Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  October 7, 2015 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

10:00 am
allow legislation to proceed. i do not deny that obstructionism can be a serious problem. obstinately refusing to allow any legislation to move forward or requiring complete capitulation by opponents is not statesmanship and is not what the framers had in mind, but when exercised appropriately, the right to extended debate can measurably improve policy. the filibuster, mr. president, furthers two of the senate's key purposes. first, it helps guard against intemperate impulses that may from time to time infect our political order. second, it facilitates the process of refining the popular will. the way in which the filibuster guards against intemperate impulses is obvious. by requiring a supermajority to pass major legislation, the filibuster ensures that a narrow partisan majority swept into
10:01 am
office through a fluke election does not go about unraveling vast swathes of america's legal architecture. the filibuster also ensures that the same narrow majority does not run riot with new pie-in-the-sky ideas that cost billions of dollars while producing little discernible benefit. i would point my colleagues to two, two major extremely controversial measures that passed the house in 2009 but went nowhere in the senate. the cap and trade energy tax and the so-called public option for health insurance. speaker pelosi was barely able to ram through cap and trade by a vote of 219-212. the public option passed by an even slimmer margin of 220-215. these two pieces of legislation received little consideration in this body because there were nowhere near enough votes for
10:02 am
cloture. absent the filibuster, however, it's likely that both would have passed the senate and become law. had that occurred, a temporary electoral victory would have rocked fundamental changes to american energy policy and put our nation even more firmly on the path to government-run health care. now, many on the left may point to the failure of cap and trade and of the public opinion in 2009 as reasons to eliminate, not preserve, the filibuster. after all, it prevented progressives from achieving two of the most sought after policy goals. but consider what happened a mere two years later in the very next election. voters delivered president obama and the democratic party a sharp rebuke, voting out of office the highest number of delaware officeholders in generation -- number of of democratic officeholders in generations. note too that the democrats lost
10:03 am
their majority in the house. the body that passed cap and trade and the public option. but retained their majority in the senate, the body that never even took up either proposal. the filibuster, mr. president, prevented a transient democratic majority from enacting far-reaching reforms that a majority of voters ultimately opposed. it didn't prevent all reforms. after all, the democratic majority still managed to enact many of its policy priorities, but the filibuster prevented other extreme measures from becoming law and stopped a short-lived congressional majority from running roughshod over long-standing principles of federalism, free enterprise and limited government. to my friends from oregon and new mexico and others who argue that the filibuster is antidemocratic, i would say that it is in fact the opposite.
10:04 am
the filibuster ensures that fundamental change comes only through a sustained victories at the ballot box. it typically takes two or three successive victories at the polls to build a filibuster-proof majority. this multiyear window gives the public time to evaluate the majority's platform and to determine whether it is in fact a better -- is in fact the better course of action. if by democracy one means win at all costs, then perhaps one could say the filibuster is antidemocratic. but if democracy is, i believe, instead means the system for transforming the people's preferences into law, then the filibuster is not antidemocratic at all. rather, it preserves the people's preferences until they decide emphatically and with the benefit of review that it is time for significant change. mr. president, i've also said that the filibuster facilitates
10:05 am
the process of refining the popular will. it does this in two ways. first, it gives opponents of a particular piece of legislation additional time to explain why the legislation is misguided or how it could be improved. it also gives proponents of the legislation additional time to explain why the objections are unfounded. this helps to increase understanding on both sides and also offers opportunities to correct problems with particular provisions. second, by requiring 60 votes in order to proceed on controversial issues, the filibuster ensures increased buy-in, the process of refining the public will work only if senators actually pay attention to legislation and devote their resources to examining it. by requiring 60 senators to assent to legislation rather
10:06 am
than a bare majority, the filibuster ensures that no bill passes this body without first garnering broad support. the process of getting to 60 requires more scrutiny, more investigation, and more consensus than the process of getting to a bare majority. it also decreases the likelihood of deeply flawed legislation making it to the president's desk because more senators have to agree that the legislation warrants passage. to the extent there are problems with the filibuster, mr. president, there are not problems with the filibuster itself but with how it has sometimes been used in recent years as a matter of fact. in april of this year i spoke on the floor about the need for mutual restraint in the senate, about the need for both sides to exercise discretion and wielding the powers of the majority and the minority. yes, the filibuster can be a tool for improving legislation and winning important promises
10:07 am
from the executive, but can also be abused for narrow partisan ends. it can be used to bring business to a halt for irrelevant or unimportant purposes or merely to make a point. it can be used to win an unsavory favor for a particular individual or constituency. and it can be used to create false narratives about the majority's ability to govern. from time to time we hear calls, including by members of this body, to strip the minority of certain rights. lately there have been calls by some in the media on the campaign trail and on the other side of the capitol to eliminate the filibuster. those these calls to abolish the filibuster may be instinctively appealing, we should reject them. without the filibuster and other important minority rights, the senate would lose its unique character. it would be become less a body marked by deliberation and reasoned debate and more a body where the majority gets whatever
10:08 am
it wants. indeed, stripped of minority rights, the senate would merely duplicate the work of the house of representatives. that may be advantageous for the current senate majority, but it would not fulfill the constitutional design in creating a second house of congress where the popular will would be refined through prudent judgment. those who call in the senate to abolish the filibuster should keep in mind that this is not the first congress to face institutional challenges. indeed i would urge my colleagues to recall the example of mike mansfield, the late senator from montana, whom i referenced earlier. senator mansfield served as senate majority leader from 1961 to 1977, longer than any other senator in history. during senator mansfield's time as majority leader, the nation confronted a number of difficult, divisive issues. chief among these were debates over school integration and
10:09 am
civil rights that deeply split the democratic caucus. near the beginning of his tenure, when a determined minority stalled president kennedy's legislative priorities, senator mansfield faced great pressure from within his own party to exert the majority's power more assertively. in an act of great courage, senator mansfield resisted the calls of his colleagues to bend senate rules. though tempted by the prospect of important political victories, he instead counseled that the remedy to gridlock -- quote -- "lies not in the seeking of shortcuts, not in the cracking of nonexistent whips, not in wheeling and dealing, but in an honest facing of the situation and in resolution of it by the senate itself by accommodation, by respect for one another, and by mutual restraint. unquote. mr. president, senator mansfield
10:10 am
was absolutely right. for the senate to function effectively, senators of all stripes must practice mutual restraint, republican and democrat, conservative and liberal, majority and minority alike. the solution to our current strife is not to change the rules but to follow them and to will them only as necessary to improve legislation. cooperation, mr. president, not going nuclear, is what will restore this body to proper functioning. going nuclear will only hollow out this sniewption and affect more of what we do with purile partisan poisoning. i would like to close with two great statesmen who loved the senate and understood its role in the constitutional system. the first is from adlai stevenson who served as vice president from 1893 to 1897.
10:11 am
in his farewell address to the senate, vice president stevenson said the following -- quote -- "in this chamber alone, preserved without restraint two essentials of wise legislation and good government. the right of amendment and of debate. great evils often result from hasty legislation but rarely from the delay which follows full discussion and deliberation " unquote. vice president stevenson understood that deliberation and reasoned debate lead to better policy outcomes than headlong rush to action. delay rarely causes great evils. more commonly, it helps to avoid them. now the second up-or-down vote comes from a man familiar to all of us, the late senator robert c. byrd of west virginia. senator byrd has served in this body longer than any other senator in history and who spent
10:12 am
the vast majority of his 51 years in the senate in the majority, said this about the filibuster and minority rights. quote -- "as long as the senate retains the power to amend and the power of unlimited debate, the liberties of the people will remain secure." unquote. senator byrd recognized that the senate's cooling function serves as a crucial check on transient majority impulses and on the often misguided desire to act quickly and to act at all costs. mr. president, the filibuster is the key bulwark against error and against the ability of short-lived political majorities to work fundamental changes to our nation. although it can be deeply frustrating, particularly when misused and overused by a, an intransigent partisan senate minority, the filibuster is an important element of the senate's character and
10:13 am
institutional structure. i urge my colleagues to resist calls to abolish the filibuster, whenever we might win in short m political game would be overwhelmed by the enduring i are represent rabble -- irreparable damage we would do to the senate as an institution. mr. president, i knew mike mansfield. i visited with him in tokyo when he was the ambassador to japan. he was a great leader. he was a great human being. i also knew very well senator robert c. byrd. and there were times when i led the fight against labor law reform back in 1977, 1978, where i was hard pressed to like senator byrd, because he used every tool at his disposal, proarmd and otherwise -- procedural and otherwise to try to put that bill forward which
10:14 am
would have changed the whole character of america for the worst. i was young, and i didn't realize how important that man really was. but as i continued to serve in the senate and saw his devotion to the senate, his devotion to the senate rules, his fairness when he dealt with both sides, i got so i really respected his understanding of the procedural rules. i venture to say that i don't know that anybody has ever had that full capacity as much as he had with the possible is exception of senator allen of alabama, who i greatly admired also. he stood right over there on that side of the floor and took on his own party time after time. the filibuster was a very important instrument at that time, and especially since senator byrd was a very strong personality. as i serve longer in the senate,
10:15 am
the longer i serve, the more i appreciated senator byrd, that his devotion to the rules, his devotion to the constitution, his devotion to the senate itself, he cared for the senate. and i can remember him sitting right here in this chair. i went up to him and i said bob, i love you. this is right before he died. he -- he looked like he was going to cry. he said orrin, i love you, too. that meant so much to me because in the early days, we were preal principle adversaries, and he had more power than i dreamed, and we did win on that reform in a miraculous cloture vote. that was a great loss to senator byrd. and he was not particularly
10:16 am
enamored with me for the first number of years. because we served together and fought together and worked together. i gained tremendous experience for him and his ability. i gained a great appreciation for senator byrd and his abilities, and his dedication to the rules of the senate, his dedication to not changing them and keeping those rules alive that have existed for well over a century or almost a century. and nobody that i know of was more sad when he had to leave the senate. keep in mind that was after a lot of blood and guts fighting here on the floor where i as a young freshman senator had to take it in the chin regularly because he knew the rules better than i did and he had power that was much stronger than anybody
10:17 am
on this side of the aisle, and he -- he -- he was a very forceful personality. so let me just say this. he believed in the rules, he lived by the rules. even when he lost, he was a gentleman. that man i think did more for the senate in many ways than very few other senators. so let's not get so rambunctious about passing anything we want to pass around here. let's think these rules through. and the more you think, the more you realize they're here for a reason, and they have been here a long time for a reason, and they have functioned amazingly well, and they have stopped the majority from running over a minority, and every once in a while, the democrats are in the minority. not very often. in the last number of years, they had the majority around 22
10:18 am
times, we have had maybe six. but i can say this -- there are democrats on the other side who really know these rules are very important, and i hope that they prevail as we move on to even more difficult problems and processes in the future in the time to come. this is a great body. it remains great in large measure because of its rules and because of the people who serve here. we all respect the rules, we all respect each other and the privilege of serving in the united states senate. mr. president, i -- i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
10:19 am
10:20 am
10:21 am
10:22 am
10:23 am
10:24 am
10:25 am
10:26 am
10:27 am
10:28 am
10:29 am
10:30 am
quorum call:
10:31 am
10:32 am
10:33 am
10:34 am
10:35 am
10:36 am
10:37 am
10:38 am
10:39 am
10:40 am
10:41 am
10:42 am
10:43 am
10:44 am
10:45 am
quorum call:
10:46 am
10:47 am
10:48 am
10:49 am
10:50 am
10:51 am
10:52 am
10:53 am
10:54 am
10:55 am
10:56 am
10:57 am
10:58 am
10:59 am
11:00 am
11:01 am
11:02 am
11:03 am
the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. menendez: mr. president, i rise today, as i have in the past, in defense of the cuban people who long for the day when they are free of the iron fists
11:04 am
of the castro regime, a day when we can honestly say who is leaving and mean it. i rise with great concern over the trajectory of the policy towards cuba that president obama announced on december 17 of last year. in executing this new policy, the obama administration has spared no generosity towards the dictatorship in cuba. it commuted the sentences of three convicted cuban spies, including one serving a life sentence for murder conspiracy against americans who died while flying a civilian aircraft in international airspace that was struck down by cuban migs. it eased a host of travel and trade sanctions in spite of the purpose and intent of u.s. law. it removed cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list while
11:05 am
it continues harboring fugitives from the united states justice system and members of foreign terrorist organizations and among those people who are in cuba as joanne chezamar who killed a new jersey state trooper, convicted of doing so, escaped, is on the f.b.i.'s top ten most wanted terrorists. and yet, we took them off the list of state-sponsored terrorism. it negotiated an agreement to establish diplomatic relations with cuba that falls far short of international legal norms in terms of what the people at our embassy can and cannot do inside of cuba. it upgraded cuba in the trafficking in persons report despite its continued slave labor and human trafficking practices. and it even acquiesced to
11:06 am
shunning dissidents from attending the u.s. embassy's flag-raising ceremony in havana. yet, cuban dictator raul castro refuses to reciprocate any of these concessions. to the contrary, castro has emphasized that he will -- quote -- not cede one millimeter. in his speech at last month's united nations general assembly gathering, demanded even more, namely for president obama to evade u.s. law as regards sanctions, to shut down radio and tv mart i, which is in essence -- marti, which is in essence our equivalence of voice of democracy, to end democracy programs, to return the military base at guantanamo and to pay a trillion -- not a million, not a billion, a trillion dollars in damages to his regime. so today ten months later, the metrics of this new policy show
11:07 am
it's clearly headed in the strong direction. the castro family is poised for a generational transition in power. the cuban regime's monopolies are being strengthened. courageous democracy leaders are being relegated to obscurity. their voices muff ld by the -- muffled by the actions of the united states and foreign nations alike. political repression has exponentially increased. the number of cubans desperately fleeing the island is rising. and the purpose and intent of u.s. law is being circumvented. the trajectory of our policy is unacceptable, and i urge president obama to correct its course. while speaking recently to a business gathering in washington, president obama argued how he believes this new policy is -- quote -- creating the environment in which a generational change in transition will take place in that country, close quote.
11:08 am
but the key questions is a generational change in transition towards what and by whom. cuban democracy leader antonio rodriguez has expressed his concern. he says legitimatizing the castro regime is the path contrary to a transition, close -- closed quote. cnn revealed that the cuban delegation in the secret talks that began in mid-2013 with u.s. officials in ottawa, toronto and rome and which led to the december 17 policy announcement, was headed by colonel alejandro castro espin. colonel castro espin is the 49-year-old son of cuban dictator raoul castro. in both face-to-face meetings between president obama and raoul castro this year, first at april's summit of the americas in panama city, a summit that's
11:09 am
supposed to be a meeting of democracies within the western hemisphere -- cuba under no way could qualify under those set of circumstances -- and, again, just last month at the united nations general assembly in new york, alejandro was seated next to his father with a wide grin. now, alejandro holds the rank -- this is him standing next to raoul castro -- of colonel in cuba's ministry of the interior. cuba's ministry of the interior is, in essence, the state security that oppresses its people. with his hand on the pulse and the trigger of the island's intelligence services and repressive organs. it's no secret that raoul is grooming alejandro for a position of power. sadly, his role as interlocutor with the obama administration seeks to further their goal of an intrafamily generational transition within the castro clan similar to the assads in
11:10 am
syria and the kims in north korea. and we know how well those have worked out. to give you an idea of how colonel alejandro castro views the united states, he describes its leaders as -- quote -- "those who seek to subjugate humanity to satisfy their interests in hegemonic goals." but, of course, it also takes money to run ally tolotarian dictatorship, which is radio raoul named his son-in-law as head of giaza, which stands for, translated, the business administrative group. giaza is the holding company of cuba's ministry of the revolutionary armed forces, cuba's military. it is the dominant driving force of the island's economy.
11:11 am
established in the 1990's by raoul castro, it controls tourism companies, ranging from the very profitable gavioltas.a., which runs cuba's hotels, restaurants, car rentals, nightclubs, to t.r.d. argivia south america, which runs the island's rental stores. giaza, this holding company of cuba ministry of revolutionary armed forces, controls virtually all economic transactions in cuba. according to hotels magazine, a leading industry publication, giaza, through its subsidiaries, is by far the largest regional hotel conglomerate in latin america. it controls more hotel rooms than walt disney company. as mcclachly news explained a few years back -- quote -- "tourists who sleep in some of cuba's hotels, drive rental cars, if i will up their gas
11:12 am
tanks and even those riding in taxis have something in common -- they are contributing to the cuban revolutionary armed forces, bottom line." now, giaza came this powerhouse thanks to the canadian and european tourists who continue to visit cuba. these tourists have done absolutely nothing to promote freedom and democracy in cuba. to the contrary, they have directly financed a system of control and repression over the cuban people. all while enjoying cuban cigars or having an oxymoron on the beaches. yet despite the clear evidence, some want american tourists to now double giaza's bonanza and through, giaza, double the regime's bonanza. an insightful report this week
11:13 am
by bloomberg business also explained how -- quote -- "raouls's son-in-law, general rodriguez, is the gatekeeper for most foreign investors, requiring them to do business with his organization if they wish to set up shop on the island. if and when the u.s. finally removes its half-century embargo on cuba, it will be this man" -- castro's son-in-law -- "who decides which investors get the best deals." and, of course, those investors in the company that ultimately is the cuban revolutionary armed forces, cuba's military. in other words, all of the talking points about how lifting the embargo and tourism restrictions would somehow benefit the cuban people are empty and misleading rhetoric. it would only serve as a money funnel for castro inc.
11:14 am
now, here's who over a dozen of cuba's most renowned pro-democracy leaders, including the head of the ladies in white. the leads in white are a group of women composed of mothers, wives, daughters and other relatives of cuban political prisoners. these are political prisoners who basically have languished in castro's jail not because they did anything violent, not because they broke the common law, as we would understand it here in the united states, but because they sought to create peaceful change. and they march every sunday dressed in white holding a gladiola peacefully to church and they are beaten savagely and arrested. and yet they do this every sunday. roberto soler, who is here in the middle, and former prisoner of conscience, jorge luis,
11:15 am
garcia petin antusi, and guillermo fianus, who are all pictured here, warned in an open letter to the united states congress dated september 25 of this year -- quote -- "the lifting of the embargo, as proposed by the obama administration, will permit the old ruling elite to transfer their power to their political heirs and families, giving little recourse to the cuban people in confronting this despotic power. lylytolalitari -- reforms that will only accentuate the existing social inequality in the midst of an increasingly uncertain future." these are the people inside of cuba languishing as they try to
11:16 am
create change in their country towards peaceful moves towards democracy. and it's very interesting that as you can see, despite the talk about that the cuban regime created greater equality, all of these pro-democracy movers who made this letter to congress in this picture, all afro cubans. so so much for the equality that the regime created. and this mysticism or re-manhattan six that -- or romanticism that some have about the regime. from an economic perspective, the very concept of trade is grounded in a misconception about how business takes place on the island. right now the commerce secretary of the united states is there talking about business. who are you talking business with? with the regime. in most of the world, trade and
11:17 am
investment means dealing with privately owned or operated corporations. that's not the case in cuba. in cuba, foreign trade and investment is the exclusive domain, exclusive domain of the state; i.e., the castro family. in the last five decades, every single foreign trade transaction with cuba has been with the castro regime or an individual acting on behalf of the regime. and the regime's exclusivity regarding trade and investment is enshrined in article 18 of castro's 1976 constitution. he changed the constitution, and he gave exclusivity to the state as it relates to trade and investment. that has not changed. moreover, mr. president, there is no real private sector in cuba.
11:18 am
we often hear the obama administration and the media refer to cuba's small -- quote -- "self-employment licenses" as private enterprise, which implies private ownership. yet cuba's self-employed licensees have no ownership rights whatsoever, it be to their artistic or intellectual outputs, commodity that they produce, or personal service that they offer. licensees have no legal entities to transfer, sell, or leverage. they don't even own the equipment essential to their self-employment. more to the point, licensees have no right to engage in foreign trade, seek or receive foreign investments. effectually, licensees continue to work for the state, and when the state decides such jobs are no longer needed -- and we have seen this experiment before -- licensees are shut down without recourse. which has happened sever times
11:19 am
in the -- several times in the past. why? because when you permit somebody to have a little barbershop and people congregate at the barber shob anbarbershop and begin to , that's a threat to the regime. when you permit people to assemble legally under the law, even for the purposes of gettingers fogetting, for exampt or eating at a restaurant, the bottom line is, when that gets out of hand, the regime, as it has in the past, has stopped it. so this suggestive that there is this private enterprise is such a huge false fact. the fact is that we already know what expanded u.s. trade with cuba would look like. since the passage of the 2000 trade sanctions reform and export enhancement act, over $5 billion in u.s. agricultural and medical products have been sold to cuba. $5 billion. it is, however, an unpleasant
11:20 am
fact -- and facts are stubborn -- that all those sales by more than 250 privately owned u.s. companies were made to only one cuban buyer: the castro regime. don't believe me. according to the u.s. department of agriculture itself -- quote -- "the key dpirche difference n exporting to cuba compared to other countries in the region is that all u.s. agricultural exports must be channeled through one cuban government agency called al import." so exporting to cuba is not about trading with small- or immediate-sized farmers, manufacturers around the island, as some of my colleagues would have americans believe. so it should be no surprise that u.s. products end up on the shelves of regime-owned stores that accept only what?
11:21 am
hard currencies. meaning what? the u.s. dollar or europe, with huge price markups. now, shoppers at these dollar stores are mainly tourists or those cubans who happen to have u.s. families that will send them money. l but at the end of the day, those stores have these huge markups, and where does the money go to? not a private enterprise but to the regime. little imported food or medicine ever makes it into stores where cubans shop, neither is it available on ration carts. so it requires a tremendous leap of faith or belief in some extreme and unprecedented economic mad l. -- model to argue or theorize that current or more u.s. sales to castro's monopolies can or can ever benefit the cuban people. the facts prove otherwise, as has been the case with sales of u.s. food and medicine.
11:22 am
so what makes us believe expanded trade with the u.s. would be any different? as a matter of fact, since december 17 of this past year when the agreements between the u.s. and cuba were announced and despite the obama administration's efforts to improve relations with the castro regime which have included an increase in travel and eased payment terms for agricultural sales, u.s. sales to el import, the cuban regime company which they control, during the same period have plummeted by over 50%. so the question is, why would even more concessions make this manipulation by the castro regime's monopolies any different? so let's start -- stop talking about the embargo in vague terms. the embargo, as codified by the u.s. congress into law, simply requires the fulfillment of some very basic conditions which are consistent with the democratic and human rights standards of 34
11:23 am
out of the 35 nations in the western hemisphere, cuba remaining the sole exception and of course ironically venezuela headed in a downward spiral with influence from the castro regime. when wh my colleagues call for discarding, they are asking to -- which of these kngs codified in u.s. law do they disagree with or pose that they are willing to unilaterally discard them? which one are they willing to live without? for example, the condition that cuba legalizes all political activity, the condition that cuba -- quote -- "releases all political prisoners and allows for investigations of cuban prisons by appropriate international human rights organizations," like i understood as part of this agreement, the international red cross was going to be able to go
11:24 am
into cuban prisons. the regime said, not interested in that. the condition that cuba dissolves the present department of state security in the ministry of the interior, including the committees for the defense of the revolution. what is the committee for the defense of the revolution? it is a block watch entity in every neighborhood, in every village, in every hamlet inside of cuba whose only job is to spy on their neighbors and when their neighbor says something critical of the regime, they get ratted out. or rapid response brigades. what are those? those are state security dressed as civilians who go take people like the ladies in white, people like these three pro-democracy individuals and arrest them so it seems that the populous is the one doing it when it is state security or the condition that cuba make a public commitment to organizing fair and free elections for a new government. or the condition that cuba make
11:25 am
public commitments to and is making demonstrable progress in establishing an independent judiciary respecting internationally recognized human rights and basic freedoms as set fortunately in the universal dlaition odeclaration of human , allows the establishment of international trade unions as set forth in conventions 87 and -9d 8 of the international labor organization, among others. or the condition that cuba give adequate assurances that would allow the sh speedy and efficiet distribution of assistance to the cuban people. or the condition that cuba is effectively garnetting the rights of -- guaranteeing the rights of free speech and freedom of the press, including granting permits to privately owned media and telecommunications companies to operate in cuba or the condition that cuba is assuring the right to private property or taking appropriate steps to return to u.s. citizens and entities which are 50% or more beneficially owned by 50* u.s. citizen u.s. o
11:26 am
provide adequate compensation to those individuals. or the condition that cuba has extradited or otherwise rendered to the united states all persons cut by the united states department of justice for all crimes committed in the united states. so which one of these conditions do they not agree with? are they willing to throw them all out, require nothing? if president obama's media report takes the unprecedented step of be a staining from voting against a cuban resolution in the united nations general assembly, criticizing our own nation's law, which is what the embargo is, he would be disavowing these basic conditions because these conditions are what is written into the law. i know. i was one of the authors in the house of representatives at the time that wrote the law. think of the horrible message that turpg a blind eye to --
11:27 am
turning a blind eye would send to the cuban people. think of the horrible message it would send to cuba's democracy leaders. since december 17, scores of foreign dignitaries, members of the u.s. congress have descend upon cuba while side lining cuba's dissidents. as independent journalists sanchez lamented, a true shower of foreign deputies has intensified over cuba without daily life feeling any kind of relief from such illustrious presence. sadly, as the a.p. reported, more than 20 u.s. lawmakers have come to cuba since february without meeting with opposition groups that were once an obligatory stop for congressional delegations. p the reason u.s. lawmakers don't meet with human rights activists and political dis
11:28 am
dents is if you do, then you don't get a meeting were rule castro. so i guess the photo op is more important than meeting with human rights activists. no cuban dissidents were invited to the flag raising. this was said to be you don't to a lack of space. yet images clearly show that there was plenty of space and lots of nongovernmental figures on the invite list. can you imagine what the world would be like today if this had been the attitude of the united states towards sakharov, sole mr-- electric walesa?
11:29 am
cuban dissents now eth inned even further neglected by foreign dignitaries and unscrupulous businessmen searching for a profit at whatever cost are face ago dramatic increase in repression. since december 17 when president obama announcinged his new policy, castro's dictatorship has exponentially increased the number of political arrests, beatings and detentions. just between january and march of this year, politically and motivated arrests increased nearly 70% from 178 arrests in the former month to 610 in the latter. according to the cuban commission for human rights and national reconciliation, an internationally recognized human rights watchdog, the total number of political arrests during the first nine months of this year -- of this year, nine months -- were 5,146. in just nine months these 5,146
11:30 am
political arrests surpassed the year 13 long tallies recorded for 2010, 2011, which was 4,123, and 2015 is tragically on pace to become one of the most repressive years in recent history. the official number of september arrests -- the month that just passed -- alone were 822, the most in 15 months. they include danilo, a 31-year-old artist, who was imprisoned on september 25 of this year, one week after the policy was announced. as he was arrested for painting the names fidel and raoul on two pigs which was considered an act he remains in prison without trial or sentence or any justice and amnesty international has recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. they also consider three other
11:31 am
prisoners, members of ladies in white. these three dissidents sought to approach pope francis during his recent mass in havana to ask for his solidarity with the cuban prisoners democracy movement and they were dragged away and arrested under the eyes of the international media. they were been on a hunger and thirst strike since september 20 and are being held at the infamous secret police center for investigations on 100th street in havana and i'm very concerned about their well-being. they also include the case of digna rodriguez ivans, an afro-cuban member of the ladies in white in santa clara who was attacked by castro regime agents and pelted with tar. that's right, with tar. and alisas polanco, another member of the ladies in white, who was pregnant and forcefully aborted due to the violent blows to the stomach she received
11:32 am
during a beating for his peaceful activism. and daze aquieto, also a member of the ladies in white, whose daughter was arrested, stripped naked and forced to urinate in front of male state security officers as a means of tormenting her mother. for 24 straight sundays in a row, cuban dissidents have tried to peacefully demonstrate after mass under the slogan "tolo marchimas" -- we all march. and for 24 sundays in a row, they have been intercepted, violently beat and arrested. this -- beated and arrested. this following image of a cuban dissident, a 43-year-old intellectual, after having his face literally shattered after one those peaceful sunday marches. yet despite these tremendous indignities they suffer at the hands of the castro regime, they remain undeterred in their struggle for freedom and democracy for all cubans.
11:33 am
so rather than shunning these courage oas individuals, the united states should be embracing them. on the same day that the news hit that 882 political arrests were made in stept alone by the castro regime -- september alone by the castro regime, secretary kerry is in chile talking about some marine life agreement with cuba. what about the human lives in cuba suffering under the suppression? the obama administration's policy seems to be bringing little comfort to the cuban people generally, as they continue to flee by land, air and the perilous journey by sea across the florida straits, where countless cubans have lost their lives in search for freedom. nearly 32,000 cubans entered the united states in first nine months of the fiscal year that ended on september 30, up from 26,000 migrants who entered last year, according to the department of homeland security. fewer than 7,500 cubans came in 2010. finally, mr. president, as one of the authors of the cuban lick either and democratic -- liberty and democrat solidarity act, and
11:34 am
having served as a manager in the conference committee, i'm concerned that the recent regulations and actions being taken by the treasury and commerce departments contravene the purpose and intent of the law. as the final conference report made clear, "it is the intent of the committee of conference that all sanctions remain in effect until they are suspended or terminated pursuant to the authorities provided in section 204 of this act, which is requiring a presidential determination that a democratic transition is underway in cuba." those are the conditions i have previously addressed. the report also states that -- quote -- "the explicit mandates in this legislation make clear congressional intent that u.s. law be enforced fully and thereby provide a basis for strict congressional oversight of executive branch enforcement measures herewith."
11:35 am
in furtherance of this intent, the prohibition on u.s. assistance and financing of agricultural sales to cuba, the prohibition on additional imports from cuba, and the prohibition of travel relating to tourist activities in the trade sanctions reform and export enhancement act of 2000 are explicit, clear and leave no room for exceptions. these provisions were precisely written to deny u.s. funds to the castro regime's repressive machinery and prohibiting them from being funneled through castro's monopolists. yet that's the, perhaps, unintended direction the new regulations are headed in. with the tragic, repressive consequences on full display. any hope that president obama's goodwill would illicit a different tane by rau -- raoul castro, was dedicated. he dedicated his entire
11:36 am
17-minute speech at the united nations almost entirely to bashing the united states. he praised latin american autocats in the mold of hugo chavez, sided with putin and assad, criticized democracy and dismissed human rights as a -- quote -- on open -- "utopia." raoul castro >> dishesly -- audaciously demanded even more. we all remember the statements of president obama in his first inaugural speech. he said -- quote -- "we will extend a hand if you're willing to unclench your fist." i urge the president to follow his own doctrine and reconsider some of the unmerited and unreciprocated generosity in this new policy. for raoul castro's fist clearly remains clenched yet the president's hand is fully
11:37 am
extended. he claims that those who don't agree with his cuba policy are stuck in the past but it is the castro regime that is stuck in the past. still living their misguided cold-war dreams in a world that hasn't insisted that they move forward. and when you own everything in the country, which is what the regime does, why are you willing to give it up after 50-some-odd years? instead, we are rewarding them for their intransigence. unless we challenge them, we will not see change. the fact is that hope and change do not come easily. they don't just happen. like any parent with a child, they won't change unless you challenge them and give them a reason, like congress needs to be challenged to change. cuba needs to be challenged to change or change will never come. to do so only strengthens their resolve to hold on to their
11:38 am
dictatorship and prolong the day when we can truly say to the world, cuba is free. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, while he's still on the floor, i want to thank the senator from new jersey for his remarks. he's clearly one of this institution's experts on cuba and the castro regime. and i think we need to pay attention to what he's saying. unfortunately we seem to be dealing with other countries and other regimes as we hope they will be, not as they are in reality. and that was an important set of remarks so i thank the senator. mr. president, i have 10 unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session of the senate. they've been approved by the majority and minority leaders. i'd ask unanimous consent they
11:39 am
be agreed to and printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: yesterday the united states senate voted to advance the national defense authorization act, what we call the ndaa. i worry sometimes that we talk in senate-speak and we don't actually communicate what this legislation is, so i'd like to talk a little bit about what this defense or national security legislation is and why it's so important that it passes after passing both the house and the senate earlier this summer, colleagues worked in a conference committee, led by mack thornberry from texas, the chairman of the house armed services committee, and senator john mccain, the chairman of the senate armed services committee. and i know they had a tough job to try to reconcile those two different versions of the legislation.
11:40 am
but now they've come forward with strong bipartisan legislation that supports our military and our families. my dad served 31 years in the united states air force, flew b-17's in world war ii in the army air corps, so i proudly grew up as an air force brat. and so this is personal to me, as i know it is to the presiding officer who serves in the marine corps and has for a long time, and for whom this is a very personal issue as well. but in my state of texas, we are very proud of our connection with the military. we claim -- i'm not sure it's exactly true, but we make this claim that one out of every 10 persons in uniform calls texas home. and i think that's probably roughly correct. but we want to make sure that through this legislation, that we do our job to make sure that our military gets the equipment and the training they need in
11:41 am
order to perform the dangerous missions we ask them to perform here in the united states and around the world. that's what this legislation does. for example, the bill authorizes funding for the corpus christi army depot. this installation is a true national treasure because what it does is it refurbishes the rotary wing aircraft that come from overseas and after they're battered and beaten up, they come back and make them like new. so when these army helicopters serve overseas, they come back for a pit stop in corpus christi at the depot and are made sure that they're ready for the next challenge that our military faces. so this legislation that we'll be voting on at 2:00 this afternoon authorizes funding for the construction of a new facility at the depot where helicopter engines and transmissions can continue to be prepared and we can continue to
11:42 am
equip, as we should, our military. this defense authorization bill also authorizes critical military construction, like the barracks at the air force basic training program at lackland air force base in san antonio, where thousands of airmen start their service to this nation every year. that was the first assignment for my dad at lackland air force base in san antonio, texas, when i was a freshman in high school. and i've had the privilege of attending some of the graduation ceremonies there and they're really an inspiration, where you see this whole football field full of trainees learned the basic -- through their basic training how to become an airman and to serve our country in the united states air force. but real people and real installations are dependent upon this authorization bill from becoming the law -- on becoming law. this defense legislation is i integral to ensuring that our
11:43 am
military is well resourced, well trained and ready for action when called upon. and importantly, this legislation also helps clarify the united states long-term defense priorities and authorizes funds to equip our military to handle the multiple evolving conflicts around the world. i'm reminded when august i visited pacific command with some of our colleagues here in the senate where admiral harris, the four-star commander of the pacific command, we asked him, what keeps you up at night, what are you most concerned about? and top of his list was north korea. governed by a volatile dictator with nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. i know general dunford, the new chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the former commandant of the marine corps, had a little bit different ordering. he put russia i think at the top and china and then i think it
11:44 am
was north korea and then isil, if i'm not mistaken. but regardless of the exact order, we know that there are numerous threats to world peace and regional security and basically we learned the lesson on 9/11. what happens overseas doesn't stay overseas. it directly affects our security right here at home, too. so that's why this legislation is just so -- is so critical. so this defense authorization bill also includes provisions that fund efforts to counter russian aggression in eastern europe, where vladimir putin is trying to intimidate and coerce countries that are part of nato, the north atlantic treaty alliance, and threatening them with the kind of aggression we've seen in crimea and ukraine. this bill helps counter that aggression. it also helps resource and train and assist our partner nations in the asia-pacific.
11:45 am
it helps israeli missile defense and antitunnelling defenses and supports or partners in afghanistan and throughout the middle east to combat rampant terrorist activity. so what we do here in the senate and in this congress and here in washington, d.c., is important to our national security and the safety of our nation. that's why for over 50 years congress has made passing the defense authorization bill, what we sometimes refer t refer to ae ndaa, that's why we've always made this a priority, because all of us, regardless of political affiliation or ideology, believe it is fundamentally important to make sure that our men and women in uniform who are fighting on our behalf, or standing ready to fight what called upon, faced with unprecedented threats around the world, we need to make sure as a moral obligation
11:46 am
that they have what they need and they know we are solidly behind them. that's what this -- the signal this legislation sends. so now we have a chance to send this to the president, after we vote on this legislation and and he it to him for his signature. but here's why i have trouble, mr. president. -- but here's where i have trouble, mr. president. because president obama has indicated that he may well veto this legislation. and what you might ask, would be his reason? is there some provision of the legislation that he finds so repugnant or difficult that he wants to veto the legislation? well, frankly, what we're -- what the president and the white house has said is they claim the funding levels outlined in the defense authorization bill are irresponsible. but get this: these same funding levels are reflected in the president's own budget request. so we gave the president what he
11:47 am
asked for, and he calls them irresponsible. what kind of hypocrisy is that? so i hope the president and his counselors at the white house will reconsider playing fast and loose with this -- with the support for our troops and this important piece of legislation. this bill is bipartisan. we can have our fights over all sorts of things, and heaven knows we will in this polarized political environment, but if there's one thing we ought to all agree on on a bipartisan basis is that this legislation needs to pass and this support for our troops in an ever-dangerous world should be a priority. fortunately, many of our democratic friends understand this and they've worked with us, and that's the way it should be. so i hope they're not tempted to blocking this legislation in order to give cover to the president and to prevent him
11:48 am
from being held accountable for his own decisions. so i think this is not a time to play games, particularly with our national security and our men and women in uniform at stake. today our armed forces face a world with growing challenges at almost every corner of the world. as a matter of fact, i think the director of national intelligence, james clapper, says he doesn't remember a time in his long career in the air force and now in the intelligence community where the world has faced more diverse threats and challenges. and you know what? like it or not, the united states is the point of the spear in addressing those challenges. and if the united states doesn't step up and lead, there is a vacuum created which just does nothing but encourages these tyrants, the thugs, the dictators and other people that will take advantage of that void. so we can't tie our own hands behind our back while asking our
11:49 am
troops to fly into harm's way, to support efforts against isis and syria in iraq, or sail to the edges of the pacific to keep chinese ambitions in check, or to accompany afghan soldiers. right now as i stand in this chamber, we have americans -- soldiers, sailors, marines -- putting their lives at risk to defend this nation. they are, by definition when they are deployed overseas, far away from home, separated from their loved ones and families. for every man and woman -- man or woman who wears a uniform, there is a family back home that is serving our nation as well that deserves our gratitude and our support. so the last thing our military needs is a reason to question
11:50 am
the strength of our convictions and congress to support them. the and, you know what? our adversaries watch this sort of thipg thing, too. because what they read into political dysfunction, particularly when it comes to something as upon as our national security, they see signs that maybe they can push the envelope a little further, maybe they can challenge the united states and our allies a little more, maybe they can grab a little more property, real estate, maybe they can plant a flag someplace that they otherwise would not, because they see in our actions, particularly in something as important as this, a certain reticence, perhaps not a willingness to lead but, rather, an america retreating from our international responsibilities, and that's dangerous. that's dangerous. so i would encourage all of our colleagues to simply vote once more in support of this legislation so we can send it to the president tion desk. what he does -- to the
11:51 am
president's desk. diswhea iwhat he does is his responsibility. but this legislation passed last june with more than 70 votes. so if we can send this bill to the president with that same sort of overwhelming bipartisan support, the president won't be able to veto this legislation, because he knows his veto can be overridden by two-thirds vote in the house and the senate. so let's do our part together to show our men and women in uniform that our support for them will never, ever waiver. mr. president, i yield the floor. mrs. boxer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: mr. president, i appreciate the eloquent words of my friend from texas. i just wanted to point out that our military is fully funded and that some of us believe that our military is so important that it ought to be funded by real dollars, not make-believe smoke and mirrors. and i would ask unanimous consent to place into the record
11:52 am
the ranking member, the top democrat on the armed services committee, who says he opposes using budget gimmicks to fund the pentagon and he declined to sign this conference report. it is very unusual. if we really care about our military -- and every one of us does -- we're to find real dollars, not make-believe money, this one called o.c.o. i wanted to point that out and put that in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: mr. president, came over here because, you know, the american people keep hearing "government shutdown," "government shutdown." quaiwhat's going to to happen? and the opinion of congress is the lowest of all times. because we're not doing our job, we're not doing our work. we're facing three possible shutdowns. the first one is the possible shutdown of our entire transportation program, and that's 22 days left.
11:53 am
and on this one, i want to praise the united states senate because we stepped up -- democrats, republicans together -- and we said we're not going to let this happen. we're going to work together and get a bill. and i'm going to talk about that in a bit. the second date that we face is early november when, if we don't raise the debt ceiling so we can pay for the programs everyone here voted for, the government shuts down and we become, frankly, the people who have overseen for the first time a bankruptcy because we have to raise the debt ceiling. and as ronald reagan said and very eloquently -- i don't have his exact quote. he said something like, even the thought of not paying our bills, even the thought of not raising the debt ceiling should be
11:54 am
avoided. but we face that made-up crisis. and the third one is december 11, where all of our budgets have to be looked at and we have to come to some agreement on a fair level of spending for both defense and non-defense, and all the things that we do. now, i'm here really to talk about the first deadline, this deadline, because i'm intimately involved with this, as the ranking member on the environment and public works committee. i want to start off by praising my chairman, jim inhofe, on this. he and i don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, but we sure do when it comes to transportation. and 100 days ago -- and my colleague knows this -- the senate environment and public works committee unanimously approved the drive act.
11:55 am
68 day, the senate passed the bill by a vote of 65-34. that's an overwhelming vote, in a bipartisan way. and now we're down to 22 days before we shut down. now, people can say, well, why are you going to shut down? the senate did its job. yeah, but the house hasn't done its job. so it's inexcusable. if we can find the bipartisan will to work together to pass a long-term transportation bill that increases funding for roads and for bridges and for transit projects, certainly they can find it in the house. and they should find that consensus there. we are up against this deadline. we keep hearing that the house -- or i did -- was going to act. and now, as far as we know, they've put off a markup of a bill to the day before we have a shutdown. this is ridiculous. i call on republicans and
11:56 am
democrats over there to come together, just like we came together. it's painful here on so many issues, but we found the political will to do the right thing. where is the house bill? in september 68 organizations sent a letter to the house calling on the house to pass a transportation bill. look who signed this. and i will just mention a few. the national association of manufacturers, the u.s. chamber of commerce, the associated general contractors, the travel association, mothers against drunk driving, the laborers international union, the american bus association, the aaa -- all of these groups, the american trucking association, the society of civil engineers, the american public works association, the national railroad construction and maintenance association. this is pretty amazing. this goes on and on.
11:57 am
and i'd ask unanimous consent to enter into the record all of these extraordinary organizations that are behind the senate bill. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: governors highway safety association, the american concrete -- this is america. together, they're calling on us. and this is not a partisan issue. it is incumbent on the house to keep the reauthorization process moving forward and not -- not wait until october 29 when we're on top of the deadline and we have to do another extension. i mean, we're all sick of it. and let me just say, it doesn't work. if you went to the bank and you wanted to buy a house and they said, i have great news for you, mr. and mrs. america, you've been approved for a loan. but it's only for a year. you're not going to buy the house. it's the same way with our state highway people.
11:58 am
they're not going to build a new highway, fix a road, invest in a transit program if they only have a few days of an extension that they can rely on. they want us to have a long-term bill. we passed a six-year bill here with three years of pay-fors. now, you've seen the organizations, and i am saying, when our people drive on roads --, they'r they're democrats, republicans, liberals, right wing, it doesn't matter. this is one issue where the senate can come together. we can come together, so our words -- i've talked to senator inhofe and he knows ir i'm speag today. the words we have for the house are "just do it." just do it. if we can do it you can do it. the short-term extensions don't work. i gave the example of going for a mortgage.
11:59 am
you're not going to invest in a house if you can only get a year mortgage. the same thing if you want to buy a new car. you could go to the bank and they say, great news, you're approved. but it's only for three months or 90 days. you're not going to buy the car. it's the same way for you ar for states. now, i have a chart -- i don't have it with me now -- that shows how much the states rely on the effect. -- on the federal government. i don't have it blown up but i am just going to go through this, mr. chairman. it is so interesting. you've got states that rely on the federal government highway program for anywhere from, you know, 30% all the way up to 150%. -- up to 100%. many states rely on the federal government for up to 70%. i would ask unanimous consent to place this in the record, if i could. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: i mep, we know delaware is 41% reliant on the
12:00 pm
federal government. rhode island is 100% reliant on the federal government. vermont, 80%. hawaii, 79%, alaska, 93%. this is something that's a partnership. this is a partnership. we work together with the states. but we are so disadvantaging our states. in my state it's about 50-50. we raise our resources about 50%. you know what the other 50% means to california? because we have almost 40 million people. $4 billion a year. we can't do our program just on our own. and this is something that, as my friend says, it's a need that he feels as a conservative he can support. when you read the constitution, we are one nation. we're connected. d


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on