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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  May 26, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm EDT

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the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? the yeas are 67, national nays are 29. the nomination is confirmed.
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nor senator mr. president? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table. the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action, and the senate will resume legislative session. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. boozman: i ask unanimous consent that the senate be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. boozman: thank you, mr. president. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i am delighted to be here today with the senior senator from maryland, a long-term champion for women in this country and their access to equal pay. because in our country, mr. president, women in the workplace, no matter where they live, no matter their background, no matter what career they choose on average
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earn less than their male colleagues. and that wage gap even exists and extends to olympic gold medalists and world cup champions who are playing for our u.s. women's national soccer team. so today we are here on the floor to show support for the women's national soccer team and to affirm the sense of the senate that we support equal pay for equal work for all women in our country. mr. president, just last year we all cheered on the women's national soccer team as they beat japan 5-2 to win the world cup. in the past three olympics our women's team has brought home the gold, and their team is ranked first is in the world. but despite all of those tremendous successes, these players do not get paid on par with their male counterparts. think about the young girls that
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are watching who see these players at the top of their game valued less than men. and, mr. president, these are some of the most visible athletes in the world. in 2015, 750 million people in the world tuned in to watch the women's world cup. 25 million of those viewers were here in the united states. so this isn't just about the money. it's about the message it sends to women and girls across our country and the world. the pay gap between the men and women's national soccer team is emblematic of what is happening across our country. on average, women get paid just 79 cents for every $1 a man makes. this is at a time when women more than ever are likely to be the primary p breadwinner of their family. and the wage gap isn't just unfair to women. it hurts our families and it hurts our economy. mr. president, carly lloyd is a cocaptain of the u.s. women's
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national soccer team. last year she scored three of the five goals in the final world cup match. and a few months ago she was one of the players who filed a wage discrimination case with the equal employment opportunity commission. shortly after the news of that case broke, carly lloyd said -- quote -- "we are not backing down anymore." i know my democratic colleagues won't back down in the fight for equal pay, but here on the senate floor today we have a chance to show our support for women athletes and women in the workforce who get paid less than their male colleagues. two weeks ago i along with 21 of my colleagues introduced senate resolution 462 to make clear pay discrimination is wrong. this resolution urges the u.s. soccer to end pay disparities and treat all athletes with
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respect and with digit and it expresses our strong support to end the pay gap and strengthen equal pay protections. we are here to give the opportunity to the senate to take a stand with the members of the u.s. soccer women's team against the pay gap and wage discrimination and to support this resolution. i will offer that in just a minute, but before i do, i want to turn the floor over to my senior colleague. and i hope once this resolution passes, if we can get it passed, that we can support equal work -- equal pay for equal work she has championed for so many years. ms. mikulski: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: mr. president, i rise today to join my distinguished colleague from washington state, a long-standing advocate for women and children and really fundamental fairness. and today i join her in urging that the united states soccer federation end the gender gap and stop kicking women around. women across our country are
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still paid less than men. just 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, and this wage gap is felt by all women, even champions playing for the u.s. women's soccer team. these champions won the world cup last year. they brought in $20 million in revenue. that was $20 million more in revenue than the men's team. but they're paid four times less. when do we reward victory? when do we reward being a champion? and how about equal pay for equal work? they were on the same type of playing fields. those women are taking action by going to the eeoc commission, and it's time to score one for equality. equal pay for all must be our goal. we want equal pay for equal work, whether we're united states senators, nurses, executive assistants or whether we're professional athletes.
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i stand with the women's soccer team and women across the united states in their fight for equal wages. they kept the ball around, but we're tired of being kicked around. so give us equal pay for equal work. let's change the law book so that federal law book so they can change their checkbook. why should our women who go to the olympics and go for the gold when they aren't paid the gold? let's pass this resolution, show our support for the u.s. women's soccer team. let's set an example for young girl soccer athletes, daughters, nieces, granddaughters. let's pass the paycheck fairness act, but today let's start with passing this resolution. and this is a real resolution in support of them, but it really highlights the fact that we not only pass resolutions but we want to pass solutions to finish the job that we started with equal pay.
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i compliment the gentlelady from washington state for bringing this resolution to the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, thank you. i ask unanimous consent that the help committee be discharged from further consideration of s. res. 462 and the senate proceed to its consideration. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: senate resolution 462, urging the united states soccer federation to immediately eliminate gender pay inequity and treat all athletes with the same respect and dignity. the presiding officer: is there objection to proceeding to the measure? mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: without objection, the committee is discharged. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: and the senate will proceed to the measure. the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i don't believe there's any further debate at this time on this resolution, so i ask consent the senate now proceed to vote on adoption of the
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resolution. the presiding officer: without objection. if there's no further debate, all those in favor signify by saying aye. those opposed say no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes do have it. the resolution is agreed to. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: i ask consent the preamble be agreed to and the motions to reconsider be laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: without objection.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from wisconsin. ms. baldwin: thank you, mr. president. i rise today to celebrate the life and work of mary babula. for 44 years mary was a tireless and passionate advocate for children and early childhood educators and a valued resource for policy-makers. i was fortunate to work closely with mary throughout my time in local and state government and later as a member of the house of representatives. beyond our professional work together, mary was a friend and also a mentor.
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i first met mary in the 1980's when i was serving on the dane county board of supervisors on the community coordinated khaolf directors. mary was at once an advocate for children and for the predominantly female professionals who teach and care for them. she understood that our children would only have safe, stimulating and nurturing experiences in child-care settings if we invested in their training, credentialing and adequate compensation. those who are entrusted with the care of children while their parents are engaged in work or study deserve that high value, and mary was a passionate leader
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in that regard. mary babula organized early childhood educators to be effective voices on their own behalves. whether it was lobbying for tuition assistance funding for low-income parents to be able to afford high-quality child care, or rallying for worthy wages, mary wanted early childhood educators to be seen, heard, and respected. a wisconsin native, mary babula attended the university of wisconsin madison and graduated with a degree in social work. later her work with children as a part-time volunteer at a madison day care center while in college. she later worked as a teacher and director at christian day-care center in madison. in 1971, mary began working with the wisconsin early childhood
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association, otherwise known as weca, and later became the organization's executive director. during her years at weca, mary led the organization through a wide variety of instrumental changes. the establishment of the federal child-care and development block grant signaled new opportunities for weca to increase its direct impact on childhood education and development. through this program, weca managed quality improvement grants and established the wisconsin child-care improvement project. this project spurred the development of child-care resources and referral agencies throughout wisconsin which provided parents a clear and responsible guide when selecting child care. in the 2000's, weca began to administer the reward wisconsin stipend program, supported a
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mentoring program and led efforts that resulted in the development and beginning of young star, an important program that continues to serve as wisconsin's child-care quality rating and improvement system. her efforts and initiatives at weca continue on as her legacy. mary's passion for children, caregivers and educators extended well past the walls of weca. she was eager to work with elected officials at the state, local, and federal level to lend her expertise and knowledge. i had the privilege of working closely with mary on numerous occasions and often sought her input on child-care issues as important legislation advanced through congress. beyond her work with children, mary brought her energy and dedication to numerous community groups, including women's song, friendship force, and the
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wisconsin's women's network. i am fortunate to have known mary as an advocate, as a friend, and as a mentor. i never let her small stature fool me. she had a soft yet powerful voice when it came to ensuring that the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community received a very strong start in life. thousands of wisconsin families can trace the early education of their children directly back to her advocacy. she leaves behind a huge and powerful legacy. mary babula passed away late last year. she is survived by her life partner, mary mastaglio, her mother miriam, three sisters and many family members and friends join in celebrating her life and legacy.
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mr. president, i yield back and i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i ask that the calling of the quorum be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: the state department inspector general has released findings regarding the state department's email practices for the last five secretaries of state. this record made clear that secretary clinton has not told the truth to the american people about her nongovernment server and email arrangements. as i have noted many times,
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secretary clinton's nongovernment server and those arrangements connected with it prevented the state department from complying with the freedom of information act. and let me explain. freedom of information act is so that the public's business can be made public when any citizen wants to request certain documents. secretary clinton used the private server to avoid the law that requires archiving federal records. it was designed to wall her email off from the normal treatment of a government official's email communication. the inspector general found that secretary clinton failed to surrender all official emails to the department prior to her
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leaving government service. the inspector general found that secretary clinton's email practices -- quote -- did not comply with the department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the federal records act. end of quote. in other words, quite simply, she violated the law. the inspector general has made clear that secretary clinton never sought nor received any permission to maintain her nongovernment server arrangements. moreover, the report says that if she had, that permission would have been denied. these findings directly conflict with the many misleading public statements. i will just give you an example.
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secretary clinton said on july 7 last year -- quote -- "everything i did was permitted. there was no law. there was no regulation. there was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how i was going to communicate." end of quote. that statement is simply false. her staff also failed to comply with department policy and records. they routinely conducted state department business on personal email accounts. now, after this controversy broke, they eventually turned over 72,000 pages of work-related emails from those private accounts. these emails were not preserved in the department's
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recordkeeping systems as required by department policies and more importantly by federal records laws. in other words, her staff also violated the law. documents in those 272,000 pages were systemically withheld from the freedom of information act requesters and congressional oversight committees, even including the senate judiciary committee which i share. based on the inspector general's report, it appears that the department failed to produce key documents and produce them to congress from these personal email accounts. for example, according to emails cited by the inspector general, we learned that secretary clinton's nongovernment server was attacked by hackers.
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one email the department failed to turn over said -- quote -- "we were attacked again, so i shut the server down for a few minutes." end of quote. so it ought to be very disturbing that the state department knew it had emails like this and turned them over to the inspector general but not to those of us in the congress. the congress that has the constitutional authority of oversight once we pass laws to make sure those laws are faithfully executed by the executive branch of government. in another email, the department failed to turn over the director of secretary clinton's i.t. unit warned her that -- quote -- you should be aware that any emails would go through the department's infrastructure and subject to foia requests -- or
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foia searches, end of quote. foia, freedom of information act. clearly, secretary clinton wanted to avoid the freedom of information act at all costs. that i.t. director who warned her about the transparency laws for the state department emails is named john bentell. he has since retired from the state department and thus the inspector general could not require him to testify. he refused to speak with the inspector general. in fact, former secretary clinton and several of her aids also refused to speak to the inspector general. mr. bentell also refused to speak with the judiciary committee. according to his attorney, randall turk, mr. bentell knew
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nothing about the server at the time. he refused to participate in a voluntary witness interview with the committee. and so in refusing, mr. bentell's attorney claimed that his client only learned of the controversial email arrangements after it was reported in the press. he said another congressional committee -- quote -- "spent its entire interview focusing on what the committee's letter says you want to ask him about." end quote. on january 14, 2016, email to my staff -- in email to my staff, mr. turk noted that mr. bentell had -- quote -- no memory or knowledge of matters that he was questioned about."
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end of quote. the inspector general's report, however, says otherwise. according to the report, two of mr. bentell's subordinates separately raised concerns back in 2010 about secretary clinton's private email usage, including concerns that it was interfering with federal recordkeeping laws. that was five years before the news broke publicly. both of these state department staff independently told the inspector general about similar conversations that they had with mr. bentell about their concerns. according to these new witnesses, mr. bentell told them never to speak of secretary clinton's personal email system
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again. it seems unlikely that two witnesses who told such similar stories independent of one another would be making it up. plus, they knew that they were under a legal obligation to tell the truth to the inspector general. without having spoken to these witnesses directly, the circumstances make their statements seem credible, and although mr. bentell has been given the opportunity to provide his side of the story, he has refused to cooperate. but if what these two witnesses said is true, it is an outrage and it raises lots of serious questions. good and honest employees just trying to do their job were told
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by mr. bentell to shut up and sit down. concerns about the secretary's email system being out of compliance with federal recordkeeping laws were thus swept under the record. if these -- if those state department employees had not been muzzled five years earlier, perhaps secretary clinton could have then avoided this entire controversy. are these statements evidence of an intent to cover up federal record act violations? were the representations to the committee by mr. bentell's attorneys that he didn't know about the private server false? it seems from the inspector
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general's report that mr. ben tell in fact did have knowledge of secretary clinton's email arrangements contrary to his attorney's assertions. not only that, he also was reportedly warned that it raised legal concerns about compliance with the federal records laws. secretary clinton and her associates have refused to cooperate with the inquiries into this controversy, but it is becoming very, very clear and obviously more apparent why she is not cooperating. the inspector general report made it clear that secretary clinton and a number of other former department officials have not been truthful with the american people, and in pursuit
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of constitutional oversight on these very important issues, the department of state has continued to fail to provide relevant documents to us in the congress. i will follow up to get to the bottom of these discrepancies because misrepresenting the facts to congress is unacceptable. simply said, the american people deserve better. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. peters: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. peters: mr. president, i rise today to speak in support
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of the peters amendment 4138 to the national defense authorizing act. i would like to thank my colleagues, senator daines, tillis and gillibrand for joining me in filing this important bipartisan amendment. we are a nation that takes care of our own, and we owe our veterans the highest possible level of care and support. the united states is home to over 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans. a number that is expected to increase by 46% by 2019. the improvements in medical technology have saved the lives of wounded warriors who will receive the benefits and care that these heroes deserve. while scars, lost limbs and other injuries are readily apparent to the eye, there are thousands of veterans coping with the invisible wounds of war. we have far too many service members who are suffering from
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trauma related to conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. unfortunately, many of these have received less than honorable discharge, also known as a bad paper discharge. these former service members often receive bad paper discharges for minor misconduct, the same type of misconduct that is often linked to behaviors seen in those suffering from ptsd, t.p.i. and other trauma-related conditions. the effects of traumatic brain injury can include cognitive problems, including headaches, memory issues, difficulty thinking and attention deficits. it is difficult to see how these effects -- it is not difficult to see how these effects could lead to behaviors like being late to a formation or missing scheduled appointments, behaviors that can be the basis for a bad papers discharge. in addition to combat-sustained injuries, ptsd and t.b.i. can
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also be the result of military sexual trauma. bad paper discharges make former service members who are suffering from service-connected conditions ineligible for a number of benefits that they need the most. this includes g.i. benefits and v.a. home loans that they otherwise would have earned and can significantly help them transition to civilian life. these discharges also put these service members at risk of losing access to v.a. health care and veterans homelessness prevention programs. this is completely unacceptable. we have a responsibility to treat those who serve their countries with dignity, respect and compassion. last year, i introduced the fairness for veterans act which will help provide these service members with a path toward obtaining these critical benefits. the peters-daines-tillis-gillibrand amendment is a modified version of this bill.
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this amendment builds upon the policy guidance issued by a former defense secretary and vietnam veteran chuck hagel. the 2004 hagel memo instructed liberal consideration to be given when reviewing discharge status upgrade petitions for ptsd-related cases at the military department boards for correction of military and naval records. the peters amendment would codify the commonsense principles of the hagel memo, ensuring liberal consideration will be given to petitions for changes of character-related service conditions related to ptsd or t.b.i. before review discharge boards. the peters amendment clarifies that ptsd or t.b.i. claims that are related to military sexual trauma are also included. our bipartisan amendment is supported by a number of veterans service organizations,
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including iraq and afghan veterans of america, disabled veterans of america, military officers association of america, the american legion, paralyzed veterans of america and the vietnam veterans of america. we also have bipartisan support in the house of representatives, and i appreciate the work being done by representatives mike kaufman of tol and tim walls of minnesota who have introduced a companion stand-alone bill in the house and are supportive of this amendment before us. service members who were subject to a bad paper discharge and are coping with the wounds inflicted during their service should not lose access to benefits that they have rightfully earned. that's why we must ensure they get the fair process they deserve when petitioning for a change in characterization of their discharge. peters amendment 4138 will do just that. this is not a democratic issue or a republican issue.
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this is about doing what is right and about taking care of our own. i appreciate chairman mccain and ranking member reed's leadership on the defense authorization act and i look forward to continuing to work with them on this critical issue. i hope to see a vote on the peters amendment 4138 as we continue the work on the ndaa, and i urge my colleagues to join us in fighting on behalf of our nation's service members. thank you, mr. president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk shall call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: mr. president, i rise today to speak about the pending nominees for the social security and medicare boards of trustees. as most of us know, under the law, these two boards consist of
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secretaries of treasury, labor, h.h.s., the commissioner of social security and two public trustees, one from each party. one purpose of the boards is to provide yearly reports on the operation of the trust funds and their current and projected status. since 1983 when the two public trustee positions were established in the statute, the trustee reports for both trust funds had largely been devoid of partisanship or political influence. that to me has been a good thing. it means a process generating the reports is free of critical influence. it also means that the public can have confidence that the statements and assessments made in the reports including those dealing with current and future financial conditions of the trust funds are objective and not made to serve a particular agenda. the inclusion of public trustees on the boards is an important part of the structure that provides this type of certainty.
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yet by the time president obama is out of office, the two boards will have issued more reports with vacant public trustee positions that have been issued under any president since these two positions were created. in a recent hearing, the senate finance committee which i chair heard testimony from president obama's nominees for the currently vacant public trustee positions. dr. charles lighthouse and dr. robert reischauer, both of whom have been renominated after serving one full term on the boards. some members of the finance committee as well as a few others in this chamber have questioned whether having public trustees serve more than one term is beneficial. their argument seems to be that the process of producing the trustees' reports should have -- quote -- fresh eyes -- unquote -- every four years. however, to me, this argument is not all that persuasive.
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as the trustees go through the process of producing reports, there are many inputs and many participants, including a number of -- quote -- fresh eyes, unquote. for example, there are numerous technical panels composed of actuaries, economists, demographers and others who review the assumptions and methods used in the trust east' reports. since 1999, 50 different people have served on these technical panels weighing in on the reports and providing both fresh perspectives on the trustees' reports as well as a much needed check on what could otherwise be outsized roles played by various others. including the chief actuary of the social security administration in guiding the contents of the reports. in my view, there is value to having continuity in the public
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trustee oversight of the trust funds, particularly since the process that gives rise to trustees reports takes time to learn. for the most part, public trustees are unlikely to have fully learned the ropes until well into their four-year terms and their terms likely expire very shortly after they have a complete understanding of this whole process. ultimately while there are probably some trade-offs associated with term limits for public trustees, there is no real evidence to demonstrate that a single term is inherently superior or that the benefit of having public trustees with -- quote -- "fresh eyes" -- unquote -- outweighs the cost of experience. whatever the case, members are entitled to their individual preferences regarding term limits for public trustees and if the issue is as important as
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some of my colleagues on the other side claim, a bill to impose those kinds of term limits would seem logical. however, such a bill has not recently been offered. and if the recent finance committee hearing on the current nominees is any indication, my friends have a different agenda all together. if term limits were the real issue with these nominations, the committee could have had a reason to debate and each member could have weighed in on the matter and members would obviously be free to base their vote on the substance and outcome of that reasoned debate. sadly a reasoned debate is not what occurred in our committee. what we got instead was a coordinated attack pretty much from the ranking member all the way down the democrat side of the deus focused squarely on the republican nm knee dr. lighthouse. throughout the course of the
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hearing, the democrats never claimed that dr. playhouse lacked the credentials to be a trustee. they never provided any evidence that he acted inappropriately or exercised some kind of nefarious influence in the process of compiling reports. instead my colleagues attacked the nominee for expressing policy views that they happen to disagree with. he's never worked to change any social security or medicare policies in his capacity as a public trustee because given the very specific mission of the boards of trustees, he doesn't have any real opportunity to influence and enact any policy changes in any official capacity. the democrats' current position seems to be that if a nominee has ever said anything they happen to disagree with, even if the statements represent reasoned policy views and are supported by objective analysis, they are unfit to serve as
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public trustees. and during the course of our hearing not only did the democrats publicly subject this nominee to the preposterous standard, they did so with comments and arguments that were misleading, inconsistent and in some cases play dantsly false -- blatantly falls. their onseat amounted to little more than partisan attacks. the republican nominee was referred to as hyper partisan, unquote, even though you would be hard-pressed to find any credible and reasonable social security and medicare analyst from either party who would agree with that label. he was accused of being the -- quote -- "architect of privatization" -- unquote -- of social security because he happened to work in the bush administration. he's been attacked for his
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involvement in president bush's commission to strengthen social security as though that was something nefarious even though senator daniel pat moynihan -- was also a co-chair of that commission. there have been other attacks made in the hearing and elsewhere and all of them add up to one single obvious conclusion, which is that anyone who expresses a view about the future of social security that is not a recommendation for more taxes and higher benefits will be subject to partisan attacks and deemed unfit to serve in any capacity relating to social security. this is of course the demand of left wing interest groups who have virtually declared ownership of all things social security. and who are willing -- unwilling to do anything about solving the problems at social security. all they want to do is throw
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more money at it when there's no more money to throw. for this crowd even arguments in favor of slowing the growth for benefits for upper earnings -- for upper earners seem to be off-limits, even when they are made by the democrat nominee for public trustee. in other words, even proposals that would make social security more progressive, something a reasonable person would assume democrats would not fight, is seemingly unacceptable because slower benefit growth, even for the very rich, is considered a -- quote -- "cut" -- unquote -- to the left wing activists who try to take ownership of this debate. i'm talking of course about organizations like social security works, to strengthen social security -- and the unsocialist groups that have made transigents and unreasonableness on social
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security the hallmark of their efforts over all these years. for these people, the only allowable discussion on social security is when limited to talk of higher benefits and higher taxes on the american people. anyone who disagrees will not only be refuted or opposed, they will be publicly maligned and their characters will be called into question. indeed, for many of these groups and sadly for some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, these efforts are not about winning the public policy debate. they're -- they are about silencing and trying to censor anyone who dares express a contrary opinion. and even numbered years republicans have more or less gotten used to hearing that we want to see social security -- quote -- slashed, unquote and -- quote -- privatized, unquote or -- quote -- turned over to wall
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street, unquote. left-wing activists and yes, even a number of our colleagues base a huge portion of their fund raising efforts on scaring social security and medicare beneficiaries with those kind of over-the-top attacks. but for once when it comes to social security, i wish we could look at all the facts. for example, everyone knows that we made some changes to social security last year in order to prevent imminent and legally required cuts to disability benefits. we did so based on the projections of the social security trustees, these very people that are being treated this improper way. did we -- quote --/benefits? did we privatize anything? did we turn anything over the wall street area? of course not. what we did was make reasonable
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and needed changes to the program. but that didn't stop many on the other side from sounding the privatization alarm and raising money by scaring beneficiaries, even if they weren't as aware as we were that the cuts to disability benefits were absent changes an absolute certainty. we got precious little help from the democrats in our efforts to avoid benefit cuts because as is too often the case around here, complaining about a problem and blaming the other side for it makes for better politics than finding a solution. and that same strategy and those same attacks have now permeated the effort to confirm two of president obama's nominees. like i said and by the way, these are president obama's nominees that i'm arguing for. like i said, the republican nominee for public trustee has been accused of being many
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things. more than anything, some of my colleagues have tried to link him to some supposedly ongoing effort to privatize all of social security and hand everything over to wall street. never mind the fact that he's already served in the very same position for four years and social security is no closer to being in the hands of wall street than it was before. never mind the fact that he was already confirmed to the very same position once before without any opposition on the senate floor. never mind anything that has happened in the past. here in now according to my colleagues he is controversial. here and now letting him serve as public trustee would be like having a fox guarding the henhouse or some such nonsense. by the way, that phrase -- quote -- "fox guarding the henhouse" is an actual quote from one of our colleagues describing
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dr. blayhouse. apparently he became a -- quote -- fox" somewhere in the last ten years because in 2010 no one in the senate objected to his confirmation. but here in 2016 there are apparently some democrats who feel that they need to use this nomination in their partisan rants against it to raise money for their campaigns and perhaps in a case or two boost their prospects for higher office. of course, none of this is entirely surprising because years ago, probably in some democrat war room, my friends on the other side discovered that terms like -- quote -- privatization -- unquote -- and wall street unquote and cuts go well with their political bases even though this is not happening. the favorable polling data also probably explains why they heard their party's presidential front runner back in february of this year make the following claim.
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quote, after bush got reelected in 2004, the first thing he said was let's go privatize social security. you know what? their whole plan was to give the social security trust fund to wall street -- unquote . my gosh. there are at least three or four poll tested buzzwords in that quote. if nothing else, secretary clinton deserves at least some praise for focus group efficiency with that statement. no matter how false the statement is or was at the time. of course, in the second they claim, "the washington post" decided three opinion noash crows concluding that opinion noash crows concluding it was false as only they could include. "the washington post" reminded us that the clinton administration was the first to consider investing social security trust fund resources into something other than low-yielding government bonds. so in a sense the real -- quote
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-- architect of privatization -- unquote -- was president bill clinton, not president george w. bush and certainly not the current republican nominee for public trustee. furthermore, if simply considering alternative investment strategies for trust fund dollars means -- quote -- privatization -- unquote -- then the growing list of guilty privatizers has recently included the democrat in the house, the aarp, nobel prize winning economists, and many others. and not all of them are republicans, mr. president. let me return to the debate over public trustee nominations because quite frankly, the democrats made so many misleading claims with regard to social security that i could not begin to address them all in a single floor speech. a recent article in "politico" outlined the planned devised by top senate democrats to engage in -- quote -- an election year
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battle -- unquote -- over social security in general and the public trustees in particular. in relation to dr. blayhouse, the article says that -- quote -- democrats point to several instances in the trustees reports released after blayhouse joined the board that they say suggest the social security trust fund is less solvent than it really is -- unquote . that almost sounds like a legitimate policy argument, mr. president, provided you don't think about it for longer than 30 seconds. there are quite simply countless reasons why that argument is entirely baseless. first of all, no one in the obama administration has corroborated a single one of these claims in any way, shame, or form. on top of that, this claim seems to suggest that one public trustee, a republican, has had such a persuasive and misleading influence that he has been able for more than four years to hoodwink five democrat trustees
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including dr. reischauer, the other nominee, along with treasury secretary lew. labor secretary perez, h.h.s. secretary burwell and acting social security commission colvin all of whom also signed on to those trustee reports. does anyone believe that for a second? i'm going to give my friends some advice. if a political attack relies onn an assumption that the sitting secretaries of treasury, labor, h.h.s., and the acting commissioner of social security, along with their staffs are so impotent in the face of the cunning sophistry of a single trustee from the opposing party, it is best to leave that particular conspiracy theory on the shelf because it doesn't
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even pass the laugh test. that is, of course, unless you assume at the outset that members of president obama's cabinet, along with their staffs, are incompetent or just plain dumb. aside from being based on foolish assumptions, the claim that recent trustee reports have been biased is verifiably false, give than the nonpartisan congressional budget office has reached similar conclusions about the solvency of social security. in fact, c.b.o.'s projections are even bleaker. perhaps my democratic colleagues believe that dr. blayhouse's dastardly influence has extended to c.b.o. as well, though to be fair i haven't heard any of them claim that such is the case. mr. president, all of this political bluster over the public trustee nominations, every single word of it, is a political sideshowed. the public trustees do not have
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the power or ability to slash or privatize social security or turn a single penny of any public funds over to wall street. they serve a limited but important role in monitoring and reporting on the system. that is all. any reasonable observer will tell you that both of president obama's nominees for public trustee that i'm talking about here have solid reputations as being fair, objective, balanced, and, most important, highly competent. i don't personally agree with all the policy decisions that the democratic nominee, dr. reischauer, has put forward over the year, but he has always conveyed his ideas in a temperate and respectful manner, without partisanship or add hominem atafntle i also may not even agree with all the positions that the republican nominee, dr. blayhouse, has put forward, but he similarly
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conducted himself in a respectful and nonpartisan manner. the fact of the matter is, mr. president, whether certain democrat senators like it or not, the law requires that one of the public trustees be from the republican party. if someone wants to put forward legislation to change that or to impose term limits on trustees or even start a public debate on these issues, they are free to do so. similarly, if a senator disagrees with a prospective trustee's positions on policy or with something they've written outside of their public trustee functions, that senator is also free to vote against that nominee on that basis. however, mr. president, it is, in my opinion, shameful for members of congress to engage in unreasonable and false character attacks in order to ren force a present candidate's talking points or to raise money from left-wing activities or to help themselves on their political
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races. it is wrong under any circumstance to -- circumstances to impugn someone's character and professionalism by false association. while this may be par for the course during an election year, there is more than politics at stake here. if democrats truly have an interest in the integrity of social security and medicare and their trust funds, then politicizing public trustee nominations is an extraordinarily odd strategy. if we turn these nominations into just another political background, the trustee reports will eventually be viewed as political documents having no unique sear yesness or credibility -- seriousness or credibility. and in the end, that will mean less transparency, objectivity, and integrity for social security and medicare. this would truly be unfortunate,
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mr. president. to conclude, i would just say that despite some insinuations to the contrary, my plan all along has been to hold votes in the finance committee on the president's nominees for the public trustee positions as soon as possible. i look forward to filling the existing vacancies. the trustee reports forbe social security and medicare -- for social security and medicare have historically been void of politics. to the credit of current and past administrations as well as the public trustees from both sides of the aisle. this has been the case until now when politics has entered in. my sincere hope is that we can keep it that way. mr. president, i get a little tired of the social security arguments that democrats raise every election, like republicans are going to destroy social security.
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my gosh, we believe in it as much as they do. in fact, i think maybe a little bit more. we believe, though, that we should strengthen that fund, we should keep it alive, we should make sure it is going to be there for your children, my children, grandchildren -- in my case, great-grandchildren -- and beyond. it is not going to be there if we have these kind of idiotic policy agreements based purely on politics and how you might benefit during a political campaign or how your party might benefit in a political campaign or any individual might. it's time for us to get rid of all the partisanship and work together to resolve some of these problems. the first time i hear another democrat say that republicans are against social security, i'm going to take that creature on. i call them a "creature" because certainly they don't deserve to
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be in the united states senate. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic whip. mr. durbin: i ask consent the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: i rise to highlight a number of important provisions in the fiscal year 2017 national defense authorization act. this is the measure in its entirety and it comes with this report. it's about 1,664 pages for the actual bill, another 642 pages
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for the report. it's no wonder, it deals with the national security issues as well as the department of defense and many other agencies. it's clearly the product of many hours and months of work by the members of the committee as well as the staff. and now we consider it on the floor of the senate and have a special responsibility to look at it very carefully. this bill, of course, will take some time to be digested and analyzed and we've been in that process this week. many of us count on our staff, professional staff that i have who work for the defense appropriations committee. they also look at this measure to see how it squares up with the actual spending bill. i don't serve on the defense authorization committee. i'm on the spending part of it, the defense appropriations committee. and we approved our measure today and reported it from the full appropriations committee. it will be coming to the floor in a few weeks. so what's the most pressing concern when it comes to our
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national defense? most americans would say rightly it's terrorism. terrorism is a real threat to america and to our families. and we have to do everything in our power to prevent terrorism from reaching our shores and to dismantle it and destroy it overseas. it's a large undertaking. and the united states leads the world in dealing with global terrorism. this bill that we're considering has elements in it that address that challenge. i take the threat seriously, and as vice chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, i worked with the senior senator from mississippi, republican senator thaad cochran to try to make sure that our troops have the funds they need to wage the fight against terrorism overseas. to defeat isis, we should defeat them on the ground in iraq and in syria and dismantle their international terror network. we also must continue to prevent the spread of terrorism here at home through stronger homeland defenses and work with our allies to strengthen their intelligence gathering. to win, we have to mobilized the
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full force of the u.s. government against isis and ensure that every national security agency has what it needs to keep us safe. and not just the department of defense. all of the intelligence agencies, the department of homeland security, federal bureau of investigation, state department, treasury department. it's not d.o.d.'s fight alone. this defense authorization bill contributes to that strategy to stop the spread of terrorism. it authorizes funds for the fight against al qaeda, the taliban, and isil, as well as including $1.7 billion to build the capacity of our allies in iraq, syria and the broader region. finally, like this year's defense appropriations bill, this bill also consolidates a lot of duplicate program in order to make the fight more effective. streamlines the authorization for funding for d.o.d. efforts to train and equip our top partners. it will mean better oversight. it will mean more fighting time against isis and al qaeda
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instead of more time fighting among the bureaucracy in the pentagon. there are several other good provisions in the committee bill which represent a bipartisan consensus between the chairman and his ranking member. i commend the chairman and the ranking member for refraining from budget gimmickry as we've seen in the other body across the rotunda. our house colleagues recommend authorizing and appropriating only half of what our men and women in uniform need to keep us safe. half an appropriation through april of 2017. testifying in front of our defense appropriation -ps subcommittee, secretary of defense carter called this house approach -- quote -- "gambling with war fighting money at a time of war. proposing to cut off troop funding in places like afghanistan, iraq and syria in the middle of the year." i'm glad we refrained those tactics. the bill authorizes a well
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deserved pay increase for uniform and defense civilian workforce. it rejects a request by the department of defense to authorize a future base realignment and closure, or brac, commission. many of us have lived through a lot of these brac commissions, and i'm not optimistic that if we embark on another one it will have positive results. like many of my colleagues, i strongly oppose president vladimir putin of russia's reckless invasion of ukraine, so i also appreciate this bill's authorization for additional military assistance for ukraine. there are several issues not addressed in this bill which i hope we can address on a bipartisan basis. unlike previous years, the bill contains no extension for the afghanistan special immigrant visa program so that we may continue to keep faith with those foreign translators who risk their lives to help american troops. senator shaheen and others have championed this effort, and i hope we can deal with it appropriately. but there are several provisions
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in this bill that are controversial. i'd like to address a few. the closure of guantanamo bay, cuba, is an issue that i think is timely and extremely important. this bill once again blocks transfer of detainees from guantanamo to the united states. and some of my colleagues are threatening amendments to even tighten these restrictions further. the reality is every day that guantanamo stays open, it weakens our alliances, inspires our enemies and calls into question our commitment to human rights. time and again our most senior national security and military leaders have called for the closure of guantanamo. the troops and service men and women who are responsible for maintaining guantanamo have an almost impossible assignment. i've been down to southern command in florida and i've talked to them. they're doing their level best to make sure that guantanamo meets standards, and i don't hold against them the reputation which guantanamo has in many
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places in the world. but the fact is we should look at guantanamo in honest terms. in addition to our national security costs, every day that guantanamo remains open, we are wasting taxpayer dollars. many colleagues come to the floor and make speech after speech against wasteful federal spending, so let me give you a classic example at guantanamo. we are now spending, according to this authorization bill, we are now spending $5.5 million a year for each of the prisoners at guantanamo. what if those prisoners were put in the most secure federal prisons in america, supermax facilities where no one has ever escaped? how much would it cost us? $5.5 million like guantanamo? no. $86,000 a year. why then would we waste millions of dollars on guantanamo when we know these detainees can be held
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safely, securely, without any fear of escape for a fraction of the cost? because this has become a political symbol, the symbol which the other party is willing to fight for even if it means wasting almost $500 million every single year to keep guantanamo open. all of us are committed to preventing terrorist attacks. terrorism -- terrorists deserve swift and sure justice and severe prison sentences, but holding detainees at guantanamo does not administer justice effectively. it does not serve our national security interests and it's inconsistent with our country's history as a champion of human rights. there are convicted terrorists being held safely in federal prisons in more than 20 states, including my own. it the marion federal penitentiary in southern illinois, we are holding convicted terrorists. how many people from southern
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illinois have come to me and objected to the fact that terrorists are incarcerated at the federal prison in marion? exactly none. not a one. they trust the men and women in the bureau of prisons to hold these prisoners safely, even if they're convicted of terrorism. why then do we continue the charade of maintaining guantanamo for some bragging rights in some places in this world? i don't know understand it. and if you want to save $500 million for the taxpayers of america, here's a place to start. there are also some troubling provisions on guns. the re-importation of military firearms for sale, listen to this one. one section of the bill would circumvent state department restrictions on reimporting surplus military weaponry back into the united states for sale to the public. military weapons for sale to the public in the united states. this is an item that's long been
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on the gun lobby's list, wish list that hopes that hundreds of thousands of m-1 military-grade rifles that the united states supplied to south korea decades ago will come back into the united states in the hands of gun companies and be sold back in our country. how many people think that bringing in these items, hundreds of military-grade weapons, will make us a safer nation? i don't. section 1056 of the bill would have the u.s. army basically serve -- listen to this -- as a free shipping service to bring these weapons back into the united states bypassing state department restrictions to re-import these guns for sale by private companies. the bill would then direct the army to make these guns available to the companies so they could sell them to the public at large. military-grade weapons.
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there's also a provision giving military-grade firearms to museums. another section of this bill would authorize the secretary of the army to transfer up to 4,00e firearms to public or private military museums. but there's nothing in the bill requiring that the guns be rendered inoperable, and there's nothing to prohibit these museums from reselling them to the public as well. we should be very careful in importing and selling military-grade firearms in the united states of america. i will defend second amendment rights. i will defend the right of individuals to own, use, and store guns safely for sporting purposes, for self-defense. but the notion that we need to bring hundreds and hundreds of military weapons back in the united states and put them in circulation, do you really believe that makes us a safer nation? i don't. the bill also includes a
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provision affecting the department of defense school districts that regularly receive impact aid. we need to ensure that our kids are safe as they step on to the bus, walk through school hallways and enter the classroom each day. when we entrust teachers, administrators, bus drivers, librarians and others to watch over and care for students, we should have confidence that they are individuals who will actually protect our kids. indeed, the vast majority of school employees are hard-working, caring individuals, dedicated to ensuring that students learn in a safe, nurturing environment. however, we unfortunately have reid too many recent headlines -- have read too many headlines about predators who instead of teaching and protecting kids ultimately harm and abuse them. i agree with colleagues we need to put in place a comprehensive background check system that will establish zero tolerance policies for sexual misconduct
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by school employees. that said i have serious concerns with section 578 in this bill. this provision fails to provide adequate due process and civil rights protections for innocent individuals. i'm also concerned that this provision is overly broad and could potentially allow schools to dismiss highly qualified individuals who pose no risk to any children. we need to strike the appropriate balance to make sure that there is a just process before we make the final determination. another troubling provision is section 829-h, which states that the executive order on fair pay and safe workplaces would not apply to all defense contractors. rather, just to those who have previously been debarred or suspended as a result of labor law violations. the executive order simply requires transparency about contractor's ability to follow labor laws. the american people deserve to know why d.o.d. decides to task with billions of dollars worth of work to these people. we should ensure that the
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president's executive order is implemented fairly and consistently across the federal government. the bill also contains three related troubling provisions relating to the issue of how to best protect america's national security as it relates to the launching of national security payloads into space. we'll have more to say about that as this debate progresses. but i would note at the outset that the provision in the bill which i am pointing to has been addressed at the highest levels by our department of defense. the secretary of defense, ash carter, the director of national intelligence, james clapper; and the secretary of the air force, debra james, all disagree with the chairman of this authorizing committee on this issue. every one of them. they all agree that this senator's proposal would cost taps -- taxpayers cross america billions of dollars more than
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the current strategy and at times of tight budget when america, its taxpayers and certainly the men and women in uniform need every dollar that we can save them, you can't explain or defend the position taken by the committee. the disagreement is over how to best get the united states off defense of russian-made rocket engines for the launching of national security payloads into space. the proposal coming out of the committee and from the chairman last year and again this year continues to suggest a rash and abrupt halt to the purchase of these russian-made engines. let me make it clear. i want to move away from these russian-made engines quickly. i want american engines built by americans to propel these payloads into space. but it takes time. for two years we have been appropriating money to achieve this goal. it'll take two or three more years at least to reach that goal of having an american-made engine. this chairman of this committee ignores that reality and says we


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