and guidance, a plan with achievable deadlines can and
should be developed. in the meantime, we watchdogs -- that's all of us in the congress of the united states, at least it ought to be all of us -- we watchdogs must remain vigilant. my gut tells me that we're still not out of the woods. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to s. 754 which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to s. 27, a bill to improve cybersecurity and for other purposes. mr. sanders: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to address the senate up to 15 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: mr. president, on november 19, 1863, standing on the bloodstained battlefield of
gettysburg, abraham lincoln delivered one of the most significant and best remembered speeches in american history. at the conclusion of the gettysburg address, lincoln stated -- and i quote -- "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under god shall have a new birth of freedom and the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. mr. president, in the year 2015, with a political campaign finance system that is corrupt and that is increasingly controlled by billionaires and special interests, i fear very
much that in fact government of the people, by the people, for the people is perishing in the united states of america. mr. president, five years ago in the disastrous citizens united supreme court decision, by a 5-4 vote, the u.s. supreme court said to the wealthiest people in this country, they said okay, billionaires, you already own much of the economy, now we are going to give you the opportunity to purchase the united states government. the white house, the u.s. senate, the u.s. house, governors' seats, legislatures, and state judicial branches as well. in essence, that is exactly what they said and, in fact, that is exactly what is happening as we speak. as a result of citizens united,
billions of dollars from the wealthiest people in this country will during this campaign cycle flood the political process. super pac's are a direct outgrowth of the citizens united decision, allowing the wealthiest people and the largest corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money into campaigns. according to recent f.e.c. filings, super pac's have raised more than $300 million for the 2016 presidential election already, and this election cycle has barely begun. this $300 million is more than 11 times what has been raised at this point in the 2000 election cycle, and what,
mr. president, will the situation be four years from now and eight years from now? how many billions and billions of dollars coming from the wealthy and powerful will be used to elect candidates who represent the rich and the superrich? mr. president, according to the sunlight foundation, more than two out of every three dollars raised for presidential candidates so far are going to super pac's, not to the candidates' own campaigns. this is quite extraordinary. what this means is that super pac's, which theoretically operate independently of the actual candidate, have more influence and more money over the candidates' campaign than the candidate itself or herself -- himself or herself. let me repeat that. the millionaires and billionaires who control the
super pac's have more money and more influence over a candidate's campaign than the candidate himself or herself. in other words, the candidate becomes a surrogate, a representative for powerful special interests, not even in control of his or her own campaign. mr. president, 35 individuals or companies have already donated more than $1 million to super pac's so far. according to the associated press, almost 60 donors have accounted for nearly one-third of all of the money donated so far in the presidential race, including donations to the campaigns themselves. donors giving at least $100,000
account for close to half of all funds raised. donors giving at least $100,000 account for close to half of all funds raised. and let's be clear, mr. president. this is all taking place at the early stages of the campaign. we have a long, long way to go. we know, for example, that the koch brothers, worth some $85 billion, the second wealthiest family in america, have made public that they intend to spend some $900 million on this election. this is more money than either the democratic party or the republican party will spend. one family spending more money than either the democratic party or the republican party. now, how do we describe a
process in which one multimillion-dollar family spends more money on a campaign than either of the two major political parties? well, i define that process not as democracy but as ago gatheringy. -- oligarchy. let's acknowledge what we are talking about. we are talking about a rapid movement in this country toward a political system in which a handful of very, very wealthy people and special interests will determine who gets elected or who does not get elected. that is not to say the least what this country is supposed to be about. that is not to say the least the vision of abraham lincoln when he talked about a nation in which we had a government of the
people, by the people, for the people. that is not what lincoln's vision was about. mr. president, this is not just bernie sanders expressing a concern. last week, this is what former president jimmy carter had to say about the current campaign finance system on the tomahawkman radio show. president carter stated that un limited money in politics -- and i quote -- "violates the essence of what makes america a great country in its political system. now it's just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president, and the same thing applies to governors and u.s. senators and congress members. so now we have just seen a complete subversion of our
political system as a payoff to major contributors who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election's over." end of quote. mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent to put into the record president carter's full statement. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: mr. president, the need for real campaign finance reform is not a progressive issue, it is not a conservative issue, it is an american issue. it is an issue that should concern all americans, regardless of their political point of view, who wish to preserve the essence of the longeststanding democracy in the world, a government which represents all of the people and not a handful of powerful and
wealthy special interests. mr. president, the need for real campaign finance reform must happen and it must happen as soon as possible. and that is why clearly we must overturn through a constitutional amendment this disastrous citizens united supreme court decision as well as the buckley v. vallejo decision. that's why we need to pass disclosure legislation which will identify all those wealthy individuals who make large campaign contributions. but more importantly, it is why we need to move toward public funding of elections. our vision for american democracy, our vision for the united states of america should be a nation in which all people, regardless of their