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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  October 29, 2015 10:00am-12:01pm EDT

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divided between defense and domestic programs. they would raise the debt ceiling until march of 2017. the house passed the bill yesterday. the senate would vote to proceed to the biltmore unless a time agreement to vote earlier is reached. and a light to the floor of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. -- and now live to the floor. the chaplain: let us pray. gracious god, you are worthy of our praise. let your name be honored on earth as it is in heaven. fill our lawmakers with a spirit of reverence for you and your purposes. as they seek your wisdom, direct
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their steps through the unfolding of your divine providence. may no weapon formed against them be able to prosper. lord, continue to do great things for and through them, causing justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. thank you that we can come to you in weakness and find strength. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: pleae join me in reciting the pledge f allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible,
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with liberty and justice for all.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i said the senate would take up the fiscal agreement after the house acted, and we are. this agreement isn't perfect. i share some concerns other colleagues have raised, but here's the bottom line: this is a fully offset agreement that rejects tax hikes, secures long-term savings through entitlement reforms, and provides increased support for our military. all this at a time when we confront threats in multiple theaters. each of these items was a republican goal heading into the negotiation. each of these items was achieved in the agreement before us. i'm encouraged that it would enact the most significant reform to social security since 1983, resulting in $168 billion in long-term savings.
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i'm encouraged that it would repeal more of obamacare, and i am real estate encouraged that -- i'm encouraged that it would provide support to our troops in an era of very challenging global threats. when we see isil consolidating gains in iraq and syria, when we see the forces of assad marching alongside iranian soldiers and hezbollah militias supported by russian aircraft overhead, colleagues know that i will respect whenever choice they ultimately make when this agreement comes up for a vote. theithere are valid differencesf opinion, and that's okay. but i ask every colleague to consider what this fully offset agreement would mean for the men and women who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way so that we may live free. commanders tell us that additional resources are required, required to ensure their safety and preparedness.
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this fully offset agreement would help provide them. along with enacting the most significant social security reform in over three decades, along with repealing another piece of obamacare, along with refusing to raise taxes by a penny, so i hope senators will join me i in voting for it. now, allow me to say a few words em the speaker of the house. there is a lot you can say about john boehner. he loves his breakfast every morning at pete's diner. he is a fan of the tie dimple. he is one of the most genuine guys you would ever, ever meet. i know because we fought many battles together in the trenches. he never breaks his word, he never buckles in a storm, and what's amazing is how we've had such a frictionless
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relationship, especially when you consider that ol' house saying, "the other party? that's just the opposition. but the senate, that's the enemy." that may have been true of past house and senate leaders, but it wasn't true for us. though you might not expect it, i'm a little more bourbon and john is a little more merlot. i lecture on hadn'try clay. the john sings "zippity do-did a." i have always considered him a friend an ally. he is harit is hard not to like. and it is hard not to admire what john as accomplished in his career. as a concerned owian, he too ohk on a scandal-plagued opponent and won. he took on money laundering
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schemes involving powerful members and prevailed. as an engineer of the contract with america, he took on decades' long power lock. he knew he had more to offer and convinced his colleagues that he did. as the inheritor of a diminished and dispirited house minority, he dared to believe conservatives could rise again and helped grow the largest republican majority since bo bob-haired flappers were dancing the charleston back in the 1920's. john boehner has wandered the valley. john boehner has also been to the mountaintop. john boehner has slid right back into the valley and then ai a sended to great -- ascended to
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great heights yet again. he does it all with hard work, he does 2 wit it with an ernests and honesty i have always admired. when john talks about struggling, it is not some platitude. when john gets choked up about americans reaching foretheir dreams, it is not some act. it is a guy that had to share a bathroom with 11 brothers and sisters. imagine that. this is a guy whose parents slept on the pullout sofa. this is a guy who worked hard behind the bar and eventually found his way atop the rostrum. maybe that's why he's so humble. maybe that's why when he orders breakfast at pete's, they don't call him "mr. speaker." they just call him "john john." well, here's what i know about speaker john boehner.
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he says the code he lives by is a simple one: do the right thing for the right reasons and the right things will happen. i've always found that to be true. i've found it to be true in our battles fighting side by side for conservative reform, sometimes from a position deep in the minority. we had our share of maalox moments. that's for sure, but he always strived to push forward. as i said about john baron the day he announced his retirement, grace under pressure, country and institution before self. these are the things that come to mind when i think of him. i wish speaker boehner the very best in retirement, and i thank
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him for always working hard to do the right thing. for his family, for his district, for his party, for his country. farewell, my friend. though we bid farewell to one speaker today, we know we'll soon be saying hello to a new one. the house will vote later this morning on the nomination of congressman paul ryan. i think it's appropriate to wait for that vote to occur before making full comments, but i also think it goes without saying that paul ryan is one of the most respected guys around here. everyone knows he's smart. everyone knows he's serious. and i look forward to working closely with him in pursuit of conservative solutions for our country. now, mr. president, i understand there is a bill at the desk due a second reading. the presiding officer: the clerk will read the title of the bill for the second time.
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the clerk: h.r. 597, an a ct to reauthorize the export-import bank of united states and for other purposes. mr. mcconnell: in order to place the bill on the calendar under the provision us of rule 14, i would object to furlt -- further proceedings. the presiding officer: objection having been heard, the bill will be placed on the calendar. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. reid: last night the house of representatives passed the bipartisan budget agreement that will keep our government ultimately funded and free from default. 100% of the democrats in the house of representatives voted for this. 68% of republicans voted against it. let's pause just a minute and understand what i just said. 68% of the republicans in the house of representatives voted to default on the full faith and credit of our great country. 68% of the republicans voted to close our government.
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mr. president, this legislation now before the senate. i urge all my colleagues to support this responsible agreement. it's not perfect, as my friend, the republican leader, said. no legislation is. but this budget agreement accomplishes two major priorities that democrats have long supported. number one, it promotes economic growth by providing relief from sequestration's damaging cuts for two years. and it ensures that we invest equally in the middle class and the pentagon. the budget agreement is good for the middle class, good for the comirks aneconomy, and good fore country. i thank the people who worked so hard to make this agreement what it is today. the agreement was among president obama, spoar speaker boehner,mitch mcconnell, leader pelosi and i helped. i pplaud and commend the president of the united states. he was firm, he was resolute and
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he was, as usual, very smart. i appreciate -- again, i repeat -- the good work he did to get to the point where we are now. to reach these negotiations, each of us had discussions directly with each other, but we also know that a lot of the work was done by our staffs, our respective staffs. my chief of staff drew wilson represented senate democrats in these negotiations. the senate democratic caucus is aware of drew's expertise, hard work, fairness, and openness. drew was ably assisted by gary myrick, who is a democratic floor leader as well as a number of people who are on my team of senior policy analysts who helped a great deal. kate leon -- i don't think there is anyone in the senate who doesn't know who kate is.
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she is the expert on health care. bruce king, ellen deneski, tremendous refif, tyler moran, gavin park, alex mcdonem. all worked literally night and day to get this to the point where we were able to be here on the floor today seeking support for it. mr. president, i'm so grateful for the wonderful staff that i have, but there were others involved. senator mcconnell's negotiator in this was haza marshal. haza marshal is a good person. he was resolute. he carried forward what the republican leader wanted. but like my staff, you never get exactly what you want. but everybody enjoyed working with him. dave stewart, he was speaker boehner's negotiator on this.
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i really care a great deal about dave stewart. david is a good man, and we all admire the work that he has done. and i hope that the new speaker will be -- new speaker-to-be paul ryan will use his good auspices. he's a talented man. dick nolzer, leader pelosi's able, able negotiator. and with the white house, mr. president, let me just stay a word about speaker pelosi before i move on. i so admire this good woman. she is a stalwart in the house of representatives. she will go down in history as one of the great, great leaders of that body. i admire her. i appreciate her friendship and extend to anyone within the sound of my voice my appreciation for the work that
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she did on this bill with the white house. i've already indicated the president did a wonderful job on this, but also he assigned two really terrific, good, outstanding -- i can't say enough about these two people. brian dees, one of the white house negotiators, and katie fallon. katie is a woman we all know in the senate. she worked for senator schumer for a number of years. she worked for the democratic policy committee for a number of year. we admire her very much. and she was so helpful to everything we did in this legislation. she's always easy to get ahold of, easy to reach. so, mr. president, it's now time for this important legislation to pass the united states senate. i want to say just a few words about speaker boehner. i have to admit that i was
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skeptical when he said that he wanted to clean out the barn before he left, but he found a way to clean out the barn by passing a clean debt limit and a two-year budget agreement which should go a long way to returning the appropriations process to the way it should work. i will always consider him my friend and i'll miss him. i wish him the very best in everything he does in the future. i listened to his final remarks on the house floor. they were very moving. it wasn't only john boehner who shed a tear over there today, but many members of the house of representatives and a number of us that watched his final speech shed a tear too. mr. president, there's a lot of talk about the appropriations process. i've been an appropriator since i came to the senate. i was very fortunate as a brand-new senator -- that was many decades ago -- to be on the
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appropriations committee. what an honor. the appropriations committee work is not as it used to be. we have got to get back to being able to do individual appropriations bills. i just say to my friends, my republican friends, let's do the appropriations bill, let's get rid of these foolish riders. they stick on appropriations bills. we need to understand there's a time and place for doing that. there's authorization. do the bills, authorize stuff. but don't mess up the appropriations process. we will be happy to support next year individual appropriations bills coming to the floor. we don't need motions to proceed. we'll be happy to move the bill as long as we get rid of those vexatious riders that have nothing to do with the bill brought before us. we don't need on a defense appropriations bill something to do with women's health in the
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sense of directly attacking planned parenthood. we don't need on commerce, state, justice something dealing with doing away the environmental protection agency. there are many examples that we could use. but let's just get to doing appropriations bills the way we used to. i want to do that. we don't need to have a motion to proceed as long as my republican colleagues get rid of those foolish ideological amendments that have nothing to do with the bill before us. mr. president, another topic -- and i would ask this appear at a separate place in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: thank you. yesterday the georgetown university center for children and families released a stunning report detailing the sharp increase in the number of nevada children who have health insurance, who have health insurance. one time we were the most underinsured state in the country for health insurance. but according to the georgetown study, the number of nevada
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children without health insurance fell by 35% in just one year. that's 2013. 15% of children in nevada lacked health insurance one year later. that number fell to 9.3%. reading directly from that report -- and i quote -- "states with the sharpest declines in the rate of uninsured children were nevada, colorado, west virginia, mississippi and rhode island. nevada's decline was considerably larger than any other state." a 35% increase in the number of insured children in just one year is remarkable. it means more children have access to the care they need to stay healthy. a number of these children will be able to go to the doctor for the first time in their lives. it's yet further proof that the affordable care act is working in nevada and across america. i say, mr. president, to my friends, again, the republicans, let's start working together to
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improve health care. we want to work with you. if there's a problem you see with obamacare, let's work together. we have been able to make some improvements in this law, and we want to make more. we just need some cooperation from my republican friends. mr. president, in spite -- in spite of -- i'm sorry. in the spike in the number of insured nevada children also is the foresight of the government in the state of nevada. brian sandoval is a republican. he's a proud republican who supported the state's medicaid expansion option. he took on all the naysayers. why did brian sandoval do this? he did this because he thought it was the right thing to do for the state of nevada. and it has proven that in fact is true. by expanding medicaid in nevada, many, many, many more are able to ensure affordable care for their children, health care for
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their kids. governor sandoval's courage stands in stark contrast to many of his fellow republicans, quite frankly. governors in a number of states dominated by republican state legislatures have refused to extend coverage to the needy. the needy. these republicans have blocked expanded coverage despite the fact that it means fewer americans and their children have access to the health care they need. mr. president, this means that people are dying as a result of this. two states with the highest rates of unshourd children -- alaska and texas -- have reject ed medicare expansion. others have done the same. there are many who wanted to go the same route. the republic staipt legislature within the -- state legislature within the nevada legislation repealed all acts.
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but governor sandoval was not swayed by the cynics in his own party. he refused to let politics stand in the way of children's health and today nevada children are better for it. i repeat, the affordable care act is helping american families. it's helping nevada families. and it's working in states after using the law as it was intended. i hope more republicans will follow governor sandoval's examples, thus helping their states and constituents by expanding access to quality health care. mr. president, i am an admirer of governor sandoval, and this is saying a lot. hips opponent in the last election -- his opponent in the last election was my son. but i have to say this, in spite of the fact that my son came in second, brian sandoval has done an outstanding job as governor, and i admire him and appreciate what he's done. i don't agree with everything he's done. i had some disagreements with what he did in the legislature. but i simply want to say that
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none of us are perfect, and he certainly isn't, but i appreciate what he has done for the berment of -- betterment ofe state of nevada. earlier this year we recognized people payday, a day that recognizes the wage gap between men and women in the united states. equal pay day marks the day when women's wages finally catch up with men's wages from the previous year. on average american women make about 77 cents for every dollar that their male colleagues make while doing the very same job. this unjust and immoral reality is even more pronounced for women of color. tomorrow is latina equal pay day. the point of this is wages of latina women catch up with men. it is today they have had to work all this time to catch up. the fact that hispanic women must work a full year plus nienl months -- nine months and 30 days to make what their male
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counterparts make is unacceptable. in nevada latina women make 56 cents for every dollar thairl male -- their male counterparts make. nationwide they make 55 cents for every dollar a man makes. the wage gap they make results in a loss of $25,000 a year for these women. that is $25,000 that could be used to help these women sustain their families. to make matters worse, the wage gaps that exist between latina women and male counterparts disproportionately affect their hispanic families because they are more likely to be the breadwinners for their families. 30% of all hispanic families in the united states are headed by a single mother and 40% of married latina women earn more than 50% much their family's income. as legislators, it is our duty to see to the well-being of all americans. democrats don't take that responsibility lightly. we understand that when wages of women do not reflect their hard
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work, it undermines of strength of families and communities throughout the nation. that's why we have continual lip and consistently fought for equal pay for equal pay. five times in five years republicans have stood in the way of equal pay for women. they have stood in the way of equal wages for their own sisters, daughters and wives. even republican l women have refused to address this important issue. and as members of congress, republican members of congress. the proposal republicans have pull short while short of ensuring real equal pay protections ignore the realities women face in fighting for fair pay. the republicans have placed their stample -- stamp of approval on unequal paychecks. the wage gap is disgraceful. no woman should earn less than a man who does the same work. latina women deserve elected officials who will advocate on their behalf. as we recognize latina equal pay
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day, i call on republicans to support a pay equity bill that empowers women to receive equal pay they have so rightly earned not just because it strengthens families and benefits our country, but because it's the right thing to do. mr. president, i would finally ask consent that the three issues upon which i spoke today appear separately in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the house message to accompany h.r. 1314, which the clerk will report. the clerk: house message to accompany h.r. 1314 an act to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 to provide for right to administrative appeal relating to adverse determinations of tax-exempt status of certain organizations. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, today we're kicking off a debate on major
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bipartisan legislation. chairman hatch and i are also involved in an important senate finance committee hearing. he will be here a little bit later. i would ask unanimous consent that our colleague, senator durbin from illinois, be allowed to speak after i do. i believe that his remarks will also be completed before chairman hatch arrives. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wyden: thank you very much, mr. president. and chairman hatch and i will be managing this bill. and we also would like to say to colleagues that we're anxious to have everyone have an opportunity to speak out on this extraordinarily important issue. and if they come down and consult with the finance staff, the majority and minority in our respective cloakrooms, we're going to work very hard to accommodate all of our colleagues on both sides of the
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aisle. here in my view, mr. president, is what this issue is all about. fiscal battles in the congress come and go. but nothing should ever be allowed to threaten america's sterling economic reputation, and this legislation will preserve it. without this agreement, the congress is staring at a potential debt default, a debt default that would be literally days away and the treasury would lose its authority to borrow in order to make payments. by now, i think a lot of senators understand the disastrous consequences of default. housing costs shooting upward, retirement accounts shrinking, jobs disappearing, consumer
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confidence dropping. now, we also understand that no one can get particularly thrilled by the prospect of raising the debt ceiling. yet, it is a job that must be done. our country is an economic rock in tumultuous seas, and we certainly have disagreements, disagreements practically come with every new cycle and election. but what doesn't change, mr. president, is our country pays its debts, and we pay them on time. that's why this legislation is so important. the bipartisan compromise reduces the threat of a potential government shutdown in december. when this becomes law, the pin,
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in fact, goes back in the grenade where it belongs, and that is positive news as we look for some predictability and certainty, which we all hear from our businesses and employers and our citizens is so important. congress ought to look at this compromise, in my view, as a springboard to a full and productive debate over the budget in the upcoming two years. the fact is, last-minute deals have become too commonplace and they've left a lot of important policy reforms, policy improvements on the cutting floor. for example, with america's west getting hotter and drier each year, our broken system of budgeting for wildfires is in drastic need of improvement. the same goes for many programs and services that are a lifeline for rural america.
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fortunately, this legislation lays the groundwork for the congress to go back to having robust budget debates that can actually solve these challenges. now, with my time this morning, i'd like to address some specific elements of the bill starting with what i see as several particularly constructive policies. first, the legislation staves off the full brunt of the automatic budget cuts known in the corridors of washington as sequestration. this policy was designed, in effect, to be painful from the get-go, and it would weaken medicare, the lifeline for older people and othe, and other domec programs. it was supposed to be considered so god awful that it would vanish two years after it began,
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but it continues to haunt budget debates to this day. it's important that this legislation eases the burden by $80 billion over two years. that means more opportunities to invest in education, in medical and scientific research, in housing assistance, in public health, and more. now, second, this bipartisan plan is going to prevent a big spike in medicare costs for millions of older people. several weeks ago the news came down that seniors were facing a hike in premiums and deductibles in medicare part-bncht-b, the outpatient portion of medicare, of potentially more than 50%. that would amount to an increase of hundreds of dollars, perhaps more, in a year when social security benefits are not
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expected to grow. from my years as codirector of oregon's gray panthers, i can tell you, for many seniors living on a fixed income, that would have really hit them like a wrecking ball. so, when we got those initial reports, several of my democratic colleagues and i got together and introduced legislation that would fully shield older people from this huge financial hit. following our work, the bipartisan compromise before the senate includes a version of this important fix. it is not as generous as the proposal my colleagues and i introduced. there are questions about how it will affect the landscape a few years down the road. but, make no mistake about it,
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mr. president, this approach goes a long, long way to protecting seniors, particularly the dual-eligibles -- seniors eligible for medicare and medicaid -- and this is a very important part of this legislation. third, the budget compromise takes an extraordinarily important step to shore up one of our country's most vital safety net programs, the social security disability insurance program. without a fix, what's called ssdi, social security disability insurance benefits, that the workers have earned, they would have been slashed by 20%, and that 20% hike would have hit those affected very quickly. this proposal is going to follow what has been a frequently used bipartisan approach of shifting
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funding within the social security program to make sure that those who depend on this program are protected through 2022. i introduced legislation earlier this year along with 28 of our colleagues which would have gone further by guaranteeing that the program remains solvent through 2034. but this compromise package, again, strengthens the program for several years and we'll have a chance to come together, hopefully on a bipartisan basis, and go even further. fourth, the budget package makes real progress on what's called "complying with our tax laws" -- tax compliance. and it is important to note, mr. chairman -- mr. president, these are not tax hikes. this is a question of enforcing tax law so that when tax is --
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taxes are sowed, the sowed, thee actually paid. there are several proposals that will crack down on taxpayers that seek to dodge their tax responsibilities and pass the buck to other americans. for example, enforcing the tax laws with respect to large partnerships has been a challenge for sometime. there are more than 10,000 of these complex businesses in our country. more than 500 of them have at least 100,000 partners. so there has not been an effective way to conduct audits under the current rules because the rules are basically decades old and haven't kept up with the times. in my view, the proposal before the senate makes meaningful improvements here.
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more taxpayers will pay what they owe instead of using sleight of hand approaches to dodge their responsibilities. we all understand that the tax code, it almost boggles the mind in terms of its complexity, and i think it would be fair to say that there may be more work that goes in to getting this policy right, as it relates to partnerships and several of the other issues, and my colleagues and i on the finance committee intend to keep giving the scrutiny that the partnership issue deserves, an ongoing aiminanalysis. those are four issues in this that saves off a risky budgetary
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balance. i do feel it is important to share one of my concerns with the bill at this time, and it is a provision that really has little to do with the budget. it's called section 301, and it allows debt collectors to make robocalls directly to americans' cell phones. here's my view. debt collectors should not be gifted broad permission to harass our citizens, particularly through robocalls, running up costly charges in many cases. the federal communication commission has limits on the number and duration of calls, and they are not sufficient. in a healthier budget process, this kind of proposal would get weeded out. the so i'd like to say to our colleagues in the senate, both democrats and republicans, i'm going to do everything i can to reverse this action in the weeks ahead.
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finally, mr. president, in my capacity as ranking member of the finance committee, i want to discuss how these fiscal agreements ought to be financed in the future. medicare and social security absolutely cannot become the honey pots that congress raids whenever it needs to pay for legislation. if you go around the country to oregon, to illinois, to georgia, to the dakotas, to texas and you ask typical americans what they want their representatives in the congress to do, protecting medicare and social security is right -- right at the top of the list. i hear it in every town hall meeting -- i've had more than 700 of them in my home state -- and i've got to believe many colleagues in south dakota and illinois and elsewhere hear the
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same thing. there is a longstanding tradition that says changes in medicare policy should be for strengthening medicare in the future. the same principle goes for social security. yet twice now these vital programs have been used to fund budget deals, and medicare sequestration is sticking around long past its original expiration date. this legislation preventing a calamitous default is coming down to the wire, and i would tell colleagues, this is a must-pass bill. i support it, and i would urge democrats and republicans to do so as well. i would also say, we talk about where we go from here. it is important to recognize
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that medicare and social security must not be used as a.t.m.'s for other spending in the future. the bottom line has to be that the process of reaching a budget and keeping the lights on in this wonderful institution, the people's branch, keeping the lights on and the process of reaching a budget has to change. the congress cannot continue to just go from crisis to crisis to crisis. it's our job as lawmakers, working with a bipartisan way, to set the right temperature in our economy with smart, afford, forward-looking policies that keepolicies thathelp our busine. the and giv and give everybody n america the opportunity to get ahead. pretty hard toure to do when yoh
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from one crisis to another. so let's use this legislation as an opportunity to get back to writing the budget in a bipartisan fashion, through the traditional approaches that have been called regular order. pass this bill now so as to ensure that america's sterling economic reputation is intact, and then let's look to the future around some of the principles that i have laid out. again, mr. president, chairman hatch will be here in a bit. he and i, as the managers of the bill, want to make clear we want to accommodate as many colleagues as we can. we ought to be able to. and i look forward to the remarks of the distinguished senior senator from illinois, and i believe before too long chairman hatch will be here as well. and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor.
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mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the assistant democrat leader. mr. durbin: yesterday the senior senator from arizona and the chairman of the senate armed services committee came to the floor to speak to an issue and mentioned my name several dimes during the course of his remarks -- several times 0 during the course of his remarks on the floor. i come to respond to the senior senator from arizona. let me tell you what the issue is. the issue is a decision by the department of defense on october 7 of this year to place the university of phoenix, a not for profit university, on probation and prohibit the company from enrolling new department of defense tuition assistance and mica beneficiaries. the company, the university of phoenix, was under this department of defense order banned -- pardon me -- barred from accessing military bases. this is a serious action and there's a reason for it. the senior senator from arizona came to the floor to protest
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this decision by the department of defense and to protest also other actions that had been taken relative to other for-profit universities. i come this morning to respond. what's at stake here is something that's very essential. when men and women volunteer for our military, hold their hands up and say i'm willing to die for this country, they make a promise, and we make a promise. our promise is that if you will serve this country and risk your life for america, we'll stand by you when you come home. if you're injured, we'll provide medical care. if you want to pursue education and training, we'll help you do it. in fact, we'll even help your family do it. and many other benefits that we rightly promise to these members of the military. so the g.i. bill, which is, has been characterized as the g.i. bill since world war ii, is really the vehicle that gives to many of these service members while they are serving and after they've completed their service a chance to build their lives.
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it's a generous program, and it should be. and it's generous from their families, and it should be. but it is virtually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. we hope that these members of the military and their family choose well in terms of courses that they need to take, training that they need, to prepare for their lives after they served our country. and we have a responsibility when it comes to those who are currently in the service to monitor the activities of a lot of the schools that are offering education and training. we would be derelict in our responsibility if we did not. so the department of defense wrote down a memorandum of understanding to all schools saying that if you want to offer g.i. bill training and education, if you want to offer training for the families of service members, here are the rules to play by. and i think virtually every
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institution of higher learning knows going in to follow the rules, whatever your institution may be. let me say a word about the university of phoenix. this is not just another for-profit school. it's the largest by far. at the height of their enrollment, the university of phoenix, a for-profit university, largely offering online courses, had as many as 600,000 students. that is dramatically more than the combined enrollment of all the big ten colleges and universities. over the years, in the last five years they have decided to reduce the size of their student body. it's now slightly over 200,000. as an individual institution, it's the largest in america. and it certainly is the largest of for-profit colleges and universities. you can hardly escape the advertising of the university of
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phoenix. they have the naming rights to the stadium where the arizona cardinals play their football games in arizona. they have advertisement on television, on radio, billboards and every direction. it is a company that markets in every direction, and as a consequence has built a large student enrollment. how about university of phoenix in terms of the dollars that they receive? that's the interesting thing. unlike universities and colleges around the united states, whether in north dakota, south dakota, nebraska, indiana or whatever, these for-profit universities get a substantial portion of all of their revenue directly from the treasury through pell grants and student loans, dramatically higher percentages of their revenue come from the treasury than virtually any other college or university. this is unique to the for-profit college and university sector.
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they are the most heavily subsidized for-profit private businesses in america today. let me give you an example of what i'm talking about. 82% of the revenue coming to the university of phoenix, $2.7 billion, comes out of title 4. 82% much their revenue. when it comes to the department of defense tuition assistance, university of phoenix is the fourth largest recipient in the united states. $20 million. under the g.i. bill, they are the largest recipient from the department of defense and the treasury. $346 million. their c.e.o., mr. capelli, is paid $8 million a year in total compensation, dramatically more than virtually any other university president in the ordinary course of higher education. what is their record?
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university of phoenix students cumulatively owe more in student debt than any educational institution in america. the university of phoenix students owe $35 billion in student loans. only half of the university of phoenix borrowers are paying down their debt five years after graduation or after they've dropped out of school. only half. that means that more than half are defaulting. phoenix's overall three-year repayment rate -- that means how many borrowers are making payments on their debt after three years -- 41%. over half of the university of phoenix students and graduates, after three years out of school, less than half are paying back. their five-year repayment rate, 47%. nearly one out of every two students who graduated or
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dropped out in 2009 has defaulted within five years. the university of phoenix's five-year default rate -- that is students who graduated in 2009 through 2014 -- 45%. the arizona location, which includes online students across the country, four-year bachelor's seeking graduation rate is 1%. and the six-year bachelor's seeking graduation rate, 10%. this industry, for-profit colleges and universities, there are three numbers to remember. 10% of the students graduating from high school go to these for-profit schools. 20% of all the federal aid to education goes to these schools. why? they are very expensive. the tuition they charge is dramatically more than it colleges and universities across the country. but here's a number to remember. as an industry, 40% of all the
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student loan defaults are students that attend for-profit colleges and universities. why? it's so darned expensive, students can't continue the education and drop out. or they complete the education and find many times the diploma is worthless. so now let's go back to the department of defense. we want to protect our men and women in uniform for being exploited by any college or university, for profit or not. so the department of defense wrote down a memorandum of understanding and said if you want to offer courses to our men and women in uniform, here are the rules to play by. on october 7 the department of defense announced that they placed the university of phoenix on probation and prohibited them from enrolling new service members in the d.o.d. tuition assistance or mica programs. they barred them from accessing military bases. the decision, the department
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said, was based on violations of the memorandum of understanding which i described this morning, based on their own review. so yesterday the senators, senior senator from arizona came to the floor to protest this decision by the department of defense. there were several things which he said during the course of his floor statement which i would like to address. the senator from arizona claimed that the d.o.d.'s -- quote -- "actions were taken without due process" and based on -- quote -- "an outside investigative report." the senator went on to say -- quote -- "there wasn't a department investigation. there was no scrutiny." he said that on the floor to protest the department of defense decision. here's the fact: the department of defense conducted nearly four months of review of the university of phoenix's practices after the report by the center for investigative l reporting raised allegations
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relating to the company strategy using corporate sponsorship of on military bases to skirt the federal rules on recruitment that had been spelled out in the memorandum of understanding. the department of defense placed the university of phoenix on probation when its review -- quote -- "revealed several violations of the department of defense memorandum of understanding. d.o.d. also gave the company 14 days to provide the department of defense with materials in response to the decision to argue that there was no due process in this is betrayed by the facts. the senator from arizona went on to say -- quote -- "if the university of phoenix is is guilty of some wrongdoing, i want to be one of the first to ensure the proper penalties are enacted." here's a fact: the department of defense confirmed that the university of phoenix is guilty of wrongdoing. the department of defense's
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notice to the university stated that -- quote -- "if conducted a review of the agreements between the university of phoenix and the department of defense as reflected in the memorandum of understanding, this review revealed several violations of the memorandum of understanding attributed to the university of phoenix, including but not limited to transgression of defense department policies regarding the use of its official seals or other trademark insignia, failure to go to responsible education advisors for each activity, requiring access to the department of defense installations. they go on to say that they found that the -- quote -- "frequency and scope of these previous violations is ' 'disconcerting. ' " despite this the senior senator from arizona is urging the department of defense to ignore what they found in their investigation and to reverse their decision, putting the company on probation. the senator from arizona went on
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to call phoenix violations -- quote -- "minor breaches in day could day -- in decorum" technical in nature. the department of defense found the university violated terms in the memorandum of understanding that every institution must adhere to to be eligible to participate in voluntary military education programs. for instance, this document specifies that the base's education officer -- not the base commander -- is the sole approving authority for any and all access to the base. and their violation of this memorandum of understanding provision, the department of defense called the university of phoenix's violations disconcerting in their frequency and scope. the company had a corporate strategy of spending millions of dollars to sponsor events on military bases to skirt department of defense rules and the 2012 executive order that
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was designed to prohibit institutions from recruiting service members on military bases. mr. president, let me spell out some of the things that were being done by the university of phoenix. and remember what we're talking about here. this university is receiving $20 million a year through the d.o.d. tuition assistance and $346 million through the g.i. bill. of course it's a big profit center for them to continue this educational pursuit, and they spend a lot of money to support it and that's what got them in trouble. the university of phoenix spent over $250,000 in the last three years just in one location -- fort campbell, kentucky, sponsoring 89 events, one featuring a performer named big smo. that alone cost $25,000 to the university of phoenix. across the country they sponsored rock concerts, super
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bowl parties, father-daughter dances, easter egg hunts, chocolate festivals and brunch with santa. it paid to have its staff serve as exclusive resume advisors in hiring our heroes job fairs and workshops, many on military bases. a hidden camera for the center for investigative reporting documented that all of the resume workshop materials, presentations and slides and sample successful resumes were labeled with university of phoenix marketing and trainers urged attendees to go to the university of phoenix web site for more information. fee nicks used -- phoenix used challenge coins with d.o.d. seals and logos to show its close relationship with the military without receiving prior approval. the senator from arizona noted other schools have done the same thing, including, he mentioned, southern illinois university. i'm not going to send a letter to the d.o.d. protesting if they
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hold s.i.u. or any school accountable for the same context as university of phoenix. the senior senator from arizona did, and i think he ought to reflect on that for a moment. senator mccain -- pardon me, the senator from arizona says the university of phoenix has a long history of serving nontraditional students such as active duty military and others. according to paul rykoff of the iraq veterans of america, the university of phoenix -- quote -- "is constantly reported as the single worst by far" when it comes to for-profit colleges taking advantage of its memberss that the agency for financial cfpb, the education department, and california attorney general harris drove another for-profit school, corinthian, out of business without ever proving misconduct. and now we're attempting to do the same with the university of
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feigphoenix. the fact is that there are ongoing investigations by the federal trade commission related to unfair practices and the handling of personal student information. there is an investigation under way of the university of phoenix by the department of education's inspector general related to marketing, recruitment, financial aid processing, fraud prevention, student retention, personnel training, attendance, academic grading, et cetera. there is an ongoing investigation of the university of phoenix by the securities and exchange commission relating to insider trading. and not one but three different state attorney generals are investigating the university of phoenix for unfair and deceptive practices. the senator from arizona comes and protests that we are involved in some sort of ideological grandstanding -- that's what he said -- ideological grandstanding,
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ignoring the evidence which i have presented this morning about the investigations of the university of phoenix going on across agencies, state and federal, and the investigation by the department of defense which led to this decision. he also goes on to say yesterday in his remarks -- i want to quote him directly -- quote -- "last year the cfpb and an individual named miss harass is mointsed mounted a campaign that
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drove corinthian college out of business without ever proving misconduct. they were able to droif a college out of business." what's a co-i.n.s. dengs dense a coincidence that he would make that statement on the the floor of the senate yesterday, the same day that a federal judge in chicago ordered corinthian colleges, now bankrupt to pay $530 million to the consumer financial protection bureau, resolving a year-long lawsuit against the for-profit chain for allegedly steering students in predatory student loans. the cfpb director richard correspondent dry said, "today's ruling marks the end of our litigation against a company that has severely harmed tens of thousands of students, turning dreams of higher education into a nightmare. close quote. i don't understand how the senator from arizona can come to the floor the same day this federal decision is handed down
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and raise this issue without some knowledge of what corinthian colleges were doing. they were lying, misrepresenting to the federal government how many students were employed after they graduated. it turns out corinthian was paying employers several thousand dollars to hire their students/graduates for a month or two so they could report to the federal government their students are jobs. they were caught at it. they were asked to provide information to real estate fute what i've -- refute what i've just said. instinstead of doing that they started dissembling and going out of business. they were also steering student to what are called genesis lawns. students were paying outrageous fees for bachelor's fees, and then they were facing genesis loans, they called them, interest rates as high as 15%. this industry does have good
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schools and good courses in the for-profit business sector, i'm sure. but ther there has clearly been mis-kurkts and we have to call them on it and hold them responsible. it is our federal government that virtually acknowledges the accreditation of these schools. it is our federal government that offers pell grants and direct student loans to their students, creating the impression among students and families that these are perfectly good colleges and universities. and we have a responsibility, a responsibility to students and families across this nation to police their ranks when there is misconduct. in this case, the department of defense looked clos closely and decided that the university of phoenix was involved in misconduct. mr. president, there was a letter that was prepared by a number of organizations -- i won't read all of their names,
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but it was sent october 27 this year week to the honorable ashton carter, the secretary of defense, thanking the department for their recent action when it came to the university of phoenix. these organizations went on to cat a log the things i've said -- catalog the things i've said here this morning. they also talk about the students that these organizations have worked with. they found in this letter it says, service members' complaints regarding the university of phoenix fall into three categories: service members who were signed up for loans without their permission, service members who were misled about the cost of tuition increases at the university of phoenix, service members who were misled about the accreditation and transferability of university of phoenix credits. yesterday the senior senator from arizona cited three students. i would like to read from this letter, they note three students who are members of the military commenting on the university of phoenix.
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the first cody edy of the u.s. marines, "i was told these credits would transfer anywhere nationwide but as i began my transsignificance, i found out they would not transfer to the schools in my home state. i wasted my time and 15 credits for nothing. aaron porter, u.s. army, "i was told by the university of phoenix that i would be eligible for grants, that i did not have to pay back. i came to find out they would enrolled me in loans and now i can't afford the payments." deny is chamberlain, u.s. army, "i attended the university of phoenix to obtain my bachelor's degree, i racked up close to $20,000 in debt much i feel they targeted me for my military student aid. i struggle every month paying back the student loans i could have avoided. i was shot twice in afghanistan by shrapnel from r.p.g.'s." the letter is signed by about 20 different organizations, air force sergeants association, the
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association of the united states navy, the american association of state colleges and universities, blue star families, paralyzed veterans of america -- i ask unanimous consent to submit this letter for the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, i'm going to wrap up here. i read carefully what the senator from arizona had to say yesterday, and i hope i've addressed each of the major points which he raised. there was indeed an investigation. thereere standards which the university of phoenix agreed to follow and then failed to follow. there is an effort under way to make sure we protect men and women in the military and their families from exploitation when it comes to their g.i. bills. we should continue that effort. i hope that my friend and colleague from arizona, who has made a record in the senate speaking up, standing up to avoid those misuses of federal funds, will continue in that same vein when it comes in this issue. we want money well-spent.
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we wnts our men an want our menn uniform well-served. mr. president, i yield the floor. 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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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, we have the chairman of the senate agriculture committee here on the floor, and i want to thank him for his tenacity and diligent work on behalf of america's farmers and rural communities. discussed with the chairman his concerns about the fiscal agreements crop insurance provisions and their impact on farmers. concerns which are shared by our counterparts in the house of representatives. i also have concerns about the changes to crop insurance and what it will mean to the future farmers in my state. we've got a big agricultural
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community in kentucky, and i've certainly heard from them in great numbers over the past couple of days. farming has been a long tradition in my state. kentucky is made up largely of smaller family farms, farms that have been passed down from generation to generation. these folks rely heavily on the notion that a bad crop yield year will not stop their ability to continue farming because of the certainty provided through this crop insurance program. it's our joint understanding that the house leaders will work to reverse these crop insurance changes and find bipartisan alternative deficit reduction savings when they consider the omnibus appropriations bill later this year. and so i want to assure my friend from kansas and the other members of our conference who care about this that i'll work closely with him to support the house in these efforts. mr. roberts: mr. president,
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would the distinguished leader yield? mr. mcconnell: i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: mr. president, i rise to engage in this colloquy that our distinguished republican leader has already mentioned or stressed. i also want to thank the, our majority whip, the senator from texas, and the senior senator from south dakota, senator thune, with regard to a commitment made between all of us here. this commitment is in reference to the obvious need to remedy the language adversely affecting our nation's farmers and ranchers now included in the bipartisan budget act. this provision, section 201, included in the underlying bill should go into effect -- should it go into effect would greatly damage the crop insurance program as we know it, not to mention the farmers who purchase crop insurance. the commitment we have reached to reverse these damaging cuts
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in policy changes to the crop insurance program in order to protect our producers and their primary risk management tool and their number-one priority. all of the talk and the great effort that we had to pass the farm bill 408 days, number-one issue to farmers and ranchers in every commodity group, every farm organization: farm insurance. this legislative action, or fix if we want to call it that, will take place in consideration of the year-end spending bill. i have been working very closely with the house agriculture committee chairman mike conway, who reached a similar agreement with the house leadership, a tough trail but mike got it done. we have agreed to restore these funds to the program and reverse this policy and do so with support from the house and senate. i'd be happy to yield to our distinguished majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: majority whip. mr. cornyn: mr. president, i want to express my gratitude to the majority leader and to the
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chairman of the ag committee here in the senate as well as the two senators from south dakota, senator thune and senator rounds for their cooperation and their commitment to address this issue. i particularly want to join the chairman of the agriculture committee, senator roberts, in commending mike conway, a good texan, who is chairman of the house ag committee, who i know is -- cares very deeply about this issue. texas is a huge agriculture state, and 98% of our ag productions are run by families and employs one out of every seven texans. texas ranchers and farmers are no stranger to the peril caused by drought and other weather-related events beyond their control. with the current regulatory environment and unforeseen perils they face i understand the necessity and viability of the crop insurance program to their livelihoods. so i just wanted to say that i
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too stand ready to support our colleagues working together to find a solution to this important problem. i yield the floor. mr. roberts: mr. president, i yield to my distinguished friend and colleague from south dakota, the senior senator from south dakota, senator thune. the presiding officer: the senator is recognized. mr. thune: mr. president, i want to thank the senator from kansas, who is the distinguished chairman of the ag committee on which i serve, and as well with the leader and whip here, and support -- rise in support as well of restoring what would be some very devastating cuts to an important program, the crop insurance program that, and the cuts were supposed to be imposed by the budget agreement that was reached and that we're going to be voting on later today. crop insurance plays a critical role in supporting south dakota agriculture. it's my state's number-one industry. crop losses due to drought, wind, hail and excessive moisture provide the greatest
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challenges to economic survival and sustainability in production agriculture. crop insurance provides the only viable risk-management tool to meet those challenges. and so it is imperative that we preserve crop insurance and maintain its viability. and i -- the agreement that's been discussed here today, i support on the floor. i'll work with the leader, the chairman, my senate colleagues, my colleague from south dakota, senator rounds, who's been involved in these discussions, to make sure that we find a reasonable alternative to the unworkable cuts to crop insurance that are found in section 201 of the bipartisan budget act. so i want to thank the majority leader, the whip, chairman of our ag committee for their commitment to our farming families and rural economies across this great country and also those who have worked in the house to come to a point where we can have this discussion and move forward in a way that will preserve what is a very important program for production agriculture in this country. and i would ask the chairman of
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the ag committee, senator roberts, through the president, if the house has reached a similar agreement in terms of the discussion that we're having here in the senate today. mr. roberts: mr. president, i thank my friend for the question. i respond to my friend that yes, chairman mike conway has reached an agreement with the house leadership and also with the chairman of the appropriations committee, mr. rogers from kentucky, that there is a bipartisan agreement with the house leadership, so it is time for the senate to respond. i also want to echo the comments of the senior senator from south dakota with the help of senator rounds, and i would be remiss in not mentioning virtually every member of the ag committee that has been involved in this effort as well. so i appreciate the work of my colleagues and the work of our ranking member, senator stabenow
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, i especially want to thank her for also raising this issue and helping to find an agreement. i want to note that i have worked my entire career to build crop insurance as a public-private partnership that best protects our producers and taxpayers and consumers, not to mention a very hungry and malnourished world. this agreement reached today continues in that effort to fulfill that mission. i thank the majority leader, the majority whip and senator thune for their commitment. i also thank many of our colleagues who reached this solution today. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, i rise today to speak in support of the bipartisan budget act of 2015, a legislation that passed in the house last night, and that i expect will be voted -- we will be voting on soon here in the senate. anyone who hasn't been living in a cave for the past few weeks is
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aware of the controversy surrounding this legislation. however, while the bill is likely no one's idea of an ideal path forward, i believe the controversy stems more from political considerations than from policy or substance. let me say one thing up front. i don't love this legislation. if we were living in the united states of orrin hatch, this bill would look very, very different. but while i may not like parts of this deal very much, there are other things that i like much less, including political brinkmanship on important matters and election year posturing on complicated issues. this budget deal, while far from perfect, will help eliminate several hurdles that must be overcome in the near term and hopefully allow congress to function and to actually govern over the next year. that said, there are some very important provisions in this bill that i think will be counted as wins for good government and will help us
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address some important issues. so i'd like to take just a few minutes and talk about some of the specifics of this legislation and why i believe these provisions are important. first, as we all know, the bill would suspend the statutory debt limit through mid march of 2017. i've heard a number of my colleagues decry this provision, arguing that any increase in the debt limit should be accompanied by fiscal reforms and on that count my colleagues are right. mr. president, i think you would be hard pressed to find many members of this chamber who have spent more time than i have talking about our nation's debt and calling for reforms. i have spoken extensively about the need to rein in our broken entitlement programs which are the main drivers of our debt, and unlike most members of congress, i have actually come up with specific proposals that would help stave off the growing entitlement crisis. on top of that, as chairman of the senate committee with jurisdiction over the debt limit, i have repeatedly called
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on the obama administration to do what past administrations have done, which is to use debt limit increases as opportunities to reexamine our fiscal situation and work with congress to find a path toward reforms that will improve our fiscal outlook. unfortunately, these calls and similar calls made by other leaders in congress have largely gone ignored as the administration refuses to even consider fiscal changes in the context of debt limit increase, of that debt limit increase. i am as frustrated as anyone here by the refusal of this administration to even engage on this issue. however, the president's refusal to be reasonable and do his job when it comes to our debt is no excuse for congress failing to do its job and prevent a default. i know that some of my colleagues either don't believe a default would be that bad or that the result of hitting the debt limit would even be classified as a default. i won't delve into the semantics of the issue.
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i will just say that hitting the debt limit would prevent the government from meeting a large number of its obligations, and nothing good and many things that are bad will come from that result. no reasonable person would disgutknecht that. in addition, i don't think any reasonable person wants to see congress push up against debt limit deadlines multiple times throughout 2016. mixing a looming possibility of default with election year posturing, and i'm talking about posturing on both sides of the aisle, by the way, is in my view a recipe for disaster. so the budget bill will suspend the debt limit and spare congress and the american people the spectacle of ticking debt clocks in the middle of an election season. once again, this isn't my preferred result, but it is much, much better than the alternative. in addition to raising the debt limit, the bill would extend the life of the social security disability insurance or ssdi
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trust fund through a temporary re-allocation of resources from the retirement trust fund into the disability insurance program. as we all know, the ssdi trust fund is set to be exhausted sometime late next year, which would lead to benefit cuts of around 20% for disabled americans. i'm not willing to do that. right now, the beneficiaries in the disability program face enormous uncertainty, and that will only get worse between now and the end of 2016 if congress fails to act. i have been urging action on this issue for quite some time now and have put forward a number of proposals to reform various aspects of the disability insurance program. sadly, despite many calls for bipartisan cooperation, the administration has decided to remain silent, aside from the very simple and overly broad re-allocation proposal.
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nonetheless, the budget bill will, as i mentioned, provide an interfund re-allocation that will add an additional six years of liability -- viability to the ssdi trust fund, preventing benefit cuts to disabled american workers and removing the current uncertainty. but that's not all. the bill would also put in place reforms to the ssdi program, including some of the proposals that i put forward earlier this year and reflecting the great deal of work between chairman paul ryan of the house ways and means committee, representative stan johnson who chairs the social security subcommittee and myself. our work led to a number of features of the budget bill's treatment of ssdi that will help prevent broad in the program, make it easier for those who can and desire to return to work to be able to do so and improve the overall administration and integrity of the disability
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program. mr. president, as i said before, this is not a budget bill that i would have written, and i think there are a number of other ways to improve the ssdi program and social security more generally. however, nothing on this bill prevents us from continuing to work to continue to develop and refine ideas and come with additional improvements. given the unsustainability of the social security system generally, we will have to continue to work on reforms to ensure these programs are available to future generations. for now, we must be realistic. if we don't act now to prevent next year's benefit cuts, we will create a cliff that will occur right in the middle of an election campaign when fundamental reforms to an entitlement program will be virtually impossible. instead of a real debate over the future of this important program, we'd see accusations lobbed back and forth about which said is responsible for
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the impending benefit cuts. why would anyone want that, mr. president? what good would that accomplish? i'd also like to remind my colleagues that the ssdi reforms in this budget bill represent the most significant changes to any social security program since 1983. more than three decades ago. now, that's nothing to sneeze at. so while critics may be right that these changes aren't the only type of long-term fixes the ssdi program needs, they should not by any means be overlooked. while we're on the suggest of entitlements, i also want to point out that this budget bill will avert an unprecedented and large increase in medicare part b premiums for millions of elderly americans. under the law, there is a complicated interplay between the social security and medicare programs where under what is called the -- quote -- hold
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harmless -- unquote -- rule, the majority of medicare beneficiaries cannot see a premium increase greater than their cost of living adjustment under social security. however, due to very low inflation, there will be no cost of living adjustments in social security in 2016, meaning there can be no premium increases for the majority medicare part b participants. this means that the full amount of what the medicare system needs to collect in part b premiums for next year will be charged to the nearly 30% of medicare beneficiaries who do not have their treems deducted from their social security payments. long story short -- absent some kind of action, more than a quarter of all medicare part b beneficiaries will see their premiums go up by as much as 52% in 2016. this bill's important with all
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its faults. that's a great reason to vote for it. the legislation before us will prevent this increase, once again allowing congress to avoid a contentious fight and preventing many seniors from becoming pawns in the unending liberal political gamesmanship and demagoguery. most importantly, it would do so in a responsible manner. in addition to sparing our country some needless political fights over social security and medicare, this bill will also repeal the employer auto enrollment requirement under the so-called affordable care act. this provision once implemented would require large employers to automatically enroll new employees in health insurance plans, putting the burden on employees who prefer alternative plans to opt out. this provision like many provisions of obamacare, never made sense and ultimately had few champions outside
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left-leaning think tanks that continually advocate for the government to -- quote -- nudge -- unquote -- citizens into what some technocrats believe are preferred outcomes by removing certain nonpreferred choices. so with this legislation, we have bipartisan agreement on the need to remove at least part and not an insignificant part of obamacare. that's important. that's a good reason to vote for this. obviously, we need to do more, but in my view, any acknowledgment from my friends on the other side that any part of the president's health law doesn't work is good progress. we haven't been able to get them to admit that in all these years of -- of a failing program that's going on. finally and for many, most significantly the bipartisan budget legislation would partially lift the budget caps
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established under budget control -- under the budget control act, both for domestic spending priorities and national defense. and while very few people in congress or elsewhere are big fans of the sequester threat, it did result in really the only legitimate measurable spending cuts we've seen in quite some time, and it's especially noteworthy, given the current administration's seemingly insatiable desire for more debt-fueled spending. i sympathize with my colleagues who might be hesitant to lift those spending caps. however, i think we need to keep a few things in mind. first, the increase in the spending baseline under this bill is fully offset. that's important. while not all of the offsets are ideal, it's important that the spending cap relief will not result in increased debt or a tax hike. let me repeat that.
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it's important to note that the spending cap relief will not result in increased debt or a tax hike. in that sense, the spending caps, even with the relief included in this bill, continue to be successful. let me repeat that again. in that sense, the spending caps, even with the relief included in this bill, continue to be successful. second, lifting the spending caps will help us ensure our military is properly funded, although many of us would like to do more with the world in the turmoil it's in. many members of congress, particularly on the republican side, have expressed concern regarding the impact of the spending caps on our men and women in uniform and our overall military readiness. make no mistake, these are dangerous times. american generals and military officials have made clear that
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the spending levels under the budget control act are not enough to meet the challenges our nation faces on the world stage. between the threat of isis in iraq and syria, russian aggression in eastern europe and our newly prolonged troop presence in afghanistan, now is not the time to underfund our military. we need to be sure our troops have all the resources they need to succeed. as we know, president obama has conditioned any budget cap relief for defense on similar relief for other domestic spending programs, and while i agree with many of my colleagues that this represents an odd set of priorities for a commander in chief, whose number-one duty is to keep us safe, we should not let the president's refusal to do right by our military lead us to do the same. in addition to criticisms of the substance of the bill, some of which i agree with, i've also heard complaints about the process that led us here and on
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that front as well i share some of my colleagues' concerns. it certainly would have been better to move this legislation through regular order, including committee consideration and an open amendment process. i can't speak for anyone else, but i'd assume that almost everyone involved would prefer to see legislation of this magnitude move through the house and senate in a more a more deliberative process and a longer timetable. unfortunately for a variety of reasons, that is not what happened. however, much of the time, effective government is about the art of doing what is doable. though republicans control both chambers of congress, there is a democrat in the white house and enough democrats in the senate to sustain a filibuster. that's just a fact. we have to live with that. if we want to get anything done around here, we cannot demand perfection nor can we operate in a zero-sum environment where
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every victory for the other side, however minor, is considered a loss for yours. i get that there are some who sincerely and truthfully believe that compromise inherently means failure and i know that there are others with different agendas in mind that lead them to oppose anything resembling a concession to the other side, no matter what their side may get in return. but i've been around here long enough to know that such an approach does not often yield satisfactory results. if you're going to wait for that perfect bill to come around, my experience has taught me that you're likely to wait a very, very long time. mr. president, the budget bill before us is far from perfect but as the saying goes, the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. under the circumstances, i believe this bill needs to pass so that we can solve these problems, remove many dangerous obstacles that are directly in front of us and give ourselves a chance to govern effectively
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without the cliffs, crises and deadlines that all too frequently dictate what we do around here. for these reasons, i plan to vote "yes" on this legislation. i urge my colleagues to do the same. now, having said that, finally, i would just like to compliment our majority leader. he has one of the toughest jobs ever on capitol hill. i have to say that i want to compliment the house as well. i've worked very closely with the distinguished new speaker of the house. he's a tremendous human being. he does not reject the doable. he's a very strong conservative, one of the strongest spokespeople in either house of congress, as is our majority leader. both of them are doing what has to be done and they deserve to have support in doing that.
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i compliment my friends on the other side for -- for the successes they consider they've made. on the other hand, i just want to pay tribute to our majority leader and the work that he's doing around here trying to keep this fractious group of people together in so many ways and to get important legislation like this passed so that we can get about really working on even more important legislation in the future. and i want to personally pay tribute to paul ryan for -- whose election as speaker of the house. we've worked very closely together, as he's been chairman of the ways and means committee. we've met almost weekly ever since he took over as chairman of that committee and i as chairman of the finance committee. he's one of the truly great people in the congress and i personally want to express my view that we're lucky to have him, we're lucky to have our distinguished majority leader as
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well. and i want to compliment my friends on the other side who have -- who have been working to do the art of the doable. and though imperfect, have worked with both of these leaders to get this gone. mr. president, i yield the flo floor. -- leaders to get this done. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i rise to discuss a very troubled
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part of the world, the middle east, a region that is experiencing perhaps the greatest turmoil it has seen since the end of the first world war. because after four years, over 200,000 people killed and 4 million forced to flee syria's civil war and its humanitarian crisis, it continues to drag on. assad continues to cling to power and he clings to that power with the help of iran, russia and hezbollah. opposition groups remain divided and they are weak. while terrorist groups, like isis and al qaeda's nusera front
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exploit the chaos. isis also exploits sectarian tensions across the border in iraq, where its fighters battle iraqi and kurdish forces as well as shia militias for control of large parts of the country. and, according to press reports, meanwhile a saudi-led coalition battles iranian-backed houthi rebels for control of yemen, home to al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. in addition to its support for assad and terror and proxy groups, iran continues other hostile activities like testing ballistic missiles, attacking in cyberspace, and violating human rights.
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and i think that's an important thing to remember as the expectations of the iranian joint nuclear agreement. this was not a panacea for all of the things that iran is doi doing. as a matter of fact, it specifically was a negotiation to prevent iran from having a nuclear weapon. which i think has been achieved for at least 10 if not 15 to 25 years. and then just to add to the complications regarding iran, there are still four americans detained or missing. the one that is missing, of course, is on floridian, bob levinson, a former f.b.i. agent. well, these are tough challenges that reflect a changing balance
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of power and we've already taken important steps to meet them. and i'm talking about other than the iranian nuclear joint agreement. for the american and coalition airstrikes against isis in both iraq and syria and the training and equipping of iraqi and kurdish forces in iraq, that has blunted isis' momentum and we're starting to see some reverses there. and as the secretary of defense just a few days ago told our armed services committee, we are changing our approach to supporting the moderate syrian opposition and equipping those forces that are already on the battlefield against isis.
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it's much more difficult in syria. and we have not had a lot of success in training and ppinequi those so-called moderate forces in syria. so now the changing strategy is that the u.s. is focusing on what the secretary of defense called the three r's -- the isis strongholds of raka in syria and ramadi in iraq and then targeted raids in both to build battlefield momentum. we saw such a raid that tragically took the life of a senior enlisted special forces,
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special operations sergeant the other day but that raid was particularly successful in that it rescued 70 people that were about to be executed the next morning. and those raids, the three of the -- the three r's that the secretary mentioned, are underway. turmoil and violence in the middle east may seem distant to everyday americans, but the consequences extend far beyond those regions. we see it daily on our television screens. tens of thousands of syrians have sought refuge in europe. isis, we are reminded, uses the
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internet and social media to spread its propaganda. it radicalizes young people far from iraq and syria and even some in the u.s. and so in this whole perplexing problem, as we try to get our arms around it, meeting these challenges, protecting our national security and interest, including those of our allies like israel, it's going to take strong and patient leadership on the part of our country. mr. president, i wanted to share this -- these thoughts with the senate. i yield the floor. mr. nelson: mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington.

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