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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  October 22, 2015 2:00pm-4:01pm EDT

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the presiding officer: are there any senators that wish to vote or change their vote? if not, the yeas are 93, the nays are 0. and the nominee is confirmed.
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the question occurs on the hankins nomination. the presiding officer: all in favor say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it. they do have it. the nomination is confirmed. the question occurs on the thomas nomination. all in favor signify by saying aye. those opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. the question occurs on the jackson nomination. all in favor signify by saying aye. opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, the motions to reconsider are considered made and laid upon the table, the president will be
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immediately notified of the senate's actions and the senate will resume legislative session. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that notwithstanding rule 22, that at 11:00 a.m. on tuesday, october 27, the postcloture time be considered expired on amendment number 2716 and the senate vote in relation to the following naments the order listed -- amendments in the order listed -- wyden, 2621, as modified; heller, 2548, as modified; leahy, 2587, as modified; flake, 2582; franken, 26,12, -- 26azerbaijan further modified. that following the disposition of the franken amendment, the senate recess until 2. 156789 for the weekly conference meetings. that the time from 2:15 until 4:00 p.m. be equally divided in the usual form. and that at 4:00 p.m. on tuesday, the senate vote in relation to the following amendments in the order listed.
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coons 2552 as modified. cotton 2581 as modified. burr-fine stein substitute 2716 as amended if amended. if cloture is invoked on s. 754, all postcloture time be yielded back, the bill be read a third time, the senate vote on passage of s. 754 as amended if amended without any intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 246, s. 799. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: calendar number 246, s. 799, a bill to combat the rise of prenatal oil opioid abuse in neonatal absence syndrome. the presiding officer: is there objection ting proceeding to the measure?
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without objection the senate shall proceed. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent the bill as amended be read a third time and passed, the committee reported title amendment be agreed to and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i was pleased to send -- see the senate pass by unanimous consent just now the bipartisan protecting our infants act. as prescription drug abuse and heroin use have increased in kentucky and other states across the nation, no demographic, socioeconomic status, age, or gender has been left untouched. as the father of three daughters, particularly concerning to me is the increase in prenatal opiate abuse which has resulted in a staggering 300% increase in the number of infants born suffering from withdrawal symptoms since 2000. to address this crisis, i introduced the protect our infants act along with my colleague, senator bob casey.
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the bill would direct the health and human services secretary to conduct a departmental review to identify gaps in research and any duplication overlap or gaps in prevention and treatment programs related to the issue. it would also direct the secretary to work with stakeholders on recommendations to address the problem. furthermore, this measure would encourage the centers for disease control and prevention to work with states in an effort to help improve their public health response to this epidemic and also, i want to acknowledge the outstanding work of the senator from new hampshire, senator kelly ayotte. i know that one of the things new hampshire and kentucky actually unfortunately share is that this has reached epidemic proportions. nobody's been more involved in this issue than the senator from new hampshire. she's been on top of it from the very beginning, and she shares the concerns of others of us who
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have states who are really suffering from this enormous problem. i would also like to thank representatives katherine clark and steve styvers for leading the effort to advance a similar matter over in the house of representatives. i look forward to the house taking up this bill and it being sent to the president for his signature. ms. ayotte: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ms. ayotte: mr. president, i want to thank our leader and thank senator casey for introducing and pushing to pass this very important legislation. this legislation which i was proud to be an early sponsor of, the protecting our infants act, which will help address the increasing number of newborns born with opioid dependency. i also want to thank all of the additional members, including the chairman of the help committee and ranking member murray, for helping get that through that important committee new hampshire is facing a public
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health epidemic. in fact, the heroin and prescription drug addiction crisis is the single-most urgent issue facing my state right now. so many families have come to me, mr. president, who have lost children. the other day i was buying something, and the woman behind the counter said to me, keep working on this issue. and i asked her why? she said i lost my granddaughter. too many families are experiencing losing their loved ones. there are family members struggling with addiction. our first responders inundated with saving lives with drugs like narcan. public help and safety officials in our state, this is truly something is that we all need to work together on to address. but one of the tragic results of this growing opioid abuse
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epidemic is the increasing number of infants that are born dependent on opioids and suffering from withdrawal. in fact, researchers have found that they estimate almost every hour -- every hour in this country, mr. president, there is an infant being born who is suffering from withdrawal symptoms or born with dependency symptoms from opioid addiction. this is an issue that i'm so glad is being addressed in this bill, protecting our infants act. how we treat our children and our infants is so much a reflection of who we are. that's why i was proud to is cosponsor this bipartisan legislation which will call for the development of recommendations to prevent and treat prenatal opioid use including neonatal abstinence syndrome. this bill would also ask the
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centers for disease control and prevention to assist states in data collection and increase surveillance to better monitor the causes of neonatal abstinence syndrome so we can work for more view in prevention, treatment and recovery, to help mothers get the support and get into treatment, so obviously we don't have infants that are born with opioid dependence and withdrawal symptoms. across the nation, as the leader said, the number of infants diagnosed with newborn withdrawal has increased 300% since 2000. in my home state of new hampshire, in may of this year i actually visited the catholic medical center in manchester and heard directly from medical personnel there and first responders who have been treating and responding to cases of newborn withdrawal. catholic medical center officials reported that 7% of newborn babies were born at that
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hospital with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a significant increase from last year. and according to officials at catholic medical center's pregnancy care center, close to half of the mothers cared for are struggling with addiction. so i again want to thank the leader. i want to thank senator casey. today's passage of protecting our infants act is one very important step to address the crisis of opioid abuse seen in new hampshire and across this country. but i would also -- i would urge, now that we've passed this in the senate, i want to thank those members in the house that have led this effort. i hope the house quickly passes this and sends it to the president of the united states. but i also hope that the senate will continue to focus on this public health epidemic because there are many solutions that are bipartisan. one is called the comprehensive addiction and recovery act. this is a bill that i helped
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introduce with senators whitehouse, portman and klobuchar. and this is a bill that will deal with prevention so that we can make sure that we get that message out to prevent people from overusing and misusing prescription drugs and also turning to heroin, so that we can have more support for treatment and recovery where there's a big gap in my state, that we could support our first responders to make sure that they have access to the lifesaving drug, narcan. and one of the experiences i had recently is that i went on a ride-along with our largest police department and i had previously gone on a ride-along with our largest fire department. within a half-hour of the fire department ride-along, we went to a heroin overdose. i watched the emergency personnel, police, fire, emergency, fir responders bring someone back to life using narcan. when i did the police ride-along, within an hour and a half, we went to two heroin
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overdoses. and again, first responders saved those two individuals' life. but i've got to tell you, i was a murder prosecutor. i've seen a lot of tough things when i was attorney general. but i couldn't breathe when i was sitting in that room and i watched that second individual, young man on the ground, first responders doing everything they could. another dose of narcan. and i thought he was gone. and this is what our first responders are dealing with every single day. a senator: would the senator yield for a question? ms. ayotte: yes. mr. mcconnell: i naively thought my state was uniquely afflicted with this scourge. had the drug czar come down to kentucky, particularly northern kentucky part of my state, which is a suburb of cincinnati, only to find that it's a problem all over the country. and i was curious as to how this rates with the people of new hampshire as one of the things they're concerned about. ms. ayotte: well, leader, i
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will tell you i had director bottlecelli testify as well. he testified at a field hearing we had in new hampshire. for the people of new hampshire right now, this is a crisis. it's a public health epidemic. i think -- i did a town hall last night and the single biggest question i got asked about was this because i believe this is one of the top issues, if not the top issue on the minds of people in new hampshire, because they see their friends and family being impacted by this. and this is every socioeconomic group that's being impacted by, unfortunately, prescription drugs and then heroin, which is so cheap on our streets right now. also sometimes mixed with a deadly drug called fentanyl. in fact, mr. leader, we had 300 300 -- 300% dramatic increase -- excuse me. a 60% increase in drug deaths
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but 320 drug deaths last year. mr. mcconnell: we're losing more to drug overdoses now than we are heroin overdoses than we're losing in car accidents? is that true? ms. ayotte: the exact same thing in new hampshire. more people are dying from heroin, fentanyl and abuse from prescription drugs than car accidents which is staggering when you think about it in our state. so this is a national epidemic. that's why i appreciate the bill that was passed today. but i think that there's more that we can do in this body that would benefit the nation, would benefit our states of kentucky and new hampshire to help give tools to the first responders, the public health officials, treatment providers, those supporting recovery and helping prevent this in the first instance in this body. it's something that would obviously help address this crisis, but also something that is a public health issue that we should all care about.
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mr. mcconnell: i just want to thank the senator from new hampshire for her outstanding work on this really important issue and i have a feeling we're going to be grappling with this in all of its various forms for many years to come. ms. ayotte: i want to thank the leader for this bill today which i'm glad we passed and i look forward to working on additional legislation. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. a senator: mr. president, i wanted to rise this afternoon to address the budget standoff that we're in and the looming debt ceiling issue that we're facing.
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mr. toomey: i just want to address this briefly. there'll be more to say about this in the near future, but, you know, the administration tells us that november 3 is the date after which the extraordinary measures they have been taking run out, and they say that on that date they need to start borrowing more money. as we know, we have a temporary legislation that funds the government through december 11, i think it is, after which we have not yet resolved how we keep the government operating. i want to address this a little bit. first of all, the fundamental problem we have here on the debt ceiling increase is we're spending too much money. we're running annual deficits, and we have to borrow money to make up the shortfall. that's what's happening. that's why we reached the debt ceiling. that's why we get there and the administration wants to borrow more. but what's particularly problematic is the president's position that we ought to increase the debt ceiling, allow
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him to borrow a lot more money without even so much as having a discussion, much less actually addressing the gross fiscal mismanagement that's requiring us to borrow all this money in the first place. let's go back to a recent occasion on which we had this debate, 2011. we reached a debt limit, and had a big debate about how we should proceed. and what happened was congress insisted, and the president resisted but eventually agreed, to some very modest spending cuts. they established caps, limits on discretionary spending. that's the 37%, 38% of all federal spending that congress controls through the annual appropriation process. so some caps were put in place and the idea was for every dollar that we'd raise the debt ceiling, every new dollar of debt we would impose on the american people, we'd at least
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cut a dollar of spending over the next 10 years so that as we were making a bad situation, our debt load, a bad situation worse by increasing the debt, we'd at least be improving the underlying dynamic, diminishing the total spending so in the future our deficits would be smaller. that was the idea. and if you take a look, it actually caused a lot of progress on this category of federal spending, the discretionary spending. if you look at a graph we have here that shows the increase in federal spending, this red line shows a huge surge that happened when the president insisted on that massive stimulus spending bill. so that's the big spike. it dropped off a little bit because that single individual, gargantuan bill wasn't replicated the next year. and then a short time thereafter, we reached this agreement with the president where the congress said, mr. president, you get the debt
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ceiling increase but in return for that, let's put a cap on the amount gradually over time that we're going to spend on discretionary spending and then we'll allow it to grow at the rate of inflation after a certain number of years. that was the nature of the agreement. the idea being address the underlying problem of overspending that's requiring all of this debt. so as you can see, mr. president, black line shows where we are today. we've made some progress. there's a gradual modest decline. this is the big surge that came from that gigantic stimulus bill. but after that, the gradual, steady modest decline so that on this category of spending, discretionary spending -- like i said, almost 40% of the federal budget -- we actually limited that. it's the first time that i'm aware of in years, maybe many decades that we've had several consecutive years in which the federal government has actually spent less each year than the year before in discretionary
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spending. now, by way of full disclosure, i voted against this overall agreement because i knew then, as i know now, that while this makes some progress, it doesn't solve the underlying problem, it doesn't -- it moves in the right direction, you can argue, but it does not fix the huge debt problem that we have. so what -- what -- well, this chart illustrates this. it shows that in recent years, we've had a slight decline in the size of our deficits. if we went back further, we'd see the deficits were even higher earlier. we've made some progress. the annual deficits, that's the red line corresponding to each year since 2014. you can see this has come down a little bit. this year the deficit will be about $426 billion. way too high, still too big a number but less than it was in recent years. but here's the problem, mr. president. there's people around this town talk as though we've got this problem solved. since the deficits, you know, a
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few year ago were a trillion dollars, today it's $426 billion, so isn't everything okay? take a look at where this line is going. this isn't okay. this isn't a hundred years from now. this is -- this is five years from now. this is 10 years from now. what's happening is our deficits are going to explode. now, this isn't just my projection. this is the congressional budget office, nonpartisan c.b.o. and, by the way, their numbers are wildly optimistic. i mean, let me just give you three examples of assumptions that they make and you can judge whether you think these are reasonable assumptions or not. first of all, the whole package of tax extenders, the individual tax cuts that we renew every year, they assume that we stop renewing them. and so there will be this surge of revenue that will come into the federal government every year thereafter. that's all baked into these numbers. they also assume that we're
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going to stick to the spending caps that i illustrated in the previous chart. and we all know in this body, we all know negotiations are underway right now to bust those spending caps. and the president is insisting. in fact, the president's gone so far as to say he's vetoing a national defense authorization bill in part because we haven't yet agreed to bust the caps on non-defense spending. so -- so despite that, these numbers assume that the caps are all complied with. and finally, congressional budget office makes extremely optimistic assumptions, in my view, about economic growth going forward in the next several years. and that means they're making optimistic assumptions about how much revenue the federal government is going to be taking in. despite that, as you can see, deficits are set to explode. and when deficits explode, the corresponding debt total goes right along with it. this -- this is our debt. this is the gross federal debt. and the gross federal debt is
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exactly a function of how much we borrow every year, right? our annual deficit the shortfall between revenue and spending. we make up the shortball -- shortfall by going out and borrowing and that adds to all previous years' borrowing and the total is our debt. now look, going back to 1980, it was practically zero. gross federal debt was a very, very modest number. now it's at $18 trillion and set to continue rising. mr. president, this is totally unsustainable. no country has been able to rack up debt on this scale and have it end well. it doesn't end well. and so, mr. president, my point this afternoon is really a simple one. we have a choice before us. we've got a choice before us. we're up against the debt limit. the president says, just give me more debt. just give me more debt and i won't -- i don't even want to have a conversation about the underlying cause or about what we might do differently to solve this. and at the same time they're saying, by the way, let's increase the rate at which we rack up this debt by busting the
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spending caps, by abandoning the one element of spending discipline that we've been able to achieve in this town in i don't know how many years. so i think most republicans -- i know this republican senator thinks that it would be a very, very bad idea to just rack up ever more debt and do nothing at all about the underlying cause of it. to bust the spending caps without finding some offsetting way to save money in other places. by the way, when president obama was senator obama, he thought it was a bad idea then, too. in 2006, he said -- and i quote -- office then-senator obama -- "the fact we are here today to debate raising america's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. increasing america's debt weakens us domestically and internationally." two years later, senator obama in 2008 -- and i quote -- "adding $4 trillion in debt is irresponsible, it's unpatriotic
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." mr. president, isn't it a little bit ironic that under president obama, we added $8 trillion in debt and now he wants more. he wants more. and as i said before, his insistence is that we can't even have a discussion about dealing with the underlying problems. and it's not clear to me why this president should be one of the only presidents, if not "the" only president, who gets a debt ceiling increase without even having a conversation about underlying reforms. in 1985, the graham rudman-hollings was a major important budget deal that was done in the context of a debt ceiling increase. in 1990, the budget enforcement act imposed some spending discipline in return for a debt ceiling increase. in 1997, we had the balanced budget act which actually achieved a balanced budget within a short period of time. that came up in the context of a debt ceiling debate. in 2011, as i mentioned at the beginning of my comments, we
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established spending caps because we wanted to do something about the underlying problem at the same time that we increased the debt ceiling. unfortunately, as i've said, the administration seems unwilling to even have the discussion. two charges that i flare this administration that are -- i hear from this administration that are completely untrue and i want to dispel this. one is this notion that i hear all the time, that raising the debt limit merely enables us to pay the bills that have already been incurred. how irresponsible, they tell us, not to raise the debt limit. after all, these bills have already been incurred. that's nonsense. it's completely untrue. however many times they repeat it doesn't make it true. i can prove it very simply. if we started running balanced budgets tomorrow and we kept running balanced budgets, we'd never need to borrow any more money. it's as simple as that. if we didn't spend any more than we took in, we wouldn't need to borrow more money. we wouldn't need to increase the debt limit.
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the precise reason you need to raise the debt limit is because you need to borrow more money because you intend to spend more than you're taking in. that's what the president is planning. that's what he wants to do. that's what his budget calls for. so let's not pretend that this is about -- we haven't committed to spending going forward. we don't even have an appropriation bill. we don't have an omnibus. we don't have a c.r. we haven't done that yet. how can it be that this is paying for bills already incurred? it's not. the second thing is that if we don't raise the debt ceiling by november 3, we're -- we're -- it is implied -- they don't come out and say it this way but it's implied that we'll have this devastating, disruptive default in the markets. you know, we won't be able to pay our treasury debts. it's ridiculous. it's never going to happen. 90% of all the money the government's going to spend comes in the door in the form of taxes. it's the other 10% that is the shortfall that we have to go out and borrow. 90% of everything the government's going to spend
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comes in the form of taxes. do you know how much goes out in debt service? about 7%. so for every dollar of government spending, about 7 cents is service on our debt at the moment. 90 cents come in from taxes. and you're going to default on the debt? you'd have to intentionally -- you'd have to willfully choose to do that. and i don't think even this administration would do that. so, mr. president, i'll just conclude by saying, look, i hate the idea of raising the debt ceiling because we already have too much debt. but i think -- i understand it would be very, very difficult, not realistic, to get from where we are to a balanced budget overnight. i get that. so i would be willing to raise the debt ceiling. i think the obvious thing to do here is to tie it to some reforms, some structural reforms, even if they're just modest. i know the president's not willing to consider the kind of really architectural changes to the entitlement programs that it will take to actually solve the problem. but could we at least make
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progress on the problem? could we at least go after the low-hanging fruit? i mean, there are dozens of reforms that would at least modestly improve this fiscal imbalance, the size of these annual deficits. we could have more means testing of medicare. in other words, very wealthy americans could contribute more. to the cost of their medicare. we could save tens of billions of dollars a year if we did that. we could reduce some of the subsidies that go to big corporations, including big ag corporations. we spend many tens of billions of dollars a year with corporate welfare. why don't we wipe that out? we have green energy research, which is another way of saying saying -- forcing americans to pay for inefficient production of electricity. we spend $18 billion over the next several years on that. medical malpractice liability reform would save the federal government $50 billion a year. not my numbers. this is according to the congressional budget office. or maybe the size of the federal work force. you know, between the departments of energy, agriculture and commerce, we
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have 163,000 employees. 163,000. at the departments of energy, agriculture and commerce. how much energy do they produce? how much -- how many crops do they grow? how much commerce do they really generate? i -- i think we could probably do with a few less. there's tens -- hundreds of billions of dollars to be saved. we could slow down the growth of the entitlement programs for future beneficiaries. these are -- these would be reasonable things. many of these the president at one time or another has indicated some level of support for. not looking for something radical. i'm looking for just making some progress. but, mr. president, i think it's completely unreasonable for the president to insist that he simply have the opportunity to saddle ourselves, our kids and our grandkids with even more debt without even addressing the underlying problem that's causing us to rack up this debt in the first place. so, mr. president, i will have more to say about this next week
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i think this will not get resolved between now and then. and when it does get resolved one way or another, i hope that we will find offsets to any spending increase that we incur relative to the levels that we've agreed upon in the spending caps of the 2011 agreement. and if the debt ceiling increase occurs, i hope it will occur in the context of some improvement to the underlying situation. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: i rise today to talk about some disappointing news. for only the third time in 40 years, social security beneficiaries will not receive a cost-of-living adjustment, or cola, this year. this news will impact the nearly 60 million americans retirees, dependents, survivors and disabled workers who rely on social security to make ends meet. social security is the most effective antipoverty program in
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u.s. history. without social security, about 44.1% of america's seniors would be living in poverty. in hawaii, one in six residents depend on social security to help pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads.. it is the only source of income for 25% of our citizens, our seniors in hawaii. we live in a world where wages just aren't rising fast enough and real pensions are disappearing. more and more workers are working longer and harder with less to show for it when they retire according to a 2014 federal reserve study nearly one in three respondents reported having no retirement savings or pensions whatsoever pointing out once again that will social security benefits are essential to millions of working americans and our families. for many who are already struggling to make ends meet,
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social security is all that they rely on. absent cola, too many beneficiaries will see no increase in their primary source of income, making it harder to afford basic necessities, especially medical care. one of my constituents wrote to me recently and said -- quote -- "i find it incredible that there are people who actually believe that social security is too generous. the average social security benefit is a whopping $14,000 a year, and we've only seen an average 2% cola over the past five years. i can assure you, my health care costs have far exceeded that tiny increase. another constituent from hunaka was more direct in her concerns. she wrote -- quote -- "i have worked very hard my entire life and have planned to retire in a
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few years. my worry is that i will not have enough money to live on. i also may have to continue to work due to this deficit. my question is: what are you going to do about it? and what is your game plan? year after year no one has done anything about it and has passed it down to the next person entering the senate office or congressional office. it is a problem that must be addressed immediately. please help me and the rest of my baby boomer generation." end quote. congress needs to listen to these voices and act to responsibly strengthen and expand social security before it becomes yet another fiscal crisis. that's why i introduced the protecting and preserving social security act with representative ted deutch of florida. our bill does two key things that will help seniors now and also help ensure the strength of
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social security for decades to come. first our bill would helping social security recipients by basing colas on a more accurate formula of what seniors actually purchase. this formula is called the consumer price index for the elderly, or cpie. the cpie more accurately recognizes the rising costs for seniors and gives them a benefit boost. according to the bureau of labor statistics, if we were using the cpie right now, seniors would be getting a .6% cola increase in 2016. that's about $100 more in benefits for the average person on social security next year. and while small, seniors tell me that every bit counts. changing to the cpie will mean increases in social security to more accurately reflect the rising costs that our seniors
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experience. second, our bill would pay for this benefit increase by requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay the same rate into the social security trust fund that everybody else pays. few know that this year once workers earn above $118,500, they stop paying the payroll tax to support social security. in other words, social security contributions are capped for these high-wage earners. but most workers, we know, earn far less than $118,500, so every paycheck all year, most workers pay into social security. this is not fair. it's not fair that millionaires and billionaires get a social security tax loophole. a corporate c.e.o. could earn $118,500 in just one pay period and not contribute a single
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additional cent in payroll taxes for the rest of that earner's year. our bill would gradually phase out the cap on payments into the social security trust fund over seven years. that way whether you earn $50,000 or $500 million a year, you keep paying at the fair rate to support social security in every paycheck all year long. the protecting and preserving social security act is a fair way to strengthen social security for decades to come and it would give current seniors and beneficiaries a much-needed boost right away. social security is one of the cornerstones for the middle class and a lifeline for millions of seniors. we must do all that we can to protect and improve it for not just the current recipients but for those who will rely upon it in the future.
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this bill is supported by groups such as social security works, the strengthen social security coalition and the national committee to preserve social security and medicare. i urge my colleagues to join me in letting seniors in hawaii and all across the country know that you are on their side by cosponsoring the protecting and preserving social security act. i yield the floor. mrs. gillibrand: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mrs. gillibrand: mr. president, two days ago another victim of the september 11 attacks died in new york.
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he's the 11th first responder to die since this anniversary -- since this year's anniversary of the attacks. his name was sergeant gerrard bayrod. he served for decades in the new york police department. his entire career was devoted to serving his community and keeping the people around him safe. and when we were attacked on september 11, 2001, sergeant bayrod didn't waiver. he banded together with thousands of first responders from around the country, from every single state, and he rushed to ground zero to help. these heroic men and women ran into the burning towers to try to save anyone they could. and when the twin towers collapsed, our first responders worked day and night to clear the pile, breathing in toxic, poisonous fumes the entire time.
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these men and women were heroes. they refused to abandon their community in a time of terrifying confusion and intense grief. but now, because of the poisonous fumes they were supposed to at -- exposed to at ground zero, the burning metal and toxic smoke, these men and women are sick. many of them have cancer and many are dying. and far too many have already died. mr. president, more than 14 years later, the terror attacks on september 11, 2001, are still claiming american lives. in the six weeks since the most recent anniversary of the attacks, we've lost 11 more responders to diseases that can be traced directly back to the work at ground zero. i want to take a moment to actually speak their names now. john p. mckey. reginald unthery.
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kevin kelly. thomas zais. ed goaler. joseph ugle. ronald richards. john ceto. dennis seaworth and gerrard. the death toll is not going to stop rising so what is congress waiting for? mr. president, the bill authorizing funding for the 9/11 program has already expired. it's expired. but these 9/11-related illnesses never expire. neither should their health care. more than 33,000 first responders and survivors have an illness or injury caused by the 9/11 attacks or their aftermath. more than 1,700 have passed away from 9/11-related illnesses. more police officers have died from 9/11-related diseases than those who died on 9/11 itself.
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the participants in the 9/11 health program live in every single state. every senator in this chamber has constituents who are sick and are registered in the 9/11 health program. mr. president, the first responders we've lost leave behind families, spouses, children. they leave behind bills, mortgages, car payments and college tuition payments. these 9/11 illnesses not only rob families of their loved ones, but leave them to face expenses without, in some cases, their primary breadwinner. if congress doesn't act now, how many more first responders and their families are going to suffer because we didn't do our job and reauthorize the program? on the moacht -- most recent anniversary of the attacks, many of might have colleagues here released statements and made posts online to commemorate the anniversary and remember the
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victims of 9/11. well, if you're a u.s. senator and that's all you're doing, if all you're doing is just talking about the heroism, the courage and what happened on 9/11, then we're not actually doing our jobs. if we are senators and all we're doing is tweeting about 9/11 and the responders, then we're not actually fulfilling our duty as u.s. senators. there's a bill right here, right now waiting for a vote. the majority of this chamber already supports the bill as cosponsors. it's widely bipartisan, and not one person is opposed to it. so what are we waiting for? we must reauthorize and make permanent the world trade center health program and the victims compensation fund. we must finish our job. mr. president, let's truly never forget. our 9/11 heroes deserve and desperately need this health care. so let's do our job.
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let's vote on this bill. let's pass it. the clock is ticking. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the esteemed senator from michigan. mr. peters: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. peters: well, thank you, mr. president. i rise today to express my support for the export-import bank and to encourage my colleagues in the senate to take up and pass bipartisan legislation scheduled for consideration in the house next week that would reauthorize the ex-im bank until september 30 of 2019. the export-import bank helps american companies export their goods and services across the globe, helping businesses grow and creating more demand for
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american manufactured goods and agricultural products. over its 80-year history, the ex-im bank has provided loans to help businesses start exporting, open up new markets and access new customers. the bank provides insurance to help businesses protect our bottom lines if a foreign buyer fails to pay and works with private lenders to fill gaps and financing to help close deals that would simply never have happened without its support. most importantly, the ex-im bank does all of this at no cost to the taxpayers. in fact, it makes money. just last year, the bank generated $675 million surplus to help reduce the deficit. the ex-im bank helps level the playing field for american companies in a tough global market. last year it supported more than $27.4 billion in u.s. exports
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and 164,000 jobs. more than $10 billion of that total, nearly 40%, represented exports by small businesses. the ex-im bank is dedicated to serving small businesses in michigan and across the country. 90% of its overall transactions directly supported small businesses, including many that serve suppliers for large companies. in 2013, i was proud to attend the opening of ex-im bank's regional export finance center in detroit. with governor snyder, my colleague senator stabenow and congressman john dingell. in michigan alone, the bank has supported 229 exporter businesses, selling $11 billion worth of goods to places like saudi arabia, mexico and canada. this support is particularly important for our manufacturing
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industry, including motor vehicles and parts, machinery and chemicals, all vital sectors to our economy. over the summer, i had the opportunity to visit a michigan business that works with the ex-im bank to export its products. mill steel company in grand rapids, mill steel is one of north america's premier flat-rolled steel companies. it was also a family-owned business that wanted to make michigan products and hire michigan workers. mill steel sells and ships its steel to auto suppliers in mexico and canada. the loan guarantees provided by the ex-im bank reduce mill steel's risk while exporting to foreign buyers, providing certainty and allowing them to continue hiring new employees and providing good-playing jobs in michigan. unfortunately, over the summer, despite broad bipartisan support for reauthorizing the ex-im bank, a small ideologically
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driven minority in congress allowed the charter for the export-import bank of the united states to expire. risking billions of dollars in u.s. exports, hundreds of thousands of american jobs and putting our country at an economic disadvantage in a competitive global marketplace while also increasing the federal deficit. the failure of congress to act on this commonsense federal program endangers jobs in michigan and is simply unacceptable. general electric has a plant in grand rapids, michigan, that employs 1,400 michiganders. over the summer, g.e. announced that it plans to relocate over 300 jobs from wisconsin to canada as a result of ex-im bank closing its doors. when this happened, my office was flooded with inquiries from a number of constituents concerned about what would happen to their community and
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their own job security if a similar decision was made in michigan. in the month since ex-im bank's authorization has lapsed, g.e. has signed deals with export credit agencies in competitor foreign nations, creating jobs abroad instead of right here in the united states. as a ansar from a -- as a senator from a state with world-class engineering and manufacturing talent, i am frankly appalled by these developments, especially when we have already seen the benefits that the bank has produced for michigan's economy and workers in my state, as well as across the country. the work done by the ex-im bank is especially critical to michigan manufacturers who fight to compete with countries using extreme and unfair measures such as direct subsidies or currency manipulation to boost their own manufacturing sectors. according to ex-im bank's most recent annual report, there are 85 other competing foreign-
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sponsored export credit agencies helping their own domestic companies better compete on the global stage. other countries, including china, japan, south korea, the united kingdom, canada and germany, use their own export credit agencies to boost their country's exports. china, in fact, provided more financing through its export credit agency in the last two years, approximately $670 billion, more than our own ex-im bank has offered in its own entire 81-year history. these export financings are expected to significantly increase in coming years, which means that american firms and workers could fall further behind if we do not act now. without our own export-import bank, american businesses will struggle to compete overseas and our economy will suffer. as global competition intensifies, it simply makes no
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sense to engage in unilateral disarmament. we must stop the self-inflicted wounds on our economy. we must pledge to our constituents that we will first do no harm, and we must stop letting ideology impair our economic growth. i am pleased that a bipartisan bicameral group of senators and representatives are saying that enough is enough, and we are working to move a reauthorization forward. i'm looking forward to working with them to get this done as soon as possible. too much time has already been wasted, and too many jobs have already been jeopardized. we have to get back to the business of working together to find commonsense solutions to help, not hamper, our economic growth in america. passing a long-term reauthorization of the export-import bank is a great way to start. once the house passes the
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reauthorization next week, i urge my colleagues here in the senate to schedule a vote as soon as possible. we know we have the votes. the legislation the house will soon consider is identical to an amendment passed by the senate with a vote of 64-29 in july while considering the long-term highway bill. we should do this now. there is not a moment to lose. american jobs hang in the balance. thank you, mr. president. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk shall call the roll. quorum call:
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a. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be vitiated. i ask unanimous consent that the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, as we are apparently approaching another deadline with regard to the statutory debt limit, i'm reminded of the old paradoxical proverb, the more things change, the more they stay the same. we have of course dealt with the debt limit here in congress on numerous occasions. while there are significant differences this time around, there are some things that, particularly when we're dealing with the obama administration just don't change. one thing that's different is that our national debt is higher than it has ever been before. more than $18 trillion. an astronomical number when you think about it. that is $57,000 of debt for
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every u.s. citizen, every man, woman and child. from age 1-101. just for the people in my state of utah which has a relatively small population, that means $167 billion of debt. and as a share of our g.d.p., the debt is higher now than at almost any time with the exception of a brief period surrounding world war ii. yet, even though our debt has gotten further and further out of hand under this president, the administration's approach has not changed. as we all know, treasury secretary lew sent a series of letters urging congress to raise the debt limit and he projected that on november 3 the treasury will begin to run dangerously low on cash creating an unacceptably high risk of having to delay payments. of course, we don't have an ability to verify that projection and treasury has long been uncooperative in congress' efforts to get more information as to how they arrive at these
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specific dates. don't get me wrong. i take the november 3 date very seriously. i think we all should. but given the lack of hard data shared by the treasury regarding these projections and the fact that the date has, in just the last few weeks, moved around a little bit, i do understand why some people appear to believe that this latest best guess from the treasury is fungible. in addition to providing the november 3 deadline, the latest debt limit letter from secretary lew includes what has become a stale set of talking points punctuated by the ad admonition that -- quote -- "only congress can extend the nation's borrowing authority" -- unquote. now, i know no one wants to hear a civic lesson, but given the administration's repeated attempts to assign all responsibility related to the debt limit rela to congress, a refresher about how a bill
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becomes law might be helpful. no one disputes that congress must act to extend the government's borrowing authority. but the president can also sign or veto any debt limit legislation we pass. the same is true for any legislation authorizing or appropriating spending reductions. in other words, mr. president, both congress and the executive branch share responsibility with regard to the debt limit and our nation's overall fiscal health. unfortunately, rather than trying to work with congress on these issues, the obama administration has repeatedly chosen to try to deflect responsibility with misleading statements about the various burdens borne by the separate branches of government. sadly, the treasury secretary's tired arguments with regard to the debt limit around the only problem. in fact, when you examine these administration's record, you'll find that the problems are much,
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much worse than most want to admit. i'm talking, of course, about the massive accumulation of debt we've seen under this administration as well as the lack of leadership and willingness to work with congress to address what we know are the main drivers of our debt. as the nonpartisan congressional budget office has repeatedly made clear, the main drivers of our debt are unsustainable promises in the social security benefit programs and unsustainable spending on the federal government's major health care programs medicare, medicaid, health insurance subsidies under the affordable care act, and others. true enough, we've seen some deficit reduction in recent years. these days the president and his allies are always quick to point that out. of course we know that these temporary reduced deficits have resulted predominantly from increased tax receipts and only modest spending restraint. still, even with these reduced deficits, our debt remains well
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above the historic average and is expected to grow even more in the near future, as according to c.b.o., our deficits will start to go back up in the next few years. our national debt -- or, our deficit this yeek year has been brought down but i had a have to say mainly because of the work that we've done in the congress to restrain the growth. the reconciliation act, had we not done that, this administration wouldn't have done anything. we'd be in worse shape than we are. no one in this administration should be bragging about supposed fiscal responsibility. under this administration, the outstanding public debt hasriess risen by a 71% increase just since this person has become president. once again, as a share of the economy, our current debt remains at levels that with a very novery narrow andable excen
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are heretofore unseen in modern u.s. history. according to c.b.o., by 2025, federal debt held by the public will be roughly twice the average of the past five decades and as c.b.o. says, quote, "such high and rising debt would have serious negative consequences, both for the economy and for the federal budget." unquote. now, given this risky path of debt accumulation, c.b.o. also warns an increasing risk of the federal crisis. the administration seems to believe that a temporary lull in deficits is a good time to accelerate spending, even though spending grew well above growth in the economy last fiscal year year, all while they continue to ignore the growing crisis in our entitlement programs. we still have approximately half trillion dollars debt and they're bragging about that? when he was serving in the senate and a different party
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controlled by the white house, president obama famously argued that an increase in the debt limb was a sign of leadership -- debt limit w's a sign of leadership failure. failure. when he was running as then-presidential candidate obama, he pledged not to kick the can down the road on reforming entitlements, tuckly social security. now he shirks responsibility in his proposed solution to the most immediate problem with social security, the disability insurance trust fund, is to kick the can much further down the road without any changes in reforms to the program. we're just going to borrow from the already-dysfunctional social security, general social security fund to pay for the -- to pay for the social security disability insurance. my gosh, when does it stop? mr. president, i believe that
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the debt limit has and can play a role in promoting fiscal discipline. historically, debates over the debt limit have provided opportunities to reexamine our fiscal outlook and when necessary make corrections. and debt limit votes give a voice to members of congress who do not serve on committees that make the spending and tax decisiondecisions. unfortunately, as we contemplate another debt limit increase, president obama doesn't see the need to even talk to congress about our fiscal future. in fact, the administration won't even take a clear position on how much of an increase it believes is appropriate or how long it should last. common sense would indicate that the president would like congress to extend the debt limit past next year's election. that would be a debt limit hike of about $1 trillion. $1 trillion would mean more than $3,000 per person in the u.s., just to get us through next
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year. utah's share of that would be about $7 billion. while the president undoubtedly wants that much of an contrary, he refuses to make any such desire known. instead, we've gotten vague demands that borrowing authority be extended by certain dates and threats to veto any such extension that comes with even modest spending reforms. essentially, president obama's position is, it's my way or the highway. but oddly enough, he doesn't want to explicitly define what his way is, and he repeatedly argues that he plays absolutely no role and bears no responsibility in getting us there. it's absurd. absolutely absurd. make no mistake, mr. president, i don't want to see a default. default on u.s. treasury secretaries and failure to pay federal obligations, which by the way are two separate things -- it is not a desirable or acceptable yowlt come. -- acceptable outcome.
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i don't believe that congress should shirk its responsibilities even if president obama refuses to acknowledge his. but let's be clear. neither the administration's uncompromising stance on fiscal reforms nor its selective use of information about our nation's debt are productive. the president's refusal to work with congress on a path forward and to share information about our nation's finances is irresponsible brinksmanship. i want to talk about that information-sharing for a few minutes. mr. president, because it is an important part of this continual impasse between congress and the administration when it comes to the debt limit, when we talk about our nation's debt, there are other policy matters that play besides the periodic actions taken to raise the debt limit. the administration is charged with managing the debt in a responsible and fctive manner. -- and effective manner and toward that end it has the obligation to preserve the integrity of treasury's
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securities markets. congress has the duty to exercise oversight of these beinactivities and as chairman f the senate committee with jurisdiction over these issues, i have to say that when it comes to accountability and transparency on these matters, a great deal of improvement is necessary, and that's putting it kindly. for example, each time the debt begins to approach the statutory limit, the administration makes a lot of noise about how it is difficult to deal with delayed payments on treasury securities. please note that i am talking about payments on securities, not general payment obligations of the federal government for spending programs, which is altogether a separate matter. now, a number of scenarios could give rise to delayed payments on treasury securities. one of those scenarios is a debt limit impasse between congress and the administration. but there are others, including weather events, cyber or terrorist attacks, or any number of known risks that responsible
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debt managers must take into account. we know for a fact that the treasury department and the federal reserve have developed contingency plans for these types of risks. the existence of such plans has been made public and minutes of the federal reserve's u federaln market committee and in minutes of meetings involving fed and treasury officials and representatives of large financial firms. however, the administration has flat out -- flat out -- refused to share these conti conjncy pls with congress -- contingency plans with congress or acknowledge their existence. i've been the lead republican on the senate finance committee since january 2011, and i have been asking to see those plans since the summer of 2011. over more than four years and through multiple requests for information, i've been told a number of things, usually stories that end with a claim that even though plans have been discussed, nothing has ever been
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formalized. so there are really only two plausible conclusions to be drawn: either the administration is being dishonest with congress and they have contingency plans in place, or the administration is being irresponsible by failing to account for the obvious potential risks. apparently they are comfortable with congress, not to mention the american people, reaching either one of those conclusions. if it means they don't have to share more information, simply stated, there is no reason for treasury and the fed, along with large financial firms participating in the treasury's securities markets, to formulate contingency plans for those -- for these markets without reporting them to congress or sharing them with the senate finance committee. no reason whatsoever. yet here we are. sadly, this lack of transparency doesn't end with obviously needed contingency plans.
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treasury also shares very little information with congress rerng cash forecasts particularly as we approach the debt limit. i've asked for detail updates of cash forecasts in order to, among other things, properly verify treasury's debt limit projections. and in response, treasury officials have told me that those projections are -- quote -- "highly market-sensitive" -- unquote -- and at times cannot be shared with congress. yet i have to assume that a number of officials at treasury and probably the fed have access to this sensitive data. and i'm not aware of any special security clearance assigned to these individuals. it is evidently the position of the administration that there are times where it is neither congress' nor the american people's business to know how much cash treasury expects to have in the federal till. now, this needs to change, mr. president. given my oversight responsibilities as chairman of
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the senate financ finance commii am always interested in preserving the integrity and efficiency of markets for treasury securities. unfortunately, under our laws, regulatory and over oversight authority with respect to these marnghts spreadmarkets spreads e with responsibilities of the treasury, the fed, the securities and exchange commission, the commodities future trades commission and an alphabet of other groups. this type of balkanization of authority inevitably leads to ineffective oversight and regulation. when problems arise, all the various parties point fingers at each other. every one has authority, yet no one ends up being accountable. unfortunately, the so-called dodd-frank legislation did not fix many of these problems. in fact, i'd argue all it did was give existing regulators yet more authority and of course add
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a few more acronyms into the mix. all of this is relevant to current discussion about the debt limit because it speaks to the overall management of our nation's debt. and the lack of transparency, among all these agencies. i can cite unanimousious examples where it has been problematic. for now, i will briefly mention three such instances. first, in 2013, treasury began auctioning something called a -- quote -- floating rate note, unquote. the first new treasury security since inflation protection securities were introduced more than 15 years ago. this was a significant debt management decision, yet very little information was shared with the senate finance committee, even though treasury had many discussions about the new note with representatives from large financial firms. second, treasury recently
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decided again, after several meetings with large banks, that an average cash balance of the federal government of around $50 billion per day was too low, and that going forward the balance would need to be $150 billion or more. once again, prior to that decision being finalized, there was no communication from treasury to the senate finance committee. third, on one particular day in october, 2014, there were unusual and difficult to explain events in markets for treasury securities. while all the various regulators and interest groups have issued staff reports and have held meetings and seminars relating to the apparent volatility demonstrated by these events, i am not aware of any outreach or information sharing with the members or staff of the senate finance committee. again, these are just three examples. there are certainly others.
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and all of them demonstrate that this administration is far too often unwilling to even provide simple updates about its debt management policies. all while insisting that congress repeatedly raise the debt limit without asking questions or attaching reforms. now, this also needs to change, mr. president. if the administration is going to continue to demand that congress act to increase the debt limit, then it should at the very least be more forthcoming about its policies and decisionmaking when it comes to managing our debt. well, i agree that we cannot and should not risk defaulting on our debt or other obligations, it is essential that congress receives a complete picture from the administration about its debt management policies. therefore, today i want to make clear to treasury and other agencies with responsibilities in this area that there is an imminent need for improved
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communication and increased transparency on these matters. as chairman of the senate finance committee, i intend to do all i can to ensure greater accountability. that may include more hearings with officials brought before the committee or legislation to require more information. more information flows between the administration and congress. ultimately, what specific actions we take will depend on the administration's ability to cooperate. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to address the senate as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: mr. president, as we speak, as i am speaking here on the floor of the united states senate, in an act of stunning partisan politics, president obama, the commander in chief of the united states
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armed forces, has decided he will veto the national defense authorization act. he is choosing to hold our military hostage with a domestic political agenda, and he is doing so at a time when the crises we face around the world have never been greater and u.s. leadership has never been weaker, when our women -- when our men and women in uniform need vital resources to defend and secure the nation. as i said, in an act of stunning partisan politics, president obama, the commander in chief, has decided he will veto the national defense authorization bill, and he is right now in the act of doing so. holding our military hostage for his domestic political agenda. i have been in the senate and the house for a long time. i have never seen an act of
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blatant partisanship with disregard for the men and women who are serving in the military than this what the president is doing as we speak. for 53 years, congress has fulfilled its constitutional duty to provide for the common defense by passing the national defense authorization act. for 53 consecutive years, both bodies have passed and the president has signed into law the defense authorization act. in all my years, i've never witnessed anything so misguided, cynical and downright dangerous as he is vetoing the defense authorization, for reasons that have nothing to do with defense, nothing to do with defense. presidents throughout history, republicans and democrats alike, have recognized the importance of this bill to our national defense. in the more than 50 years since congress has passed an ndaa, a national defense authorization
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act, the president of the united states has only vetoed the act four times. in each case, the president objected to an actual provision in the bill, and each time the congress was able to find a compromise that earned the president's signature. let's be clear. the president's veto of this year's bill is not over any of its politics, -- its policies. it's over politics. in the president's case, politics has taken precedence over policies, and when we're talking about the lives of the men and women who are serving this nation in uniform, disgraceful. for the first time in history, the commander in chief will sacrifice national security for his larger domestic political agenda. this veto won't resolve the defending debate, it won't stop sequestration. that's something that can only be done through the appropriation process, not a defense authorization bill.
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our sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines have answered the call to protect our nation. they want and need support. they don't care what budget category that support comes from. i'd like to point out we authorize exactly the amount of money that the president requested. this is a washington game. all the men and women who are serving in the military care about is that their mission is fully resourced. with this veto, their mission will not be fully resourced. we will put their lives in greater danger because this political game that the president is holding the men and women in the military hostage for his agenda for the fund the i.r.s. and the e.p.a. the legislation the president will veto today authorizes the overall amount for the defense that he requested every single dollar of it. by making clear that he will -- quote -- not fix defense without fixing nondefense spending, the
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president of the united states puts defense and the men and women of the military on the same level as the i.r.s. the president is using our military, is using our military as leverage to fight a battle that the defense authorization bill cannot accomplish. the time for mounting threats around the world, it's disgraceful. it's disgraceful the president would refuse to authorize our troops the resources they need to prepare for and engage in vital missions around the world and that deliver some of the most significant reforms to the pentagon in more than 30 years. by vetoing this legislation, the defense authorization bill, let's be clear what the president is saying no to. saying no to pay increases for more than 30 types of bonuses, special pay for service members, saying no to more portability of military health plans, greater
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access to urgent care facilities for troops and their families, saying no to enhanced protection against military sexual assault, saying no to significant reforms to a 70-year-old military retirement system that would extend retirement benefits to over 80% of service members. saying no to the most sweeping reforms to our defense acquisition system in nearly 30 years. saying no to a ban on torture once and for all. saying no to $300 million in legal assistance for the ukrainians to defend themselves against russian aggression. and saying no to countless other important provisions that are greatly needed to combat the growing threats we see around the world today. but perhaps most importantly, the president of the united states is refusing to sign a bill at a time when as our top military commanders national
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security experts have testified before the senate armed services committee that the world has not seen greater turmoil since the end of world war ii. so, my friends, here's the context. thanks to the president's failed policies, results of leading from behind, the results of a policy of -- quote -- don't do stupid stuff, we now see a world in a state of turmoil, the likes of which we have not seen since the end of world war ii, and on a bipartisan basis we pass a defense authorization bill that has monumental consequences to the future security of this nation, the present security of this nation and the welfare and ability of the men and women who are serving this nation in their ability to defend this nation and the president because he wants an increase in defense spending has vetoed it. never have i seen such
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irresponsibility on the part of a commander in chief. there have been presidents i've disagreed with, there have been presidents that i've had spirited debates with, but never, ever in history has there ever been a president of the united states who abrogated his responsibilities, his constitutional responsibilities as commander in chief, and i say shame on him today, and this is a shameful day. the house will vote to override this veto on november 5. i strongly urge my colleagues to reverse this dangerous action and put the interests of our military and national security ahead of politics. our men and women serving around the world, many still in harm's way, deserve nothing less. mr. president, i spend a lot of time with the men and women who are serving in the military, including members of my own family, and they're not -- they're not uninformed. they're very intelligent. they watch what we do. they watch what we do.
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we, their elected representatives. those of us that their voters entrust in us to defend them and to care for them and to give them the weapons they need and the benefits they need and the care that they need when the wounded come back. they rely on us. and they're going to see as we watch vladimir putin on the march, as we watch the success of isis, as we watch ukraine being dismembered, as we watch china commit more aggression in the south china sea, and now, now this commander in chief decides that this is a time to veto an authorization bill because he doesn't think there's enough domestic spending? it's a sad day. a very sad day. it's a sad day for america, but most of all, mr. president, it's
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a very, very sad day for the men and women who we entrust our very lives and our security. it's a sad day. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, next month, our nation will pause to honor the millions of men and women who have fought for our freedom and worked to advance peace around the world. veterans day is our annual way to say thank you and to honor those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf, and while i would like to stand here and say our country is doing everything we can for the people we owe the most to, that we are fulfilling the promise we made to them when we sent them off to fight for us, unfortunately that is not currently the case, because our nation is falling far short of
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its goal of honoring our veterans when it comes to v.a. care. despite a sweeping bill intended to tackle some of the most pressing problems and give the v.a. new tools and a change at the top of the v.a. more than a year ago, i continue to hear from veterans across my home state of washington about care that is inconsistent, outdated and often down right dismissive of individual needs. i've heard from a number of veterans in my home state of washington who are waiting on surgeries, m.r.i.'s, oncology appointments, mental health screenings, you name it. and far too often, they say they are told it will be months to see a doctor or specialist. now, i bring their stories here today to this other washington to continue to make clear this kind of outdated, inefficient
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care is unacceptable. this is a pivotal time for our v.a., and the demands on the system will only go up as wars continue to wind down and the vietnam era veterans continue to seek more care for the injuries and illnesses that they suffer from. as the daughter of a world war ii veteran, i refuse to let substandard care be the status quo. i won't accept long wait times, red tape, and understaffed hospitals as a reality for our veterans. i am not going to stop fighting to make sure we have a system that works, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many obstacles we face, and no matter who is in charge at the v.a. the law we passed to give veterans more options for care has now had an opportunity to go into effect. we can see what's working, what's not, what we can build
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on, and what we need to tear apart. last year i supported the inclusion of an independent assessment of the v.a. health system in the choice act, and recently that assessment validated what we have been telling the v.a. for years: there is growing bureaucracy, problems with leadership and staffing, and massive capital costs. and while the independent assessment identified some bright spots in the v.a. system, it also found that care and patient experiences differ widely across the system and best practices and important policies are not instituted across the country. and that means we all have more work to do because we have a responsibility to our veterans. here is what we are up against: the v.a. still has multiple non-v.a. care programs, none of which talk to each other, none of which are coordinated.
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they all have different eligibility criteria, different procedures for patients, providers, and different reimbursement rates. i hear frequently from veterans in my home state of washington about how difficult the choice program has been, from v.a. staff who don't understand the program to confusion about eligibility to getting the runaround from contractors. veterans are sick and tired of having to fight just to get an appointment. i also hear how frustrating some of the bizarre rules and restrictions on choice are. for example, an authorization for care only lasts 60 days. well, if you are a woman veteran and you're pregnant, you're going to need more than 60 days of care. you know, at the v.a., we're still hearing that the wait times are far too high. but with long wait times in the private sector and the burdensome process to even get into the choice program,
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veterans are finding they actually would have gotten care sooner if they'd stuck with the v.a. if the solution to the wait problem -- wait time problem takes longer than going to the v.a., it is not working. so it is no wonder that veterans and providers alike turn their backs on the v.a. the system is so complicated, it is impossible to just get good health care. it is time for the v.a. to implement a one -- one non-v.a. care program for the future, as we approach now this end of the trial period for the two-year choice program, the v.a. has got to use this opportunity to finally get it right on non-v.a. care. it needs to design a new system that truly meets the needs of our veterans, and i believe that system must have five fundamental characteristics. first of all, it has to be
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veteran-centered with clear eligibility rules so veterans know what they can do and what they can expect and where they can go and for what care and how that system works. it also means the experience for veterans trying to use the system has to improve. veterans should never, for example, be turned away with a dismissive "we're not taking new patients." secondly, it has to be easy for our providers, with simple and consistent procedures for them to deliver care, report back to the v.a., and get reimbursed quickly. the contracting system needs to be simple and clear, so that private providers can step in where the v.a. cannot. third, a new system must provide high-quality care that includes effective care coordination and that requires electronical medical records be returned to the v.a. and that requires we have to know that our veterans are being
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appropriately cared for. fourth, the new system has to be flexible enough to compensate for local needs. types of care where v.a. is deficient or locations where the v.a. does not have a presence. whether working with community providers to increase certain specialty appointments or seeing where the v.a. needs to move resources to hire more v.a. staff, the system has to maintain flexibility to adjust to new trends and new needs. the and finally, it has to be cost-fctive for the v.a. and -- coscost-effective for the v.a. d not schif shift the cost on to e veterans. earlier this year, the health care system was threatened to shut down. we should invest whatever we need to make sure our veterans get care. the new system must be more efficient and the v.a. needs to be clear with congress about what it needs. without a change, i would not be surprised if next year we don't
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find ourselves in the same position where we have underfunded the v.a. and need to come in and transfer funding to keep the v.a. operating. now, i will work with anyone and stand behind no one when it comes to getting veterans the funding that they need. and perhaps, most important, when implementation begins, it simply must be better than what we saw with the choice program. v.a. staff has to be trained and proficient and third-party administrators in charge of the networks of private providers have to be efficient and responsive. veterans deserve a system that works, not one that is torn apart and weakened over time. so the answer isn't just to dismantle the v.a. and leave veterans to fend for themselves, as some proposals would do. the solution starts with a real conversation, finally, what what is going on at the v.a., what
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the problems are, and then pursue an all-above approach that finally strength ngs the v.a. system, uses community providers to fill in the gaps where the v.a. cannot get the job done and continues to make the best use of other federal health programs like d.o.d. and federally qualified health centers, all in an effort to truly built a veteran-centered v.a. health care system. now, i stand ready to work with anyone to do this, and i hope my colleagues will join with me from both sides of the aisle and not make this a democrat or republican issue. veteranveterans' issues have nen partisan and there is no place for that when we sit at the table to solve a complicated problem. i hope the administration is ready to fundamentally reshape this program. i hope bureaucrats who spend more time defending the broken system are ready to get to work implementing solutions built around the needs of our
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veteransers and veteransand i hs those who currently do not provide care to veterans play a role to improve veteran care. the wars may no longer lead the nightly news, but that doesn't mean the cost of that's wars are gone, too. our veterans are still there. they still need health care and services and we will not forget them. so, mr. president, i expect the v.a. to do better. our veterans have already sacrificed so much. they should not have to come back and fight the v.a. to get the care that they have earned. let's act and let's do something that truly honors our nation's heroes. thank you, mr. president. and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. enzi: mr. president, i want to thank the senator from washington for her very thorough and passionate explanation of the problems with the v.a.
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it is time that we got them straightened out. we got a new director because there was a problem. we gave them more money because there was a problem. we did the choice act because there was a problem. i think the v.a. is kind of fighting the choice act because they want to make sure they keep it within their own clutches, but it is -- it is time that we got it straightened out, that we got some action. all of us are getting calls from veterans that we never should get. we could go into a variety of them, but i would like to work with you and i just appreciate the comments that you just made and i thought that they were very bipartisan and very much needed. mr. president, it is often said there are two constants in life: death and taxes. but i'd like to add one more: regulations. we often talk about the threat of america's growing debt that it poses to our economy and to our future, but the growth in federal regulations also poses a
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serious threat to our nation's long-term job creation and economic growth. according to the congressional budget office, or c.b.o., the potential growth rate of our economy, or the rate of growth that's possible given the education of our workers, the quality of capital equipment, and the business formation rate, we averaged 3.3% for a period from 1950 to 2014. however, c.b.o. expects that annual rate to fall 230e 2.1%, % reduction in the potential growth rate of the economy. why is this so critical? according to the president's own office of management and budget, a 1% increase in the economy's growth rate will yield more than $400 billion in new revenues without raising taxes.
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yes, that's according to the president's own office of management and budget. a 1% increase in the economy's growth rate -- we're talking about the private sector, not the government sector -- the private sector is where the revenues come from -- that 1% increase in the economy's growth rate will yield more than $400 billion in revenues without raising taxes. we're talking about the need for more revenues, but we're doing the opposite. the administration is doing the opposite of what it takes to get that growth to happen. when the growth rate falls, when we grow more slowly than we could and aren't meeting our full potential, government revenues also fail to keep up with budget projections. if we reduce by 1%, we lose another $400 billion in revenues. so what happens when the government revenue comes up even
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shorter in the face of growing overspending? it results in more borrowing, it results in bigger overspending, and expanded debt. senators from the western states know all too well the economic effects of regulations coming out of the bureaucracy-bloated agencies like the environmental protection agency. today i want to focus not just on the impact of recent regulations on my home state of wyoming's economy but the drag they're creating on the economy nationwide. and at the same time they're hiring ad agencies at billions of dollars to improve their image. they can improve their image just by doing their job without putting more burdens on the american people. and eliminating jobs. the state of wyoming is the largest coal-producing state in the nation. coal represents almost 40% of our share of electricity generation across the united states. and my county provides 40% of
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all of the coal in the united states. it's abundant, it's affordable, it's stockpilable. i.tit's the only energy that is stockpilable. it has the potential to power our country for hundreds of years, to support jobs for thousands of people, ans doesn't put us at the mercy of unstable regimes overseas. but this administration continues to denigrate and regulate coal out of existence. since 2012 two e.p.a. rules, the mercury toxin -- mercury and air toxic standards rule and the ozone rule, are estimated to cost in the tens of billions of dollars. in fact, let me just talk just about the mercury and air toxic standard. that's supposed to help solve with benefits, without saying any scientific evidence where these benefits come from, over a
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period of years maybe $500 million. what's the cost? $43,000 to $73 billion a year. why i do not -- $43,000 to $73,000 a year. we're an inventive country. if you put in incentives of just a couple of billion out there, people will solve the problem and get those benefits permanently for a very small number. not $43 billion to to $73 billa year. those two rules don't include the billions of dollars lost to thousands of more rules imposed by the e.p.a. and other agencies every year. if all those rules were not
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onerous enough, in august the e.p.a. released the final rule on the clean power plan with an estimated price tag of at least $366 billion, this rule will not only devastate the coal industry by mandating unrealistic carbon reductions, it will also distress american families by causing double-dynel digit elecc rate increases. and the coal industry of wyoming is feeling the impact. the coal industry and businesses and the people that work there that rely on it are facing higher regulatory costs at the same time as energy producers are seeing a tougher market than they've had in years. which is a bad combination for economic growth and job creation. at the end of july, wyoming had 15% fewer energy industry jobs than it did a year earlier, and these are good-paying jobs.


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