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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  October 29, 2015 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT

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responsibility, but it is also morally wrong to expect someone else to pay for the so-called benefits we receive today. now, this issue today, this budget act, this bipartisan effort to resolve the circumstance we find ourselves in because we face a debt limit problem, the problem is that if we don't do something, that then we reach the debt limit and there are those who will argue that the consequences of not raising the debt sealing are so -- debt ceiling are so dramatic, so damaging that we need to do that regardless of the fiscal consequences of doing so. i come down on the side of fiscal responsibility and i want to explain why. i want kansans to know how i think about this issue. and, in fact, one of the first letters i ever wrote to president obama as a new united
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states senator march of 2011 was an explanation to the president that he needed to work with congress. and i offered to work with the president and the administration, my colleagues in the congress, in the senate, to see if we couldn't find a solution so that when we raised the debt ceiling, we actually do something that changes the course, the path of spending that we're on. and i explained to kansans by publishing that letter and explaining my comments to the president, the letter to the president what i believed was important -- most important. and unfortunately since 2011, we are no more on a course of fiscal sanity than we were when i wrote the letter to the president. and here's the point i want to make. if we give up the leverage, the opportunity that this issue presents to us as members of congress to force us to do things that we apparently don't have the will, the courage, the political desire to do, how will we ever get it done?
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so, again, i would guess there will be editorialists certainly across the country, perhaps a few in kansas, who will say, you need to raise the debt ceiling because it's irresponsible not to are. but isn't it also true that it's irresponsible simply to raise the debt ceiling every time we meet it? if you don't take advantage of the circumstance we're in to force ourselves to do the things that need to be done, we are irresponsible. i read a lot of history. i've studied our country as a private citizen and i've been involved in the political process here in washington in trying to resolve problems our country faces for a few years. and here's an observation. things have changed over time. it used to be a bipartisan desire, a bipartisan understanding that balancing the
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budget was important. one of the things that's changed over time is there no longer seems to be the desire on the part of many in congress, many don't see it and, in my view, democrat -- democrats in particular don't see deficits as a bad thing. we look the other way. and so maybe in days gone by in which there was broad consensus from republican presidents, democrat presidents that balancing the budget was something that mattered, that reducing the debt at least over time was important, that when we incurred expenditures going to war that we paid for them. that was something that was generally believed across the country by the vast majority of americans and by the vast majority of members of congress, regardless of what political party they associate with. that consensus, that drive, that
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insistence that we do that no longer exists. which highlights for me the necessity of using this issue of whether or not the debt ceiling should be raised to determine what we should do about reducing spending, reducing the debt, figuring out what the balance is between taxes and expenditures is all the more important. if i had any faith that this congress, this president were going to deal with the deficit, regardless of what happened with the debt ceiling, then i wouldn't be interested in using the debt ceiling as a tool to force change in behavior in washington, d.c. but unfortunately, mr. president, i have no faith that there are enough people here who care enough about the deficit to do something about it unless we are forced to do so.
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and at the moment, the only tool that i have is to insist we use this opportunity in which we're requested to raise the at the time ceiling, we use this opportunity to change the course our country is on in regard to spending and deficits. again, the argument may be by some, it's irresponsible. in fact, i've heard so many times, all we're doing is authorizing the borrowing of money to pay for the things we've all encumbered. well, mr. president, wouldn't it seem a better solution for to us quit encumbering over time rather than coming after the fact and saying, let's raise the debt ceiling? but the reality apparently is, there's no will to do that. so we can say it's irresponsible not to raise the debt ceiling, we can say we're only paying for the things we've already decided to spend money on, but if that's
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the only thing we say, we never take it to the next step of doing anything about the probl problem. mr. president, it's irresponsible not to use this opportunity to force us to behave in ways that is good for the country today, that is economically solid and sound, that is morally correct. borrowing money ad infinitum is not an option for this country under either economic or moral circumstances. and, mr. president, it's irresponsible for us to once again decide we'll try to solve this problem later. i've always thought that the most important political issue we face, the one that is important most to the country since i was elected to the united states senate, was how do we make certain that the economy is growing and there's job
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opportunities and people feel secure in their employment and they have the opportunity to advance their careers, they have the sense that they're saving for their kids' education, that they're saving for their own retirement. and this issue of the fiscal condition of our country inhibits the ability for that economic security to be available to americans. i would conclude, mr. president, by saying we need to do what is responsible and the responsible thing is to make certain that we pay our way and that we don't expect others to do so in the future. and to only say that we have to reach this agreement in order to avoid greater challenges in our country is to walk away from something that i think is a primary and important responsibility of congress and the president. it's unfortunate. my time in the service of the
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senate, president obama has been the president. but i've seen no political will on the part of this administration to do anything about the long-term consequences of spending more money than we have. that means we have no choice but to insist that something be done and the only opportunity before us is this question of whether or not the debt ceiling should be raised without corresponding reductions in spending. and in my view, mr. president, those reductions in spending take priority. it is important. our primary responsibility as american citizens, as an american citizen, not just as a united states senator, but all of us as american citizens, we have a responsibility to do two things for the future of our country. protect and preserve the freedoms and liberties
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guaranteed by our constitution and to make sure that the american dream is alive and we well, that future americans have the chance to pursue their dreams in this country. mr. president, to continue to borrow money, to put our country's fiscal condition in jeopardy once again means that we will have failed that responsibility because the spending and borrowing of money inhibits our personal liberties and freedoms and reduces the economic opportunity, the american dream for all americans. mr. president, i will vote "no." mr. president, i yield the floor to the gentlewoman from nebraska. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. a senator: thank you,mr. president. i rise today to respond to the
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minority leader's earlier comments today regarding equal pay. mrs. fischer: pay discrimination is wrong. it is also illegal. republicans and democrats alike believe that violations of the equal pay act and the civil rights act should be punished by the full extent of the law. let me be crystal clear. the lack of consensus on proposals like the paycheck fairness act does not mean that republicans do not support the principle of equal pay. i am tired of hearing that republicans don't have any new ideas on this issue. i've offered legislation. the workplace advancement act, which would prohibit retaliation against employees who discuss their wages. my proposal has a strong record
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of success, and unlike other proposals out there, it has bipartisan support. in april of 2014, before republicans had the majority, i, along with senators ayotte, collins and murkowski, offered an amendment to the paycheck fairness act that would make it illegal to retaliate against employees for seeking or sharing information on their wages. unfortunately, that amendment was not considered. this march i offered a similar amendment to the budget that would reaffirm and strengthen equal pay laws and make it illegal to retaliate against employees for seeking or sharing information on their wages. this nonretaliation measure was adopted to the budget resolution
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with bipartisan support. the legislative progress of my efforts to protect women in the workplace from retaliation, for trying to ensure fairness in pay suggests a clear bipartisan way forward in this chamber. when women are fighting to be paid what they are worth, they need to know they are -- what they are up against. knowledge is power, especially in the case of equal pay. ensuring transparency will make it easier for workers to recognize pay discrimination and ensure that they are being paid fairly. how can workers negotiate for fair pay when they don't know how their industry or their employer compensates other workers? how can a woman know that discrimination is taking place if she is prohibited from asking
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about other -- what other workers are making? i want to empower women to be their own best advocates, secure in the knowledge that they have every tool available to them as they negotiate for the wages that they deserve. it's time to remove this issue from our election-year politics. let's have a real conversation about a substantive policy change that will improve the lives of all workers. i hope that the senate will soon consider my legislation because i believe republicans and democrats can come together on this issue and we can make a real needed difference in ensuring equal pay. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from montana. mr. daines: mr. president, prior to being elected to the united states senate, i spent 28 years in business. and when you're in business, you know you can't keep spending more money than you're taking in or you go broke, you go out of business. and i was elected to help get our country back on track and get washington, d.c.'s reckless spending and record debt under control. in fact, the very first bill that i introduced in the united states senate was the balanced budget accountability act. and it's pretty simple. it requires that the members of congress pass a balanced budget or they don't get paid. the people of montana deserve real solutions to address washington, d.c.'s failures, not more budget gimmicks and
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backroom deals. in fact, montana farmers will suffer because of this budget deal. the crop insurance program was gutted as a way to make this deal work. where was the voice of montana, where was the voice of rural america as this backroom deal was cut? this deal takes our nation in the wrong direction and that's why i'm voting "no." this budget deal would increase our spending by $117 billion over the next two years and raise the debt limit through 2017. now, how big are these numbers? we're currently at about $18.1 trillion of debt. by the end of this two-year agreement, by some time in 2017, we'll be above $19 trillion. how big is a trillion? do you know how long it takes to
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count to a million? if we were to count to one million, one digit per second, 24 by seven, it takes less than 30 days to count to a million. well, how long does it take to count to a billion? to count to a billion would take 32 years. so then the question is how long would it take to count to a trillion because we're throwing around these numbers without much sense of how big they really are when we're talking about 18, soon to be $19 trillion, how long would it take to count to a criminal? 32,000 years. it's irresponsible for washington to increase the limit on the nation's credit card while at the same time busting the budget and increasing government spending. with the false promise of faroff savings and new revenues that will never materialize. and it's time that washington,
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d.c., takes a page out of montana's playbook and stops spending more than we're taking in. it's time for commonsense solutions that protect the taxpayer and make elected officials accountable for the results of the people they serve, because americans deserve a thoughtful and open discussion, not one of the backroom deals about how to best support the nation's priorities while also cutting wasteful spending and reining in this national debt. the current budget fails to provide a more secure future for the next generation of montanans. thank you, and i yield back my time.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, back in august, several western states and indian tribes suffered an enormous environmental disaster. it's been called the gold king mine spill. in this disaster, the environmental protection agency spilled three million gallons of toxic waste water into a tributary of the animas river in colorado. this plume of toxic waste threatened people in colorado, new mexico and utah. it stretched to the land of the navajo nation and the southern ute indian tribes. last month, i chaired a hearing of the indian affairs committee that looked at the spill. the e.p.a. was there to testify. the e.p.a. claimed that it was taking full responsibility and
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that it did everything it could to deflect actual blame. they said they're taking full responsibility. then they did everything they could to deflect actual blame. the agency administrator actually told our committee that this bill was inevitable, inevitable, she said. does that sound like someone who's actually taking full responsibility? well, last week, we got the results of the investigation by the department of interior about what actually happened at the gold king mine. on friday, "the washington post" reported e.p.a. gets the blame for the mine spill into the rivers. the e.p.a. gets the blame. well, according to this report, the e.p.a.'s crew didn't take engineering into account when it was working on the mine, didn't take engineering into account.
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the agency didn't understand that waters in these mines -- quote -- according to the report, can create hydraulic forces similar to a dam. how could the experts from the e.p.a., the u.s. government's environmental protection agency, not know that? not know it? the report also said that -- quote -- the conditions and actions that led to the gold king mine incident are not isolated or unique, and in fact are surprisingly prevalent. remember, the e.p.a. said it was inevitable. the only way this spill was inevitable is because the e.p.a. is so inept, so negligent, so incompetent that it was inevitable the agency would cause a disaster like this someday, now they have. it is inevitable that the agency
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is going to keep making the same mistakes unless something changes at this irresponsible, incompetent agency. so what's changed? it's been almost three months since this disaster happened. the environmental protection agency has not named a single person who it's holding responsible for poisoning the river. if the e.p.a.'s incompetence is surprisingly prevalent as the investigation found, you'd think that this agency should be trying to get its house in order before it takes on new jobs. that's not what the obama administration is doing. oh, no, it's not slowing down at all. it's not slowing down in its quest for more power and more ways that it can control what
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people do. on friday, the obama administration published the final rule for what it calls its clean power plan. this regulation would create more washington control over how electricity is produced across the country. that very same day, 26 states, 26 states, including mine and that as the president's, 26 states filed lawsuits in federal court to stop this disastrous rule. these states say that the environmental protection agency went far beyond anything that the law allows and far beyond anything congress ever intended. i completely agree. this rule is too expensive, it is too extensive and it is too extreme. now, the e.p.a. does have a job
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to do and it's failing dramatically at its job. instead of going back to basics and doing its job right, the e.p.a. wants more power, more control, less accountability. this so-called clean power plan will cost billions of dollars. according to one estimate, it will destroy the jobs of more than 125,000 americans. none of that seems to matter to the president of the united states or his administration and the e.p.a. they are prison by ideology, not by the facts, and their ideology is driven by their desire for more control. that's why it's so urgent that we focus our attention on all of the ways that this washington bureaucracy is trying to restrict people's freedom and take more control for
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themselves. the obama administration isn't even satisfied telling states how to get their energy. how the obama administration wants to be involved in making these decisions for the whole world. it's trying to negotiate a climate change treaty that will impose brought new limits on american energy. this treaty will also do incredible damage to the american economy. at the same time, the administration wants to pay billions of american taxpayer dollars, hard-earned dollars, they want to pay it to other countries. in turn for these other countries adopting green energy sources like solar panels, the obama administration will help prop up their economies, not at their experience but at america's expense. it wants to do all of this behind closed doors without any oversight from congress or the american people.
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the administration wants to make sure that nobody can do anything to stop it until after it's too late. it wants to tie the hands of the american economy, dole out billions of taxpayer dollars, and not even ask the american people if that's what they want. the united states congress cannot stand for that. it's the wrong choice for america and it's the wrong choice for the rest of the world as well. mr. president, there was an op-ed in "the wall street journal" last thursday by bjong longberg. he is a part of the international group called the copenhagen international consensus center. the headline is -- "this child doesn't need a solar panel," with a photo of a child in a slum in mozambique. the author points out that the
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obama administration is wrongly focused on the kind of climate change payoff that the president is promoting. in the op-ed, he writes this effectively means telling the world's worst off people suffering from tuberculosis, malaria or malnutrition that what they really need isn't medicine, he says, not mosquito nets or micronutrients, no, but a cellular -- solar panel. it is terrible news. he goes on -- "in a world in which mall nourishment continues to claim at least 1.4 million children's lives each year, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty and 2.6 billion lack clean drinking water and sanitation, this growing emphasis on climate aid is
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immoral, immoral." that's the assessment coming out of the copenhagen consensus center. the president's actions are immoral. there are some very real dangers facing the united states and other countries today like the threat from global terrorists and from countries like russia, iran, north korea. there are desperate humanitarian crises around the world. these should be the focus of the obama administration's foreign policy. here at home the e.p.a. should be cleaning up the environment, not poisoning american rivers and lakes. until the obama administration gets its priorities straight, congress will have to act to stop it. republicans have introduced legislation to block some of the administration's most egregious new rules.
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senator ernst has filed a resolution against the so-called waters of the united states, the wotus rule. i've introduced legislation to replace the wotus rule with one that actually protects waterways while preventing washington's takeover of nonnavigable waterways. senator mcconnell and senator cap toe have -- capito have filed resolutions against the power plants. senator flake has filed one against the burdensome new ozone standard. mr. president, we're going to keep a spotlight on this administration as it negotiates this new climate change treaty. we're going to stop it from committing this country to another bad deal, and the rest of us will be paying for that bad deal long after president obama is out of office. congress is going to hold the obama administration accountable, accountable, and
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rein in the washington bureaucrats before they do additional damage. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor.
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mr. barrasso: mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk shall call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. flake: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. flake: i ask unanimous consent to vacate a quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. flake: thank you, mr. president. i rise to express concern about the budget deal that seems to have been reached that we will vote on later today or tomorrow morning early. i have a concern that a -- a broader concern that we simply aren't cutting spending and that we aren't holding to the budget agreements that we've made. what we are doing here is getting rid of or extending the budget caps on the budget control agreement, spending about $80 billion more than we
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would have otherwise. now, we have told ourselves that we have offset this spending, and here's my concern. it's clear that we haven't. some of the so-called offsets are simple budget gimmicks. many have been tried and true in the past such as just extending the sequester a little longer or one that is of particular concern was raised earlier today. there is in this budget agreement a modest crop insurance savings provision. now, we have in farm bills over the past few years tried to rein in some of the mass subsidies in waste that have gone on in terms of direct payments, some of the other methods. a lot of that funding has gone toward crop insurance. it is quite a generous program. in fact, the taxpayer subsidizes
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crop insurance an average of think around 70%, 70% of the premium is paid for by the taxpayers, and so what we are doing in this agreement, what we have tried to do in previous farm bills is saying the savings if we save these programs through so-called standard reinsurance agreements or s.r.a.'s, if we realize some savings, then we plow those davis into the deficit or against the deficit. but what came out of the last farm bill was a provision to say if there are any savings in this program, it has to stay within the program. now, we don't have that provision, that type of provision in just about any other program of government where if you realize some savings by reform, you have to spend those savings on the program itself, just in another way. that doesn't save the taxpayer any money overall. and in this case we have tried to get that savings, but the
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farm bill said no, it had to be plowed back into the program. so the reform that was agreed to in this budget deal was to do what we have been trying to do, to make sure that any savings that result from a strategic or i'm sorry a standard reinsurance agreement be plowed into -- or be put against the deficit. to actually save some money. there was also a small provision which said that it set a target rate for crop insurance companies at 8.9% rather than i think the 14.5% that it is currently at. now, opponents of this deal are saying that this minor change will gut crop insurance. i don't think that is true at all. crop insurance is far from a suffering industry. it's a significant driver of the cost of our nation's farm program. government costs for crop insurance have increased substantially over the decade. in fact, after arranging from
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$2.1 billion to $3.9 billion in f.y. 2007, costs rose to a total of $14.1 billion in f.y. 2012. in f.y. 2013, total program costs were $6.0 billion. in f.y. 2013, $8.7 billion. as i mentioned, taxpayers are footing about 70% of the costs of premiums for crop insurance -- or 60% of all premiums, 70% of the total costs of the program. this proposed change would not impact the coverage that is received. it would simply trim some of the profits that are there. some say that that will drive these crop insurance out of the business. i don't think so. there isn't a crisis here when taxpayers are footing 60% or 70% of the premiums, 70% of the overall cost of the program it is typically a program that crop insurance and the private sector like to get into. if there is a problem with
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people fleeing the program, it hasn't been demonstrated. this is not an industry under siege. it's an industry that has seen dramatic expansion, and now faces a slight trimming of its profits. and yet we are saying that we can't stand that. what we're saying is that we're going to undo that deal as part of the budget deal before we even vote on the budget deal. and so earlier today on the floor here, there was an agreement reached with the appropriators in the form of a colloquy that in the omnibus coming up in a couple of weeks we would remove that provision, and the savings of some $4 billion or $8 billion would simply be made up somehow by extending this sequester. now, this reminds me, mr. president, of the last budget agreement we had, the ryan-murray budget where there was a provision to very slightly
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adjust the cost of living increase or active duty military retirees. this is something that the military actually asked us to do because they wanted to take a portion of the savings and put it into other areas of the military, but also it would realize a savings for us. this was a small adjustment for just active duty military retirees who retired before the age of 62. if they made it all the way to 62, they could recover all the savings that were there or the cola adjustment. but after the agreement, three months after the agreement, because of lobbying by one particular small subset of those receiving these benefits, we reversed that change. just three months after we signed the deal, we reversed part of the deal. now, in this case, what we're doing with the crop insurance program is we aren't even
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waiting three months after the deal. we're not having a separate vote. that vote, by the way, was 97-3 to reverse it just because of some lobbying against it. that was -- i was one of the three opposed to reversing the program or the slight cuts. but in this case with the crop insurance program in this budget deal, we aren't even waiting until the ink is dry. in fact, we aren't even waiting until the ink is applied to the paper signing this deal. we are reversing this change before we even pass the deal. we're agreeing that in the omnibus in a couple of weeks, we're going to reverse these savings, we're going to reverse these offsets. so, mr. president, i -- i had a lot of problems with this budget deal prior to today, but the more i look at this and the more i learn, i don't know how we can vote for this deal. i don't know how, i don't know when we're going to get serious
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about our deficit and our overall debt. if we can't do it now, when will we do it? if we can't get serious now, when are we going to get serious? if we have a budget agreement, the b.c.a. now, and we can't stick to it now, what makes us think we're going to in the future? and it makes me think, if we're reversing changes we've made to get some savings before we even have the deal signed, what are we going to do a month after? what are we going to do in the next month? are there the other provisions that the other offsets or so-called offsets that we're going to address and say, yeah, we didn't really mean t we're going to reverse that swrl. so, mr. president, it's very discourage to see what's happening with the budget. we cannot continue to simply spend, spend, spend and just ignore the real offsets that are
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needed. i would have been fine with spending additional money on non-defense discretionary, if we would be serious about going into entitlement spending, into mandatory spending and finding real savings, savings that were significant. wrewe have a couple of reaches o mandatory spending but not significant reaches, and who knows whether they'll last or whether we'll reverse them as well in a couple of months. so this is very discouraging. i will vote against and i would encourage my colleagues to vote against this agreement as well. the with thatand, with that, i d back and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. shelby: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from the great state of alabama. mr. shelby: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. shelby: mr. president, i rise this afternoon in strong opposition to the two-year budget agreement before the senate. this so shf called budget deal was negotiated in the last minute. it has now been rushed through congress with inadequate time for proper scrutiny. and while the devil is typically in the details when congress
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negotiates these 11th hour deals, the flaws in this agreement are evident from merely taking a glance at what is in it. mr. president, this budget agreement would increase the current budget control act spending caps, which we enacted in 2011 in an effort to restrain washington spending, by approximately $80 billion or more over the next two years. on top of raising the caps by $80 billion or more, this deal also adds $32 billion in additional spending totaling $112 billion in new spending over the next two years. yes, mr. president, $112 billion in new spending over the next two years. mr. president, not only would this agreement allow for increased spending, but it would also raise the debt ceiling through march of 2017.
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yes, through march of 2017, where we can borrow more money, adding an estimated $1.5 trillion of borrowing. mr. president, president obama has continually called for more government spending and blank check to raise our nation's debt limit with no corresponding reforms or spending cuts. the deal before us today represents a victory for president obama and his liberal allies, not for the american people. as long as washington continues to spend far beyond its means and remain on the same unsustainable fiscal track, our economy will suffer. and while i believe, mr. president, that we should safeguard the full faith and credit of the united states, i also believe that we should do so in a manner that puts our nation on a more responsible
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fiscal path. we cannot -- i repeat, we cannot continue to raise the debt limit without taking responsible steps to tackle the underlying problems facing our nation: wasteful government spending. taking on more debt to facilitate more government spending is not the answer and is simply unacceptable. mr. president, hardworking americans in alabama and across the country are looking to washington to have serious conversationconversations aboutd tackle our country's -- about how to tackle our country's $18 trillion debt that's growing. instead, this deal that's before us continues the never-ending cycle of bad policies that grow our bloated government, impede job growth, and perpetuate a stagnant economic recovery. mr. president, i believe that our constituents deserve better
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than a last-minute flawed budget deal that not only exacerbates our debt crisis but it adds more and more to our children's debt. there is absolutely no excuse for continuing to increase our nation's debt. americans are frustrated that congress continues to push policies that empower washington instead of people -- of the people of this great country, and this deal is more of the same: borrow more, spend more, be accountable less and less. that's why i adamantly oppose this budget deal and will continue to fight for a smaller, more effective government that puts the american people first. i yield the floor. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. markey: mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent to vitiate the call of the quorum. the presiding officer: every senator here agrees with you and so please vitiate. mr. markey: i thank the senator from louisiana. and i thank all the other members for allowing me to be able to vitiate the quorum at this point in time, and it is so that i can bring a very important subject, you know, to the attention of my colleagues. mr. president, sequestration is just a fancy word for cuts, mindless cuts, an and that's whi have always opposed sequestration, this thoughtful across-the-board to the federal budget has harmed states across the country, but its effect on massachusetts has been
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disproportionate. sequestration significantly reduced federal research and development funding for science and medicine. that is massachusetts. investments in those fields are critical to our economy, with its world-class universities, medical centers, industry-leading bio and high-tech companies. clean tech industry exploding with new technologies. this is the future of our country. this is the future of the 21st century. this is what you must be investing in -- research in technology, research in science. so i am pleased that for the next two years this budget agreement will give us desperately needed relief from sequestration and will extend the debt limit. this legislation will also protect vulnerable americans who rely on medicare and social security. it will ensure that for the next
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seven years millions who depend on the social security disability program do not face a benefit cut. the legislation will also help millions of seniors by avoiding a gronk-like spike in medicare premiums. but this deal comes with a price, more unwanted calls and texts to americans. back in 1991, consumers were constantly harassed by unwanted telemarketing phone calls that interrupted their family dinners. my bill in 1991, the telephone consumer protection act, stopped these intrusive and unwanted calls from telemarketers. yes, in this budget being debated today, it actually makes it easier to harass consumers on their mobile phones.
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that is wrong, just plain wrong. current law contains important safeguards against abusive practices before a caller can make auto dial or prerecorded calls or send texts, that caller must have the consent of whoever is being called. but section 301 of this legislation before this body today removes that precall consent requirement if someone is collecting debt owed to the federal government. the provision opens the door to potentially unwanted robo calls and texts to the cell phones of anyone with a student loan or a mortgage, calls to the cell phones of delinquent taxpayers, calls to farmers, to veterans or anyone would get backed by the federal government. and that's why once the senate
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takes action on this budget bill, i plan to file a bill that strikes that provision. i also intend to ask the the majority leader for a vote on my bill at the earliest possible time. we must protect american students and consumers. but that rollback of protections against abusive telemarketers is not the only problem with this legislation. the bill also would sell off part of our nation's oil stockpile simply to raise revenue. the president, the presiding officer is an expert in this area. our strategic petroleum reserve is there to protect american consumers and our security in the event of an emergency. but now it is increasingly being viewed as a piggy bank to fund other priorities. if we're going to sell oil from
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our strategic reserve, we should at least do so strategically to get the best deal for our taxpayers. but the budget deal that we're considering would require the sale of a specific amount of oil each year from 2018 to 2025 regardless of its price. when the majority attempted to use similar strategic petroleum reserve sales to fund the highway bill, senator cassidy from louisiana and i authored a bipartisan amendment to fix the problem. our commonsense amendment gave the secretary of energy the flexibility to sell more oil when prices are high and, thereby, maximize the return for taxpayers. unfortunately, that bipartisan fix is not part of this
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legislation. but i will continue to work with senator cassidy on this important issue. and you know that we're right when it is a conservative republican from louisiana and a liberal democrat from massachusetts that agree on an issue. it is foolish to buy high and sell low. that's essentially what this legislation is now mandating. rather than saying to the government that you have to find just the right time when the price of oil is high to sell it over the next seven years, it just says sell it on this schedule regardless of whrbt f whether or not you're going -- regardless of whether or not you're going to get a good return on your investment. that's not the way this government should be operating. we should be using some common
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sense especially since the senator from louisiana and i had already drafted the legislation and already attached it to the transportation bill when that was going to be the place where they used the strategic petroleum reserve money. so this is a very bad provision that's in a bill which is going to pass -- and it should pass. but it's a flaw that's going to lose a lot of money if it continues on with the language that's in this bill. so, i'm going to continue to work with the presiding officer, the senator from louisiana, so that we can correct it. it will save a lot of money if we do it the correct way. we need to ensure that we have a rational approach to budgeting, unlike sequestration which will finally allow us to get back to the business of legislating instead of lurching from crisis
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to crisis. that is not possible unless we begin a new era in this institution. and hopefully that's what today and perhaps tomorrow will represent. and we can now work together again across the aisle the way i think all americans want us to. and i pledge to work on these two pieces of legislation going forward to correct real flaws that are built into this legislation. i thank you for allowing me to have the floor at this time, and i hope, mr. president, that you and i can partner to correct at least one of the problems that are in this bill. and with that, i yield back the balance of my time. mr. president, i doubt the
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presence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk should call the roll. quorum call:# quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. lankford: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. lapping lappinlapping langmr. ls consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lankford: people in my home state are trying to figure out what they missed in this budget deal. it was announced that this is a great job-creating achievement, but all i see is more spending and no change in the status quo. everyone throws around numbers, but here's the one number the people in my state want to hear: how much does it save the
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american taxpayer? put another way, does it help us balance our budget or to address the debt problems? we need two things to be able to balance our federal budget: spending restraint and a growing economy. right now we have neither. we've $18.5 trillion in debt, over $430 billion in deficit this year. to start paying down our debt, we have to first balance our budget. the presiding officer knows very well that we passed a budget earlier this year that took the next ten years to be able to balance our budget. let's just play pretend for a moment with this body. let's just say we put that budget into play and worked down to a balanced budget ten years from now. just take a guess in this body. let's say the year after that we had a $50 billion surplus. it took us ten years to get back to balance. year i 11 we had ads 50 a $50 bn
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surplus. how many years would we have to maintain a $50 billion balance to pay off our debt? mr. president, we need to start doing budgets that actually deal seriously with what we're dealing with with our debt and deficit. today our g.d.p. growth was announced again. it is a whoppin whopping 1.5%. with new loan restrictions on banks, obamacare cost increases, including in my state of oklahoma premium increases hitting 35% for next year on individuals, people know inherently that if you keep over-pending, it limits our economic growth in america. we have fewer jobs because of
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it. it is harder to start a business because of it. the president keeps saying if we spend a little more, we'll have more jobs. the people don't believe it anymore because they've seen that it's not true. after six years, they've just -- if we'll spend a little moshings spend a little more this will get caught up. we still have a 1.5% growth rate in the moron economy. that's pathet-- in the american economy. that's pathetic. while we have a great number of terrific people in the federal workforce, people inherently know if you just keep adding jobs in the federal workforce, it hurts our economy because it continues to take money out of the private hands and put into government control. what people want is not unreasonable. they just want a plan. people want to know that if we spend money, we use it efficiently and there's plan to be able to get us out of debt. what we heard from the negotiations is any increase in spending would be offset with pay-fors that were reform the spending negotiations that were done were supposed to develop that plan. what we have is a final document
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that is not a plan to get us out of debt. it increases our debt again. what we have is not a plan to be able to handle a long-term consequence of deficit. it obfuscates that again. what we need is a plan to deal with entitlements and what we have is a scratch on the surface. but what i heard over and over again is at least the pay-fors are real, that any increased spending that was done, at least that were offsets that were done. let me give you a couple of examples of these real pay-fors as you read the bill. one of them is called pension payment acceleration. this is listed as one of the real pay-fors in the document. pension payment acceleration in section 502 changed the due date from october 15, 2025, to september 15, 2025, in order to get another $2.3 billion into the ten-year budget win doavment you see, this is all laid out to say in the next ten years we'll pay this off. so what they did is they took a
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payment that was due ten years two weeks from now and moved it forward a month. so literally, yes, it adds $2.3 billion into the ten-year window, but if we add a ten year plus two-week time period, it would be exactly the same. it's actually zero savings. it's not real. they moved a payment a month and said that that's a pay-for. it is not a pay-for. that's the pension payment acceleration. how about this one: we have this one called the federal government -- called the victims' crime fund. the victims' crime fund is money seized from criminals and designated not for general use but to compensate the victims of crime. hence the name. apparently this budget agreement qualifies as a victim of crime because $is. $1.5 billion is tan and dedicated not to victims of crime but to spending in other
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areas. we take $1.5 billion oust victimsvictims' crime fund and t on silent shake shakespeare fes. we have 12 appropriations bills that were done in the senate. first time in a very long time the appropriations committee has done all 12 appropriations bills through committee. in this agreement, all 12 of those appropriations bills will have to be redone. here's how they'll be redone: the defense bill will be cut. the other 11 will all go up in spending. the final straw for me in this deal to be able to look at it was social security disability. the presiding officer knows full well that i've worked for three years on social security disability reform knowing that the day was coming that we would have to fix social security. the c.b.o. has warned us for
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four years that social security disability would reach insolvency in 2016, so my office has spent the last three years preparing, how could we actually reform this program to make sure that we stabilize the social security disability program? i've interviewed individuals within the disability program, attorneys that work with it, federal judges, administrative law judges, representatives, social security staff in all the cubicles across the social security administration office, advocacy groups, parents of the disabled. we did bipartisan hearings to look for common-ground solutions and work with the inspector general and the g.a.o. to hear other practical solutions they had discovered. we have a long list of real solutions to solve social security disability for the disabled and for the taxpayer. we have submitted those solutions as an amendment to this bill, because there are real answers to be able to solve social security disability if you do the work, which we have actually done the work to
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prepare for this. but instead, this budget bill renews a few -- renews a if you demonstration programs, transfers some funds from retirement security oafort overo disability security. if you look at how the tables work out, of the 100% that needs to be done to bring solvency, they do 1.5% of what needs to be done. to bring the program to solvency. the estimate is 1.5% of the 100% that needs to be done. and it's called real significant disability reform. i wish it was because it's desperately needed. everyone knows, this congress only seems to $anythin to seemsn they have to. a deadline is coming. this is the time we have to do the reforms. this opportunity will not come around for seven years. because this extends out this
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program for seven years, with almost no reforms at all. we're missing our window. these are the most vulnerable individuals in our society that are on disability. these are individuals that literally cannot work in the economy in any way, and they thy need our help and they need real reform in this program, and we have punted it. 1.5% of the reform that is needed to actually stabilize the program. what is real reform look like? it helps those stuck in the painful process of disability applications and gets them the help they need at the time they need t real reform looks like it helps those who game the system to get out of the system. it gives clarity, accountability, and oversight to the system itself. that's what real reform would look like. let me give you a couple of examples. the grid -- the way -- it's called the vocational grid, what is used to determine whether
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someone can work in the economy. it has not been updated since 1978. it needs to be updated not just now but every ten years to have a regular cycle of updating it. not every 40 years. but that's not required in this bill. we need to have good record keeping, evidence for disability. that's not required in this bill. we have to have this standard to be rabel t able to rotate after disability. to bring some clarity to t the problem is there are no good records for those individuals on disability so there is no way to rotate off t l you are permanently trapped in it because the records were so bad at the start. floss change in that. what does that look like in real life? let me give you a couple examples. in puerto rico the u.s. attorneys' office accepted a case about four years ago. the inspector general initiated a federal grand jury investigation working close list with the f.b.i. and the puerto rico police department. in august of 2013,74 individuals
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including four medical professionals and a non-attorney claimant representative were indieted and arrested in a large-scale disability fraud scheme. in 2015, the u.s. attorneys office in puerto rico announced the indictments of an additional 40 individuals including a psychiatrist for their alleged involvement in this conspiracy and they undertook an early morning arrest operation. all these individuals were apprehended and at the end of it they estimate the cost to the taxpayer is $100 million of fraud in that one case alone. in huntington, west virginia, in may of this year, social security administration mailed letters to approximately 1,500 individuals inforge them of their need to redetermine their eligibility for social security disability. many of those individuals have been on disability for years now. because the social security administration, the inl specter
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general's office noted that many of these individuals were put on a case that did not match facts with what actually happened in their life. they had been led to believe by a representative, an attorney in this case, and by some fraudulent work behind the scenes of some physicians and inside work of individuals within social security to be able to fast-track them through the process. and what happened? hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud. these things still continue. nothing changes on this. i wish that this bill would correct some of these issues today, but it doesn't correct these issues. those individuals were told by someone that they fit into the disabled category only to find out later they had also been defrauded in this system. there is nothing in this bill and the social security administration updated its listings, nothing in this bill to protect people who receive
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unemployment insurance who by definition must be employable from also receiving disability insurance who by definition cannot also work. there's nothing in this bill to streamline the adjudication process or to eliminate second level of appeal which is called reconsideration. many individuals that are within the process that just -- that are legitimately disabled, that just want to have their case heard get stuck in this long process. there are actually more appeals in the social security administration, in the social security disability program than there is on death row, which puts people endlessly in this cycle of endless appeals, it feels like year after year, and it continues to rack up the cost both to the taxpayer and the effect on those that are on disability. there is nothing in this bill to ensure that a claimant's medical record is well developed so when they come up for a continuing disability review they can make an informed judgment to actually evaluate whether they're medically improved or not. there is nothing in this bill to conduct oversight of the
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administrative law judges or claimants or representatives. the bill increases the numbers of administrative law judges but not the oversight. i'm not sure that many in this body are aware that some of the administrative law judges in this country have an overturn rate of 95% or higher and we're adding more but not increasing the oversight. there's no opportunity given for greater accountability or even to improve the judicial code of conduct here, a basic element of reform that should be in this. that's where the claimant representative, according to the social security administration office of inspector general in 2013 the top ten claimant representatives made $23 million. remember that the payment for the claimant representative comes directly out of the money that should go to the disabled individual, not from another fund. it's from the individual that should have received that money as disability. so the more the reps, the less
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the tax money gets to the disabled. there's no change in this model. it continues to provide continuing funding for claimant representatives and attorneys and continues to leave those in disability exposed. by the way, today in the social security offices all around the country they're processing the money from the disabled and sending a check to the representatives because though the reps are hired by the disabled individual, they're paid and processed by the federal workforce from the disabled person's money. we can do better than this. we should do better than this. mr. president, this was not a deal that the american people are looking for. this is not a budget agreement that the people of oklahoma say that fixes our debt and deficit issues and that stabilizes disability. this is the deal that's done apparently, but not a deal that's done well.
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based on where we are in debt and deficit, we need to do better, and i pray we do in the days ahead. we have much to get fixed. it's time to actually fix some things, not just to stay operational. mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent that i would speak for an additional five minutes as if it was a second speech. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. lankford: mr. president, there's a coach in washington state, a football coach, junior varsity coach. he also is the head coach of the j.v. team and he's the assistant coach on the varsity football team. tonight's the last game of the season for them but he will not be coaching on the sidelines today because last night he was dismissed from his duties in washington at the high school football team. he was dismissed from his duties
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according to the attorneys at the school because he had the audacity last friday night at the football game to kneel down at the end of the game and silently pray at the 50 yard line when the game was over. when the school had instructed him that he was not to silently pray at the end of a game. now, mr. president, you're going to have to help me understand this. the night before the last game of the season to kick the football coach off the field because he had the audacity to silently pray when they told him not to. now, to his defense, this is not brand-new. this same coach since 2008 at the end of the games, each game, he has the habit of kneeling and praying at the 50-yard line after the kids are gone, after the game is over, to thank god for the safety of his kids. it's a habit that he started seven years ago. but for some reason the brimington school district determined this is unacceptable.
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their perspective is you can only have faith if no one sees it. they literally set a new standard, what they're taking from the case which i'll explain in a moment but they're saying if you're a school official no one can see that you have faith because if anyone sees that you have faith, they'll take that as the establishment of religion from the school district. that is a standard no court in america has set. that would mean any individual that's jewish couldn't wear a i can't remember ca if they're -- couldn't war a yarmaka if they're a teacher. no teacher could bow their head and pray before their meal at the school lunchroom. that would mean no football coach could kneel down with five seconds to go in the game none of the fourth quarter and they would say you can't kneel down and pray on the sideline. the absurdity of this is the standard which says you cannot let anyone see you have faith
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which means this district has created a new legal standard that no one else has ever agreed to, to literally create in the federal government, or in the school district a faith-free zone, to put up a sign on the front door that says no one can express any type of faith in this building. that is an absurd -- that is an absurd way to be able to practice this. they quoted multiple times the school district did from the boredden case. the borden case. this is what the actual case was. it was a football coach before the case at a mandatory meeting of the team leading them in a prayer. now the only similarity here is prayer and football. because this is not a mandatory meeting before the game. this is not a required closed time. this is an individual after the game is over, kneeling down on his own, freely expressing his faith without requiring anyone
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else to be there, anyone to listen. this is an individual living their faith. that is free in america whether you're muslim, whether you're hindu, whether you're christian, whether you're a jew, whether you're a federal employee or state employee or private citizen. every individual retains their constitutional right to the free exercise of their religion. does that mean they can coerce people in that situation? it does not. the court's been very clear on that but that's not what this was. this was not a situation where the coach was coercing his players to have to participate in a prayer or press le tieing -- proselytizing while he was on school time. he was simply kneeling down to pray. and for whatever strange reason, the school district has put him on paid administrative leave at- and started the process of firing the coach. i bring this up because this suddenly becomes a national issue when a school district
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creates a new legal standard for every person of faith in america. every person of faith in america has the right to live their faith. a school district does not have the right to say to one your constitutional right ends here. i could go through in great detail the different standards that they leave out there, but their accommodation was this one simple thing. he could privately pray in a room of the school district's choosing if he wanted to pray, they would put him in a spot and say you can pray in there, in a place we pick, but you can't pray out there. may i remind americans, we do not have freedom of worship in america. we have the free exercise of religion in america. government does not have the authority to confine your faith to the location of government's choosing. in a government entity like a school district cannot say to an employee you can only live your
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faith over there where we pick. mr. president, i don't know what this school district is going to do in the days ahead but i know what americans should do, of all faiths and people of no faith. they should rise up and say we are a nation that protects the free exercise of religion. and people that disagree with that coach should rise up in the same way with people that agree, because i can assure you if they'll go silence a christian who is silently praying on the 50-yard line, i can assure you they'll be after every other faith in the country and say you can only practice your faith in the place of the government's choosing. and that is not who we are. coach joe kennedy has the right to pray anywhere he wants to pray as long as it doesn't interrupt his school responsibilities. and i pray that this school
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district and the attorneys that are trying to manufacture a new requirement on people of faith will see that in the days ahead. with that, i yield back.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin.
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mr. johnson is:i come to pray tribute to a man whose life was cut short. senior airman quinn lamar harris, a 24-year-old from milwaukee was among six airmen and five civilian passengers who lost their lives when a c-130 crashed on takeoff from jalalabad airfield in afghanistan earlier this month. every one of those individuals was a grave loss to our country. every one of deserves to be remembered and revered before the senate. today is my solemn duty and particular honor to tell you about airman johnson harris. quinn graduated from holmstead high school in 2012. the very next year he joined the
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air force. it was a foregone conclusion that he would serve his country long before that, however. his grandfather served in vietnam. his oldest brother jeremy was a proud marine. and his other older brother lamar graduated from west point just last spring and is now probably serving in the army. his -- his mother told the story about his three sons -- quinn was only three years old at the time -- saluted at the grave of their grandfather and vowed to serve their country. mr. president fo, for men such s these, our nation is eternally grateful. quinn went to rebuild houses in new orleans after hurricane katrina while he was still in school. later one of his comrades, a sergeant that served with him in the air force, said he was --

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