Skip to main content

tv   US Senate  CSPAN  December 17, 2015 2:00pm-4:01pm EST

2:00 pm
quorum call:
2:01 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, i have two unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session for the senate -- of the senate, i should say. they have the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask unanimous consent that these requests be agreed to and
2:02 pm
that these requests be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. thune: mr. president, i rise today to honor my commerce committee staff director, dave sweedert who is leaving the hill after almost 16 years of service here in the united states senate. early in dave's career, he worked for the late senator craig thomas, and for the past 11 years, dave has worked on my staff, serving his home state of south dakota. he started with me as a staffer at the environment and public works committee when i first arrived in the senate. after i left the environment and public works committee, i was then lucky enough to have dave serve as my legislative director for six years. when i became ranking member of the commerce committee, dave came over as minority staff director, a position in which he served for two years before becoming majority staff director this year. mr. president, dave is the kind of staffer that you always hope to get as a member.
2:03 pm
he has a brilliant mind. his memory for the most arcane details of any policy is almost legendary. in fact, if you look up policy wonk in the dictionary, you would probably find a picture of dave sweedert, and i say that with the greatest amount of affection. but he has a deep dedication to his work. i have relied on his intellect and dedication more times than i can count over the years. but those aren't the only things that distinguish dave as a staff director. one of the things i appreciate the most about dave is his commitment to helping younger staff members develop their abilities. that's a great quality around here where oftentimes people have a hard time learning how to delegate and learning how to bring younger staff members along. his patience, his teaching ability are well known, and staffers who have worked under dave come away with sophisticated analytical skills and a deep understanding of the
2:04 pm
issues. mr. president, the commerce committee has had a lot of successes this year, most notably passage of two major pieces of legislation, surface transportation board reauthorization bill and the first long-term highway bill in a decade. dave sweedert was a key figure in each of those accomplishments. we've known for a long time that the surface transportation board needed to work better, and dave has really been working on this reauthorization since i first became a member of the commerce committee. this year we were finally able to get it done. dave can leave the senate with the knowledge that legislation he helped enact will permanently improve things for all those american farmers and businesses who rely on our nation's rail system to get their goods to the marketplace. this year's landmark transportation bill which will strengthen our nation's infrastructure and boost our economy for years to come was the product of a tremendous amount of work from multiple committees. at the commerce committee, we have developed the bill's extensive safety title and dave was once again a key figure in that process.
2:05 pm
i'm particularly proud of the fact that we managed to move from a party-line vote on the commerce title to strong bipartisan support by the time we were done. in fact, when it cleared the united states senate, it was with 83 votes. dave deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that. his ability to build consensus among members and staff of both parties is a huge reason that we were able to pass a long-term transportation bill this year. mr. president, another thing i have always appreciated about dave is his commitment to south dakota. like me, dave is a proud south dakota native. in fact, he comes from western south dakota, rapid city. i'm a western south dakota product. in fact, in south dakota, you're either east river or west river. we both come from west river, but through his time on the commerce committee, he's never forgotten about the needs of south dakota families, farmers and businesses. it's always been forefront in his mind. i'm grateful for that.
2:06 pm
i know there are a lot of south dakotans who are grateful for the bills that he's helped pass. dave's work will have a tremendously positive impact on south dakota for many years to come. mr. president, while it's difficult to overstate how much dave will be missed around here, i'm happy to know he has found a new opportunity. it's said that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but as in so many other things, dave breaks the mold on this one as well. in fact, he was struck by lightning not once, not twice, but three times while on a rock climbing trip, but that hasn't discouraged him, and i for one am grateful for that commitment and tenacity. my thanks also go out to dave's wife sandra, his son evan and his daughter lauren for allowing me to keep their husband and father here many times late into the evening. mr. president, i know i speak for a lot of people when i say that dave will be deeply missed, but he should know that he goes
2:07 pm
forward with the respect and the gratitude of many in the warmest wishes for all his future endeavors. mr. president, i yield the floor. and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
2:08 pm
2:09 pm
2:10 pm
2:11 pm
2:12 pm
2:13 pm
2:14 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from north dakota. ms. heitkamp: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. heitkamp: mr. president, i also ask consent to engage in a colloquy, my great friend, the senator from new mexico. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. heitkamp: rerise -- we rise today to talk about an issue that we started talking about over a year ago, and that is the oil export ban and what we were going to to to -- to do to, i
2:15 pm
think, not only educate the public about this 40-year-old ban but also those colleagues of ours in our caucus who do not have the level of experience that we have with the oil industry. and i can tell you that it has been a journey. and we start in the first instance of really -- and i want to make this point because i always make this point when i talk about it. fundamentally ignore all of the other policy arguments. there is absolutely no reason in the world to restrict the export of a commodity that we produce in this country. commodities traditionally trade on a global market. they are in fact, if we are not going to distort the market, they need to find their market. this is a 40-year-old ban that didn't make sense when they did it, and it made even less sense in an environment where states like north dakota were on the path to produce over two million barrels of light sweet crude
2:16 pm
from our shale formations a day. and so when we look at the effort and we look at kind of the analysis, at the end of the day occasionally good argument wins the day. and i think that's what you're seeing as we're on the verge, i think, of this congress, signed by the president, lifting a 40-year-old ban on the exportation of crude oil that's produced in this country. i just want to make a couple quick points about it on a policy matter. first off, many people say would be -- wouldn't that jeopardize our energy independence? closing off the market and making sure our commodities couldn't find a market, that encourages investment other places than the united states of america. so it's counterintuitive. you say wouldn't this actually raise our gasoline prices? well, we had study after study
2:17 pm
after study that concluded one simple thing, either it would have no effect or it would have a downward effect since gasoline prices were measured against brent, which is the international pricing benchmark. when we look at what's good for consumers, what's good for jobs in states like new mexico and north dakota, what is good for national security and what's good for our allies, i spent a lot of time over the past year talking to people from the e.u., talking to people in eastern europe about the significance of energy security and knowing that even though they didn't have a source of energy, that they could buy energy from a country like the united states of america. i frequently refer to our oil as democracy oil. it's not oil produced by countries that we are at odds with, that we disagree with. this is oil that is absolutely an opportunity to use that soft
2:18 pm
power, to use that ability to export. and that idea was shared not only by foreign policy experts who from conservative think tanks, but very many well-recognized democratic foreign policy experts. and so we are at the point of actually getting this done. and that is the good news. but we also knew that frequently in the united states congress a good idea doesn't happen in isolation. it happens when we're willing to sit down and go to negotiations. and that's really where my great friend from new mexico came in. taking a look at was there an opportunity to actually get a deal done. and what we could do to make this actually happen. and so we partnered up pretty early in making the pitch together. and so i want to ask my friend, senator heinrich, would you
2:19 pm
please talk about the piece of this deal that supports the development of renewables, what that means for your state, which is also an oil-producing state, but what that also means for jobs not only a state like mine which produces -- has a large manufacturing facility that manufactures blades. plus we think we're the saudi arabia wind. i think the senator would agree that we are in fact the saudi arabia of wind. senator heinrich, what does this means in terms of renewables for you? mr. heinrich: thank you, senator heitkamp for your leadership on this issue. i want to thank the presiding officer for his contributions to these conversations that allowed us to reach what has really been an incredible example of a bipartisan balanced energy package, something we shnt -- haven't seen for quite awhile. i just want to recognize the many, many, many hours that
2:20 pm
senator heitkamp spent in meetings of every complexion under the sun, from educating our colleagues who don't have oil and gas producing basins like we do to on the interkasis of what -- -- intricacies of what does this mean for consumers. meeting after meeting with renewable energy associations in the solar field, in the wind field, and with colleagues on both sides of the aisle; people like the presiding officer, people like our energy committee chairperson, senator murkowski of alaska. i want to thank you for all of that work, and it's really been a pleasure to work with you in this effort. this is a very, very big step for new mexico, and obviously at
2:21 pm
any time when oil is trading under $50 a barrel in a state where we have two big basins -- the perman basin in the southeast and the san juan basin in the northwest, not to mention production in the ratone basin that's coming on, it is a very big hit not only to the jobs and the families that rely on those jobs but also to our public schools in the state of new mexico new mexico. this opportunity to relax the oil export ban means something concrete for that industry and those jobs in new mexico. it also means something very concrete for the future of jobs in new mexico as well. the incremental work here on the renewables side is one of the single biggest pieces of policy on clean energy that i have seen in my adult lifetime. we are looking at two markets that have grown rapidly, that
2:22 pm
have produced in solar's case, 200,000 jobs in the last few years, that would have taken an enormous hit if we would have allowed those incentives to go away. as a result of this package, we're going to see likely another 140,000 jobs in solar alone. just the incremental impact on the carbon front, the extension will offset 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. that's like 26 coal-fired power plants. so these things impact small businesses across my state as well as across the country. but you look at a small state like new mexico, two million people, we have close to 100 solar companies employing 1,600 people in these new fields, and it's growing rapidly. we've seen 358 megawatts of solar energy installed. we have 812 megawatts of wind
2:23 pm
energy currently installed and another 300 in the pipeline right now, with another 500 to 1,000 jobs associated with that in 2014 alone. so this is the single biggest piece of predictability within renewable energy that we've seen in a very long time, and we've learned the reality that one plus one plus one does not equal three. when you add a tax incentive one year and then you take it away and then you add it back, the sum of those is not as, nearly as robust as when you have predictability over a period of time. that's what this does for our energy industry across the board. i want to thank you for all of your work on it. i want to ask you a question in particular. this agreement obviously didn't happen overnight. i know one -- we've been meetinr well over a year on this and you've been thinking about it
2:24 pm
even longer than that. can you tell us a little bit about why, senator heitkamp, you are so passionate about this issue and what specifically does it mean for the people of north dakota? ms. heitkamp: it wasn't that long ago that north dakota became the second largest oil producing state in the country. we're challenged in north dakota because we don't have the mature infrastructure of texas and the basin. we are challenged with transportation. but the amazing thing is we produce the best crude in the world, light sweet crude. the problem with light sweet crude over the years, it wasn't thedom -- the dominant crude. they are basically geared up to recruit oil from venezuela and some of the heavier crudes and
2:25 pm
that's what the refiners do and a lot of refineries that can handle light sweet crude are not on a pipeline system. on top of producing this great quality crude, we have additional transportation costs and we were seeing deducts. you add to that the challenge of producing something that could be so important for energy security in our country, but also national security and helping our allies with their energy security in europe, when you add the challenge of not -- that product not being able to find the market, what that means is that this energy renaissance for the country that we are so proud that we've participated in, this energy renaissance begins to basically dip. this idea that we can be energy independent starts dimming. and we start seeing people cut back on investment. we start seeing people reduce their plans to invest in this country when they know they can go offshore and actually market
2:26 pm
their product. and so the bottom line is that this is not -- this isn't going to raise oil prices overnight, and those folks who may have a prediction that this is going to result in a dramatic increase, i think they don't really understand the oil markets and what's happening right now. but what it does do is it takes a commodity that should always have had, always have had the opportunity to find this market and it applies free enterprise principles and it applies capitalistic principles. when you produce something in this country, you ought to be able to find your market. and it tells the american public, i think more as people say it's remarkable you've been able to get this this far. it tells the american public that the united states congress can function if people come willing to make a deal. and i see my friend from new jersey who a lot of people would not have suspected played such an important role in our discussions and such a willingness to learn and really
2:27 pm
impressed a lot of our friends in the oil industry with his rapid understanding of economics. i tried to tell them you were smart. they occasionally get fooled by press releases as opposed to actually meeting folks. and i think another great thing that has come as a result of this is certainly a willingness of the democratic caucus to listen to this argument has been a building of relationships that i hope will in fact allow us to have a reasoned debate about oil, energy development in this country going into the future. and so, senator heinrich, i want to ask you to close out with just an explanation of how when you look into the future, how critical this is to your school system and what you, what you see in terms of the future of the industry as a result of this change in your state. mr. heinrich: thank you again, senator heitkamp. i just want to say how important
2:28 pm
this is for the state of new mexico in part from the perspective that our economy has been incredibly challenged in the last few years. we have not seen the growth that many of our neighbors have seen coming out of the recession. one of the places where we have seen growth has been the solar industry. the people working in the solar industry today, those are new jobs. having the certainty for our energy sector, which runs the gamut from the oil and gas basins that i talked about to the incredible growth in solar energy to the fact that we have a very, very strong wind component in the state, we have basically the eastern side of our state is very much in the same wind mapping zone as the pan handle of texas. this means predictability. it means jobs. it is one of the single biggest biggest -- single biggest economic things that we could have done for the state of new
2:29 pm
mexico since i've been here in the united states senate. so i think we have a lot to be proud of here. we were also able to extend the land and water conservation fund, something that has been working for this nation across the country for 50 years that is very much tied to our leasing of oil and gas offshore, and certainly my colleague, senator udall, knows that program inside and out. he's been an incredible champion for it. his father made it happen when he was secretary of interior. i would conclude my remarks and thank you again for allowing me to engage in this colloquy, and thank our colleagues for being able to work on a bipartisan basis. ms. heitkamp: i know, mr. president, that we're up against the clock, and i promised my friend from the south that i would in fact conclude, but i saw someone that i worked very closely with on this unusual come on to the floor, and i want to extend my great appreciation for the hours that we spent together talking
2:30 pm
about this issue and the hours that we spent with the senior senator from alaska basically educating as a first step and then finally delivering a product that we can all be proud of, i think. and so i want to extend my congratulations and my appreciation for the chairwoman of the energy committee for the work that she did and for her belief along with my belief that we could in fact get this across the finish line. i don't think anyone at any point, other than you and i, senator, actually believed we could get it done this year, and it's pretty remarkable that we did. ms. murkowski: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. ms. murkowski: mr. president, i want to thank not only the senator from north dakota but the senator from north dakota and many others for the effort that has been made to get us to this point where we will soon have the opportunity to vote to
2:31 pm
lift a 40-year-old ban on export. we are the only nation in the world who produces oil who limits our ability to export that. it's a policy that 40 years ago may have made sense at that time, but it is so outdated, it is so past time that we recognize that we are that energy superpower. and as that energy superpower, act like one. and the senator from north dakota mentions that there were very few people initially that thought that this could be done. in january of 2014, i gave a speech to the brookings institute and i called for the repeal of the ban, and i -- at that time i was the first policymaker that really kind of got out front and kind of said what a lot were thinking, but we're thinking maybe this is way too soon. and a couple months later, i had
2:32 pm
the opportunity to lay out a framework or a pathway forward, a pathway that said we're not going to lay down legislation right now. we're going to build a case. 2014 is going to be the year of the report. and there were some dozen reports that came out, very considered, substantive reports that came out and said you know what? this isn't going to increase the price of oil. you know what? this is going to be good for jobs and our economy. you know what? this is going to be great, important, vital for our role around the world, to help our allies, to help others who would like to rely on our energy resources rather than russia or iran. and so that path was set. and i think it set the table fo. we're in 2015. we were able to introduce legislation to have it heard
2:33 pm
before our committee, to move the bill out of committee, to see the house do the same, move it across the floor and get us then to the point where we could consider it in various legislative vehicles. it didn't quite work with ndaa, didn't quite work with the iran bill, didn't quite work with the transportation bill, but now we are here with this omnibus package. and again, mr. president, recognizing that this is so substantive from a domestic policy perspective is something that i think the occupant of the chair as well as senator heitkamp as well as senator heinrich from new mexico, all producing states, can recognize the enormous gains, but i think we also need to consider the very real, very substantive difference that we will make
2:34 pm
when as an energy superpower we are able to share our resource, whether it is oil, whether it is natural gas, to help, whether it is our friends in europe, whether it is poland who is 95% reliant on russia for their oil, whether it is south korea, japan. alaska has been able to export its oil since 1996 when we received a -- basically a waiver. and so we have seen the benefits that oil exports bring. our state has had that ability to do so. why should the rest of the country not see that benefit? we -- we have exported again since 1996 with our oil, we have exported our natural gas from the cook inlet, and it's actually been the longest term
2:35 pm
export contract that this country has seen as far as natural gas. so we've seen the benefit. we know that when we are the export trading partner, we as the nation benefit from it, whether it's jobs, revenues, growth, prosperity, this is good. this is a win, and it's very important. so i again appreciate the efforts of so many that have brought us to the place where we are at today. i think we acknowledge that, yes there are heavy legislative lifts around here, but -- heavy legislative lists around here, but i think when you work constructively to build the case, to try to depoliticize to the extent possible, to avoid the partisanship that can come into specific issues, by saying let's examine this from a policy
2:36 pm
perspective, does it make sense to lift sanctions on iran for their oil and keep in place a ban on our u.s. oil producers, effectively sanctioning u.s. oil producers? i think we have got a lot of colleagues when we raised that question to them. think about it from the policy perspective and whether it's good or outdated, and this one was outdated and it was time to go. so i thank -- i thank senator heitkamp for yielding for just a moment and allowing me to speak very briefly to what i think is very significant for this country, both domestically and internationally. let's let the united states of america be that energy superpower that we are. thank you, mr. president. a senator: mr. president?
2:37 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from mississippi. mr. wicker: mr. president, i rise first of all to commend the three senators who have just completed their colloquy. they have been discussing an accomplishment this year that results from bipartisan efforts, and i, too, would like to speak about a bipartisan effort that i have been engaged in with the senator from new jersey who joins me on the floor today, and that would be the passenger rail portion of the transportation bill which the president has already signed, and so i would ask unanimous consent that the senator from new jersey and i be allowed to engage in a colloquy concerning this legislation. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: i am -- i'm so pleased to have worked with senator booker on the rail portion and on the entire
2:38 pm
transportation bill. pleased it has passed the house and senate and been signed into law by the president, a major accomplishment. and i would note that predecessors of ours from our states were part of the last major effort for a comprehensive bill. my predecessor trent lott along with the late frank lautenberg of new jersey were the authors of the passenger rail investment and improvement act, which was introduced in 2007 and much work on it was done before senator lott resigned at the end of 2007. it was actually passed in 2008. so i think it was quite appropriate that senator booker and i would be allowed to follow in their footsteps and participate in this legislation
2:39 pm
which deals with making our rail system safer in the united states and more efficient, that puts greater attention on planning and efficiency, and i know that senator booker shares my enthusiasm for the accomplishment that this congress has made in that regard. mr. booker: i say thank you, and i do share that enthusiasm. i appreciate the way you began your remarks. this is a tradition of bipartisanship that goes beyond the senator and i. but i want to say this about senator wicker because i am new to the senate here. i have been here about 25 months now. but this last full year that i have been working on this passenger rail bill as the ranking member -- with the ranking member of that subcommittee, i have found him to be tough, to be balanced, to be strong and thoughtful about what was best for america, thinking about our country first, thinking about his great
2:40 pm
state, our country, how we're going to create jobs, how we're going to improve an increasingly globally competitive environment. it has been an honor to work with him, and i think what we accomplish together is extraordinary and is going to have a profound impact. this bill makes critical investments in our rail infrastructure. it makes important safety reforms, and it represents to move our country forward, literally and figuratively. rail efficiency and safety is critical to our national success. it's a priority. this idea of protecting americans is a priority of both senator wicker and i. and it's critical that we have rail safety, especially as we go forward and have seen unfortunately in the past some very challenging accidents. for me and my constituents in new jersey, rail is incredibly important. we're part of the northeast corridor, which is probably the busiest rail corridor in the country. it is one of the most productive regions of our nation.
2:41 pm
and unfortunately it has an inadequate infrastructure. more people use rail than use -- fly in the air in that corridor. the challenge is that corridor itself has become a chokehold right around the new york-new jersey region. and one of the reasons of that is because the hudson river crossing, the busiest river crossing in the united states of america, is -- has tunnels that are just inadequate and ineffective at this point. these tunnels were built back in 1910. nobody in this body remembers those years personally. but the bill -- the tunnel began construction one year after the famous flights at kittyhawk just getting off the ground in air travel. these tunnels were completed less than a decade before the start of the first world war. and so today these tunnels are in horrible condition. the whole region is suffering as a result of it.
2:42 pm
i hear time and time again from constituents about the urgencies for investment in rail. residents now that because of the delays, because of the challenges with new jersey transit have to leave earlier for work, miss time with their families, miss dropping off their kids from school, lose out on productivity. in fact, the productivity losses in this region amount to the hundreds of millions of dollars. and so this is an urgent cause for us, and that's why i was so grateful, really celebrating the fact that we have a partnership in the senate that could actually get something done when it comes to rail travel. for us in this region, we know the challenges. if we have tunnels under the hudson river that are clearly in a state of significant decay and disrepair that some engineers have less than a decade on them, one single day of missing those access to those tunnels for that artery to hurt our regional colony about $100 million for
2:43 pm
one single day in waste productivity. so this spring roger wicker, senator wicker and i joined together to introduce this legislation, the railroad efficiency and enhancement and efficiency act, that bill is making the critical investments. the bill would allow the northeast corridor very critically would crowe the northeast corridor to reinvest its profits into that region, which is going to be significant for helping to give us a 21st century competitive infrastructure, and that is something i cannot understate the urgency of. our bill, as i said earlier, added critical safety provisions that's going to help to make for positive train control. and earlier this month as was mentioned by roger wicker, the chamber passed the fixing america's surface transportation act or the fast act, a five-year, $305 billion transportation compromise bill, which for the first time includes the rail provisions that i'm proud to say were in our railroad enhancement and
2:44 pm
efficiency act. and so this bill that passed the senate will enable critical projects like the hudson tunnel plan. it's going to achieve incredible safety for our community. and i just want to again, mr. president, thank senator wicker for his noble service. i want to thank -- i'm sure he and i both would like to thank senators thune and nelson, the ranking members, on the overall committee who worked to ensure that our bill was part of a massive highway transportation bill. our long-term economic competitiveness as a country. we talk about national security. when our economy fuels our strength at home and abroad, and investing in infrastructure, which has a long history of being a bipartisan priority is something i'm proud to join with roger wicker and continue that great american tradition of investing in our communities, creating more growth, creating more jobs, creating a strong economy that makes for a strong nation. mr. wicker: mr. president, it probably doesn't come as a
2:45 pm
surprise for people to hear a senator from the northeast be such a strong advocate of passenger rail and of amtrak, but i can tell you that as this representative of mississippi and a senator from the southeastern part of the united states, we believe in passenger rail, too. it's torn to the entire -- important to the entire national economy and so it's important to our economy. it's also important to the economy in my region of the country. i'm pleased that and excited about the possibility of restoring passenger rail to the gulf coast for the first time since hurricane katrina. we made it work between new orleans and the mississippi gulf coast and mobile and orlando before the storm, and we think we can make it work now. one provision in the bill establishes a new gulf coast working group which will receive
2:46 pm
a $500,000 grant specifically for the purpose of returning rail to the area. and another provision creates a grant program that can assist applicants like the southern rail commission and has worked to restore passenger rail to the gulf coast. in addition, mr. president, i'm an advocate of competition, and so i'm pleased to see that this new legislation opens up the possibility of having private rail railcar yers competing for up to three of amtrak's long distance routes. i think in this way we can achieve cost savings, better performance and good worker protections. in closing, let me just say we're glad the law's been passed and signed. it seems from this angle that it was so inevitable, but i can just tell you, mr. president, i think members on the floor of the senate who are listening to
2:47 pm
this colloquy would have to admit that this didn't have to happen. as a matter of fact, it could easily have fallen off the rails or fallen off the tracks. and on a bipartisan basis, people on this side of the aisle and on senator booker's side of the aisle did not allow the distractions and the naysayers to prevail, and we insisted that if we kept working we could get this entire package done on a bipartisan basis. and so i would have to salute republican members in the majority who put this forward from a committee standpoint, but i want to salute my democratic brothers and sisters who said, yes, we can do this, and we ought to do it not as republicans and democrats, but as americans for the american economy. so my hat is off to my partner in this effort and to everyone
2:48 pm
on both sides of the aisle for making this a reality. ms. mikulski: mr. president? i'm sorry. i didn't realize -- the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: i want to say in conclusion that there is that story of the little engine that could and did not give up and worked through trials and tribulations. senator wicker represented the values in that story. i look forward to working with him again to move our country forward. thank you. ms. mikulski: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: mr. president, i rise to speak on the consolidated appropriations act of 2016, otherwise known as the omnibus. three months ago it was unclear if we would get a budget deal that would lift the caps for both defense and non-defense spending. it was unclear if we could really not head to a showdown. it was really clear if we were not heading to a shutdown, and
2:49 pm
we were not clear if we could cancel sequester. i'm proud to say as the vice chair of the appropriations committee, the committee has completed its work and we've done it in a bipartisan way and in a way that there will not be a shutdown of government. we have canceled sequester, and we've done this in a responsible way. the house is working on the bill now, and we shall be voting on it tomorrow. tomorrow i will talk about the national implications of the bill when it comes before the senate. but today, as the senator from maryland and for maryland i would like to talk about the public investments this bill makes to support the nation's needs which also supports maryland's needs which supports maryland jobs. as the vice chair of the committee, my first job is to be the, as the constitution requires, my job is to be the senator from maryland, and i require of myself to be the
2:50 pm
senator for maryland. i'm proud to say that this bill does make the kinds of public investments that i believe will help america and maryland's future. this bill delivers on a promise that i made many years ago that i would look out for the day-to-day needs of my constituents and the long-range needs of this country. mr. president, you'd be interested to know that maryland is the home to 20 nature federal facilities with more than 200,000 federal employees and retirees. we have great military installations like fort meade, the national security agency, cyber command, the united states naval academy, naval bethesda, and walter reed. it also has great, great public institutions that are the national institutes of health, the national weather bureau, the national noaa satellites that
2:51 pm
tell us what the weather will be, and also agencies like the food and drug administration. in this bill, though we have the federal assets in maryland, they serve the nation. thee aren't maryland institutions. they're national institutions but they employ marylanders. in this bill, working on a bipartisan basis we have increased the funding for the national institutes of health by $2 billion, increasing it to $32 billion. working with both senator murray, who is the ranking member, and senator blunt, the chair of the subcommittee, we have nicknamed the national institutes of health to the national institutes of hope. and why? because it looks out to find the cures and breakthroughs for the american devastating disease, from cancer to alzheimer's. but at the same time while we have worked on finding the
2:52 pm
research -- funding the research to find cures and breakthroughs, they must be moved to clinical practice. that's why we in maryland have fought so hard to make sure the food and drug administration is capitalized in a way that it does its job. the food and drug administration employing, again, over 4,000 people is responsible for our food safety both here and as it comes in from abroad, and also for being able to move drugs bilogics -- biologics and medical devices in a way that is safe and effective. a big job and it's a big employer in our state. but we also want to make sure that we look out for those that are the most needy. this senate and this congress often talks about social security and it also talks about medicare. both of those, social security
2:53 pm
administration and c.m.s., are located in maryland. we're very proud of that. the social security administration is in a community called baltimore county, a neighborhood called woodlawn. but at the same time it's located there, it has a building that's 57 years old. 57 years old. and it hasn't had any improvements since 1959. they work in terrible situations with mold, decay, crumbling technology, outlets to be able to plug it in and even parts of it vermin. we really then make sure that for those who administer the social security program have the right facilities and also the right technology. we work very hard to be able to stand up also for our federal employees. and again, working on a bipartisan basis, we allowed a
2:54 pm
1.46 cost-of-living adjustment. we remember absolutely appalled to find out about the o.p.m. data breach which had a devastating effect on over 130,000 federal employees both here and around this country, and what we did working in this bill, we're going to make sure that the federal employees have ten years of credit protection, though o.p.m. fell down on its job in protecting them. we've also been very concerned about physical infrastructure. we worked very hard in terms of the metro. metro is not a maryland subway. it's not a virginia subway. it is america's subway. for all who ride that subway, we've been absolutely, absolutely concerned about its safety. working with our colleagues across the potomac, we've been concentrating on metro safety, and we were able to put the
2:55 pm
funds in the federal checkbook to be able to improve that. we also want to be able to get people to the jobs, and that's why we funded the purple line. there's a great opportunity in maryland, and i hope it comes to other parts of our country, which is modernizing our ports. whether you're down in new orleans, whether you're in baltimore, whether you're in charleston, long beach, california, the ports need to be modernized. great opportunity for jobs, real jobs in construction and real jobs here. i'm happy to say we worked very hard over the years with my colleagues, my beloved friends, congresswoman helen bentley, a republican woman, they call us the salt and pepper of the maryland delegation. we worked to make sure our port was ready for the future. there are many other issues that i could show, but i wanted to show that we're making public investments that not only
2:56 pm
protect, look out for american jobs, but our federal employees working in these key agencies -- the national institutes of health, the food and drug administration, the national weather service, these are sism sism -- civil servants who while they're working on their mission, while they're located in maryland, they're working on a national mission. i'm glad of the role that i played to make sure they were capitalized. i want to thank my colleagues on the other side of the aisle because they too understood why these investments are important. what she said while we need to be america the exceptional, and i believe it's in these kind of programs, our human infrastructure, our innovation and our physical infrastructure is what we're doing. mr. president, these are many of the things in this bill, many will complain about how bill it is. it's not how big the bill is but it's how effective we are in helping america be able to be what america is: a land of
2:57 pm
opportunity and a land of growth and a land that knows how to protect its people and protect the world. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. corker: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. corker: mr. president, as we continue consideration of the omnibus, i rise today to applaud the inclusion of language i coauthored with senator mark warner that will ensure the fate of mortgage giants fannie mae and freddie mac. their fate will be determined by congress, and this language makes crystal clear that this body does not support efforts to return the failed model of private gains and public losses. as we wrap up our legislative business of 2015, i'm also here to remind my colleagues that there is much work to be done in the new year to finally address the last unfinished business of the 2008 financial crisis.
2:58 pm
prior to the crisis, mortgage giants fannie mae and freddie mac were publicly traded. they benefited from an implicit government guarantee which meant any up side went to the company. but as we saw at the height of the financial crisis, the down side of this structure fell on the taxpayers, and it fell hard. in september of 2008, because of this flawed model, losses mounted at fannie and freddie, causing taxpayers to write a $188 billion bailout check to keep them afloat. these entities remain in government conservatorship backed by the taxpayers and owned by the u.s. treasury department. in 2014, federal housing finance agencies stress tests project that the g.s.e.'s could require a $190 billion taxpayer bailout to keep them afloat during a future crisis, something none of us wants to see happen. because housing finance reform
2:59 pm
remain the last unaddressed piece of the financial crisis left, in 2013 senator mark warner and i developed legislation that attempted to address the flaws in our housing finance system and protect the taxpayers. this bill has been called the blueprint for how our nation's housing finance system should look in the future. after working with a group of bipartisan members and then chairman tim johnson and ranking member mike crapo, a reform bill passed the senate banking committee in may of 2014 by a vote of 13-9. this bill would protect taxpayers from future economic downturns by replacing fannie and freddie with a privately capitalized system. unfortunately it did not come to the senate floor, but that does not change the fact that there continues to be broad bipartisan, bicameral support to reform these entities. that broad support at the committee level and throughout
3:00 pm
congress came despite push-back from a number of lanch -- large self-interested wall street hedge funds. let me explain. as a result of the 2008 bailout, treasury purchased senior preferred stock in fannie and freddie and was given sole discretion, sole discretion to sell or otherwise dispose of those shares. seeing an opportunity to make huge profits at the expense of taxpayers, a number of big wall street hedge funds and other entities rushed in when fa fanne and freddie crashed. they bought shares for pennies on the dollar, after the government had taken them into conservatorship and knowing full well the government would have the authority to make decision s relative to their future. now the hedge funds appear to be spending big money and going to extreme lengths to stop housing finance reform in order to reap
3:01 pm
huge financial returns. as they know how well to do, these wealthy hedge funds made a bet that congress would fail to do its job. structural reform efforts would fail and fannie and freddie would re-capitalize and release out of conservatorship. under that bet, taxpayers lose while some of the wealthiest hedge fund managers get even wealthier. this is why the wall street hedge funds want to stop efforts to protect taxpayers in hopes fannie and freddie could be re-capitalized and released from conservatorship. let me be clear, under that scenario, re-capitalizing and releasing fannie and freddie in their current form, we would fall back into the system of private gains and public losses, lining the pockets of hull if i millionaires -- multimillionaires while leaving taxpayers on the look for future
3:02 pm
bailouts. looking at what is at stake, one can see why these hedge funds are so engaged in stepping on the taxpayers and preventing reform from occurring. using a self-analysis from one prominent hedge fund under recap and release scenario, this fund, with an estimated current holding of $366 million, has a potential net profit of $8.1 billion. $8.1 billion, a total sale of $8.4 billion. to give you another example, using those same projections, another prominent hedge fund, with an estimated current holding of $501 million, has a potential net profit of $2.3 billion, or a sale of over $2.8 billion. these hedge funds and several others would benefit greatly
3:03 pm
from a recap and release sen -- scenario, which is why they are so adamantly opposed to housing finance reform which would put taxpayer interest above their own. surely we would not conflate the interest of the hedge fund plearntion with the critical need to protect taxpayers from a future bailou bailout by enactid housing policy in our country. returning to the failed model of private gains and public losses would leave the taxpayers on the hook for the g.s.c.'s $5 trillion in outstanding liabilities. this why i believe we must act. inclusion of the jump-start provision in this bill is a good first i step. this legislation would prohibit the sale of treasury-owned senior-preferred shares in fannie and freddie -- fannie mae and freddie mac without congressional approval anden
3:04 pm
sure congress, not the self-interested hedge funds, have the final say on how our housing finance system should look in the future. while i believe that recap and release is totally inappropriate, i do understand -- i do -- that the hedge funds still have claims to deal with in court, and this legislation does not prejudice those claims. i believe the blueprint senator warner and i laid out in 2013 is a good start and one that will protect taxpayers, but this legislation in the omnibus bill is silent on the future system. it simply says that congress should have the final say in what happens to these entities -- again, entities that congress created in the first place. with passage of this provision in the face of extremely intense opposition, we are telling taxpayers that we are putting to
3:05 pm
bed the idea -- putting to bed the idea of returning to the status quo as an option. we will not return to a system where big fannie and big freddie control the lion's share simplify our housing single payer and taxpayers are exposed for future bailouts. but there's more work to be dofnlt so the question i have is this: moving forward, who are we going to fight for? are we going to abdicate our responsibility and shy away due to efforts by large wall street hedge funds wanting to get wealthier off of taxpayers by placing taxpayers at greater risk or are we going to fight for the people that we represent? mr. president, as all of us who serve in this body during the financial crisis know well, the american people do not want to write another bailout check. without housing finance reform, that is an all-too-real possibility. to my colleagues, trust me, i
3:06 pm
know a number of you have felt pressure from large wall street hedge funds and the interest groups that they represent and support. excuse me -- that they support, not represent. but also know that there is not one of you who truly wants to put private investors' interest ahead of the people that we represent. in the new year, it's time for congress to finally do its job by finally addressing the last major piece of unfinished business from the financial crisis. we can once en and for all end s failed model. unfortunately, a lot of heavy lifting has already taken place. as we look forward to 2016, protecting taxpayers by reforming our nation's housing finance system should be the -- should be near the top of the to-do business. so this legislation takes us a step in the right direction towards that effort by saying
3:07 pm
the fate of mortgage giants fannie mae and freddie mac will be determined by congress, and i remain committed to doing everything i can to make sure that we do not return to the same failed model that put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars and instead we can create a dynamic housing finance system that works for americans rather than against them mr. president, . mr. president, i also rise today -- and, the senator from texas, this will just take one minute. i rise to applaud congress for funding in the omnibus bill that will help us fight human trafficking and slavery around the world. i think most americans would be stunned to know that over 27
3:08 pm
million people today are enslaved in more than 187 countries, including our own. over 27 million people in slavery today. that's more than four times the population of my home state of tennessee. modern slavery comes in many forms, and it preys on women and children the most. this brutal, multibillion dollar industry deprives human beings of their basic rights. children in india are stacking bricks. rather than sitting in a classroom, young girls in the philippines are sitting in brothels forced into sexual servitude n ghana, young boys are forced into a life of slavery on fishing boats. and worldwide, men and women hoping to better the lives of their families are stripped of their passports and trafficked for labor. and i cannot thank the senator from texas for the incredible
3:09 pm
efforts that he put forth to ensure that we do everything we can in our own country to keep this from happening. it was heroic. thank you. these are our daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers, and that is why it is so important that we take bold action. those who have been fighting this heinous crime for years all say that an end to the practice of modern -- all say to end the practice of modern slavery, we need a reliable baseline data and consistent, effective monitoring and evaluation. but they also say that we need -- but they also say that what is most critical in this fight is the need for a focused, sustained effort that can leverage and coordinate private and government funding. this is where the end modern slavery initiative comes into play. this bold, bipartisan initiative has received broad support from
3:10 pm
over 90 industry experts, nongovernmental organizations, and faith-based groups. this initiative will seek to raise $1.5 billion, more than 80% of which is expected to come through matching funds from private-sector and foreign governments to fight slavery worldwide. this is designed to limit foreign aid dollars and galvanize public support from the public sector, philanthropic organizations and the priesks to focus on resources, to focus resources responsibly where this crime is most prevalent. the omnibus appropriations bill that we wrote -- that we will vote on this week brings us one step closer to making this initiative a reality, with a $25 million down payment. there are many complex problems facing this country that demand our attention.
3:11 pm
perhaps none of those whose existence threatens the very concept of what it means to live in a free society. ending modern slavery and human trafficking will not come easy. but we have a moral obligation to try, and i am proud -- really proud -- that congress is taking that step and investing in this critical fight. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and i thank the senator from texas for allowing me to speak at this time. thank you. mr. cornyn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. cornyn: before he leaves the floor, let me tank the senator from tennessee for -- let me thank the senator for tennessee for his great worng this issue, among the many other issues he's dealt with. but he's absolutely right about the scourge of human trafficking and how we need to do more, not just here at home but internationally, to try to break up and rescue some of these
3:12 pm
children. often the typical profile of a trafficked person in the united states is a young girl 12 to 14 years old, and it is a travesty. so i thank you for your great work and congratulate him. mr. president, this week the omnibus appropriations bill was released along with the tax relief bill that extends and makes permanent many important tax credits and lays the foundation for comprehensive tax reform -- sometime hopefully soon. members of the chamber -- this chamber and the house have been reviewing the texts of both pieces of legislation, and i'm happy to report that the house of representatives has now given a resounding bipartisan vote to the tsm relief bill, 318 members of the house of representatives vote the to support it. the house, we're told, will move on the omnibus appropriations
3:13 pm
tomorrow morning and then we'll take it up, both bills, tomorrow morning in the united states senate. but i want to just remember and recall for anybody listening that the appropriations process did not have to end up this way. as a matter of fact, after having passed the first budget that congress has had since 2009, that then authorizes the appropriations committee to begin the process of considering and passing 12 separate appropriations bills and then once they're voted out of committee to bring them to the floor where they're open for amendment and debate, and in a completely transparent process where people understand -- can understand the details of the legislation. but as we all know, it didn't turn out that way because our democratic colleagues filibustered these individual appropriations bills, leaving us with no alternative but to consider this massive omnibus appropriations bill.
3:14 pm
now, i'm tempted to call this omnibus bill an ominous bill, but i'm not sure that pejorative enough. it's not the right way to do business. so i'm disappointed. i'm disappointed in our colleagues across the aisle who have forced us to do business this way, but i hope next year we can have a regular open appropriations process, one that will serve the american people far better. i am by no means happy with the way this year-end funding bill has come together, after having been hijacked, held and effectively shut down. but if this sounds familiar, this looks a lot like the strategy that they employed when they were in the majority, preceding the election just a year ago. and you know what happened? well, it didn't work very well because they ended up losing the majority. needless to say, the american people actually want us to do our jobs here and to look out
3:15 pm
for their interests and to make sure we pass legislation that is thoroughly considered, transparent, and then we can be held accountable for the votes we've made. unfortunately, this omnibus appropriations process undercuts that -- those principles and, as i said a moment ago, it is not a good way. it is a terrible way to have to do business. but i am happy and proud of the fact that in virtually every other area we've undertaken following the budget multiyear highway bill, the trade promotion authority legislation, the defense authorization bill that was led by our colleague from arizona, the chairman of the armed services committee, the justice for victims of trafficking act that passed 99-0 that i was just talking with ths talking with the senator from tennessee about. it is clear that we know how to work together on a bipartisan
3:16 pm
basis. disagreeing on some issues but finding common ground where we can, and the american people end up being the winner. this function and shutdowns -- dysfunction and shutdowns do not work. that's not why most of us came here. most of us came here to try to make this institution and the country and conditions for our constituents a little bit better one step at a time. but in this omnibus appropriation bill, there is an issue i want to highlight, and that is a clear win for pro-growth and one that will foster, not hinder, job creation. that's lifting the decades-old ban on exporting crude oil produced here in america. this month actually marks 40 years since the united states implemented a ban on the export of crude oil, a policy that was put into place as a precaution to protect the united states from disruption in global oil supply. but as we all know, the world looks a lot different than it
3:17 pm
did back then. the shale revolution has helped the geopolitical energy landscape turn in favor of the united states, and we have an abundance of oil and natural gas available not only for our use here domestically but for export to our friends and allies around the world. by doing away with this antiquated policy and allowing our own domestic production to reach global markets, we can kick start the united states economy and provide a real opportunity for job creation in the country. lifting the ban would not just be beneficial to people working in the domestic energy sector, because domestic energy production involves many different sectors. the construction, the shipping, the technology, by allowing for more export of our crude, we have the potential to create thousands of more jobs deep into the supply chain and a variety of sectors and across a multitude of states.
3:18 pm
in fact, one study estimated that for every new production job in the oil field, it translates into three additional jobs in the supply chain and another six in the broader economy. so we're talking about a major opportunity for job creation throughout our country. doing away with this outdated protectionist policy also gives the united states an opportunity to promote stronger relationships with our allies and partners around the world. today many of our allies in europe, including some of our nato allies, rely on countries like iran and russia for their energy needs. our allies' dependence on our adversaries for basic needs like heating, electricity and fuel creates a real vulnerability that exists for the united states as their ally and partner. so by lifting the ban, the u.s. can help offer our friends a chance to diversify their energy supplies and enhance their energy security and avoid people
3:19 pm
like vladimir putin the opportunity to use oil and gas and energy as a weapon. so lifting the crude oil export ban will strengthen our economy, it will actually save americans on their gasoline price at the pump by increasing overall supply, and it will help our friends and allies around the world, so it's a big win for the american people, whether or not you work directly in the industry. finally, i would say -- and i notice the senator from arizona is waiting to speak so i will be brief -- i'm happy to see that the omnibus also includes several bipartisan priority items that will benefit my constituents in texas. for example, for years, i have worked alongside of congressman monvela, a democrat from south texas, to put pressure on mexico to fulfill its commitment to deliver water to south texas as outlined and required in a 1944 treaty. now, this is incredibly important for a wide swath of
3:20 pm
folks whose access to water is not always assured. this bill includes language that reinforces this commitment and includes a measure that requires the state department to assess the impact of mexico's water debt on texas and the rest of the united states. this bill also renews an innovative port of entry partnership program modeled after the crossborder trade enhancement act. this, too, is bipartisan legislation. in this case that i introduced along with congressman henry cuelho, a south texas democrat. it orders businesses to improve staffing levels and upgrade infrastructure at our international border crossings to help move people and goods across our border more safely and efficiently. and obviously, with six million jobs in the united states dependent on crossborder commercial traffic and trade between the u.s. and mexico, this is really important.
3:21 pm
this omnibus legislation also includes a provision to fully repeal the country of origin labeling regulations known as cool. this has been a real problem for our livestock producers in texas and in the united states. by repealing these costly food labeling mandates, the u.s. will avoid a trade war with canada and next, two of our largest export and trading partners, and it will help texas farmers and ranchers and manufacturers back home in my state and across the country. in terms of national priorities, the omnibus bill increases resources for our military, thanks to the leadership of people like the chairman of the senate armed services committee, but this bill would increase resources for active duty military to make sure that those deployed around the world as well as those serving stateside have what they need to get the jobs they volunteered to do done. this legislation also blocks
3:22 pm
overreach by the environmental protection agency by providing no new or expanded funding for its programs, the lowest level of funding since 2008. and finally, this bill prioritizes our veterans and helps ensure they are able to receive -- better able to receive the care and benefits they deserve in a timely manner. this legislation also includes protecting americans from tax hikes act which includes a permanent extension of state and local sales tax deduction, something that amounts to more than $1 billion in annual tax relief for texans. this will ensure that texans are on a level playing field with those who deduct their state income tax because we don't have an income tax and never will. something that i can say texas will never have and as i said never will. this also rolls back several of president obama's harmful obamacare taxes and can provide some relief to folks all over the country being crushed by the
3:23 pm
president's failed unpopular health care law. so while no legislation is perfect and indeed this process is the antithesis of perfect, it's the wrong way to do business. this is the hand we have been dealt by the filibusters of the appropriations bills by our democratic colleagues, so we're doing the best we can with the hand that we have been dealt. but in the end, nothing passes congress and gets signed into law by the president without some level of bipartisan cooperation. in both chambers of congress and working together with the executive branch. and these -- this legislation does include several significant wins for the american people. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. mccain: mr. president, i come to the floor today to discuss the consolidated appropriations bill of 2016. i'm obviously pleased we're not
3:24 pm
going to pass another continuing resolution, which i believe is irresponsible, but at the same time the process by which we are now considering this legislation is just as irresponsible. and as my colleague from texas just pointed out, we are here where we are because my colleague and leader on the other side of the aisle refused to allow the appropriations bills which had been passed through the committee one by one to be considered and voted on and amended in the fashion that the american people expect us to behave, and frankly the constitution demands. so here we are after months and months of gridlock with the democrat leader not allowing us
3:25 pm
to bring up these bills one by one. we are now faced with a $1.1 trillion bill that in the view of many is must pass with literally hours to review and debate and no amendments. no amendments. so we're faced with a situation, a parliament situation, $1.1 trillion. we are considering without an amendment. without a single member on either side of the aisle being able to compose an amendment to make it better. my friends, this is a recipe for corruption. it's a recipe for corruption. a few people, a very few people. not all 100 members here or 435 on the other side, but a handful of people behind closed doors work and then 48 hours or so, whatever it is, before the vote, it's presented to us as take it
3:26 pm
or leave it. with the choice being, well, we sign onto it, i know you probably have to hold your nose, but we have no choice. well, my friends, i believe we do have a choice. i believe we do have a choice. i believe that we should behave in the manner in which our constituents expect us to behave take out the bill, have an amendment, have a debate, have a discussion. do what we are supposed to do, and if the democrat leader wants to block us, then let him take the responsibility for doing so. now we're faced with a trillion dollar spending bill that includes numerous policy provisions which have never been debated or discussed, pork-barrel spending that would never stand the light of day, never, ever. and i'll be talking about some of them. i'll give you some examples of
3:27 pm
the pork that has been snuck into this bill. let me give you a few examples here that i think might interest our -- our constituents. this is in this bill, in law. $3.6 million for 30 vineyards, breweries and distilleries to build tasting rooms, conduct whiskey production feasibility studies and other alcohol marketing gimmicks. the one thing we really want to do is to give money to help alcohol marketing. alcohol marketing. $100,000 in funding to sell goat waste sodas and soft serve frozen goat yogurt. $247,677 -- i don't know how they came up with that number -- to develop pecan snacks. to develop pecan snacks. $49,750 to introduce americans
3:28 pm
to flavored beef bratwurst and beef chili. if there's anything i think the american people need to be educated and introduced to is bratwurst and chili. $49,990 for spinning raw alpaca fiber into a very fine yarn. $42,000 to produce cheese from buffalo milk. $250,000 to produce and market lamb jerky. $26,270 to determine the feasibility of producing blue cornmeal from navajo corn. and $200,000 to make apple products. now this goes on and on. my favorite, my friends, of many of them is a thing called the catfish inspection office. the catfish inspection office. most of us enjoy catfish and we
3:29 pm
appreciate the benefits to our nutrition and, of course, the sizable industry around catfishing. and so what we have again this year is a department of agriculture catfish inspection office. now, there is a department of agriculture catfish inspection office, although the f.d.a. also has a similar inspection office, and the g.a.o., the general accounting office, has issued -- government accountability office has issued more than six reports calling the u.s. department of agriculture catfish inspection office -- quote -- wasteful and duplicative. as a result of this protectionist program, an estimated $15 million of your tax dollars will per year, per year will be spent on enabling government bureaucrats to impose barriers on foreign catfish
3:30 pm
importers, which will in turn increase the price of catfish. for american consumers, restaurants and seafood producers. so, my friends, in this bill, among those i just told you, it's just $15 million every year of your tax dollars that will be spent for a catfish inspection office, and that is the kind of thing that happens when you get to this date at the end of the year with a mammoth bill worth $1 trillion. it is too ripe -- it is too ripe for the picking by the pork barrelers that we have here in the united states senate and the house. so -- just a couple more real quick. $1.millio.7 million for the sene kitchen exhaust system upgrades.
3:31 pm
on the face of it you would think that money for pacific coast salmon restoration would be a very, perhaps, beneficial expenditure of your tax dollars. guess what? the state of nevada is included in this $65 million salmon restoration. now, a cursory glance at a map of the united states might indicate that the state of nevada is not exactly an ideal place for salmon restoration. but they're going to get some of these millions of dollars -- and i'm sure it has nothing to do with the makeup of the united states senate from nevada. $15 million for an incentive program that directs the department of defense to overpay on contracts by an additional 5% if the contractor is a native
3:32 pm
hawaiian-owned company. so you have a contract with a native-owned company, the department of defense does, automatically go ahea add 5% of taxpayers' dollars. if there's anything that my ears -- i have seen that lend itself to outrageous spending, of course, it's no-bid contracts. the department of defense may eliminate competition and use a no-bid contract for a -- quote -- "product-original thinking and it was submitted in confidence by one source." that's interesting. well, anyway, there's many more of those. so i'm proud of what this congress has done this year. there are many good things that have been done.
3:33 pm
there have been -- the defense authorization bill, there has been for the first time a budget, for the first time we have reformed education, for the first time we have done so many -- we have finally sent a bill to the president's desk repealing and replacing obamacare. but the way to end a bill with this is really an embarrassment. so here we are looking at $1 trillion, and i want to talk a little bit about particularly national defense. i am proud -- i could not be more proud of the bipartisanship that has been involved in both democratic and republican in the senate armed services committee and the bipartisanship with our friends on the other side of the capitol. we have met -- we have come up with legislation which has been
3:34 pm
described as the biggest reform bill for defense in 30 years, and i'm proud of it. and we have a lot further to go. but we have hours and hours of hearings, hours and hours of markup, on the floor we had over 130 amendments considered on the floor of the senate to the defense authorization bill. we did things which we have never done before. for example, completely reforming the retirement system for the military. now -- it used to be you had to stay 20 years before he received any financial benefit. now, after two years and one month, you can get into a matching-funds agreement with the federal government. so now instead of 85% of those who join the military never receiving financial benefit, now 85% of those that join will receive. so i'm very proud, very proud.
3:35 pm
and i'm very proud of the work that i did with my colleague from rhode island, senator reed, as well as our friends from the other side of the aisle. and then at the last minute, these earmarks, these pork barrel projects -- these pork-barrel projects are airdropped in in a 2,000 -- i believe it is a 2,000-page bill -- whatever it is, it is huge -- and we see it for the first time -- well, it was about 10:00 or 12:00 last night and they want us to vote on it tomorrow. that's -- that's crazy. so what the appropriators did, they included over 150 different programs and initiatives where the appropriations exceeded what they were authorized, totaling $9.4 billion. by passing the defense bill authorization, we set an
3:36 pm
expectation on how to allocate funds. this was obviously completely broken. example: the appropriators included $160 million for humvees, even though the army requested zero dollars for humvees. we had hearings on this. we had hearings on the issue of what the army needed. and it was abundantly clear that the army did not need anymore humvees. so somehow the appropriators decided that there'd be $160 million for humvees. $7 million for a machine gun, five times the current size of the program. again, our army and department of defense said we didn't need it. but here's the worst one of all, my friends, and it will not surprise anyone that it's manufactured in alabama. there's $225 million for a joint -- for the addition of a joint
3:37 pm
high-speed vessel, which is of course manufactured in alabama. now, this will be the 12th ship of this class, the 12th of its class. the navy's requirements was ten -- was ten vessels. remember, this is $225 million for this vessel. the navy said, stop at ten. we stopped at ten. last year the appropriators added one for $225 million. this year, another $225 million. by my calculation, that's $450 million for two ships -- joint high-speed vessels that the military -- the navy and the department of defense said, we don't need nor want. what could we have done for the men and women in the military for that $450 million that we
3:38 pm
just wasted on two ships that the navy and the military said they didn't need? it's just unacceptable. the bill includes over $2 billion in funding -- $2 billion now, my friends. i'm not making this up -- in funding, almost $1.2 billion on top of the $1 billion from medical research within the defense department. now, my friends, i want to emphasize, i am all in for medical research. i think medical research is vital to the future of all americans. but what in the world does most of this have to do with the defense appropriations? nothing. nothing. it is the willie sutton syndrome at its best. mr. sutton was once asked why he
3:39 pm
robbed banks. mr. sutton said, because that's where the money is. and my friends, in defense is where the money is, so we have seen this gradual creeping up of funding out of defense funds for programs which i will read a few of that have nothing to do with defense. and i'll say again, i am for funding for medical research. i think it's vital, and i think it's important. but someone is going to have to explain to me how tuberculosis, autism, lung cancer, gulf war illness -- well, actually that's one of them -- spinal cord injury, ovarian cancer. those research funds should come out of the labor, health, and human services appropriations bill, not out of defense at a time of sequestration, when we can't -- we have planes that can't fly and guns that won't shoot and ships that can't sail.
3:40 pm
so what have we done? met me show what you they've done this year. you can see the gradual increase beginning -- beginning in 1992, there was about $20 million, i guess, something like that. then in 194 i 1994 it went up a, and then something happened and it went down. then you can see the gradual, almost steady increase of funding for medical research. as the funding for defense has remained constant or even in some cases reduced. so what have we done this year, my dear friends? here it is. here it is. $2.2 billion of your tax dollars that is now earmarked for -- quote -- "medical research." all of them -- all of them worthy causes.
3:41 pm
almost none of them have anything to do with guns, ships, planes, barracks, or medical research that is directly connected to our military. the army -- to add on to that, the army received an additional $16 million to conduct research on parkinson's disease, and the list goes on and on. so what have we got here? by the way, the bill also includes nine "buy america" provisions, end quote, which will end to contracting costs. the "buy america" provisions are a ploy to direct defense business to companies in a particular state. now, mr. president, i won't waste the time of this committee to go too much longer, except to say that today we see an
3:42 pm
interesting political environment in america. we see on the republican side -- on my side, we see the leading candidates, people who are basically seeking the nomination of the republican party because they are running against washington. that they don't want business as usual, that they are frustrated by the fact that, in their view, that the congress doesn't work for them. and the approval rating of congress is consistently somewhere in the teens. and americans are frustrated and they're angry, and many of them who support an individual who says, "we'll make america great again, it'll be huge," language which is not very specific but inspires them to see change take place. well, although i disagree with that -- and i think that we have a record this year that we can
3:43 pm
be proud of in many respects, whether it be education reform or whether it be finally sending a bill to the president's desk to repeal obamacare or fixing education, as i mentioned, or better ways of defending the nation with many reforms of how the pentagon does business, there are many things i am very proud of, and i think we can return to our constituents and tell them that for the first time in year that congress has done some things that will be helpful to the everyday man and woman who has not received really much benefit over the last eight years since the economic collapse. but then -- but then resend them this christmas turkey. we send them a bill laden with millions and millions and millions of dollars in wasteful
3:44 pm
and unnecessary spending. we send them -- we send them a bill that purchases a ship for $225 million, which nobody wants or needs. then, my friends, it gives substance and reason behind the frustration that many of our constituents feel. now, it's probably over for this year -- i think it's probably going to be a situation where there's sufficient votes to pass this -- quote -- "am an -- quot" worth $1.1 trillion. $is.$1.1 trillion of taxpayers' dollars without a single amendment, not a single one, and then we'll go home and enjoy christmas and then come back in january, hopefully refreshed. but i hope that in january we
3:45 pm
could make a commitment to the american people that we'll stop doing business this way. that we'll stop waiting until the last days and have these extensions that last for two days or three days before the threat of a government shutdown, which no american that i've ever met enjoys. and learn that the american people expect better of us than this process. i'm not proud of this. in fact, i'm a bit ashamed. because particularly on defense, there are so many critical needs of the men and women who are serving in our military. their carriers are going on ten-month cruises. some of our men and women who are serving on their fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh tour to afghanistan and even now many are going back to iraq, and they will be going back, my friends.
3:46 pm
they will be going back, and they will also be in syria because i predict you now there will be another attack on the united states of america because this president cannot lead and we are paying the price of a feckless foreign policy that is a disgrace and we'll be judged by -- and will be judged by historians as one of the low points in american history as far as national security is concerned. so instead of providing for those critical needs -- and i guarantee you i can come up with billions of dollars of critical needs. by the way, i can also come up with reforms that will save billions of dollars in our legislation. and we're proud of that. for example, we require 7.5% per year for four years reduction in the size of the staffs in the military. that will save over $3 billion over time. i'm proud of that. and so we come to the american
3:47 pm
people with a defense bill that is lean and it is efficient and we have a long way to go but we're proud of it, and then we look at -- we look at things like this. it's not acceptable. so, mr. president, i hope that i don't have to stand up here again next year. i hope that we can finally sit down and work with the american people, and that means taking up appropriations bills one by one by one and giving them the same attention that the defense bill got. the defense bill got two weeks, 133 amendments, debate on every issue. conceivable concerning national defense. we need to do that with each of the 12 appropriations bills. that way we could give the american people the product that is the most efficient, that is the least wasteful and something we can be proud of.
3:48 pm
so i urge my colleagues to understand that this legislation on the defense appropriations part of it does not help america defend itself in these difficult times. in fact, because of the waste, because of the pork-barrel spending in this, because of the earmarks that are in it, we have actually harmed the ability of our nation to defend itself and the welfare of the men and women who are serving. that's something we cannot be proud of. mr. president, i yield the -- i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk shall call the roll. quorum call:
3:49 pm
3:50 pm
mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. hatch: mr. president, i ask that i be permitted to complete these remarks. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: thank you, mr. president. as we count down the remaining days of the -- on the 2015 legislative calendar, there is still a bit of work to do and a few more big ticket items to put to bed. still, even with so much still
3:51 pm
on our plates, i think it is appropriate to take a look at -- a look back at the year we are now finishing up and reflect on what we have been able to accomplish. twist has been a -- 2015 has been a big year in the united states senate. after many years of unproductive division and stagnation, the senate finally has returned to work. while some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have tried to down play the productivity we have enjoyed under the current senate leadership and the "washington post" fact checker awarded them some pinocchios for their efforts, no one can seriously argue that things haven't changed around here. under the current senate majority, the committees have been allowed to function and work. under the current senate majority, we've had fuller and fairer debates here on the senate floor, and probably most important of all under the current senate majority, the senate has actually been doing the people's business. instead of being bogged down
3:52 pm
with divisive political showboats, we have tackled tough challenges, including numerous challenges that have plagued this body for many, many years. and we've delivered results. usually with a strong bipartisan majority, which i find to be very heartening. i'm pleased to say that this new trend toward efficiency and bipartisan success has been evident in the senate finance committee which i have been privileged to share since the first of january this year. mr. president, i'd like to take some time here today to pay tribute to my colleagues on the finance committee and the successes we've enjoyed this year. i'll start with the basics. just some top line numbers. in 2015, the finance committee held 30 full committee hearings to discuss various legislative efforts, conduct oversight of the administration and to question executive branch nominees.
3:53 pm
there were also two subcommittee hearings. we convened ten separate markups to consider and report legislation and nominations. now, let's dig a little deeper with the numbers. in terms of legislation, the finance committee moved that a historic -- at a historic pace in 2015, considering and reporting 37 individual bills. now, that's more bills than the committee reported in the past four congresses combined, and more than any single congress in the last 35 years. i just have to reiterate that i'm not comparing 2015 to any single previous year. i'm comparing it to the entire past congresses. we have moved more legislation in just one year than the finance committee has in any entire congress in the past three and a half decades. even more striking is the fact that every one of the 37 bills
3:54 pm
we have reported this year enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the committee. so far nine of those 37 reported bills have been signed or incorporated into law and several more are likely to get there before the end of this week. in addition, three other bills have come through the finance committee that -- or that came through the finance committee were discharged and subsequently signed into law. however, mr. president, while these raw numbers may be impressive, they really only tell part of the story. if you take the time to devil into the -- to delve into the specifics of our efforts on the finance committee, you will see that we have actually enjoyed significant successes. in each of our major areas of jurisdiction including tax, trade, health care, social security and oversight. i have spoken often about many of our individual achievements here on the senate floor, but i think they deserve another
3:55 pm
mention here today. trade. i'll start by talking about our efforts with regard to international trade policy. we began 2015 with the desire to advance a bold and ambitious trade agenda. it would update our trade laws for our 21st century global economy and set the stage for american leadership in the international marketplace. and by any measurable standard, our efforts have been a smashing success. the centerpiece of our trade agenda was the legislation to renew trade promotion authority or t.p.a. prior to this year, it had been nearly three decades since the t.p.a. bill was fully considered and reported out of committee. out of the senate finance committee, that is. our t.p.a. bill receives strong -- a strong bipartisan vote in the committee and another one here on the floor. actually, to be precise, we had to pass it twice in the senate with similar results on both
3:56 pm
occasions. this legislation put in place strong negotiating objectives to ensure our negotiated trade agreements reflect the collective will of congress. it also empowered our negotiators to reach the best deals possible by providing a path for getting fair up or down votes for future trade agreements, giving our trading partners the assurances they need to put their best offers forth on the table. i don't want to go into too much detail today about any specific trade agreements that may or may not make their way to congress in the future. i just want to point out that the finance committee t.p.a. bill will ensure that we have all the information we need to make an informed decision on any agreement that congress has the ultimate say over, whether any agreement enters into force. the finance committee developed
3:57 pm
legislation to renew some of our most vital trade preference programs, including preferences for haiti and countries in sub-saharan africa and generalized system of preferences, our g.s.p. program. these programs are key tools in our arsenal for assisting developing nations and providing important benefits for job creators and consumers here at home. the preferences bill was signed into law after getting a near unanimous vote in both the house and the senate. we also crafted the trade facilitation and trade enforcement act, a bill which will, among other things, authorize customs and border protection agency and update our processes and standards for enforcement on our borders, most notably with protection for intellectual property rights, an issue that has long been of particular interest to me. this legislation also had a lot of support in the senate and in the house, and the conference
3:58 pm
committee which i chair charged with reconciling the differences between the house and senate-passed investigators of the bill found its report just last week. my hope is that we will consider and pass this conference report as soon as possible. mr. president, international trade is the key element of a healthy u.s. economy. we have made great strides toward promoting trade and improving global trade standards already this year, and hopefully we'll be able to make a few more in the very near future. entitlement reform. the finance committee has alsoen joyed significant success when it comes to entitlement reform, which i think has surprised many people around here. for years, decades even, we were told that bipartisan entitlement reform was impossible. political stakes according to the naysayers were far too high. the parties were too entrenched.
3:59 pm
yet in 2015, we have successfully enacted significant reforms to our two most --quote, unquote -- untouchable entitlement programs, medicare and social security. in april, congress passed and the president signed legislation originally drafted and reported out of the finance committee in late 2014 to repeal and replace the medicare sustainable growth rate or s.g.r. formula. although it has been a little while since the bill passed, i think we will remember the periodic scramble to define short-term offsets to patch the s.g.r. and kick the can even further down the road. it was quite frankly an embarrassment we forced ourselves to endure year after year and a prime example of government ineptitude and our apparent inability to do anything here in congress to fix it. that all changed this year with the passage of the committee's
4:00 pm
legislation which not only reformed medicare in terms of the s.g.r. but also featured cost-saving measures within the underlying program. these included a limitation on so-called medigap first-dollar coverage, more robust means testing for medicare parts b and d and program integrity provisions that have strengthened medicare's ability to fight fraud. while we're on the subject of medicare reform, i'll mention that the finance committee also reported the audit and the repeal, fairness reforms. this is designed to address the already massive backlog of medicare audit appeals while also allowing for increased efforts to improve program integrity and reduce improper payments out of the medicare trust fund. it will make life easier for


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on